The 1935 entrance gates pictured on completion

We read in the news that the Minister for Heritage has declined to register all of Subiaco Oval, much to the disappointment of the local authority. Although allegedly against the advice of the Heritage Council, the government seems happy with just having the 1935 gates heritage listed.

But in all this discussion we’ve not seen anyone comment on the fact that the current Subiaco Oval is not the first Subiaco Oval, but the second. Most people know the stadium first opened in 1908, but Subiaco Football Club was founded way back in 1896. Do you imagine they had nowhere to play and train for their first twelve years?

Towards the western end of Nicholson Road is a reserve called Shenton Park and it was here, in 1897, that Subiaco FC made their home. It was simply known as Subiaco Oval at the time. Trouble was, to the south of the ground was a large lake, and during the winter months the water on the playing field proved impossible to drain.

The local government spent a small fortune trying to make Subiaco Oval playable, but there were still times when games were played wading ankle-deep through the water. But play they did, because footballers were harder back then.

In the end, the council gave up trying and instead decided to develop a new oval on Mueller Park, starting work in 1906. And how did the Subiaco locals react? As you would expect: with outrage. Angry letters were written to the newspapers, protest meetings were held, and people were generally grumpy. How dare they fence off part of our park and charge admission for football games? This is the people’s park, and those dirty footballers should stick with their current ground in Shenton Park.

Of course, like all good councils, Subiaco ignored the protests and built a new Subiaco Oval anyway. And with a new stadium due to be opened soon, the future does not look bright for the historic ground. Well, at least we’ll get to keep the gates as they develop the oval into yet another housing complex.

Don’t look back in anger


What you looking at?

Dodgy Perth promises this is the last time we will ever deal with this controversial issue. Especially since we are going to put it bed for once and all time.

Take a look above at the Australian coat of arms on Perth’s GPO, freshly installed when this photo was taken, with the kangaroo looking the wrong way. As is well known, the sculptor didn’t get paid so the roo is looking in an accusing fashion towards the treasury building.

Wait, did we say this was Perth GPO? Our mistake.

This is actually a picture of the coat of arms installed on the new parliament building in Canberra in 1926. So, evidently this sculptor didn’t get paid either. What is it about sculptors not getting paid in the 1920s?


Oi, look at me when I’m talking to you!

But sculptors haven’t been getting paid for a long time before the 1920s. Oh yes. This is the old Sydney GPO, which predates the Commonwealth, and the roo is looking in an accusing way towards… well, towards something presumably.

Every time this story gets a mention on local radio, someone rings up and claims their father (or grandfather, or uncle) made the GPO coat of arms, and the legend is completely true.

Well, we’re sorry to say folks, that this is just how some fancy shield things were done in the past. Just is. Nothing more interesting than that.

Stop all the clocks…

Midland Town Hall

How Midland Town Hall should have looked

This is a story about a very Australian approach to life. The one where we have a complete disregard for expertise and just adopt the ‘she’ll be right, mate’ attitude. Only, in this case, she wasn’t right at all. Welcome to Midland Town Hall.

As you can see from their design above, architects Hamilton and Upton planned a single clock face right over the main entrance. Had they had the money and completed the building, the citizens of Midland would now have one of the greatest town halls in Western Australia. But they didn’t have the cash, so the design had to be trimmed back, and one of the losses was the clock.

After WWI every local area collected money for a memorial to the fallen. Many places decided not to put up a statue, but to erect something useful for the district and call it Memorial Something-or-Other. So WA is full of Memorial Halls and Memorial Gates and the like. In Midland they decided they needed a clock, so people knew when to catch their train. And not just any clock. But a really big and heavy clock, with four faces.

(There is a local myth that the clock was a rejected one intended for Midland Post Office—even the Heritage Council repeats this story—but there is no truth to this at all.)

