“KOBEELYA” THE RESIDENCE. 0F MR F.H. PIESSE
Great Southern Herald. Saturday, November 15, 1902
“Kobeelya,” the native term for rest, is situated on the crown of the hill at the foot of Clive Street East, which overlooks 180 acres of orchard property, and is the new residence of the Hon F.H. Piesse, MLA for this district.
It is introduced from the street by a winding, gravelled path, and on each side are planted rows of fruit and ornamental trees, which are just now in full bud.
Fronting the building at its northerly and westerly aspects are several walks which are neatly set off by beds of ornamental flowers and shrubs, and at the eastern end are tennis and croquet lawns, which are just now being set off with a couch grass which is doing well.
The building, a two-storey one, is of brick and cement facings, and contains 17 rooms, besides kitchens, pantries etc.
The entrance inside is made through a portice, which is tiled after the tessellated style, into the main hall, where the most striking feature is the jarrah staircase. This work was specially executed by Messrs. Coombe, Wood and Co. for the contractor Mr. J.H. Brown and is a beautiful piece of workmanship.
Leading from the left of the hall is the drawing-room, which is lit by six brass scroll brackets, and a three-light electroleer (a chandelier in which the lights are electrical: Ed.) in the centre. A special feature of this room is a cosy corner formed by the bay-shaped windows and divided from the room by an arch. This room reflects much credit on the decorators.
Passing to the right of the hall is the study of Mr. F.H. Piesse. This room is nicely finished off, being fitted with the usual library appointments.
Entering a jarrah and stained glass door we arrive in the billiard room, which is fitted with a Cox and Yeamam champion billiard table. This room is finished off with a Dado Linncruster (a deeply embossed wall-covering: Ed.), the ceiling being of stamped metal.
The dining-room is situated at the eastern end of the hall, which is divided from the morning room by folding doors, which, when thrown open make a spacious ball-room. These rooms are specialty fitted up with electroleers, and several scroll brackets.
On the half landing of the staircase is a very prettily designed stained glass window, a running brook, festive with birds of high coloured plumage, being thereon depicted.
At the top of the staircase, on the main landing, is to be found the bedrooms and conveniences of the family. These number seven, and are nicely furnished and finished off with the latest electrical appliances. The bathrooms, two in number, are fitted up with hot and cold water, and are supplied by an overhead corrugated iron tank of 1,500 gallon (5,700 litres) dimensions. Before leaving the balcony we were struck with the beautiful and uninterrupted view which we obtained of the surrounding country.
Ample accommodation is provided in the quarters set apart for the servants on the ground floor, these like the other rooms, being set out with the latest fittings. The kitchen which is fitted up with the latest improved stove and hot water arrangements has a China closet on one side and a goods pantry on the other, they being most conveniently placed. Underneath the kitchen is a cellar, 14ft. by 18ft. (4.26m x 5.50m), which is also fitted with handy receptacles.
The outhouses comprise a well fitted laundry and wood-house. There is stabling accommodation provided for four horses, connected there with being the necessary provision for attendants, etc.
Ample provision has been made for a water supply. An underground tank contains a storage of 47,000 gallons (180,000 litres), which is pumped to the distributing tank by a windmill. A well, from which the water is being pumped at a depth of 108 ft (33m)., has turned out remarkably good prospects, the water being perfectly safe to use for drinking purposes. A corrugated iron tank, with a capacity of 10,000 gallons (38,000 litres), is erected on a Karri stand at an altitude of 18ft (4.26m). and contains the water supplied by this well, the same being used for gardening purposes, etc.
The architect for the building is Mr. E Summerhayes, of Perth. The contractor, Mr. J.H. Brown, of this town, is to be credited with carrying out a work which it will not be, his, good fortune to have viewed by a large populace, but which, nevertheless, by those who do see it, will be appreciated. The decorations were carried out by Messrs. Tassell Bros., of Albany.
It is the intention of Mr Piesse to shortly adopt the latest sanitary methods in vogue, which we believe, will be that known as the “septic” tank system.
