The Cliffe

"The Cliffe" is one of the first residential dwellings built in the Perth suburb of Peppermint Grove.

The dwelling is located at 25 Bindaring Parade, Peppermint Grove and was constructed in 1894. The substantive additions to the dwelling, undertaken in 1899 were designed by prominent Western Australian architect J. Talbot Hobbs and the dwelling has historical associations with the prominent McNeil, Brisbane and McComb families.

Description

The dwelling is a bungalow built, predominantly, of jarrah and finished off with imported wrought iron railing. In 1914 Dr James Battye in his "Cyclopedia of Western Australia" described the dwelling as follows:

"From the substantial foundation to the shingle roof every part of the structure is of jarrah, and after nearly twenty years - the house having been built in 1894 – every plank and beam and joist remain in as sound condition as when first they were cut to the contractor's design. Over twenty rooms are roofed beneath these jarrah shingles, and the interior is fitted up with all that art and comfort can suggest, while surrounding the house is a park of ten acres, tastefully laid out with lawns and flower-beds, and further beautified by the introduction of decorative statuary in bronze, collected by Mr McNeil on various trips to England and the Continent." [Battye, J. S. (ed) "Cyclopedia of Western Australia", (1912-13) (Carlisle, Western Australia - Hesperian Press) ISBN 0859050726]

Owners

The original owner of The Cliffe was Neil McNeil, who purchased the land in 1892 - only one year after Peppermint Grove was surveyed into building allotments. McNeil was one of the owners of the Jarrahdale Timber Company which exported timber for the paving of London Streets at the turn of the century. [cite web |url=http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A050220b.htm |title=McNeil, Neil Biography |publisher=Australian Dictionary of Biography |accessdate=2008-06-09] Because of his strong business interest in timber and his conviction of its suitability as a building material, McNeil built his home as a showpiece of jarrah construction. Unfortunately, McNeil's vision of majestic timber houses, rather than houses constructed of brick and stone, was not shared by the Peppermint Grove Road Board which later legislated against timber construction in the area. The property was sold in 1927, following McNeil's death, to Lance Brisbane, a prominent West Australian industrialist. [cite web |url=http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs/A130711b.htm|title=Sir Hugh Lancelot Brisbane - Biography |publisher=Australian Dictionary of Biography |accessdate=2008-06-09] When Lance Brisbane moved in 1933, Brisbane's brother, David Brisbane, and his family, occupied The Cliffe until his death in 1960.

Dr Harold McComb, a prominent plastic surgeon [ [http://www.mccomb.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=27 McComb Foundation history] ] and Dr Athel Hockey (AO), a renowned geneticist [ [http://www.hgsa.com.au/Index.cfm?pid=111272 Human Genetics Society of Australia] ] , subsequently purchased The Cliffe and lived there until April 1995. The McComb's had four sons, two of whom (David and Robert) performed in the iconic [cite news|url=http://www.undercover.com.au/News-Story.aspx?id=5106|title=Max Merritt and The Triffids To Be Inducted Into Hall of Fame|last=Cashmere|first=Paul|date=2008-06-05|work=undercover.com.au|accessdate=2008-06-08] [cite news |url=http://www.theage.com.au/national/hall-of-fame-for-merritt-and-triffids-20080605-2lzy.html |title=Hall of Fame for Merritt and Triffids|publisher="The Age" |last=Donovan |first=Patrick |date=2008-06-05 |accessdate=2008-06-08] Australian post-punk rock band, The Triffids. According to rock historian, Bleddyn Butcher,

"Between 1978 and 1981, the Triffids recorded six collections of original songs at The Cliffe. The house remained a sanctuary and source of inspiration throughout their career. Its peculiar location, an eyrie on Devil's Elbow overlooking Freshwater Bay, gave David a startling perspective as well as a beautiful view. When he became interested as a teenager in forming a band, he and the future Triffids would gather in the cellar at The Cliffe to practise, the size of the grounds ensuring there were few neighbours to disturb." [cite web |url=http://www.postnewspapers.com.au/20071110/news/013.shtml |title=The Cliffe was cradle of The Triffids' rock |publisher=Post Newspapers |last=Ranalli |first=Romy |date=2007-11-10 |accessdate=2008-06-09]

According to Robert McComb the home inspired his famous brother, who loved the house.

