As you read below about a ministry to young women which GFS began in 1915 and continued without a break until 1992.  It is the story of how for 77 years GFS provided accommodation at the Lodge for those who needed to live in the city.

However the decision was made to close the Lodge from September 1992 because the small number of residents meant it was no longer financially viable.

It was then leased to Curtin University from 1993-1995 as student accommodation and the name was changed to Townsend Lodge after the Foundress of GFS. The building was not required by Curtain at the end of that period and was leased by Swanleigh (The Perth Diocesan Trustees) from February 1996 until February 2017 and gradually changed from a hostel for students to a backpackers.

GFS is now excited to be running Townsend Lodge again and look forward to reinstating it back to it’s original purposes.  We are grateful for the amazing women who have gone before us leaving us this legacy.  A history of how the Lodge came to pass is below and if you wish to have a copy of the History Book of GFS they are free at the Lodge for your enjoyment.

Extract pages from “A Century of Challenge – A History of the Girls’ Friendly Society in Western Australia 1888-1988” by Jean Seymour


   As you approach the GFS Lodge which is at 240 Adelaide Terrace, Perth you will see a pleasant two-storey brick and tile building with attractive bow windows and a small garden. It was designed by the  architect, Mr George Winning, to provide a link with the building it replaced, which was originally the home of Captain John Septimus Roe, the first Surveyor General in Western Australia.

   This Lodge is very different from the one which was opened on the site in l9l5. That building was also a two-storey brick one, but it had a tower and an upstairs balcony, and its large garden and hedge sprawled on to Adelaide Terrace where there was formerly a ‘bend’ in the Terrace.  There were stables in the backyard, a cellar under the dining room and a windmill provided water for the residents.

   Ever since l9l5 there has been a caring home provided on this same site for thousands of senior students and young business women. Most have been from country areas and they came to Perth to continue their studies or to take up a job.

   The need for the Lodge was clearly seen by the Society, and on 30 May 1913 a special meeting was called to discuss a proposal from the Claremont branch: “That all branches make a great effort to raise funds for a Central Lodge.” This proposal was passed unanimously.  In spite of the outbreak of war in l9l4, when plans were being made, it was carried to a successful conclusion in 1915. This was made possible through the generosity of Richard Vincent and William Loton (later Sir William Loton), who advanced the 1,200 pounds required to purchase the building, and this money was to be repaid, with interest, in seven years. There is a story behind this. 

   Mr Vincent was a prominent Perth business man, whose wife had been an Associate of St George’s Cathedral branch for many years. Mrs Ethel Burt, the GFS Secretary, knew him well and told him of the dream she had to provide a Lodge for girls from the country. Mr Vincent immediately offered to co-operate with others to put up the required amount and soon afterwards he and Mr Loton became such generous benefactors to the Society.

   The building at 240 Adelaide Terrace was in a poor condition when purchased and needed extensive renovations to make it suitable for its purpose. The Honorary Architect was Mr Herbert Parry, son of the first President of St Georges Cathedral GFS branch, and he worked tirelessly to develop a practical and attractive Lodge on the site. The cost to build the centre block and kitchen and renovate the existing buildings was l,600 pounds.

   Lady Barron, who was the wife of the Governor and also Patron of the Society, raised 1,000 pounds in a personal fund raising campaign for the Lodge, through an approach to GFS members and friends of the Society.  The leather bound book in which the donations were recorded is amongst the many records held by GFS. She also asked all members to subscribe sixpence a month towards the appeal until the debt was cleared, which most of them did, although some only earned 2/6d. per week at the time. This raised some 500 pounds towards repayments on the Lodge. Branches had also collected 277 pounds prior to Lady Barron‘s appeal. The holding of functions to help the Lodge funds continued to be part of most branch programmes until l920.

   It is worth remembering that at this period men earned approximately one pound per week so 1,200 pounds represents something like $120,000 in the values of 1987, while Lady Barron raised virtually $100,000 in current terms (1987) with the help of branch members.

   Another 600 pounds was loaned by Messrs Vincent and Loton to enable the contractors account to be finalised when the building was completed.  Branches and friends of GFS were invited to pay for the furnishing of the cubicles and branches raised over half of the 240 pounds required for this. The cubicles were named after those who provided the furnishings.

