Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 5, 1955-1961

The Three Periods of Western Australia’s Colonial Architecture, Parts I and II

John Oldham, A.R.A.I.A., L.I.L.A. and Ray Oldham, B.A.

Oldham, John & Ray, 1961, 'The three periods of Western Australia’s colonial architecture, parts I and II', Early Days, vol. 5, part 6: 31-58.

PART I

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25th September, 1959
(This talk was illustrated by 50 colour slides)

Perth has many interesting and picturesque old buildings. These are loved by many people—but they are little understood and their distinctive architectural merits have been given practically no recognition. Their historic value has been recognised by some people— particularly by the members of the Historical Society of W.A. But when we returned to Perth after fifteen years spent abroad and in the Eastern States, we found no serious study had been made of their architectural and aesthetic merits. So we began to prepare a book on the subject. This is now in the process of publication, and much of the material in this talk is taken from it.

Man’s history can be revealed in a variety of ways. Not only directly through the written word, in books dealing exclusively with history; but indirectly through every one of our activities and particularly clearly through those activities which are expressed in an art form—through literature and poetry, music and painting, and through architecture. It is with architecture that we shall deal almost entirely tonight.

In the buildings of this State we can find reflected very clearly our history from the first days of white settlement in 1829 up to the present time. In this connection I would like to read a relevant quotation from the eminent English architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner:

“The history of Australia is taught at school, but no history lesson is as elective as that which is administered through the eye. Seeing is easier than reading, and seeing buildings is more of an everyday experience, than seeing paintings and engravings in a museum or art gallery. So with the disapearance of phase after phase of architecture,, layer after layer of historical consciouseness is denuded.”

For purposes of simplification we have divided the colonial architecture of Western Australia into three periods. There are a number of ways in which one might approach the study of our colonial architecture, and a corresponding variety of methods of organising the material. Perhaps the simplest would be to list the material by

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decades, by which we would refer to the buildings of the 30s, 40s, 50s and so on. This is not a very satisfactory method and shows a general lack of accurate knowledge of the subject. More detailed study will soon reveal that our colonial buildings can be separated with a fair degree of accuracy into a few major styles, which in their method of construction, in their planning and in their external appearance, are quite distinct one from the other. We could therefore divide our historic buildings into periods according to their style, and such a method of classification is widely used in the discussion of the architecture of any country.

But there is yet another method. Mr. Grenfell Rudduck, in a study of “The Evolution of the Australian House,” writes:—

"Clearly, housing and the nature of the house at any period is directly related to the level of development of the community concerned. I propose therefore to review the state of the houses in Australia during each of the main periods of economic growth. Approached in this way, the history of architecture lends to break up into a series of phases, in each of which the typical architectural forms are treated as manifestations or reflections of economic and social conditions.’’

We find that the styles approximate very closely to the periods of economic growth, and the three periods of our building which we shall discuss tonght are:

1st Period: 1829 to 1850. The period of free settlement. Buildings show primitive colonial Georgian or classic influence.

2nd Period: 1850 to 1856. A Transition Period from free settlement to the introduction of convict labour. Convict-built structures of stone are in Georgian or Gothic Revival style.

3rd Period: 1856 to 1830. The full eflects of tran sportation are felt, with rising prosperity and expansion of local production in all fields. This brings a distinctive style of colonial architecture to the capital city ol Perth, with Gothic Revival buildings in decorated brickwork, erected by convict labour.

Now to consider the first period.

Britain’s fear of France as a rival in her colonial Empire was fanned in the early 19th century by the many French scientific expeditions to Australia; and in order that Britain’s claims to the Western half of the new continent should not be upset by the French, a small party of 20 convicts under Major Lockyer from New South Wales were instructed by the British Government in 1827 to settle at King George’s Sound—which later became known as Albany.

In that same year an exploratory expedition up the Western coast included among its naval officers, a Scotsman, whose enthusiastic reports of the country around the Swan River, were largely responsible for a decision to form a permanent settlement there; and when, in 1829 this was done, and an official party was sent out from England on the Parmelia, they were under the command of this same naval officer, Captain James Stirling.

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Free settlers were encouraged to come out to the Swan River—particularly army and naval officers who, with the cessation of the Napoleonic Wars, found themselves on half pay and younger sons of landed gentry who also had few prospects of advancement for themselves or their families in England. Inducements were offered of liberal land grants to those investing their capital in the new colony. However, the early years were not easy. The British Government had no intention of spending much money in establishing this small outpost of empire, and it was many years before the unfamiliar land could be made self-supporting.

The first settlers had to make do with rough and primitive conditions. Their first shelters were tents on the beach, or hastily-erected huts of wattle and daub, thatched with bark or rushes or the blackboy, which last, impervious to rain, was at first widely used, until its highly inflammable nature made them cease to employ it.

Windows had no glass in them; only wooden shutters for protection: or sometimes they were laced over with vines.

Some settlers brought “pre-fabricated” wooden houses with them from England; but most private dwellings were at first built from the local timber, which was called “Swan River mahogany” until the aboriginal name “jarrah” came into usage around 1843.

The first public buildings were also of a temporary and rough construction. The “Rush” Church, put up a few months after the settlement began, had a framework of wood with walls filled in with rashes plastered over with mud and then white-washed.

However, the people managed to enjoy some of the amenities of civilisation even under these primitive conditions; they played their pianos, changed for dinner, and the Governor held his levees even when they lived in tents.

But gradually as conditions became settled, more permanent buildings began to be erected. Bricks were made from the early 1830s, in primitive kilns, or even sun-baked. These were often of beautiful colours, but were very soft.

Stone was not plentiful around Perth, and if it was used, it was practically uncut and unworked, small boulders and stones being set random in mortar. Usually the walls of brick or stone were cement-plastered over to hide the crudity of workmanship and to give greater strength.

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Most of the rough buildings of the first pioneering period have long ago disappeared, being unable to withstand the ravages of time, weather and white ants. But a few remain. Let us look as some of them.

THE OLD MILL, SOUTH PERTH

This photograph, taken several years ago, shows the rough rubble stone construction clearly, where the wall is breaking away from the garage which was put up at a later period from the mill. The Mill was built in 1835 for William Kernott Shenton and is a primitive industrial structure, completely functional, which, by its very simplicity, achieved a certain dignity and beauty which for nearly 100 years, made it a favourite subject for artists. The form in which it was best known was with a verandah around it. This was added in the 1870s by a man called “Satan” Brown who had leased it for a tea rooms; and in this form it is the symbol adopted by the Historical Society of Western Australia.

You can see from this photograph how it has something of the character of a fortress—an attribute which was indeed necessary in those early days, when attacks by natives were not infrequent. The well-known attack on the Mill at South Perth was not on this Mill, however, but on an earlier one, built close by, also for W. K. Shenton.

The rough construction reflects the privations and hardship and the dangers which the early settlers had to undergo to establish the settlement.

The Old Mill has been under threat of destruction many times, and was saved recently only by the efforts of a small band of enthusiasts, prominent among whom was Mr. Joe Sewell of the Historical Society. It has now been restored to its original form by the firm of Brisbane-Wunderlich at a cost of over £10,000 and made into a gay little toy, a distinctive part of the new Narrows Bridge approaches, and a tourist attraction around which are being gathered many other historic relics of the early days.