In early 1923, the Memorial Committee asked the council to build them a tower to hold their clock. But when the council realised how much it would cost for a good tower, they proposed simply knocking the top off the Town Hall dome and sticking the clock there. Unfortunately, the architects told the council the brickwork wouldn’t take the weight, since it was never designed to have a clock on top of it.

Like any good council should, they ignored the architects and turned to a local builder, who told them he could put the clock on top of the dome really cheaply, and he was sure the Town Hall would be fine. Plus, he didn’t even ask for any money for himself, which saved council a bit more. And so the skilled architects were ignored, and plans quickly knocked up.

And so the top of the dome was cut off and the clock placed on top, completely disfiguring the look of the Town Hall, since it doesn’t fit and to this day looks like a job done by cowboy builders. Which it was.


Who could possibly think this was a good idea?

One problem was that the clock hardly ever worked, so people kept missing their trains anyway. It required constant maintenance, for which there was no budget, so a local man agreed to look after it, for free, to the best of his ability. Which doesn’t seem to have been a great success, but at least it occasionally told the right time.

A couple of years after the clock had been installed large cracks started appearing in the Town Hall’s brickwork. Some were so large you could actually put your finger between the bits of brick. Guess what? The architects had been right all along and 5.5 tonnes of clock, casing and steel struts were ripping the building apart.

So another architect had to be called in, the great Edwin Summerhayes. His report was damning. There was no structural support for the clock, it had been badly installed anyway, and it desperately needed a framework put in to carry the weight down to the foundations. Since this would destroy the Mayoral Chambers, Summerhayes said the only solution was to remove the clock and put it in its own tower, just like the Memorial Committee had originally requested. Failing to do so, risked the whole building falling down.

Everyone agreed that the clock would have to come down, but no one was willing to pay for it to do so. Instead, the council decided to drop the matter and just hope no one was killed by falling brickwork. And that’s exactly what happened. More money was spent over the next couple of decades patching up the dome and Town Hall than it would have cost to move the clock. But that’s how councils often work (or don’t work).

Today, the clock still ruins the look of a beautiful town hall. Just to save a bit of cash.

Should we save our corner shops?


Ours are all skinny flat whites

You may have seen in the media about the poor deli owners in Scarborough who have been forced into a rooftop protest to save their business. It is due to be knocked down at some point to make way for yet more high-rise apartments. Read all about it here.

The Dodgy Perth team are not usually ones for taking sides in property disputes, so we’ll restrict ourselves to the simple question: is this deli a heritage building? And like all simple questions, there is no simple answer. And there’s no simple answer right now because no one has done the leg work to find out.

Once you could find these corner shops everywhere, but in an age of late-night supermarkets and 24-hour garages they are becoming increasingly rare. This Scarborough deli was built around 1940 and was thought of as a very modern shop for its time. After World War II, the owners added an asbestos residence next door with lounge, two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, laundry, garage and (of course) yet more asbestos for a roof.

Looking at a historic photo, the building has remained much the same as when it was built, except for the inevitable loss of its cantilevered verandah. The shopfront windows are particularly interesting, because they seem to be identical to the original (or may even be original!).

Is this enough to make a building a heritage place? This Scarborough deli is not, by any stretch, a fascinating building. In fact, it’s quite ordinary as a corner shop. But that might be exactly what makes it have heritage value. It is typical of its era, typical of its type, and could probably tell a thousand stories of its owners and customers.

And delis were often run by New Australians and women, and New Australian women for all we know. Do we have enough heritage places where we can tell their stories? Could a real-life and still open deli not be a great place to have heritage and a coffee at the same time.

If you feel like trying to save it, give the State Heritage Office a call on 6552 4000 and say you’d like to nominate the deli on the corner of Brighton Road and Hastings Street in Scarborough. They’ll make you fill out a form (it is a government department, after all), but it’s not difficult to do. And then at least we’ll know if this place is worth saving.

