St Vincent's Foundlings Home


Town of Cambridge

Place Number



18 Barrett St Wembley

Location Details

Catherine McAuly Centre

Local Government




Construction Date

Constructed from 1914

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 following statement is taken from the Register Entry for place 2231 Catherine McCauley 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 Foundling Home is a predominantly single storey red brick building with a clay tiled roof. The complex roof over the U-shaped plan form comprises a mix of hipped and gabled forms and feature gablets. Terracotta finials, including a central cross, have been placed at some of the apices and face brick chimneys that widen at the top, punctuate the roof forms. The roof pitch is lower over the verandah around the outer edge of the building. The Foundling Home is representative of the Federation Queen Anne style displaying some complexity in the decorative elements of the roof and timberwork. A verandah wraps around the south (front) elevation of the building but has been enclosed at the southeast corner and along the east elevation. The concrete verandah floor is approximately at ground level adjacent to the car park along the western edge but the fall in the site reveals a base of coursed, squared rubble limestone beneath floor level on the east side of the building. The principal entrance to the place is located centrally in the south elevation and is defined by gables in the verandah roof and main roof form above. Both these gables exhibit a half-timber effect in the infill. In addition, a plaque reading ‘St Vincent’s Foundling Home’ is evident beneath the main gable. The verandah timberwork is moderately elaborate with curved brackets and carved panels fixed to the square timber posts supporting the roof. The close spacing of the exposed rafter ends, apparent beneath the ogee profile gutter, establishes a frieze which with the contrasting colours of the paintwork accentuates the decorative effect. A metal balustrade spanning between the posts has been introduced. The square panels of the valance, between the grouped posts at the corners, appear to have a carved timber ‘S’ imposed over a hollow ‘M’. This refers to SIHS (Greek meaning Jesus Christ Son of God & Saviour) and HIS (Latin meaning Jesus saviour of men). Walls of the building have been constructed in red, colonial bond face brickwork with a contrasting cream mortar. Bands of cream render are evident at windowsill and head height and also in the outer gablets in the roof above. Vertical strips in the brickwork of these gablet infills allow ventilation to the roof space. The infill of the west gable is supported on a frieze of brick corbels. Other brickwork bonds are apparent around the building providing evidence of different periods of construction. A Foundation Plaque laid on 10 September 1914 identifying the architect and contractor is located on the south face of the extruding west gable of the building. Windows and doors are principally of timber construction. Many of the openings exhibit an unusual form of ‘Lifting Window’ with sliding glazed upper sashes and a three panelled timber sash below. Large windows prominent in the south and west elevations are composed of narrow panes in timber frames between masonry mullions and exhibit rendered quoining. Sliding aluminium windows are located in the area where the verandah has been enclosed.


