Fighting the British, one arch at a time

claremont

All arches are created equal

Some buildings are revolutionary. Literally. Like kick-out-the-Brits type revolutionary. And you probably wouldn’t think that a humble church hall in Claremont would be the place to start looking for this. But you should.

If you travel down Stirling Highway, probably cursing the traffic as you crawl along, you’ll notice Congregational Hall at Claremont, which was built in 1896. The church, on the right in the picture above, was erected a decade later. While it might not seem much to look at now, the hall was part of a movement to rid ourselves of British influence.

When people in the 1890s started talking about Federation and a new country, architects were not going to be left out of this exciting new movement. Henry Stirling Trigg was the first qualified architect to be born in Western Australia so, unsurprisingly, he wanted to contribute. But if English architecture was to be abandoned, where was he going to look for new ideas? He needed a country that had also broken free from the motherland and formed its own identity. Naturally, he thought of the good old U. S. of A.

The Americans call the style the ‘Richardsonian’, but we decided it was sexier to described the architecture as being ‘American Romanesque’. The easiest way to spot it is to look for rounded arches and, quite often, rustication, which is where you cut back the edges of the stone leaving a perfectly regular block with a rough surface in the middle.

The entrance to Congregational Hall and the windows above are good examples of the American Romanesque at work. Even better is the very fine Trinity Church on St George’s Terrace, also by Henry Stirling Trigg and opened in 1893. Although it’s in brick not stone, this is American Romanesque at its finest.

Trinity

Or nearly its finest, because there was an even better building which we have now lost. On the corner of St George’s Terrace and Howard Street used to be Surrey Chambers. Designed by Edward Herbert Dean Smith in 1903, this was one of the greatest buildings ever to be put up in Perth. Just look at those rounded arches. And, if you feel like being depressed, go and look at what’s replaced it.

Surrey

So, there you have it. An imported style of architecture specifically intended to be not-British for a new nation which saw itself coming into being. Next time you see these rounded arches, you’ll know that it wasn’t just a fashionable design, it was a political statement.

Fowl play

redrooster

Chickens in this story may be more alive than the ones pictured above

A little-known fact about the Dodgy Perth team is that we spend our days talking to town planners. Those who have dealt with this subspecies before will know they spend their office hours measuring your plans with a ruler and sadly shaking their heads when your setback from the side boundary is not in compliance with the R-Codes. (Look at us, using all the technical planning language.)

Yet it turns out there is a good reason for these rules, as we will demonstrate with a bizarre court case from April 1838, long before there were any planning regulations in Perth.

Frederick Turner and Charles Farmer were neighbours on St George’s Terrace. Turner had built his house right on the boundary, with his bedroom window overlooking Farmer’s land and residence. This evidently annoyed the latter, who happened to keep poultry in his backyard to feed his family, and probably make a little extra cash on the side.

These birds had a habit of wandering into Turner’s garden and pecking at his hay, messing it all up, so (at least according to Turner) his pony wouldn’t eat it. Now we are no experts on either ponies or chickens, but the allegation the fowl had destroyed eight tons of hay, none of which was then suitable for a pony, seems a little exaggerated. But, like we say, this office has no proficiency in creatures either two or four legged.

Rather than try to resolve the issue like good neighbours, Turner responded by employing George Embleton to put up a six-foot fence between the properties. The same George Embleton after whom the suburb is named, at least according to Landgate. Who have no reason to lie to us. Do they?

Farmer responded that if his bloody neighbour put up the fence, he would respond by building an enormous chicken coop right next to Turner’s bedroom window. He also complained that a tiny length of roof shingles was overhanging his land and demanded Embleton get a saw and shorten them all.

It probably didn’t calm matters down when Turner and Embleton decided one day to round up a few stray chickens in the backyard, tie their legs together with string and toss them in the pony’s stable. That probably didn’t help at all.

So, Farmer made good on his promise, and built a giant fowl (foul?) house right against Turner’s residence, blocking out all the light and ensuring that if he ever opened his window, all he would smell was chickens and more chickens.

This is why it went to the civil court.

The Commissioner, W. Mackie, was less than impressed by both sides. There not being any local regulations, he was forced back onto English law which said if you build up to the boundary your neighbour is entitled to do the same. And you can’t claim loss of light or air unless your house has been standing for more than twenty years.