   The Governor, Sir Harry Barron, officially opened the GFS Lodge on 5 June 1915 in the presence of a large gathering of people. He was accompanied by Lady Barron and they were welcomed by Archbishop and Mrs Riley, Dean Mercer, Archdeacon Hudleston and the members of the Lodge Committee. The Archbishop blessed the Lodge after the opening. Amongst the distinguished guests were Sir Edward Stone, Sir Henry Parkes, Mr William Loton and Mr Richard Vincent.

   A sub-committee, called ‘The Establishment Committee’, had been working hard for l2 months before the opening of the Lodge and those involved were Mesdames Mercer (Chairman), Makeham (Secretary),
Shimmin, Burt, Phillips and Parry.

   After the opening a ‘House Management Committee’ was formed with Mrs Alfred Burt as Chairman, Mrs Phillips, Vice Chairman, Mrs Summers, Secretary, and Mr Edmund Clifton, Treasurer. 

   Lady Barron had a tennis court laid down at the Lodge and arranged for her gardener to look after the gardens for the first six months. She visited the Lodge each week and took a keen interest in the well-being of the girls. 

   The first matron of the Lodge was Miss Sarah Marshall, who was employed at a salary of 60 pounds a year, which was paid monthly. She was to be followed over the years by many caring matrons (or wardens as they were later called). They nursed the girls when they were sick, provided a friendly, homely atmosphere for them and gave support in every way. The hours the matron worked were long and her duties covered a wide area.

   It was Lady Barron‘s aim that the Lodge should be free of debt before she left Western Australia and she made a special appeal in l9l7 before she left. This raised 294 pounds and when added to an amount she already had on hand made a further debt reduction of 400 pounds. By 1920 1,874 pounds, plus interest, had been paid off the loan, with 900 pounds still owing to Messrs Vincent and Loton. This they very generously liquidated, leaving the Lodge free of any debt. In addition, the money collected by the President, Mrs Riley, in a special appeal was returned to her by Messrs Vincent and Loton. This money was later used to help establish a hostel in Fremantle.


   In the early 1920’s GFS saw the need for hostel accommodation in Fremantle for girls and women and felt that the Society should be involved in this area. 

   With the liquidation of the balance of the debt on the GFS Lodge, owing to the generosity of Messrs Vincent and Loton, there were no longer any mortgage payments to be made, and the GFS Diocesan Council decided to purchase a building for use as a hostel in Queen Victoria Street, Fremantle. This was officially opened on 11 December 1923. Over the years it provided accommodation for girls and women living in the area, those on holiday from the country and emigrants.

   It is interesting to note that one item the management committee considered essential for the hostel from its earliest days, was a piano. This was purchased with the help of both donations as well as money raised
by the matron and girls through entertainments held at the hostel.

   They also had a tennis court, with large numbers of girls playing regularly, including GFS members from nearby branches. The hostel continued for ten years and then a change was made and it became a boarding house called ‘Torrington’, which was run by GFS. They were difficult years during the Depression and the GFS Lodge Committee gave financial help from time to time. The building was eventually sold to the Missions to Seamen during World War II.

   The Perth Lodge in Adelaide Terrace continued its operations over the years, providing comfortable, although not elaborate, accommodation in its earlier years. It was a boon to girls who lived in the country and came to the city to continue their studies or take up their first job. The matrons and other staff were warm and caring and many of the girls could not have come to Perth if it had not been for the support and protection provided at the Lodge.

   During the Depression a fund was set up to help unemployed girls. This was to pay the board of girls in need. The committee reviewed eases and length of time help was needed. There was also a ‘sliding scale‘ for fees – depending on how much a girl earned.

   In 1938 the Lodge was classified as a Boarding house and came under an award that necessitated many changes being made in the organisation and staffing of the Lodge. As a result, the previous very low charges had to be raised.  During the Second World War from 1939-1945 girls who had enlisted from the Lodge spent their leave there, as it was ‘home’ to them. Rationing of sugar. butter, meat and clothing caused difficulties and special grants had to be made by the Rationing Commission to help with replacement of sheets, towels and pillow slips. The cellar under the dining room was used as an air raid shelter.