"The house was the home of the band while we were in Perth. The sprawling rooms, lofts and underground cellars we used to rehearse in were things most Perth houses didn't have; there was such a strong atmosphere there that Dave would return to it for inspiration."cite web |url=http://www.postnewspapers.com.au/20080614/news/005.shtml |title=Our house is a person ... big and watching |publisher=Post Newspaper |last=Ranalli |first=Romy |date=2008-06-14 |accessdate=2008-06-17]

The cover of The Triffids' last album, "The Black Swan" (1989) was photographed in the stables at the rear of the house. [cite web |url=http://www.themusic.com.au/imm_display.php?s=christie&id=241&d=2007-11-13 |title=Battle Over Triffid's House |publisher=Themusic.com.au |date=2007-11-13 |accessdate=2008-06-09]

In 1995 the dwelling was sold to Sharon Creasy, wife of prospector Mark Creasy, for $2.7 million.cite web |url=http://www.postnewspapers.com.au/20080607/news/002.shtml |title=Cliffe demo is music to Creasys' ears |publisher=Post Newspapers |date=2008-06-07 |accessdate=2008-06-09] In October 1995 when the Creasys proposed to redevelop the property the Heritage Council of Western Australia sought to have the property listed on the State Register of Heritage Places and subsequently lodged a conservation order on the property. The Creasys contested the interim listing for nine years, and in 2004 the Heritage Council removed the dwelling from the interim listing and placed it on the permanent register. There was a legal dispute as to whether the listing was done correctly, resulting in the Heritage Council re-registering it on the permanent list in May 2005. [ cite web |url=http://www.mp.wa.gov.au/colinbarnett/Publications/The%20Cliffe%20Grievance%2030%20August%202007.pdf |title=The Cliffe - Heritage Listing |publisher=Parliament Hansard |last=Barnett |first=Colin |date=2007-08-30 |accessdate=2008-06-09] The Creaseys estimate that the dispute has cost them $225,000 in legal fees [cite web |url=http://www.postnewspapers.com.au/20070929/news/012.shtml |title=Grand mansion now a rotting wreck |publisher=Post Newspapers |last=Ranalli |first=Romy |date=2007-09-29 |accessdate=2008-06-09] and that the house was now uninhabitable, estimating it would cost at least $2.8 million to make it liveable and much more to renovate it completely.

Heritage value

The dwelling is registered on the Shire of Peppermint Grove's Municipal Inventory [cite web |url=http://www.peppermintgrove.wa.gov.au/docs/INVENTORY.pdf |title=Shire of Peppermint Grove Municipal Heritage Inventory 1999) |publisher=Shire of Peppermint Grove |accessdate=2008-07-04] , and with the National Trust on March 6, 1984, the State Register of Heritage Places (interim listing on July 20, 2004 and permanent listing on July 19, 2005) [cite web |url=http://register.heritage.wa.gov.au/viewplace.html?place_seq=1924&offset=0&view=listings |title=Heritage database: The Cliffe (No.1924) |Publisher=Heritage Council of Western Australia|accessdate=2008-06-17] and on the Register of the National Estate on June 30, 1992. [cite web |url=http://www.aussieheritage.com.au/listings/wa/Peppermint%20Grove/TheCliffe/21679 |title=Aussie Heritage: The Cliffe |publisher=Aussie Heritage |date=2007-02-03 |accessdate=2008-06-09] [cite web |url=http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;search=town%3Dpeppermint%2520grove%3Bstate%3DWA%3Bkeyword_PD%3Don%3Bkeyword_SS%3Don%3Bkeyword_PH%3Don%3Blatitude_1dir%3DS%3Blongitude_1dir%3DE%3Blongitude_2dir%3DE%3Blatitude_2dir%3DS%3Bin_region%3Dpart;place_id=10302 |title=The Cliffe, 25 Bindaring Pde, Peppermint Grove, WA, Australia |publihser=Australian Heritage database|accessdate=2008-07-04]

In accordance with the Heritage Council of Western Australia's assessment "The Cliffe is a rare example in metropolitan Perth of a substantial weatherboard 'gentleman's' residence, which has, intact, the subsidiary buildings of coachhouse, stables, summerhouse, servants cottages, and part of the original gardens."

On Thursday June 5, 2008 the Legislative Council supported Parliament's first delisting of an order by the Heritage Council so that the house could be demolished on the basis that the Government was potentially exposed to a $20 million lawsuit under clause 76 of the 1990 State Heritage Act. The clause, never used, allows owners of heritage-listed properties to ask the Government to buy their property if its heritage listing makes it "incapable of reasonably beneficial use, and that the carrying out of any reasonable development could not render the land capable of reasonably beneficial use".cite web |url=http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23838907-5006789,00.html |title=Heritage fears over Perth mansion The Cliffe |publisher=The Australian |last=Taylor |first=Paige |date=2008-06-10 |accessdate=2008-06-10]

In a newspaper interview Robert McComb denied claims by Mr Creasy and both sides of parliament that the house was derelict.

"In 1998 I took my son around to show him the house. I remember showing him the quality of workmanship, how the doors still fitted millimetre-perfect after 100 years, how the solid jarrah shingles, stained glass and beautiful dark floorboards were still in perfect condition. We lived in it up until the time we sold it and it was fine."

References

External links

* [http://register.heritage.wa.gov.au/PDF_Files/The%20Cliffe%2007-05(P-AD).PDF Heritage Council of Western Australia listing]


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