THE COURT HOUSE. Also of very rough and primitive construction is The Court House in Treasury Gardens, Perth, which is the only important public building in Perth surviving from this earliest period. The pioneers built in the style they had known in England, and this shows a classic influence. It was built in 1836 as a Court House, but it actually served as what we would call today, the first “community centre” for here were also held church services on Sunday, a boys’ school when the Court was not sitting, public meetings, debates, concerts, musical evenings and most other important public gatherings.

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To me this seems a gallant little building with a strong appeal; for we can see that, although these early builders were pitifully short of materials, skilled labour and even time, their unbounded confidence in the future of the colony shines through all these limitations. They were determined to make it a fitting symbol of their link with the culture of the past, and their confidence in the great future of the new settlement.

It was designed by Henry Willey Reveley, a civil engineer who landed here with the first official party, and who designed several other of the early public buildings, including the first Government House, now demolished. The only other surviving example of his work is:—

THE ROUND HOUSE at Fremantle, which was designed as a gaol and which also has the rough primitive workmanship which is so typical of this first period of our colonial architecture. The tunnel underneath was made later, to allow whaling ships easier access to the main street of the town.

ROTTNEST ISLAND. One of the most important relics of this first period of the State’s history is the settlement at Rottnest Island.

A number of simple buildings, constructed between the 1840s and 1860s, by Henry Vincent, the Superintendent of the aboriginal prison there, have the primitive charm possessed by so many colonial buildings, where the structures are perforce reduced to a basic simplicity which often achieves true beauty.

Though in constant use for over a hundred years, and for many purposes, the settlement has miraculously remained almost untouched and unspoiled; and now constitutes an almost perfect 19th century colonial village which is unique in Australia.

Whatever modern improvements may be brought to Rottnest Island in the future, it is our our firm conviction that the original character of the buildings of the old settlement should be preserved... when they would add greatly to the much-talked-of “tourist attractions” of the Island, as well as providing an interesting link with the State’s early history, and a quiet background for the modern developments.

The distinctive colour of the plaster has given us a new name— Rottnest Yellow—“It was a stroke of genius,” wrote Dr. McMahon in his chapter in Dr. Somerville’s book on Rottnest Island. And we agree with him also when he wrote “Maintain, then, the Rottnest Yellow as an old world note in this isle of youth,”

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We find another interesting example of the architecture of this first period at Albany, in Strawberry Hill Farm, built in the early 1830s by Sir Richard Spencer, the Resident Magistrate there, who was one of those retired army officers who were attracted to Western Australia by the promise of obtaining substantial estates.

In the entrance drive you can see how, after nearly a century of neglect, the garden still reflects the fine traditions of English Landscape design brought out here by the early settlers.

The building itself is, in our opinion, one of the most beautiful examples in Australia of a Romantic English Farm House. Strawberry Hill consists of a main two-storied wing which contained the drawing-room and bedrooms of the family; a separate kitchen; at one time a separate dining-room; the first two of rough rubble and brick construction, roofed with slate brought out from England. The entrance hall linking the two was added later. Three pairs of French doors opened from the drawing-room on to a formal terrace, looking out to the sea which Sir Richard Spencer so loved. He asked to be buried on the hill behind the house, looking over this scene to the ocean and there he and his wife lie to this day.

One of the distinctive characteristics of this farm is the attractive grouping of out-buildings around an informal courtyard. The cottage near the stables was built for the servants brought out from England, and is called Minor’s Cottage—Minor being the servant’s surname.

Another of the early settlements in the State was Busselton, first called The Vasse after a Frenchman who died there, and the district contained many interesting examples of buildings of the early pioneering period. Unfortunately some of them have recently been demolished or so altered that their architectural and aesthetic interest is largely destroyed, although of course, they still retain certain historic attraction. Cattle Chosen, the original home of the Bussells who pioneered the district, has been demolished by descendants of the founders; and Fairlawn, the home of the veteran Waterloo officer Captain Molloy and his charming wife Georgiana (one of whose daughters became the wife of Bishop Hale, the first Anglican Bishop of Perth) has been so “modernised” that the original character of the building is almost completely lost.

The passing of such interesting portions of the State’s early history emphasises the urgent need for official action being taken to ensure the preservation of the best of our colonial heritage. The Historical Society and some few enthusiastic individuals have managed to

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save some; and a few months ago a National Trust was formed in Perth, which we hope will be able to make secure the future of the most representative of our historic heirlooms.

Still standing, though rather unsympathetically repaired, is Busselton Church, built in 1845 by the pioneer settlers, and once again showing us, by its rough construction, the difficulties under which they laboured. Here the lovely colours of the local stone have been left exposed, with attractive effect. Another detail of interest is the bell tower, which we shall see was characteristic of many later churches. The church was built to a design obtained from England, but the details, due to the scarcity of skilled workmen, are considerably modified from the original. But this church, by its very simplicity, achieves that distinctive beauty so often apparent in colonial work.

While we are in Busselton, let us go over the road from the church to the little park, where an unusual historic relic has been happily placed and brought back to use again. It is the tiny little railway engine, called “Ballarat,” which was the first engine to run in Western Australia. It carried timber for 15 years from 1871 for the W.A. Timber Company to their mill at Lockeville, Wonnerup Inlet. Children love this little engine, and in our several visits to Busselton, we have never seen it without children scrambling joyously over it. Such an imaginative approach to the preservation of an historic relic has proved so successful that a neighboring town of Bunbury has copied the idea with another engine in its park.

A few miles out of Busselton is a well-known landmark, Chapman’s Mill, which actually comes into a slightly later period of our history, but we have shown it here merely to locate this original cottage at Inlet Park, which is so typical of the simple little houses which were widely built during the early days. Most of them were so crudely made that they have now disappeared; but some few do remain, particularly in the country districts and it is interesting to the student of architecture or history to see the axe-marks on the roughly-hewn timbers; the lovely colours of the colonial bricks; and the mellow tones of the grey shingle roofs, made from casurarina or she-oak trees.

At the mouth of the Inlet stands Lockeville, the terminus for the little engine we mentioned a moment ago. Facing the winds and salt air of the ocean, Lockeville looks rather bleak and dreary; but on the other side of the house we find another reminder of the lovely landscape tradition of 17th and 18th century English garden design, in the informally planted jonquils growing profusely through the old orchard.

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We found another example of this same tradition of landscaping near Busselton, in a paddock of yellow jonquils growing thickly in a deserted orchard.

Not far away from Inlet Park is historic Wonnerup House, known in our local history largely by the killing by natives of the first owner, George Layman in 1841 which led to a punitive expedition by the white settlers under Captain Molloy, and the massacre of a whole tribe near Lake Mininup.

In Wonnerup House today the descendants of the original owners have preserved an interesting collection of books, photographs, paintings, household equipment and period clothing, which could constitute the nucleus of a fascinating museum of local history.

In the early days of this State's settlement, several grandiose schemes of land settlement were projected, the best known being that of Thomas Peel, a nephew of the statesman Sir Robert Peel. He planned to bring out 10,000 immigrants on to a huge grant of one million acres (later reduced to 100,000 acres) of free land South of Fremantle, but the whole scheme proved a complete fiasco.

