The abandoned Duffy House and dairy farm ruins are tucked away in the middle of a large golden field on the outskirts of Perth, Western Australia. This historical site tells the story of Irish immigrants and their significant involvement in Australia’s farming industry development dating back to the mid-1800’s. It was of great interest to me (being Irish and currently in Australia), so as soon as I read about it online, I immediately set out to photograph the site remains and dig more into the history of Duffy House.
I first read about the house in a 2018 article published by a local WA newspaper who reported a kangaroo had been found hanging from a noose inside and the word “Satan” sprayed on the walls. The description of extreme disrepair was sadly quite the opposite of what the house was remembered for in its former days.
The Historical Timeline of Duffy House
According to the Australian State Heritage website, the history of Duffy House dates back to 1859 when Bernard and Sarah Duffy emigrated from Ireland to Perth on the Hamilla Mitchell ship.
They had a son, Barney, and four daughters: Mary, Margaret, Sarah and Catherine, who all mucked in when the family settled initially in the city’s southern suburbs and began operating a dairy farm.
Within eighteen months of setting up the farm, tragedy struck when Bernard broke his neck after falling from a cart. It was in the aftermath of this event that the Duffys moved northwards to the emerging township of Wanneroo and set up another farming operation.
In 1873, Barney married Catherine Hughes and they had six children: Bernard James, Frederick John, Sarah Ann, Henry, Ernest and William.
From a young age, Barney’s son, Frederick John, took up farming at the family estate in Wanneroo before taking up his own farm in the district, on part of which now sits Duffy House.
In 1907, Frederick married Eva Matilda Cockman and they had eight children, named Frederick William ‘Bill’, Bernard ‘Bob’, Harry, Claude, Roy, John ‘Jack’, Norman and Doris Eva.
In 1912, Frederick purchased just over 25 acres and employed a local builder, George Dawson, to construct a family residence on Lot 25, which became Duffy House, Woodvale.
By 1913, the house was complete and comprised four rooms with a front veranda, built of local limestone sourced from the quarry at the nearby Perry’s Paddock, Cottage and Stables.
A ceiling was never constructed beneath the timber roof of the house, as Frederick, on advice from a local doctor, believed that it would be healthier not to do so.
After Frederick Duffy’s death in 1924, Eva and the young family were unable to maintain the vegetable garden and abandoned it in favour of establishing a dairy.
In 1925, the Duffy’s established a dairy 100 metres to the south-west of the house, which can be seen in the images below.
The dairy continued until 1976, when production finally ceased. In the 2000s, an area of Woodvale, including Duffy House, Woodvale, was ceded to the City of Joondalup, causing the City of Wanneroo’s heritage listing for Duffy House to become defunct.
This also meant that the Duffy House, Woodvale became, by default, the oldest extant residence in the City of Joondalup.
Preserving the Duffy House Legacy
Shortly after the WA newspaper article was published about the joeys and Satan graffiti, the dilapidation, anti-social behaviour and vandalism got so bad police had to install a security fence around the house. Unfortunately by this stage, some of the original features of the house such as the kitchen flooring, had been heavily disturbed by vandalism.
In 2012, the West Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) acquired the house and quickly announced their plans to demolish the remaining structure of Duffy House. This plan was met with local outcry and public pressure.
In 2018, management of the property was transferred from the West Australian Planning Commission (WAPC) to local government body the City of Joondalup, which had long called for its restoration, against a backdrop of demolition planned by the former.
In addition, $300,000 was offered by the state government towards the development of Duffy House, which is expected to be turned into a café or tearooms.