Two Attached Houses and Separate House (Newcastle St)
The houses at 219-223 Newcastle Street comprise three single storey brick and iron residences in the Federation Italianate style – two attached (219 and 221) and one detached (223), a style of architecture that is quite rare now in inner city Perth. All three were built for original owner Thomas Samuel Bonner who came to Australia when he was just four years old and became the first mounted trooper in Coolgardie when the gold rush was just beginning.
Prior to the WA goldboom this area was largely undeveloped land, then houses and commercial premises began to appear in quick succession along these streets during the latter half of the 1890s and into the early 1900s. Originally, this part of Newcastle Street was named Ellen Street but was changed in 1897 when the Perth City Council revised many of the city’s street names.
The houses had been built by 1896 by Bonner, who was a married man with a growing family. As an intriguing part of their charm and history, each house was named after three of his seven children with the names ‘Ada Villa’ (219), ‘Alfred Villa’ (221) and ‘Arthur Villa’ (223) still seen in the central pediments. They were built mainly as rental properties, and the Bonner family lived next door at 225 Newcastle Street in their house named “Corra Lynne”.
In 1922, Emma Bonner died. It appeared that she and Bonner were no longer living together as her address was listed as 227 Bulwer Street in her funeral notice. Only a year after Emma’s death, Bonner re-married and lived with his new wife Ellen at “Corra Lynne”. However, it was believed to be a rocky marriage with most of the tension between Bonner and Ellen over their two sons, Bonner’s son Arthur, and Ellen’s teenage son Stanley who both lived at home.
When Bonner died in 1934 he was remembered for his long service as an usher in the Supreme Court and was known as an ‘Old Colonist’ and ‘Ole Tommy’. The ownership of the three houses was transferred to Arthur until they were sold 1936.
The houses at 219-223 Newcastle Street comprise three single storey brick and iron residences in the Federation Italianate style – two attached (219 and 221) and one detached (223). All three houses were built for original owner Thomas Samuel Bonner. Bonner was born in Wales in 1855, and came to Australia when he was four years old. Bonner’s later joined the Police Force and became the first mounted trooper in Coolgardie when the gold rush was just beginning. In 1882, Bonner married Emma Elizabeth Watkins. After coming to Perth, Bonner worked as an usher at the Supreme Court and was also Clerk of the Course at the WA Turf Club.
In the early 1890s, Bonner bought two parcels of land comprising Lots Y76 and Y77 which ran from Newcastle Street to Aberdeen Street. At the time Bonner purchased the land, these streets were called Ellen Street and Lamb Street respectively. Ellen Street was the name for the portion of the street between Stirling and Lake Streets. East of Stirling Street was Mangles Street and west of Lake Street was Newcastle Street. The trio of names used for the one street was considered an absurdity of the Perth City Council and so when Council revised many of the city’s street names in 1897, the street names were merged into Newcastle Street. Similarly Aberdeen Street was formed with the merging of Aberdeen Street (between Charles and Lake Streets) and Lamb Street (Beaufort to Lake Street).
Bonner likely bought Lot Y76 in 1890 when he was listed in the City of Perth Rate Books as owning property on Ellen Street, and Lot Y77 early in 1893 when it was advertised for auction. Prior to the WA goldboom, this area was largely undeveloped land, with few houses being recorded in Rate Books and Post Office Directories. Then various types of small houses and terraces as well as hotels and other commercial and industrial premises providing a range of goods and services began to appear in quick succession along these streets during the latter half of the 1890s and into the early 1900s.
Bonner had built these three houses by 1896 as rental properties. The Bonners lived next door at 165 Newcastle Street (later 225) in their house named “Corra Lynne”. When the houses were first built their address was Ellen Street, then when the street was renamed Newcastle Street in 1897 they were numbered 159, 161 and 163 Newcastle Street, and after 1908 this changed to 219, 221 and 223 Newcastle Street. As an intriguing part of their charm and history, the houses were named ‘Ada Villa’ (219), ‘Alfred Villa’ (221) and ‘Arthur Villa’ (223) after three of the Bonners’ children: Ada Jane (b.1884), Alfred Henry (b. 1890), and Arthur John (b. 1895). The names are seen in the central pediments. The Bonners had 4 other children, 2 daughters and 2 sons: Emma, Florrie, Thomas (Boysey) and William.
