Standing the test of time

• Peake family home at 91 East Street Mount Hawthorn, under construction by Plunkett builders, 1949. Photo from the Vincent Local History Centre archives (COV PH0928)

IN this week’s tales from the past we have a collaboration with the folks from Vincent Local History Centre, telling of the Plunkett family’s long history in building the housing stock through Highgate and surrounds. It offers a snapshot of how people made do in tents waiting for their house to be built, a flow-on effect of the housing shortage from the construction ban during World War II as all materials were put towards the war effort. Plunkett Homes prepares to mark 120 years in business next year and they’re hoping to hear from people who live in their houses today. 

THOMAS PLUNKETT started Plunkett’s Joinery in Smith Street, Highgate in 1903. 

The family business branched out into home building in the 1920s and 1930s and the company played a key role in the residential development of Mount Hawthorn, North Perth, Mount Lawley and Highgate, as well as suburbs outside of Vincent including Claremont, Nedlands, Melville and Woodlands.  

A couple of decades into Plunkett’s housebuilding venture, Australia was in the midst of a housing shortage crisis during and after World War II. Housing construction ceased as all resources were put towards the war effort. 

In 1944 the federal government proposed a policy allowing a limited amount of construction, and Mr C.H. Plunkett welcomed the announcement in an interview with The Daily News: 

“Commenting on the present housing shortage, and the proposal for quite extensive building programmes for certain public facilities, Mr Plunkett said that fundamentals, such as food, clothing and shelter must come before non-fundamentals.

“He considered housing to be every bit as essential as food and clothing. Mr Plunkett praised the first report of the Commonwealth Housing Commission. 

“For the first time, he said, the lower income group had really been catered for, and the first thought seemed to have been given to them.”

By the 1950s, Plunkett’s opened their own timber mills, joinery and brickworks and were building over a 1000 homes per year.

The Peake family of Mount Hawthorn were among the many Mount Hawthorn families who chose to build their family home with Plunkett. 

Harold and Mary Peake lived in a tent next door to the construction site on East Street for six months while their home was being built in 1949.  

Harold Peake who was interviewed by the Vincent Local History Centre in 2002 recalls: “Our house commenced being built by Plunketts in February 1949 and was completed in August 1949 at a cost of £1,700 for the house. In those days we paid £38 for the block… it took almost six months.”

If you live in a home built by Plunkett, the company would love to connect with you as part of their anniversary celebrations.

Either contact the Vincent Local History Centre or directly contact Lisa Marie from Plunketts on 9202 9090 or

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