Azelia Ley's early life
Azelia Helena Manning was born June 27, 1872. She was the second child of Lucius Alexander Manning and Florence Augusta Bickley. Azelia and her siblings all grew up on the Davilak Estate
. She and her brother Alfred both contracted polio and were taken to England in 1876 for treatment. All of the children were fond of riding, and had their own horses.
The Manning children were educated by a governess in their own schoolroom at Davilak House. Later, Alfred went to Scotch College in Melbourne and then to Heidelberg University. Lucius went on to Prince Alfred’s College in South Australia, and then attended an agricultural college in England. Victor joined the British Army and served with distinction.
Marriage to John Ley
Azelia married John ‘Jack’ Morgan Ley, a customs officer, in 1900 at Davilak House. Following their marriage, they lived at Roraima, 60 Preston Point Road, East Fremantle, until John's death in 1927.
The house stood on several acres of land between Fraser and Pier Streets, with a frontage to Preston Point Road. At the rear of the house stood a coal house with hostlers quarters and stabling for horses. Azelia also had a farm and garden at Armadale where she kept horses.
Building the homestead
She had begun building the Manning Tree House, (now Azelia Ley Homestead Museum), on the Manning Estate. In 1915, her mother, Florence Manning, had divided Lucius Alexander’s estate into portions for each of her children, and 152 acres was transferred to Azelia.
The house was completed in 1923, although it was not until after her husband’s death in 1927 that Azelia came to live there permanently. The house was constructed of limestone with two distinct wings – the main residence and kitchen wing which were connected by an enclosed verandah.
According to her diaries, Azelia was unhappy with the plans for the house, disliking the pitch of the roof and the site chosen.
Living on the family estate
Azelia did not have any children and did not appear to have many friends. In fact, accounts of Azelia portray her as a very well read woman who only wore black, and she earned the reputation of becoming a recluse.
She was known to have stood on her verandah taking pot-shots at anyone trespassing on her land. Her dogs, horses, chickens, cows and garden and afternoon ‘drives’, either in the buck board sulky or later by car, occupied her days.
She continued to run her farm and manage her properties well into her eighties. Azelia died in 1954.
Dereliction and renewal
After her death, the homestead fell into a state of disrepair and it was not until the early eighties when the City of Cockburn, with the assistance of a number of prominent citizens in the district, decided to restore the residence and transform it into a museum.
On the 12th November, 1983, the Azelia Ley Homestead Museum
was officially opened to the public. The Historical Society of Cockburn
took on the duties of custodianship of the museum and has continued to assist in maintaining the residence and its displays, which are dedicated to the cultural and material history of the people of Cockburn.
See the page for the Azelia Ley Museum for contact details and opening hours.