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History Matilda Bay


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The Name

Crawley: area named in honour of landowner’s mother
  • Crawley is a SMALL suburb of Perth, along the Swan River bordered by Kings Park
  • Western Australia, located within the City of Subiaco and City of Perth
  • The earlier name of the locality was Crawley Park.
  • It was named by an early landowner Henry Charles Sutherland, whose mother's maiden name was Crawley.

The land was first released to Captain Mark Currie in 1829.
He was granted Swan Location 87, 32 acres of land on Eliza Bay (later named Matilda Bay after the wife of John Septimus Roe) and Point Currie (now Pelican Point).

He sold the property to Henry Charles Sutherland for 100 pounds in the 1830s.

Sutherland named the area Crawley Park in honour of his mother, whose maiden name was Crawley, and the bay became known as Crawley Bay.

After his death, the property was sold to Sir George Shenton, who bought Crawley Park and several adjoining properties in 1876 for 1800 pounds.

He developed this area until his death in 1909, after which the property was purchased by the Government and a portion of the land granted to UWA.

His house, Shenton House, still stands in the university grounds.

Matilda Bay, known by Subiaco residents and others as Subiaco Beach, was a popular camping ground in the early to mid-1900s and there were tearooms and tennis courts on the foreshore in the 1920s.

The Crawley Baths were the largest enclosed body of water in the southern hemisphere and were Perth’s prime competition and recreational swimming venue from 1914 to 1964.

Pelican Point played an important role in World War II and was the site of the former US Catalina Base. US and Royal Netherlands Navy personnel occupied many campus buildings at UWA between 1942 and 1947.

The Crawley Edge Boatshed ( Blue boat House), thought to have originally been built in the early 1930s, is a well-known landmark, as is the statue of Eliza in Matilda Bay.



Crawley Bay in the 1890s

Captain Currie was the first colonial owner of the 32-acre (130,000 m2) estate surrounding the bay, at that time known as Currie's Bay. Pelican Point was then known as Point Currie. 

The estate was sold in 1832 to the Assistant Surveyor and Colonial Treasurer, Henry Charles Sutherland for ₤100. 

Sutherland named the property Crawley Park after his mother's maiden name  and the bay became known as Sutherland's Bay. 

In 1876 Crawley Park was sold to Sir George Shenton, and the bay was known generally as Crawley Bay. After Shenton's death in 1909, the estate was acquired by the Government in 1910 and vested in the University of Western Australia in 1912

The US Navy had a fleet of Catalina flying boats based at Matilda Bay during World War II.

In 1943, Qantas operated five Catalina flying boats between Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Matilda Bay in what was known as the Double Sunrise service.

Crawley Baths


The baths were the largest enclosed body of water in the southern hemisphere and were an important recreational facility in Perth for fifty years.

A second set of baths opened at Crawley in February 1914 were the premier baths for the City. 

Debate about the location had included discussion of the possibility of being able to see into the baths from Kings Park, into the change rooms. 

The Perth baths were partially demolished in 1917, and completely removed by 1920.

Crawley Baths was a public swimming facility, in Matilda Bay, near Crawley, Western Australia along Mounts Bay Road. 

The Crawley Baths on the Swan River is claimed to have been the largest enclosed area of water in the Southern Hemisphere. 

The timber structure was opened on 7 February 1914.

The opening ceremony was conducted by Premier John Scaddan and included a swimming carnival and life saving display.  

The baths comprised of diving boards, 106 dressing boxes and the thrilling water slide in this image. 
“On hot nights Crawley Baths is one of the coolest spots on the Swan River” The Daily news reported in early 1918. An accelerated tram service operated in peak hot times. 

January 16, 1918 between 1,600 and 1,800 people paid for admission to the baths from 5pm to 8pm. The record for the day was between 2,000 and 3,000.

A tramway once ran from the city along the river to Nedlands Baths.