The case of the missing hubby


If these walls could speak, they would say bad things about James McLeish

When you lose a building you lose an opportunity to tell the stories about the people who lived there. Sure, the stories still exist but they are so much more real when connected to a place.

The above building, 11 King William Street in Bayswater, probably doesn’t have long for this world. Bits of the façade might be saved, but that will be all. Currently occupied by a number of businesses, the best of these is a small coffee shop run by two brothers who are evidently trying to out-do each other in the who-looks-most-hipster game. But they are only the most recent part of the story.

The left hand side of the building was built, probably in 1905, as a general store for Robert and Mary McLeish. The right hand side of the store and the façade are probably 1920s, when Bayswater’s main shopping district expanded with all the new people moving to the area.

The couple had come over from Adelaide in 1902 to set up business in Bayswater. They were evidently a good match, since they eventually celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary.

This story isn’t about them, but son James. He married a Melbourne lass, Ethel, in 1920 and came to WA three years later. Dad, Robert, helped set James up in business, and eventually (four kids later), the younger pair took over the running of the King William Street store.

But in February 1940, James declared he needed to go on holiday to the South West for a weekend. However, as Ethel explained four years later:

First he said for a weekend, then a week, and finally changed his mind and said he’d take a month. I’ve neither heard from him nor seen him since.

She took over the running of the shop and quickly realised he’d never meant to return, having taken all the cash with him, leaving her only with unpaid bills.

Fortunately, Robert McLeish stepped in and settled the debts, and let Ethel and one of his daughters run the store.

You won’t be surprised to discover she got her divorce when she asked the courts for it.

A jolly good Post Office


From stamps to tikka masala

*Update* We have now been informed that the Post Office was located in the (now) Beauty & ‘Massage’ parlour, not the restaurant. Same story. Same building. Wrong door.

Continuing our quest to make our local neighbourhood more historical, we turn to the building on the corner of Beaufort and Salisbury Streets in Inglewood. Now the best Indian restaurant in Perth (no argument accepted), we knew this was once a Post Office. But that was not enough. More research was required.

The building screams Art Deco at you. Admittedly a very cheap version of Art Deco. But still, Art Deco. Its date is certainly mid-1930s and so it proved. Approval was given for three brick shops and a residence (at a cost of £2,000, should you care) in late 1935. So they were probably erected in 1936.

The area was then known as Bedford Park and, boy, was it growing. Growing like a plant that grows a lot. A serious amount of plant growth.

In an age before Facebook Messenger there were apparently something called ‘letters’. The Dodgy Perth team does not claim to be familiar with this method of communication, but it turns out to be a real thing. And you had to ‘post’ them. At something called a ‘Post Office’.

Trouble was, the expanding community of Bedford Park didn’t have anywhere convenient to ‘post’ their ‘letters’ in 1938. (We hope we have the language right here.) But the Postmaster General’s Office—the feds who ran the show—weren’t willing to pay for more staff. Imagine that: a government department trying to save money.

The outcome was a compromise called an ‘unofficial post office’. As far as we can tell (and it’s difficult to get accurate information on this one), this meant a deli that sold stamps, collected the letters and parcels, but didn’t get an income from head office. They just made money from selling stamps.

So the shop on the corner of Beaufort and Salisbury Streets got the job of being the local unofficial post office from 1 August 1938, run by John Ramley. But the story doesn’t end here.

Diagonally opposite is a small park, where a war memorial is now located. Bayswater Council offered the site for a permanent Post Office, but this was rejected by the Postmaster General’s Office. The reasons are technical, but basically an A-class reserve cannot be built on without State Government legislation. And this was all too difficult for the Post Office to figure out.

So, our local Indian restaurant leads us to a story about cost-cutting exercises by a federal government department, and their inability to deal with a state government. We guess nothing ever changes.

History and tragedy


1002 Beaufort Street, next to Mille Café

This is a story about a double tragedy. When we started the research we had no idea it would lead to such a gloomy tale. But that’s the thing about doing history, you simply have to go where the records take you.

