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Most people walk past the Old Perth Boys' School, and never look up.  Surprising, considering the bizarre history of this building, and the danger this careless practice presents to fellow pedestrians.

  

 
Creepy old guy outside the School.
However back in the 1850’s all eyes were on the Old Perth Boys' School.  There was something not quite right about this building.
 
 
The Old Perth Boys’ School was designed by the Colonial Secretary, Mr William Sandford. He was a deeply religious man, and a former member of the mysterious Cambridge Camden Society.  The society was founded in 1839, by undergraduates from the Cambridge University in England.  Their objective was to cultivate a high level of religious morality in society, by reviving the spiritual piety of the middle ages.  For practical purposes they decided to promote medieval Gothic Architecture as the means to reintroduce religious morality into contemporary society. From churches to houses, the society encouraged that all new construction projects be influenced by the Gothic Revival style. 
 
Old Perth Boys' School. The society had global ambitions, and it was Mr William Sandford who brought the battlefront to Perth. Perth was in desperate need of a dedicated school building, so by using his influential position in the colony, Mr Sanford took great pleasure in designing the structure.    The school opened in 1854, though many people noticed it looked suspiciously like an old church. It was the first building in Perth dedicated to the Gothic Revival style, and its resemblance to a church was no mistake.  Mr Sandford had successfully implemented stage one of his plan to shape Perth according to the beliefs of the Cambridge Camden Society.

The school was a narrow limestone building,  with very small vertically accentuated windows.  People began to question the excessive cost of the steeply pitched roof, and the accompanying gothic tower (now removed).  Though Sandford was convinced all these features instilled religious obedience in the students.
 The Old Perth Boys' School during a Pupil Free Day.  The children enjoyed their freedom.  
However, it was the narrow gothic style windows that eventually caused his plans to crumble.  The windows prevented adequate light from entering the classrooms, and they could not be opened to allow ventilation during Perth’s long hot summers.

Sandford refused to allow his grand design to be altered, and the first year pupils suffered in conditions inappropriate for a healthy education.  Realising his dream was failing, Sandford mysteriously left the colony in 1855, and the Cambridge Camden Society’s world plan for medieval religious revival ended on the doorstep of the Old Perth Boys’ School.
The Dark Ages was a popular history subject.
  To improve internal lighting, the school sought the enrolment of bright students.

After his departure, the windows were promptly modified to allow in the air. The gothic features became increasingly expensive to maintain.  Ultimately the surge in the student population during the prosperous gold rush era, forced the school to relocate to a larger building in 1896.  The school was originally designed to accommodate 150 pupils, though increased to an overwhelming 350 before the relocation. 

 
 

Back in 1854 when the school first opened it was referred to as the Perth Boys’ School. The school was brand new, though admittedly looked a little ancient due the Gothic Revival Architecture. It was not until the larger Perth Boys’ and Girls’ School was completed in 1896, that the original Perth Boys’ School was considered old.  This means that the building had varying degrees of declining newness for the first 42 years, and increasing levels of oldness for the last 118 years.   Basically, "it ain’t getting any younger".

 

The empty building soon became home for the Perth Technical College, before a newer purpose built structure was opened in 1910.  It was constructed adjacent to the Old Perth Boys’ School, with shiny new red bricks.  Both buildings have since been restored, and are now occupied by modern businesses.
Old Perth Technical School. 
The narrow windows restricted light and ventilation into the classrooms. 
If you look closely at the limestone walls of the old school you can still see the tooling marks left by the builders when they shaped the blocks in 1853-54.  The limestone was shipped up the Swan River in barges, from an area called Rocky Bay.
Old Perth Technical College  
 
It is well over 100 years since the school bell last rang at the Old Perth Boys' School.  Though in some ways the Cambridge Camden Society had a win on this one.  With most of our colonial buildings lost to time, this humble structure survived, reminding us of a time that Perth forgot.

Location:  Walk along St Georges Terrace in Perth until a creepy feeling stops you in your tracks. 
If the creepy feeling doesn't kick in, try looking for 139 St Georges Terrace.
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