LEEDERVILLE has lost one of its most diligent amateur historians, with Florence Lehmann (nee Venables) dying on January 8, aged 98.
A church pianist and salvation army volunteer, she lived in Leederville her whole life and was the matriarch historian among the Venables clan, meticulously collecting documents and passing on old stories about the well-known traders.
Ruth Venables, her niece-in-law, would visit her every week and says Mrs Lehmann enjoyed chatting about memories and stories right to the end. “She wasn’t a lady that possessions meant a lot to,” Mrs Venables says.
“Memories meant more to her,” one of Mrs Lehmann’s nephews Geoff Venables agrees. “She was an accumulator of facts and memories.”
Along with family school merit certificates from the late 1800s, she kept everyday documents like a one pound receipt from the City of Perth electricity and gas department from when the power was turned on in her Loftus Street home in 1936.
The Venables family is synonymous with Leederville, having started up the family engineering (later hardware) business on Oxford Street in 1918.
Mrs Lehmann moved just three times in her life, each within Leederville, and lived independently until she died. She saw great change in the suburb, from the early days when the Leederville Hotel was surrounded by market gardens (she knew each of the Chinese gardeners by name, a rarity in those days) through to when the suburb was divided by the Mitchell Freeway in 1974.
Mrs Venables said her aunt-in-law gave her the history bug, and she’s optimistic that it’ll continue through the generations: Her own son is a keen local historian himself, and the family has huge files to pass down the line.
Before the split
GEOFF VENABLES will give a talk at the Vincent library on February 5 from 10am about Leederville before the Mitchell Freeway split the suburb in 1974. He says Venables family life centred around its Oxford Street business, but when the land was taken for the motorway the company was divided into four. Uncertainty had hung over Leederville since the Stevenson Report proposed the freeway in 1953, leading to the suburb’s decay. Leederville as we were… way back then is at the local history centre (99 Loftus Street).
by DAVID BELL