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Fort Arthur Buildings


Fort Quarters, Workshop & Laboratory

These are the only buildings remaining from the Fort Arthur Head battery complex. The quarters and toilet were built during the initial construction (1905-06). Other buildings, including the workshop (barracks) and laboratory, were added later.


The Laboratory (no. 13) and Workshop (no. 15) are available for use as artists studios. In January 2024 the artist in residence in the Lab is Fiona Gavino. Artists with Different Abilities have the use of the Workshop.

A contract was let in 1912 for the construction of ‘Fremantle Fort Forrest and Arthur Head Laboratories’. The buildings were completed in early 1913 for a total cost of £960 ($1920). One of the laboratories remains and is situated between the public toilets and the quarters.

Laboratories were an integral part of batteries in the nineteenth century and were used to make up gunpowder charges. The laboratory at ‘Arthur Head’ was probably used to test cordite, the propellant used to fire shells. Cordite consists of a mixture of nitroglycerine, gun cotton and mineral jelly. It was placed in a silk bag and then loaded into the breech of the gun. As it was chemically unstable and could deteriorate, the cordite had to be tested and this was done in the laboratory.

The building is divided into three rooms and the central one was used for testing cordite. The two outer rooms were probably used to change into special clothes to be worn in the inner room, and for storing goods and equipment.

The guns were removed from the battery in 1943 and thereafter the laboratory was used for other purposes. Although inside doors and those at the southern end have been removed and windows fitted in place of wooden shutters on the western face, the building is little changed since it was built.

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, 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.



References and Links

Wikipedia notes on Arthurs Battery – and Harbour Battery.

Garry Gillard | New: 25 May, 2018 | Now: 19 January, 2024