The Cloisters is a two-storey brick building at 200 St Georges Terrace, a well-known landmark as the street begins to rise to the plateau and is at the end of the vista at the top of Mill Street. Its style is similar to the architecture of Hampton Court Palace, St James’s Palace and Eton College, and therefore a reminder of the city’s colonial history. It is one of the few remaining convict-built structures in the city. It was built in 1858 on the instructions of Bishop Matthew Hale (1811-95), 1st Bishop of Perth, as the first secondary school in Western Australia. Called the Perth Church of England Collegiate School, it attracted young men from wealthy families, one of whom was Sir John Forrest (1847-19180, later the first premier, and his brother, Alexander. The location of The Cloisters, half way between the Pensioner Barracks and Government House, reminded students that they were expected to be the new leaders of the Colony.
In 1865 administration of the Cloisters was consigned to the Anglican Church. In 1872 it became a girls’ school. By 1904, the school had closed, one half of the building was a boarding house, and the other half a training college for clergy. In the 1960s there was fear that the building might be demolished. Since 1971 the Cloisters have been used as offices for a number of companies, though since April 2020, they have been vacant.
Outside the front door, there is a statue of Bishop Matthew Hale. He was an evangelical clergyman from England, who travelled to South Australia on a convict ship and is credited with introducing secondary education into Western Australia. He sought to turn Western Australia into a reformatory colony rather than a penal settlement. He had also campaigned to empower the South Australian Aboriginals when he had been Archdeacon of Adelaide.
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