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Guildford, WA

An early Swan River site for European settlement, now an historic village and part of Greater Perth

Guildford's origins lie in Captain Stirling's determination to establish three settlements in the Swan River area - a port at Fremantle, an administrative centre at Perth, and a rural centre at Guildford. In 1827 Stirling travelled up the Swan River and standing on the site now occupied by the All Saints Church, he observed: "Here then, on a high bank, we pitched our tent. The richness of the soil, the bright foliage of the shrubs, the majesty of the surrounding trees, the abrupt, red-coloured banks of the river occasionally seen, the view of the blue summits of the mountains from which we were not far distant, made the scenery round this spot as beautiful as anything of the kind I had ever witnessed." Today, while it is a suburb of Greater Perth, it is a unique and fascinating historic destination with heritage buildings, a fascinating convict history, and shops and pubs which celebrate an historic, village charm. The village is on the National Trust register and the State Register of Heritage Places.


Guildford, now a suburb of Perth located on the Great Eastern Highway, is located 13 km north-east of the city centre.


Origin of Name

The area was named by Captain James Stirling, the first British governor and lieutenant-governor of Western Australia, who had strong connections with Guildford in Surrey, England. He was married at Stoke Church in Guildford, His father-in-law represented the electorate of Guildford and, in 1865, he died in Guildford.


Things to See and Do

Exploring Guildford
The best way to explore Historic Guildford it to take some of the four self-guided heritage walk trails which all start at the Old Guildford Court House (ie the Swan Valley Visitor Information Centre). Maps are available from the display cabinets outside the Visitor Centre and can be accessed at any time. The Visitor Centre is open seven days a week from 9.00 am - 4.00 pm. There are 50 interpretative panels located around Guildford (see the Colonial Gaol below for an example of the detail on the signs). All provide excellent detailed information.

Guildford Heritage Walk Trails
The Guildford Visitor Centre has maps and brochures describing four walks around Guildford. All the walks start at the Visitor Centre and places of interest are clearly described on information plaques. Maps and descriptions outlining all four walks can be accessed at https://www.swanvalley.com.au/About-the-Valley/Glorious-Guildford.
The Captain Stirling Walk – an easy walk of 2.25 km which takes around 75 minutes. Highlights include WA’s oldest continually operating pub (Rose & Crown c.1841), the historic general store (Padbury’s Store c.1869), Woodbridge House, the cemetery, the Court House, workers cottages, the showground and mature plane trees of Guildford Grammar School.
The Town Walk – an easy 1.8 km walk which takes around an hour. Highlights include the courthouse building and gaol, the Stirling Arms, the post office, the town hall and the railway.
The River Ramble – an easy 1.5 km walk which takes around 50 minutes and takes people down to the banks of the Swan River. Along the way visitors will pass some of the earliest retail and wholesale businesses as well as Moulton’s Landing and Cottage, Garden Hill and Barker Bridge.
The Stirling Square Circuit – an easy, flat 450 metre walk along Meadow Street and around Stirling Square which includes Taylor’s Cottage, the Court House, the Old Gaol and St Matthews Church.
Some of the highlights of the walks include:

The Old Courthouse
Located on the cnr Meadow and Swan Streets, the old Courthouse, which is now used as the local Visitor Information Centre, was built in 1866 and was constructed by convict labour. The Swan Guildford Historical Society explains: "Government architect Richard Roach Jewell designed the courthouse – he also designed Government House and the Town Hall in Perth.  The design is Victorian Georgian-style with a steeply pitched shingled roof (now corrugated iron) on a timber frame. The bricks are hand-made and laid in the Flemish bond pattern – a typical Jewell feature.   When the Courthouse was officially opened in 1867 a lavish ball for 200 guests was held, hosted by resident magistrate Samuel Viveash and Guildford Town Trust chairman Alfred Waylen." Check out http://www.swanguildfordhistoricalsociety.org.au/places/important-places-in-guildford/guildford-courthouse for more detailed information.

The Colonial Gaol
Clearly signposted at 8 Meadow Street is the Colonial Gaol which was constructed in 1841. The sign outside the building explains that the Swan Resident Magistrate wrote to the governor "It may not be within his Excellency's knowledge that there are in Guildford three licensed Public Houses besides others with licence to sell by the gallon, and as the natural consequence notwithstanding all efforts to prevent it, brawls and irregularities will take place." The sign goes on to explain: "Frustrated at the lack of somewhere local to lock up those responsible for the 'brawls and irregularities' the Magistrate went on to request from the governor the construction of a gaol in Guildford. Quick action resulted in a plan for two cells, a constable's room and a set of stocks. Local builder John Welbourne was authorised to commence work at a cost of £80 and the building was completed in 1841. Apparently Mr Welbourne then opted for a change of career, being appointed Police Constable and place in charge of his newly built gaol. The original building is now flanked on both sides by additions made in 1866 when the courthouse was constructed. Prior to this, in 1855, the industrious Lieutenant DuCane made alterations to the original structure, mainly to improve the internal layout and usefulness. Another set of cells with associated Police Quarters was built immediately west of the existing gaol sometime during this period. It was subsequently demolished in the 1920s but the shape of this structure has been outlined with bricks ...Notice how small the early cells were! It is not known when the last prisoner was released from Guildford's colonial gaol."