But, he continued, it was clear that Farmer was an awful person too, who only built the coop to annoy his neighbour, not because it was the best place to put it. So, because of the health issues involved he demanded the shed be relocated. Even so, because both were to blame the Commissioner would award only a token one shilling for damages.

It turns out that planning regulations make for good neighbours. Probably. Unless your neighbour is an awful person anyway, in which case no rules are going to help you. Probably.

Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1841

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United Service Tavern shortly before demolition

As New Year’s Eve rapidly approaches, the Dodgy Perth team will be undertaking their usual ritual of preloading followed by a night out in a pub with live music, followed by drunkenly trying to get a snog at midnight. Naturally, the venue will not be the Brass Monkey, but you probably guessed that already. (Please note that Dodgy Perth does not condone excessive consumption of alcohol. If you do, it means less for us.)

Which made us wonder which Perth hotel threw the first ever NYE party. And we believe the answer is the United Service Tavern, pictured above. Sadly, this long-standing pub on St George’s Terrace was demolished around 1970 and was replaced by a fairly ugly building.

The original tavern was opened in 1835 by James Dobbins, formerly a private in the 63rd Regiment, who had arrived on the Sulphur accompanying the first wave of colonists in 1829. Keen to attract his former military colleagues to sink a couple of pints, James called the pub United Service Tavern and painted large pictures of Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington on the front. That what was passed for equal opportunities in the 1830s: both army and navy were welcome.

united-service-2

The original United Service Tavern, pictured here in the 1860s

In 1840, the tavern was taken over by Henry Cole, known locally as King Cole, because apparently that was funny in the 19th century. And it was Henry who seems to have organised the first ever NYE public event in the Swan River Colony for 31 December 1841. Gentlemen’s tickets were 10 shillings each, while ladies only had to pay 7s 6d. Presumably because they would eat and drink less than the blokes, rather than a tacky stunt to get more females into the bar. Maybe.

nye

We object to gendered pricing policies. Even from 1841.

Later the building came into the hands of Henry Strickland and Stephen Chipper, before being leased by John Giles who added a new front to the original building. It was this frontage, and the 1835 hotel behind it, which were demolished in 1970, including original stables and outbuildings.

So, if you’re heading out tonight to a historic venue, remember to be thankful not everything has been knocked down. Yet.

The course of true love

Winnie Beattie

Winnie Beattie

“Wilt thou take this man to be thy lawful wedded husband, to love, honour and cherish in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer, for better or for worse till death do you part?”

“I will,” said Winnie Beattie to the minister one Saturday afternoon in June 1931. Trouble was, her mum was not of the same mind. And this was just one event in the strangest romance Perth has ever seen.

Four years earlier young Jack Garrigan (then seventeen) fell in love with pretty, vivacious Winnie, then just fourteen. They spent all their spare time together, and during the day the stayed close since both were employed at Boan’s Department Store.

But when the Depression came, Jack lost his job. Winnie’s parents vowed they would not consent to any marriage while the lad was out of work.

However the couple were still wonderfully in love. Winnie gave Jack a photograph of herself inscribed, ‘To the most adorable boy in the world.’

Jack Garrigan

Jack Garrigan

One day they were walking by St George’s Cathedral when they saw the notices of forthcoming marriage. In a rush of pure love they agreed to marry and only tell their parents afterwards.

But whispers soon spread, and friends became excited. Wedding presents were purchased and what was going to be a quiet at the registrar’s office became a full ceremony in the cathedral with organ accompaniment.

On the night before the wedding, Winnie broke the news to her mother. There were, of course, tears and recriminations. Jack’s parents, though, still knew nothing.

On the Saturday the bride went off to dress at a friend’s house. One hour before the ceremony Jack went home—to break the news to mum and dad. Although in shock, Mr and Mrs Garrigran hid their feelings, and went to St George’s Cathedral to attend a wedding of which they were totally ignorant an hour before.

The little crowd of guests were not kept waiting. At 4 o’clock the young bridegroom took his seat in the front, attended by his close male friends. Unnoticed, a lady in a fawn coat stepped quietly inside, choosing a seat in the centre of the church.

As the organ started, the bride walked up the aisle on the arm of a friend, with two bridesmaids in attendance. The dignified figure of Dean Moore stood in front of the altar and the little party grouped round him.

