A curious past

IT was propitious timing—minutes before the Herald arrived to capture the Kings Square archaeological dig this week, the team unearthed the foundations of an 1843 Anglican church that once stood there.

The church find sent a buzz around the site, but was also good news for Freo mayor Brad Pettitt.

Executive archaeologist Fiona Hook says they were working off two old maps; one showed the church squarely between the existing admin building and St John’s Church, while the other showed it further east which meant it would be impacted by the construction of the new and expanded civic centre.

• Fiona Hook with some of the items found where a blacksmith/farrier once plied his trade on Kings Square. Photos by Steve Grant

As it’s in the safe zone, Ms Hook says the council’s planning to leave some foundations exposed (under a clear cover) as a feature of the square redevelopment.

With just two days of digging left, Ms Hook says once the full footprint of the church has been unearthed, she’s hopeful they might find artefacts that slipped between the building’s floorboards.

The church was built under the eye of Freo’s first Anglican priest George King, who arrived in the colony in 1841. He immediately called a public meeting and a week later called for tenders. It lasted until the 1870s, when the growing congregation and plans to push High Street through the square meant it had to go.

• Budding archaeologist Curtis McKinley helps unearth the church foundations with Archae-Aus staff Nigel Bruer and Rebecca Ryan.

Over fronting Newman Court there are plenty of artefacts coming from another trench, but it hasn’t yet helped solve the mystery surrounding an old hall that once stood there.

“We don’t know what the hall was for,” says Ms Hook as she eyes off bone fragments, pieces of old bottles, a marble and a tooth.

There’s no doubt about what was happening around the turn of the 20th century just outside the entrance to the current library; 100 horseshoes and another 400 bits of metal confirm it was the site of RH Tyler’s blacksmith, farrier and carriage-building company.

• Archaeological staff and volunteers have found 800 items from the farrier and smithy’s.

Tyler sold up and shortly after the buildings, which included a house which preceded his time but who’s ownership remains a mystery, were demolished to make way for the 1929 Centennial Hall, which itself only lasted until the 60s demolition boom when it was replaced by the current admin building.

Ms Hook says her firm Archae-Aus has been helped by a host of volunteers, including students from Notre Dame, and she’s been wrapt by the interest of passers-by crowding against fence barriers.


Leave a Reply