Katharine’s Place, year unknown. (Photo: KSPWC archives).
When Katharine Susannah Prichard and her new husband, Hugo Throssell, arrived in Perth in March 1919, they moved to Greenmount, living at a large house on York Road called Wandu for more than a year. The title deeds show that on 11 June 1920 they bought the cottage we now call Katharine’s Place, just a few hundred metres down York Road. Thought to be built in 1896 by a tenant of the Guildford land agent, James Morrison, the cottage is made of jarrah weatherboard and originally had four rooms coming off a central passageway. The Guildford Grammar headmaster, Rev. Percy Henn, had bought it as a weekender in 1910. The Throssells bought an adjacent lot as well with no house on it, giving them a hectare of land with an orchard and enough paddock for horses. According to an article from 1976, during Katharine’s life time the cottage was known as ‘Throssell Cottage’ or ‘Katharine’s’.
Greenmount only had forty households in 1919, a hills settlement on the outskirts of the metropolitan area with large hilly blocks set in bush and views down to the city. Like Katharine’s previous home in Emerald back in Victoria, it was a bush retreat close enough to the city to remain connected to it.
Katharine wrote her most famous novels at the cottage, including Working Bullocks (1926), Coonardoo (1929), and Haxby’s Circus (1930). While she never set a novel in Greenmount, the house and the district are the setting of her play Bid Me To Love (1927), and a number of short stories including “The Grey Horse” and “Yoirimba”.
So much of the family life also happened in the cottage—in 1922, Katharine’s son, Ric, was born at home, supposedly on the kitchen table. Hugo died by his own hand on the verandah in 1933. After Hugo’s death, Katharine stayed on at the house until she moved to Sydney for several years during World War Two. Crippled with huge debts incurred by Hugo, the bank was about to foreclose in 1946 and sell off the house when a friend intervened financially and allowed Katharine to continue living there. She died in her bedroom in October 1969.
An architect noted in a 1988 preservation report, ‘The house, outbuildings, and old garden have a composite charm, and is a fair representative example of old hills buildings of the era, and as other buildings in the area are demolished or “modernised”, the significance of Katharine's Place will increase.’ Thirty years on, this has surely been proven true. But adding to that significance in a way that’s hard to count, Katharine’s Place also carries echoes of Katharine and her remarkable life and work.
Davies, Allan to KSP Foundation, Preservation of House and Studio, 24 May 1988.
Halnan, Dale, ‘Megalong’, High School, November 1976. [KSPWC Archives]
Heritage Council, ‘Register of Heritage Places – Katharine Prichard’s House’, ca. 1994, http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/b08c6d9e-e980-45bf-a2ac-d5548034295d.
Portman, Pam and Sally Clarke, Katharine Susannah Prichard: Her Place, Gooseberry Hill Press, 2010.
If funding can be found, KSP Writers’ Centre will be creating a heritage trail in the grounds of Katharine’s Place with signs marking sites significant to Katharine Susannah Prichard’s life. This ‘KSP Heritage’ series of articles about the sites provides information which will be used for the interpretive signage.