Olive Trees


Town of Cambridge

Place Number



St Columbas Av Wembley

Location Details

Located on road reserve adjacent to 1 St Columbas Ave, Wembley

Local Government




Construction Date

Constructed from 1855

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 3
Municipal Inventory Adopted 17 Dec 1996

Statement of Significance

The trees have aesthetic value as large mature trees in good condition which contribute to the leafy character of the streetscape and are landmarks on this prominent corner The trees have historic value for their association with the foundation of the monastery at 'New Subiaco' in the 1850s. The trees have historic value for their association with 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 located at what is now the Catherine McCauley Centre. The olive oil manufactured at St Joseph’s Orphanage won first prize at several Royal Perth shows. The trees have social value for their contribution to the streetscape and are valued by the community as demonstrated by their inclusion in the Local Government Inventory.

Physical Description

There are several trees on this small triangular road reserve at the junction of St Columbas Avenue and Gregory Street. The two olive trees are large and appear to be in good condition. A plaque is located at the base of the largest tree on the apex of the triangle which denotes the origin of the trees. A second interpretive sign provides some history for the development of the area under the name of the 'Church Lands Estate'.


These olive trees are believed to be remnants of the plantings in the grounds of the Catherine McCauley Centre first planted by the Benedictine Monks in the mid-1850s, prior to the completion of the monastery in 1858-9. The founder of the Monastery, Bishop Serra wrote of twenty thousand vines and hundreds of fruit trees being planted, including oranges, lemons, fits, apples, pears and almonds. Many acres of olive trees were planted around the monastery and down the hillside to the edge of Lake Monger. Records indicate that the first olive oil was produced by the monks in the mid-1850s while the building was under construction. 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. The land between Lake Monger and the current Catherine McCauley centre was subdivided for sale from the 1930s and these trees probably survived because of their location on the road reserve. Other trees may survive within the grounds of private properties.




Ref ID No Ref Name Ref Source Ref Date
K Spillman;"Identity Prized: A History of Subiaco". UWA Press 1985
Heritage Trail: A journey through the history of Mercy Care Mercy Care Centre 2007
Aerial Photographs Landgate 1948-2016

Other Keywords

New Subiaco

Place Type



Epoch General Specific
Present Use OTHER Other
Original Use OTHER Other

Historic Themes

General Specific

Creation Date

16 Jul 1997

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

24 Nov 2020


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