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John K. Ewers 1971, The Western Gateway: A History of Fremantle, Fremantle City Council, with UWAP, rev. ed. [1st ed. 1948].



This revised edition of The Western Gateway can be warmly commended both as a commemoration of the centenary of local government in Fremantle and as a contribution to the study of Australian history.

The original edition published in 1948 and the pioneer account of the city by J. K. Hitchcock have long been valued by those who are lucky enough to have copies of them. This edition will be doubly welcome for making a good history more widely available and for adding to the story some account of the remarkable progress of the past quarter of a century.

During recent years a very useful contribution to the understanding of the Australian past has been made by the publication of local histories in all parts of the Commonwealth, many of them as a result of original research by skilled authors. So much of our national history has its roots in local achievement and in successive local adjustments to new conditions and new opportunities. This book will take a worthy place with others on the growing shelf of local history.

To read the story of Fremantle since 1829 is to open a doorway into the history of the western third of the continent. Here the colony was proclaimed and settlement began. Through successive decades of exploration and development, the records of the port of Fremantle tell the story of whaling, the sandalwood trade, the settlement of the North-West, wool, wheat, timber, the gold-rush and commercial and industrial growth. Here, too, were seen the departure and return of expeditionary forces in two world wars. The city played its part in the foundation and growth of many social, economic and political movements that helped to make Western Australia what it is today. The place of Fremantle in shipping has grown to one of national importance, making it indeed the western gateway of Australia.

As I was born at Fremantle, have been a friend of the author since schooldays, and am a besotted collector of local history, the writing of this foreword is a personal pleasure as well as an official privilege.

3 May 1971

Government House Canberra

Chapter 1:
The gateway is opened

On 2 May 1829 Captain Charles H. Fremantle hoisted the Union Jack on the south head of the Swan River. On that day, to quote his own report to the Admiralty, ‘formal possession was taken of the whole of the west coast of New Holland in the name of His Britannic Majesty’. 1 Captain Fremantle had been sent for that precise purpose in H.M.S. Challenger, a unit of the Indian squadron under the command of Commodore Schomberg.

Thus a new chapter in British colonization was opened and a lonely spot on the Western Australian coast-line assumed historic significance. For centuries its sands had bleached beneath the summer suns, while the waters of the Swan River toiled across the rocky bar that lay at its mouth. In January 1697 the Dutchman Willem de Vlamingh had visited it and found the fabulous black swan. In June 1801 the Frenchmen Hamelin and de Freycinet anchored at the river mouth and a party had gone inland as far as the junction with the Helena River. In March 1827 Captain James Stirling, with the Colonial Botanist from New South Wales, Charles Frazer, had explored the river and penetrated to the foothills of the Darling Ranges.

It was this third visit which led directly to the formal annexation in 1829. Captain Stirling wrote at the time:

The richness of the soil, the bright foliage of the shrubs, the majesty of the surrounding trees, the abrupt and red-coloured banks of the river occasionally seen, and the view of the blue summits of the mountains from which we were not far distant, made the scenery round this spot as beautiful as anything of the kind I had ever witnessed. 2

Mr Frazer was impressed too. He concluded his report on the Swan River district by saying:

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I hesitate not in pronouncing it superior to any I have seen in New South Wales eastward of the Blue Mountains, not only in its local situation, but in the many advantages which it holds out to settlers. 3

Governor Darling, impressed by these reports, recommended the early establishment of a settlement. He wrote:

As Captain Stirling’s visit to Swan River may attract attention and the report find its way into the French papers, it appears desirable, should His Majesty’s Government entertain any intention of forming a settlement at that place, that no time should be lost in taking the necessary steps. 4

Similar fears had prompted Darling three years earlier to send a detachment of troops and a few convicts under Major Edmund Lockyer to Princess Royal Harbour in King George’s Sound. Lockyer was to take possession, by act of occupation, of the western portion of the continent. He had arrived on Christmas Day 1826 and remained until April 1827, when he handed on his command to Captain Joseph Wakefield. This tiny settlement at Albany (at first called Frederickstown, although the name seems never to have been actually used) continued until it was absorbed into the colony established later at the Swan River.

It so happened that, at the time of Governor Darling’s despatch, urging a settlement at the Swan River, Mr Thomas Peel, a relative of Sir Robert Peel, the then Home Secretary, was anxious to invest capital in a colonial venture. A syndicate, of which he was a prominent member, forwarded a memorial to the government making the ambitious proposal that it should undertake to settle 10,000 persons in the Swan River Colony within four years, in return for a grant of 4,000,000 acres, one half of which would be subsequently made available to individual settlers after they had served a given period of probation. 5

Such a scheme involved obvious risks which the British government was unwilling to undertake. It therefore proposed to offer land to Mr Peel and any others interested in the venture at the rate of 40 acres for every £3 invested. 6 These terms, and the reduction of the syndicate's grant to 1,000,000 acres to permit other settlers besides, disappointed Mr Peel’s colleagues who promptly withdrew their support. However, Peel’s own enthusiasm was unshaken and

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numerous others, when the terms of settlement were made known, began to make preparations for a new life in a new colony.

Accordingly, Captain James Stirling, upon whose glowing recommendations the decision to colonize the Swan River district had been made, was appointed Lieutenant-Governor. A hired transport, the Parmelia, was fitted out to convey him and his establishment to the place of government, and H.M.S. Sulphur was detailed to accompany him with a detachment of the 63rd Regiment of Light Infantry.

On 6 February 1829 the Parmelia sailed from Spithead and was joined two days later by H.M.S. Sulphur from Plymouth. W. B. Kimberly tells us that

all eyes eagerly sought for the last glimpse of England, and when that was gone comfort was to be had in the presence of the Sulphur, which, with its white sails leaning to the wind, made a handsome consort vessel. For two days she kept on the larboard beam, and then she followed astern. Sometimes she stood up boldly to their gaze, and the passengers could watch her prow dashing the water into glistening foam, or else her hull dipping in the distance. 7

On 16 April they reached Table Bay. Here Captain Stirling took on board four draught oxen, a plough, a waggon, and other requirements for the Swan River Colony. Here, too, he was fortunate to discover at a loose end Mr H. W. Reveley whom he enrolled on his staff as civil engineer, an office of considerable importance to a new settlement which had apparently been overlooked when the original establishment was being drawn up. An unfortunate tragedy marred the vessel’s stay in this port. Dr T. Daly and his eldest daughter, aged eight, were drowned when the boat in which they were returning from a shore visit on 25 April was swamped. Their loss cast a heavy gloom over the little band of pioneers, reminding them collectively and individually that the adventure upon which they had set out was fraught with possibilities equally as unpredictable as this. Dr Milligan was taken on at the Cape to replace him as a surgeon to the colony.

During the voyage, the lieutenant-governor officially proclaimed the chief executives of the colony he was about to establish. They were: ‘Commander Mark J. Currie, Harbour-Master; Lieutenant

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John Septimus Roe, Surveyor-General; Mr Peter Brown,* Colonial Secretary; Mr James Drummond, Superintendent of Government farms, gardens and plantations; Mr C. W. Mangles, Superintendent of Government stock; Mr H. W. Reveley, Civil Engineer; Mr William Stirling, Registrar; Mr John Morgan, storekeeper; and Mr H. G Sutherland, Assistant Surveyor’. 8 Most of these positions, which were confirmed subsequent to the landing, were purely honorary. # Land was sighted on 1 June and the vessel proceeded to pick its way carefully through the shoals and sand-banks into Cockburn Sound. Fear and hope no doubt alternated in the minds of the pioneers on board as they gazed at the white, sandy coastline of their new home. As if to confirm their fears, the Parmelia twice grounded and was only with difficulty and some damage to her hull refloated. But to reinforce their hopes, the Challenger was there to give them welcome, and six days later the Sulphur dropped anchor beside them.

* To avoid confusion, throughout this book the spelling of the name, ‘B-r-o-w-n’, is used. This is how the Colonial Secretary signed his name until 1843 when he reverted to ‘B-r-o-u-n’, the original spelling of the family name. His reasons for doing so need concern us. Those interested will find an explanation in WAHSJP. ii, pt xviii (1935), specifically pp. 3-5.

# For full list of personnel which left England on board the Parmelia see Appendix I.

Meanwhile, Captain Stirling had decided to disembark passengers on Garden Island, where stores were unloaded and buildings erected as temporary shelters. On 18 June a party went ashore at Rous Head on the north of the river mouth, where the Colony of Western Australia was officially proclaimed. 8

Captain Fremantle of the Challenger had spent his time since he arrived in May making surveys of Cockburn Sound and organizing parties which explored the surrounding country. He remained on hand, giving assistance to the administration until 28 August when the Challenger sailed for India, leaving the protection of the colony to H.M.S. Sulphur and the 63rd Regiment of Light Infantry.

Before this date, however, Stirling had selected and named sites for two towns. One at the mouth of the river he chose as the port of the settlement and named Fremantle in honour of the captain of the Challenger. It was an obvious choice. For the immediate future, at least, all communications with the interior would be by way of the waters of the Swan River, even though the rocky bar at its mouth

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rendered it difficult of access from the sea to all but small boats. The choice of a site for the centre of administration proved more difficult. The advantages of Point Heathcote, on the south side of the river, near, the junction of the Canning, were weighed against those of a locality to the east of Mt Eliza on the northern bank. The former would provide contact by land as well as by water with the port which was on the southern side of the mouth of the river. The latter would necessitate the subsequent erection of a bridge across the river, but it did have direct access to the superior farming land at Guildford, where it was expected an early concentration of settlement would take place.

The latter consideration prevailed, and on 12 August, the birthday of King George IV, the site of Perth was proclaimed by the ceremony of the chopping down of a tree on the allotment set apart for military barracks. It was named Perth out of compliment to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Sir George Murray, whose birthplace was Perth, Scotland.


1 Report by Captain Fremantle on the annexation and settlement of Western Australia, 2 May 1829. Microfilm R.16A of MS., BL.

2 Captain James Stirling, ‘Narrative of operations’, accompanying letter of 18 April 1827 to General Darling, Letters and Reports with associated papers relating to the Swan River at the time of his exploration visit in 1827. Typescripts of MSS with letter from Sir Nicholas Lockyer, R.428A., BL.; original in Mitchell Library, Sydney.

3 Report of Charles Frazer, Government Botanist of New South Wales, in J. G. Hay, ed.. The Visit of Charles Frazer to the Swan River in 1827 . . . (Perth: J. G. Hay, 1906).

4 Governor Darling to Earl Bathurst, 21 Apr. 1827, Historical Records of Australia, Series I, xiii, p. 264.

5 ‘Memorial from Mr Thomas Peel, Sir Francis Vincent and others to Secretary Sir George Murray, 14 Nov. 1828', Historical Records of Australia, Series 111, vi, pp. 588-90.

6 ‘Conditions for land grants at Swan River, Colonial Office, 5 Dec. 1828’, ibid, p. 594.

7 W. B. Kimberly, History of West Australia, (Melbourne: F. W. Niven Sc Co., 1897), p. 40.

8 Stirling to Sir George Murray, 10 Sept. 1829, end. No. 9, Swan River Papers, iii, B.L. See also J. S. Battye, Western Australia: a History (Oxford: O.U.P., 1924), p. 83.

9 Peter Brown, ‘Colonial Secretary's Journal of events connected with the public service*, attached to Stirling’s Dispatch of 10 Dec. 1829, Swan River Papers, iii, p. 1, BL.

Chapter 2:
Laying the foundations

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During these months of early activity, the main stores and many of the settlers remained on Garden Island. Surveys of the immediate neighbourhood of the Swan River were undertaken by Mr J. S. Roe, but with the arrival of additional ships this work was suspended in favour of surveying allotments in the two townsites. The first sale of these blocks took place on 5 September 1829, when twenty-four lots were sold in Fremantle.

The Surveyor-General’s Letter Book for that year shows the following original owners of Fremantle town allotments: 1


William Lamb 4 & 18
Isaac Jecks 5
Edward Barrett Lennard 6
Robert Ansele Partridge 7
Rivett Henry Bland 8
William Steward 9 & 10
John Cleland 11
George Leake 15, 16 & 17
Richard Wells (for Col. Lautour) 25, 26, 37 & 38
Robert Lyon 19 & 31
Lionel Samson 27 & 28
Thomas Harrison 30
James Kenton 53
James Knight 71
Daniel Scott 105

In addition to the above, the government reserved Lots 1, 2, 3, 12, 13 and 14.

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It is interesting to note that the firm of L. Samson & Son was established that year and was granted a merchant’s spirit licence. Both the business and the spirit licence have been in operation ever since upon the original lot then granted. This is understood to be a record for continuity of tenure unequalled by any other commercial house in Australia.

Further sales took place at subsequent dates in 1829 as follows: 2

October 8
Nathaniel Cowell 20
--- Wall 40
October 13
Henry Trigg 52
October 14
James Henty 94 & 118
October 21
John Hobbs 9 & 10
Thomas Bannister 29
October 22
Henry Trigg 22
Richard Jones 45
October 27
Hugh Macdonald 42 & 43
Lewis Mayo 44
October 31
Evan Powell 41
John Alexander Dutton 55
Phillip Hayman Dod 61
Richard Gardner Sams 82 & 106
November 3 John Whatley 23 & 24
Richard Wardell 59 & 60

Of these, Lots 9 and 10 are shown as transferred to John Hobbs from William Steward who purchased them at the original sale on 5 September. One of the main conditions of the sale was that the occupants were required to erect buildings to the value of at least £100 within one year of the date of allotment. Among the land-

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owners in the above list is Thomas Bannister, who was appointed on 50 August 1850, the first Government Resident in Fremantle.

Unfortunately, after 5 November the entries in the Surveyor-General’s Letter Book, do not indicate the persons to whom subsequent sales of land were made, but it is clear that there were no further sales until 10 February 1830. A complete list of land-owners is in existence for the year 1837, and is published as an Appendix, together with a map of the Fremantle townsite in 1833, showing allotment numbers. (See Appendix 2.)

The vessels whose early arrival precipitated these initial land sales were the Calista on 5 August, the St Leonard on 6 August, and the Marquis of Anglesea on 23 August. In addition to stock and general cargo, they brought 177 men, women and children, bringing the total number of settlers to 244, in addition to the 57 officers and men of the Sulphur. It became necessary to speed up the general survey and on 29 September the first grants were made.

Two more ships arrived in September, the Thomson and the Amity, both of which carried government stores and some stock. In October no fewer than nine ships arrived—the Georgina, Lotus, Euphemina, Orelia, Caroline, Cumberland, Governor Phillip, Atwick, and the Admiral Gifford. Not all brought colonists, but 235 new settlers disembarked during this month. The Lion and the Dragon arrived in November with general cargo and some stock, and in December the Gilmore arrived with 182 passengers, amongst whom was Mr Thomas Peel and the first instalment of his settlers. Some of these newcomers took up temporary residence at Fremantle or on Garden Island. Some, no doubt, went as soon as possible to the capital.

Meanwhile, the infant towns of Perth and Fremantle had sprung into being. Lieutenant Breton, R.N., gives a graphic picture of Fremantle as he saw it:

Tents and huts in every variety; goods of all descriptions scattered about in disorder; the emigrants employed, some in cooking their provisions, and others in sauntering about, or landing their effects; many looking very miserable and a few equally happy; different kinds of animals, just landed, and showing evidently how much they must

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have suffered during so long a voyage; such was the scene I witnessed on landing at the spot on which the future principal seaport of Western Australia was to stand. 3

Dr T. B. Wilson, Surgeon R.N., describes how during the same month he

fell into conversation with a gentleman busily employed building a punt ... an ex-captain of the army, a good musician, passionately fond of music, and completely out of his element here. So thought I; yet the building of a flat-bottomed boat showed both talent, ingenuity, and a determination to do some good. 4

However, few of the others impressed him equally favourably. ‘The greater part of the settlers yet remain here’, he says, ‘not one having gone to his farm. It is a bad place, owing to the idleness, roguery and thieving of those people brought out as servants, and also some others of a higher denomination. It is so bad that the Governor designated it a “sink of iniquity”, and stated that he took no measures to make it better, on purpose to force people to go to their farms.’ 5

It is not difficult to imagine the hardships which faced settlers in that inaugural year. Nor is it difficult to imagine the anxieties of those who found themselves parents in such strange and hazardous circumstances. There were no fewer than five births in or near Fremantle in 1829. The first recorded is that of Joseph, son of John and Jane Mitchell, which took place at Garden Island on 10 June, only ten days after the arrival of the Parmelia. The father of this, the colony’s pioneer baby, was a bugler of the 63rd Regiment of Light Infantry. The second birth is of a son to the wife of another soldier. This is mentioned in a letter of the Colonial Surgeon Dr Charles Simmons, written from Garden Island on 4 August 1829, but no names are given. 6 On 26 October Thomas, son of Joseph and Eliza Cox, was born, and on 15 November John, son of Owen and Margaret Jones. Both Cox and Jones were seamen on H.M.S. Sulphur. The only Fremantle settlers, as distinct from members of naval or military establishments, to become parents in that year were John and Sarah Purkis, whose son was born on 7 November, and with true pioneering pride was named John Fremantle. Purkis was at that time a baker in the town.

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On 9 December 1829 the first appointments for maintaining law and order in the town were made. They were: Justices of the Peace, George Leake and James Henty; Constables, Richard Lewis, T. Wall, R. Maxworthy and R. Maydwell.

At the end of January 1830, Miss Mary Ann Friend wrote that Fremantle 'strongly resembles a County Fair and has a pretty appearance, the pretty white tents looking like booths—at present there arc not above five or six houses.' 7 She commented on the absence of gardens, excepting the potato-patch ‘which appeared tolerably flourishing', and said that there appeared to be ‘a great want of energy on the part of the settlers’. Maybe she overlooked the fact that the middle of the summer was not a propitious time fin gardening and that, moreover, few settlers had had either the time or the opportunity to devote themselves in the first six months to horticulture.

Interesting pictures are also given by Miss Jane Roberts who spent seven weeks ashore at Fremantle early in 1830 when ‘Fremantle consisted of well-erected tents and wooden houses near the shore.' 8 She makes no attempt to minimize the difficulties with which the inhabitants of these had to contend, but she has an appreciative eye for details. She writes:

We had just finished breakfast, when a flock of the finest sheep approached, attended by a remarkably handsome old man and a large shepherd’s dog.