   Girls from the Swan Orphanage were amongst those who made the Lodge their home for many years and Mrs Viva Sundercombe, who was Chairman of the Lodge Committee 1946/47, formed a Fellowship Club for girls from the orphanage, based at the GFS Headquarters. She was an active worker for the Swan Orphanage over a long period and was later to be awarded the MBE for her work in this area and for GFS.


   The Lodge has been fortunate in the outstanding support it has received over the years from its Chairmen and committee members. One in particular who made a very special contribution in her role as Chairman of the Lodge Committee was Mrs Audrey Macdonald, wife of Bishop Brian Macdonald. Mrs Macdonald was a GFS Candidate at seven years of age and later an Associate, enjoying fellowship with the Townsend group at Christ Church, Claremont where her husband was Rector. She was a Life Member and a former Vice-Chairman. Bishop Brian was the GFS Chaplain for two years and they both have long held a special place in the hearts of GFSers. Mrs Macdonald came into the position of Chairman of the Lodge Committee in 1966 at a difficult time. There was a new committee and much planning was taking place with regard to the proposed new wing to provide more badly needed accommodation. Lady Barron House also required extensive renovations and this was not easy because of its different floor levels.

   Mrs Merle Davis was Diocesan Chairman from 1962-1971 and she worked very closely with the Lodge Committee in their forward planning. Mr Bruce Williams was the architect for the new wing built at the back of Lady Barron House. It was named the ‘Ethel Burt Wing’ in memory of Mrs Burt, who had been Secretary of GFS from 1902-1921 and Diocesan President from 1927-1940. Thirty two years was a remarkable record of service by any token. She had visualised the need for another building and had bequeathed I00 pounds towards a fund for this purpose. The new wing was opened by the Society’s Patron, Lady Kendrew, and dedicated by Bishop Brian Macdonald. Lady Kendrew had declared the stone laid some months previously in the presence of the GFS Commonwealth Chairman, Mrs C.H.S. Egerton, and the two daughters of Mrs Burt, Mrs I. Parry and Mrs E. Clement. The new wing of three floors provided attractive and comfortable accommodation for 45 girls – each with her own room. With the old building as well, 60-62 girls could now be accommodated.

Bishop and Mrs Macdonald would occasionally have dinner with the girls at the Lodge and afterwards there would be an opportunity for questions and suggestions. The staff also appreciated the interest shown in them at all times. There was a great deal achieved in the ten years Mrs Macdonald was Chairman of the Lodge — a time when foundations were laid for continuing progress.

The 60th anniversary of the founding of the Lodge was a great occasion. On 2 November 1975 hundreds of past members gathered at the GFS Lodge in Adelaide Terrace to celebrate and take part in a ‘Back to GFS’ reunion.

The lawns behind the Lodge had a real garden party atmosphere, with colourful umbrellas shading the tables as the large crowd overflowed from the building into the gardens, yet were kept in touch with proceedings through the public address system during the address by Mrs Audrey Macdonald, Chairman of the Lodge Committee.

Miss Amy Woodbridge cut the anniversary cake which marked the Diamond Jubilee. She, like many others, had a long association with the Lodge.


Laraine Smart was one of the many hundreds of girls who lived in the Lodge for some years. These memories of her years there would be typical and provide a useful picture of what life was like at 240 Adelaide Terrace.  Laraine was just I5 years of age when she left the small country town of Dumbleyung and moved to Perth so that she could attend Edwards Secretarial College.

The GFS Lodge became a ‘home away from home’ for her from February 1972 to February 1975 (except for a very short period when she tried flatting, but preferred to return to the Lodge).  When she first arrived it was comforting for her to find that most of the other girls were feeling the same way as she was — homesick! She missed her parents terribly, but she knew it was a move she had to make. 

Life at the Lodge helped her to become very independent and able to cope with life. The boarders came from all over Western Australia and she made many friends with whom she still keeps in touch. Accommodation at the Lodge was very different then from what it is now, as the only single rooms were in the Ethel Burt Wing. When Laraine first arrived she shared the largest room in the old wing at the front of the Lodge (Lady Barron House) with two other girls until she moved to the Ethel Burt Wing.

