The early years
The Quarry Amphitheatre began its life as a working limestone quarry in 1834 when Henry Trigg was granted 500 acres of land which lay south of modern day Grantham Street, and stretched from Floreat to the crest of the line of sandhills that runs parallel to the coast. Trigg, a master builder, recognized the value of the limestone outcropping along the western edge of his grant and started up up a quarrying and lime-burning business. His businesses prospered and, in 1839, he purchased the neighbouring land to the south from Surveyor-General John Septimus Roe. This land included Perry Lakes and Reabold Hill (then known as One Tree Hill) and added greatly to his limestone reserves.
In 1847 Trigg sold his land to his northern neighhbour, Walter Padbury who consolidated it with his land to form a 1,234 acre landholding that became known as the "Limekilns Estate". Padbury's main interest was in livestock and he built abattoirs, stockyards, a tannery and other associated industries on the estate. He also built a cottage and barns on the slopes of Reabold Hill and continued the quarrying operations. At the height of the limestone kilns operations, more than 50 men worked at the site. They had their own brass band and held horse racing and hunt club meetings on the flats near Perry Lakes.
The Limekilns Estate passed to brothers Henry and Somers Birch in 1869 who continued Padbury's slaughtering business, and then on to Joseph Perry in 1879 who was a well-known herdsman and horsebreaker. Perry expanded the size of the Limekilns Estate to 1,290 acres and kept large numbers of horses and cattle on the flats around Perry Lakes and Herdsman Lake. He built a house on the slopes of Reabold Hill in the vicinity of Padbury's old barn, and kept the quarry and lime kilns working, with the last lime kiln being built in 1897.
A story is told of how, in 1902, Ralf Deering was riding his horse, Ladybird, to the limekilns carrying the £350 payroll when he was ambushed by three masked bandits. The horse shied in fright at their sudden appearance and galloped into the bush. The robbers gave pursuit for a short distance before giving up and sneaking away. A group of quarrymen armed themselves and went out searching for the bandits, who were later captured in Perth. The weekly wage of a quarryman at that time was about £3.
Many of Perth's early public buildings, including the foundations for the Perth Town hall (which opened in 1870) were constructed using lime and stone from the quarry and kilns. Stone was carted by a light narrow gauge horse drawn railway through the bush (roughly along the route of present day Salvado Road) to Jolimont and then on to Subiaco railway station. The track alongside the rails was known as Limekiln Road. Various parts of the quarry were also linked by wooden tramway to allow for recovery and removal of the limestone.
Private quarrying ceased in 1906.
1906 to 1980
After 1906, the quarry remained disused for many decades, except as a regular site of adventure for local children. A number of elderly residents have spoken of their memories of riding their bicycles down its steep banks, and an article in the Western Mail in 1913 noted that the boys of Leederville and Subiaco had fun exploring Perry's Hill with its limekilns and quarry, which was "distant from the terminus of Cambridge Street some three miles". The same article suggests that the limekilns were deserted because the leases ran out and were not renewed.
In 1917 the land was sold to the Perth City Council who used building materials from Perry's house and stone from the quarry to build a new house nearby for the caretaker of the Limekilns Estate and the neighbouring endowment lands. This is the building now known as Perry House.
The Quarry Amphitheatre is born
In the early 1980s, Diana Waldron, director of the Perth City Ballet Company, conceived the idea of converting the old quarry into an amphitheatre for stage productions. With the help of her architect husband Ken, she negotiated her way through much planning, bureaucratic red tape and objection, and was finally given permission to proceed by Perth City Council and the Metropolitan Region Planning Authority.
Following receipt of a $468,000 grant from a Commonwealth Employment programme (which stipulated the use of unemployed labour) construction began. The original intention to use brick was thwarted as there were no bricklayers available at the time. So to meet the terms of their funding grant they used other unemployed workers to lay precast concrete blocks, With further funding from the Lotteries Commission (then known as ILDAC) and a number of other interested parties, the project was completed in 1986.
The Quarry Amphitheatre was officially opened by Senator Peter Cook, on 9 November 1986.
Now proudly managed by the Town of Cambidge, the Quarry Amphitheatre is one of Perth's most unique public venues and loved outdoor venues.