Taylor's Cottage
Located near the Colonial Gaol off Meadow Street, Taylor's Cottage was once home to the Taylor family. This weatherboard workman’s cottage was located at 3 Meadow Street  but in 1983 it was dismantled by volunteers and moved to its present location in the Guildford Museum Precinct. "It is said that thirteen children grew up here, although not all at the same time!  The bedroom only has space for a tiny ‘wardrobe’, and one small bed.  Possibly the young children would have slept on the floor, or out on verandahs during warmer months. The kitchen includes furniture constructed of packing cases, and an open fireplace  which would have been in constant use for cooking, and heating water for bathing, and washing clothes.  So much work to keep everyone clean, fed, and the house tidied after each meal. See some of the tools Mrs Taylor and her daughters may have used to do the washing for a large family – a metal trough, scrubbing board, the reliable Sunshine soap, and wooden dolly pegs to hang the washing out on the clothes line." For more information check out http://www.swanguildfordhistoricalsociety.org.au/guildford-wa-history-historic-attractions/taylors-cottage. It is open from 10.00 am - 2.00 pm Tuesday to Saturday.

Mechanics Institute
Located at 20 Meadow Street, the Mechanics' Institute (1865) was originally built to improve the education of the local tradesmen. It was designed by government architect Richard Roach Jewell, who also designed the nearby courthouse. Construction began in 1865.  At its completion in 1868, it was the first public hall in the area. It also contained a library. It is now the headquarters of the Swan Guildford Historical Society. It is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10.00 am - 2.00 pm. See https://www.swanguildfordhistoricalsociety.org.au/places/important-places-in-guildford/mechanics-institute/ for more information. Or tel: (08) 9379 1892.

Post Office
Located on the corner of Meadow and Stirling Streets, the Post Office is a handsome and imposing structure with a clock tower which was built in 1897. The clock and bell tower were added to the Post Office four years after the building was completed. It has been listed by the Heritage Council which notes that the "Guildford Post Office is a two-storey building of loadbearing brick construction. Window heads, string courses and parapets are of stucco. Clock tower extension were made in 1901 on the building's south west corner and is the most important and prominent landmark in Guildford. Building is late example of Victorian Italianate style." See http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/5e517c42-84a6-4113-8560-d3771debd201 for more detailed information.

Commissariat Store
Located at 16 Meadow Street (across the railway line) and now the Garrick Theatre, the Commissariat was built in 1852 by the engineer Lieutenant Edmund du Cane who supervised the convict work parties in the district. The single-storey, brick-walled, corrugated iron dwelling was built in the Colonial Georgian style and was later used as a drill hall by Enrolled Pensioner Guards. See https://www.swanvalley.com.au/See-and-Do/Historic-Attractions/Enjoy-a-show-at-WAs-oldest-theatre for more details.

King's Cottage
Located at 11 Meadow Street, King's Cottage (1860s) built by the local bootmaker, George Ogilsby King, who had arrived in Western Australia in 1838. He was living in Guildford by 1862 and it was around this time that he built this cottage and shop extension which is still a fine example of a modest tradesman's house from the period. It is listed by the Heritage Council which notes: "Property contains cottage, small attached shop & stables at rear of brick construction. Cottage has dual toned Flemish bond brickwork and shingle roof, later covered in zincalume. Only the verandah shingle is exposed. Original features include wooden valance, timber posts, paved 12' sq. terracotta tiles. Front windows of double casement type with 8 panes each. Brick stables once had floors of blackboy stumps. Mature grape walk is to rear. Believed to be only remaining grape walk garden in Guildford. Well and hand pump on property are in working order." For more information check out http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/PrintSingleRecord/a7bfd9cf-e789-4387-b30d-eefff6b5835f.

The Guildford Hotel
Located at 159 James Street, the Guildford Hotel (1886) with a new façade and an octagonal cupola (now called belvedere) and a spiral staircase added in 1915. The extravagance of the hotel is a symbol of the wealth which flowed across Western Australia as a result of the gold boom in Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie. Listed on the State Heritage Register in 1993, it was seriously damaged by fire in 2008. For more information check out https://theguildfordhotel.com.au/about.

Stirling Square
Stirling Square, originally called Church Square, lies at the heart of Guildford. It was called Church Square because the first Anglican church, St Matthews, was constructed in 1836. The name was changed to Stirling Square to honour Captain James Stirling, the first Governor of Western Australia. Over the years the square has seen the construction of a war memorial; the construction of Memorial Gates to commemorate the state's centenary of settlement; and the placement of two twenty five pounder field guns from World War II. An unusual addition are "the Sugar Gum trees (Eucalyptus cladocalyx) which were planted in 1890 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  These trees are not native to Western Australia, but come from South Australia.  In 1999 local Council planned to fell the trees, but the people of Guildford successfully campaigned against the idea.  A commemoration bench placed in Stirling Square in 2009 recognises the people’s win in saving the trees." For more detailed information check out https://www.swanguildfordhistoricalsociety.org.au/stirling-square-and-st-matthews-church.