From the W.A. State Government Heritage Council’s “Inherit” website
Kobeelya was the first significant residence in the town of Katanning, and one of the most up-to-date in the state. It has high social value as it was built for the Piesse family, an important pioneering family in the Great Southern, who were instrumental in the development of Katanning.
In its heyday the house entertained and accommodated many important people. It was a prominent landmark when first constructed and had high aesthetic value.
Kobeelya was erected for F H Piesse in 1902, as the family’s private residence and built to overlook their property and the town. The name, suggested by Sir John Forrest, is an aboriginal word, which means “place of sleep and rest”.
It originally contained seventeen rooms; bathrooms with hot and cold running water, in-door toilets (septic), seven bedrooms and billiard and ball rooms.
The house is typical of the period with its gabled roof, wide verandahs, many chimneys, bay windows, stained glass windows and side panels, ornate plaster work and polished jarrah floors. The Piesse family crest is featured in the arched stained glass window on the main staircase landing. Kobeelya was also connected to electricity. The bricks were made at the Piesse brickyards.
When the house was completed, there was still the road leading to its entrance which needed developing to Clive Street. However, rather than waiting for the Road Board to do this, Piesse hired “eight men for three weeks to gravel and level it, so that with a fringe of plane trees, it became one of the best roads in the district, and his own personal avenue”. [Bignell, p.205].
In January 1915, a large portion of the Kobeelya Estate was subdivided into building blocks (the Kobeelya Orchard Estate), which were quickly purchased.
Kobeelya passed out of the hands of the Piesse family in 1922, when it was bought by the Bunbury diocese of the Anglican Church for £5000. The interior furnishings were sold and the building became the boarding house and schoolrooms of Kobeelya College. This school for girls was opened on 14th September 1922 and was later associated with Penrhos College in Como.
Many of the original outbuildings, such as the coach house, were converted into educational facilities and other amenities. A chapel was also erected on the eastern side in 1939. A fairly unique feature of the school was that the girls were able to keep their own horses at the school.
In 1986 the Baptist Church purchased the site for use as a weekend retreat and education/conference facility. The church itself is also located on the site, in the former dining hall for the Kobeelya School.
The Kobeelya site also houses a building called the “Coach House”. It was first built to house the coaches belonging to the Piesse family. When the property was converted into a school and started to expand the coach house proved to be a valuable asset. The loft was used for storage of the boarder’s cases and only a privileged few could climb the loft.
The bottom story of the Coach House was used as servant’s quarters when the Piesse’s resided at Kobeelya.
Major renovations began in 1964 at which time the loft was transformed into a sitting room for senior girls. The “Coach House” was also renovated incorporating TV Theatrette, Arts and Crafts Centre and Classrooms.
Refashioning and equipping this building was a gift from Mrs. Montague Balston in memory of her daughter – a former pupil. A bronze plaque was also placed. Mrs. H.E. House donated a radiogram.
In 1980, the common room moved into the downstairs dormitories and the Coach House was used as a general store room. The building was later used for Sunday School classes.
The Kobeelya Girls Association (ex pupils) now house archives and memorabilia from the Kobeelya Girls School in the Coach House.
A conservation plan was completed on the building and a Lotterywest grant has enabled the re-roofing of the building to be completed. The Katanning Baptist community has continued to raise funds for the restoration of the building.
The house is a Late-Victorian Italianate style mansion, typical of those constructed for the wealthy at this time. The building is an asymmetrical two-storey design, constructed from brick and corrugated iron, with stucco dressings, pilasters and panels. A second story was added to southeast side of the building (evidenced by different coloured bricks) and later the upstairs verandah with fibro sheeting.
In 2001 extensive renovations and conservation was carried out with fire stairs being added and further alterations and additions to the house in January 2002.
Most of the outhouses still exist and had been converted into educational/dining facilities.
The roof height is complex with a combination of half-timbered gables, a tower over the entry and tall chimneys. Verandas had been filled in to form dormitories for the students and the interior is much altered.
The gardens are mostly grass with palms, cypresses and eucalypts with a gravel drive and the interior is much altered.