As he came nearer, a general exclamation and salutation took place: it was spontaneous and irresistible. To see a person at his time of life who had made a voyage of upwards of fifteen thousand miles was truly interesting. He stopped, looked at his sheep and his dog, and seemed to be thinking more of them than of himself; at last with the greatest simplicity he said that, considering all things, he thought they looked very well. These were the first words he uttered. We perfectly agreed with him; and certainly the approach of this old man with his crook, his sheep, and his dog, formed as beautiful a picture as I ever saw. 9

Neither of these ladies apparently thought Fremantle a ‘sink of iniquity'. Perhaps their sex prevented them from too closely examining the seamy side of life. James Turner found in March 1830 that the town was composed of a good number of miserable looking tents, most of which were grog shops, however, to tell the truth,

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these said shops were very good things, as I got some bread and cheese and porter in one of them half an hour after I landed.' 10

There is no record of how many ‘grog shops’ to which Turner referred were in existence, but the actual hotels for which licences were granted in January of that year were four in number. They were: the Stirling Arms (Robert Thomson), the Collins Hotel (Robert Collins), the South Sea Hall Public House (William Rolfe Steele), the George IV Public House (William Dixon).

No doubt, early Fremantle presented a spectacle which varied according to the temperaments of the observers. George Fletcher Moore, writing at the end of 1832, recalls his impressions two years earlier:

a bare, barren-looking district of sandy coast; the shrubs cut down for firewood, the herbage trodden bare, a few wooden houses, many ragged-looking tents and contrivances for habitations,—our hotel, a poor public-house into which everyone crowded,—our colony, a few cheerless dissatisfied people with gloomy looks, plodding their way through the sand from hut to hut to drink grog, and grumble out their discontents to each other. 11

Then he goes on to contrast this with conditions in December 1832:

Now there is a town laid out in regular streets of stone houses with low walls, and in some places palisades in front; two or three large, well-kept inns or hotels, in which you can get clean beds and good private rooms. The soil there is loam resting upon a stratum of easily worked limestone and possessing a fertility almost beyond belief, with abundant water near the surface. 12

Here is an obvious transformation, and it may be as well at this point to pause in order that we may watch the development of the colony through these years. In 1830 no fewer than 27 vessels arrived, bringing over 1,000 new settlers. Among these were more of Peel’s emigrants on the Hooghly (12 February) and the Rockingham (14 May). The latter ship was cast up on the shore during a severe storm, its passengers being landed with the utmost difficulty and suffering for many months from inadequate accommodation and severe shortage of food. It was the beginning of the end of any success that might have attended Peel’s attempt at establishing a large settlement within the colony.18 His labourers drifted away from

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him, Peel himself failed to receive the grant of land he had expected, and he died almost a pauper after living ‘for many years in solitary indigence on his huge but unproductive estate’.

But Thomas Peel was never the hub around which the activities of Western Australia revolved. His settlers were absorbed into the community which, during that year, expanded in at least three directions as a result of thorough and systematic explorations. In the first half of 1830 an enormous area of land was alienated in the Leschenault district, in the vicinity of the modern Bunbury; about the same time the Plantagenet County near King George’s Sound was opened for settlement; a little later, a few hardy pioneers made their homes at Augusta. Ensign Dale brought back glowing reports of the fertile Avon Valley, where the townsites of York, Beverley and Northam were selected. Considerable grants of land were made in this district, but because no suitable stock routes were known, settlement was delayed until towards the end of 1831.

All these grants were made on the generous scale laid down at the beginning of the colony. In July 1830 the Home government issued an instruction that after 31 December the scale would be halved. All future emigrants would receive 20 acres instead of 40 for every £3 invested, and 100 acres instead of 200 for every servant brought out In 1832 grants were abandoned in favour of land sales at a minimum rate of 5s. per acre.

The lavish terms upon which land had been alienated caused many heart-burnings. Not only did the cheapness of the land attract some settlers unsuited to the rigours of colonization; it led almost all of them to become land-owners out of all proportion to their ability to be producers. Thus we find at the end of 1831 over a million acres allotted, but only 200 acres under cultivation. Most of these were on the upper reaches of the Swan River, and, although the areas planted produced good crops, the supply was hopelessly inadequate for the needs of the population.

During these initial years, the colony depended for its subsistence largely upon goods brought by ships from England, India and the other Australian colonies. When these arrived regularly, food was plentiful and prices low. When they were delayed, as they often were, the colonists tightened their belts and paid high prices for what little was available.

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Fremantle, as the port of the colony, became the distributing centre. A few stores had been erected and most of the residents found a lucrative trade in hiring boats to those who wished to convey goods by river to Perth and beyond. In 1831 a monthly service was established to Guildford and a canal was cut through Point Walter spit, reducing the distance by about two miles.

The colony's earliest newspapers had their genesis in Fremantle. The first of these, the Fremantle Journal and General Advertiser, made its appearance on Saturday, 27 February 1830. Published by James A. Gardner, it consisted of four pages of hand-written foolscap and sold at 3s. 6d. per copy. On Sunday, 20 June 1830 the same enterprising publisher produced in similar format and at the same price the Western Australian Gazette. However, James Gardner left the colony in that year and the press apparently lapsed until 19 March 1831 when Mr W. K. Shenton of Fremantle published the Western Australian and Perth Gazette. This was also handwritten in its early issues and sold at 3s. per copy.

In April a printing-press was imported by John Weavell, from whom it was purchased by Mr Shenton, and the first printed copy of the paper appeared on 25 April. In June Shenton transferred the editorship to Mr Charles MacFaull and it was this journal which later became the Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, fore-runner of the modem West Australian. The earliest extant copy in print is No. 7, 11 June 1831, when it bore the imposing title of the Fremantle Observer, Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal. A four-page printed newspaper, the Western Australian Colonial News, edited by William Temple Graham, subsequently appeared in Fremantle. Copies of this exist as early as No. 13, 9 January 1833. This venture died out and the former shifted its headquarters to Perth, so that it is not until the sixties that we again find Fremantle with a newspaper of its own.

One of the high-lights of 1831 was the first governor’s ball on 2 September. No doubt some Fremantle residents made the long river trip to the capital and took part in the dancing which, apparently, was conducted with great verve and lasted until six in the morning. Indeed, socially the little community was progressive. A church had been erected in Perth, and in Fremantle on 27 February 1831 fortnightly services in the Harbour Master’s Office were

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started by Rev J. B. Wittenoom. A literary society had been formed and an Agricultural Society was enthusiastically discussing the problems inherent in the cultivation of the soil in a new country.

Commodity shortages continued to be their chief source of anxiety.

In January 1832, wheat was 25s. per bushel and there was only six-weeks supply in the colony. By April it had risen to 35s. Other prices were correspondingly high, and much capital that should have gone into production had to be expended upon the necessities of life. When, towards the middle of the year, there was no abatement of their difficulties, the colonists requested the lieutenant-governor to proceed to England to seek assistance from the Home government. After consulting the Executive Council—a nominated body which had held its first meeting in February of that year—he appointed Captain Irwin temporarily in charge of the colony’s affairs, and left on H.M.S. Sulphur in the second week of August.

Meanwhile, Fremantle had undergone a marked change. We have already noted the contrast between 1830 and 1832 drawn by Mr G. F. Moore. Lieutenant Dashwood, who revisited the colony with Captain Fremantle in September 1832, says:

The Captain was much surprised to see the spot which he took possession of three years ago, without then even a trace of human being, making really a very respectable show and promising soon to be a large town bearing his name. 14

Captain Fremantle was disappointed in the Capital,

as it does not appear to have made much progress, very few houses having been built and many of those scarcely worthy of the name . . . The only good one of brick was built by Captain Irwin and is now let to the Government for a Store. 15

He then goes on to say,

Perth has not kept pace with Fremantle, as the latter has many pretty tolerable houses and several are in progress, and in spite of its sandy and unpromising appearance at landing, I have no doubt, if the Colony continues, of its being in time a place of Consequence. 16

Perhaps Captain Fremantle was prejudiced in favour of the town which was named in his honour, but confirmation of his picture is provided by a water-colour executed by Richard Morell in the same

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year. Reproduced in this volume, it shows a compact and tidy little settlement, and two water-colour sketches by Lieutenant Dashwood, one of which is also reproduced, further confirm the fact that Fremantle in 1832 was not without a charm of its own.

A visitor from India, Colonel J. Hanson, is of the same opinion. Writing of a visit in that year (1831), he says.

There was an excellent little Inn established when I was there, the ‘Stirling Arms,' at which the comforts were fair and the charges moderate. Several good Stone and Brick Houses were in progress, the property of respectable settlers, and indeed all classes seemed to be governed by the same praiseworthy spirit of industry and good feeling towards each other. 17

Among the new buildings was the gaol, known as the Round House, erected the previous year to the design of the civil engineer, Mr H. W. Reveley. On approaching Fremantle from the sea, it was the most prominent piece of architecture in the town. Captain Irwin describes it as ‘a handsome octagonal building of white cut stone, erected near the edge of a precipice which overhangs the mouth of the river’. 18 It is still standing today, probably the oldest existing building in Western Australia.

No doubt the most exciting event of this period was the duel fought on the morning of Friday, 17 August 1832, between William Nairne Clark, a solicitor, and George French Johnson, a merchant, both well-known Fremantle identities. 19

The cause of the quarrel was a business matter. Apparently Johnson anticipated trouble, for, after receiving two abusive letters from Clark, he took the precaution of making his will. Two days later, while he was talking to a group of men outside Mr Solomon’s house, Clark approached him and said, ‘You are a scoundrel and a blackguard, and if it was not from motives of prudence, I would give you a sound drubbing.’

Johnson made no reply. He merely turned on his heel and walked away. But that evening Thomas Newte Yule delivered Johnson’s challenge in person to Clark at Richmond House, the residence of William Temple Graham who was a solicitor with some literary ability and, at that time, publisher of the weekly Western Australian Colonial News. Present also at the time was William Lamb. Details

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were discussed between Graham, acting on behalf of Clark, and Yule who represented Johnson.

Next morning at sunrise Johnson and Yule rode up and fastened their horses to the palings of the fence. Clark was waiting for them with Graham and Lamb. Graham and Yule, the two seconds, advanced, shook hands and went inside the house. For twenty minutes these two discussed details while the principals bit their fingernails outside. When all was ready, they repaired to a near-by paddock where Dr Thomas Harrison was in attendance.

No details of the actual duel have been preserved, except the fact that pistols were used. Johnson’s aim went astray, but Clark’s was deadly. Johnson fell to the ground with a bullet in his right side just above the hip bone. Dr Harrison examined the wound, which was one inch wide and twelve inches deep, and shook his head gravely. Dr Langley was called in and the two did what they could to staunch the flow of blood. Later, Johnson was taken to his house in Cantonment Road. Next morning he died.

Clark, Graham and Yule were immediately arrested, Clark on a charge of wilful murder, the others on a charge of manslaughter. However, at the trial which took place on 1 October they were found not guilty, and in a leading article in his paper some months later Graham made some sententious observations on the unfortunate affair. ‘Thus fell in the prime of life a gentleman of the highest respectability and talent’, he wrote, ‘leaving his antagonist (a gentleman equally respectable) in a state of mind past our powers of description.’

The gentleman whose state of mind was past Graham’s powers of description later became proprietor and editor of the Swan River Guardian, published in Perth in 1836.

There is no record that the destinies of the colony were one whit shaped by this, the first and only duel to be fought on West Australian soil. But no doubt Fremantle tongues wagged vigorously at the time. Of far more lasting importance was the planting of the colony’s first vineyards at Hamilton Hill during that year. The vines were imported by Charles MacFaull and Edmund Stirling from the Cape of Good Hope.

Of considerable social significance, rivalling in importance the governor’s ball, was the first race meeting held on South Beach on

page 17

2 October 1833. The Perth Gazette makes a pioneer effort at sporting news, as follows:

The first race was for ponies, the stake being a subscription purse of five sovereigns and the starters were Captain McDermott’s Dandy, Captain Taylor’s Doctor and Teaser, Leeder’s Bob, Solomon’s Tinker, and Samson’s strangely-named More In Sorrow Than In Anger.

The first heat was contested between Dandy and Tinker. Within a few yards of the winning post, Tinker’s rider, Master Butler, whether with the intention of jockeying or from accident we will not pretend to determine, cleverly sidled his antagonist off the course. In the second heat Dandy’s rider retaliated and Tinker bolted at the start, Dandy coming in without any competition. The third heat was well contested between Tinker and Dandy, the latter winning.

In the second race there were two starters: George Leake’s Jack and Samson’s black mare. Jack won.

In the third event there were three starters: Captain Erskine’s Perouse, S. G. Henty’s Jack, and Scott’s Grey. The latter beat Jack after a good race, Perouse bolting off the course.

The fourth and last race was for ponies, and the stake was three sovereigns. Five ponies were entered, but most of them preferring the branch roads soon after the start, the run was more amusing than edifying. 20


1 Surveyor-General’s Letter Book I, 5 Sept. 1829. Accession No. 525, B.L.

2 Ibid. 23 Oct. 1829.

3 Lt W. H. Breton, R.N., Excursions in New South Wales, Western Australia and Van Diemen’s Land, 1830-33 (London: Bentley, 1833), p. 16.

4 T. B. Wilson, M.D., R.N., Narrative of a Voyage round the World (London: Sherwood, Gilbert & Piper, 1835), p. 197.

5 Ibid. p. 223.

3 Charles Simmons, Colonial Surgeon to Colonial Secretary, 4 Aug. 1829, C.S.O., 1828-9, B.L.

7 ‘The Diary of Mary Anne Friend’, W.AH.S.J.P., i, pt x (1931) .

8 Jane Roberts, Two Years at Sea: Being the Narrative of a Voyage to the Swan River and Van Diemen’s Land, 1829-31 (London: Bentley, 1834), p. 47.

9 Ibid. p. 105.

10 J. Munro McDermott, ‘The Turners of Augusta’, W.A.N.S.J.P., i, pt viii (1930), p. 42.

11 G. F. Moore, Diary of Ten Years Eventful Life of an Early Settler in Western Australia (London: Wallbrook, 1884), p. 150.

12 Ibid.

13 For a detailed account of Peel’s life see Alexandra Hasluck, Thomas Peel of Swan River (Oxford: O.U.P., 1965).

page 18

14 Quoted from a copy of extracts from the diary of Lieutenant Dashwood describing his visit to Western Australia, Sept. 1-13 1832 on HMS Challenger, published in the Sunday Times, 26 Sept. 1926, p. 10.

15 [Adm. Sir Charles W. Fremantle], Diaries and Letters of Admiral Sir Charles Fremantle, ed. Lord Cottesloe (Privately printed, London, 1928) .

16 Ibid.

17 Col J. Hanson, Letter describing a visit to the Swan River Settlement, Augusta and King George’s Sound, Letter to Captain Butterworth, 1831 (Privately printed, Madras, 1832), p. 2.

18 Quoted from P. Hasluck, ‘Glimpses of Early Perth and Fremantle, 1829-39’, WARHSJP, ii, pt xiii (1933), p. 44.

19 PE.C. de Mouncey, ‘The Historic Duel at Fremantle between George French Johnson, a merchant and William Nairne Clark, a solicitor, in the year 1832’, WARHSJP, ii, pt v (1929), p. 1.

20 Perth Gazette, 5 Oct. 1833.

Chapter 3:
End of the first decade

Stirling returned from England in August 1834 with a knighthood and his rank raised from Lieutenant-Governor to that of Governor.

During his absence the colonists had not been idle. Communications had been improved. Roads had been cut, one from Fremantle to the Canning and another from Perth to Mt Eliza. The latter was subsequently continued to Fremantle so that land communication became possible between the port and the capital. While goods and letters continued to be transported by boat, land travellers could make a faster journey on horseback, crossing the river by ferry at Preston Point.

In 1835 the ferry was shifted to the Cantonment, the ferryman at the time being John Hole Duffield. Subsequently it was returned to Preston Point and for many years was operated by a Pole, called John Peril. At no time, if one may judge from correspondence on the subject, does the position of ferryman appear to have been a lucrative one.

Fremantle at this stage was becoming popular as a health resort for tourists from India. The harbour facilities were the cause of some anxiety. There was only a very short jetty, and boatmen plied between it and the ships lying at anchor. Sometimes they carried passengers on their backs, wading through thirty or forty yards of mud to the shore.

As early as September 1830 there was a proposal to construct a breakwater at the mouth of the Swan River. It was to be 1,000 yards long and its cost was estimated at £165,000. Again in 1839 the Surveyor-General Roe prepared specifications for a harbour protected by a mole at a cost of £57,767. Both of these plans were too ambitious for the young colony. For the time being little was done to improve

page 20

conditions in the roadstead, other than the provision of additional buoys and beacons.

The natives, who had been friendly and even co-operative in the first two years of the colony, flared into open hostility during Stirling’s absence. Fremantle was never a main centre for their activities. True, on 24 January 1831 some natives had set fire to and totally destroyed Agett’s house on the right bank of the Swan River. The act seems to have been premeditated for some days previously, but was finally consummated during Mr Agett’s absence in Perth. No reason has been ascertained, but there were several similar acts of incendiarism in various districts about that time. More serious was the shooting of a native at Melville later in 1831, to which the blacks retaliated by killing a servant named Entwistle.

In 1833 a man from Van Diemen’s Land, seeing natives on the road between the Canning and Fremantle, shot one without provocation. A few nights later a Fremantle merchant, observing three natives breaking into his building, shot another. These two acts led Yagan, who was picturesquely described in the press of the day as the ‘Wallace of the Australian aborigines’, to spear two men on the Canning. This, in turn, led to the death of Yagan in particularly callous circumstances. There was trouble throughout the colony, which caused the governor to revoke his earlier attitude of sympathy towards the natives and culminated in the Battle of Pinjarra in October 1834. Thereafter, except for isolated cases, little hostility was offered by the blacks.

Agriculturally, the colony had made considerable advances. In 1833 the area under crop was 600 acres and the carry-over from the previous harvest was so considerable that when in September of that year a vessel from Hobart arrived with 2,000 bushels of wheat, its cargo was returned as not required. In the following year, there were over 900 acres under crop, including 564 acres of wheat, 100 of barley and 116 of oats. Nevertheless, in spite of this increase, within a few weeks of the governor’s return there was a critical food shortage which was only averted by the timely arrival of vessels from the Cape, from Mauritius and from Java.

