Freotopia > buildings > walls.

Convict-Built Walls on South Terrace

First section of remnant wall (from north): the street wall of the Pensioner Barracks, beginning at the Synagogue

Pensioner Barracks wall: detail

Photo below shows the end of the Barracks wall, before the Hospital, showing work later than that of the convicts.

Wall running east-west that would have been on the boundary between the Barracks and Henry Wray's residence

Second section: now in front of the hospital, this wall was on the street in front of the residence built for Henry Wray RE.


Proposed new building

The 7.5 metre opening in the wall in the centre of the image is to provide a 'public plaza' for 'pedestrian safety'.

I think the 12 metre gap between the Synagogue and the proposed new building is for a new gazetted road to be called Bulldog Lane, providing access from South Terrace to the Oval.

Media Release from The Fremantle Society: Proposed Police Headquarters Fremantle, 9 July 2023

The image below c. 1910 shows the Pensioner Guard Barracks on South Terrace, Fremantle where the Police Complex will be built. Courtesy Rob Campbell. Site report.

$100 million Police Palace

First we had the $100 million Movie Studio proposal for Victoria Quay - a poorly planned thought bubble.

Then we had the hideous $100 million truck playground at High and Stirling Highway intersection by Main Roads - which unfortunately did get built, and which scars forever a main entry into a world famous town.

Now we get a $100 million Police Palace proposition - a much needed facility, in the wrong location - put within the buffer zone of the World Heritage Prison.

It seems that on each of the rare occasions the State Government shows interest in the heritage gem that is Fremantle it shows wilful ignorance of the place in its pursuit of what Mark McGowan sought - a "modern city."

For 100 years the police had a huge 5,500 sqm compound on Henderson Street - and in the 1990s a new courthouse was built across the road from it to work with that complex.

Then the Henderson Street constabulary sought something more modern and were told it would cost $20 million to upgrade their site. That was deemed far too expensive, so they relocated to an old bank in High Street where they are today, and sold their huge valuable site for next to nothing to local developer Gerard O'Brien, who is filling the 5,500 sqm site with alcohol venues.

Last year The Fremantle Society met with Fremantle Council CEO Glen Dougall and Director of Planning Russell Kingdom and asked that the Society be informed ahead of time of major projects in the system so we didnt get to see them just at the last minute when years of work had already gone into a plan.

But we have had no co-operation from Council and suddenly the Police Complex plans are done and put out for public comment (submissions close next Tuesday 11th July even though some of the documents online are the wrong ones).

Some people were aware of the plans last year and the Fremantle History Society were invited to a meeting, but not The Fremantle Society.

It is infuriating to yet again be placed in the position of having to be reactive to a major proposal at such a late stage.

A few observations:

1) The proposed building seeks to adulate the brutal and monstrous scale of Fremantle Hospital, which is an aberration, and not a precedent. The bulk and scale of the police complex is excessive.

2) There is nothing about the building that shows respect for the site's significant heritage context.

3) The proposal blocks views to and from the World Heritage Prison.

4) The convict wall is of exceptional significance and must not be reduced in length.

5) The archaeology of the site is likely to be of exceptional significance given its use for dozens of homes for  Pensioner Guards in the barracks there. A thorough search, interpretation, and subsequent care of artefacts, must be well planned.

6) The Federal Government needs to make an assessment of this proposal as it affects the world heritage listed prison.

7) The chosen site is too congested for its purpose and better sites exist which are cheaper. Marine House for example on Marine Terrace has just had millions of dollars spent on upgrades and is available.

Local architect Carl Payne's view:
(Carl saved the convict wall on this site some decades ago)


The height, length, and resultant massing of the proposed new police building on South Terrace Fremantle are all a bulky and unfortunate visual reinforcement of the adjacent Fremantle Hospital and the Arundel Street flats, both significant past failures in the crucial matter of appropriate cityscape design.

As a related issue, the new Forrest Hotel proponents argued that adjacent modern building heights and bulk, including that of the Henderson Street carpark, justified the out-of-scale massing of their new building complex in William Street.

In exactly the same way, the bulk and massing of Fremantle Hospital – a mistake in the late 1970s and a mistake still today – is now contributing to a seemingly semi-conscious acceptance that contemporary buildings should also be able to repeat this same mistake.

The time is far overdue for Council and others responsible for guiding the future of our city to say No; enough is enough........

Adding to the problem of massing and bulk, is the regrettable fact that the proposed Police building presents a blank façade to South Terrace. The best and most successful city centres feature buildings which interact and “belong” to the street; which provide opportunities for entry- exit, visual use-connections, community meeting or assembly points, and the like. A tall blank- walled office complex that presents no interactive relationship at street level is completely contrary to this principle.

This is not necessarily the fault per-se of the proposed new building, but it may be. A different planning approach, one that agrees that South Terrace street-interactivity is an essential feature, could provide appropriate uses for this street-facing section at ground level. This would be good for both the essence and success of community policing, and for the residents of Fremantle.

But it may also simply mean that the building is in the wrong place. If such a building needs to turn its back to the street and to the community, it probably doesn’t belong where it is currently proposed to be. The planning layouts and relationships which underpin the design layout need not be wasted. But they could and should be developed and expressed on a better and more appropriate site.