More successful in its final results was that of the Australind Land Company, which, although it wound up after a few years, brought to the colony several hundreds of skilled tradesmen and professional people who made their permanent homes in the State and who contributed much of value to its development. But the grand town of Australind remained a dream; and almost the only trace of the settlement today is Upton House, built in 1842 for Marshall Waller Clifton, the Commissioner of the Australind Land Company.

This house is particularly interesting as being almost the only example in Western Australia of the Colonial Georgian style of gentleman’s dwelling—the original Georgian being modified to suit our climate by a verandah round the lower storey. The mighty Tuart which frames the house so attractively, has probably altered little in appearance since the days when Commissioner Clifton built the house, and it might well have been growing there when William the Conqueror invaded Britain.

The natural beauty of the countryside constitutes another part of the history of this State, and at Australind we have another fine example of how the landscape traditions of our forefathers enabled them often to preserve the beauty that they found in the new land. The avenue of Paperbarks on the Old Coast Road was cut through the

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thicket, leaving the trees to arch gracefully overhead and form a pattern of cooling light and shade. But already this lovely avenue has been threatened by the State Electricity Commission linesmen, who wanted to clear the sides of trees. Fortunately the Tree Society and some interested individuals have so far been successful in preserving its distinctive beauty.

Another notable settlement near Perth was Guildford. We can see from the size and dignity of these stables at the back of the Rose and Crown Hotel, built in 1840, how important a part was then played by horses, which provided the main means of transport for people and goods. These old stables are interesting architecturally, as being probably the first use of the decorated Dutch-style gable, which we see appearing later in many buildings of Fremantle. The date 1840, which decorated the corner of the Inn was recently removed by the present owners. The staircase is of a simple style seen in many old houses, including The Cloisters and James Roe’s house in Adelaide Terrace.

An integrated character is given to the old buildings around Guildford by the use of brick, used extensively here perhaps earlier than in other parts. Preservation of many of the old buildings around Guildford could, we believe, be of great interest, and could also provide one of those “tourist attractions” about which so much is being written just now. For tourist attractions need not consist only of luxury hotels, night clubs and motels; but should also include the distinctive features of any district, which are of considerable novelty and interest to people from other places, and which also have a special place in the affections of the local residents.

A fitting termination of the first period of our colonial history is Mount House in Perth, for this is the purest example in this State of the colonial Georgian influence which is so closely associated with the best colonial buildings of the Eastern States.

We now enter the second period of our State’s history, when the colony began to bring out from England nearly 10,000 convicts.

This provided one of those strange twists that Fate loves to make men endure. When the Swan River colony was formed, one of its proudest boasts was that it would be a colony of free men, with no taint of convictism. Yet only 21 years after its founding, these same free settlers were asking the Home Authorities to send them convicts—and plenty of them—as the only solution to their difficulties.

All through the 30s and 40s the settlement had struggled along with little progress, and no end could be seen to the hardship and poverty being endured by even the most stalwart and courageous.

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Part of the explanation lay in the early system of land grants, by which settlers were allowed a certain number of acres free for the amount of capital they had invested in stock and farm equipment before they arrived (40 acres for every £3, 200 acres for every labouring person brought out up to the end of 1830). As a consequence, settlers spent most of their capital before arrival, in the wish to obtain as large an estate as possible.

But once established here on their land, they found the land could not support them for many years. The old methods of farming in England were not suitable to this topsy-turvy land, where summer was the period of death when no crops would grow and stock had to be hand-fed through the long dry months of drought. Many settlers had not left themselves enough ready cash to buy adequate food for their families and servants during these preparatory years before the land could support them, and had to agree to the servants leaving them to fend for themselves. Even when they could afford to support their employees, they found a situation had arisen, rather similar to that so amusingly treated in James Barrie’s play “The Admirable Crichton,’’ when under primitive conditions, those who actually performed the productive work, saw no reason why they should not labour for themselves instead of their employers, and so left to strike out for themselves. The native population proved of little value to white men in the south-west. Even those—and there were many of them— who worked hard and unremittingly, could only just survive under the primitive conditions and had no time or money or labour force to build such urgent necessities as roads, bridges, public buildings or even adequate dwellings for themselves, nor for opening up and developing new land for greater production of wheat, sheep, timber and so on. (Wollaston’s diary gives a clear picture of this period)

The only solution was to have a cheap and plentiful supply of convict labour, and in I860, on the twenty-first anniversary of the founding of the colony, the first shipload of convicts arrived at Fremantle.

A change for the better soon became apparent, although it took several years for the full benefits of transportation to be felt through the whole colony.

We have classified the years between 1850 and 1856 as a Transition period. The money being spent by the Imperial Government in this State was bringing prosperity to many settlers, and the convict labour force began to be employed on urgent jobs of improving roads, building bridges and necessary public buildings, and was allocated also to settlers.

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The change is reflected in the buildings of this period. The Old Perth Boys’ School is still of primitive construction, but for the first time we see the appearance of the Gothic Revival style. It stands still in St. George’s Terrace, part of the Perth Technical College. Surrounded as it now is by the towering glass and concrete of the modern city, it offers a striking reminder of the hardships endured by the founders of this city, and also reflects a change from the primitive earlier conditions.

It was designed by William Ayshford Sanford, a Colonial Secretary who, as a member of the Camden Society at Cambridge, was an enthusastic advocate of Gothic architecture as the ecclesiastical architecture par excellence. They applied their admiration of the style also to schools, houses and many less appropriate objects. It was built as a boys’ government school around 1862. We can see how the stone is now roughly cut and laid in random courses, and left exposed, showing workmanship more skilled—though still comparatively rough and primitive—than the earlier rubble and plastered structures.

The same man, Saftford, also designed the Fremantle Boys’ School, built in 1856, in which we see the Dutch gables which are used on so many of the early buildings around Fremantle. Stone was plentiful and easy to work in that district, so we find that most of the Fremantle buildings of this period are constructed in stone. This school, incidentally, is possibly unique in the history of building in that it actually cost less than the estimates.

During the Transition Period, the thousands of convicts who were being sent out to provide a cheap labour force for the young settlement, were mostly housed at Fremantle, which had a consequent rise to prominence and local prosperity, so much so, that a public meeting of citizens there proposed that the capital should be moved from Perth to the port.

The importance of convict labour to the colony is shown by the Fremantle Gaol, which still occupies a prominent position on the hill overlooking the town. (The site for this building, by the way, was the subject of much controversy at that time, and a story goes that Colonel Henderson, the officer in charge of the soldier force guarding the Convict establishment, wanted it to be built on Mount Eliza at Perth. If so, he was only the first of many people to realise that King’s Park could provide an ideal site for almost everything. Fortunately, his proposal was not carried out, and King’s Park remains to this day a bushland park near the heart of the city.)

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In the Fremantle Gaol we can see the technical advance made possible by the introduction of more skilled tradesmen. This is apparent, not only in the size of the building, but also in the cutting and laying of the stonework, which is of a quality not previously attainable in the colony. The light colour of the local stone—golden at first mellowing to a soft grey—imparts a cheerful quality even to places designed for such a sombre purpose.

Another important convict building of this period is the Insane Asylum at Fremantle, later used as an Old Women's Home, in which the Dutch gable is combined with finely worked Gothic arches. This is yet another of our distinctive historic buildings which was recently threatened with unnecessary demolition; but has been so far saved by the efforts of a few enthusiastic people who have formed a committee called together by the Mayor of Fremantle, Mr. W. F. Samson, himself a descendant of one of the very first residents of the Port.

