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Walking Subiaco - The Commonage including the Six Seasons Bidi Trail and Subiaco Oval Precinct


The history of this area begins with the tradition of Indigenous spiritual dreaming. The Nyungah people of the Swan River and the Swan coastal plains are the traditional owners, keepers of knowledge, custodians and carers of the land and waterways. The natural bushland provided a source of food for Indigenous groups who lived in and around this area.


The first European settlers in this vicinity were a group of Benedictine monks led by Dom Joseph Serra and Dom Rosendo Salvado. Serra built a monastery named New Subiaco a short distance beyond the northern boundary of the present City of Subiaco while Salvado established the inland monastery of New Norcia. The Italian town of Subiaco was the founding place of the Benedictine order. The earliest maps of Subiaco during European settlement show a strip of crown land called the Commonage, lying from Thomas Street to the east, westwards along the railway to the present Subiaco station. The maps show the elevated eastern end as reserved for a public school and children’s hospital.


The Commonage was initially used as a camping ground for newcomers to Subiaco, many of whom were attracted by the gold rush and moved west, away from the 1890s recession in Victoria. The settlers purchased water from a well put down by the Jones family who built Subiaco’s first permanent house on Roberts Road in1886. This area continues to change as it is redeveloped following the closure of Subiaco Oval and Princess Margaret Hospital and new history is in the making as you follow this trail.


The walk begins at the rotunda in Market Square Park, between Roberts Road and the railway line, an area set aside in 1922 as a market place. Following the underground placement of the railway in 1998, the park was redeveloped. The park is a popular recreation area with a playground, a rotunda used as a concert venue and artworks. The park often hosts events such as markets. Follow the path that leads you from the rotunda to the brick archway on the corner of Haydn Bunton Drive and Roberts Road, near the entrance to the Subiaco Oval.



Haydn Bunton Drive was named after two outstanding footballers, Haydn Bunton Senior and Junior, who coached and played for the Subiaco Football Club during the mid 20th century. Turn left and walk uphill passing behind the playground to the underpass under Haydn Bunton Drive, Take in the underpass murals depicting flora and fauna before emerging at Subiaco Road.



Here you can explore the Subiaco Oval Precinct which has been developed on the old Subiaco Oval site. Veer right to follow the Six Seasons Bidi Trail through the gardens leading to the Djeran Sculpture by Lea Taylor and the Subiaco Oval Heritage Gates.



Continuing around the oval you will follow the Sandover Medal Walk commemorating the winners of the West Australian Football League’s Sandover Medal. There are also engraved words in the pathway reflecting on the early history of this area as the Commonage.



The broad expanse of open space on the eastern side of the Subiaco Oval was named Kitchener Park after British soldier Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. At the end of the 19th century newcomers to Subiaco chose to camp in this area due to its proximity to the railway line and the Jones’ well. In the early days of the Municipality the residence of the Subiaco Oval caretaker was located at Kitchener Park with other buildings and sporting facilities, now removed. They included the Kitchener Park Tennis, Bowling and Croquet Clubs. This area is now home to Bob Hawke College.


Continuing around the oval you will pass the Oval Precinct which includes a small parkour course, a playground, toilets (not always open) and barbecues and seating. There are rows of remaining seating and a nod to the visitors and home team changing rooms. Further along the Six Seasons Bidi Trail there are information signs about the history of football at Subiaco Oval.



Having completed a circuit of Subiaco Oval follow the Six Seasons Bidi Trail east along Station Road, detouring at Court Place to see the Birak sculpture by Rubeun Yorkshire and also the Noongar Six Seasons artwork on the West Leederville railway underpass.



Heading back along Court Place you will see the artworks on Bob Hawke College and as you continue along Station Road you will pass the Rate Payers Nursery and the Aleppo Pine. If you continue to follow the Six Seasons Bidi Trail it takes you past the front of Bob Hawke College, home to two of the Six Seasons artworks (Djilba and Makaru) temporarily housed here while the Subi East precinct is being developed.