One of Sir James’s first acts was to extend the Civil Establishment of Western Australia. This included Sir James Stirling, Governor, Commander-in-Chief and Vice-Admiral, salary £800 a year; Mr P.

page 21

Brown, Colonial Secretary, Colonial Registrar, and Clerk of Council, £500; Mr J. S. Roe, Surveyor-General, £400; Dr Collie, Colonial Surgeon, £273. 15s.; Rev. J. B. Wittenoom, Colonial Chaplain, £250;

Mr H. Sutherland, Collector of Revenue at Fremantle, £200. Government Residents were appointed at King George’s Sound, Augusta, Guildford and Fremantle at a salary of £100 each, the position at Fremantle being filled by Mr G. Leake. Harbour Masters at King George’s Sound and Fremantle also received £100 each, the latter being Daniel Scott. On the legal side, there was Mr W. H. Mackie, Chairman of Quarter Sessions and Commissioner of Civil Court, £300; Mr G. F. Moore, Advocate-General, £200; Mr A. Stone, Clerk of Peace; Mr H. Donaldson, Sheriff; and Mr H. Vincent, Gaoler at Fremantle, £100 each. Provision was made for schoolmasters at Perth, Fremantle, King George’s Sound, Guildford and Augusta at £50 each. 1

Post offices were not officially established until 1846. Prior to this postal business had been conducted by merchants. In Fremantle, Mr Lionel Samson performed this service from May 1830 and Mr John Bateman from March 1833. The Bateman family maintained their connection with the Fremantle Post Office until 1861, successive post-masters being John Bateman (1833-54), M. Bateman (for a short period, 1854-55) and Walter Bateman from April 1855 until November 1861, when he was succeeded by Mr A. Francisco.

The first school-master appointed under the terms of Governor Stirling’s proclamation was Mr Launcelot Taylor Cook. He had previously opened what was probably Fremantle’s first school on 15 July 1831, when £20 a year was allotted to him out of the government purse. This school continued throughout those early years, until, on 1 December 1832, a new one was opened and partly financed by the novel method of auctioning a cask of ale presented to the old one by Captain Fremantle during the second visit of the Challenger in September of that year.* Mr Cook was not in charge at that time. He had been appointed Master of the Colonial School in Perth, a position he held for only six months. Thereafter, until his re-appointment in 1834, he was on the staff of the Colonial Chaplain, Rev. J. B. Wittenoom.

* For names of children attending the Fremantle Colonial School in 1835, see Appendix 3.

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On 29 September 1836 Mr Cook’s services were dispensed with and Mrs Bateman was temporarily appointed to the position. How long she remained in charge is not clear. The school at this time catered for both boys and girls, who paid a weekly subscription. In 1846 there was a move to establish a ‘free’ school in Fremantle, when it was expected that from 30 to 40 children would be in attendance on the free list, and about 20 whose parents on a small charge would contribute to their education. William Owen applied for the position of headmaster. There were two other schools then in existence—one conducted by Ellen Woodward with 14 pupils, the other in the charge of Mrs Pengilly who had 16 pupils. There was also a native school of 11 pupils under a Mr King. When the Board of Education was established in 1847 to supervise and control the government schools, Mr Owen was already in charge and continued under the Board. By 1848, the enrolment had reached over eighty and his wife was appointed to assist him.

The Government Resident at Fremantle when Stirling proclaimed the Civil Establishment in 1834 was Mr George Leake. But a few months later he was succeeded by Mr R. McBryde Brown,* a brother of the Colonial Secretary, Mr Peter Brown. He held office until his death in 1858, and during that time served Fremantle well in an office that included multifarious duties, covering shipping, customs and the general welfare and advancement of the town and its citizens. Here and there among the official correspondence, which almost invariably begins with a formal ‘Dear Sir’, we find an occasional letter of a more confidential nature, beginning with ‘Dear Peter’. Not infrequendy we find him applying for an increase in salary, which, in spite of the wider nature of his activities, was the same as that of other government residents. Whereupon his brother replies on behalf of His Excellency the Governor that he

admits the justice of your plaint and regrets that any Public Officer should be so ill-paid as you are proportionate to your duties, but I am directed to inform you that there are in reality no funds on which any additional salary could be borne, were it even sanctioned. 2

We shall hear more of Mr McBryde Brown’s work as time passes. Meanwhile, when Governor Stirling brought down his first budget, there was considerable criticism from the settlers. Even the nominated

* See footnote on p. 4.

page 23

members of his Legislative Council took exception to some of its items. There appears to have been a healthy move towards a form of representative government, which, of course, was not introduced for many years to come. The independence of the settlers expressed itself at public meetings held all over the colony, one from Albany at that time sending a recommendation for the introduction of convict labour. This was not seriously entertained elsewhere in the colony, but it underlines the shortage of labour, a problem which grew in intensity as the years passed. The British government’s action in abandoning land-grants in favour of outright sales had resulted in a serious reduction in the number of migrants to Western Australia. Many favoured a return to the old system, but the Home authorities, following the custom established in the eastern colonies, continued to increase the minimum price. In a despatch dated 19 March 1840 it was raised to 12s.; in June 1841 to £1.8 Actually, the biggest turnover in land during these years was by the private sale of estates already alienated at prices as low as 2s. 6d. per acre. The mass effect was to bring about a stalemate in the colony’s economics and to further accentuate the dearth of labourers.

Fremantle was not direcdy interested in squabbles about land prices, but it naturally reflected the prosperity of the colony. There is evidence that during the second half of the thirties it suffered a slight decline. Lieutenant Bunbury, writing in 1836, says:

Some good houses built in the first days of the Colony . . . are now rapidly going into decay; many of them are half buried in loose white sand which drifts with every breeze and smothers the fences and even walls in the town. 4

Captain J. Stokes of the Beagle which visited Fremantle in 1837 is even less entranced: ‘Fremantle, of which it was wittily said by the quartermaster of one of His Majesty’s ships who visited the place, “You might run it through an hour glass in a day”, is but a collection of low white houses scattered over the scarce whiter sand.’ 5 Again, towards the end of that year, we have the comments of James Backhouse:

Fremantle resembles some of the little coast villages on the limestone of the county of Durham, but it is even whiter than they, and it is

page 24

greatly inconvenienced by the drifting sand . . . The population is about 200. 6

But the year 1837 was memorable for the establishment of a new industry at Fremantle. In August 1836 the prospectus of the Fremantle Whaling Company was issued. Before it began operations the following year, a second company was formed, the Perth Fishing Company, its shareholders being chiefly Perth residents and agriculturists on the Swan. Both companies secured adjacent blocks of land at Arthur’s Head. In addition to this, the Perth company established a depot on Carnac Island, the original Rush Church in Perth being purchased and removed there for the erection of a store and quarters.

Great rivalry existed between the two concerns. W. B. Kimberly tells how one day

Mr Thomas Peel observed two whales in the Sound while proceeding from the Murray River to Fremantle by boat. He reported the circumstance at Arthur’s Head, and a boat was immediately manned and despatched to chase the monsters. The party stationed at Carnac Island caught sight of them at about the same time and joined in the pursuit.

The Carnac boat came up to the prey first and attached a harpoon. The whale dashed through the water with such amazing rapidity that the prow of the boat was dangerously dragged under the water, and the men were forced to cut the line. The Fremantle boat now came within spearing distance. The harpoon was hurled successfully, and the whale was eventually captured. It was drawn to Arthur’s Head, and there relieved of its oil, yielding four tuns. There was some disagreement as to whom this whale belonged. According to the generally recognised laws of whaling the first thrower of the harpoon has the first right to the prey. But the Fremantle boat captured it. The proceeds were divided by the contending parties. 7

A little jetty had been built by prison labour for the Fremantle Whaling Company early in 1837. In June of that year the company approached the government with the request that a tunnel should be cut from the jetty in Bathers’ Bay through the rocky promontory of Arthur’s Head and under the existing gaol to communicate with High Street. In return the company undertook to construct a breakwater to protect ships up to 150 tons for the discharge of cargo. Governor Stirling, together with Messrs J. S. Roe, G. F. Moore and H. W. Reveley, visited Fremantle, and subsequently His Excellency

page 25

presented the company with the freehold land on Arthur’s Head adjoining their jetty. This was part of Sir James’s own property. When the governor intimated that the tunnel could not be undertaken at the public expense, the company began the work in August under the direction of Mr Reveley, the civil engineer. It was completed five months later.

As a result of this new enterprise 71 tuns of oil, valued at £1,420, and 4.5 tons of whalebone worth £360 were exported from Fremantle in 1837.8 This was not as much as had been expected and the years that followed were even less satisfactory.

In 1838 neither company made a profit and the Perth concern wound up its affairs. In 1839 the Fremantle company again worked at a loss and was made over to L. Samson and Son, merchants, to whom it was heavily indebted. Thereafter the industry continued by fits and starts. True, whale oil and whale bone were important items of export in the years that followed, but most of these were probably disposed of by private bartering to American and French whaling vessels that visited these shores. For example, between February 1837 and April 1839 no fewer than sixteen American whalers called at Fremantle. In 1848 the local fleet was operated by Patrick Marmion, but it was not until the fifties and sixties that whaling was conducted from Fremantle with any degree of profit. In those years John Bateman and Joshua J. Harwood directed operations. The Bateman family, earlier mentioned in connection with the Fremantle Post Office, had established in 1857 the commercial house of J. & W. Bateman. Like the pioneer firm of Lionel Samson & Son, it is still in existence.

From the earliest days boat-building had been undertaken at the port, but it was not until May 1836 that a sea-going vessel was launched, the first of its kind to be constructed entirely of local timbers. It was named the Lady Stirling after the governor’s wife, but should not be confused with the paddle-steamer of the same name which ran a regular service between Perth and Fremantle from 1857 until the seventies. It was built by Mr Edwards for Captain Daniel Scott, but shortly afterwards came into the possession of Mr Anthony Curtis, a picturesque figure during the first twenty years of the colony, to which he had come after serving with the British Navy. Before embarking as a trader and ship-builder,

page 26

Meanwhile, Governor Stirling intimated in June 1838 that he would retire within a few months. For nine years he had guided the affairs of the colony, sharing the difficulties of the colonists with courage and perseverance. His administration ended on the last day of December and two days later his successor, Mr John Hutt, arrived at Fremantle. The two men spent some time together before Mr Hutt proceeded to Perth on 3 January. The following night the new governor returned to Fremantle with the members of the Council and a number of private citizens to bid farewell to Sir James and Lady Stirling at a dinner and a ball. On 5 January they assembled on the small Fremantle jetty to watch the departure of the colony’s first governor. They ‘raised their voices in cheers’, and ‘Sir James was visibly affected.’ 11

And well he might be. He had initiated an enterprise and steered it through its first difficult years. None could tell what the future might hold, but whatever prosperity time might bring to it, would be in no small measure due to the kindly administration of Sir James and the loyal support given to him by Lady Stirling.


1 For further information see C. Bryan & F. I. Bray, ‘Peter Nicholas Brown, first Colonial Secretary of Western Australia, 1829-1846’, W.A.H.S.J.P. ii, pt xviii (1935). See for details of the increased civil establishment and regulations Perth Gazette, SO Aug. 1834.

2 Colonial Secretary to Government Resident, 25 March 1839, C.S.O. 1839, B.L.

3 Lord John Russell to Governor Hutt, 19 March 1840, C.S.O. 1840, B.L.

4 Lt H. W. Bunbury, Early Days in Western Australia, ed. Lt-Col W, St. Pierre Bunbury & W. P. Morrell (London: O.U.P., 1930), p. 25.

5 J. Lort Stokes, Discoveries in Australia (London: T. & W. Boone, 1836), i, p. 50.

6 Extracts from the Letters of James Backhouse (London, 1839), pt v, p. 27.

7 W. B. Kimberly, History of West Australia, p. 105.

8 Government Blue Book 1837, B.L.

9 Swan River News (London), Jan. 1846.

10 I Vict. No. 2, An Act to provide for the Management of Roads, Streets and other Internal Communications, within the settlement of Western Australia, 15 June 1838.

11 G. F. Moore, Diary ... of an Early Settler in Western Australia, diary entry 5 Jan. 1838.

Chapter 4:
The second decade

One of Governor Hutt’s first measures was to increase the membership of the nominated Legislative Council by the addition of four nominees: William Brockman, George Leake, Thomas Peel, and William Tanner. But even nominees have minds of their own and when he proposed a land tax to increase the revenue, the Council opposed it so strenuously that the governor tactfully withdrew the suggestion. 1 He did, however, succeed in imposing fines on land-owners who had not improved their properties. This was intended to encourage greater agricultural activity, but that it extended also to holders of town lots is clearly shown in the correspondence of the Government Resident for Fremantle during 1839. In that year fines up to £10 were imposed on some holders of town lots at the port, a number of prominent residents as well as a number of absentee owners being included.

During the whole of Governor Hutt’s term of office the dearth of labour was a serious handicap. It had been agreed that proceeds from the sale of crown lands should be used to bring out migrants, but sales had fallen to such an extent that only £156 was received from this source during the years 1839-44.2 This shortage of labour is shown by the fact that the pastoral industry during 1839-44 increased threefold, whereas the number of acres under wheat remained almost stagnant. The former required less labour than the latter.

The colony's finances, which had always been somewhat hazardous, were assisted by the establishment of two banks. The Bank of Western Australia issued its prospectus in January 1837, and began business in June of that year. From 1838 it paid dividends until on 24 April 1841 it was absorbed by the Bank of Australasia. Two

page 29

months later the Western Australian Bank was formed with a capital of £20,000.

Fremantle had now grown into a substantial little town with a population of between 300 and 400. Mr E. W. Landor, who arrived in the colony in August 1841, wrote that

the houses appeared to be generally two-storeyed, and were built of hard marine limestone. Notwithstanding the sandy character of the soil, the gardens produced vegetables of every variety . . . We dined and slept at Francisco’s Hotel, where we were served with French dishes in first-rate style, and drank good luck to ourselves in excellent claret. 3

The road to Perth he found ‘a truly miserable one, being at least six inches deep in sand the whole way’. Of Perth itself he says:

The streets are broad and those houses which are placed nearest the river possess, perhaps, the most luxuriant gardens in the world . . . Many of the houses are well-built—brick having long since superseded the original structures of wood—and possess all the comforts of English residences . . . The great misfortune of the town is that the upper portion of it is built upon sand, which is many feet deep. The streets, not being yet paved, are all but impassable, but happily each possesses a footpath of clay, and it is to be hoped that the cartways will ere long be similarly improved. 4

Francisco’s Hotel, referred to above, was the Crown and Thistle in High Street. By 1843 there were five other hostelries in the port. They were: the Waterman’s Arms in Mouatt Street (William Heard), the Stirling Arms in Pakenham Street (Robert Thomson), the Stag’s Head in High Street (Anthony Curtis), the Union Hotel in Market Street (John Wicksted) and the Albion in Henry Street (John Duffield).

Fremantle, being built upon limestone country, was not short of material for road-making, even if its roads were at that time of a whiteness which dazzled the eyes. Its main thoroughfare was High Street which ran from the gaol at Arthur’s Head to a point where in August 1843 the first St John’s Church of England was opened. Visiting the port on this occasion, the Rev. J. R. Wollaston notes that Fremantle, which he had not seen for two years, was ‘very much improved in new buildings’. 5 The governor and his court came

page 30

down from Perth for the opening of St John’s, described by Wollaston as ‘a substantial stone building, with a tower and dome surmounted by a cross'. 6 After the ceremony, ‘there was a very handsome cold collation at Mr Brown’s and several little speeches indicating excellent Church feelings were delivered.’ 7 The minister in charge was the Rev. George King, LL.D., who had been appointed in 1841 and remained until 1849.

This new church was built in the middle of King’s Square which was originally surveyed and set apart as a public reserve. The first intimation of a desire to alienate it for church purposes is contained in a letter from the government resident of 11 March 1839. 8 In reply, His Excellency Governor Hutt advised that it was a matter for the Trustees of Church Property to decide. In August of that year the proprietors of allotments facing King’s Square petitioned the governor to sanction the church site in the centre of the square. The signatories were as follows:

Lot 536, W. T. Graham
Lot 538, Wm. L. for E. W. Lamb
Lot 539, R. McB. Brown
Lot 534, Charlotte Duffield
Lot 378, Wm. L. for Cora M. Lamb
Lots 379 and 380, William Nairn Clark
Lot 559, John Duffield
Lots 381 and 385, Anthony Curtis

Apparently the petition was successful for on 9 February 1840 the government resident, Mr R. McBryde Brown, wrote to the Colonial Secretary, Mr Peter Brown, advising him that the site had been appropriated for church purposes following an application to the Trustees of Church Property. 9 When it was subsequently decided to bisect the square and continue High Street in an easterly direction, the church claimed and established ownership over the whole of King's Square, and had to be bought out. When the present St John’s Church was erected in 1879, it occupied the northern half only, while the town bought from the church authorities the southern triangular portion on which the Town Hall and a block of shops were subsequently built.

However, in 1843 High Street had a gaol at one end of it and a church at the other. Wollaston notes that on the opening day the

page 31

flagstaff at Arthur’s Head, directly opposite the church at the other end of the street, was decorated by Lieutenant Helpman of the H.M.S. Champion ‘with every flag he could find’. 10 A British flag flew from the tower of St John’s.

Governor Hutt had also visited Fremantle in 1840 to lay the foundation stone of the old Wesleyan Chapel in Cantonment Street. Indeed, to celebrate the occasion, nine boats left Perth early on the morning of 16 September. The whole party, numbering some 300 people, met at the tunnel at Arthur’s Head and marched in procession led by the governor to the site of the church. After the laying of the stone, the Rev. W. Smithies, who had arrived in the colony the previous June, preached the sermon. The building was opened on 24 May 1842. It served for many years until it was replaced by the present church in 1888. The old building was finally demolished in 1929.

