Stirling Square and St Matthew’s Church

The town-site of Guildford was planned around the church square, the exact centre of Guildford. Its plan was typical of English town planning for the period which included a church located in the town square. This design was indicative of the central role of the Church in community life.  The square‘s original layout is also significant because the civic buildings of the Heritage Precinct including the Courthouse and Colonial Gaol are still in existence. It was originally called Church Square but was renamed Stirling Square after Captain Stirling as a thank you for donating land for the original small rectangular mud-brick church on his Woodbridge estate, next to where Guildford Grammar School Chapel now stands.

The second St Matthew's Church prior to 1872

The second St Matthew’s Church prior to 1872

The original Guildford Church constructed in 1836 was, by the 1850s in a bad state of repair.

A new church, built in 1860 named St Matthew’s was built in Stirling Square. This blew down in a hurricane during a baptism service in 1872. A new church was built in only a year by parishioners and consecrated in October 1873.

St Matthew's Church showing the destruction in 1872

St Matthew’s Church showing the destruction in 1872

 

Stirling Square was also a traditional meeting place for local Aboriginal groups and is still used today by Aboriginal people for regular meetings. Stirling Square is known as Gilly Park by the Noongars.

While the introduction of the railway cut across Stirling Square, the Church and Square remain central to Guildford and include important memorials. The War memorial was erected after World War I in 1920. Not all the names of those who fell are on the memorial as you had to pay.  The memorial shows names of the sons of prominent settler families including Hamersley, Drake-Brockman and Devenish.

St Matthews Church - Low Res

This significant memorial was upgraded with the addition of two World War II 25 pounder  field guns reflecting the Guildford‘s long artillery traditions  from 1913 when an Artillery Battery occupied  the South Guildford Military Reserve.  To this day Gunner‘s Day is commemorated each November with a parade followed by a service in St Matthew‘s Church. The Memorial Gates were built in 1929 to commemorate the State’s centenary. They were restored and rededicated in 2012.

Stirling Square - Low ResThe gardens and the stately Sugar Gum trees (Eucalyptus cladocalyx) are significant and held in high regard by the both locals and visitors. The Sugar Gums are not native to WA and were planted in 1890 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  There were plans to fell them in 1999 but the people of Guildford successfully argued against this. There is a commemoration bench that was placed in Stirling Square in 2009 to recognise their campaign.