Charles Street Markets

It is always interesting to see what promoting the Local History Awards to the wider Perth community brings in to the Local History Centre each year. This year we have uncovered a very curious item: a foundation stone measuring 66 x 46 cm and 5cm thick (and very heavy) for the Charles Street Markets. So where and what were they?

Research in the newspapers on Trove uncovered the story of the stone.

The above photograph appeared in  The Daily News, 29 November 1935. A response to this article appeared a few days later:

The Daily News, 11 December 1935

The Daily News, 11 December 1935

The Charles Street Markets were founded by Joseph Charles on what is now land under the Mitchell Freeway Charles Street off-ramp.

They were located between what was then Duke and Aberdeen streets, West Perth, opposite the grand three story Club Hotel (later known as the Tower Hotel). Joseph Charles (possibly a Land Agent) owned the land which was about three acres.

Founded in December 1905, the markets were an instant success. The first market, held just before Christmas had ‘orchardists and vegetable gardeners’ arrive between 5am and 7am and sold out within a couple of hours. The next day a market was held for ‘restaurateurs, hotelkeepers and heads of families to lay in their Christmas supplies’.

In addition to selling fresh produce the markets promoted free entertainment on a Saturday evening.

The Daily News, 2 January 1906, reported a crowd of over 3,000 spectators. There was a tug-o-war competition, a singing competition, a greasy pig hunt in which ‘after a run of about ten minutes the pig was captured and became the property of the winner’. There were also merry-go-rounds, swing-boats and skittles. “The greatest feature of the evening was the number of housewives who were busy making their purchases and taking advantage of the grand assortment of provisions of all kinds offered by the stall holders. Satisfaction was expressed on all sides at the remarkably low prices charged and the convenience of getting all supplies under one roof.” Subsequent weeks included dancing competitions, baby competitions, dumpling eating and Punch and Judy shows.

The markets appear to have operated successfully for just over a year, ceasing mysteriously in early 1907. There are no newspaper reports concerning this. It is seems that Joseph Charles died (although no newspaper announcements), as a Perth City Council meeting on 27 May 1907 contained a response to a letter from Mrs Charles requesting that they purchase the land for £8,000. They declined. The property went to auction in December 1907 but it seems it didn’t sell, as in March 1908 a tender was advertised.

The Springdale Jam Factory

The Springdale Jam Factory moved into the Charles-street market premises, which were described as ‘lofty, splendidly well ventilated and well lighted with a floor space of 26,700 square feet, all of which is asphalt pave’. . They boasted that their ‘fig, apricot and Cape gooseberry preserves had no equal in Australia’. Unfortunately in 1909 there was a police report that they had been charged with not keeping the premises in a sanitary condition.

In December 1912 the premises again went to auction.

Felton, Grimwade and Bickford


Pharmaceutical company Felton, Grimwade and Bickford took the premises, demolished the markets and constructed their own factory, which was completed by 1915. They manufactured cordials, jelly crystals, lemon squash and ointments as well as drugs and poisos.

A printing plant was installed to manufacture labels, wrappers, pamphlets and price lists. This is where the story of the foundation stone comes full circle. The back of the stone was used by the printer for laying out his type.

The factory was closed to make way for the freeway construction, with the printer being made redundant in 1962. He established his own business, taking the stone with him.

Upon his retirement the stone was relegated to his garage, although he did specify it should never be thrown away… and his son has now brought the 110 year old foundation stone to us!

Please contact us at if you can add to our research.