New owners of Dempster Homestead

The iconic Dempster Homestead, the oldest building in Esperance, recently came into the hands of a local family hoping to do their part in the ongoing restoration of the property.

Tom and Victoria Brown said they were excited to delve into the history of the 150-year-old homestead and re-introduce it to the community.

Mr Brown said people had expressed their excitement in seeing the building after it had been closed for some time.

“You don’t realise this until you actually become part of it, is the interest other people have in the place,” he said.

“One particular fellow that I was talking to said “I would just love to come and sit up here for a couple of hours and just absorb the feeling’.”

Ms Brown said they knew what they were in for when buying the property, having visited the homestead when David and Marie-Louise Wordsworth owned it.

“It is a really important part of the history of our town,” she said.

“This seemed to us a really exciting project, it’s going to be a big elephant and we’re going to be eating it in small pieces.

“It’s not a burden, but it is a huge responsibility.”

Ms Brown said they believed the homestead was built in 1867-68, with further additions in the 1870s, before the Wordworths bought it in a state of disrepair in 1966.

She said the Wordsworths, particularly Marie-Lousie, wanted to ensure the house was cared for after spending 50 years restoring it.

“She was really hoping that another family, a local family, would buy her house and continue on as the custodians of the house into the future,” she said.

“Was it not for the Wordsworth family, this important piece of history would be gone.

“We have to acknowledge that they came in with the foresight and the passion and luckily they had some money to save this old building for Esperance and the community.”

Mr Brown said the house needed constant care because of the rising damp and moisture in the walls.

“It needs people living in it, It didn’t need somebody coming in just buying it for a holiday home,” he said.

“If you have a trained eye, everywhere you look in this house there are jobs to do.

“We’re not here as a commercial project, we’re here just to try and make sure the house is looked after.”

Ms Brown added “First and foremost it is our home.”

The house features a cellar in the garden room and a “chapel”, complete with a chandelier from the Plaza Theatre in Tasmania.

The homestead has hosted many guests over years, including Prince Charles during his visit to Esperance in 1973.

The couple purchased the homestead on March 28, and though it was early days they hoped to open parts of the house for community to see.

Ms Brown said they could be using the homestead gardens for fundraising events.

“That is a way then for house can be used for the community, by the community,” she said.

“I think lots of people just want to be involved in the Dempster Homestead.

“You feel the atmosphere and it just gets your imagination running”

The couple planned to liaise with the Esperance Bay Historical Society to learn more of the history prior to the Wordsworth family.