The effect of the convict labour gradually extended throughout the the country districts, and their labour was used by private settlers to open up new land for wheat and sheep farming. By an arrangement with the Home Authorities, it was agreed that an equal number of free settlers must be brought out, in order that the influx of convicts would not overwhelm the small colony; and the Imperial Government provided this partly by pensioner guards accompanying the transports. The pensioners were former soldiers, with their wives and families; who, after a period of duty as convict guards, were free to settle, but could be called on to help maintain order in any emergency. The pensioner guard provided a solid, respectable core of useful immigrants, trained to discipline and their everyday duty, accustomed to hard work and sacrifice, and whose traditional outlook and solidity provided an influence of considerable value in the State's development. Many of them went to Greenough Flats during the 1850s to open up this excellent wheat land, and the Victoria District soon became one of the most important growers of wheat to supply the needs of the colony. Its importance at that period is reflected in the many substantial buildings, including three large flour mills, and many picturesque relics which today remind us of the days when it was a thriving district. Maley’s Mill, Clinch’s Mill and one at Dongara show a style of building with resemblances to the convict-built structures of the larger towns. Not far away from Clinch’s Mill is a group of deserted buildings now falling into ruin; the Methodist Church and a large Store started by H. Gray & Sons who later moved to Geraldton where they prospered. A story tells that the first wedding to be held in the

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Church occurred before the stone bridge was built in 1864 over the nearby river; and that floods stranded the bride on one side of the river for several days, while her bridegroom waited at the church on the other side, until the floods subsided.

In the little Greenough Cemetery we can still read on the tombstones the story of some of the early settlers. Here are some old soldiers, who proudly record on their tombstones their war-time exploits in Europe; and here are buried the two young Clarkson brothers, who tragically perished during an exploratory trip in 1875.

Geraldton and the surrounding district also contain many interesting buildings dating from this period; and the Greenough Valley, with its picturesque ruins scattered throughout its length, among the green paddocks which are bounded by white sandhills of the coast, provides a lovely and distinctive district which could, I think, become a centre of attraction for tourists who are interested in both beauty and local history.

To conclude our brief study of the Transitional Period of our colonial architecture, we come to the Old Gaol in Perth. This is the most carefully designed and detailed public building up to the period in which it was erected. It is not surprising to find that it was designed by a trained architect—Richard Roach Jewell—who in 1852 came out here as a free immigrant and became Clerk of Works in the Imperial Government, rising to become a Superintendent and Director, before his retirement in 1884.

Richard Roach Jewell designed most of the important public buildings during the third period of our colonial history—buildings which have given a distinctive character to the capital city for nearly 100 years.

In the old Perth Gaol we see a competent designer battling, successfully, with a difficult and primitive material—stone. The construction material is honestly expressed and not covered with stucco as in earlier buildings; and the greater degree of skill among masons of the convict force, and the free settlers who began to flock to the colony, permitted more attention to details such as quoins, doorways and windows.

This building, where executions were once held, originally fronted to Beaufort Street, but the Museum and Art Gallery have since been erected and almost completely obscure its outlines. Its charm could, however, be more fully revealed if the courtyard between the two buildings were cleared of the untidy and ugly outbuildings, and made into an indoor courtyard garden, where outdoor exhibitions of sculpture and painting could be suitably shown during the summer months.

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In the Fremantle Gaol we can see the technical advance made possible by the introduction of more skilled tradesmen. This is apparent, not only in the size of the building, but also in the cutting and laying of the stonework, which is of a quality not previously attainable in the colony. The light colour of the local stone—golden at first mellowing to a soft grey—imparts a cheerful quality even to places designed for such a sombre purpose.

Another important convict building of this period is the Insane Asylum at Fremantle, later used as an Old Women's Home, in which the Dutch gable is combined with finely worked Gothic arches. This is yet another of our distinctive historic buildings which was recently threatened with unnecessary demolition; but has been so far saved by the efforts of a few enthusiastic people who have formed a committee called together by the Mayor of Fremantle, Mr. W. F. Samson, himself a descendant of one of the very first residents of the Port.

The effect of the convict labour gradually extended throughout the the country districts, and their labour was used by private settlers to open up new land for wheat and sheep farming. By an arrangement with the Home Authorities, it was agreed that an equal number of free settlers must be brought out, in order that the influx of convicts would not overwhelm the small colony; and the Imperial Government provided this partly by pensioner guards accompanying the transports. The pensioners were former soldiers, with their wives and families; who, after a period of duty as convict guards, were free to settle, but could be called on to help maintain order in any emergency. The pensioner guard provided a solid, respectable core of useful immigrants, trained to discipline and their everyday duty, accustomed to hard work and sacrifice, and whose traditional outlook and solidity provided an influence of considerable value in the State's development. Many of them went to Greenough Flats during the 1850s to open up this excellent wheat land, and the Victoria District soon became one of the most important growers of wheat to supply the needs of the colony. Its importance at that period is reflected in the many substantial buildings, including three large flour mills, and many picturesque relics which today remind us of the days when it was a thriving district. Maley’s Mill, Clinch’s Mill and one at Dongara show a style of building with resemblances to the convict-built structures of the larger towns. Not far away from Clinch’s Mill is a group of deserted buildings now falling into ruin; the Methodist Church and a large Store started by H. Gray & Sons who later moved to Geraldton where they prospered. A story tells that the first wedding to be held in the

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Church occurred before the stone bridge was built in 1864 over the nearby river; and that floods stranded the bride on one side of the river for several days, while her bridegroom waited at the church on the other side, until the floods subsided.

In the little Greenough Cemetery we can still read on the tombstones the story of some of the early settlers. Here are some old soldiers, who proudly record on their tombstones their war-time exploits in Europe; and here are buried the two young Clarkson brothers, who tragically perished during an exploratory trip in 1876.

Geraldton and the surrounding district also contain many interesting buildings dating from this period; and the Greenough Valley, with its picturesque ruins scattered throughout its length, among the green paddocks which are bounded by white sandhills of the coast, provides a lovely and distinctive district which could, I think, become a centre of attraction for tourists who are interested in both beauty and local history.

To conclude our brief study of the Transitional Period of our colonial architecture, we come to the Old Gaol in Perth. This is the most carefully designed and detailed public building up to the period in which it was erected. It is not surprising to find that it was designed by a trained architect—Richard Roach Jewell—who in 1852 came out here as a free immigrant and became Clerk of Works in the Imperial Government, rising to become a Superintendent and Director, before his retirement in 1884.

Richard Roach Jewell designed most of the important public buildings during the third period of our colonial history—buildings which have given a distinctive character to the capital city for nearly 100 years.

In the old Perth Gaol we see a competent designer battling, successfully, with a difficult and primitive material—stone. The construction material is honestly expressed and not covered with stucco as in earlier buildings; and the greater degree of skill among masons of the convict force, and the free settlers who began to flock to the colony, permitted more attention to details such as quoins, doorways and windows.