The earliest record of Roman Catholic services in Fremantle is contained in a letter from the government resident on 11 December 1843, applying for the use of the Court House on Sundays ‘until a place could be secured for the Service of the Roman Catholics in this town’. 11 The reply was: ‘Most certainly, if not required for other public purposes.’ Whether this building was so used is not clear, but the application preceded by two years the official establishment of the Roman Catholic Church in the colony, which dates from the arrival of Dr Brady in 1845. In the following year the Isabella brought seven priests, a sub-deacon, a French novice, eight catechists, two laymen, and seven Irish Sisters of Mercy. The first Roman Catholic place of worship in Fremantle was officially opened towards the end of 1846 when a house situated on Lot 67, Henry Street, was purchased. The chapel was served on Sundays by a priest from Perth. There was no resident priest in Fremantle until 1855, when the first Sisters of St Joseph arrived with several missionaries. Soon afterwards the building of presbytery, chapel and convent commenced in Adelaide and Parry Streets, the work being completed in 1859. Since then the convent has been enlarged, schools built, and a handsome gothic church has been erected in Adelaide Street.

But while Fremantle was laying spiritual foundation stones, the colony of which it was the main port was getting deeper and deeper

page 32

into material difficulties. The revenue for 1843-44 showed imports (exclusive of freight) valued at £36,440, and exports of only £13,363. 15s. Of the latter, the main items were wool and whale oil. 12 Obviously, such a state of affairs could not last. When the members of the Legislative Council proposed to increase the ad valorem duties on all exports, His Excellency Governor Hutt declined to use his power of veto although he disagreed personally with the proposal. He went on to say that he was glad he was not himself a settler, nor likely to live among them, because in his opinion, ‘the doom of the colony was sealed.’ 13

In August 1844 the Colonial Secretary, Mr Peter Brown, analysed the cause, effect and cure of the depression which was worse by far than that which the colony had suffered in its first few years. In fact, the difficulties then had been due to under-production and the settlement had been on short commons pending the arrival of ships with stores. But now the reverse was the case. The population had not increased in keeping with the colony’s ability to produce. Prices had fallen as a consequence and Mr Brown declared:

Although we have plenty of real property and stock of every description, we have not a shilling which we, as a colony, can call our own. We have no balance in our treasury; the balance in the commissariat chest is the property of the Queen. As individuals we have loose silver in our pockets—but only as individuals—for as colonists it is the property of the foreign creditor. 14

He then went on to outline the remedy, which was to embark upon an active programme of exporting every commodity the colony could supply. Merchants, he said, should accept for export such items as oil, bone, wool, gum, bark, skins, cheeses, hams, tongues, salted provisions and preserves. It was a sound analysis and turned people’s minds to the fundamental cause of their present predicament.

In spite of the depression, the Western Australian Bank paid a dividend of 15 per cent for the first half of 1844 and 12.5 per cent for the second. But the following year, the dividend dropped to per cent and its rival, the Bank of Australasia, was obliged to close its doors. Many settlers clung to the belief that the high land prices were responsible for their troubles, but nevertheless they

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began to cast around for new commodities which could be produced and exported.

Fremantle was, of course, specifically interested in this challenge. Not only was it the major port of the colony; it was also the centre of operations of a group of merchants whom Mr Peter Brown had challenged to take the initiative and purchase from the settlers commodities which would find an overseas market. A shipment of horses and cattle was sent to Mauritius and brought high prices. Further exports of stock took place in 1845 and a trial consignment of sandalwood was shipped.

One of the Fremantle traders who ventured with an overseas consignment at this stage was Mr Anthony Curtis. His schooner Vixen (40 tons), made the long journey to Ceylon with a cargo of 4 horses, some potatoes, fish, a ton of sandalwood, and a few sheep. The Ceylon Overland Observer of 16 February 1846 comments excitedly on the arrival of 'the first vessel that has ventured hither for the purpose of trade’. The newspaper adds, ‘We would strongly urge the spirited owner of the Vixen to bring, next time, as much as possible (and in great variety) of the hardwood of the colony— it will be sure to meet with a ready sale in Ceylon for machinery of every description.’

As if to point to the future, the first steam vessel arrived at Fremantle in December. This was H.M. sloop Driver and the man on look-out at Arthur’s Head, seeing the black column of smoke, gave the alarm of a ship on fire. The residents of Fremantle rushed excitedly to the beach, where their excitement changed to curiosity and then to admiration. In fact, two years later a prospectus was issued of a company which planned to establish steam communication on the Swan River between Perth and Fremantle. But this was setting the clock forward a little too rapidly and subscribers were not forthcoming in sufficient numbers. 18

When Governor Hutt resigned on 28 January 1846 he no doubt still felt he was leaving a colony whose doom was sealed. He sailed on 19 February on H.M.S. Fly, after riding through the streets of Fremantle lined with cheering crowds. He was not a popular figure, but he was universally respected as one who did not readily abandon principles. His successor, Governor Clarke, arrived on 27 February. He was a sick man on arrival and died within a year.

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During that short period he gave generous support to the endeavour of the colonists to extricate themselves from the unhappy condition into which their affairs had drifted. One of his first administrative acts was to abolish pilotage fees and to make Fremantle for the time being a free port. The pilot met incoming vessels off Rottnest, conducted them to their anchorage free of charge, and while in port they paid no dues.

A month before Governor Clarke’s arrival, the Unicorn had left Fremantle with the largest consignment of Western Australian produce ever to be sent abroad in a single vessel. Wool, oil and timber were the chief items. During the year, sandalwood and jamwood were sent abroad, whaling revived, and a fisheries industry was established at the Abrolhos Islands. To assist trade, ships were under construction at Fremantle, three of them in August 1846, the largest capable of carrying 300 tons of cargo. In the following month the keels of two more were laid down.

During this and the next few years the hopes of the colony were raised by prospects of hitherto unsuspected mineral wealth. Coal was reported near the Murray, copper at Toodyay, and basalt at Bunbury. None of these proved to be capable of commercial exploitation, but while excitement ran high about them the settlers’ determined efforts to diversify and expand their exports were bringing results. In 1847 exports amounted to £24,535 as against imports to the value of £25,463.16 The leeway was being overhauled. Meanwhile they had lost the services of the man who had spurred them on to this effort. The Colonial Secretary, Mr Peter Brown, died at the age of 49 on 5 November 1846. He was one of the original settlers who came out on the Parmelia and had given the best years of his life to steering the little community through its difficulties. The death of Governor Clarke in the following February intensified the sense of calamity which brooded over the colony.

Major F. C. Irwin was appointed Lieutenant-Governor pending the arrival of a successor, while Mr G. F. Moore temporarily assumed the office of Colonial Secretary. Irwin was a man of determination and foresight. Among his immediate plans he announced his intention to erect a stone jetty in South Bay, Fremantle, alongside which large boats might discharge their cargo. The jetty was to be connected with Cliff Street by a macadamized road.

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But the lieutenant-governor was not popular with many settlers who bitterly opposed his proposal to impose a licence upon all sandalwood cut in the colony. In spite of this, the export of sandalwood increased rapidly. In 1848, it was the largest item, £13,353. 10s. worth being sent away from Western Australia. Wool was second to the value of £9,666, and oil third at £3,571. 17

However, the colony was not yet over its difficulties. When Governor Fitzgerald arrived in August 1848, he found roads and public works languishing for want of labour. A private remark passed by the new governor, that men from Pentonville with their wives and families might with advantage be brought out from England, raised the question of the advisability of admitting convicts. The idea was not a new one. The settlers about King George’s Sound had ventured the proposal as early as 1834, when it had not been seriously entertained elsewhere. Ten years later we find it being given an airing at a meeting of the York Agricultural Society. In April 1845, at a public meeting in Perth to consider the advisability of admitting pardoned convicts from Van Diemen’s Land, there was much opposition to the suggestion, but in July an anonymous letter in the Inquirer strongly advocated convicts as the solution of the colony’s problem. The same month Mr F. C. Singleton denounced the suggestion in the Legislative Council. ‘No dearth of labour can be so extreme’, he said, ‘as to warrant our having recourse to such a hazardous expedient for a supply.’ 18

During the years 1845-6 a petition was in circulation, drawn up, so it stated, by ‘the landowners, merchants, and inhabitants of Western Australia’. It pointed out that through ‘mismanagement, inexperience, and ignorance of the seasons, great numbers of the early settlers lost or expended the greater part of their capital’, that they had struggled against a shortage of labour from 1838 to 1842, that Her Majesty’s government had repeatedly refused to lower the price of land, and that unless it did so ‘this colony must become absolutely useless to the British Crown, an encumbrance on the Empire, and ruinous to those individuals who have been led to embark in it the whole of their fortunes.' 19 The petition concluded that there only now remained the ‘hope that Her Majesty’s government will be induced to convert the colony into a penal settlement on an extensive scale’.

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How much this petition actually expressed the wishes of a majority of the settlers at the time it would be difficult to say, but its circulation no doubt caused many who previously scorned the idea to give it serious consideration. Official opinion was against it until Governor Fitzgerald, probably with instructions from the Home government to do so, mentioned the matter quite casually. After inquiring of the resident magistrate in each district how many labourers could be immediately absorbed, the governor wrote to the Secretary of State for the Colonies asking for 100 ticket-of-leave men from Pentonville. On 5 August 1848, Earl Grey had asked various British colonies if they would be prepared to receive ticket-of-leave men. He repeated his request to Western Australia. The eastern colonies and South Africa declined emphatically. Early in 1849 a public meeting in Perth resolved that

Application be made at once to Her Majesty’s Government to erect the colony into a regular Penal Settlement, the whole cost of the transmission and supervision of all such convicts as may be transported hither to be borne by the Home Government. 20

On 1 May 1849 an Order-in-Council was issued proclaiming Western Australia one of the places to which convicts could be sent from the United Kingdom. This was published in the Government Gazette on 6 November. For a while there was consternation; then, as they reviewed the situation, the colonists began to believe that at any rate here was something worth trying. Accordingly, on 1 June 1850, exactly twenty-one years after the foundation of the colony, the Scindian arrived at Fremantle with 75 convicts. The only other convict ship during that year was the Hashemy, which two years earlier had not been allowed to unload its human cargo at Port Jackson. It arrived on 25 October with 100 convicts. For eighteen years Western Australia perpetuated a system which the eastern colonies had repudiated.

Kimberly’s comments are worth noting at this stage:

many years after it was abolished no apparent taint was left on the community. Convictism in Western Australia and convictism in Van Diemen’s Land, Norfolk Island and New South Wales were totally dissimilar. It was a modified slave trade, where the bondmen were calculated to gain in morality, and where their native country was well rid of their presence. 21

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1 J. S. Battye, ed., Cyclopedia of Western Australia (Adelaide: Hussey & Gillingham, 1912) vol. i, p. 120.

2 'Proceedings of the Legislative Council, 19 June 1845', Inquirer, 25 June 1845

3 E. W. Landor, The Bushman: or, Life in a New Country (London: Richard Bentley, 1847), p. 41.

4 Ibid. p. 64.

5 [J. R. Wollaston], Wollaston’s Picton Journal, i, ed. Canon Burton Sc Rev. P. H. Henn (Perth: Pitman & Son, 1948), p. 263.

6 Ibid. p. 265

7 Ibid. p. 267.

8 Govt. Res. to Col. Sec., 11 March 1839, C.S.O. 1839, B.L.

9 Govt. Res. to Col. Sec., 9 Feb. 1840, C.S.O., B.L.

10 [Wollaston], Wollaston’s Picton Journal, p. 267.

11 Govt. Res. to Col. Sec., 11 Dec. 1843, C.S.O., B.L.

12 Government Blue Book 1844, compiled from official returns in the Registrar General’s Office (microfilm), B.L.

13 Quoted from Kimberly, History of West Australia, p. 133.

14 Kimberly, History of West Australia, p. 143.

15 Ibid.

16 Blue Book 1847, B.L.

17 Blue Book 1848, B.L.

18 ‘Proceedings of the Legislative Council, 23 July 1845', Perth Gazette, 26 July 1845; Inquirer, 30 July 1845. Quoted from Battye, Cyclopedia of Western Australia, p. 140.

19 Perth Gazette, 2 Jan. 1847. The memorial was sent by Governor Clark to Lord Stanley in a dispatch dated 2 Jan. 1847. Quoted from Battye, Cyclopedia of Western Australia, p. 140.

20 Perth Gazette, 24 Feb. 1849. See also Battye, Western Australia: a History (London: O.U.P., 1924), p. 203.

21 Kimberly, History of West Australia, p. 154.

Chapter 5:
The Fremantle Town Trust, 1848-71

While the colony was progressing towards the introduction of the convict system and the fundamental changes it involved, steps had been taken to enable towns and districts to control their own domestic affairs. Reference has already been made to the ‘Act to provide for the Management of Roads, Streets and other Internal Communications’ passed in June 1838. 1

A further act was passed on 4 April 1839 which empowered Town Trusts to propose a rate to be levied on the inhabitants for any specific object connected with the improvement of the town. 2

Perth, Guildford, Albany, and Bunbury availed themselves of the powers contained in these acts and formed Town Trusts. Fremantle, however, did not. As early as 28 January 1839 the Government Resident for Fremantle, R. McBryde Brown, wrote to the Colonial Secretary stating that he had ‘twice called a public meeting to elect Trustees for the town but without success, few of the inhabitants having taken out their Fee Simple, the necessary qualification’. 3

The original act (I Victoria No. 2. cl. V) provided for two sets of Trustees. First, there were those responsible for roads, bridges and ferries not within the limits of a township. They were to consist of Justices of the Peace and proprietors of land in fee simple to the extent of 1,000 acres. Second, there were those whose care was the ‘management, control, superintendence and charge of all streets, quays, jetties, wharfs, bridges and ferries in each township’. 4 The Trustees were to be Justices of the Peace who had their fixed residence within the township and all proprietors of allotments held in fee simple therein. It was the latter half of the act which would have made possible the establishment of a Town Trust for Fremantle. That Town Trusts came into existence in only four places suggests

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that the measure was premature, so we find that the acts which replaced these two earlier ones on 23 September 1841 sought to establish the two sorts of Trust on clearer and more specific terms. The first established, what came to be known as the General Trust, whose responsibility was the construction and management of roads and other internal communications in the Colony of Western Australia. The amount of land to be held in fee simple by Trustees was reduced from 1,000 to 320 acres. The second act was framed to ‘Provide for the Improvement of Towns in the Colony of Western Australia’. It gave the Town Trust power to divide streets into districts for the purpose of the act, and established the personnel as a chairman, a committee of five, as well as a treasurer, surveyor, collector, etc. The qualifications were as before and meetings of the Trust were to be held quarterly on the first Mondays in January, April, July and October. 5

Still Fremantle made no move, so that in the years that followed we find matters which would properly have been the business of the Town Trust being handled by the government resident. These included such contentious subjects as the responsibility for the maintenance of the ferry, the alienation of King’s Square to the church, and so on.

It was not until 1848 that a Town Trust came into being in Fremantle, and then in the most unostentatious manner. The first indication of its existence is contained in a letter from Daniel Scott to the Colonial Secretary, dated 6 April 1848. It apologizes to His Excellency the Governor for having omitted in terms of the act of Council to report the office-bearers of the Town Trust of Fremantle ‘elected in January last’. The office-bearers were: D. Scott (Chairman) , A. Francisco (Treasurer), W. Pearse, H. Davis, J. Bateman, H. Yelverton.

On 12 April 1848 the Colonial Secretary replied on behalf of His Excellency, accepting the officers elected, and advising that they would be duly gazetted. This was done in the Government Gazette of 17 April, and on 22 April the Perth Gazette published the information as an item of news. It is a moot point, therefore, whether the Fremantle Town Trust can be said to have begun on 6 April when the chairman belatedly informed the governor of its existence, on 12 April, when the governor officially confirmed the

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election, on 17 April, when the members were officially gazetted, or on 3 January 1848, the first Monday of the month, when presumably the election was held.

For the first few years, the newly created body seems to have been uncertain of its powers. We find frequent letters to the Colonial Secretary, seeking a definition of these. For instance, in October 1849 the chairman, Mr D. Scott, wrote asking that ‘as the right of cutting firewood on Government Lands four miles round the Town of Perth has been given to the Town Trust of Perth . . . [that] the same privilege be given to the town of Fremantle for both the cutting of firewood and the quarrying of stone—except that which may at any time be required for the Public Service.’ 6 This request was agreed to and the area over which the right was granted was defined as four miles from Fremantle on the left bank of the river, and on the right bank up to four miles from the boundary of Perth.

The first rating of property is contained in a letter of 5 February 1850, when the sum of 5s. was fixed for all allotments in the western portion of the town and 2s. 6d. on all allotments in the eastern portion. 7 In 1851 the rate was raised. The sum of 20s. was levied on all allotments west of Point Street, Queen’s Square and Henderson Street, north of Essex Street—and 10s. on all other allotments. Similar rates continued in force for some years. Actually, no minutes of the Town Trust exist earlier than 1856, so that the activities of that body must be gauged from the correspondence between the chairman and the Colonial Secretary. They consist mainly of widening footpaths in High Street, and repairs to High, Henry, Mouatt, Pakenham and Leake Streets. On occasions prison labour was used for these purposes, but there is no evidence that the Town Trust made excessive use of convicts who were primarily employed in carrying out public works.

Indeed, one of their earliest activities was the construction of a new gaol, the space in the Round House at Arthur's Head being totally inadequate for their accommodation. Following the arrival of the Scindian in June 1850, Governor Fitzgerald visited Fremantle and arranged to lease the premises of Captain Daniel Scott, adjoining the site of the modem Esplanade Hotel, at a rental of £250 per annum. The governor promised to spend £1,000 on improvements

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which were to be deducted from the rent. Here all convicts were housed by the end of the month.

