08 January 2011

Arthur Upfield's residence in Kalamunda - a minor mystery solved

The article below was previously published on a former ISP's website which has been removed so it is reproduced here.


In a footnote to "The Murchison Murders", The Bony Bulletin, 8 (January 1984) 4, Philip Asdell noted that "
in a recently published book called Dear Robertson, a collection of letters received by Mr. Robertson of [Angus & Robertson], there is one from Upfield written from "Rose Cottage", Kalamunda, Western Australia in August 1932. Similarly, I have seen an Upfield letter of 28 August 1932 to Verco Whyte written from "Rose Cottage", Kalamunda.

In "John K. Ewers and Arthur W. Upfield", The Bony Bulletin, 12 (February 1985) 5, Asdell wrote about Ewer's autobiography published in 1983:

Ewers . . . describes a visit on Guy Fawkes night of 1931 to Kalamunda, a suburb of Perth where Upfield and his first wife, Ann[e], had set up a Guest House (named "Rose Cottage") as his "literary ventures had not prospered since he came to the city." On that evening, Ewers goes on, . . . Arthur so far forgot himself as to abandon his usual cussedness and taciturnity.

Asdell made further inquiries when he visited Australia in 1985. In "Editor’s Notes", The Bony Bulletin, 13 & 14 (July 1985) 4 he reported:

In Kalamunda, a suburb of Perth, Mr. and Mrs. Eric Webb of the Kalamunda & Districts Historical Society had done some detective work in finding that Arthur Upfield and his family had once lived at 29 Heath Road. More than that, they had most kindly made arrangements with the present owner, Mr. John Bramley, for the three of us to visit the house. Over the years it has seen some additions, including some made since the Upfield family lived there in the early 1930s. All the changes have been documented in a fascinating architectural history of the house, complete with floor plans and photographs, prepared by Mrs. Georgina Noble, the immediate previous owner. The house struck me as a very comfortable one, and the floors and wall-panelling of native jarrah wood particularly appealed to this North American visitor. This house at 29 Heath Road, incidentally, was never known as "Rose Cottage" and was never a guesthouse, so Upfield's Kalamunda residence mentioned in previous issues of The Bony Bulletin [8 (January 1984) 2 and 12 (February 1985) 5] must have been elsewhere.

In "Upfield’s Correspondence with John K. Ewers, 1930 – 1942, Part 1", The Bony Bulletin 28 (May 1989) 3-4, Asdell wrote:

A month [after 21 July, 1931] Upfield had made the momentous decision to leave his job with the Rabbit Department and to try and make a living by writing. On 31 August, 1931 he wrote to Ewers to say that he and his wife had "thrown up our jobs and taken half a house at the above," which was 88 Vincent Street, Mt. Lawley, an inner northern suburb of Perth. . .

However, the Upfields did not stay long at Mt. Lawley. He found he couldn’t work there, apparently because of noisy surroundings, and so they moved in December 1931 to Kalamunda, then a village on the Darling escarpment, about nine miles east of Perth, but now a suburb of that city. . .

Things did not go well for the Upfields at Kalamunda. . . In an attempt to keep their heads above water they then planned to turn the "place" in Kalamunda into a guest house. Upfield wrote:

Where you could help would be in recommending the Upfield guest house to anyone you hear of coming to Kalamunda. . . We have no wireless yet but we have a tennis court, lawn in front and an old rambling garden.
I have not been able to identify the Upfield’s house in Kalamunda. None of his letters from there are headed with a street address and it was not until over a year later, on April 27, 1933, that a letter is headed "Dalcraig's", presumably the name the Upfields bestowed on their guest house. The house I visited in 1985 at 29 Heath Road [see The Bony Bulletin 13&14(July 1985) 4] which a previous owner claimed the Upfields had once occupied, was also said never to have been a guest house. So where they lived in Kalamunda is still a minor mystery.

Throughout 1932 the Upfields’ financial difficulties were mentioned in nearly every letter . . . Things looked up, temporarily, over Easter 1932 as Upfield wrote that all their rooms were filled.

Upfield is quoted later in the article as describing summer as the drought for the guest house.

I have also seen an Upfield letter of 21 April 1933 to Verco Whyte from "Dalcraigs", Kalamunda.

Finally, in Arthur William Upfield: A Biography, Internet, 2005, Travis Lindsey, who had also read Ewer's letters, wrote at p116:

The Kalamunda house – known as Dalcraig’s – was described by Upfield as one of the mint houses in the area, ‘quite unlike the ordinary, bare guest house. It should be attractive to people who like privacy and beautiful surroundings.’ . . . Eventually Easter [1932] arrived, the occupancies were splendid, the tennis court was under constant hire . . .


  • Post Office directories for Vincent St, Perth in 1931 and 1932 have no record for Upfield.
  • Post Office directories for Kalamunda for 1932 and 1933 had no entry for Upfield in 1932, and "Upfield, A W" in 1933.
  • Telephone Directories for Kalamunda: May & November 1932 have no entry for Upfield; May & November 1933 show "Upfield, A W, Heath Road, Ph 33".
  • Advertisement under "Holiday Resorts etc" reading: "KALAMUNDA: Mrs Upfield desires paying guests. Privacy, court, garden. Tel 33" in The West Australian on Saturdays 25 March, and 1 & 8 & 15 April 1933.
  • Advertisement under 'Holiday Resorts etc' reading: "KALAMUNDA: Dalcraig’s, opp. school, comfortable accommodation, gardens, court. Tel. 33. Upfield". in The West Australian on Saturdays 24 June, 1 & 8 July 1933.
  • Advertisement under "Holiday Resorts etc" reading, or similar: "KALAMUNDA: Dalcraig’s, opp. school, good accommodation, tennis, gardens, garage. "Phone 33, Upfield" in The West Australian on Saturdays 22 & 29 July, 5 & 12 & 26 August, and 2 September 1933.
  • No similar advertisements for 1932. 

