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See also: Rottnest lighthouse.

Lighthouses on Arthur Head

There were two lighthouses, both built by convicts, the first in 1850. The second was begun in 1876 and first lit in 1879. The first one was then reduced to its groundfloor rooms with a conical roof, and used to store flags. Whale oil was the fuel used for the first light, later replaced by mustard oil.


Arthur Head c. 1870, with the first lighthouse on the right.
The large building in the centre is the Government Quarters aka the Residency, which was built in 1856 (Dowson has 1851) for the Water Police and demolished in 1967. To the left is the second courthouse, left of which may be seen the steps going up to the Round House. To the left again is the harbourmaster's house. The photo (WAHS R2775) is beautifully reproduced in John Dowson's Old Fremantle, pages 26 and 27. The photo is also available from the Fremantle Library Local History Collection #1801, and the Library text is as follows (with emphasis added).

The Residency first appears on a plan dated 1856, built for the Water Police. It was demolished in 1967. The lighthouse was erected in 1850 by convict labour. About 1876 the tower was cut down and the stump covered with a conical roof. The flagstaff was originally at Anglesea Point and was moved to Arthur Head before 1837. The house in the left background with the verandahs was the Harbour Master's house. Between it and the Residency is the second court house. Reproduced from Twentieth Century Impressions of WA, [P.W.H. Thiel & Co., Perth] 1901. Taken before 1876.

second lighthouse

The second lighthouse was 22' in diameter, 72' tall, with its top 92' above sea level, and burnt kerosene. (The remains of the first lighthouse can be seen on the extreme left of this photo.)
A lighthouse on Arthur Head was no longer required after the construction of the new harbour with lights on the moles at its entrance, and another light at Woodman Point. The lantern was removed in 1902 and taken to Bunbury. The tower was demolished in 1905 to make place for the construction of the Arthur Head Battery.


Modern map indicating the position of former structures. The first lighthouse is indicated by 20, while the second was at 22. The rock on which they stood has been quarried away.

mews boathouse

Photo reproduced in Hitchcock's 1929 History, page 148. His caption describes the scene as 'old lighthouse and shipyard, about 1865'. The building on the left is, as the sign says, Thomas Mews' premises. The right-hand building, demolished in the 1890s, is the ruin of the Fremantle Whaling Company (est. 1837) building. Hitchcock's 'old lighthouse' is ambiguous - as that is actually the second lighthouse, completed in 1879, so his date is misleading. The remains of the 1851 lighthouse can be seen just to the left of the newer one.


Bathers Bay RWAHS UN731. This photo is also available from the Fremantle Library Local History Collection as photo #2034A by S.M. Stout, c. 1890 [sic: Stout died in 1886]: The second lighthouse (1876/1878-1905) built on Arthur Head is to the right. Below is the TW Mews shipyard in Bathers Bay, established between 1840 and 1860. Next to the right is the abandoned building of the Fremantle Whaling Company, demolished in the 1890s.


Quarrying from what is now the approximate site of J Shed. Source and date unknown, but it is after 1879, when the second lighthouse was first lit, and also after 1903, when the timeball was moved to the remains of the first lighthouse, which is visible near the centre of the photograph, with flagstaff.

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

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Garry Gillard | New: 30 April, 2016 | Now: 2 November, 2023