There was some divergence of opinion as to where the new gaol was to be erected. The comptroller-general. Captain Henderson, favoured a site on Mt Eliza overlooking the town of Perth. This the governor refused to countenance, and finally the hill overlooking Fremantle was chosen and by an ordinance of the Legislative Council on 4 August 1851, was vested ‘in certain officers in trust for Her Majesty, her Heirs and Successors for ever’. 8

Hard white stone was quarried from the hill and near the bank of the river at North Fremantle. Timber was brought from Woodman Point, where it was rolled into the sea, chained to a flat punt, and towed parallel to the beach by horses. Fremantle now became, according to Kimberly, ‘the theatre of activity ... of depraved serfs, officially known by numbers, forced to work under the directing eye of free men’. 9

As there were not enough mechanics among the prisoners, free men were imported from South Australia. A tram line was laid down from the hill to the valley below it, where soil excavated from the upper levels was deposited. The work was of necessity slow. First to be completed were the Pensioners’ Barracks. In 1853 activities at the prison were speeded up, they became really brisk in 1854 and in the following year, when the structure was only half finished, the convicts took possession of their new quarters. In June 1856 Fremantle was visited by a particularly severe whirlwind which did considerable damage to the new building, in spite of the fact that it had promised to be what Kimberly calls ‘a model of solidity’. Captain Wray, who was in charge of the Royal Engineers, reported that ‘the whole of the northern boundary (150 yards long and 20 feet high and, in some places, 2 feet 6 inches thick) was laid perfectly flat, turning over on its foundation like a hinge.’ The storm also made a gap forty yards long in the western or front boundary and blew down two chimneys. Other minor damage was done to the main buildings.

Other works undertaken in Fremantle in the early years of the convict period were the commissariat buildings in Cliff Street, warders’ quarters in Henderson Street, and comptroller’s residence,

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known as ‘The Knowle’, which stands in the present area occupied by the Fremantle Hospital.

Certain features of the convict system in Western Australia should perhaps be emphasized at this stage. In the first place, it was introduced at the request of the colonists themselves in order to supply much needed labour. The class of convict introduced to the community was very different from those transported to the eastern states earlier in Australia’s history. No female convicts were admitted, and many of the male convicts took advantage of the opportunities provided to become free citizens in a new country. Furthermore, it was stipulated that free settlers were to be introduced in equal proportions to the number of convicts admitted. Finally, there is no question that the Western Australian colonists prior to 1851 were fine types from every point of view, and they remained to leaven the community with their high social and moral principles. [A detailed examination o£ the convict period in Western Australia is to be found in Unwilling Emigrants, by Alexandra Hasluck (Oxford University Press, 1959).]

The resentment of many at the first introduction of convicts was soon overcome. In two respects the new system had interesting and somewhat amusing reactions upon Fremantle. In 1854 the townspeople, inspired to civic dignity by the unwonted building activities at the port, petitioned Lord John Russell that the seat of government should be removed from Perth to Fremantle. In the same year, the residents of Guildford requested that the convict establishment be removed from Fremantle to their town. Both requests were rejected, but that they should have been made indicates that convictism, far from investing the colonists with a sense of shame, was appreciated for the material benefits which it undoubtedly conferred upon a society which, during its first twenty-one years, had tightened its belt on more than one occasion in the face of almost overwhelming difficulties.

It was in this atmosphere that the early Fremantle Town Trust laboured to serve the interests of the port. During the greater part of that time, Daniel Scott remained chairman. For a while in 1851 and again in 1852, the position was held by Mr J. W. Davey, but the beginning of 1853 found Captain Scott back in control. During 1855 Mr T. Carter replaced him, but thereafter Captain Scott

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continued as chairman until 1859, when he was succeeded by Mr C. A. Manning. (For summary of members of Fremantle Town Trust 1848-1871, see Appendix 5.)

As early as 1851 the Fremantle Literary Institute had been established. Its president was the government resident, Mr R. McBryde Brown, and in 1854 it sought permission to exchange Lot 564 in Adelaide Street for Lot 433 in Market Street, the latter being considered much better situated and more suited to the purposes of the society which proposed to commence building as soon as the exchange could be conveniently made. Market Street was beginning to assume greater importance in the town, and in the following year the governor granted permission to extend it to the new jetty which was being erected at Ferry Point, on the inside of the river mouth.

Most organized bodies found themselves in conflict with the policy of Governor Kennedy who had come to the colony in July 1855. The Fremantle Town Trust was no exception. The first brush occurred over its decision to order the pensioners at North Fremantle to pay 5s. for all cattle depastured on crown lands. 10 Kennedy, with rather more tact than he usually employed, suggested that it was ‘impolitic to tax those old Public Servants’ and hoped the Town Trust would make ‘an exception without strictly enforcing the law’. This was agreed to in March 1856, with a promise (or a threat, it is not clear which) that the matter would be further considered at the next annual meeting. It does not appear to have been discussed again, so that the Town Trust apparently waived what appeared to be its legal right.

It took a firmer stand, however, when in October 1856 Captain Daniel Scott was dismissed by His Excellency the Governor from the Commission of the Peace. It demanded and obtained full details of correspondence relative to this dismissal and when the chairman resigned office, the Town Trust took a vote by ballot and unanimously decided not to accept the resignation. Whether he was subsequently reinstated as a Justice of the Peace is not clear.

An ambitious project was set on foot in September 1858 when Mr C. A. Manning, following advice received from Henry Manning of London, offered to supply the Town Trust with 18-20,000 tooled Yorkshire flagstones for paving-blocks. The offer was accepted and it was decided that High Street should be paved first along the

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northern side from Cliff Street to the church, then along the southern side. A request that the flagstones be allowed to enter the colony free of Customs Duty was agreed to by the governor and the Executive Council. At the annual meeting in January 1859 the tender of Messrs J. & W. Bateman for landing the first 4,000 stones was accepted. By February they were ready for laying and the use of convict labour was sought. However, as no skilled labour was available among the convict population, His Excellency offered the services of three sappers of the Royal Engineers.

This offer was gratefully accepted and the work was set in hand. Subsequently, the Town Trust decided that, instead of paving both sides of High Street, they would pave only the northern side and then pave one side of Henry, Cliff and William Streets in that order, before two sides of any street were contemplated. It was found during this work that some walls projected over the street boundary and had to be removed.

In June 1859 the sappers of the Royal Engineers were withdrawn as their services were needed elsewhere and tenders were called for the work to be finished by private contract. To offset the expense, the Town Trust was granted the right to collect dog-licences, poundage fees and fines. The successful tenderer was Mr Robert Ferris, who apparently completed the work, although not always to the satisfaction of the Trust. Indeed, within a month of starting, he was warned to be more careful in jointing the stones, and ordered to take up some of his work or his contract would be cancelled. Incidentally, this Robert Ferris (the name is variably spelt Ferres) and his brother John were very early settlers. They claimed to have been the first ones to have burned lime successfully from the stone about Fremantle. Their lime-kiln was built in February 1830.

At the end of 1859, 17,400 feet superficial had been used in paving the northern side of High Street, the western side of Henry Street, and the eastern side of Cliff Street. The balance sheet for that year shows a credit of £42.5s. 5d., and of an expenditure of £684. 2s. The cost of paving footpaths was easily the major item—£352. 0s. 5 1/2d.

No doubt, Fremantle had cause to be proud of its enterprise in this direction. As the 1859 report points out, ‘If a seaport town be considered as the shop door and shop front of the district which it is the sea outlet to, the more it be improved and rendered commodious

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and attractive, the more such a district must be benefited thereby.’ That the flagstones were durable is also indicated by the fact that some are still in use in front of the Customs House in Cliff Street. A small area has been paved with them in the new Historical Museum in Finnerty Street.

The Town Trust planned further improvements to its streets, including the levelling and metalling of Bannister Street, filling up the hollow in Suffolk Street, levelling and metalling the river end of Henry Street. Stone was to be carted for the continuation of High Street along the south-east side of King’s Square, Henderson Street, Essex Street and South Terrace. In much of this work convict labour was to be used. Other works listed for early attention were walling in the reserve at the east end of Essex Street, levelling and metalling South Beach from the Customs House to the sea jetty, building a drain under the sea-wall opposite Mouatt Street and filling in the spacious hollow from the river end of Cliff and Henry Streets.

This ‘spacious hollow’ was no doubt the swamp which originally occupied a considerable area of the townsite just behind Arthur’s Head. [See Fremantle in 1832, Plate 2a.] As early as 1839 Mr Anthony Curtis offered to buy Lots 85-86 in Henry Street and Lots 109-110 in Pakenham Street ‘at present lying waste, useless and under water’. He sought them at a reduced price, in return for filling up the swamp and enclosing the blocks with a stone wall.

In later years, this area was a constant embarrassment as a source of drifting sand. In 1861 a Board was appointed by the Town Trust to ascertain how best this sand-drift from vacant allotments could be overcome. It recommended that the government should enclose all vacant crown lands in the area between Pakenham Street and South Terrace and thence across William Street and King’s Square with a stone wall 5 feet high. The stone was to be quarried and the wall built by convict labour. The Town Trust was to level sandhills and fill swamps, planting bush fences round vacant allotments which were to be sowed with couch grass.

The work of filling in the swamp continued throughout 1863, sand being used with seaweed spread over the top of it to prevent erosion. From time to time complaints were made about the stench

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of decaying seaweed which was claimed to be ‘at times almost insufferable’.

Throughout these years the rates remained static at £1 per allotment. In 1865 following the throwing open for sale of 177 new town allotments in the southern portion of Fremantle, the rate dropped to 10j. for two years, but it became £1 again in 1867. Hampton Road had in the meantime been levelled and metalled and this provided a new district from which quarried stone was available. This led to plans for forming and metalling Suffolk and Norfolk Streets and the building of a road round the new cemetery in Skinner Street, which had been dedicated in 1852 and continued in use until 1899. There was also the old Church of England cemetery, Lot 392, Alma Street, which had been consecrated in 1831.

Since January 1859 the Chairman of the Town Trust had been Mr C. A. Manning. He died on 1 February 1869 with a record of nine years of office. He had not sought re-election at the Annual Meeting in 1868, when Mr E. Newman was elected. In 1870 Mr W. S. Pearse took office and continued until the Town Trust was replaced by the Municipal Council in 1871.

In Mr Manning’s last year of office a new system of rating was inaugurated. First it was suggested that all property ‘for the current year should be rated according to its rental value, but no allotment to be rated lower than 5s. per annum’.11 Considerable discussion took place over this new move, and the meeting adjourned for a fortnight when the following detailed rating scheme was drawn up:

£2 on each allotment in High Street (from the steps leading up to the Court House to King’s Square), Cliff Street, Mouatt Street, Henry Street, Pakenham Street (including Lots 135, 136, 120, 408, 425, 440 and 441), Market Street (including Lots 143, 144, 127, 401, 229, 432 and 456), William Street (including Lots 541, 539 and 374), Essex Street (including Lots 152 and 153), and Lot 221, Freemasons’ Hotel. 12

£1 on each allotment in Short Street, Leake Street, Bannister Street, Nairn Street, Cantonment Street, Point Street, Adelaide Street (including Lots 311, 346, 399, 358, 359 and 298), South Terrace (from Market Street to Howard Street), Norfolk Street (including Lots 155 and 156) Suffolk Street (including Lots 158 and 159), Henderson Street, Collie Street and Hampton Street.

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5s. on every other allotment in the town purchased up to 30 December 1867.

About the same time, the Town Trust exercised its power to sell blocks on which there were arrears in rates. This caused some heartburnings and a number of defaulting owners challenged the decision and were in some cases successful.

In the year that Mr Newman was chairman, 1869, the rating scheme was placed on the basis of rental values. The actual wording of the motion was that ‘An assessment be levied for the current year of 5 per cent on the real or estimated rental, the maximum to be fixed at £----------, and the minimum at £5 for all allotments.’ 13 Be-

fore agreeing to this. His Excellency very rightly sought to be enlightened as to what the maximum might be. A subsequent meeting fixed it at £350. This continued in force until the end of the Town Trust in 1871.


1 I Vict. No. 2, cl. V, An Act to provide for the Management of Roads, Streets and other Internal Communications.

2 2 Vict. No. 5, An Act to enable the Inhabitants of any Township to assess themselves for the improvement of the town.

3 Govt. Res. to Col. Sec., 28 Jan. 1839, C.S.O., B.L.

4 I Vict. No. 2, cl. V.

5 3 & 5 Vict. Nos 16 & 18.

6 Daniel Scott to Col. Sec., 8 Oct. 1849, C.S.O., B.L.

7 Idem, 5 Feb. 1850, C.S.O., B.L.

8 14 Vict. No. 22, Ordinance to rest the site of the convict prison at Fremantle in certain Officers in Trust for Her Majesty, her heirs and successors for ever. In The Statutes of Western Australia, i, p. 2.

9 Kimberly, History of West Australia, p. 158.

10 Chairman of Fremantle Town Trust to Col. Sec., 12 Dec. 1855, C.S.O., Town Trusts 1855, B.L.

11 M.F.T.T. 8 Apr. 1868, F.T.H.

12 Ibid. 27 Apr. 1868. is Ibid. 22 Feb. 1869.

Chapter 6:
Fremantle under the Town Trust

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The earliest picture we have of Fremantle during this period is contained in the diary of a soldier, John Gorman, who arrived on the Minden in October 1851. He found the main street ‘intersected with small streets running from the beach to the banks of the Swan River . . . There are several stores, public houses and butchers’ shops . . . but the whole is complete sand interspersed with hard flinty stones. ’1 That was before the Town Trust had properly begun its road-building programme, but even while Fremantle was in that condition John Gorman anticipated the future with some accuracy and realized at least one of the major obstacles to its progress. He wrote:

I have not the least doubt that in a few years it may be a very flourishing place; that is, if they can possibly improve the anchorage of Gage Roads, which I believe is almost impossible, it being so exposed to the ocean and westerly winds and in winter not at all safe in consequence of the north-west gales. 2

He gives an interesting list of the prices of some commodities: Bread 1s. 2d. a loaf, sugar 4d. lb, tea 2s. 6d. lb, butter 2s. 4d. and 2s. 6d. lb, dripping 7d. lb, eggs 2d. each, tobacco 4s. lb, rum 4d. glass, wine (Cape) 1s. 3d. bottle, cup and saucer 8d., a dinner plate 8d., candles 4d. each, rent of a room 5s. a week, small tub for washing 4s. 6d., men’s boots 12s. and 14s. a pair, shoes to fit Mary Gorman 3s. 6d. a pair, grid-iron 6d., and a four-quart iron tea kettle 12s. 8

Lest the reader in modern times should look wistfully at some of these prices, it may be as well to quote the wages of the day, which Gorman considered were good: ‘a labourer [is] getting 4s. a day and a carpenter 8s. Even a man breaking stones gets 2s. 6d.' 4

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This was the town which was gradually awakening after the doldrums of the forties. With labour more plentiful than previously, the Town Trust as we have seen set about constructing roads. Horses and drays were busy drawing loads of white stone quarried by convicts, while labourers, both free-men and convicts, strove to remove the early impression of ‘complete sand interspersed with hard flinty stones’. 5

Mrs Edward Millett, who visited Fremantle in 1863, wrote:

it is but a small unpretending little town, and one which makes but a slight impression upon a newcomer. In the main street and in the three or four short thoroughfares that connect the sea jetty with the river pier and wharf there are a few handsome and substantial houses belonging to either the Government or to some of the principal inhabitants. In these streets, too, are situated the larger and more important shops, or rather “stores”, of the chief traders of the town. The colonial church is well placed at the point where the main street branches off into two roads at a considerable angle to one another.

On the point of ground between those two diverging streets and facing the very centre of the main street as it leads from the shore stands the church surrounded by a large churchyard. Although the situation of the building is good it cannot lay claim to much beauty either externally or within; it is of fair size and sufficiently commodious in its arrangement, but that is all that can be said of it. The Roman Catholics possess a much prettier and more ecclesiastical-looking building and their convent and clergy-house are neat and tidy looking buildings. 6

Mrs Millett was impressed by the ‘huge convict prison’, or ‘the Establishment’, as it was called ‘by way of flattering the imagination both of those within and without its walls'. 7 From the hill on which this building stood she noticed how the Swan River ‘breaking upon the river bar, throws up a number of rapid eddies, which catch the blazing southern sun and sparkle like diamonds in its light’. 8 ‘The town’, she continues,

bears somewhat of that untidy, unfinished look inseparable from half-completed streets and unpaved footpaths. There are no continuous rows of shops, but all the minor stores and open fruit and fish stalls are scattered about in all directions and do not make nearly as good a show as if collected into a regular and compact street. This gives the town a bare and deserted appearance as if no business were transacted,

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which is not really the case, although the trade is certainly not a lively one. 9

Among the ‘few handsome and substantial houses’ which Mrs Millett noted was no doubt the strange building erected in 1858 by a contractor named Sharp for Mr C. A. Manning at the comer of Pakenham and Short Streets. It had a flat roof and glass facades which gave it the appearance of an enormous hot-house, and earned for it the soubriquet of ‘Manning’s Folly’. An immense amount of money was expended on its erection and in it Mr Manning, who was for nine years chairman of the Town Trust, lived until his death in 1869. 10

Another building Mrs Millett, with her keen interest in churches, could scarcely have failed to notice, although she does not mention it, was the first Congregational church, the building of which began in 1852 and was completed in 1854. It was enlarged in 1857 and the clergyman in charge was the Rev. Joseph Johnston, who earned the respect and affection of Fremantle people among whom he laboured for forty years. In 1855 the Fremantle Boys’ School was opened. Built to the design of the then Colonial Secretary, William Ayshford Sanford, it was regarded at the time of its erection as one of the most handsome pieces of architecture in the colony.

Among the later buildings was the Oddfellows’ Hall, opened in July 1867. Originally the Town Trust had met in the Court House, but when in May 1866 the government resident, Mr Charles Simmonds, requested them to find other accommodation, they met for three years in Mr Henderson’s room at the back of the Customs House. In 1869 they removed to the Oddfellows’ Hall which continued as the meeting-place, not only of the Town Trust, but of the Council which succeeded it, until the year 1876.

The New Swan Lodge Manchester Union Independent Order of Oddfellows had been formed in 1851 and was a popular institution in Fremantle. Its annual procession on 18 August, followed by a banquet, was regarded as an event of some importance in the town. Its hall was used for entertainments, both professional and amateur. Spelling bees, literary readings and the propounding of conundrums amused the audiences, when other diversions failed. 11 Another form of entertainment in those days was the band of the Fremantle

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Volunteer Defence Force. Residents gathered on the Barracks Green (where the Oval now stands) to watch moonlit manoeuvres and listen to the music of the band. Founded by Mr C. A. Manning in 1861, the corps was re-organized in the seventies under the command of Captain R. M. Sutherland. The volunteers had to provide their own uniforms and accoutrements, and after twelve-years service they were entitled to the grant of a town allotment, 50 acres of land in the country, or £12. 10s. in cash.