This building, where executions were once held, originally fronted to Beaufort Street, but the Museum and Art Gallery have since been erected and almost completely obscure its outlines. Its charm could, however, be more fully revealed if the courtyard between the two buildings were cleared of the untidy and ugly outbuildings, and made into an indoor courtyard garden, where outdoor exhibitions of sculpture and painting could be suitably shown during the summer months

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PART II

After 1856, we enter the Third Period of Perth's colonial architecture, which is a most interesting' one, for it gave to the capital city a distinctive character for nearly a hundred years.

Because the merits of the buildings of this period are not generally recognised, we would like to go into some detail here.

Some people have made the comment to me that "Perth has no colonial buildings”; when what they really meant was that Perth has no colonial Georgian buildings. Because the most familiar and best of the colonial architecture of New South Wales and Tasmania was in the Georgian style, this has led some people to suppose— erroneously—that a colonial building must be Georgian in style, to be worthy of one's consideration. A moment's thought will, I am sure, convince everyone that colonial buildings can be in any of a variety of styles, and have differed according to the particular time, place and circumstances. In South Africa, for example, early buildings show a Dutch influence; along the West coast of America we find Spanish style missions and houses; pioneers of New South Wales and Tasmania built in the style they knew best, which was Georgian; while those of Victoria show a strong classic Italianate influence, and so on.

Western Australia’s history was different from that of the Eastern States. There, transportation ended in 1840 and by 1850 they achieved a measure of self-government which could be said to end their colonial period. But this State’s colonial period continued much later. Settlement began here nearly half a century after that of New South Wales, and at the very time when they officially ceased to be a colony, we found it necessary to introduce convict labour, and so remained financially and politically dependent on Great Britain for many years longer. It was not until 1870 that some form of self-government was granted in this State, and 20 years later before full responsible government officially ended Western Australia’s colonial period.

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In our third colonial period of building, we find our architecture under the influence of a different style from the 18th century Georgian. It was either Gothic Revival or Tudor in style. No one of judgement would suggest seriously imitating today such past styles. But there was good and bad in them and Perth possesses some colonial buildings in the Gothic Revival and Tudor styles, which are of outstanding excellence.

The vitality and distinctive charm of some of Perth’s Gothic Revival colonial buildings have been recognised by many authorities, among them Morton Herman, who in a visit to Perth in 1958, expressed admiration for their clarity and vigour.

Unlike Fremantle, no suitable building stone was available in any quantity around Perth; so that when the full stimulating effects of transportation began to be felt in the capital city, a different building material had to be found. Brick was a logical solution, and was a big step forward, for brick is less costly of both time and labour than stone.

Almost all these buildings are, as we mentioned earlier, in the style either of 19th century Gothic or Tudor Revival; and they are all constructed of brick, of varied soft and mellow colours, which are laid (or bonded) in decorative patterns.

The brickwork is of a type no longer used today; which will never be generally used again; and which has never before been used in Australia on such a wide scale and in so successful a manner.

Bricks can be laid in a number of different ways. The general practice in Australia today is to lay them as a cavity wall whereby two single rows laid lengthwise are separated by a cavity. This has certain advantages over earlier methods, such as better insulation. But before cavity wall construction came into common practice, walls were solid in two interlocking rows of bricks, which could be laid, or bonded, in any of a number of different ways. In Western Australia, for some reason, Flemish bond was the method generally employed after 1856. In Flemish bond, the headers or short side of the brick, alternates with the stretcher or long side, along the row; and the header is laid in the centre of the stretcher below it. Flemish bond produced a strong wall surface and it also allowed the differently coloured bricks to be worked into decorative patterns—generally a chequer-board of light and dark, but sometimes having more elaborate patterning built into the very structure.

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To explain how the colonial bricks came to be of different colours: modern bricks are of a uniform colour, being burnt under machine conditions where the heat is evenly distributed during the firing. But colonial bricks were hand-made in fuel-burning kilns, which produced different colours in the bricks according to the position they occupied during the firing. Those bricks in the hottest position went a dark colour—deep red, or blue or purple—and were the hardest: the majority turned out a mid-red or orange-yellow; while those furthest away from the heat were very pale pink or creamy yellow, and were soft and rubbed away easily if exposed to wind, rain or handling.

With a designer of ability, brick permitted the use of decoration and of sculptured form which could be economically achieved simply by the placing of the structural unit—the brick—instead of by the much more laborious and time-consuming effort necessary in any similar degree of decoration in stone. The degree of skill required of a bricklayer for a comparable effect in brick construction was very much less than for the decoration of stone by a stone-mason.

Perth was fortunate at this important stage of her development in having the services of several men of ability, practical talents and vision for the future. The outstanding designer and architect to whom we owe most of the distinctive city buildings of this period was an English architect, Richard Roach Jewell, who came at the age of 44 as a free settler in 1852; was appointed by Governor Fitzgerald as Clerk of the Colonial Establishment; and remained in that service until his retirement in 1884; rising to become Superintendent and for a time, Director of Public Works. He was a capable professional man, who is reputed to have trained in the office of the famous British architect Sir Charles Barry, who designed such well-known buildings in the 19th Century Gothic Revival style, as the Houses of Parliament at Westminister.

To Jewell, has been attributed the design of the Cloisters, the Old Masonic Lodge in Hay Street, Wesley Church, Old Trinity Church, the lower East and West wings of the Treasury Buildings in St. George’s Terrace, the over-all design of Perth Town Hall, the Pensioners’ Barracks, Perth Railway Station, the old portion of Perth Girls’ School in James Street, a new wing of the Legislative Council (now the Agricultural Department) in St. George’s Terrace, and the Military Hospital, later called The Abbey Flats, at the western of the Terrace (now demolished).

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Before Jewell came to the colony, building design had often been in the hands of amateurs and men not architecturally trained. This was liable to produce buildings which, although sometimes possessing for us today a certain picturesque charm, lack real architectural merit. Jewell was a designer of higher quality, who was able to overcome many of the difficulties of the pioneering era; and to use his crude materials and comparatively unskilled workmen to create buildings which were not only well suited to their purpose, but which in addition also frequently possessed considerable beauty; and which reflect very clearly the changing circumstances of the time.

Some other men who contributed to this flowering period of Perth’s colonial architecture were James Manning, the Clerk of Works in the Imperial Establishment, who supervised the convict labour force in the construction of many of the important public buildings listed above, including the Town Hall, and who designed and constructed most of the roads, bridges and jetties during this period; James G. Austin who came out as the chief surveyor for the Australind Land Company and who later designed for the Government several buildings, none of which I have been able to find surviving; William Brittain, a free settler who established a brick works at what is now Queen’s Gardens in East Perth; and William Buggins, a builder and bricklayer who had the contract for several of the buildings mentioned above.

Our researches have not revealed which of the men—Jewell, Brittain or Buggins—was responsible for the distinctive patterning which is seen on a great number of private houses and cottages, as well as public buildings of this period, but I incline to the belief that it was probably the chief architect and designer, Richard Jewell.

The two great patrons of building during this Colonial period were Bishop Hale, the first Anglican Bishop; and Governor Hampton.

Here is not the place to discuss anything but architecture, so we shall not enter into a discussion of the merits and demerits of their controversies and conflicts, which were deep and sustained. All that now concerns us is the effect each man had on our colonial architecture. Both contributed greatly to the development of the State by constructing many buildings of considerable interest and beauty.

