A Brief History of St Mary’s Parish, Guildford, WA.
The Town of Guildford is located 12 km east of Perth and is bounded by The Helena and Swan rivers with their wide floodplains. Guildford has great historical significance as it was one of the first three towns in the Swan River Colony (along with Perth and Fremantle) and was established in 1829. It was originally founded as a “market town” for the surrounding agricultural areas, especially in the Swan Valley. It has retained much of its rich heritage and many of its historical buildings to this day.
The first Catholic Mass was celebrated in Guildford in 1852, 23 years after European settlement, when a priest from the Perth Cathedral would come to Guildford each Sunday to say Mass in private homes for the few Catholics who lived here. In 1853, Irish convicts were stationed in Guildford and, as these were mostly Catholic, they boosted the local Catholic population significantly.
In 1855, the Sisters of Mercy set up a convent and school in Guildford; and in 1859 building began on the first church which was built and completed by Benedictine monks in 1860.
During these early years, the Guildford parish covered a large area which included the Swan Valley, Midland and later Bassendean. It was run by Benedictine monks, while the school was run by the Sisters of Mercy. For many years the church was a ‘church-school’ – serving as a church on Sundays and as a school during the week.
In 1936, the present church of St Mary’s was built. The nuns continued to run the Catholic primary school until 1967, when it was finally closed and students went to either St Brigid’s in Midland or St Michael’s in Bassendean.
The parish has undergone many changes over the years, with the growth of suburbs in the eastern and north-eastern regions of Perth affecting its numbers. Today it is a relatively small parish surrounded by the larger parishes of Midland, Bassendean and Lockridge. However, in recent years there have been a number of new housing developments within the parish boundaries bringing an influx of people into the region.