The Dean read the words of the marriage service, until he came to the famous phrase. “If anyone knows just cause or impediment …”

Then out of the still Cathedral came a slow, distinct voice: “I object!”

The Dean looked down the aisle and the lady in the fawn coat approached the altar. “I am her mother,” she said, “and she is not 21!”

The guests whispered in little groups while the bride wept in the vestry. The minister spoke with the parents, but to no avail. The ceremony could not proceed.

The boy and girl drove away together, the guests drifted off, and soon the cathedral was empty. For the first time in the history of St. George’s Cathedral a parent had spoken and forbidden the marriage.

But love will find a way! The couple still had a license to marry in their possession, and within a couple of hours, a Methodist clergyman was uniting them in the sitting room of a home just off Beaufort Street.

That night a car slipped quietly away to the Kalamunda Hotel. None of the guests knew that the shy couple at breakfast on Sunday were the principals in a sensational events of the night before.

But shortly before lunch a car drew up at the hotel and with determined step a man and a woman entered. Mother and father stood before the bride and her husband. Within minutes, Jack was left alone in the bridal chamber. His wife was gone with her parents back to Perth, his honeymoon lasting just twelve hours.

The bride’s mother sought to have the marriage annulled on the grounds that both had married without their parents’ consent. The court ordered the bride be returned to her parents’ control until she reached the age of 21.

Within a week Winnie had gone to Melbourne, supposedly for a long holiday, but she paid for Jack to join her. And they both slipped back to Perth and took up new jobs.

In 1932, a notice appeared in the newspapers: ‘On June 22, at Malvern Private Hospital, 222 Eighth Avenue, Inglewood, to Mr and Mrs Garrigan, 29 Museum Street—a daughter (June Dawn). Both well. Visitors after 27th.’

Sometimes great stories do have happy endings.

When the colonists needed Yagan

yaganToday Dodgy Perth takes a slight detour from our usual preoccupation with sex and scandal. Instead we wish to celebrate an Aboriginal hero of the early colony.

On 8 March 1833, with white settlement only a few years old, Josephine Birkett was granted Perth Lot A12 by James ‘I like young brides’ Stirling. This attractive piece of land was on St George’s Terrace, exactly where the hideous London Court now sits.

She had already built herself a bungalow on the site (planning laws were somewhat different then), along with a few neighbours, including Charles Leroux.

All the cottages were constructed with roofs made of reeds and rushes. So it is no surprise that locals fretted about what would happen if they caught fire. And why weren’t the roofs supported properly? You can imagine that the owners dismissed such concerns with a wave of their hand. Nothing will happen, they would have said.

On 13 March 1833, just five days after taking legal ownership of the land, Josephine Birkett’s bungalow caught fire. Josephine had a narrow escape, the flames reaching the bed on which she was sleeping before she was aware of her perilous situation.

She and her daughter were unable to grab their treasured possessions, escaping only with the clothes on their back.

The fire quickly spread to the adjoining cottages, including that of Charles Leroux. A bugle was sounded and people ran to the scene to offer assistance. Among those who attended were Captain Ellis and renowned Aboriginal resistance leader, Yagan.

Yagan was keen to offer assistance, but knew exactly how white men thought under these circumstances. He went up to Ellis and asked him to tell him straight if white folk or black folk were going to be held responsible for the destruction. Ellis replied that as far as he knew it was an accident.

This was all Yagan needed, and he took charge, encouraging the colonists to work harder and bringing bucket after bucket of water himself. His cries of “mocha, mocha” stimulated the townsfolk to do their best.

But, despite these heroic efforts, as the smoke cleared, many of the cottages and all of their contents were completely destroyed.

Despite Captain Ellis’ words to Yagan, immediate suspicion fell on the local Aboriginal population. However, with no evidence the mob decided that it was probably a local boy who had recently been punished for some minor crime. But, again, no proof was forthcoming.

Eventually, Josephine’s servant said that, although it probably had nothing to do with her, she did remember throwing the glowing embers from a grate in the exact spot the fire started.

One happy outcome was that Private Jefferies, of the 63rd Regiment, was poking through the ruins when he discovered Josephine’s moneybox. He immediately returned it to her, earning praise for his honesty.