There are vacant buildings in Fremantle that could be repurposed. Marine House on Essex Street is a good example. It is well sited for easy vehicular access; internal works can repeat the functional planning relationships explored for the current building layout; and total costs would almost certainly be well below the current budget estimates for the South Terrace development.

Finally, in order that our World Heritage city of Fremantle be both preserved and developed appropriately and sensitively, we need Government services and bodies to lead the way. There is a strong case to suspend work on this development and to provide a new police headquarters which is part of the preservation of Fremantle, not the destruction of Fremantle.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
9 July 2023

From an email to members 20 June 2023: Police Complex on South Terrace

Architect Carl Payne remembers saving the convict built wall out the front, which is not adequately protected by this new large box.

He writes:

In the late 1970s, I drove past the recently constructed South Terrace wing of Fremantle Hospital and I saw a jackhammer demolishing the colonial limestone wall adjacent the footpath.

I stopped, jumped out and ran to the jackhammer user. "This wall is not to be demolished" I said. "Says who?" he said, not unreasonably. "The client & Freo Council" I lied. "If you keep going, you might be in deep trouble. I thought I should warn you". He threw down his jackhammer and walked off swearing.

I drove over to Council - fully open to public visits in those times - and went up to the building/planning people on the third floor.

Quick access to interested and involved officers was the key.

I explained the predicament, and was assured that this would be addressed immediately. In those days, the word immediately meant 'at this very moment'. This was a good thing.

I returned to the scene of the lie. No action; no workmen; no jackhammer.

I went home and phoned Council. The officer I had spoken with earlier took the call. He said he'd spoken with "Public Works". They had indicated to him they could leave the wall standing, "if that's what the people want ..."

So simple. It's amazing how much we talk about public access & involvement in decision-making these days. But of course, we all know it's the exact opposite.

So the South Terrace colonial limestone walls that run from Alma Street to the old Synagogue on Parry Street are special, both in the above personal sense; and as remnants of heritage walls that were once ubiquitous in Fremantle.

Do I REALLY have to drive past the same walls 40 years later; and again harass some poor bugger who's just trying to do his job?

Do I REALLY have to drive to Council and try to get a 2023 officer to immediately ...?!!

Who am I kidding?!

We need to retain more of these limestone walls than is currently proposed. These fast disappearing relics of colonial Fremantle are very precious, with high heritage value.

The Andrew Forrest hotel site demolitions recently saw us lose another section of old limestone wall, possibly convict built.

It's all about priorities of course. Had THIS wall been appropriately highly valued by Forrest's Sydney architects, the planning layout could have been organised to protect and retain it. But low value equals low effort.

Back to the new cop shop and the old adjacent walls.

Do we REALLY need to remove some 20 metres (as stated in the Cop Shop DA) of colonial limestone wall?

To slightly mis-quote the Public Works manager from the late 1970s:

"This is NOT what people want.."

Vote with your letters folks. Support our heritage strongly and loudly. Write to Council; to the Herald. We can only save what we appreciate and designate as having high value.

Carl Payne

From the relevant Council document:
Fremantle District Police Complex
Stage 2 Main Works
Development Assessment Panel Planning Report
May 2023

2. Site Details
2.1. Location
The Fremantle District Police Complex will be located on Lot 503 (No. 94) South Terrace, Fremantle on Deposited Plan 420312 and the future Bulldog Lane will be constructed on Lot 501 South Terrace on Deposited Plan 420312 (the site). The site is located within the Whadjuk Region, home to the Noongar peoples, in the City of Fremantle (Attachment A - Location and Site Plans).
The site is located between Norfolk Street and Arundel Street and positioned immediately north of the Fremantle Hospital on the perimeter of the Fremantle Cultural precinct.
The site was most recently used as a car park following the demolition of the most recent building, the ‘Stan Reilly Lodge’, by the City. The site is generally cleared of vegetation and has a total area of 5,121m2. Some small areas of minor planted landscaping will be removed as part of the forward works and car park removal.
The site includes heritage sensitive perimeter limestone walls along South Terrace and to the south/eastern boundary of the adjacent hospital site. The north/western boundary contains the State Heritage listed old Synagogue Building (including recent additions and basement areas).
The site is accessed from South Terrace along the western boundary and will also have access on the southern boundary from the future Bulldog Lane, which will also be constructed as part of this application.
The site is regarded as being of archaeological importance to the City due to the site’s historical structures and uses. The site is also located within the Buffer Zone for the World Heritage Listed Fremantle Prison and is on local heritage listings for its connection to the Convict Establishment and the limestone walls around the boundary of the site.
2.2. Site Ownership and Tenure
The site is a Crown Reserve, No. 50462, with the current reserve purpose for Police Purposes with a Management Order to the Minister for Police. The proposed works accords with the reserve purpose.
Lot 501 South Terrace on Deposited Plan 420312 is already designated as a local road reserve and will be managed by the City. (Emphasis added by this editor).

References and Links

as above

Garry Gillard | New: 7 July, 2023 | 15 April, 2024