Crawley edge boatshed better known after 2014 as The Blue boathouse and regarded as the number one IG instagram tourist photo landmark in Perth

from the 1933 Arial photo below 

Crawley Steps is the original steps down from Kings Park to access Crawley Baths and still exists today (2019)
this path is direction of North South

from the top of the 103m multi tier steps (elevation 30 mtrs) 
you will see a cross over path called Law Walk heading East <> West, this smooth concrete (wheel chair friendly) can lead you all the way back to the main settlement (East side) of Kings Park. 

at the cross over - 
heading right (East) on Law Walk trail, go 250m to Dryandra Lookout with Swan Carpark
heading left (West) is a short walk to roads or other trails

continue North 20m to Forrest Road. 
at this junction (from Oct 2019) is the Hop on off Bus stop

on the North is Crawley Path 1500m smooth concrete path North (again one of the 1st paths in Kings Park) for the earlier Settlers of Shenton Park to access Crawley Baths

Kings Park with Crawley Baths, 01/09/1933






The baths were closed in 1963 after modernity set in with the opening of the Beatty Park aquatic complex was built for the 1962 Commonwealth Games

demolished completed in 1964

in 2007 a bronze statue Eliza  was unveiled to commemorate the baths and stands in the river near its former location.

Eliza Sculpture is a riverside landmark on the S.West side of Kings park 260m East of the popular photo landmark the Blue Boat House, unveiled in 2007, at 2.2 metres tall Eliza (named after Mount Eliza of Kings Park) acknowledges the location of historical Crawley Baths, today the Icon attracts many random costumes from unknown villains (lol), SM hub

Boat Shed

It would, being built in the 1930s, have been designed for a pleasure craft of some sort – a sailing boat or rowing boats – that would have cruised the Swan River, past the Crawley baths and other boatsheds dotting the shoreline.

In the 1940’s it was bought by Nattrass family, who had purchase the property behind the boatshed. At the time, the boatshed was purchased for an additional 5 pounds when the family bought the property. The family then built a larger, more modern boatshed around the original. 

In 1972 Roland Nattrass gave the boatshed it to the Perth Sea Scouts patron, Ron Armstrong and in the 1990’s ownership passed to Barry Krollman a keen sailor from the Royal Perth Yacht Club.

In early 2001 the boatshed was put up for sale and was purchased by Perth Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass – the son of Roland Nattrass. It was extensively renovated by his sons Tom and Nick Nattrass and, on 6 February 2004, the newly refurbished Crawley Edge boatshed was re-launched by triple solo-circumnavigator of the world Jon Sanders and single solo-circumnvaigator David Dicks.

Today, the boatshed sits prominently on the Swan River, a nostalgic reminder of the river’s past.

you can see the the boat shed in the black and white photos this page

Swan Brewery


1500m N.East along the river  History The Old Brewery

The Catalina


a great part of the history of Matilda Bay supplied from Mildred Pierce ‎WWII WARBIRDS NO MODERN JETS


I’m standing at one of my 3 favourite Matilda’s: Matilda Bay. The others being Natalie Portman’s character in The Professional and Waltzing.


Matilda Bay is located on the shores of Perth’s Swan River. Looking ahead across the water you have fantastic views of the city skyline and a smattering of very, very expensive yachts, look behind and you can see the beautiful sandstone buildings and the velvet soft sporting fields of the University of Western Australia.

It’s a very special place for me, not just because this is where I used to come and pass out after attending UWA Toga parties, it’s because during the second world war the US Navy had a fleet of Flying boats based right here at Matilda Bay.

By May 1942 all American troops in the Phillipines surrendered to the invading Japanese Army who continued their advance Southwards to attack Malaya, the Dutch East Indies and Java, driving US and Allied forces before them. This meant the loss of bases for ships and aircraft who were forced to flee. Among them were a number of Consolidated PBY Catalinas from the US Navy’s Patrol Wing Number 10. Who escaped from bases in the Philippines and ended up in Darwin and Broome. It was ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’ as they were caught up in the Japanese attacks there and the survivors were then posted to Perth, a safe-haven being out of range of Japanese land-based aircraft.