This was a popular body with young men of the town, as also was the Water Police which had been founded in 1851. This organization mainly attracted young seamen, and applicants for positions were selected with great care. It continued as a separate body from the land police, with which it was not amalgamated until the opening of the new harbour.

Harbour facilities in those days were most inadequate to the needs of the colony. Goods had to be unloaded at the comparatively short jetty in South Bay, transported by road to the River jetty at the end of Cliff Street, and then sent up the river to Perth. Not only did this involve great handling costs, it also left visiting ships completely at the mercy of the winter gales. We have seen how John Gorman noted this in 1851. Nine years earlier the pilot, Richard Maxworthy, had recommended the deepening of the passage across the bar at the river mouth. This many Fremantle residents opposed, fearing that it would result in direct sea-going communication with Perth and thus cause Fremantle to lose its importance as a port.

The first serious approach to the improvement of harbour facilities was the creation of a Board in 1865 under the chairmanship of the Surveyor-General, Mr J. S. Roe. Meeting originally to consider the state of the bar, this body extended its enquiry to the condition of the South Jetty. They recommended an extension of the latter to a total length of 456 feet in its existing direction. This would provide 3 feet more depth of water and accommodation for four or five additional vessels, according to their size and draught. It further recommended the construction of a passage for boats at the north end of the bar under Rous Head, with a deep-water channel to North Fremantle.

Both works were shortly taken in hand. The jetty was extended, but the cutting of a deep-water passage through the river-mouth

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proved an impossible task. The Fremantle Herald of 24 October 1868 notes that

at this moment the navigation of the river is all but closed in consequence of the attempt to make a channel on the north side of the bar, which would, if it succeeded, shut out Fremantle altogether and make communication between Perth and the Roadstead direct.

As it is, the paper concludes with evident satisfaction, ‘the attempt is a complete failure'.

Ever since its foundation early in 1867, the Herald, which was published in Fremantle each week by James Pearce and William Beresford, had advocated improvements in harbour facilities. As if to emphasize the need, the winter of 1867 proved exceptionally tempestuous. Shipwrecks were common along the coast. The year started badly with the loss of the Lass of Geraldton on 23 February when but a few hours south of Fremantle en route for Bunbury. Seven lives were lost, including that of its owner, Mr G. Shenton, who had played a prominent part in colonial affairs since the earliest years. 12 It is interesting to note that Mr W. K. Shenton, his cousin, had also been drowned on his way from Fremantle to Bunbury when the Devonshire foundered in 1842.

Other shipwrecks occurred along the north-west coast, but what most forcibly underlined the shortcomings of the Fremantle anchorage was a tragic occurrence on the evening of 23 June.

Just before sundown on that day the inhabitants of Fremantle were startled by the booming of the minute-gun of the Strathmore. A crowd quickly gathered on the beach, where it was learned that a little after 4 o'clock the Harbour Master, Captain James Harding, in response to distress signals from the Strathmore, had set out in a Water Police whaleboat with five men—McLean, Dandie, Akers, Price and Paterson. In the heavy seas that were running nothing could be seen of this vessel or its crew and the continued ominous booming of the minute-gun prompted John Tapper to set out in his whaleboat with Messrs Butcher, O’Grady, Hunt, Casey and Jonson. In a short time they returned with the news that Captain Harding had safely reached the Strathmore, had gone aboard, and had just returned to the whaleboat when ‘a tremendous sea broke under the bows of the vessel, swept along its side and swamped the

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whaleboat.’ 13 All lives were lost, except that of Paterson. For his attempted rescue in conditions which imperilled his own life, John Tapper was presented with ‘a handsome and valuable watch’ by grateful and admiring citizens. The Herald reports that ‘Mr Tapper received it in silence far more impressive than any words.’ 14 The chairman of the meeting also presented him with a purse containing £15 for division among the crew of his boat.

Naturally, the Herald lost no time in pointing the moral. It wrote:

We predicted last week, that, for want of proper means to render assistance to vessels in harbour, we should have some day to witness the destruction of both life and property. Never was prediction fulfilled so fatally and speedily.

The Herald continued to press for something to be done, and on 12 September 1868 published the design of Mr Wallace Bickley for what he called a ‘Harbour Dock’. This was an external harbour protected by a breakwater 2,400 feet long, running from Rous Head. The main jetty was to be an extension of the existing one, and provision was made for the construction of other jetties within the area protected. Opposition to this scheme favoured the removal of the bar and deepening the channel so as to admit ships of 500 tons burden going to Perth. This the Herald stigmatized as being ‘about as practicable a project as a railway to the moon’.

Bickley, the designer of the external ‘Harbour Dock*, subsequently wrote:

It matters little whose plan is adopted, whether mine or any other person’s, so long as the plan is effective and economical—only for goodness’ sake let us have no more futile tinkerings at the bar, or any waste of money upon any similar childish mischievousnesses.

And there the matter rested for many years.

This Herald, which quickly became a voice in the community, compared in many respects more than favourably with the other weekly papers published in Perth, the Perth Gazette and the Inquirer. In 1868 a second Fremantle paper came into being. This was the Era which claimed to be ‘the first newspaper that has ever been placed before the reading public of this Colony at the low price of one penny'. It was owned and published by George Barrow,

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who during the daytime was an accountant for the firm of L. Samson & Son. It was printed by the lithographic process and was written first by hand in a flowing free-hand script. It went out of existence in the following year.

Meanwhile, although continuous water transport between the outer harbour and the capital remained a problem, land communications had at last been established. From the earliest years there had been ferries at various points along the river, but in the early sixties the building of the first bridge was commenced opposite Cantonment Hill. Convicts were employed throughout its construction, some in chains and some, because of the difficulty of the work, permitted to labour without chains. When finished, the bridge, including the raised approaches on the northern and southern sides, was 2,078 feet long. It sloped up to a central portion, raised 42 feet above the water level to enable the passage of lighters equipped with sails, and its roadway was 18 feet wide. Originally estimated to cost £2,752, the expenses in 1867 were shown at £2,986. 2s. 5d., and no doubt the final figure was well over £3,000. The press of the day reports on 2 October 1867 that the work had been completed recently and was a credit to the Clerk of Works, Mr James Manning, who supervised its construction. The Inquirer describes it as an achievement

which the colony is proud of, not only on account of the nature and extent of the construction, and the peculiar qualities of the material used in it, but also on account of the notable instance it furnishes of what convict labour is capable of doing, when earnestly and judiciously directed. 15

If the colony was proud of this achievement, it certainly did not display its pride in any ostentatious manner. Actually, when the above was written, the bridge had been in use for the better part of a year. The Inquirer records that His Excellency the Governor had driven across it in his carriage on his way to Fremantle as early as Wednesday, 14 November 1866, when the bridge was expected to be ‘declared open in a few days, probably before the Governor’s return from Champion Bay’. No ceremony appears to have been attached to the actual opening, which took place one week later. The only reference in the press is that of the Perth Gazette, which says:

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‘The Fremantle Bridge was thrown open at noon on Wednesday for general traffic, and the ferry boat has been removed.' That was Wednesday, 21 November 1866. However, on the following night a quaint unofficial ceremony took place. It is best described in the words of the Fremantle correspondent of the Inquirer, 28 November 1866:

On Thursday evening last, [that is, the night after the bridge was “thrown open” for general traffic] our Volunteer corps assembled on its parade ground at 8 p.m. for a moonlight march. The strains of the Band, as they marched through the town, soon attracted a numerous concourse of our inhabitants, who accompanied them on their march to the North Fremantle Bridge, and having crossed it, they, on their return, halted in the centre, when Captain Manning gave a short address, the purport of which I believe was that the bridge was a great boon to the colony, and that its want had been felt for many years; at the same time he expressed regret that it being the most important work yet accomplished by convict labour, and one in which so much interest had been taken by the inhabitants of Perth and Fremantle, no public rejoicings had announced its being opened. The corps then gave three cheers for His Excellency, and marched off in a cloud of dust, raised by the juveniles who preceded them. 16

It is certainly strange that such a structure should have been allowed to be opened in such a casual manner. Perhaps the absence of the governor at Champion Bay was the reason for the lack of any formal ceremony. That it was an important road link between port and capital there can be no doubt. A touch of romance has been added to its ‘opening' by the claim of Moondyne Joe to have been the first man to have crossed it, making use of it on the occasion of one of his famous gaol-breaking escapades. 17 The truth of this claim is probably known only to Moondyne Joe.

In its time Fremantle has entertained many people both famous and notorious. In the latter category may be mentioned the colourful freebooter Bully Hayes, whose visit in 1857 occasioned nearly as many heart-burnings as that of the equally colourful Louis de Rougemont in 1874. But quite the most celebrated visitor during this period was His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, who arrived in the H.M.S. Galatea on 4 February 1869. It was a gala day for Fremantle, even though the minds of many of its citizens were

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saddened by the fact that the death had occurred of Mr C. A. Manning. In order that members of the Volunteer Force, which he had founded, could pay their respects at the graveside as well as form a guard of honour to the royal visitor, the funeral took place at dawn. However, Fremantle decked itself in honour of the Duke and the day saw a constant stream of people making pleasure trips in all sorts of craft to the Galatea lying at anchor in the harbour.

In June 1869 the first telegraph line between Perth and Fremantle was opened. Built by private enterprise, its first operator was W. Holman and its first messenger W. T. John. The Fremantle office was in charge of Horace Stirling, one of the builders of the line, which two years later was taken over by the government.


1 John Gorman’s Logbook, 1851 (entry 25 Oct.), B.L.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Edward Millett (Mrs), An Australian Parsonage (London: Ed. Stanford, 1872), p. 15.

7 Ibid. p. 11.

8 Ibid. p. 17.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid. p. 15.

11 For further information on social life see E. D. Cowan, ‘Early Social Life & Fashion’, WAHSJP, i, pt iii (1928), pp. 1-17.

12 Fremantle Herald, 30 March 1867.

13 Ibid. 29 June 1867.

14 Ibid. 6 July 1867.

15 Inquirer, 2 Oct. 1867.

16 Ibid. 28 Nov. 1866.

17 For further information concerning Joseph Johns alias Moondyne Joe see C. Treadgold, ‘Bushrangers in Western Australia: incidents of 1867', Early Days: being Journal and Proceedings of the W.A.H.S., Series I (1939), ii, p. 49.

Chapter 7:
The Town Council, 1871-1883

No doubt, the transportation of convicts to the colony brought much needed labour for public works, but there was a growing body of opinion against the perpetuation of a system which the eastern colonies had long since abandoned. The first official indication that it was about to end was conveyed to the House of Commons in 1865. The Report of the Superintendent of the Establishment in Fremantle for the same year stated: ‘Sooner or later the industrial employment of prisoners will be abandoned in all civilised countries'. 1 The colonists accepted its end as inevitable. Some welcomed it; others, fearing it would mean disaster to the colony, urged that compensation should be granted them for the loss of this supply of cheap labour. 2 This request was never seriously entertained by the Home authorities, nor, indeed, by the majority of the colonists themselves.

The last convict ship was the Hougemont [Hougoumont] which arrived on 10 January 1868, bringing thirty-eight Fenians. In all, from 1850 to 1868, there were 9,721 convicts brought into Western Australia. During the same years, computing two children as one adult, there were 6,122 free settlers, which is somewhat below the equal proportions promised at the outset. When the system ceased there were still 3,158 men serving their sentences. These remained, in ever reducing numbers, under the control of the Convict Establishment which the imperial government maintained until late in the eighties.

But, while materially the colony benefited and spiritually it appeared to suffer little harm, its political progress had been seriously retarded. In 1850—the year in which Western Australia began to admit convicts—an imperial act had been passed, 3 providing that, on the petition of one-third of the householders, an ordinance would

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be passed establishing a new and more democratic Legislative Council. One-third of its members would still be nominated, but the remaining two-thirds would be elected. So long as Western Australia continued to receive convicts this was regarded as impracticable.

However, when it was known that the system was to end in three years, a public meeting was held in Perth on 21 February 1865 and a committee was formed to draft a petition. A total of 1,303 signatures were obtained, and although these were subsequently reduced to 898 bona-fide names, the number was still sufficient within the terms of the act. In spite of this, the Legislative Council persuaded the Secretary of State for the Colonies to agree to a compromise. For the time being, only one half of the members were to be elected; the other half were to remain nominees of the governor. The term of office for all members was to be reduced to three years, and the colony was divided into six sections for the purpose of representation: Perth, Fremantle, Guildford, Murray, Eastern Districts, and Champion Bay.

The first Legislative Council election was held in 1868, when Mr Walter Bateman became Fremantle’s representative. Three years later a more democratic Legislative Council was established, consisting of 12 elected members, 3 official nominees and 3 unofficial nominees. Fremantle representatives of this body for its first session were Messrs E. Newman and W. D. Moore.

An early ordinance of the new Council was an Act for Establishing Municipalities, which was passed on 2 January 1871. 4 Thus it came about that after the Fremantle Town Trust, in accordance with the practice of many years, met on the first Monday of January 1871 for its annual election of officers, it was informed on submitting the names of the newly elected members that the act under which it existed had been repealed. A copy of the new act would be forwarded as soon as it was printed, so that the necessary elections could be made under its new provisions.

The last meeting of the Town Trust was on 20 February 1871. Seven days later a public meeting was held in the Oddfellows’ Hall for the purpose of ‘electing a Chairman and Council for the Town under the provisions of 6 Victoria, Ordinance 34’. 5 The resident magistrate, Mr J. G. Slade, was in the chair and the following were present: Messrs E. Newman, W. D. Moore, W. S. Pearse, Jackson,

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E. Solomon, W. E. Marmion, E. H. Higham, W. Jose, H. M. Lefroy, J. Doonan, J. Herbert, J. Chester, J. J. Harwood, Armstrong, Henderson, Leach, H. Albert, Thompson, Ware, W. Duffield, D. B. Francisco, W. Hayes, Curedale and others.

Mr E. Newman proposed Mr W. S. Pearse as Chairman of the Council. This was seconded by Mr Marmion and carried unanimously.

A ballot then took place for councillors to represent the three wards, and the following were elected:

West Ward: Messrs G. Pearse, G. A. Davies, H. Dixon;

North Ward: Messrs W. E. Marmion, J. Chester, D. B. Francisco;

South Ward: Messrs W. Jose, W. Hayes, L. A. Manning.

Messrs H. M. Lefroy and J. Doonan were elected as Auditors, and Mr W. D. Moore as Treasurer.

The first meeting of the Town Council was held in Mr John Thomas’s Hotel on 10 March 1871, when Mr George Thompson was appointed Clerk and Collector on a commission of £6 per cent of all moneys collected, excepting fines. The chairman was requested to procure a common seal for the Council, to be engraved with a ‘Swan’ and ‘Fremantle Municipality’ round it. Thus a new chapter was opened in Fremantle municipal history. (For a complete list of those who served on the Town Council, 1871-1883, see Appendix 6.)

The Town Trust had consisted of a chairman and five committeemen; the new act created a Council consisting of a chairman and nine councillors, three of whom were from the West Ward, three from the North, and three from the South. Continuity of policy was ensured by the election as first Chairman of the Town Council of Mr W. S. Pearse, who had been Chairman of the Town Trust for the whole of the preceding year. Of the five committeemen, three were re-elected as councillors. They were Messrs G. A. Davies, J. Chester and W. Jose. The first-named, G. A. Davies, had a long record of service, being a councillor from the inception of the Town Council until Fremantle became a Municipality in 1883, and for several years thereafter.

For the first six years of its existence the chairman and the nine councillors of the Town Council were elected annually. In 1876, however, the act was amended to provide that councillors should

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retire in rotation and then be elected singly for a period of three years. The election of the chairman continued to be for one year only.

Throughout the whole of the twelve years the Council pursued a vigorous works policy. Each annual report shows additional streets cleared, levelled or metalled. A project which occupied its attention more continuously than any other single work was the construction of a stockade along Fitzgerald Terrace, as Marine Terrace was then called. This was an affair of piles and stonework designed to prevent the encroachment of the sea upon private property. It was a running sore upon municipal finances. In 1875 Councillor Snook moved that a sum of £600 be borrowed to complete the stockade, but it was decided to let the matter stand over temporarily. This is the first occasion on which a loan was suggested at a meeting of the Fremantle Town Council.

By 1878 the progress on the stockade had been so slow and the storms during the winter of that year so disastrous to near-by property, that government assistance was sought to complete the work from Russell Street to Grey Street, a distance of 400 feet. When this was not forthcoming, £500 worth of Municipal Debentures were issued at 7 per cent, redeemable in eight years. These were subscribed at par by the Marine Insurance Company, which had, in the previous year subscribed to a debenture issue of £500 at a premium of 1.5 per cent.

Both of these loans were raised at a time when the finances of the Council were far from buoyant. The balance sheet at the end of 1877 revealed an overdraft at the National Bank of £297. By February 1878 it was £393. 5s. In successive years, the overdraft was reduced and the addition of a special rate of one penny in the pound (raised later to one penny half-penny) to the standard rate of 5 per cent on all property over this period, provided for the repayment of both debenture issues. That the financial position was restored to a state of health was due in no small measure to the vigorous policy of Mr E. H. Higham who was chairman during the years 1878-80, and again in 1882.

It was Mr Higham who, as a councillor on 7 June 1876, made the first suggestion for the erection of a Town Hall. He moved that the Colonial Secretary be approached to set apart a Government

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Reserve in South Terrace for this purpose, and a deputation consisting of Messrs E. H. Higham, H. M. Lefroy, G. Pearse and B. C. Wood waited upon His Excellency on 19 June to learn his views in the matter. 6 In between these two dates, advice had been received from the Commissioner of Crown Lands that the Reserve situated between Essex Street, South Terrace, Cliff Street and a right-of-way had been approved by Governor Robinson to be appropriated for the purpose of a Town Hall and municipal offices.

His Excellency the Governor approved also of the four recommendations of the deputation, viz.:

1. that prison labour be granted for use in the construction of the Town Hall;

2. that plans and specifications be prepared by the government free of charge to the Fremantle Town Council;

3. that stone be allowed from the government quarry at North Fremantle;

4. that the Legislature be asked to grant a liberal sum towards the erection of a Town Hall. 7

The Government Engineer, Mr Thomas, visited Fremantle towards the end of June, inspected the site, and prepared a rough draft of the building which was to have an upper and lower floor. There were to be two main entrances, one in South Terrace, the other in Essex Street, and the building was to be dominated by a handsome clock-tower. On the upper floor, there were to be a main room 80 feet by 40 feet, a supper room and cloak rooms; the lower floor was to consist mainly of offices.