During Governor Hampton’s term of office and under his encouragement were built The Pensioners’ Barracks, Government House,

The Town Hall, the Old Military Hospital, the Old Masonic Lodge and Government House at Rottnest.

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Bishop Hale was directly responsible for Bishop’s House, The Clergy Lodgings or Bishop’s Cottage next door (recently demolished), The Deanery, probably The Old Schoolroom, and St. Bartholomew’s at East Perth cemetery, as well as a number of country churches.

The Cloisters: One of the most interesting of Perth’s old buildings is this little Tudoresque building, which has been admired and loved by many generations of West Australians since it was built around 1862.

The Cloisters is one of the best examples of our distinctive colonial architecture, its basic simplicity enhanced by the skilful use of the construction material. The decorative diamond lacing in the East wing has almost the quality of peasant gaiety; and is the most beautiful example of decorated brickwork in this State—and probably anywhere in Australia.

The soft and mellow colours of the bricks range from deep purple through orange-red to creamy white. They are particularly well laid, though some of them, being soft in texture like many of the early bricks, have worn and crumbled and repairs have been unsympathetically carried out. The unusual diaper treatment gives added richness of texture, which is enhanced by such details as the variation from the predominant dark stretcher of the chequered pattern of the West wing, to light stretchers around the entrance porch, giving this emphasis; and by the angles of the rubbed brickwork round buttresses and base.

The design of The Cloisters has been attributed to Richard Roach Jewell.

Besides possessing considerable architectural and aesthetic interest, The Cloisters is rich in historic associations. It was the first boys’ secondary school in the State, founded and financed by Bishop Hale; and through its doors passed many men who later played a prominent role in the State’s history, among them being Alexander, John and David Forrest; Septimus, Octavius and Alfred Burt; Maitland Brown; the Parker brothers John, William, Fred and George; Edward and Frank Wittenoom; and members of such other well-known families as Burges, Bunbury, King, Brockman, Leeder, Shenton, Stone, de Burgh and Lee Steere, to mention only a few. Later The Cloisters became a girls’ school; then a theological college; then a University Hostel, among many other things.

The Historical Society has recommended to the Government that this building be preserved on its site; and we strongly support the recommendation. Because The Cloisters is situated very close to the

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street boundary, its retention need not prevent an economic development of the valuable city site; for a point-block built behind it could suitably retain the old building as part of a garden court entrance— which treatment is often done on valuable city sites overseas, and whereby the profitable development of the site is possible where city building is regulated on a plot-ratio basis, as is done in Perth.

Such a treatment of the site has the approval of many visiting town planners of eminence, including the Hon. Lionel Brett and Professor Gordon Stephenson; and we hope that the Church of England will always cherish this beautiful heirloom, as a memorial to their most distinguished pioneer—the first Bishop, who was such a munificent benefactor to the Church of which he was the head, and who also contributed greatly to the development of other spheres of activity in the young colony of Western Australia.

Bishop’s House: Another of the gifts of Bishop Hale was Bishop’s House, which, for a century, has been the official residence of the Anglican Bishops of Perth.

It was built in 1859 for Bishop Hale, who paid out of his own purse the very substantial sum of £4,809 for this residence, the land around it and some over the Terrace, and the little cottage next door. Archdeacon Wollaston would have preferred the Bishop’s residence to have been at Crawley, where the University Engineering School is now situated; but Hale preferred—wisely we think—to be nearer the centre of settlement.

Architects charges are listed as £185.11.9 but who the architect was, we have been unable to trace. Unfortunately Bishop Hale’s Journal does not cover the relevant years of 1856-60.

Hale and his family took up residence when they returned from a visit to England at the end of 1859. You may remember how, some years before, in 1848 Hale had visited Western Australia with Bishop Short, and had met and fallen in love with Sabina Molloy, the eldest daughter of Captain John Molloy, a pioneer of Augusta and Busselton, and of his wife Georgiana whose life has been so delightfully told in Alex Hasluck’s book Portrait With Background. After a whirlwind courtship they had married and gone to live in South Australia.

Bishop Hale and his wife Sabina spent many happy years at Bishop’s House where Hale entered enthusiastically into many projects for the benefit of the colony. These included establishing a boys' secondary school; trying to form a girls’ secondary school; setting up

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a home and school for aboriginal children in his own grounds; encouraging the formation of debating clubs, amateur theatricals, musical societies and even a book club for country districts ... probably the first circulating library in the State, and the forerunner of the Box Scheme of Adult Education now run by the University.

Tragedy came to Bishop's House too, for their eldest son Mathew was drowned in the Swan River at the age of twelve years.

Succeeding Bishops of Perth have lived in the house until recently. The second Bishop, Parry, added some rooms to the Clergy lodging next door and lived there for several years, Bishop's House being too large and expensive. A daughter of Bishop Parry, Mrs. Maude Sanderson, has written a delightful description of this charming little corner of Perth, in which she tells of the lovely garden-traces of which still remain—and which include weeping willows that were taken from slips of the willows growing over Napoleon’s grave at St. Helena.

Bishop’s House shows Georgian influence, with a colonial adaptation of a verandah over the lower rooms. But it is not a convenient house by modern standards; and it is pleasant to see it entering into a period of usefulness again, after some years disuse, by being taken over on a 10 year lease for the Perth headquarters of Legacy.

The Clergy Lodgings next door was built around 1860 by Bishop Hale to accomodate the country clergy when they visited Perth, particularly for the week’s conferences which he called from time to time.

The simple little building is in the chequered brickwork of the period, and has five chimneys—one for each of the original rooms. A drawing room was added on the east and a kitchen of the west by Bishop Parry before he went to live there, while Bishop’s House was leased to Judge Hensman. I have not been able to trace the architect with any accuracy; but the architectural evidence leads me to suppose that it was possibly designed by Richard Jewell. The cottage had a romantic, rural charm, set among its great trees, though the lovely mellow colours of the brickwork had been obscured under untidy fibro additions. It was demolished only a few months ago.

The Deanery is another romantic building in the style of domestic Gothic Revival, and apparently once had the chequer-board brickwork all over, most of it long since covered by yellow cement render; but the patterned brickwork still shows on the north wall. Originally it had a large garden connecting it with the Cathedral, but this disappeared when the Burt Memorial Hall was built.

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The Deanery was designed by the first Dean of Perth, the Rev. George Purvis Pownall, who, like Sanford, was a member of the Camden Society at Cambridge and an admirer of the Gothic style for churches and other buildings. Pownall also built a parsonage at York (now demolished) and the first portion of the beautiful little Church of the Holy Trinity there.

The Deanery's old-world charm is much appreciated by Perth people, who protested so strongly some years ago, at the Church's intention of replacing it by a more convenient dwelling, that it remained, and the Dean, the very Rev. John Bell, caried out renovations at his own expense.

The Old Schoolroom: Dreaming away the sunny hours on the northern side of St. George’s Cathedral is a simple little single-story building which has, in our opinion, considerable value for three reasons. Firstly, it is an interesting example of the subtle use of the decorated brickwork of this period of our colonial architecture. The differently coloured bricks have been used with great taste to emphasise the basic lines of the building—and not, as in most Eastern States brickwork, as an extraneous decoration. Secondly, the building, which forms one side of an open space behind the Cathedral, creates an atmosphere of peaceful seclusion which is reminiscent of the quiet Cathedral close of some English towns; and thirdly, because of the schoolroom’s relationship to the Cathedral—its smallness helping to make the Cathedral, which is not a large structure, seem larger and more imposing than it would otherwise appear.

