Sunday History Photo / WA

Submitted: Sunday, Nov 22, 2015 at 05:57
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London Court is a three- and four-level open-roofed shopping arcade located in the central business district in Perth, Western Australia. It was built in 1937 by wealthy gold financier and businessman, Claude de Bernales for residential and commercial purposes. The arcade runs between the Hay Street Mall and St Georges Terrace and is considered an important tourist attraction in the City of Perth. It received a National Trust of Australia classification in 1978 and was recorded in the Register of the National Estate in 1982. The Heritage Council of Western Australia included it in the State Heritage Register in 1996.

The distinctive mock-Tudor/Elizabethan façade and architectural features includes ornate entrances with large wrought-iron gates at each end. At the Hay Street end at the first storey level, a large clock chimes every quarter-hour, half-hour and on the hour. Four mechanised knights appear from a castle door and move in a semicircle each time the clock chimes as they apparently joust with each other. At the Terrace end, another clock in a window shows a miniature Saint George doing battle with the dragon. The clocks were made by the Synchronome Company of London at a cost of £4,000.
The two interior ends include statues of Dick Whittington and his cat (northern end) and Sir Walter Raleigh (south end), each in bastion towers and gazing down on the shoppers below. Other distinctive features include gargoyles, masks, shields, crests and wrought iron signs and brackets. Gabled roofs, weather cocks and lead lighting add to the Tudor style. The arcade floor is laid with terracotta tiles.
Originally, the arcade included 24 residential flats in the upper levels as well as 53 shops and 55 offices. Most of the residences have now been taken over for commercial purposes. The arcade currently houses mainly small speciality retail shops and cafes
The arcade is situated on land which was a previously a collection of alleys known as Gun Alley and owned by former Mayor of Perth Thomas Molloy.

Claude de Bernales acquired the properties from Molloy in February 1936 for the Australian Machinery and Investment Co. Ltd for the sum of £75,000. The arcade was conceived as being a continuation of the recently completed Plaza Arcade to the north, giving shoppers and commuters a continuous retail thoroughfare from the Perth Railway Station through to The Esplanade and the Swan River.
De Bernales engaged Melbourne architect Bernard Evans to design the arcade in association with local consulting firms Oldham, Boas and Ednie-Brown, Architects. Engineering works were by Mr C. Steel. Construction commenced in August 1936 and took less than 12 months to complete at a cost of £100,000.

The building was constructed using quite modern building techniques for its time, and featured an air-conditioning system not previously seen in the state and a large restaurant for tenants and visitors in the basement level. A dedicated postal and laundry service was incorporated.
Lieutenant Governor and former Premier Sir James Mitchell opened the arcade in lavish ceremony on 29 July 1937. Mitchell described the arcade as being "unique in Australia" and that it "would be an ornament to the city".
The opening was celebrated with a three-day 'Ye Olde English Fayre' which attracted several thousand visitors and which raised £2,000 for the new Perth Hospital at St Georges Terrace and Irwin Street. The Fayre featured volunteers dressed in Elizabethan style costumes and included evening dramatic programmes and musical items, including excerpts from Twelfth Night, madrigals and folk singing.
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Reply By: Member - Alan H (QLD) - Sunday, Nov 22, 2015 at 08:25

Sunday, Nov 22, 2015 at 08:25
Thanks Doug

I've been over to Perth a few times but never knew the arcade existed. It is noted for next visit.
Trouble is I'm allergic to cities and get out as soon as possible.

AnswerID: 592987

Reply By: Rainman WA - Sunday, Nov 22, 2015 at 09:34

Sunday, Nov 22, 2015 at 09:34
Unknown to most, hidden in the render at the Hay Street end is the name of one of the workers who helped build the arcade. If you stand under the the northern entrance and look up to your left you will see B. Burford 1937 cleverly disguised in the textured render.

I worked with his two sons for many years and it was they who told me about it, and I even met the man himself many years ago.

AnswerID: 592990

Follow Up By: Member - ACD 1 - Sunday, Nov 22, 2015 at 16:39

Sunday, Nov 22, 2015 at 16:39
Thanks for that Rainmn

I will have to have a look next time I'm in town. Very well hidden. (wortthy of a Dan Brown novel LOL)


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Reply By: Member - ACD 1 - Sunday, Nov 22, 2015 at 16:35

Sunday, Nov 22, 2015 at 16:35

A trip down memory lane.

As a young kid I remember my parents taking us to Perth on the train from Fremantle for one of our "big outings". We would go to the cinema (wooden floors and red velvet covered seats) and then head to the Hay Street Mall to have lunch - always ham and salad sandwhiches on the freshest and thickest white bread (and white salad onion - remember them).

We would always get there for sharp so we could watch the clock at London Court complete a full chime sequence.The figurines would come out from behind the wall and chase one another and joust with each other. The number of people who would stop and take in the spectacle was incredible - you dont get that as much anymore (unless your a tourist with an iPhone).

Then we would go into the Court and do some of our "Special Christmas Shopping" - the shops were all high end at that time (not the Souvenir/Tourist type). One of my cousins even owned and ran a florist shop there for a while. It was a retreat from the noise and bustle of the Mall. The only down side was a trip to our dentist who had his rooms on the third floor of one of the buildings.

Even now, if I have to go into Perth, something I absolutely try to avoid, I still seek refuge in the cloisters of London Court. The wife and boys go one way and I go and have a poke around in the Court.

Nothing like riding in those rikety old wooden elevators, with only enough room for two or three people and bakerlite buttons on now dulling brass plates.....

Thanks Doug - I enjoyed that.


AnswerID: 593006

Reply By: Ron N - Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 02:10

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 02:10
Thanks Doug, a great little write-up about our unique arcade in Dullsville! London Court has been a family favorite since before I went to school, in the mid-1950's.
Few people know the full story behind Claude de Bernales, he is worthy of a bigger write-up than the Arcade itself!
Claude was London-born of Basque descent, and one of W.A.'s original gold mining entrepeneurs.

He regularly managed to extract many hundreds of thousands of pounds from British financiers to invest in West Australian gold mines, thereby creating serious wealth for the nation.
However, quite a few of his gold mines were noted for being somewhat "dodgy" with the drilling results!
Claude always seemed to manage to drill down the length of the orebody, not across it!
It was a very useful technique to extract funds from the immensely-wealthy London financier set - who, in many cases, had gathered their fortunes, by stripping huge wealth from "the colonies" in their early days, anyway!

Claude left us not only London Arcade as a monument to his stay in W.A. - he also left us his magnificent home at Cottesloe - now the Cottesloe Civic Centre.
His sizeable contributions to W.A. mining and W.A. heritage are often overlooked in any history write-up of the State.

Claude de Bernales

Cheers, Ron.
AnswerID: 593062

Reply By: Member - Ian T6 - Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 22:42

Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015 at 22:42
Boy this brings back memories. Used to work there a lifetime ago. Both ground level and under the arcade glass brick floor. Nightmares over the cage lift at hay st end. early 60s before Hay st was a mall

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