Blog

Camfield House

Camfield House, also referred to as Annesfield, is a conglomerate of buildings in Albany in the Great Southern region of Western Australia.

Image: Hughes Darren

Image: Hughes Darren

The property contains a wattle and daub house constructed in 1852 as a residence for the Camfields that was also known as Annesfield. The other building is a school house built for Aboriginal children. The school commenced in 1852 under the auspices of John Wollaston and Anne Camfield. The school was focused on educating Indigenous children

The house is a simple colonial design, rectangular in shape with a steeply pitched gable corrugated iron roof. The walls are coated in stucco and have three sets of casement windows set over the verandah. Four chimneys are set asymmetrically around the house. The school is a two-storey brick building with a steeply pitched gabled corrugated iron roof. It has exposed brick on one side and is whitewashed on the others.

In 1857 the Camfields built a separate school room near the house with classroom, attached kitchen and accommodation for up to eight children. In 1858 a total of 23 children were at the school; this increased to 55 in 1868. The school went into decline shortly afterward with Anne Camfield struggling with the workload and her advanced years.

The buildings were classified by the National Trust in 1973 and placed on the municipal inventory in 2001.

Anne Camfield first purchased the property in 1852. (Anne arrived in the Swan Colony in 1838 as a governess and married Henry Camfield in 1840. Anne's husband Henry was, from 1848 to 1860, the Government Resident of Albany. On one lot of the property a wattle and daub house, Annesfield, was built for the Camfields. On the other lot a school was built for Aboriginal children. In the first year there were 10 students attending the school. Anne Camfield ran the school from 1852-1871. Annesfield School for Aboriginal Children may have grown out of an earlier school administered by J McKail. In June 1852 Anne Camfield sought the assistance of Archdeacon Wollaston to provide for the needs of an increasing number of orphaned and mixed descent children. Wollaston had two major problems to overcome. The first was to find a Christian home to accommodate the children. Here he was fortunate to have the support of Henry Camfield who made his own home available for the children and encouraged his wife to devote her time to the care of the children. The second problem was finance and Wollaston was able to gain favour with Governor Fitzgerald who provided a grant for the support of six children and a contribution to the construction of an institution at Middleton Beach... This institution was not a lasting venture because of the difficulty that Wollaston had in obtaining money to employ the master and mistress. In the interim Mr and Mrs Camfield continued to care for the children. Camfield built a schoolroom in the grounds of his own house and here Mrs Camfield taught the children. The first child to be taken into the care of of Anne Camfield was Kojonupat who was baptised Matilda Flower (who unfortunately died after only three years in the school). Matilda was joined by her two sisters, Elizabeth (Bessie) and Ada. Bessie Flower was quite a talented woman who went on to become a teacher and married at a Victorian mission, Ramahyuck. She spoke French, played the harmonium in the church and, by her own accounts, was quite a reasonable chess player. On 1 January 1869 The Australian News published a release on the Mission, which included this report. 'The very accomplished native teacher Elizabeth Flower will soon take charge of the new boarding school. The children receive five hours instruction daily and made good progress in their lessons as well as in needle and household work.' In 1868 a collection of letters written by Bessie Flower to Anne Camfield were published in the Western Australian Church of England newspaper giving a rare insight into the quality of education received at Annesfield. In 1871 Anne Camfield reflected on the achievements of Annesfield in a Government report and commented on Bessie Flower (Cameron); Bessie, who is now a teacher in Gippsland, was never without a book in her pocket by day or under her pillow at night. Her love of reading often brought her into scrapes, from reading at inconvenient times... yet she is much interested in history, Travels and more serious works...Her memory is so very good that she retains what she reads. This girl alone is sufficient proof of the intelligence of Aborigines. Anne Camfield returned to England after the death of her husband in 1872. The new Government Resident, after Henry Camfield, was Sir Alexander Cockburn-Campbell who held the position from 1861-1871. For a while Sir Alexander lived at Annesfield. NW McKail purchased the school from Anne Camfield and then later sold it to the Christian Brothers. The Brothers sold the property to a Mr Neumann who made the significant name change of the property to Camfield. C Neumann was a local merchant with premises on Stirling Terrace. In the 1890s according to records the house suffered some damage by fire.