Historical Towns Directory

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Find Fremantle

European settlement along the Swan River in Western Australia began with favourable reports given by Captain James Stirling after investigating the region for two weeks during 1827. Stirling's accounts were influential on the decision to found a colony at the site.

In 1829 the first European settlers arrived at the site of Swan River Colony. On 2 May 1829 Captain Charles Howe Fremantle of the 'Challenger' raised the Union Jack and took formal possession of Western Australia on behalf of the British crown.

Captain Stirling, who had been appointed Lieutenant-Governor of the colony, arrived on the 'Parmelia' in June 1829, accompanied by 68 settlers. Stirling named Fremantle in honour of Captain Fremantle and decided to locate the new colony's port at that site and the capital, Perth, upstream closer to the fertile agricultural land.

Fremantle Roundhouse

Fremantle was formally proclaimed and the roads laid out in a grid pattern by John Septimus Roe in that year.

The twelve-sided Round House, containing eight cells, a gaolers residence and a central courtyard, was constructed as the Swan River colony's first gaol in 1830-31. The limestone building is the oldest remaining colonial building in Western Australia. In 1837 a tunnel was dug under the building to provide whalers with access to the town by connecting the Bathers Bay Jetty to High Street.

Fremantle's growth over the first 20 years of its settlement was slow. The inhospitable climate and land that greeted the settlers was in stark contrast to Stirling’s earlier reports of the area and the population remained small as a result of the harsh conditions.

The first St John's Anglican Church opened in Fremantle in 1843. The foundation stone of a new St John's was laid in 1878 and the limestone church was consecrated in July 1882. The old building was subsequently demolished.

Old Gaol, Fremantle

During the 1840s it was decided that a public works program would aid the development of the economy and for this purpose convict labour was imported to Western Australia, with the first 75 convicts arriving on board the 'Scindian' in 1850.

The last convicts arrived in Western Australia on the 'Houghemont' in 1868 by which time more than 9,700 convicts had been transported to the colony. Convicts already serving their sentences in Western Australia continued to construct buildings in Fremantle until the 1880s.

The convicts built the Warder's Quarters as accommodation for the guards and warders in Fremantle in 1851. The Commissariat Store was built by convicts from 1851 to 1862.

Fremantle's convict population also required housing and a new gaol, originally known as the Imperial Convict Establishment and later the Fremantle Prison, was constructed from 1852-59. The convict-built penitentiary was constructed using limestone quarried on site and the partially completed building was first occupied by convicts in 1855. The Fremantle Prison was handed to the Colonial Government by Britain in 1886. The prison was finally closed in 1991. The Fremantle Boys' School was constructed in 1852. It is now home to the Film and Television Institute.

Fremantle Town Hall

The former customs house was constructed in Georgian-style in 1853.

Convict labour was also used to construct the lunatic asylum between 1861 and 1865 and was the only purpose-built lunatic asylum in Western Australia during the 1800s. The building was converted to a museum during the 1970s.

Fremantle's first bridge across the Swan River was also built by convicts in 1866.

In 1871 Fremantle became a municipality. The Fremantle town hall opened in 1887.

Fremantle Maritime Museum

The railway to Perth opened in 1881.

Fremantle became the entry point for many miners on their way to the Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie goldfields from the 1890s. Both the port and the town prospered from this decade until 1914 as a result of the gold rush trade. Fremantle also experienced a building boom as Victorian hotels, offices and shops were constructed along its main street. The Esplanade Hotel (1890s) is a typical Fremantle hotel built during the gold rush era.

Work on the Fremantle Inner Harbour commenced in 1892. When the Harbour was officially opened in May 1897 the rocky bar that had previously prevented entry had been cleared away. The new port facilities resulted in a construction boom of warehouses as well as merchant and shipping company offices in Fremantle.

In 1898 the former Adelaide Steamship building in Phillimore Street was constructed. The Federation Free Classical-style P & O building (circa 1903) was originally built for the Australasian United Steam Navigation Co Ltd built but was occupied by P & O in 1918. The two-storey Elder Building (1905) stands at the corner of the shipping precinct and features gables and a domed turret.

Fremantle Anglican Church

The Federation Romanesque-style Fremantle Markets were opened as a wholesale food and produce market in 1898.

In 1929, a century after it was founded, Fremantle became a city.

Fremantle, located 20 minutes drive south-west of Perth, is today home to the biggest collection of heritage listed buildings in Western Australia.

Fremantle History Society
Information: The aims of the Fremantle History Society are to: 'encourage community involvement in the study of Fremantle history and cultural diversity through research, oral history and writing; disseminate information about Fremantle in a variety of ways, in particular through public forums and liaison with other history and heritage groups and schools in the area; promote the identification and preservation of historical evidence relating to Fremantle; encourage the commemoration of important events, places and people in appropriate ways; (and) arrange social gatherings for its members'. Founded December 1994. The Society works in conjunction with the Fremantle City Council's Local History Collection and the Fremantle Social History Museum, both of which have representation on the Society's committee.
Publications: Quarterly newsletter (Editors - Anne Brake, Ron and Dianne Davidson); 'Fremantle Studies' (biennial publication) edited by Anne Brake, Kris Bizzack and Dianne Davidson.
Events: Monthly meeting on the 4th Tuesday (or Sunday) of the month; Fremantle Studies Day held in September or October annually.

PO Box 1305
Fremantle WA 6959

Email: ronaldi@cygnus.uwa.edu.au
Fremantle Visitor Centre
Information: Open: Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm; Saturday 10am to 3pm; Sunday 11:30am-2:30pm.
Phone: 08 9431 7878
Fax: 08 9431 7755

Town Hall, Kings Square
Fremantle WA 6160

Email: ftb@fremantlewa.com.au
Website: http://www.fremantlewesternaustralia.com
Western Australian Maritime Museum
Information: Spread across three main sites in Fremantle, the Maritime Museum provides an insight into Western Australia’s shipwrecks and maritime heritage. The new Western Australian Maritime Museum on Victoria Quay showcases WA’s maritime past in six themed galleries; the Shipwreck Galleries in Cliff Street, Fremantle, is home to a leading maritime archaeology museum; and the Submarine Ovens on the main slipway at the western end of Victoria Quay is accessible by guided tour.
Website: http://www.museum.wa.gov.au/maritime/
Fremantle Prison
Information: Built by convict labour in the 1850s operating as a gaol until 1991, the Fremantle Prison is now a tourist attraction. A variety of tours options are available.

The Terrace
Fremantle WA 6160

Website: http://www.fremantleprison.com/index.asp



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