The Six Seasons Bidi Trail leads you across Coghlan Road and into Mueller Park which has a wonderful fenced playground and toilets.



Mueller Park is valued for the number of mature trees that shade its paths and lawns. Notable among the trees is an unusually large paperbark and an aged eucalypt from which bark has been cut by the Indigenous people of the area to make a shield. You will see the tree protected by a ring of posts near Coghlan Road. Walk to the centre of Mueller Park, where the diagonal paths cross. A plaque commemorates the achievements of Ferdinand von Mueller, after whom the park is named. The street on the southern side of the park was originally called Mueller Road, but the named was changed to Roberts Road in 1916 due to war-time patriotic fervour. In 1981 Mueller’s name was restored to the eastern end of Kitchener Park.



Baron Sir Ferdinand von Mueller was a pharmacist, botanist and explorer who migrated to South Australia from Rostock, Germany, in 1847. He explored vast areas of the continent, contributing greatly to the botanical knowledge of Australia. This work included a survey of the forests of Western Australia. Von Mueller was created Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George by Queen Victoria and appointed Baron by the King of Württemberg. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and in his time was probably the most famous scientist in the Southern Hemisphere. He died in 1896 in Victoria.


At the crossroads you will find the Kambarang artwork by Jarni McGuire, part of the Six Seasons Bidi Trail.



From here head directly north across the grass back to Subiaco Road and White Place. The architecture of the White family home, at 118 Subiaco Road, with its bay windows and return verandas, is typical of medium-sized single storey Subiaco homes built in the early twentieth century. Shirley White was noted for his active support for the inclusion of the riverside area of Crawley, where the University of Western Australia now stands, in the City of Subiaco.



Continue to walk eastwards along Subiaco Road pausing at Hamilton Street to note the Graduate College of Dance.



As you proceed further along Subiaco Road you will see on your right the grounds of Perth Modern School. Teaching commenced in the school’s original red brick building in 1911, although 1909 is the date that appears over the front entrance, and 1910 in the stained glass fanlight windows, suggesting that the building took longer to complete than anticipated. The school’s fine architecture may be viewed from Subiaco Road, across the playing field. We were fortunate to be walking this trail on a Saturday and the grounds were open for sporting fixtures so we were able to have a wander around to get a closer look at the buildings.



Until the opening of this state run High School, secondary education in Perth was largely provided by church run schools. Most of the students were admitted on a scholarship basis, and the school was ‘modern’ in several respects including the teaching of science, the equal opportunity offered to girls and boys in most areas of study, and in dispensing with corporal punishment. Perth Modern School broadened the socio-economic range of students qualified to enter the University of Western Australia which opened to students in 1913. State Government architects George Temple Poole and Hillson Beasley designed the original Perth Modern School building in the style of Federation Arts and Crafts. It's many distinguishing features include Art Nouveau stained glass windows and fanlights.


On reaching Thomas Street, at the end of Subiaco Road, turn right and take the uphill walk towards Roberts Road. Before you reach the Roberts Road traffic lights, you will come to the former site of Thomas Street Primary School,1904-1979 now part of the campus of Perth Modern School. Memorial gates were built by the school community following the First World War. Thomas Street Primary School, Subiaco’s second state school, opened in 1904 with 188 children. The first headmaster was Mr. John Tucker. The number of school age children in the area was unexpectedly high, reaching 464 by the end of 1906. When the school closed in 1979 numbers of students had dwindled, as residential land in this area was adapted to business and professional use.



Cross Roberts Road at the lights and continue along Thomas Street. On your right you will pass some of the original buildings of the Children’s Hospital, re-named Princess Margaret Hospital in 1948. The hospital opened in 1909 after twelve years of fund raising. Charles Moore, the proposed hospital’s greatest enthusiast, engaged significant community support. When the Faculty of Medicine was opened at the University of Western Australia in 1957 Princess Margaret Hospital became a teaching hospital. Since 1994 Princess Margaret Hospital combined with King Edward Hospital for Women in the field of Women’s and Children’s Health Services. The hospital undertook a major rebuilding project in the 1980s but was closed with the opening of the Perth Children's Hospital in 2018 and the site is now being redeveloped with few buildings left standing. At the intersection of Hay and Thomas Streets there is a small garden with information panels relating the history of Princess Margaret Hospital. The signs all have activation codes which can be used with Eyejack but we were not able to get them to work.



