When Mathew Blagden Hale arrived in Western Australia in 1858 to take up his post as the new Anglican Bishop of Perth he brought with him his wealth as well as his generosity.
Along with being concerned with the welfare of the indigenous people and the humane treatment of convicts, he also partly financed and built a secondary school for boys. Today the building is known as the Cloisters and is located at 200 St Georges Terrace, Perth.
The convict built school was designed by Richard Roach Jewell and opened on 28 June 1858 with an enrolment of 22 boys from both the country and the city. Many young men from notable Western Australian families such as Wittenoom, Brockman, Forrest and Roe all attended the ‘Perth Church of England Collegiate School’ which became known to everyone as Bishop Hale’s School. Set in Christian tradition, there was a deep commitment to providing a liberal education.
With the school being mostly attended by the sons of wealthy families and the eventual establishment of government schools, the number of enrolments soon dwindled. In 1872, the school was closed. Not to be deterred, it subsequently reopened and became a girls’ school and government high school until it closed again in the late 1890’s. Since this time it has been used for private residences, a clergy training college, accommodation for University of Western Australia students, WAAF barracks and a Dutch club. Today it houses both a cafe as well as professional offices.
Growing nearby is a large, interestingly formed Port Jackson Fig tree. A native Australian plant, in 1887 it was given to Mr and Mrs Stephens who had recently arrived in the colony and who, for a short time, lived in the Cloisters.
When the building was planned to be demolished in the 1960’s strong public opinion saved it and resulted in its restoration and redevelopment. Both the Cloisters building as well as the fig tree are an important part of Perth’s heritage and in 1995 were placed on the permanent State Heritage Register.
Information obtained from:
The People of Perth; C.T. Stannage; First published in 1979 by the Perth City Council (pages 141 – 143).
Heritage Perth website (http://hptrails.com.au/the-cloisters).
Plaques outside the Cloisters.