Perth Cathedral presbytery gets new life

18 Feb 2009

By The Record

By Anthony Barich
The Cathedral Presbytery in Victoria Square is getting a much-needed makeover, with a new glass elevator and underground carpark to be installed.

Fr Robert Cross, Diocesan project planning manager Terry Wilson and The Record’s Anthony Barich discuss the cathedral presbytery project. Photo: Justine Stevens

The Archdiocese of Perth has begun a project to conserve the existing heritage-listed building, refurbish the residential portions and adapt the southern grounds to form a basement-level car park and introduce a new steel-framed glass lift. Asbestos is also being removed.
The renovations will also allow the Dean of the Cathedral and resident priests personal outdoor space on the property for the first time. It will be completed by 2010.
It will be the first major works done to the building in over 40 years.  Patrick Griffiths is the architect of the renovations.
The existing building was developed over three phases – 1855-56, 1911 and 1938.
The building is over 150 years old and is a good example of the Federation Academic Classical style of architecture by the prominent architect, Michael Cavanagh, who did the 1911 work.  It has been restyled over the years on a couple of occasions.
When the parish office was added on in 1938-39 as a stand-alone building, the ceiling was not connected, causing water leakage, most notably into the archives office. One main ceiling will be installed now.
The telecommunications, plumbing and electrical wiring also need to be updated, and a new Archbishop’s residence will be installed where the old one was – where Bishops Joseph Serra and Martin Griver, among others, lived.
It was in this old room that Dean Tierney – site manager for Colgan Industries who are undertaking the conservation, restoration and additional work –  found a ticket from the January 29, 1865 opening of St Mary’s Cathedral.
Fr Robert Cross – the archaeologist responsible for unearthing the surprising finds of Bishops Griver and Matthew Gibney in 2006 – said that the ticket was one of the more intriguing finds of the redevelopment process of the cathedral and the presbytery. The ticket has the person’s name and ‘class’, as they paid for a specific seat to attend the event; they could then be used to trace their involvement in the community and the diocese at the time. Only two whole tickets have been found – one in the cathedral and the other in the bishop’s residence. The Cathedral ticket, Fr Cross said, must have just been left on the seat and fallen through the cracks in the floorboards, which were just laid over sand.
They were preserved perfectly, he said, as the area was dry with no moisture allowed in from the roof.
Fr Cross has also excavated pieces out of a well on the southern side of the presbytery, in which a series of columns previously erect had been put some years ago. It is unknown how deep the well goes, though he went four metres down.
The building will continue to be used as a residence for the Archbishop, the Dean of the Cathedral and the Assistant Priests who work at the Cathedral.  It will also be the Church Offices for the Archbishop, Auxiliary Bishop, Dean and Vicar General.