Stirling Square and St Matthew’s Church

The township of Guildford was planned around a church square, located at the exact centre point of the town.   This plan highlighted how important the Church was in society at that time.  The layout of the square is also significant due to civic buildings being added close by, such as the Courthouse and Colonial Gaol, both still in existence.  The area was originally called Church Square, later renamed as Stirling Square to recognise Captain James Stirling, the first Governor of Western Australia.

The second St Matthew's Church prior to 1872

The second St Matthew’s Church prior to 1872

The first Anglican Church was constructed in 1836.  By the 1850’s it was in a state of disrepair.  A second church was built in 1860 and named St Matthew’s Church.  In 1872 disaster struck when it blew down in a hurricane – a baptism was taking place inside the church at the same time!   In record time, parishioners raised funds to build a third Church, consecrated in 1873.

St Matthew's Church showing the destruction in 1872

St Matthew’s Church showing the destruction in 1872

Before white settlement, Stirling Square had been a traditional meeting place for local Aboriginal groups.  The area, known as Gilly Park by Noongar people is still used regularly for their meetings.

Stirling Square includes the War memorial, erected in 1920 to honour soldiers from World War I.  Family names inscribed on the memorial include Hamersley, Drake-Brockman and Devenish – all sons of prominent early settlers.  However, not every name of soldiers who lost their lives are included.  Families were charged to have their loved one’s name added, and some people could not afford the expense.

St Matthews Church - Low Res

After World War II, two twenty five pounder field guns were placed in the Square.  The guns reflect Guildford’s long artillery traditions dating 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 year of settlement.  They were restored and rededicated in 2012.

Stirling Square - Low ResThe stately Sugar Gum trees (Eucalyptus cladocalyx) were planted in 1890 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  These trees are not native to Western Australia, but come from South Australia.  In 1999 local Council planned to fell the trees, but the people of Guildford successful campaigned against this plan.  A commemoration bench placed in Stirling Square in 2009 recognises the people’s campaign to save the sugar gum trees.