A public meeting of ratepayers was held on 11 July 1876 to consider the question. It was decided to request the Town Council to raise a loan of £3,000 as a contribution on the part of the ratepayers, provided that at the forthcoming session of the Legislative Council the sum raised by the town would be supplemented by a similar grant from the government. The only dissentient voice at this meeting was that of Mr W. E. Marmion, who advocated a more central site and moved unsuccessfully that the Town Council be instructed to purchase the allotment in High Street opposite Mrs Lloyd’s store.

No more is heard of this plan, partly because in the years that followed the Council’s finances were far from buoyant, and also because a new development in the town directed their thoughts

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away from the South Terrace Reserve to the site at present occupied by the Town Hall in High Street. The Church of England authorities were contemplating a new building to replace the old St John’s Church, which, it will be remembered, had been opened in the middle of King’s Square in September 1843. The first hint of this in the Council’s minutes is the request of the Rev. D. Glyn Watkins that the strip of land round the church wall should be transferred to the Church of England. This was made on 2 August 1876, and was rejected by the Council. 8

On 23 March 1877 Rev. Watkins repeated his request and also sought a bonus in return for a right-of-way through the church grant as a continuation of High Street. Plans were laid on the Council table and councillors studied the triangular piece of land facing William Street as a possible site for a Town Hall and municipal buildings. They recommended granting the strip of land sought by the Church Building Committee, but a suggestion that a bonus of £300 be paid for the right-of-way was negatived by 5 votes to 4. In June Rev. D. G. Watkins offered, not only the right-of-way for the continuation of High Street, but also the triangular block on the south side of that right-of-way for £500. This was in effect agreed to and it was decided to seek a loan for this amount. The W.A. Bank declined to grant a loan, but the National Bank was prepared to do business for a moderate term on the joint and several guarantees of the members of the Town Council at a rate of 10 per cent per annum. This the Council disapproved of, and decided to issue debentures, which, as has already been stated, were subscribed by the Marine Insurance Company at 1 1/4 per cent premium, and bearing interest at the rate of 7 per cent.

On 2 January 1878 a cheque for £506. 5s. was received from the Marine Insurance Company, and eight days later £500 was paid to the Church Building Committee. This was undoubtedly a wise investment for the future. That it was made at a time when the Council had a bank overdraft of £393. 5s. speaks well for the courage and foresight of the councillors.

By agreement with the church authorities, the Council was to have the power of taking over the right-of-way if it had not been handed over by 31 December 1880. Subsequently, the church sought and was granted an extension of the lease, undertaking to pay

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interest at the rate of 7 per cent on the purchase money until such time as possession could be given.

In April 1881 the Chairman, Mr Elias Solomon, again raised the matter of a Town Hall. His suggestion that a bonus of £25 be offered for a design for a building to cost £4,000 was referred to the half-yearly meeting of ratepayers, at which an attempt was made to persuade those present that the building known as ‘Manning’s Folly’ should be purchased for £1,200 and converted into a Town Hall. 9 This found no favour with the meeting, which decided:

That a sum of £50 be offered for the approved plans and specifications of a Town Hall and Municipal Chambers to be erected on the site already purchased by the Council in High Street, and that the ultimate expenditure be limited to £10,000, and the present outlay to be not more than £6,000. 10

Tenders were accordingly called, and on 8 November 1881 the plans were examined. Those submitted by R. B. Lucas & Co. of Adelaide were chosen and the sum of £50 forwarded to the successful tenderers. Subsequently, these plans were discarded in favour of those of Messrs Grainger & D’Ebro of Melbourne, which were considered ‘far superior to those already accepted by the Council’. It was decided to seek a loan of £6,000 by the issue of debentures of £100 each. This was later increased to £6,500 to allow the purchase of a fire engine for the town, but when in April 1882 a poll was taken in response to a signed request from a number of ratepayers, a majority of 43 vetoed the loan proposal. 11

The details of the vote are not without interest. There were 625 voters on the electoral roll. If more than one-third, or 209 voted against the loan, the proposal was vetoed. The number of votes cast against it was 252, giving a majority of 43. This cast the plans of the Council into confusion, but it did not altogether disconcert them. In May they sold the block in South Terrace, previously proposed for a Town Hall site, to Messrs Sandover and Mayhew for £850, and resolved that this amount be placed to their credit for the new Town Hall. In January 1883 they agreed to borrow £10,000 by debentures—£6,000 to be used for roads, £3,500 for the commencement of a Town Hall, and £500 for the purchase of a fire engine and hose. Apparently the decision to appropriate such a

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large proportion of the loan to road works met with the approval of the ratepayers, who, no doubt, felt they were getting something for their money. But when the debentures were placed before the public, there was only one response. Mrs Sarah Stephens of Greenough applied for £500 worth. It was certainly disappointing, but, peace to Mrs Stephens’s shades, they decided to accept her application and devote the £500 to the purchase of a fire engine. Three banks were approached without success. Enquiries were made with regard to the floating of a loan in London, but as this seemed a remote possibility it was decided to approach the government for assistance. On 24 August 1883 the Legislative Council passed a resolution agreeing to make available a sum equal to 10 per cent of the estimated cost of the Town Hall, but not exceeding £2,000 in all. One-fourth of it was to be paid on laying the foundation stone, the balance by instalments, as the building proceeded. His Excellency the Governor, however, agreed to place £500 on the estimates for 1884.

But there the story passes to the Municipal Council. A new act was passed on 8 September 1883—An Act to Amend ‘The Municipal Institutions Further Amendment Act, 1882’. 12 Clause V of this act reads:

From and after the passing of the Act the name, style and title of the corporation of the town of Fremantle . . . shall be “Mayor, Councillors and Burgesses of the Town of Fremantle”. [It adds that] the present Chairman of the Council of the Municipality of Fremantle shall be the first Mayor of the said town, and shall continue in office up to the thirtieth of November next.

So the story of the Fremantle Town Hall passes from the period under review. It will be told in a subsequent chapter.

That the Council felt the need of a permanent home is shown by their peregrinations during these years. In 1871 they were renting rooms in the Oddfellows’ Hall. In 1876, they shifted to premises owned by Mrs Lloyd in High Street. In 1879 they occupied a portion of the Literary Institute, where they remained until the opening of the Town Hall in 1887.

The first Clerk of the Council, the equivalent of the later position of Town Clerk, was Mr G. Thompson, who received a salary of £20 a year. He was appointed in March 1871 and resigned on 2 January

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1874. His place was taken by Mr G. B. Humble, who had been elected as Councillor for the North Ward at the previous annual meeting. Mr Humble, who was Head-Master of the Fremantle Boys' School, continued to serve in both capacities for many years. When the Chairman became the Mayor in September 1883, Mr Humble became Town Clerk, a position he occupied with distinction until 1904.

During the whole of this period the Fremantle Town Council had a busy time welcoming and farewelling governors and honouring explorers. Among the latter were Colonel P. E. Warburton and his party who arrived in Fremantle by sea from the north, after having made a hazardous journey through central and north-western Australia in 1873-74. Towards the end of 1874, John Forrest and his party were received with addresses of welcome and a banquet on their return to Fremantle, after crossing the continent from west to east. The following year Ernest Giles made the crossing in the opposite direction and was suitably feted by the inhabitants of Fremantle. In November 1879 the flags were flying in honour of the arrival of Alexander Forrest and his party after pioneer exploration in the Kimberleys.

Governors came and went at a great rate during these years. On each arrival or departure, the town was beflagged, there were processions and banquets, and illuminated addresses were prepared by Mr E. C. Dean who seems to have been the colony's expert in these matters and must have found their preparation quite a lucrative side-line.

Only two of these events were marked by anything untoward. The first was the arrival of Governor Robinson by the Georgette from Albany. The reception was planned for 11 January 1875, but as it happened the Georgette arrived unexpectedly at 9 p.m. on the previous day. The Governor was thereupon invited to come ashore and stay incognito at Maloney's Hotel, returning to his ship at daybreak so that the official landing could take place at the appointed time.

This was but a trifling matter and the Council showed commendable consideration for His Excellency's personal comfort. However, when farewelling Governor Sir Harry St George Ord in 1880, the personal feelings of Her Majesty’s representative were not permitted to outweigh the Council's sense of truth and justice.

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Governor Ord had not been popular. Indeed, Councillor Snook opposed spending ratepayers’ money on one ‘who had proved himself so unpopular as Governor Ord'. 13 This opposition was overcome, but into the farewell address, the following clause was inserted:

There may have been a diversity of opinion amongst the people of Western Australia upon some points of Your Excellency’s administration, but upon this we have no occasion to dwell, assured as we are that in all Your Excellency’s actions and in the suggestions you have made on various questions. Your Excellency has followed the honest convictions of your judgment and that you have been animated by a sincere desire to promote the welfare of this province. 14

To this His Excellency took very strong exception. He wished this clause deleted altogether. The Colonial Secretary approached Mr Marmion, M.L.C., who in turn approached the Town Council. This angered the councillors. The chairman indignantly pointed out that ‘this was the first time in which he had ever heard of a Governor wishing to dictate to a Public Body what should be said in an address'. 15 The Council’s decision was unanimous. The offending clause stayed in and Governor Ord no doubt received it with an equanimity born of long practice in public affairs.

It must not be concluded from the foregoing that the Town Council concerned itself merely with planning to spend ratepayers’ money on a Town Hall building and on champagne and turkey for explorers and governors at the Emerald Isle Hotel.

On the contrary, there was a continuous programme of road works, including the laying of more Yorkshire flagstones. A recurring item was the maintenance of the ‘main street in Fremantle’, which was Cantonment Road (now Queen Victoria Street) leading from the bridge into the township proper. This was the subject of an annual grant from the government, first of £100, but later reduced to £80 and then to £75, in recognition of the fact that much of the colony’s traffic passed over this road to and from the capital. An entirely new road was the extension of High Street in an easterly direction. This was started in September 1881 and was still in progress in 1883. (For the story of Fremantle street names, see Appendix 9.)

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The Council was busy, too, providing reserves for the recreation of its inhabitants. The Town Trust had unsuccessfully petitioned the government for the crown lands in South Terrace, but it was not until April 1872 that these were vested in the town. In the following year, the ground in the vicinity of the Lunatic Asylum (later the Old Women’s Home) was granted as a public reserve. A further grant was made in 1875 when the Green, including wasteland along the river front in the vicinity of Market and Cliff Streets, was made available as a recreation ground. This was resumed again by the government in 1878 for railway purposes, but in 1879 a further 45 acres adjacent to the previous grant near the Lunatic Asylum was vested in the town, by way of compensation. Thus was established the Park, for many years Fremantle’s largest and most impressive playing area. With a grant of £500 from the government the Town Council immediately set to work, levelling and fencing a portion of this reserve. A further addition to the open spaces of Fremantle was made in February 1884, when, following a deputation from the newly-formed Municipal Council, a commonage of 4,000 acres was set apart to the east of the town.

The first move towards a water scheme for Fremantle took place in November 1874, when the government proposed to lay pipes from the prison yard to the jetty for the purpose of supplying water to visiting ships. The Council asked that the pipes should be laid along High Street, instead of Essex Street as proposed, and this was agreed to. In July 1882 the government offered to supply the town with water from the wells at the prison. Following representations from a sub-committee, the government agreed to grant the Council a site for the erection of a reservoir and to grant what convict labour was available for its erection. If a small royalty were paid, they would be prepared to hand over the right of charging shipping for water supplied to them. However, nothing further was done for the time being, and many years went by before Fremantle had an adequate water supply.

In July 1882 the City of Perth Gas Co. offered to lay mains in the streets of Fremantle. This was deferred pending the successful operation of the company in Perth. Before any further decision was reached in this respect, Mr A. Gra Rosser offered in March 1883 to instal gas lighting in the streets of Fremantle. The Council sought

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the opinion of the Mayor of Beechworth, Victoria, where similar gas was in use, and on receipt of a favourable reply they gave Mr Rosser permission to go ahead, at the same time warning him that he could not be guaranteed a monopoly.

The health of the community came under consideration when in February 1876, following an outbreak of scarlet fever at Albany, twenty inhabitants of Fremantle petitioned the Town Council to take precautionary measures against the possible spread of the disease. A public meeting convened by the Council urged that steps should be taken to enforce the by-laws governing the sanitary measures to be observed by the townspeople. These, it was declared, were neglected by a large number of ratepayers. It further asked the chairman of the Council to urge upon the governor the necessity for the establishment of a hospital in Fremantle, or at least that temporary accommodation should be provided where indigent fever patients could be received, treated and isolated from the rest of the community. The Council endorsed this resolution, but there is no record that any immediate move was made in this direction.

As has been stated, the rates throughout the period of the Town Council remained static at 5 per cent. In the early stages this was subject to a 10 per cent discount for improvements, but this allowance was later discontinued. The anticipated revenue from this source showed a steady increase from £660 in 1874 to £1,020 in 1883. Indeed, these years were years of sound planning and real progress. Much of the work done laid foundations for the future, but two matters of real significance to the town’s prosperity lay outside the realms of the Council’s activities. These were improvements to the harbour facilities and the opening of the Fremantle-Guildford railway. They are discussed in the following chapter.


1 Quoted from Battye, Western Australia: a History, p. 251.

2 Ibid. p. 250.

3 13 & 14 Vict. cl. LIX.

4 34 Vict. No. 6, An Act for Establishing Municipalities, 2 Jan. 1871.

5 M.F.T.T. 20 Feb. 1871, B.L.

6 M.F.T.C. 7 June 1876, F.T.H.

7 Ibid. 17 June 1876.

8 Ibid. 2 Sept. 1876.

9 Ibid. 26 Apr. 1881.

10 ibid. 9 May 1881.

11 Ibid. 13 Apr. 1882..

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12 47 Vict No. 19, cl. V, An Act to amend ‘The Municipal Institutions Amendment Act'.

13 M.F.T.C. 16 March 1880, F.T.H.

14 Address, M.F.T.C. 24 March 1880, F.T.H.

15 Chairman’s remarks, M.F.T.C. 2 Apr. 1880, F.T.H.

Chapter 8:
Fremantle in the Seventies

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The initiative in the move towards improved harbourage for vessels at Fremantle came from Governor Weld, who in August 1871 wrote to Mr E. Newman, M.L.C., asking him to get in touch with the other members for Fremantle, Messrs Marmion and Moore, and with the Town Council. 1 He sought a report on the exact nature of the work proposed. Accordingly, a public meeting was held on 28 August when a committee was formed to collect information on the practicability and advisability of carrying out a new jetty into deep water. Its members were Messrs W. Bickley, J. Bateman, E. Newman, W. D. Moore, W. S. Pearse, W. Marmion, R. King, J. J. Harwood, W. Brown and R. Hunt.

The subsequent report is signed by eight of these gentlemen, Messrs Bickley and Hunt not appending their signatures .2 It recommended the construction of a jetty in a south-westerly direction at a total cost, including two sets of rails, of £19,403. 18s. 10d. The report concludes in a way that shows they were under no misapprehension as to the nature of the anchorage to be provided.

The committee does not expect the proposed jetty to be any protection to shipping. All that is expected, wanted or even wished, is that it will afford the same facilities, the same accommodation for vessels of the size usually visiting the port, as the present one does for the craft for which it was constructed, and when a Coaster of 70 tons is able to discharge at the one, a vessel of 700 tons will be able to do so at the other; and if these ends are achieved, of which there cannot be much doubt, the Committee consider the money will be well spent and will not regret any part in promoting its erection.

The new jetty was expected to be used annually by 20,000 tons of incoming and outgoing traffic, which would contribute a gross annual

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revenue of £2,000. Opinions of all sorts were sought in the preparation of this report. Masters of vessels visiting the port were especially solicited to express their views and most of them gave hearty endorsements to the proposal.

The work was well under way when, in November 1872 over twenty ‘merchants, shipowners and residents of Fremantle’ petitioned the governor, proposing that the new jetty should be more to the west-south-west of the one proposed. This, it was claimed, would lead to deeper water, and give increased anchorage as well as more shelter during the rough weather of the winter months. The contractors, Mason & Bird, were willing to undertake any desired alterations providing they were recouped against loss caused by additional expenditure that might be incurred. But general opinion was against the change, the original committee adhered firmly to its recommendations, and the work proceeded. The timber came from the contractors’ mill on the Canning and was brought to Fremantle on a specially constructed tramway.

The Fremantle correspondent of the Inquirer wrote on 22 December 1873:

Our new jetty is just having the finishing stroke put to it. The laying of truck rails is completed, and two or three vessels have already availed themselves of the opportunity of loading and discharging their cargo alongside of our well-constructed jetty.

This was the first section, 1,400 feet. It was further extended in 1881, and again in 1883 to 3,830 feet, bringing into being the famous Long Jetty, as it was known to many newcomers to Western Australia during the gold-rush days of the early nineties. It was at best a makeshift. It could never serve the needs of an up-to-date port. But the time was not yet ripe, the colony not yet sufficiently advanced, nor an engineer of sufficient genius yet at hand to undertake the work required to overcome the obstacles which nature had provided to a harbour in the river-mouth. At any rate, the colonists appear for the time being to have given up wasting money trying to blast the river-bar, and no doubt Fremantle was happy that any danger of its ceasing to be a port was, at least, temporarily removed.

Happy as they were in the possession of a deep-water jetty, they became deeply concerned over the suggestion to build a railway line

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from Perth to Fremantle along the north side of the river. The first definite proposal for a railway had come in 1871 from a Select Committee of the Legislative Council on Public Works. The loan for this work was sanctioned by the Secretary of State for the Colonies in April 1878. But in July of the previous year the Fremantle Town Council was stirred to action by the fear that the proposed route would injure Fremantle as a business centre. An ‘extraordinary meeting’, attended by members of both the Town Council and the District Road Board, prepared and printed a memorial which was signed by over 500 persons. This was presented to the governor on 3 September. Meanwhile an independent survey on the southern side was undertaken for the Council and Road Board jointly by Mr H. E. Victor. The expenses of this survey, which ultimately cost £91. 7s. 6d., were raised with some difficulty by public subscription. Mr Victor proposed a line running in the direction of the Canning Road, but keeping nearer to the river as far as South Perth, and thence across Perth Water on a viaduct to a point near Cole’s Jetty and terminating in Weld Square. An alternative suggestion was made by Mr T. H. J. Browne that the proposed railway should cross the river at Mill Point, going along the south side of Mt Eliza past the Pensioners’ Barracks to Wellington Reserve.

