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The Manning Family

The Manning Family

The City of Cockburn forms part of the land traditionally occupied by the Beeliar people. Yagan and his father Midgeroroo resist the settlement of their land.

George Robb was granted 2000 acres of land at Hamilton Hill from Governor Stirling.

Charles Alexander Manning settled in Fremantle and built Manning Hall in 1858.

Charles Manning acquires over 900 acres of land at Hamilton Hill, known as Davilak (Devil’s Lake).

A 27 room homestead known as Davilak House was built on the southern part of the estate by Charles Manning for his son Lucius, when he married Florence Bickley.

A smaller homestead was built on the western part of the estate. Built by Lucius Manning for his eldest daughter Azelia when she married Johnny Ley, a Customs Official.

Johnny Ley dies. Azelia continued on her own to work the land at the estate.

Florence Bickley dies at Davilak.

Azelia dies at Davilak.

Davilak House was burnt to the ground and the Azelia Ley Homestead fell into disrepair.

The first meeting of the new Historical Society of Cockburn takes place. The Society address issues involving the Azelia Ley Homestead.

The Cockburn Council, with the help of many citizens of the area, restore the Homestead to its previous splendid state.

The Historical Society of Cockburn take over the custodianship of the Azelia Ley Homestead and transform it into a museum.

The Manning Family

The Manning family’s connection with Western Australia began in 1840 when Henry Manning, a London merchant, purchased several large areas of land in the developing colony. Most notably was the area around Mount Henry in present day Salter’s Point, Lot 24, in the Town of Armadale and a further lot across the river from Castledaire. In that year Henry also purchased a considerable number of lots in and around Fremantle as well as 200 acres marked as Location 3 in the Cockburn Sound District. The latter property was purchased from Mr. J.W. Davey.

It is not known whether Henry actually came to the Swan River Colony but purchased his land via agents in the colony. This was most likely Mr Davey himself. Davey had set up business as a colonial and shipping agent in Fremantle, and he began to act on Manning’s behalf in the Colony. After Davey’s death in 1852, Henry Manning decided that the prospect of the Colony merited more direct management of his interests and made plans to send one of his younger brothers to Fremantle.

Charles Alexander Manning arrived in 1854. He had spent many years in Peru supervising the family’s estate and commercial interests, especially export and silver mining pursuits.

Fourteen (14) of his twenty one (21) children were born to his first two wives who were the daughters of the Governor of Peru, a Spanish Grandee named Calero. After his arrival in the Colony, Charles married for the third time to a young girl named Matilda Burkett in l855. This marriage produced seven (7) more children.

Manning Park

The Manning family’s connection with Manning Park began in 1856 when Charles established a farm. This first farm was at the north end of what eventually became known as Davilak Lake, and was known as the Old Farm. The purpose of this farm was to provide some of the necessities of life. Approximately ten years later he started to develop the land to the south of the lake and built a larger home in a Spanish hacienda style and named it ‘Davilak’. The size of the estate can be measured by today’s boundaries stretching from Rollinson Road to the north, the coast to the west, Hamilton Road to the east and south as far as Christine Crescent in Coogee.

During this time Charles purchased a number of lots in Fremantle town and developed the family’s business interests in the Colony. In 1859, he built a large and pretentious headquarters called Manning Hall in Fremantle, on the corner of Short and Pakenham Streets. It was a two storied building with a flat roof and an observatory on the top so he could pursue his hobby of astronomy. The building became known as Manning’s Folly.

Charles died in 1869 and his wealth passed to his son Lucius who further expanded the family business. Lucius married Florence Augusta Bickley that same year. His first two children were born at his residence in Fremantle before he took up residence at Davilak. There were seven children- Alfred, Azelia, Olivia, Florence Juanita, Lucius Charles, Victor and Xanthorina ‘Dottie’. Lucius developed Davilak into a big farm, extending the house and gardens and planting an extensive vineyard surrounded by stonewalls. He continued the family business in Fremantle, and in addition went into partnership in cattle and sheep stations in the Kimberley. At Davilak he bred cattle and horses.

