Reopening of Cathedral House Gardens, a gesture to welcome community

18 Mar 2021

By Amanda Murthy

Cathedral House Garden front view
A photo of the Cathedral House Garden front view. The Cathedral House Garden is now opened to the public from Monday to Friday between 9am to 4pm. Photo: Max Hoh.

St Mary’s Cathedral House has re-opened its’ gates to the public, inviting all to share in the ambience of the Cathedral House Gardens from Monday to Friday, between 9am to 4pm.

The 1855 Cathedral House project, which was originally known as the Archbishop’s Palace, was initiated by then Bishop Joseph Serra, who served from 1850 to 1862, and was built as a residence for the bishop and his priests in Perth.

It would turn out to be a three-story above ground’ building, the largest building erected in Perth in that period.

Architect, civil engineer, and builder James Manning designed it, and it was completed in 1856.

St Mary’s Cathedral Dean, Rev Dr Sean Fernandez, said that since his appointment, it has been one of his hopes to share the serene space, for all to enjoy.

The front view of the Cathedral House that is available to the public from Monday to Friday between 9am to 4pm. Photo: Max Hoh.

“The garden is a lovely spot and we have already had several functions in Cathedral House and its’ grounds, for example we began holding an annual thank-you meal for the Cathedral’s volunteers in the garden,” he cited.

“Before the renovations and refurbishment of Cathedral House, its’ garden was frequented by many people who came to have their lunch and relax during the week. I wanted to re-open the garden to the public as a small gesture of hospitality.

“The Archbishop shared in my desire and work started on getting the lawn and garden up to scratch eighteen months ago under the supervision of the Cathedral Manager, Tony Meyrick. Victor Hoa, the new manager, has continued the work of preparing the garden for its opening,” Fr Fernandez added.

The current form of Cathedral House is in the Federation Italianate style of architecture, as supposed to its original Victorian Italianate style of architecture.

In 2009, a major campaign saw the re-organisation of the southern garden to achieve a terrace and car park, re-organisation of the basement to produce a caretaker’s residence, introduction of a lift, conservation of the ground floor accommodation, conservation of the chapter hall, and re-organisation of all the bathrooms and bedrooms to achieve contemporary accommodation.

The main garden to the south, fronting Hay Street, is bordered by a piered brick wall with ashlar lined cement render to the exterior elevations and capping. Steps with a wrought iron gate lead from Hay Street to the elevated garden level. A gravel path with steel edges creates an axis from this entrance to the podium of Cathedral House. The garden is laid out in a formal manner.

St Mary’s Cathedral Dean Rev Dr Sean Fernandez said that since his appointment, it has been one of his hopes to share the serene Cathedral Garden space, for all to enjoy once again. Photo: Max Hoh.

Plants within this area include lemon scented gums (eucalyptus citriodora), canary island palms (pheonix canariensis), olive (olea europea), and a new magnolia. Together with shrubs such as roses and lavender planted long the garden walls. The terrace plantings are mainly bougainvillea. Several mature palms and cocos palms were removed to create the present terrace and carpark.

To the north of the building, is a bituminised driveway at ground level and a retained garden bed at the higher level of Victoria Square. The bed contains rose bushes and is divided by a central concrete stair.

In front of its’ southern elevation there is a terrace constructed over a car park and this has a suspended concrete deck with planter boxes, stone paving and glass balustrades. Beneath the balustrades, a grille provides ventilation to the car park and a planter assist in mitigating its visual impact.

The east elevation fronts Victoria Avenue, which comprises a single directional, dual carriageway with concrete block paved footpaths and plane trees planted continuously down the avenue.