It has not been possible for us to trace the history of the Schoolroom with any accuracy so far, as not even the name appears to be clearly defined. Its general character and architectural details, however lead us to suppose that it was probably built in the 1860s or 1870s, during the time of Bishop Hale, for reference is made in 1873 to a debt still existing.

Because of its importance in relation to the Cathedral and its basic beauty, we believe the Schoolroom is worthy to be preserved on its site.

St. Bartholomew's, East Perth Cemetery was built in 1871 as the cemetery chapel, but soon after became a fashionable place of worship for those living along Adelaide Terrace, then the most genteel place of residence in the colony. The simplicity of the tiny church, and the mellow beauty of its patterned brickwork, make it an appropriate historical memorial in this lovely spot, where so many of the pioneers lie in their last sleep. We hope the little church will always be carefully preserved here.

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Many churches in a style similar to that of St. Bartholomew’s were built throughout the country districts during the term of office of the first Bishop. When he arrived there were only 14 churches in the whole diocese: at his departure there were 28. Those built during this period include those at York, Northam (1865), Middle Swan (1869), Geraldton and Greenough, Guildford (1873), Mourabine near Beverley (1873), Bunbury (1866), Kelmscott (1874) and Mandurah (1870).

St. Werburgh’s was a private church erected in 1874 by the Egerton-Warburton family at their property at Mt. Barker, where they were pioneers of the district. The church has an attractive setting, on a rise among rolling paddocks, with some native timber framing it. The outside is more like a house than a church, with its encircling verandah—again a concession to the climate. The small interior is charmingly decorated, with gaily painted ironwork in red, gold, black and green, forming a peasant-like trellis which, despite the simple materials, gives an atmosphere of great richness. The windows accentuate this effect, simulating by the inexpensive Victorian “transparencies” of coloured paper glued on the glass, the rare beauty of stained glass. The scarlet cushions on the simple pews add another note of rich colour; and the whole interior has been furnished with such taste and loving care, that considerable distinction is achieved.

Albany Gaol: Other examples of the beauty that resulted from the careful craftsmanship of the men of those early days, can be found in odd corners throughout the State. In many of the old settlements are examples of stonework or beautifully patterned brickwork, and even the barns and outbuildings were often well proportioned and arouse considerable architectural and aesthetic interest. It seemed as though many of the craftsmen of those times took a joy in using their materials skilfully and beautifully. The colourful granite stonework of Albany has great distinction, not only in The Rocks (formerly Government House) but in many a less pretentious dwelling. Albany possesses also some very lovely old brickwork, of distinctive pale pink and gold colours. Part of the exterior wall of the Albany Gaol (built probably around 1872) in which the differently coloured bricks are laid in an informal pattern is as lovely in its own way, as the geometrical patterning used in Perth. Although this and many other old buildings have been allowed to fall into decay, some of them are basically sound, and could—and we hope will—soon be brought back into use, perhaps for quite different purposes from their original ones. But even as ruins, some would be worthy of preservation.

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To return to Perth, there is old Trinity Church built in St. George’s Terrace in 1865. It is now almost completely obscured by a later church designed by H. S. Trigg and built in 1893 which fronts on the Terace. But the old church is still there, and provides us with a delightful glimpse of an old-world corner of the city, as we pass up a shadowy lane to catch a glimpse ahead of the mellow brickwork splashed with sunlight, walk around a tiny schoolhouse built a little later in the same mellow colonial bricks, through a garden courtyard now used for a child-minding centre, and back into the shadows of an arcade leading to Hay Street.

The first church is Gothic Revival in style, and is of a pleasing simplicity, using the soft, mellow colonial bricks in the familiar chequered Flemish bond patterning. We can see clearly the essential differences between the basic simplicity of this early colonial architecture and that of the next period, illustrated by the ornate Victorian baroque of the newer Church adjoining.

The architect of the older church was Richard Jewell. William Buggins was the contractor for the brickwork.

Wesley Church is older than the Town Hall by two months, and is an attractive building with a graceful spire and pleasing proportions. It has the patterned brickwork which we have found is so characteristic of this third period of Perth’s colonial architecture. Its more sombre colouring is due to the fact that the darker red bricks are here used for the stretchers, while the headers are light orange. Richard Jewell was again the architect and designer of this church, and William Buggins the builder. It was opened for service in 1870—the same year that Alexander and John Forrest crossed from Adelaide to Perth.

Methodism had many ardent supporters among the earliest pioneers, among them being the Hardey brothers of Tranby renown, and the Johnson, Inkpen, Clarkson and Shenton families. This church was the proud culmination of their early labours.

The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was begun in 1863 by the second Bishop Griver. It is in the perpendicular Gothic style of the English cathedrals and has been acclaimed as “a noble Gothic poem in stone,” which reproduced in this distant land, the style so famous in England and Europe.

Grouped around Victoria Square are a number of buildings belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, whose varied styles and periods give a peculiar interest and charm to this section of the city.

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The Children of Mary Chapel mentioned earlier, was built in 1846, and is a primitive but picturesque structure typical of the time it was built. The Mother House, built “according to the plans of an Irish political prisoner” in the 1850’s, came next; there is patterned brickwork in the 1870s; stone with brick quoins of another building dating from 1895; and the “Italianate Classicism” of Bishop’s Palace opposite; as well as the elaborate Gothic addition of St. Mary’s Cathedral—a collection of buildings illustrating, in one small area the whole history of architectural development in this State.

The Old Masonic Lodge in Hay Street is a quaint colonial building erected in 1867. The design may be attributed to Richard Jewell. The exterior of the building has the simplicity typical of this colonial period; but unfortunately the mellow tones of the brickwork have been spoiled by a crude and ugly red varnish applied over the front. Such maltreatment of our old buildings destroys much of their aesthetic appeal. The building, although picturesque, has in our opinion, little real architectural value.

Government House, Perth is one of the most distinctive of Perth’s buildings which, with the Town Hall and The Barracks, has for one hundred years, given the city a unique character. It rises through a veil of trees, its onion-shaped towers and arched colonnades imparting a dream-like charm, resembling a fairy-tale palace in n child’s story book.

We do not at this stage of our investigations, know with certainty exactly who was the designer of Government House. For many years there was what could be termed a sort of unofficial competition among the colony’s early designers, many of whom drew up proposals for a new Government House. Plans are still extant by J. G. Austin dated 1849, Captain Wray and R. R. Jewell 1857. And very bad they all are! We were indeed fortunate that none was accepted, and that the authorities instead gave us this lovely heirloom. It may perhaps have been partly the design of Colonel Henderson, the Comptroller-General of the Imperial Establishment from 1850, who was a Royal Engineer and a friend of Sir Charles Barry, the eminent English architect, who even might also have had some say in its design.

A large part of its beauty is undoubtedly due to the lovely garden setting which, with the Stirling Gardens nearby, should we believe, be carefully preserved in any future development of this part of the city; for these Gardens are almost the only examples surviving in Western Australia of the famous English Landscape style

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of garden design developed in the 17th and 18th centuries. The great trees, allowed to grow to their mature perfection, the gently curving paths following Hogarth's “Line of Beauty”, and the informally placed shrubs and flowers, were planted by some of the first settlers among them being John Septimus Roe, who exchanged seeds with the eminent botanist Von Mueller; Mr. Purkis, Mr. Lochee and Mr. Trigg.