As you head along Hay Street there are more information signs opposite the line of two storey terrace houses built around 1900, most of which have retained their original cast iron lace. The decorative aspects of this row of terraces suggest the work of Victorian architect Norman Hitchcock who practised in Perth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The liquid amber trees that line Hay Street produce a brilliant variety of autumn colours in season.



Turn right into Hamilton Street where you will see the Old Boiler House chimney stack rising 53m on the former Princess Margaret Hospital site. An artwork  called Here Together , celebrating the communities sense of connectedness has been painted on the chimney stack (Dec 2023) by Momo and Abdul Abdullah.



At the intersection of Hamilton Street and Roberts Road, stands the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. Founded in 1990, the institute is internationally recognised for its multi-disciplinary research programs. Professor Fiona Stanley was appointed foundation Director of the organization which has established resources such as the Maternal and Child Health Research Data Base. The Institute’s new building was completed in 2000.


Turn left into Roberts Road and walk westwards keeping an eye out for Old York Lane before the intersection with Coghlan Road, where the building that was originally the Subiaco Freemasons Hall, 1929, stands on the corner. The building combines several architectural styles. The architecture of this essentially neo-classical building includes elements of 1930s art deco, in the rounded edges and stepped formation of the façade, while the entrance arch suggests a Romanesque influence. The architect was P.W.Harrison and the builders, W.H.Ennis and son. The Freemasons ceased using the Hall in the 1980s.



Continue a little further down Roberts Road, noting the houses on your left, some of which are a century old. The redeveloped Kitchener Park on your right now houses Bob Hawke College. Built as a private residence in 1905, 187 Roberts Road was used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service as its Perth headquarters from 1972 to 1982. The building, which has remained in use as business premises, has been extended and renovated in sympathy with its original materials and style. The beautiful leadlight windows of multi-faceted clear glass were possibly installed in the 1920s when clear glass leadlight windows were favoured over the multi-coloured stained glass of Victorian and Edwardian times.


On your right you again pass Subiaco Oval. Football was played on this site as early as 1896 by the Subiaco First Rate Juniors, prior to Subiaco entering the Western Australian Football Association. The ground, known in the early days as ‘the sand patch,’ was abandoned for several years in favour of a playing field near Lake Jualbup, then called Shenton Park Lake. In 1908 football returned to Subiaco Oval, and a small grandstand was erected on the northern side. Subiaco Oval was the headquarters and major venue for Australian Rules Football in Western Australia. from the 1930s. It was the highest capacity stadium in Western Australia and one of the main stadiums in Australia, with a final capacity of 43,500 people. In 1997, a century after the first football games at Subiaco Oval, lighting was installed and night matches commenced. The stadium was closed in 2017 with the opening of the new Optus Stadium at Burswood. The demolition of the stadium was completed in November 2019, though the oval playing surface was retained as part of the school grounds of Bob Hawke College. The refurbished oval was opened to the general public in June 2020


Cross Roberts Road at the intersection with Townshend Road to view the front of the Subiaco Oval Heritage Gates before returning to your starting point, the rotunda in Market Square Park. Coffee shops and cafes are located nearby at Subiaco Square and on Rokeby Road,



This trail is up to 5km long and will take 1-2 hour to complete. With the redevelopment of Subi East underway the section east of Mueller Park is a little underwhelming however the Subi Oval Precinct and shorter Six Seasons Bidi Trail were most enjoyable.


You can find maps and information for the Walking Subiaco self guided walks at: https://www.subiaco.wa.gov.au/see-do/things-to-see-do/self-guided-walks  or read my blogs:



To read more blogs go to:


 

In the spirit of reconciliation Out and About- Family Nature Connection acknowledges the traditional owners of the Wadjak boodjar (Perth land) and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.

 

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