Olive Trees, Barrett Street


Town of Cambridge

Place Number



18 Barrett St Wembley

Location Details

Catherine McAuley Centre

Other Name(s)

Olea europaea

Local Government




Construction Date

Constructed from 1850 to 1860

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents
Heritage List Adopted 27 Nov 2018

Heritage Council Decisions and Deliberations

Type Status Date Documents
(no listings)

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management
Municipal Inventory Adopted 27 Nov 2018 Category 1
Municipal Inventory Adopted 17 Dec 1996

Parent Place or Precinct

02231 Catherine McAuley Centre

Statement of Significance

The olive trees are of historic and aesthetic significance for associations with the original The following statement is taken from the Register Entry for place 2231 Catherine McAuley Centre included on a permanent basis on the State Register of Heritage Places in 2012. Catherine McAuley Centre, comprising Benedictine Stables (fmr) (c. 1858, 1890s, 1990s); Olive Trees (c.1858); Cemetery (1891-1913); Old School(1893); St Rochs (c.1900); former Laundry (c.1910); St Vincent’s Foundling Home (fmr) which includes the Foundling Home (1914, 1918, 1950s, 1994), Kindergarten (1925, 1971, 1994) and Nursery (1928, 1970, 1994); and, St Gerard’s Hospital (fmr) (1938), has cultural heritage significance for the following reasons: the Benedictine Stables (fmr) has rarity value as it is one of few agrarian buildings dating from the 1850s still in existence in the metropolitan area and is the only remaining structure from the early Benedictine occupation of the site; the various elements illustrate the evolution of the site from an agrarian beginning, with stables and olive groves, to a facility dealing with the needs of urban family life, and reflect the rapid development and changing social environment of Perth and Western Australia, since the 1850s; the place contributes to the aesthetic qualities of the landscape particularly through the Old School, which has landmark value when approached from the south entrance of the site and provides a focus for the historic group of buildings at the place. St Vincent’s Foundling Home (fmr) contains decorative timber work, terracotta finials and brick work with render banding; the various elements of the place contribute to the community’s sense of place; the Benedictine Stables (fmr) and Olive Trees are evidence of the Catholic Benedictine Order who occupied the site from 1852 to 1864, and also with Bishop Serra, under whose authority the site was developed. The Old School is a reminder of the ongoing religious associations of the site; St Vincent’s Foundling Home (fmr) and Old Chapel are evidence of the work of the Sisters of Mercy, and the services to children in need which they have provided on the site since 1876; the Benedictine Stables (fmr) and Olive Trees are a reminder of the olive oil industry conducted by the Sisters of Mercy, and which helped provide funds for the ongoing operation of the orphanage and foundling home. The olive oil manufactured at St Joseph’s Orphanage won first prize at several Royal Perth shows; the place is illustrative of the institutional approach to the care and training of children which prevailed in the late 19th century and into the first six decades of the 20th century; and, when opened in 1925, the Kindergarten was one of the first to use the Montessori teaching method and aspects of design in Western Australia. The nursery still displays the ventilated and mosquito proofed verandah, which was considered modern at the time of construction.

Physical Description

The mature olive trees on the site are in good condition and located near the entrance to the administration building and on the eastern side of the property.


The olive trees in the grounds of the Catherine McAuley Centre were first planted by the Benedictine Monks in the mid-1850s, prior to the completion of the monastery in 1858-9. Records indicate that the first olive oil was produced by the monks in the mid-1850s while the building was under construction. Two groves were planted, a large grove to the north of the building and a smaller one abutting the south wall. In 1864, when the Monks relocated to New Norcia, the vines and orchards were left to die. Only the olive trees survived out of all the cultivation and there is no record of how many of the original trees survived. From 1876, when Father Gibney was Chair of the Board of Governance for St Vincent's Boys Orphanage there are records of oil production with the boys harvesting the olives under the guidance of John Prendergast. Mr Dale, Inspector of Charitable Institutions reported at his visit in 1881 that over 100 gallons of olive oil had been produced at the orphanage that year. At the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London in 1886 the oil received high commendation and often took first prize at the Royal Show. The first mention of sale of the oil was made in 1897 when the Christian brothers moved to the site for a short time. They left in 1901 with the Sisters of Mercy moving back in. The girls in their care harvested the olives and helped with the production of the oil. The purification of the oil took place in the east room of the building now designated as, Benedictine Stables (fmr). In 1902, sale of olive oil manufactured at the Orphanage netted £2/8/9. The girls of the Orphanage exhibited their oil at the Royal Perth Show each year, where it was often awarded first prize. In 1909, there were 148 girls and eight Sisters at the Orphanage. As well as attending school the older girls worked in the Laundry or assisted with the production of olive oil. In 1921, sales amounted to £140/5/2. It is not known how long olive oil production continued at the site. References to the production of olive oil are made in the local press in 1934 and in 1950. Although the later date refers to preparation for a fete rather than commercial sales. An aerial photograph of the site in 1964 shows many trees on the property but by this time the focus of the organisation had shifted with less children living on the site. One dormitory was closed, with 30 children between three and five still in residence. In October 1977, a new complex for ‘out of home care’ for difficult to place children was opened. Each were staffed by ‘cottage parents’. The group houses were spread over the northern section of the property and were accessed off Ruislip Street. Their construction resulted in the removal of most of the remaining olive grove in this area. Between the Catherine McAuley Centre and Lake Monger is a residential development in which one of the roads has been named 'The Grove'. It is speculated that this name reflects the former grove of Olive Trees in this location. Residential properties in this area have olive trees in their gardens which may originate with the original plantings. In 1999, six trees in front of the administration building were successfully transplanted and in 2004 two additional trees were transplanted. Unfortunately some trees could not be successfully relocated and their wood was culled for use in the organisation. The remaining olive trees on the site are clustered near the administration building and on the eastern side of the property.


Integrity: High Authenticity: High




Ref ID No Ref Name Ref Source Ref Date
Heritage Trail: A journey through the history of Mercy Care Brochure 2007
The Daily News, p. 24. Newspaper 11 November 1950
K Spillman;"Identity Prized: A History of Subiaco". UWA Press 1985
The West Australian, p. 19. Newspaper 26 May 1934

Place Type



Epoch General Specific
Original Use OTHER Other

Creation Date

02 Feb 2005

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

24 Nov 2020


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