Government House, although not a very suitable residence for present-day Governors, should, we belive, be carefully preserved and a new use found for it. A folk museum would be eminently suitable. It is rather a mixture of styles, the most dominant being probably Gothic Revival, and it has the patterned chequer-board brickwork so characteristic of Perth in this Colonial period, and so unusual elsewhere in Australia. Government House has great aesthetic, as well as historic value.

The Pensioners’ Barracks were begun in 1868 and completed in 1866, a north wing being added in 1873. They were to house the time-expired soldiers who came out from England as a guard to the convicts who were sent out between 1850 and 1868, when Western Australia was a penal settlement.

The building shows a Tudor influence, and possesses great beauty, both in its overall proportions and in its detail. The mellow bricks are skilfully used to emphasise the basic outlines of the building, whose two wings gently encircle the hill behind.

For nearly a hundred years The Barracks has beautifully terminated the western vista of St. George’s Terrace. It was designed to be seen from this position. But now that extensions to the Houses of Parliament are under way, The Barracks is threatened with demolition in the name of “progress.” The authors of the Stephenson-Hepburn Plan advocate its removal—not because it would interfere with the road system at this end of the Terrace (no road is planned to pass over the area now occupied by The Barracks) but because they could see no value in the building, historically, architecturally or aesthetically.

That is where many people disagree with them. The Historical Society considers that the building has greater historic value—and they are the experts on our local history. The authors of this paper consider that the building has considerable merit architecturally and aesthetically and should be preserved on its site. We are not alone in this belief. Several eminent architects and town planners who

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have visited Perth in recent years have expressed their opinion that the Barracks should be preserved, as a distinctive and beautiful example of our colonial architecture, whose brickwork is unique in Australia.

A garden court treatment behind it would make The Barracks an attractive approach to the new Houses of Parliament on the hill above, and would also preserve an appropriate memorial to the pensioners, whose integrity and devotion to duty constituted a valuable contribution to this State’s early development, and a significant link between our early history and the new seat of State Government.

The Town Hall is another of the decorated brick buildings which have given such a distinctive character to the city for nearly a century. It was begun in 1867 by Governor Hampton who believed that the growing importance of the colony necessitated a dignified city hall of which the settlers could be proud. The cost was borne by the Government, and the building, when completed, formally handed over to the City Council.

It is beautifully sited, and the proportions and massing are pleasant when viewed from any direction. Details of the Tudor style architecture are also well executed.

On a memorial plaque on the tower the architects are named as Richard Roach Jewell and James Manning. The overall design was by Jewell. James Manning was in charge of the convict labour force who did most of the construction work, and it is probable that the interior of the main hall, with its fine timber hammer beams, was designed by him.

The arcades on the street level, which originally served as a market place, were removed in the 1920s, when further mutilation was threatened, the City Council wanting to remove the tower or to cover its brickwork with cement; but public protest prevented this civic vandalism.

The Town Hall is one of the best and most distinctive of Perth’s colonial buildings and should be treasured for prosperity.

The Hall of the Legislative Assembly which adjoins the Town Hall in Hay Street, was built in 1879 to provide a suitable meeting place for this important governing body after it was established in 1870. The Legislative Assembly met there until Parliament House was ready for use in 1902. The style followed that of the Town Hall, and the interior hall also has attractive jarrah hammer beams supporting the roof.

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The Department of Industrial Development next to the Town Hall in Barrack Street has recently been demolished. It was yet another of the decorated Flemish bond buildings which gave such unity to the capital city. It was built in 1873 on the site of an earlier building, and its style showed the gradual change from the prevailing Gothic Revival style of architecture to the next period of classic revival. With the prevailing colour a deep red, it provided a subtle contrast to the lighter tones of the Town Hall, to which it also gave additional dignity by its smaller scale.

The Treasury Buildings. The “stately classicism” of The Treasury Buildings impressed Australia’s leading architectural historian, Morton Herman, when he visited Perth recently. In the different colours of the brickwork we can read its history, tracing Jewell’s two-storey wings on East and West, which were built in 1879, and the later addition of an upper storey and central portion, added in 1887. Although the interior is not well designed for modem offices, the exterior adds considerable charm to this section of the city.

The Cathedral Church of St. George. Provides a fitting culmination to this period of Perth’s colonial architecture, for this building, beautifully sited, has an effect of great grace, the simplicity of the whole massing and the richness of detail making it a constant delight to those who view it.

It was begun in 1880 by the second Anglican Bishop, Parry, and was designed by Edmund Blacket of Sydney, who was the architect of many fine buildings in New South Wales, including the Great Hall at the University, and St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney. We have placed this building in our colonial period although other of Blacket’s work executed at the same time in the Eastern States does not come under that category but belongs there to the next stage of Victorian Gothic Style. But Western Australia was not to emerge from her colonial period for another ten years; and Blacket’s design, when constructed in the more primitive conditions of this State, shows the simplicity of workmanship and the vitality of spirit which make up the chief charm of colonial work.

The construction is a combination of brick and stone, the stonework being intelligently used to take the force of positions where the soft colonial bricks would be liable to crumble; and also offering a harmonious counter to the general trend of verticality in the design. (A spire which was designed by the architect, has not yet been erected.)

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A number of architectural devices have been used deliberately to increase the apparent size of the building, which is not actually a large one, e.g., the reduction in the size of the windows and the miniature colonnade over the west porch, which the eye tends to interpret in terms of human proportions.

The repetition of a colonnade motif in the Lands Department building opposite is also particularly happy. The relationship of the tiny schoolroom on the north of the Cathedral has already been mentioned, in this connection its importance is again stressed for adding to the dignity and apparent size of the larger edifice.

The bricks are softly coloured and mellow in tone and are handled with taste and skill both outside and in the interior, where the use of the natural colours and textures of the construction materials of brick, stone and timber, are beautiful in both detail and in overall design, and give the Cathedral great distinction.

This fittingly ends the discussion of the third period of Western Australia’s colonial architecture, for after 1880 the style of our important buildings changed to one of ornate Victorian Classicism.

It must be emphasised here that, while divisions into styles and periods are convenient in organising one's material, and as a basis for discussion and further study, such divisions are purely arbitrary and a certain amount of overlapping is inevitable.

Nor are the examples taken from centres other than Perth meant to illustrate the best examples of the various periods. They do not claim even to be completely representative. There are many interesting and beautiful examples of colonial building still standing throughout the State, which are not included in this paper, which was illustrated by colour photographs taken in certain districts which we have happened to visit during the past eighteen months. We hope to extend these photographic examples eventually to cover the whole of this State’s colonial architecture of any significance, but this is a work—and a pleasure—yet to be done.

However, although certain local variations will no doubt provide richness of detail to the over-all pattern, our researches up to this time lead us to believe that the general outline of our colonial history will prove to be as outlined in this paper. If our studies of the architectural and aesthetic qualities of these early buildings help in the preservation of the best examples, we shall feel that our labours have been well rewarded indeed.


Garry Gillard | New: 21 July, 2020 | Now: 22 July, 2020