Slee J & Shaw B, Cala Munda: a home in the forest: a history of Kalamuda, Kalamunda: Shire of Kalamunda, 1979 states at p184 that the Kalamunda Primary School was moved to its present (1979) site at Heath Road in 1925. The chapter titled "Schools" makes no mention of any other school in Heath Road at any time. There is no entry for Upfield in the index.

Ewers J K, Long enough for a joke: an autobiography, Fremantle: Fremantle Arts Press, 1983 mentions, at p147, visiting the Upfields at Kalamunda on Guy Fawkes night. The date, 1931, was not specified and my reading was that it happened later than 1931. The words "named 'Rose Cottage'" in brackets in the quotation above were not there (must have been inserted by Asdell), and there was no reference to "Rose Cottage" on that page or elsewhere in the book where Upfield was mentioned.

Road inspection of 29 Heath Road, Kalamunda, on 28 March 2008. Huge site facing north with No. 27 to east and No. 33 to west; house on east side of site and detached double garage on west side; large, pretty and old house, with weatherboard walls and corrugated iron roof; painted white with grey trim and silver roof; garage similar; house probably renovated and extended; very well maintained; pink/white roses in beds behind white picket fence with timber gateway. Size of block and street numbers suggest it occupies two blocks. Kalamunda Primary School opposite but buildings looked c1970 style.

88 Vincent Street, Mount Lawley in 2008.
Kalamunda History Village advised on 28 March 2008 that the original state school building in Heath Road was moved to their museum in 1970.


It is well established from other sources that Upfield moved to Perth in mid-1931 and left Western Australia for Melbourne in late August or September 1933, followed by his wife and son some months later. It is also accepted that they initially lived at 88 Vincent Street, Mt. Lawley until they moved to Kalamunda in December 1931.

Asdell was not satisfied that the house at 29 Heath Road he visited in 1985 was the Upfields' guest house because he was informed that it was never known as 'Rose Cottage' and it was never a guest house.

29 Heath Road, Kalamunda in 2008.

The three series of advertisements in The West Australian in 1933 are clearly all about the same property called "Dalcraig's" and all give the same telephone number as listed in the May and November 1933 telephone directories for Upfield in Heath Road. In addition, the descriptions of the property in those advertisements fit 29 Heath Road, namely being opposite a school and with a garden, and my inspection of the site revealed ample space for a tennis court. 29 Heath Road is consistent with Upfield's description, and my impression is that it would have been quite unlike the ordinary guest house. If 29 Heath Road was not a guest house when the Upfields moved there, and it ceased to be a guest house when, or soon after, they left, then it is not surprising that the later owners were unaware of it in 1985. The property called "Dalcraig's" in 1933 was clearly 29 Heath Road.

Similarly, the description of the property when Upfield informed Ewers of the guest house plans is also consistent with the advertisements in 1933, namely the references to tennis court and garden (suggesting a large site). I would expect Upfield to have mentioned moving to another house in his letters to Ewers, but he did not. Indeed there is no real evidence that the Upfields lived in more than one house in Kalamunda – only an inference based on two different house names. I suspect the Upfields initially named the house at 29 Heath Road as "Rose Cottage" and later changed it to "Dalcraig's". That would explain the different addresses on the letters in August 1932 and April 1933, and why the later owners were unaware of the "Rose Cottage" name in 1985. (It is nothing more than speculation to suggest that the profusion of roses I saw there 76 years later may be more than coincidence and connected with the first name.)

Finally, Guy Fawkes Night is 5 November every year. Ewer's visit to the Upfields in Kalamunda on that day must have been in 1932 as the Upfields did not move there until December 1931 and Upfield had gone to Melbourne before 5 November 1933.


The Upfields lived in only one house in Kalamunda from December 1931 until about the end of 1933, which was at 29 Heath Road.

© Kees de Hoog
29 March 2008

PS. In October 2009 I received an email from Georgina Noble which said:

I am a previous owner of 29 Heath Road and the author of the architectural research project on the house.

I read your article about the search for Arthur Upfield's residence in Kalamunda, and thought I could add some information. The photograph of the house shows the most recent changes. When I lived in it it was hidden behind trees and there were no roses at all. However, my research included meetings with a family who first extended the house giving it its symmetrical front [and added the tennis court]. When they bought it, it was a small cottage. So maybe it was called 'Rose Cottage', and somehow that 'rings a bell', but I cannot be sure of that.

There definitely was a tennis court, where the current double garage is. The house to the immediate left (if you are facing the house) was built whilst I lived there, the land was subdivided and sold by the owners directly before me, and I think that other subdivisions had been made earlier at the rear. So it was a considerable piece of land.

I also seem to recall that he didn't own it, but only rented. Ownership certainly can be checked. I must have done that at the time. I certainly do not recall his name on any documents. I think it must have been the Historical Society people who told me he lived there.