The first Spanish Benedictine priests, Joseph Serra and Rosendo Salvado, arrived in Western Australia in 1846, together with 25 missionaries (including six members of the Order of the Sisters of Mercy). Dr Brady, the newly appointed Bishop of Perth, brought the missionaries to Western Australia following a visit to Rome. Serra and Salvado soon established a mission and school for Aboriginal people at New Norcia and in 1848 Serra travelled to Europe, seeking new missionaries to help with the work in Western Australia. He returned with 39 recruits, including 32 Benedictine monks and an Irish Trappist, Dominic Urquhart. Serra was appointed Bishop c.1850 after Dr Brady left Western Australia. On behalf of the Perth Diocese, Serra purchased all the lands owned by Dr Brady, including Locations Ag and Ah, comprising 300 acres, adjoining Herdsmen Lake and Lake Monger. Serra named the area ‘New Subiaco’, after the original St Benedictine’s monastery in Italy. Bishop Serra established the Benedictine monks beside Herdsman Lake at New Subiaco (in what is now Glendalough), where bush pole and timber chapel and monastery buildings were constructed. The cleared land was planted with olives, grape vines and fruit trees. In 1858, following Serra’s visit to Europe (1853-55), construction of a permanent Benedictine Monastery at New Subiaco commenced. The Monastery building was completed on June 1859. There was ‘a luscious vineyard with sixty thousand vines, and an extensive orchard: olives, oranges, lemons, figs, pears, apples and almonds, etc.’. A smaller olive plantation was planned abutting the southern wall of the monastery, with more olive trees in the adjacent garden. On the 1864 map of New Subiaco, shows the former stable and a burial ground was identified although no records have been located of any burials taking place during the Benedictine occupation of the site. In April 1859, the Vatican separated New Norcia and Perth into two administrations, with Bishop Serra in charge of Perth and Salvado in charge at New Norcia. The monks were given a choice as to whether they lived at New Norcia or in Perth. Following Serra’s resignation in 1862, Father Martin Griver was appointed Apostolic Administrator, with Father Matthew Gibney as his Vicar General. Griver and Gibney were responsible for the administration of the Benedictine Monastery at New Subiaco. However, by 1867, all of the monks had transferred to New Norcia and the New Subiaco Monastery was empty. In the early 1870s, when Perth had one orphanage, a government run institution in Goderich Street referred to as The Home, or the Poor House, Father Gibney requested Governor Hampton that the Catholic children in The Home be housed in Catholic institutions. On 2 February 1872, 12 Catholic boys from The Home moved into the empty Benedictine Monastery. Known as St Vincent’s Orphanage for Boys, as the result of work by the St Vincent de Paul Society, the place was the first non-Government orphanage for boys in Western Australia. In 1876, the Sisters of Mercy assumed control of the institution. They replaced the existing staff with three Sisters, two female assistants and a maintenance man. Catherine McAuley (1778-1841) had founded the Order of the Sisters of Mercy in Dublin in 1831, for the relief of the poor, sick, underprivileged and the dying. In February 1877, there were 39 boys at St Vincent’s. Father Gibney’s 1883 report to the Colonial Secretary stated that as well as schooling, the occupations of the boys included printing the Catholic weekly, The Record, carpentry, gardening and olive oil manufacturing. During the period in which the property had been vacant the vines and fruit trees had died, but the olive trees had survived. The boys worked at producing olive oil from the olives they harvested. A school building was constructed for St Vincent’s Orphanage in 1892. Situated in front of the Monastery, the building commonly called the Old Chapel was opened on 22 January 1893. (now the Martin Kelly Centre). In November 1897, a group of Christian Brothers arrived in Western Australia from Sydney, and took over management of St Vincent’s Orphanage for Boys from the Sisters of Mercy. In September 1901, they moved the boys to new buildings at Clontarf, Waterford. On 21 November 1901, St Joseph’s Orphanage for Girls was moved from Victoria Square to take up residence in the Monastery, under the care of six Sisters. At that time there were about 79 girls at the Orphanage listed as wards of the State and 12 privately funded by family and charitable donations. 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. Girls over fourteen were trained for domestic work. This involved cookery, dressmaking, art, needlework and knitting, caring for poultry, vegetable gardening, soap making, and baking. Some girls, who were considered intellectually capable, undertook secondary study at the Orphanage or at Mercedes College. The Sisters of Mercy established the St Vincent’s Foundling Home in 1914 to provide accommodation and care for deserted or homeless infants. Archbishop Clune laid the foundation stone for St Vincent’s Foundling Home on 10 September 1914. The architect for the project was George McMullen (c1861-1924), and the builder was Frederick Edward Sedgley (c1877-1958). George McMullen trained as an architect in Victoria and was elected a fellow of the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects in 1890. By 1894, Mullen had moved to Western Australia where the Public Works Department (PWD) employed him as a draftsman. He appears to have been in private practice from about 1902, with several houses in Highgate, Perth and West Perth being attributed to him between 1905 and 1909. In 1910, he was responsible for the additions to the Children’s Hospital and, from 1913, lived at Bagot Road, Subiaco. St Vincent’s Foundling Home was opened on 13 December 1914, by the Governor Sir Harry Barron. The opening ceremony was preceded by a procession involving societies from the various parishes including Children of Mary, Catholic Young Men, St Vincent de Paul Society, Hibernians, Foresters, Sacred Heart Sodalities, Oblate Fathers and Redemptorists. The building was blessed by Archbishop Clune, who said in his speech that: "Under [the] aegis [of the Catholic Church] a system of charitable institutions had been established… Catholics felt that, however excellent their institutions were, there was still something lacking… That which was lacking was an institution like St Vincent’s Foundling Home, where the destitute children from birth to school age might be received, and where infant life might be safeguarded. The work of safeguarding and preserving child life was… doubly valuable at the present time when war was making a drain upon adult life in the battlefields of Europe, and when it was likely that immigration would probably be checked for some years to come. Housed in a building set upon a healthy site, and equipped according to a most exacting hygienic standard, the children would be under the care of the Sisters of Mercy, whose success in a kindred department was phenomenal." Photographs published at the time of opening show a substantial building, with the east and west wings forming