Handling Heritage: Education and Ellensbrook Homestead

A hidden Western Australian treasure, Ellensbrook Homestead is located between Gracetown and Prevelly along our coastline, South of Margaret River. The place was chosen by Ellen and Alfred Bussell as the site for their home in 1857- due to the proximity of fresh water and the shelter surrounding hills gave, from the wind.[1]

Ellensbrook Homestead, 2016

The Bussell family came to Australia in the first settlement party from England, Alfred married Ellen shortly after. Ellen, and later her daughter Fanny were integral to the building, functioning and longevity of Ellensbrook Homestead, as well as the family’s success in the beef, cheese and butter business. The Bussell family, a highly distinguished pioneering family, contributed to the Australian farming identity with this early feat in the industry and through the building of Ellensbrook Homestead and Wallcliffe House and the subsequent establishment of Margaret River – arguably the most ‘WA’ place in ‘WA’.

“A recent national survey showed that 92% of Australians value heritage as a core part of our national identity.”[2]

Upon arrival to the site, the homestead can not be seen. Turns and bends in the road and thick bushland engulf the path until there is a break and the ocean floods the view. The Homestead is small in scale but rich in history and building techniques, with the beauty of this building being centered around its numerous construction techniques and materiality. Bush post frame, hand split timber cladding, paper bark roofing and use of locally quarried limestone are construction methods that can all be seen on site and begin to unravel the building timeline the structure was erected along.

Original paper bark roofing under new roof system

The Ellensbrook Homestead was restored by the National Trust of Western Australia and is open for the public to visit and enjoy the grounds, byo picnic. Historic information about the Bussell family – a key family in Western Australia’s history can be read at the site. The National Trust have conducted numerous material conservation workshops and talks down at Ellensbrook. The most recent, the Ellensbrook Mokidup Conservation Works Tour, took participants through the building while conservation works such as salt damp remediation, repointing and the manufacturing of traditional lime mortars were taking place by Keith McAllister and volunteer training groups.

Shell visible in limestone face of the structure

Within the sites bounds, the grounds maintenance keeper lives permanently with his family, which seems fitting given the site has been a place for family historically. Constant inhabitation of the site also allows the place to be closely monitored and protected. I attended one of the Trust’s workshops held at Ellensbrook homestead, where investigations were conducted on the buildings condition and materiality. Morning tea, afternoon tea and lunch were arranged by the grounds keeper and He and his family joined the group to discuss the priority of works needed and the intricacies of the vernacular structure. Sitting in the shade of the Norfolk Pine, eating locally produced food and gazing along the cape to cape trail to the ocean, it became clear why Ellen and Alfred chose the site initially.

View of Ellensbrook Homestead facing South-East

The location of Ellensbrook Homestead near the popular tourist (and local favourite) town of Margaret river, its proximity to the cape to cape trail and picturesque surroundings, its link to the Bussell family, the varied traditional building techniques it offers and its human scale all position the place to be a monument to itself, catalysed by the management of the site by the National Trust. The Homestead’s success as a visitor’s place and education space provides an example of how heritage sites can be utilised as a rich educational resource for future generations.



[1] The National Trust of Western Australia. “Ellensbrook Homestead.” Accesedd 6/09/2017. https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/ellensbrook/

[2] Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage. “Importance of Heritage.” Accessed 06/09/2017. http://www.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/about-us/importance-of-heritage




The National Trust of Western Australia. “Ellensbrook Homestead.” Accesedd 06/09/2017. https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/ellensbrook/

Your Margaret River Region. “Ellensbrook- Heritage Site.” Accessed 06/09/2017.

The National Trust of Western Australia. “Ellensbrook Mokidup Conservation Works Tour.” Accessed 06/09/2017. https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/event/ellensbrook-mokidup-conservation-works-tour/

Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage. “Importance of Heritage.” Accessed 06/09/2017. http://www.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/about-us/importance-of-heritage

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