Identity area

Reference code





  • 1832-01-01 - (Creation)
  • 1832-01-01 - 1947-12-31 (Accumulation)

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Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

A Court of Quarter Sessions was established in Western Australia in 1830 and a Civil Court established two years later. However, as the colony grew and as society became more complex, the judiciary became overtaxed. In the 1850s the equity jurisdiction of the Civil Court was challenged while the courts' jurisdiction in criminal matters was questioned. For these and other reasons, the Supreme Court Ordinance of 1861 was introduced.

The Supreme Court Ordinance (proclaimed on 18 June 1861) provided for a Supreme Court which had the same criminal, common law, and equity jurisdiction as the Courts of Westminister. The Ordinance amalgamated the Court of Quarter Sessions with the Supreme Court and transferred to it a number of functions of the Civil Court. For example, the Supreme Court was empowered to grant probates and letters of administration and given jurisdiction in bankruptcy matters. After 1863, the Supreme Court was also given jurisdiction in matrimonial causes (i.e. divorces).

Under the Ordinance, the officers of the Supreme Court were to be the Chief Justice (Archibald Paull Burt), an Attorney-General, a Master, and a Registrar.

In 1880 a new Supreme Court Act was introduced. The Act which came into force on 1 August 1881, clarified the Court's jurisidiction in admiralty matters and empowered the Chief Justice to make Rules for the conduct of the Court. Provision was also made for the appointment of one or more puisne judges and for the Chief Justice and other judges to sit as a Full Court. Initially, the Full Court could only entertain motions for retrials and pronounce on points of law, but after 1886 it was given the status of a Court of Appeal.

The first sitting of the Supreme Court was held on 3 July 1861 and for the first few years it occupied premises in the Police Court and Gaol Building in Beaufort Street, Perth. In 1863 it moved to the old (1836) Court House in Stirling Gardens and in 1880 moved again to the old (1835) Commissariat Store at the foot of Barrack Street. Despite alterations the Commissariat building was inadequate and in the 1890's work began on a new, purposely-designed courthouse. The new building, completed in 1903, is still the principal seat of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

Name of creator

AU WA A101 - CIVIL COURT OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA (1832-01-01 - 1860-12-31)

Administrative history

The Legislative Council passed an Act for establishing the Court of Civil Judicature (2 Wm IV No. 1) on the 10 February 1832, to be known as the Civil Court of Western Australia. The Court was to be held before one Judge, called "The Commissioner of the Civil Court of Western Australia". The Court was to deal with all cases as the Courts of Westminister in England, with authority to appoint Guardians and Committees over persons and property of infants, idiots and lunatics, and to grant probates of Wills, and commit letters of Administration. Suits were to be commenced in the Court by Summons and not by arrest.

Pleadings in the Court were to be oral and made in person. In 1861 all the powers of the Civil Court were transferred to the Supreme Court by the Supreme Court Ordinance (24 Vic. No. 15) on 18 June 1861.

Archival history

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Letters of Administration are granted by the Court in cases where a person has died intestate (without a will) or when the executors mentioned in a will are unable to administer the testator's estate.

This series constitutes original documents. Typically, the files contain:

1. Copy of Death Certificate.

2. Application for Grant of Letters of Administration.

3. Affidavit verifying deceased's assets & liabilities.

4. Administration Bond, binding the administrator to properly administer the estate and to pay fees and death duties.

The files may also contain other documents (such as marriage or birth certificates) lodged in order to satisfy the Court as to the despondent's claim to administer the estate.

It is possible that no Letters of Administration was issued. In cases where the assets were of little value or were held in joint names, no Letters of Administration is needed, therefore no Supreme Court record exists.

Note: The essential information contained in these original files is to be found in Record Series No. 57 (Copies of Grants of Letters of Administration). The records in Record Series No. 57 may be consulted and copies made with written permission of the Supreme Court.


System of arrangement


Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Restricted 75 years

Conditions governing access (legacy)

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Microform (film or fiche) copies are available on the third floor, please ask staff for assistance. No need to order files.

Related units of description


Category of relationship


Description of relationship

Dates of relationship

1900-01-01 -


Category of relationship


Description of relationship

Dates of relationship

1832-01-01 - 1939-12-31


Category of relationship


Description of relationship

Dates of relationship

1832-01-01 - 1947-12-31


Category of relationship


Description of relationship

Dates of relationship


Related units of description

Access points

Place access points

Description control area

Level of detail




Archivist's note

Range Control Symbol = 1 -
Copies: Microfilm copies of these files, upto and including 1927 (Cons 3458) are available in the State Records Office of Western Australia. Microfilm copies of the Grants (WAS 57, Cons 3437) to 1949 are also available at the State Records Office.

Accession area