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Courthouses

David Wood, 1990:

'Swan River' was established as a colony for free settlers in 1829. Convicts did not arrive until 1850. The first permanent building to be constructed was the Round House, a gaol, completed in 1831. Later, two courthouses were built close to the Round House but neither now stands.

First Courthouse

Officially opened in July 1835, the first courthouse was a two storey whitewashed building with stepped parapet walls on the north and south faces, sited south of the Round House. Only a year later, repairs were already required. Henry Willey Reveley, the colony's civil engineer, wrote to the Colonial Secretary in 1836 stating that the stone taken from the water s edge was of such poor quality that the building had "settled" and that the walls required protection from rain. He suggested covering the whole building with weatherboards and shingles using prisoner labour but stated: "the unity of the building ... would be destroyed". Soon afterwards Reveley wrote to the Colonial Secretary and suggested an alternative: the roof could be battened, shingled and extended over two faces of the building to protect the stone. A tender was advertised and this work was done. When Hillman surveyed the headland in 1838, he measured the courthouse as being 44 links (8.7 metres) by 38 links (7.48 metres).

In 1851 an advertisement was placed in the Inquirer calling for tenders for "the intended alterations .... to the present courthouse" and to build a new one. Probably, these alterations were to convert the first courthouse into accommodation for harbour staff. Colonial Secretary's Office records for 1869 and 1870 indicate that the first courthouse was being used as a residence for Harbour Master Croke. They contain details of the poor condition of the building. One letter from Croke states: "owing to heavy rains, the house and walls are saturated with water. From correspondence and photographs, it is evident that by 1877 the building had been repaired, an extension added to the western face and a verandah built around the upper floor.

The Harbour Master's house was added to again in 1895 for a total cost of £419 ($838). The additions included extensions to the south and west walls. Thirty-three years later, in 1928, a tender was let for the demolition of this building and the Round House. Although demolition of the Round House was stopped soon after commencing, work continued on the Harbour Master's residence. Archaeologists located its remains under the lawn in 1987.

Second Courthouse

The second courthouse was built north of the Round House in 1851. Similar to the first courthouse, it had two storeys with a staircase running up the east and north walls and another on the west wall. In 1853 Austin, a surveyor, measured it as being 45 links (9.05 metres) by 41 links (8.24 metres).

In 1869 the Resident Magistrate wrote to the Colonial Secretary stating that the building needed "whitewashing, colouring and painting", he also complained that the roof leaked and that the "steps heading to the courthouse are much in need of repair". The Clerk of Works at Fremantle recommended that the roof be shingled by contractors, using "sheoak of the best description" and that the steps be repaired using convict labour.

Correspondence between Croke, the Harbour Master, and the Colonial Secretary's office in 1869 indicates that the basement was divided by a wall and that his office was on one side, with a "dead house" (morgue) on the other. He complained that when there was a body in the dead house, his office was "unbearable" and that the "residents of [his) quarters felt quite sick from the stench".

After 1881 the second courthouse was converted to quarters for the 'Harbour Master's crew" (pilots). It was then used for a short time around 1885 for "Engineers .... at work in connection with harbour works, surveys, etc.".

In 1888 the West Australian carried an article which read as follows: "The old courthouse on the Lighthouse Hill Fremantle, has been renovated and reconstructed into comfortable quarters for the use of the pilot crew from Rottnest when they are compelled to stay overnight in Fremantle."

The building was demolished in 1904 to allow for the construction of cottage 9, built to house pilot crews following the demolition of quarters on land west of the Round House, which became a defence reserve. Remains of the second courthouse can now be seen under the front verandah of cottage 9.

City of Fremantle February 1990

This information sheet and the reports on which it is based were prepared by David Wood. The reports are available for inspection at the Fremantle Library.

The Arthur Head Collection

The Arthur Head Collection was a project coordinated by the City of Fremantle with funding from a grant available from the Federal Government to celebrate the Bicentennial year in 1988 [resulting in] a huge collection of materials in various formats including documents, reports, photographs, maps, bibliographies etc. to help research the site. ... Pam Harris, Local History Librarian, Fremantle History Centre. May 2018.

The Arthur Head Collection 1990 Report

The City Council in 1990 published a folder containing a summary of the research Pam Harris mentions above, consisting of a page about each of these buildings. This is one of them.

courthouses1

courthouses2

Note that David Wood's report indicates that although the harbour master at the time, Croke, lived with his family in the southern building, his office was in the lower level of the northern building.


Garry Gillard | New: 25 May, 2018 | Now: 18 January, 2024