St Matthew's Church
Located in the centre of Stirling Square is St Matthew's Church. This is the third St Matthews Church in the area. The first, built of mudbricks and measuring 40ft x 20ft x 11 ft in 1836, was built on land donated by Governor James Stirling. That church was replaced by a wooden building which was blown down by a hurricane in 1860. The current building was constructed in 1873 and is notable for the way the bricks have been laid alternately lengthwise and pointing inwards to reinforce the structure. It was designed by Frederick Sherwood in a Gothic style. The west end includes a porth and a bellcote covered by a gable. The organ was built in 1911 by J.E. Dodd.

Located at 132 Swan Street, Riversleigh, known as Crosslands House, is an unusual single storey dwelling which was built in 1896 and is a good example of the luxurious homes which were built in Guildford around the turn of the century. The house was built for Charles Crossland, a surveyor and land agent in Perth, who wanted to live in relative rural tranquillity. It was sold for $2,250,000 in 2013. The advertisement for the property noted that it had four bedrooms, a grand dining room, wide jarrah floorboards, a tennis court and direct access to the Swan River.

Guildford Town Wharf
Located on the Swan River at the end of Meadow Street (and clearly signposted), the old Guildford Town Wharf is a replica of the wharf which was part of the planning for Guildford and dates from 1829. It was a vital transport node until the arrival of the railway in the 1880s. It eventually fell into disrepair and disuse until, in 1984, a replica was built.

Rose and Crown Inn
Located at 104 Swan Street, the Rose and Crown Inn (originally built in 1840, rebuilt in the 1850s with additions in the 1880s) is Western Australia's oldest operating hotel and was originally used for public meetings until the Mechanics' Hall was built. The alterations in the 1880s converted it into a fine example of a Colonial Georgian hotel. It is listed on the National Estate and classified by the National Trust. See http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/e3531267-b1a7-4598-a3c8-d8f2e55172d2 for more information.

Padbury's Stores and Residence
Located at 112-118 Terrace Road and built between 1869-1871 is a fine example of "a nineteenth and early twentieth century purpose built complex of stores, adjacent gravel yard, and substantial owner's residence of superior standard, adjoining the stores ... a fine example of a contiguous group of buildings in the Victorian Regency, and Federation Free Classical styles." For more detailed information check out http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/PrintSingleRecord/9bfd8695-c9ed-4065-be96-6484f70dbf24.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Whadjuk Noongar Aboriginal people.

* In 1801 a French expedition travelled up the Swan Valley.

* In 1827 Captain James Stirling's party became the first Europeans in the area.

* In 1829 Captain James Stirling established three settlements in the Swan River area - a port at Fremantle, an administrative centre at Perth, and a rural centre at Guildford.

* In 1832-1833 the local Noongar people, led by a warrior named Yagan, resisted European settlement. Yagan was killed in the Upper Swan Valley.

* By 1834 the Government had established schools in the area and had appointed three teachers - one for Fremantle, one for Guildford and one for Perth.

* In 1851 Guildford became a convict ticket-of-leave hiring depot.

* By 1857 steamboats were plying the river.

* The local Court House was completed in 1866.

* The first Swan Districts Roads Board Committee election occurred in 1868. That year saw the end of convict transportation.

* The town was declared a municipality in 1871.

* The railway from Perth reached the town in 1881.

* In 1897, as a celebration of Queen Victoria's Jubilee, sugar gums were planted in the streets.

* During World War I South Guildford was used by the 10th Light Horse regiment.

* In 1944 commercial flights began from Guildford Airport.

* During World War II Guildford Grammar School was used as an American Military Hospital.

* In 1969 the local police station was moved to Midland.

* Guildford became part of the Shire of Swan in 1970.

* Guildford was officially declared a National Trust Historic Town in 1984.

* In 2010 the Yagan Memorial Park was officially opened.

* In 2019 Guildford town was added to the State Heritage Register of Places.


Visitor Information

Swan Valley Visitor Centre, cnr Meadow and Swan Streets, tel: (08) 9207 8899.


Useful Websites

There is an excellent and useful local website. Check out https://www.swanvalley.com.au/Home.

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  • George Oglesby King was my great grandfather’s first cousin. He was born in 1834 in Barton on Humber Lincolnshire, and died in1905 He was tried at Lincoln and transported for 15 years in 1852 an arrived in WA in 1854 on the Ramillies, convict no. 3090. He was a bootmaker got his ToL in 1856, and built his shop at 11 Meadow St in the early 1860s. I know that he stayed in Guildford, married and has many descendents in WA.

    Bryan King