The first tenants of Bonner’s new houses were Henry Patton listed at ‘Ada Villa’, William O’Brien listed for ‘Alfred Villa’ and J. LeCornu for the freestanding ‘Arthur Villa’ but the tenants would change over very regularly over the years. The only member of the family known to have lived in any of the houses was son Thomas Bonner junior who lived in ‘Ada Villa’ in 1915 and 1918.
In November 1922, Emma Bonner died. It appeared that she and Bonner were no longer living together as her address was listed as 227 Bulwer Street in her funeral notice, and Bonner was not named in the notice – only the children.
Only a year after Emma’s death, Bonner married Ellen Eliza a 55 year old widow and they lived at “Corra Lynne”. Not long after they were married a curious article appeared in the Truth newspaper about this union entitled “Happy Between Rows. Another Matrimonial Mess-Up”. The article wrote that Bonner was ‘…sharp-tempered himself and it was unfortunate the he should have married an equally short-tempered widow”. The article goes on to say that although they are happy enough between rows, their rows ‘…are terrible things” with one of them landing Bonner at court on charges of cruelty to Ellen who then applied for a separation and maintenance. However, the case did not progress with the conflicting version of events presented by both parties and they remained together.
Most of the tension between Bonner and Ellen was over their two sons, Bonner’s son Arthur (who by now was in his 30s), and Ellen’s teenage son Stanley who both lived at home. From his youth and into his adulthood, Arthur – after who ‘Arthur Villa’ was named – seemed to have his own troubles with the law on several occasions, and he and Stanley would also make appearances in court owing to their fighting. As a young man, Arthur was diagnosed with neurasthenia, a now obsolete term used then to describe a collection of symptoms that could include chronic fatigability, moderate depression, inability to concentrate, loss of appetite and insomnia. He remained incapacitated most of his life and unable to work.
Perhaps as a way to look after his son, in 1930 Bonner made Arthur joint tenant of the Title for 219-223 Newcastle Street. On 23 January 1934, Bonner died at his home “Corra Lynne” with his funeral notice referring to him as an “Old Colonist”. He was also known as “Ole Tommy”. After Bonner’s death, Arthur became the sole proprietor of the three houses.
The houses were bought by Crissafina Antonas in 1936. The Antonas family operated the Ritz Café in Barrack Street, Perth, and members of the Antonas family lived in ‘Arthur Villa’. In 1963, the title was amended to include Mary Katsantonis as tenant in common with Antonas.
In 1976 the houses were acquired by the Metropolitan Region Planning Authority (later called East Perth Redevelopment Authority) as part of a large acquisistion of land in the Northbridge area in anticipation of the construction of the north of city by-pass which would later be known as the Northbridge Tunnel and Graham Farmer Freeway.
These modest houses were designed almost in mirror image of each other. The main features indicative of the Federation Italianate style include the tuck pointed Flemish bond brickwork to the facades, stylised parapets and verandahs stretching across the full length of the front façades. Note too the decorative concrete urn located to the eastern end of the balustrade of the freestanding ‘Arthur Villa’. As the Northbridge area grew as desirable residential area from the 1890s and into the early 20th century, the Italianate terrace housing style was largely supplanted by the more popular Federation Queen Anne style of detached suburban villa. As a result, this group of houses located in the inner city area are now a rarity. Although relatively unaltered in their essential appearance, they have been adapted for use as one building.
West Australian 24 April 1893 p. 8
Daily News 26 April 1897 p. 3
Daily News 10 November 1922 p. 11
Truth 10 April 1926 p. 5
Truth 17 April 1926 p. 6
WA 25 June 1913 p. 8
Daily News 1 February 1932 p. 9
West Australian 25 November 1934 p. 1