Everyone has their favorite Bond, and for the Cloisters building in Perth, it was Flemish.  Unlike James Bond who has been known to reduce heritage buildings to a pile of rubble, good old Flemish Bond helped save the Cloisters from destruction.  So just who was this mysterious Flemish Bond?  Flemish Bond was active in the Perth central business district between 1858 and 1890, and can still be seen today in some of our heritage buildings.  Look closely at the Cloisters, Wesley Church, and Barracks Arch.  A pattern will emerge in the brickwork.  This pattern is a decorative bricklaying arrangement known as Flemish Bond.  The visual appeal, and rarity of Flemish Bond in modern architecture, has encouraged the preservation of Perth heritage buildings displaying this pattern.

The way in which bricks overlap when they are laid is called the bond. When a brick is placed with the longest side exposed it is known as a stretcher brick. Those bricks laid with the smallest end exposed are called header bricks. Flemish Bond is
created by laying headers and stretchers alternatively in a row. The row above is laid so that the header is placed in the middle of the stretcher below. The visual appeal of the Cloisters has been enhanced, by using a range of mellow tones in the headers and stretchers. This colour variation was created by firing the bricks in wood fired kilns at varying temperatures.  Flemish Bond is probably the most decorative bond, though we still think Daniel Craig looks pretty mean in a suit.
The Cloisters.
  Flemish Bond Brickwork.
The Cloisters.
The Cloisters.

The Cloisters was originally occupied by the first secondary school established in Perth, and that makes it very old school.  It was built in 1858 for the first Anglican Bishop of Perth, Mr Mathew Hale.  It was formally known as the “Perth Church of England Collegiate School”.   Bishop Hale donated a substantial amount of his own money into the project,  and was pleased to hear it informally referred to as “Bishop Hale’s School”. 

The school attracted many of the colony’s wealthy boys, known thereafter as “Bishop Hale’s Boys”.  Many became leading citizens, including John Forrest (First W.A. Premier), and his brother Alexander (Perth Lord Mayor).  Both brothers were also famous explorers, and good backup for each other in the playground.  Other big names included Augustus Roe, and John Bateman.

They all studied hard and were good to their parents. Attending the sole source of secondary education in the colony gave them a fantastic scholastic advantage over the other children.  These guys were learning about the foundations of modern government, while everyone else was busy pounding fence posts into the ground.  The class of 1858 attracted only 23 students, limited by the small number of families wealthy enough to enrol their sons into private education. Even though the population of Western Australia was a lightweight 14 000 at the time, there were some heavyweight opportunities available in the emerging colony.  The graduates of Bishop Hale’s School were well equipped to embrace these challenges, and many made significant contributions to our state. E=mc2
No Pets Allowed.
No Pets Allowed.
Bishop Hale continued to fund the school until the Anglican Church took over the administration in 1865.  Due to low enrolments in 1872, the boys were relocated to another building on St Georges Terrace. The school then moved to several sites over the years, before settling in the suburb of Wembley Downs in 1961.  The Cloisters was then used as a Girl's School, until the growth in Government funded schools permanently reduced the number of private students.  This forced the school to close, and other uses were then found for the building.
During 1879-80 substantial additions were made to the western side of the building.  These included extensions for a double classroom, upstairs dormitory, and a dining room. These additions doubled the size of the building. Following the closure of the Girls School, the building was divided in half by a partitioning brick wall. The eastern and western sections were then rented out as private residences.
The Cloisters before the 1879-80 extensions.
Half the building in 1870.
Some people say you can still see the lonely figure of Bishop Hale entering the front door of the Cloisters.  We hired a team of paranormal investigators with startling results.  Outside the main door is what appears to be a likeness of the good bishop, glancing backwards as he steps into the building.  Analysis suggests he is made of some sort of metal alloy, similar to the street art statues found around the inner city.
It was not until the early 1900’s that the name Cloisters was regularly associated with the building.  To cover costs, the building was used as a boarding house.  Just like modern backpacker hostels, the old boarders spent many hours sitting on the verandahs. These were cloistered verandahs, a fact not lost on people walking along St Georges Terrace.  Before long the building became known as the Cloisters.

A former pupil of the old school, Archdeacon Lefroy established the western side of the building as a college for the clergy in the early 1900’s.  It was known as St John’s College until 1918, when the University of Western Australia took over the lease, and used the building as a hostel.  During WW2 the building became a barracks, and later a home for nurses.  In its centennial year the Cloisters was used as a guest house, and stayed so until the mid 1960’s.

The famous cloistered verandahs.
Cloistered Verandahs.
Many of Perth’s heritage buildings were destroyed, and replaced by modern office towers during the 1960’s. Developers had their eyes on the Cloisters site.  It was finally agreed that the Cloisters had played an important  role in the early years of Western Australia, and even though the building now looked a little dodgy, it was worth saving.  In a compromise deal, the developers had to restore the Cloisters, but were allowed to build a much higher office tower behind it.  Today the Cloisters is used as a business office, and café.

Most people don’t, but by good fortune one kind hearted colonist did.  After a long voyage from Ireland to Perth in 1887, Mr William Stephens, and his wife Mary were presented with the potted seedling of a Port Jackson Fig.  They settled into the eastern end of the Cloisters after it was converted into a private residence. The sapling was planted in the eastern garden, probably a few years later.  On a sad note, Mary died in the Cloisters in 1893, though unknowingly left a legacy growing outside her bedroom window.

By the 1960’s the tree was huge, and the root system created some problems during the construction of the surrounding office towers.  The property developers were instructed to keep the historic tree alive at all costs.  After throwing potting mix, and pots of money at the tree, it survived.  The fig became Perth’s most expensive tree, and now occupies prime real estate in the central business district.  In 1995 the Port Jackson Fig, and the Cloisters, were placed on the permanent state heritage register.

The Port Jackson Fig Tree.
The Port Jackson Fig Tree (Ficus Rubiginosa).

Bishop Hale was blessed by both the Anglican Church, and an immense family fortune.  He purchased five blocks of prime St Georges Terrace real estate, and in 1859-60 built a lavish private residence.  His two storey Georgian style house, had ornamental gardens, and was the envy of all the colonists still living in basic shacks. His residence became known as Bishop’s House.

Bishop’s House can still be enjoyed today, and if you want to look inside you will have to enjoy an expensive three course meal. The building is now a high class restaurant, befitting the lifestyle of the original owner.

Bishop's House.Bishop's House.
Ornamental Gardens.
The ornamental gardens were a great place for chillaxing after a big morning in the pulpit.
LOCATION:   You will find the Cloisters at 200 St Georges Terrace in Perth, opposite the intersection at Mill Street. Bishop's House is further west on the other side of the terrace, behind some big office towers.  Good Luck.

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