a ‘U’ shape. The west wing appears to have contained the kitchen, and possibly the dining room, while the east wing contained toilet and bathroom facilities. A contemporary description stated: It is a spacious building, well laid out, its several parts very finely proportioned, with every ward and every room equipped according to the most modern ideas. The wards and the infirmary, which open on to large and very well-designed verandahs, are admirably ventilated and roomy. There are special cells for the Sisters in charge of these wards. Nor is the portion of the institution set apart for the nursing staff neglected. Each nurse will have a pretty and neatly furnished room, as well as the general sitting and dining room set apart for the nursing staff. Beside the various accessories usually attached to such an establishment, a special feature of the new home is its up-to-date electrical fittings. Radiators are installed in almost every apartment, while there is attached to the wards special electrical apparatus by which, in case of urgency or at night, food may be conveniently and speedily heated. But the department of the building which deserves special attention is the beautifully equipped kitchen which experts have pronounced to be second to none in Australia… It is furnished with a splendid range and coppers, wash-up contrivances, and it is so admirably arranged that hot water may be conveyed therefrom to any portion of the whole building." The Foundling Home catered for both boys and girls from birth to six years. Babies were often left on the verandah of the Home, or under the hedge at the Orphanage. It was soon found that some accommodation for expectant mothers was also needed and another wing was added to the Home. Archbishop Clune opened the additions on 17 February 1918 and in his opening address stated; "The additions just completed would afford a greater chance of classification and isolation, if necessary, and would enable a mother’s care to be given to the little ones during their infancy. At present nearly 70 children were being cared for by the Sisters… The new wing consists of a large dormitory for twelve mothers and their infants. There are commodious balconies on either side. The lavatories, etc., are most up-to-date in design, a large dining-room for the mothers and a day nursery for the infants, are most admirable adjuncts. St Vincent’s Foundling Home is growing. Already it is a compact block of buildings and a picturesque object to the eye. The building, as it stands today, has been planned by Mr McMullen and carried out under his supervision. The total cost of the Foundling Home, including the additions, is £12,000." Special thanks were given to the Ugly Men’s Association, and doctors and staff of the Children’s Hospital. Donations for the additions were also obtained by two Sisters who travelled throughout the Perth Archdiocese visiting each household. In 1918, the Foundling Home was extended and appears to have been the building, seen on various site plans, which ran east to west behind the ‘U’ shaped 1914 structure, effectively creating a courtyard between the original wings at the rear of the Home. This addition provided accommodation for mothers following child birth. This addition was removed during the 1994 renovations. By 1925, there were 110 children at St Vincent’s Foundling Home. Further additions were made to cater for the growing numbers. The additions comprised two separate buildings, situated on the eastern side of the Home. They were the Kindergarten (1925) and the Nursery (1928). Local benefactors, Stuart and Eileen Patterson funded both buildings. Thomas Stuart Patterson and Bridget Eileen Coake were married in Albany on 27 September 1898. Patterson, a Presbyterian, was born in Sydney in 1866, and Bridget was an Irish Catholic migrant. The Patterson's had one daughter who died young, a factor that may have influenced their generosity towards young children in need of care. In 1940, St Joseph’s Orphanage and St Vincent’s Foundling Home housed 264 children, and there were 25 Sisters living and working on site. About half the children were supported by charity and whatever parents could afford, while the other half were wards of the State. In the 1950s, another extension was made to the Foundling Home in the form of two-storey addition at the northern end of the ablution block. This addition provided accommodation for mothers and their newborn babies. By the mid 1960s, St Vincent’s Foundling Home was also acting as a day-care centre for young children on the site. One dormitory was closed, with 30 children between three and five still in residence. By the 1970s, social needs and concepts of social welfare were changing. More emphasis was being placed on social welfare for the family unit. The Sisters of Mercy determined to redevelop the Orphanage and Foundling Home institutions and, in late 1971, the centre was renamed Catherine McAuley Centre. In 1989 the site was renamed Catherine McAuley Family Centre. 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 1975 and 1988, day care numbers doubled to 104 full-time, 25 part-time, 40 after-school care, 50 vacation care and 16 nursery places. In 1994, St Vincent’s Foundling Home buildings were upgraded by Santelli Holbrook Architects. The work on the Foundling Home involved general upgrading of facilities, and the removal of the 1918 addition. The original 1914 building, and the two-storey 1950s addition remained. A wall plaque in the entrance hall of the Foundling Home reads: "Catherine McAuley Family Centre. Restoration and refurbishment of the Child Day Care buildings. In appreciation of the support provided by the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy and The Lotteries Commission of Western Australia. Santelli Holbrook Architects P/L. Project Architect A Santelli. June 1994." Above the plaque is a painting of the Foundling Home executed by Al Santelli and donated to the Home. Currently [2018] St Vincent’s Foundling Home is still utilised for Child Day Care, but some of the external playground areas have been changed or been improved as a result of the Retirement Village works completed in the mid 2000s. Child day care programmes have been expanded over the decade and some refurbishments were undertaken to allow this to occur.


Integrity: High Authenticity: Exceptional




Name Type Year From Year To
Santelli Holbrook Architects Architect 1994 -
George McMullen Architect 1914 -


Ref ID No Ref Name Ref Source Ref Date
Aerial photographs, Landgate. Online Reference 1953-2016
A McLay;"Women Out of their Sphere: A History of the Sisters of Mercy in Western Australia". Vanguard Press 1992
Heritage Trail: A journey through the history of Mercy Care. Brochure 2007

Place Type

Individual Building or Group


Epoch General Specific
Original Use RELIGIOUS Housing or Quarters
Present Use EDUCATIONAL Other

Architectural Styles

Federation Queen Anne

Construction Materials

Type General Specific
Roof TILE Other Tile
Wall BRICK Common Brick

Historic Themes

General Specific

Creation Date

02 Feb 2005

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

24 Nov 2020


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