Until 1941, all campus designs referred to Whitfeld Court as the Court of Honour, but in 1941 the University changed this to honour Professor Hubert Edwin Whitfeld’s dedication to and work at the University until his death in 1939.
It was Dr W. Somerville who put forward in a letter dated 3 September 1940 that, "the area of land which is bounded on the north by Stirling Highway on the south by Winthrop Hall on the east by Hackett Hall and on the west by the Administration Building be named Whitfeld Court".
The Senate commissioned the engraving of a granite stone with the phrase Whitfeld Court and on 21 July 1941 a small ceremony was held with Mrs Whitfeld present to officially mark the occasion(1).
H.E. Whitfeld was the University’s first Vice-Chancellor in 1913 – 1915 (on a part-time basis) and again from 1925 – 1927. He was also the first permanent Vice-Chancellor (1927 – 1939) and the inaugural Professor of Mining and Engineering (1913 – 1927) (2).
Wilkinson’s design for the University campus used the Court of Honour (later Whitfeld Court) to emphasise the main entrance of the University. As the prime approach to the University, Wilkinson used elements of symmetry and grand landscaping in the design to lend greater formality to this area.
These elements have been largely preserved since the original laying out of the Court. Today, it continues to offer all visitors, old and new, an impressive approach to the University (3).
The engineering section first proposed that some form of memorial be erected in honour of the late Professor Whitfeld.
On 18 May 1940, Convocation distributed a flyer to all members launching their appeal for funds to erect a memorial shelter. "It will, we believe, be a dignified and impressive memorial, in complete harmony with the architectural design of the Hackett Buildings; it will also service the practical purpose of providing shelter for students and others while awaiting transport to Perth or to the western suburbs." (5)
A total of £193.18.0 was raised, but the war delayed the project. This sum was invested in Trust in War savings certificates so by 1947, monies totalled £221.8.2.
These funds were used to erect a memorial seat with the inscriptions ‘Hubert Edwin Whitfeld Scholar Engineer’ and ‘Beauty is the splendour of truth’. Subiaco Council had already erected a shelter in the area previously set out by University. The Memorial Seat Dedication took place on 23 September 1949 at 7:45pm, (6).
A bronze bust of Professor Whitfeld was commissioned in 1964 in honour of his contributions to the welfare and well being of the University.
"Convocation … realising the great significance of his work as our first Permanent Vice-Chancellor decided to add to the many perpetuations of his memory by having a bust prepared in his likeness …" (7) South Australian artist Mr John Dowie sculpted the bust that was later placed looking out over the Court towards Winthrop Hall.
"Whose shadow, as Sir Walter Murdoch said, "more than any other shadow, falls across these buildings and across these grounds." (8)
The Bronze Bust cost $1634.55 and was presented to the Chancellor on behalf of the Senate and Vice Chancellor by Convocation on 11 April 1965 (9).
(1) Old General File 1740 (1)
(2) University of Western Australia. (1994). Year Book 1994. Perth: Frank Daniels. pp. 160, 168.
(3) Ferguson, R.J. (1993) Crawley Campus. The planning and architecture of the University of Western Australia. Perth: University of Western Australia Press.
(4) Office of Facilities Management. (1999).
(5) Old General Files 1741 (old part)
(6) Old General Files 1741 (old part and 1) folio 17,18, 32, 55, 66
(7) Old General Files 1741 (old part) folio 83
(8) Murdoch in Rogerson, Gazette 15(2):25
(9) Old General Files 1741 (1) folio 83, 84, 142