They brought with them the Consolidated PBY Catalina. It was one of the most widely used seaplanes of WW2. PB stood for Patrol Boat and ‘Y’ was the code assigned to the manufacturer – Consolidated Aircraft.

Patrol Wing 10 operated from Crawley Bay on the Swan River from March 1942 to mid-1944. Their depleted ranks were soon replenished and the unit grew to approximately 60 – 70 Catalina flying boats and were followed by approximately 1200 American support personal.

It was an incredibly versatile aircraft and it could be equipped with depth charges, bombs, torpedoes, and .50 caliber machine guns. The Catalinas undertook reconnaissance, anti-submarine patrols, convoy escort, search and rescue, and occasionally bombing missions across the expanse of the Indian Ocean

The University of Western Australia supported these operations and the officers’ quarters were built on the site where University Hall is now situated. The photo lab which was responsible for all photo-work from aerial reconnaissance took up a large part of the Engineering Building which is now the Guild Tavern and Riley Oval just next to Hackett Drive was used as a parade ground for troops.

The university was helpful in other ways. UWA landmarks Hackett and Winthrop Halls where I’m standing right now have prominent red terracotta roofs which are highly visible from the air and apparently acted as markers to help guide the Catalina pilots back to base.

British, Dutch and Australian flying boats also operated out of Crawley. Perhaps most famously RAAF pilots seconded to Qantas re-established the Australia-England Airlink that had been cut due to the fall of Singapore in 1942. This involved flights between Crawley and RAF Base Koggala in southern Ceylon which is now Sri Lanka. The flights were the longest non-stop air route of any airline, stretching approximately 6000 km across the Indian Ocean. It took between 27 and 33 hours, with departures timed so that the plane crossed enemy territory during darkness to avoid air attack. Radio silence had to be maintained to avoid detection and the weight of fuel required limited the Catalina’s load to only three passengers and 69kg of mail. It was called the Double Sunrise because the crews would see the sunrise twice.

Matilda Bay is a beautiful place to visit by itself, but If you want to see a Consolidated PBY Catalina up close and personal there are two options, you can visit the Aviation Heritage Museum located in Bullcreek, Perth where there is one on display and is definitely worth a visit. Or for the more fantasy minded you can play the X-Box 360 game ‘World at War’ and fly Catalina missions in the Pacific. I recommend doing both.

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Catalina Club of Western Australia—Perth, Australia

This plaque commemorates the 50th arrival of flying boats to the City of Perth during the Second World War. The first flying boat arrived in March 1942. The plaque is located on the foreshore of the Swan River, opposite the University of Western Australia, outside the Matilda Bay Tea Rooms (cafe), which is located on the foreshore.

The plaque contains an outline map of Australia and the lands to the immediate north, with the direction and distance of the flying boat routes marked. Underneath is this text:

Catalina Club of Western Australia
The memorial commemorates the 50th anniversary of the arrival of
Catalina Flying Boats in this area
in March 1942
American R.A.A.F. and Quantas Catalinas operated from the Crawley
Nedlands area during World War II
Unveiled by his Excellency the Hon. Sir Francis Burt A.C.K.C.M.G.O.C.
Governor of Western Australia
on 17th March 1992
Plaque donated by the City of Subiaco

Located on the wall afront the tea rooms (Bayside Kitchen)

Visit Instructions:

Take a picture of the marker, preferably including yourself or your GPSr in the photo. A very detailed description of your visit may be substituted for a photo. In any case please provide a description of your visit. A description of only "Visited" or "Saw it while on vacation" by anyone other than the person creating the waymark may be deleted by the waymark owner or the category officers.

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what we do 

Our Project: 

as we map places and create tourist info page we may also create a page on history

the history pages are slow to compile as it is not our priority, we welcome contributions



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2020.09.25 Perth cbd swan rover new floating pub  The Raft fbk page 
2020.10.27 South Perth day adventure History the tram  Ferry Tram Museum fbk group wa tourism 
2020.10.03 South Perth Sunset river walk  Mindeerup Piazza fbk page pics  
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