Just round the corner from the Dodgy Perth offices is a pair of shops on Beaufort Street. They have been empty for years, but renovations have recently started. Wanting to know more about them, and eager to try out the new office camera, we started with the above photograph.

First port of call is always the Post Office Directories, where we found that in 1946 1002A Beaufort Street was a deli run by Archibald Stubbs and 1002B was the Colreavy Bros butchers. Having got this far we turn to the newspaper archives in Trove to see who these Colreavy brothers were.

And this is where it turns heartbreaking.

Leo and James Colreavy ran two shops, one in the city and the other on Beaufort Street. In March 1947 they went swimming up at Trigg Island. There was a single sign on the beach near the infamous Blue Hole, a permanent rip, which read “Warning. Bathing 50 yards either side of this sign dangerous”. Unfortunately, the brothers misunderstood. They thought it meant it would be dangerous if you went more than 50 yards either side of the sign.

Leo, aged 29 and married with two children, and his single older brother James, aged 31, left their clothes on a rock and dived into the water in their bathers.

Before long two men holidaying in a shed on the beach heard a woman call out “Save them!”

Andrew Aitken and Arthur Samuels launched their 14-foot dinghy, but were driven back by the surf breaking over the rocks. They could see the two swimmers all the time, but they were being carried out beyond the line of surf.

Forced back to the beach, Aitken and Samuels ran along the beach following the helpless swimmers. Using a rope Samuels made an attempt to wade out but failed. An ex-member of the Scarborough Surf Life Saving Club, Keith Mouritz, then took the rope and tied it around his waist. A strong swimmer, he managed to grasp one of the unconscious men, who started to sink just as he reached him. In the meantime, a fisherman in a small boat dragged the second man from the water.

Ambulances were called and artificial resuscitation applied but it was all too late. Both men died at the scene.

The only good outcome of the tragedy was that the coroner ruled more and better signs needed to go up near Blue Hole to prevent more deaths.

And this is just one of the many stories such a building has to offer. Why not pick a place near you and see what turns up?

Where’s me gargoyle then?

The Chrysler Building looking all retro-futuristic. But gargoyles.

The Chrysler Building looking all retro-futuristic. But with gargoyles.

Perth is missing something. And it’s quite an odd thing to be lacking. Gargoyles. Think of the gothic building in Ghostbusters. Yes, it was fictional, but compare the very real Chrysler Building.

Perth has a number of buildings of a similar age—if not quite the scale—but we never got gargoyles. Instead there were relief figures of historical significance, from zoology and mythology, symbolic and emblematic figures, but no gargoyles.

One of the most notable figures surmounted the façade of the Atlas Building: a life-size figure of Atlas himself supporting a globe.  This was also modelled in terracotta and finished in an ivory colour, with the globe made of sheet copper. Although the building still exists, Atlas was removed in the late 1960s when the roof was renovated.

Atlas looks over some Royal visit or other

Atlas looks over some Royal visit or other

On William Street you could have seen the fierce features of a Viking chief and just below a parapet which crowned with the prows of three Viking galleys. Unimaginatively, this was called Viking House.

The Vikings are coming. The Vikings are coming.

The Vikings are coming. The Vikings are coming.

In Hay Street there was a butchers which had a row of heads representing the bullock, sheep and pig. Another building had St. George in the midst of his heroic battle with the dragon. Three more dragons looked on from the façade of an adjacent building.

A large number of the buildings of Perth used to be crowned with black swans, for obvious reasons. One of the best adorned the Mechanic’s Institute, floating serenely amongst carved reeds and rushes.


Something about the tower on the corner of the Mechanics’ Institute doesn’t look right. But that could just be us.

His Majesty’s Theatre is still capped by five huge lions contentedly resting upon the parapet. There are also several dragons woven into the design.