Mrs Elva Cole was matron during most of the time Laraine was at the Lodge and she became a good friend, as did Mrs Maureen Danker, another staff member. Mrs Macdonald was Chairman of the Lodge Committee during this period.  Laraine’s memories of her years at the Lodge are very vivid and happy ones.

Things she will never forget . . .

  • Fresh, crispy starched sheets on the bed every Wednesday.
  • The wonderful old commercial toaster that cooked toast to perfection.
  • The ‘raisin bread supper’ served by Mrs Cole at 9pm on the back verandah.
  • Christmas parties organised by the matron and Lodge Committee, with gifts for the girls
  • The ‘conversation areas’ of the laundry where girls chatted for hours as they did their washing and ironing.
  • The music room sessions with favourite 45 records, or with one of the girls playing the latest hit tunes on the piano.
  • The phone box over the road — always a popular place for the girls!
  • The support and encouragement from Mrs Cole when Laraine went for job interviews after completing her business course, and the shared joy when she was successful in getting her first job.


Laraine said she had many wonderful, special memories of her time at the Lodge. They were great days in her life. When she married Paul McDonnell in April 1976, Mrs Cole and Mrs Danker were amongst the special guests at the wedding.


   In 1971 GFS was asked by the Perth Diocesan Trustees to run Hale House, Spring Street, Perth as a girls’ hostel. Hale House had been formerly the nurses’ quarters for the Anglican Mount Hospital.  This was opened in 1972 and provided additional hostel accommodation of the type which was very much in demand at that time. The GFS Lodge had girls from 15 years of age living there, but Hale House was intended for girls at least 17 years of age. In 1972 there were over 100 girls living in the two GFS hostels. Hale House had its own committee of management.  


   In 1979 the Council of the Society made the decision to demolish the original Lodge building, which had been named Lady Barron House, as it required extensive maintenance and no longer met the needs of the girls.

   It was rebuilt in I980 and the residents moved into Hale House during that period.  The new building was an attractive two-storey one, with modern facilities for the girls, and it was linked with the Ethel Burt Wing to form an integral unit. It was re-named the Lady Barron Wing. Included in the building was a GFS Office. Resource Room and Meeting Room for the use of branches, as well as a coffee shop to provide extra income for the Society. The money which had been invested after the sale of the GFS Headquarters at 532 Hay Street was used to help build the new wing at the Lodge, so that it could incorporate the Headquarters of the Society.

   The building was opened and blessed by the Archbishop of Perth, the Most Reverend Geoffrey Sambell, on 23 November 1980 and this was one of the last public functions carried out by Archbishop Sambell before his death. He emphasised in his short talk the necessity for the needs of the girls in the Lodge to always have the first priority.  Miss Pat Franklin of Melbourne, who was Australian Chairman of the Society at that time, was present at the opening of the Lodge and the West Australian Chairman was Mrs Jenny Marr. The opening was followed by a luncheon in the dining room of the new building. The guests then took part in a wonderful Thanksgiving Service at St Georges Cathedral. The Lodge was open for inspection after the Service.

   Between 1981 and 1988 there had been a gradual change in the residents at the Lodge. Previously there had been a predominance of girls attending business college or working in the city, but now in addition to these there are girls and women who are involved in a variety of different courses and colleges.  Some of the younger ones attend Church schools, while others are students at the University of Western Australia, Murdoch University or Canning College. There had been increasing numbers of overseas students in recent years. Some are from Asia, while others have come from Germany, Switzerland, Christmas Island and Fiji and many other countries. They were either doing a one year course before going on to tertiary studies, attending special language courses, or doing post graduate training.  In the beginning of 1987 there had been mature aged graduate nurses staying at the Lodge. They had commenced a two year post graduate course in Nursing Administration, funded by the United Nations.  As well as these residents, the GFS Lodge also had travelers staying while holidaying in Perth and some of these were GFS members from other States.

So the next time you stay in Townsend Lodge or you happen to walk by just think about all those amazing women who worked so hard over the many years to have the lodge here.  We are quite excited that we can carry the tradition on a little longer honouring those wonderful women and their visionary ideas.  

GFS continues to run today 129 years after the establishment of the Society in WA.  If you are interested in finding out more about GFS please head to our website