Built in 1866, Barracks Arch was originally the entrance to the Pensioner Barracks which housed the Pensioner Guards. These were the guards came to Australia on convict ships that transported nearly 10,000 prisoners to Western Australia from 1850.
Originally based in Fremantle, most convict work later moved to Perth. This created a need for accommodation in Perth for the Pensioner Guards and their families. Architect Richard Roach Jewell was appointed to design an appropriate building. He designed many of the important public buildings at this time, including schools in Perth and Fremantle, Wesley Church, the oldest part of the Treasury Buildings, the Town Hall, Perth Gaol and Government House.
After 1900, the Barracks buildings were gradually converted to offices, until the 1960s when the Government proposed demolition. The announcement created a public uproar and motivated the Royal Western Australian Historical Society to form a Barracks Defence Council. The final compromise was that most the Barracks were demolished, but the Arch was to be retained.
Today the Arch is one of Perth’s most iconic historic buildings, located at the top of St George’s Terrace, next to the Mitchell Freeway and in front of Parliament House. It not only represents Perth’s convict era, but shows how Western Australia slowly came to feel a need to protect its heritage buildings.
Barracks Arch, one of Perths iconic historic buildings is located at the top of St Georges Terrace, next to Mitchell Freeway. Built in 1866 it was originally the entrance to the much larger Pensioner Barracks.
The Barracks was built to house the Enrolled Pensioner Force (also known as Pensioner Guards). The guards came to Australia on the convict ships that transported nearly 10,000 prisoners to Western Australia between 1850 –1868.
The men were retired solders and, along with their wives and children, eventually increased the population of Western Australia by over 2,000. After arrival, the ex-soldiers had an option to continue duty as convict guards or remain as settlers with a 10-acre plot of land.
Initially based in Fremantle, most convict work moved to Perth in 1860 which made it necessary to relocate the guards. The move created a need for accommodation in Perth for the Enrolled Pensioners and their families.
Architect Richard Roach Jewell was appointed to design an appropriate building. He was at the time an employee of the Department of Public Works.Jewell had arrived in Western Australia in 1851 and designed many of the important public buildings in Perth during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Some of his other designs include boys schools in Perth and Fremantle, Wesley Church, the oldest section of the Treasury Buildings, Perth Town Hall, Perth Goal and Government House.
For the Barracks Jewell designed the three-storey building in a Tudor Gothic style that resembled a medieval castle. Each family apartment had two rooms about 3.9 metres by 6.9 metres and featured at least one fireplace. Outbuildings contained the cook house, gun room and firing range, wash house, stores and stables. The Barracks was completed in 1866 with 120 rooms but was later extended to house an additional 21 families.
The families settled into life at the Barracks but sometime in the 1880s it was decided to abolish the Enrolled Pensioner Force and form a new unit from its members. The final Enrolled Guard parade took place in March 1887.
The unit changes and departure of residents was not the only major thing to happen at the Barracks in 1887. In that year, there was a serious fire, but astonishingly the buildings were saved by hand pumping water from the Swan River which was carried to the fire by a human chain of volunteers with buckets. Whilst the buildings withstood the fire, timber flooring was
destroyed but later restored. The fire also largely destroyed the clock situated above the arch entrance. During repairs the opening above the arch that had housed the clock was enlarged and converted into a window.
From 1900-1904, the Barracks buildings were gradually converted to offices. In the 1960s the Government decided to demolish the buildings.
The announcement created a public uproar and motivated the Royal Western Australian Historical Society to form the Barracks Defence Council. The Council worked diligently to keep the Barracks however demolition proceeded and in 1966 all but the Arch was demolished.