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How a PTSD WWII veteran saved enough money trapping rabbits to buy an inner-city terrace – now abandoned & worth millions

Ian Harvey
The house has been abandoned since around 2003 and the final tenant was a woman called Jean who, her onetime house mate Eddie Butler says, was fond of going out with her trolley to thrift shops and purchasing crockery and figurines which now cram the old kitchen. source

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He was a rabbit trapper who lived in a tent in the bush, who went to war and returned shell shocked to live with his mother in the slumland that was then the inner city Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.

Together, James William Walton, who probably suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and his mother Alice Mary Koller bought a terrace house in Surry Hills for the sum of £4100. The amount would be equal to around $320,000 today. Daily Mail Australia tracked down the relatives of the now abandoned house, which has become the subject of public interest following the publication of eerie photographs of the kitchen stacked to the ceiling with belongings of the last tenant, who was James Walton’s daughter.

One of Australia’s newspapers has just released photographs of that terrace, and it’s the talk of the town. Why? Because the last known person to live there was Walton’s daughter and she left almost everything behind in the home.  Items now sit where they were left, remaining untouched for years.

Walton’s daughter is still living and in her 60s.  She only goes by her first name, Jean, and said that is because Walton had a troublesome life after the war, which obviously included his life with his children.  He died in the 1980s.

While Jean was living in the house, she had a tenant who shared the large home with her. Eddie Butler says that Jean would fill the house full of crockery and figurines, almost obsessively.  Those figurines and crockery still lie in the house.

The City of Sydney has decided to replace everything broken or damaged on the terrace house.  The city even agreed to take care of the lawn and trees in the yard as well.  They believe that if the city keeps allowing the house to remain so run down, it will become dangerous to passersby.  After issuing the clear-up notification, the police were able to locate Jean; that is when they found out she was living with a caretaker.

One of Jean’s nieces has told reporters some history about the house.  It had been in her family for almost 55 years before it was abandoned nearly 13 years ago. Butler also told reporters that there is a reason why the house looks so cluttered and messy, and why it was abandoned.  The kitchen is strewn with cups, saucers, spices, and dirty dishes.  Some of the other items are lamp shades, pots and pans, all over the floor.

Perhaps, due to Walton’s PTSD, Jean found this way to cope.  She believed hoarding helped her cope with her slowly deteriorating father. There are unopened plastic packages near scissors hanging from hooks and plastic bags hanging even higher than the scissors.  One of the reporters says that it looked like a crude Christmas tree.

Butler says that Jean had hoarded so much that the stairs to her bedroom were blocked, resulting in her having to sleep in the living room.  Butler says that when he left in 2003 Jean was still collecting odd items.  Only two years later, in 2005, he came back to visit Jean and that is when he found out she had left.

The house has been abandoned since around 2003 and the final tenant was a woman called Jean who, her onetime house mate Eddie Butler says, was fond of going out with her trolley to thrift shops and purchasing crockery and figurines which now cram the old kitchen. source

The house has been abandoned since around 2003 and the final tenant was a woman called Jean who, her onetime house mate Eddie Butler says, was fond of going out with her trolley to thrift shops and purchasing crockery and figurines which now cram the old kitchen. source

Butler had an answer to almost everything the reporter asked him.  The reason Jean hung everything from the walls and ceilings is because she loved mobiles and things on the wall. Butler also gave an explanation for the other objects pictured around the house. A mobile in the shape of a half moon and stars is suspended from the ceiling by two kitchen lights.  He said that while he was still living there he tried to have the yard and trees kept up, but it was pretty bad even before he moved in.

Jean was one of two daughters of Walton and his wife Vera.  Vera had 10 other children from a different marriage. Walton’s niece said that James’ whole family knew there were issues with coping after the war, but Walton would not talk about it.Butler moved in because his mother died in 2001 and he helped Jean pay some of the rent, occasionally cooking her meals. Although Walton’s property was considered a slum in Sydney while he was living there, in 1957 the terrace house belonged to a wealthy landlord.  This is why the terrace is worth so much more today.

One of the City of Sydney’s spokespeople said that if one of Walton’s or Jean’s relatives steps forward to claim the house, they would be able to take possession of it.  Only under one condition though – that they keep up the housework.  The city is putting $20,000 pounds toward the reparations of the house.  If no one steps forward to claim the house, the City of Sydney will have to sell it.