We wish all the ends to this story were happy, but suspect the reader already knows they are not.

Yagan was murdered by a young settler just a few months later, after the government issued a bounty for his capture ‘dead or alive’.

Captain Ellis was to be killed by an Aboriginal warrior the following year, as he fought at the Pinjarra Massacre.

Life was often bloody and short in the 1830s. Let’s not whitewash it with sentimental views of early colonists and their pretty cottages.

h/t Museum of Perth

Celebrating sex offenders? Really?

Town HallReader, we are all friends here, are we not? Good. Then Dodgy Perth can reveal the heavy weight hanging on our collective heart.

Dear fellow Perthite, Dodgy Perth proposes that the Town Hall on Barrack Street should be demolished.

We know, we know. You’ll never be able to look us in the eye again. But hang around for a bit, while we justify this outrageous statement.

In 1913, it appeared likely Perth Council would vacate the Town Hall for proposed new premises. The Institute of Architects, big bunch of softies that they were, proposed the tower of the Hall be preserved for historic reasons, and incorporated into any new design.

(If you want a 21st century example of this way of thinking, look no further than the eyesore that is St George’s Hall façade on Hay Street.)

Fortunately, not everyone was as sentimental as the architects. And a few were willing to speak out, noting it was inconceivable that any sane person could desire to have “such an aggressive monstrosity” as the Town Hall handed down to posterity.

Of course, some will point out it was convict built, and we should treasure these memories of the past. Dodgy Perth, and our 1913 modernists, say no.

What are we commemorating? The dreadful crimes committed by some who constructed the Town Hall? Among those arriving on the Hougoumont (who made up most of the workforce) were men guilty of rape, murder, and incest.

Do you want to venerate rapists? Really?

If not the men, then perhaps we should remember the awful system which condemned people to be transported half a world away and used as slave labour, long after it had been abolished everywhere else in the world.

The impact it had on people like Frederick Bicknell, a young carpenter who did the shingle roofing on the Town Hall. And who was transported for arson and insurance fraud. And who died in Old Men’s Home in Perth, well into the 20th century.

Do you want to venerate slavery? Really?

Instead, argued our 1913 anti-heritage consultants, simply let us forget the Town Hall. In any case, its birthstains can never be forgotten when it has four sets of ghastly broad arrows at the corners of the spires. The Town Hall can only recall an exceedingly dark and blotted page in the history of the State.

If antiquarians really care, then measured drawings and a set of photographs could be made. But not one brick should remain of this awful place.

If we wish to perpetuate early architecture, Government House is pretty enough, and in much more picturesque surroundings.

So Dodgy Perth joins in with the dissenting voices of 1913 and says, with all due reverence and respect, let the Town Hall join its builders, and quietly pass away.

On the buses

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The bus to Belmont, 1912

Every few days you can pick up a copy of The West and read about how much taxi drivers hate Uber. If you’d picked up the paper a century ago, they were grumpy about these damned novel buses that were taking their business.

On St George’s Terrace in the first few years of the 20th century, one motor bus was brave enough to try and take people to Ascot Racecourse. There was almost a riot.

Angry cab drivers surrounded the bus and shouted threats and curses. Anybody who attempted to board was vigorously abused. Nevertheless, the bus managed to gather enough brave passengers to make a successful trip to the races and back.

And customs on buses were different in those days.

On the Belmont route, when the bus was overcrowded, it was expected that a lady would stand and let a gentleman have her seat.

Then she would then sit on his knee. Seriously.

Dodgy Perth believes that TransPerth should bring back this etiquette today.

Bus drivers could be a little, let’s say, less professional from time to time a century ago.

One driver, who was a little ‘under the influence,’ had an argument with a passenger as to whether he had paid the correct fare.

To settle the argument the pair left the bus at Barrack Street, and the fight was only interrupted by a policeman, who arrested them both.

When this news reached the waiting passengers, they went straight to the police station to demand the driver’s release.

When the sergeant in charge pointed out that the bus company employee was obviously drunk, one lady passenger explained: “Oh, he is all right. I’ve sat beside him before when he was like this, and I always pull the bus back if it goes off the road.”

Satisfied that the bus was in good hands, the sergeant released him.

Ah, public transport. How disappointingly boring you are today.