Lions relaxing after a hard day at the theatre

Lions relaxing after a hard day at the theatre

In Barrack Street one panel contained the visor and lances of a knight. While on the opposite side of the road, ten identical moustached faces gazed serenely over the traffic.

Although the majority of significant buildings on St. George’s Terrace were constructed when decoration was out of fashion, a couple of banks had faces above their entrances, one being that of a Maori.

But still, no gargoyles. Why did we miss out?

The true cost of Kennedy’s Folly

Original Government House, 1861

Original Government House, 1861

The first Governor had a nice place to live, which was built in 1834 for James ‘young brides’ Stirling. But by the 1850s, the new Governor, Arthur Kennedy, whined it was unsuitable and a bit cold in winter. Declining to have it repaired, he demanded a new Government House, more in keeping with the lifestyle to which Arthur wished to become accustomed.

The Government tried to get England to pay for it, but they told us to bugger off. Originally estimated at a massive £5,000, by September 1858 this had risen to £7,000.

Designed by an army major with no training in architecture, a foundation stone was laid in March 1859 with lots of Masonic pomp. The project was then handed over to the Royal Engineers to mismanage. Remarkably the same amateur architect was later tasked with designing an asylum in Fremantle. To no one’s surprise, this was also a disaster.

Costs kept spiralling due to constant indecision and daily changes to the design. No sooner had a wall been erected than it was torn down again for a new idea. After three years labour, the convicts working on the place had made very little progress. People complained there were better things for them to do. Like fix the awful roads.

When a roof was finally put on the building it was nearly a miracle. However, it was far from finished, needing several more towers and an interior.


Kennedy’s Folly

In January 1863 it was sufficiently finished to allow for a party in the upstairs ballroom. A ballroom that should not have been there. When the building was nearly complete, the new Governor demanded six rooms be converted into somewhere he and his wife could entertain their cronies.

Completely redesigning the structure of the upper floor was, of course, very expensive and time consuming. And no one remembered that the six rooms were guest bedrooms, so Government House was unable to put up visitors.

In March 1863, it was realised the red brick pillars on the colonnades did not match the stone arches above them. So they started painting the pillars a marble colour.

When the furniture arrived not only was it hideously expensive it was also hideous. And badly made. So yet more money was spent replacing it.

Finally, in mid-1864 the Governor moved into his new residence. By this time more than £18,000 in cash had been spent, along with the wages of the Royal Engineers on the project, so the total cost was nearer £50,000.

When opened for inspection, while the outside was pretty enough, the interior was a disaster. A better building could have been knocked up for under £10,000. It was given the name ‘Kennedy’s Folly’, which is a little unfair. It was so long in construction, Arthur Kennedy had moved on and never even got to look inside.

Last orders at the old Olde Narry

Ye Olde Narrogin Inne

Ye Olde Narrogin Inne

When Ye Olde Narrogin Inne was bulldozed there were, of course, complaints from a few heritage-minded people. Although everyone agreed the original pub was somewhat decrepit, its romantic links back to coaching days had long made it a favourite of travellers.

To commemorate Western Australia’s centenary, a tablet was unveiled at the Inne, noting that it first opened in 1857 and the first licensee was Thomas Saw.

Yet in 1937, just eight years after this heritage recognition, the licensing authority condemned the hotel as being unfit for conducting business. Improving the old building wasn’t viable, so it had to be demolished. There’s not a lot of romantic souls working at liquor licensing.

The New Olde Narrogin Inne was very different to the unpretentious single-storey edifice it replaced. Although it is hard to imagine it today, the pub was in the latest fashionable style, Mock Tudor.

In fact the owners kept stressing how modern the Inne now was. No more grime and dust, just contemporary furniture resting on contemporary carpets. For some reason they were obsessed with how cool (and expensive) their carpets were. They also encouraged drinkers to finger the new furnishings. Which is just wrong in all the ways.

Anyway, this most modern of hotels is now heritage listed. And no one mourns the loss of the original Inne. No one

Now what makes me think of Guildford?