After his death in 1888, his son Alfred took over the family business until his death in 1924. Lucius’ wife, Florence Augusta was only thirty eight (38) years old with seven children ranging in age from two (2) to eighteen (18) years old. She remarried ten years later to a Mr. C. Strode-Hall, a magistrate, and in 1897 went with her husband to live in Singapore until about 1911. She returned to Davilak in l918 after residing in England until the end of the First World War.

Davilak gradually declined, particularly after Alfred died in 1924, and Florence, (fondly called Granny Hall), continued to live there until her death at ninety seven (97) in 1946. The family interests then passed to Alfred’s brother Victor who died in the late 1930s. The property was inherited by Victor’s son Colin who decided to sell Davilak.

Various business activities took place on Davilak Estate until the late 1970s when the property was resumed by the State Government and developed into the current recreation park.

Azelia Ley Homestead

Azelia Helena Manning was born June 27, 1872. She was the second child of Lucius Alexander Manning and Florence Augusta Bickley. Azelia and her siblings all grew up at Davilak. Unfortunately, she and her brother Alfred contracted polio and were taken to England in 1876 for treatment. All of the children were fond of riding, and had their own horses. Despite her difficulties, Azelia was no exception. The children were educated by a governess in their own schoolroom at Davilak House. Later, Alfred went to Scotch College in Melbourne and then to Heidelberg University. Lucius went on to Prince Alfred’s College in South Australia, and then attended an agricultural college in England. Victor joined the British Army and served with distinction.

Azelia married John ‘Jack’ Morgan Ley, a customs officer, in 1900 at Davilak House. Following their marriage, they lived at Roraima, 60 Preston Point Road, East Fremantle, until her husband’s death in 1927. The house stood on several acres of land between Fraser and Pier Streets, with a frontage to Preston Point Road. At the rear of the house stood a coal house with hostlers quarters and stabling for horses. Azelia also had a farm and garden at Armadale where she kept horses.

She had begun building the Manning Tree House, (now Azelia Ley Homestead Museum), on the Manning Estate. In 19l5, her mother, Florence Manning, had divided Lucius Alexander’s estate into portions for each of her children, and 152 acres was transferred to Azelia. The house was completed in 1923, although it was not until after her husband’s death in 1927 that Azelia came to live there permanently. The house was constructed of limestone with two distinct wings – the main residence and kitchen wing which were connected by an enclosed verandah.

Azelia did not have any children and did not appear to have many friends. In fact, accounts of Azelia portray her as a very well read woman who only wore black, and she earned the reputation of becoming a recluse. She was known to have stood on her verandah taking pot-shots at anyone trespassing on her land. Her dogs, horses, chickens, cows and garden and afternoon ‘drives’, either in the buck board sulky or later by car, occupied her days. She continued to run her farm and manage her properties well into her eighties. Azelia died in 1954.

After her death, the homestead fell into a state of disrepair and it was not until the early eighties when the City of Cockburn, with the assistance of a number of prominent citizens in the district, decided to restore the residence and transform it into a museum. On the 12th November, 1983, the Azelia Ley Homestead Museum was officially opened to the public. The Historical Society of Cockburn took on the duties of custodianship of the museum and has continued to assist in maintaining the residence and its displays, which are dedicated to the cultural and material history of the people of Cockburn.

Adjacent to the museum building is The Wagon House, where an interesting collection of horse drawn vehicles and a variety of early farming implements and machinery are exhibited.

Davilak Ghost

An interesting tale from the early days of the Homestead.

Davilak Fire

On Wednesday 30 November, 1960 a bushfire destroyed one of Western Australia’s oldest family homesteads.

Further reading:

Cockburn : the making of a community by Michael Berson; published by City of Cockburn, 1998 (Facsimile edition). Borrow from Cockburn Libraries

The merchant princes of Fremantle : the rise and decline of a colonial elite 1870-1900 by Patricia M. Brown; published by University of Western Australia Press, 1996. Borrow from Cockburn Libraries

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