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Barrack Square

Barrack Square is an urban park located on the edge the Swan River at the end of Barrack Street. The area mainly functions as a ferry terminal, and is best known for the Swan Bell Tower and the surrounding cafés, restaurants and bars.

It was established in 1905-07, by reclamation of land from the Swan River, as part of a scheme to provide a fringe of parkland by the water. Four jetties were constructed off the southern side. The construction of the Narrows Bridge reduced the use of the ferry services across the river, but as the ferries declined, pleasure cruises grew.

Now an iconic Perth landmark, the Swan Bell Tower was erected as part of a major Barrack Square redevelopment in 1999. Designed by Perth architect William Hames, a glass tower surrounded by copper sails reflect the riverside setting.

Recent development has seen Barrack Square incorporated into Elizabeth Quay, and it continues to attract visitors for the tower, the restaurants, and the pleasure cruises.

Detailed Description

Barrack Square is an urban park located on the edge the Swan River at the end of Barrack Street. The area mainly functions as a ferry terminal, and is best known for the Swan Bell Tower and the surrounding cafés, restaurants and bars.

It was established in 1905-07, by reclamation of land from the Swan River, as part of a scheme to provide a fringe of parkland by the water. Four jetties were constructed off the southern side, which were rebuilt in the 1970s. A commercial development known as Old Perth Port (1994), comprises a restaurant, cafe, souvenir shop, and gift shop.

As many as 100,000 passengers were being ferried across the river, with the Zoo as a major attraction on the south side. The increased river traffic required better wharf facilities on Perth foreshore. The Public Works Department drew up a plan to include a square at the end of Barrack Street for ‘wharfage, baths, and other purposes’, and the dredging of channels to the jetties at Coode and Mends streets. The West Australian reported:

The immense area that has already been reclaimed is truly a boon to the town… nothing short of the State’s bankruptcy should allow the work to come to a standstill… a delightful resort, with over a mile of river frontage, laid out in gardens, walks and drives.

Barrack Square was constructed by building banks, of shell sealed with pitch, to create an enclosed square projecting off the existing stone river wall. The enclosure was filled by pumping in soil from the dredging works. The old Barrack Street jetty was used until the eastern section of Barrack Square, and the first three jetties, were completed in 1905. The western section and the fourth jetty were completed in 1907. A newspaper article praised the finished area:

It would be difficult indeed to over praise the improvements that have within the past twelve months been effected here …The so called “Barrack-street Square” is really a series of squares intersected by drives and footpaths. The work of tree-planting has been pursued vigorously and systematically, and already with satisfactory results. The main street has been continued to the edge of the water, and persons travelling to South Perth can step almost from the tram to the ticket office. The work has made the “Zoo” and the pleasant suburb of South Perth more accessible places.’

Harry Sutton and Oscar Olsen’s Swan River Ferry Company ran the Applecross, Canning Bridge and Como services with the ‘Val’ series of steamers. These were the Valkyrie, Valhalla, Valdemar, Valdivia, Valthora and Valfrida, built between 1904 and 1910, and the double-decked ferries, Valdana (1919) and Valkyrie II (1925).

Barrack Square continued to be the focus of ferry and river cruise journeys, and greater controls were placed on use of the river to combat rubbish dumping and pollution. The construction of the Narrows Bridge and the Kwinana and Mitchell Freeways in the 1950s and 1960s, necessitated further reclamation work in the area, which created parkland on the west side of Barrack Square.

The construction of the Narrows Bridge reduced the use of the ferry services across the river, but as the ferries declined, pleasure cruises grew. Night and day cruises to Fremantle and the Swan Valley wineries, charter cruises, and ferries to Rottnest continued to ply the river.

Now an iconic Perth landmark, the Swan Bell Tower was erected as part of a major Barrack Square redevelopment in 1999. Designed by Perth architect William Hames, a glass tower surrounded by copper sails reflect the riverside setting. The tower was planned so that the antique bells would hang at the same height as they had in St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

Recent development has seen Barrack Square incorporated into Elizabeth Quay, and it continues to attract visitors for the tower, the restaurants, and the pleasure cruises.

Location