However, beyond having this survey made, nothing further was done. The residents of Fremantle recovered from their apprehensions concerning the northern route, and on 3 June 1879 the first sod was turned by Governor Ord on the site of the present Perth Railway Station.

The railway was opened by the governor. Sir William Robinson, on Tuesday, 1 March 1881, when a special train left Perth for Fremantle shortly after 10 a.m. The vice-regal party on board were welcomed at Fremantle by the Chairman of the Town Council, Mr Elias Solomon. In the course of his reply after being regaled with champagne and biscuits, His Excellency said: ‘The weekly visit which I am in the habit of making to your town will be none the less agreeable in the future from the fact that I can now visit you by rail.’ 3

It is not on record whether the governor continued to use this method of transport, but the vice-regal train returned to Perth and then proceeded to Guildford, the eastern terminus, where His

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Excellency was given another reception by Mr Harper, acting-chairman of the municipality of that town. Once more back at Perth, they were received by the acting-mayor, Dr Scott, after which the vice-regal party and official guests repaired to the Town Hall where they partook of luncheon.

With a deep-sea jetty for its shipping and a railway for its land transport, Fremantle was progressing towards a prosperous future. Among the notable buildings erected during this period was the Masonic Hall, the cornerstone of which was laid by Sir Archibald Paull Burt on 18 April 1878. The Fremantle Lodge, the second in Western Australia, had been opened in 1865 and obtained its grant of land from the government in February 1875. Reference has already been made to the new St John’s Church, the consequent transfer of land to the Council and the beginning of the extension of High Street. The foundation stone of the new building was laid on 28 January 1879, and it was consecrated for service on 4 July 1882. A new Court House was proposed during 1883, replacing the old building on Arthur’s Head where the early Town Trust and for a time the Town Council had held their meetings. By 1879 Fremantle had three banks. The National Bank of Australasia had opened a branch in 1866. Four years later the W.A. Bank opened a deposit agency which it enlarged into a full agency in 1878. In 1879 the Union Bank commenced business at the port. The Fremantle Building and Benefit Society was established in 1875, and from 1877 it rented the office of the Town Council for its weekly meetings, as did also the Fremantle District Road Board.

Visitors’ impressions of Fremantle during this period throw some illumination on the nature of the town, although not all of them are complimentary. Governor Weld commented that it was in 1869 ‘a bigger place than Perth’, and noted that he ‘came in for a great reception’ there.4 In 1870 Mr W. H. Knight, Auditor-General for the Colony, and author of a handbook dealing with its resources, wrote:

The town itself, though small in extent, is compact and regular in its arrangement, and, as the allotments were originally laid out on a smaller scale than those of Perth, the buildings are not so scattered as in the city, and the place has assumed much more of a town-like appearance. There are few buildings with any great claims to architectural

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beauty, though the houses are, generally speaking, substantially constructed. 5

Anthony Trollope, the famous English novelist, visited this state in 1872. His picture of Fremantle is characteristically frank:

Fremantle has certainly no natural beauties to recommend it. It is a hot, white, ugly town, with a very large prison, a lunatic asylum, and a hospital for ancient and worn-out convicts. ... At Fremantle there is hardly a man whom it can be worth the reader’s while to have introduced to him. 6

Lest the reader should imagine here a slight on the estimable citizens of Fremantle, it must be explained that Anthony Trollope’s interest seems to have been in the inmates of the ‘Establishment’ rather than in the free citizens. His comment that there was hardly a man worth meeting there is in contrast to the interesting convicts he encountered in Van Diemen’s Land. That he found this difference, perhaps emphasizes the fact that the system in Western Australia did not, in fact, introduce the same degree of criminality.

Trollope thought the Establishment would soon become useless, but the superintendent scouted the idea. He

declared, apparently with pride, that the colony would always supply a sufficiency of convicts to keep it going. I suggested that 850 men under sentence would be a very great number—that even half that number would be a very great number—In a population of 25,000 souls; and the more so, as the enormous distances in the colony made it necessary that other prisons and penitentiaries should be maintained. But he was still hopeful. The population would increase and with the population, crime .7

In 1876 Henry Taunton visited Western Australia and his impressions were recorded in a book called Australind, published many years later. He writes:

Fremantle consisted of one principal street made up of hotels and stores and a few Government buildings, including the Imperial convict depot, a lighthouse and a number of private dwellings all glaring in whitewash. Each house had its green verandah blinds and encircling verandahs. A few churches made up an apparently sleepy but really

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flourishing township, which might be described as a city of public houses, flies, sand, limestone, convicts, and stacks of sandalwood. 8

Lady Barker, who afterwards became Lady Broome, wife of the governor of the colony from 1883 to 1890, describes a typical reception to a newly-arrived vice-regal party—one of the many such arranged by the Town Council during these years.

After a little we landed and walked through lanes of pleasant-looking civil people until we got to a place made gay with flags and flowers and red cloth; then came speeches of welcome and some champagne and everybody drank everybody else’s health, and so on to the railway station and into a special train in waiting (which had been made bright with boughs and bouquets) and up to Perth in less than on hour. 9

Her picture of the town is perhaps a little more intimate and friendly than most of the others:

Just outside Fremantle there is a long, steep and narrow bridge across the wide mouth of the “Swan”, and then we drive through some very pretty suburbs of neat, nice little houses, standing in gay gardens, until we get to the town itself. Not a very large one, but growing every day, and it has already capital shops. A little Government Cottage perches on a cliff by the seashore, and I often have tea in its summer parlour, while Louis enjoys a scramble on the rocks. I hope some day we may have a fine harbour and that I may see lots of big steamers in the beautiful bay, just below the cottage window. 10

Quite the most exciting event in the colony during the seventies was the escape of six Fenian prisoners. Although the event did not leave a ripple in the minutes of the Fremantle Town Council, it did stir the inhabitants of the port and, indeed, of the entire province. Conceived in detail by Irish sympathizers in America and executed with audacity, it provoked much controversy and might have precipitated a mild international crisis. The newspapers of the day give many details, but the most coherent story is that subsequently published in a New York paper by the man who was responsible for the affair, John J. Breslin. His account was reprinted in full in the Fremantle Herald on 16 November 1876, some months after the tumult and the shouting had died.

Breslin arrived in Fremantle in November 1875, where he assumed the name of Captain J. Collins. He put up at the Emerald

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Isle Hotel, and through a Fenian ex-prisoner, William Foley, made contact with James Wilson, another Fenian still serving his sentence.

The vehicle of escape was to be the American whaling vessel, Catalpa, but as there was no word of its likely arrival at Bunbury, Breslin, to avoid suspicion, made a trip inland through Perth to Guildford and York. At the end of March the American whaler Canton put in to Bunbury whither Breslin went, only to find that the Canton knew nothing of the Catalpa’s whereabouts. He was beginning to get anxious now, but shortly after his return to Fremantle was relieved to learn that the Catalpa had arrived at Bunbury on 29 March. Back to Bunbury he hurried by mail-coach, met Captain Anthony of the Catalpa and persuaded him to come to Fremantle by the Georgette so that he could inspect the locality near Rockingham where it was expected the Catalpa’s whaleboat would later pick up the escapees.

From the bridge of the Georgette, Captain Anthony surveyed the landmarks of the appointed spot, but was somewhat dismayed to find the British gun-boat Conflict in port when he arrived at Fremantle. On 6 April Anthony returned to Bunbury, Breslin arranging to let him know when and in which direction the Conflict had sailed.

Then followed a series of telegraphic messages, the words of which concealed their real meaning and failed to arouse anyone’s suspicions. Finally, it became clear to Breslin that everything would be in readiness for the escape on Monday 17 April. He had made a practice of hiring wagonettes and traps and driving himself round the environs of Fremantle, so that no sinister purpose was associated with his appearance in the streets at an early hour that morning. At a quarter to eight two vehicles passed the prison yard where the men were beginning to form up for their parade. Ten minutes later, three of the Fenians were overtaken by a trap driven by an accomplice, Desmond, as they were on their way to their day’s labours. They were Wilson, Cranston and Harrington. The other three, Darragh, Hogan and Hassett, were collected in the second vehicle soon afterwards, and both parties set off towards Rockingham. Neither group had any difficulty in making the arranged rendezvous, for all six prisoners had by good conduct won the confidence of their warders.

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A resident of Rockingham, named Bell, subsequently reported to the police that his curiosity was aroused by the arrival of a whaleboat at about 9 a.m. with six coloured men and another man ‘of Yankee look’. The whaleboat tied up at the landing place of the Rockingham Jarrah Timber Company. Some two hours later, a man on horseback followed by eight or ten men in traps arrived and at once went on board and prepared to put out to sea. When Bell asked what was to be done with the traps, one of the men replied, ‘Let them go to hell’, and gave him a sovereign. This unwonted generosity aroused Bell’s suspicions, and he lost no time in driving to Fremantle which he reached at about one o’clock.

The whaleboat was about two miles off-shore when they saw mounted police ride to the spot where they had embarked. Breslin then remembered a letter he had written to the governor. He tied it to a piece of wood and posted it by ‘the ocean mail’. There is no record that the letter reached its destination, but Breslin’s narrative preserves its contents:

This is to certify that I have this day released from the clemency of Her Most Gracious Majesty Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, etc., six Irishmen, condemned to imprisonment for life by the enlightened and magnanimous Government of Great Britain for having been guilty of the atrocious and unpardonable crimes known to the enlightened portion of mankind as ‘love of country’ and ‘hatred of tyranny’; for this atrocious act of Irish assurance my birth and blood being sufficient warrant. Allow me to add that

In taking my leave now, I’ve only to say,
A few cells I’ve emptied (a sell in a way);
I’ve the honour and pleasure to bid you good day,
From all future acquaintance excuse me, I pray.
In the service of my country,

John J. Breslin

For the next twenty-four hours, the zest with which he had posted that audacious missile by ‘the ocean mail’ was somewhat dampened by sea-spray, and his wish that he would be excused from all future acquaintance was very nearly not fulfilled. It was not until 5.30 p.m. that they sighted the Catalpa about fifteen miles distant. An hour later she was quite plain to the escapees, but the weather was gloomy with rain squalls and, although the whaleboat made good headway

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under sail, they could not overtake the mother-ship. At 7 p.m. a squall carried away the mast, and by the time they had erected another the Catalpa was completely lost in the darkness. There was nothing for it but to make themselves as comfortable as they could in their drenched clothes and await the dawn.

At 6.45 a.m. next day they again sighted the Catalpa, but beyond her they saw the smoke of a vessel, which they took to be the Georgette. She was too far out of her course to be making her scheduled trip to Albany, so they took down their sails and lay low, hoping they would not be seen.

As a matter of fact, the Georgette it was. But not the busy little coastal steamer on which Breslin and Captain Anthony had sailed up from Bunbury. On the previous day she had been commissioned by the government and placed under the command of Mr John Stone of the Water Police. On board was a detachment of the Enrolled Pensioner Force, commanded by Major Finnerty, and a body of police in the charge of Sergeant O’Grady.

The men in the whaleboat watched the Georgette steam alongside the Catalpa, remain there about ten minutes, then steam away. Deeming it now safe, they hoisted sail and set off after the Catalpa, which unfortunately for them was also under full sail and widening the distance between them with every puff of wind. Meanwhile, they kept a weather eye on the Georgette which was obviously searching for them. On one occasion she came so close that Breslin says, ‘We could distinguish men on her deck and a look-out man at her masthead.’ However, she did not see them and as soon as she had passed on they made way after the Catalpa, which, at about two o'clock, stood round and approached them. Just when they felt certain they had been observed, they suddenly became aware of another boat under sail making towards the Catalpa and about equally distant from the land side as they were to seaward. This boat they recognized as the police cutter, and it now became a desperate race to see which would reach the ship first. At about 3 p.m. they ran up under the weather-side of the Catalpa and scrambled aboard, with the police-boat close on the lee quarter. The moment they were on board, the Catalpa hoisted the whaleboat and, with stars and stripes flying, stood out to sea. Breslin says he stepped to the side and kissed his hand to the police-boat—‘the gentlemen who had lost the race’.

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But it was not all over yet. They changed out of their wet clothes and following a glass of rum and hot coffee were glad to seek the comfort of their bunks after the trying twenty-eight hours they had spent in the open boat. When Breslin came on deck at five o'clock next morning, he found they were off Fremantle, and half an hour later the look-out reported a ship on the lee bow. This was the Georgette again, only this time she had a twelve-pound howitzer on board. The governor had himself ridden down to Fremantle to issue instructions and a fatigue party had been busy throughout the night re-fuelling the vessel. She was a full man-of-war ship with an admiral's flag flying.

The Catalpa set sail before the wind, but her speed was no match for Georgette which by half past eight had overhauled her. Accounts of what happened in the next half-hour vary, but Breslin says that he advised Captain Anthony to ‘Hold on and don't take any notice of them yet.' About three minutes later he suggested:

‘Ask him what he wants'
The reply was an order to ‘Heave to!'
‘What am I to heave to for?', shouted Captain Anthony.
‘Have you any convict prisoners aboard?'
‘No prisoners here, no prisoners that I know of.'
‘I give you fifteen minutes to consider and you must take the consequences. I have the means to do it and if you don't heave to I'll blow the masts out of you!'
‘That's the American flag', replied Captain Anthony, ‘I am on the high seas. My flag protects me. If you fire on my ship you fire on the American flag.'

It was a tense moment. Upon Breslin's suggestions, logs were brought up on deck to sink any boarding party that might attempt to approach. Then they realized that they were drifting perilously close to British waters and orders were given to change course so that they bore directly down on the Georgette, forcing her to shift out of their way. This, says Breslin, seemed to disconcert them. ‘As the Georgette steamed slowly across our stern, I looked for a raking shot among our masts. She did not fire and as she ranged alongside again I knew that the game of bluff was played out.'

There were further exchanges, Mr Stone asking permission to come on board. This was firmly but courteously refused, and after

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keeping the Catalpa company until 9.30, the Georgette swung slowly off and steamed back to Fremantle, without, as Breslin remarks, having the good grace ‘to wish us bon voyage!’

It must have been exciting while it lasted and it is interesting to speculate what might have happened had the Georgette fired on the American flag. But apparently Mr Stone was under orders not to take undue risks, and beyond causing the colonists in Western Australia and elsewhere for many months to come to smell Fenian plots everywhere, the incident passed into history, and the Catalpa sailed over the horizon to New Bedford and freedom for her Fenian cargo.


1 Governor Weld to Mr E. Newman, Aug. 1871, M.F.T.T., B.L.

2 ‘Report of the Harbour Improvement Board, 3 June 1873’, Legislative Council Minutes of Proceedings, 1873.

3 West Australian, 4 March 1881.

4 Governor Weld to Earl Granville, Sept. 1869, C.S.O., B.L.

5 W. H. Knight, Western Australia, its History, Progress, Conditions and Prospects (Perth: J. Mitchell, 1870), p. 57.

6 A. Trollope, Australia and New Zealand (London: Chapman & Hall, 1873), p. 582.

7 Ibid. p. 585.

8 H. Taunton, Australind, Wanderings in Western Australia and the Malay East (London: Ed. Arnold, 1903), p. 3.

9 Lady Barker, Letters to Guy (London: Macmillan, 1885), p. 33.

10 Ibid. p. 113.

Chapter 9:
The Mayor and Corporation

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At the first meeting of the Fremantle Municipal Council held after the passing of the amending act of 8 September 1883 1 the following telegram was received from the Mayor of Perth, Mr George Shenton:

The Mayor and Councillors of the City of Perth congratulate the Mayor and Councillors of Fremantle upon the distinction conferred on the Municipality by the elevation of their Chairman to the position of Mayor. 2

The first mayor was Mr Barrington Clarke Wood. He had been a councillor since 1875 and chairman from the beginning of 1883, He continued in office, as provided by the act, without opposition for the following two years, when he resigned and was replaced by Mr D. K. Congdon. Within a few weeks, of the elevation of Mr B. C. Wood to the position of Mayor, the office of Clerk of the Council was changed to Town Clerk, Mr George Bland Humble continuing in that capacity. (For a complete list of those who served on the Fremantle Municipal Council, 1883-1929, see Appendix 7.)

These were in the main titular changes only. The work of the Council continued and foremost amongst its pre-occupations was planning for a Town Hall. When in February 1884 it became clear that there was little likelihood of raising a loan on the London market, preparations were made to borrow £10,000 locally. Of this amount, £6,200 were for new roads and works, the remainder being for the Town Hall. The response to the loan was discouraging, so, fearing they might lose the £2,000 promised by the government, the Council invited the architects, Messrs Grainger and D’Ebro, to send a representative from Melbourne to Fremantle to advise what work

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might be started. Mr D’Ebro came himself and recommended certain minor alterations, whereupon tenders were called. All those submitted by the closing date, 7 November 1884, were rejected as unsuitable, and after further alterations were decided upon, tenders were called a second time. Only one tender was received, that of Mr E. Keane, who submitted four prices ranging from £9,916 for the whole building of stone stuccoed with cement, to £6,200 for what was deemed the essential work to be carried out in the same materials. While the sub-committee appointed to consider these prices recommended the former, the Council decided to proceed only with a portion of the work at the lower price. A loan of £4,500 was duly advertised—£1,500 of which was to be used to supplement cash in hand for the Town Hall building, and £3,000 of which was to be spent on new roads. However, a public meeting of ratepayers held on 4 May 1885 urged the Council to ‘take the necessary steps to erect and complete the Town Hall building in its entirety, in preference to the section as at present arranged for’. 3

The Council thereupon agreed to raise a further loan of £3,500 ‘to complete the New Town Hall in accordance with the expressed wish of the Ratepayers’. 4 This decision was challenged by a demand for a poll, which, when held, resulted in a decision in favour of both loans. The two loans now became one, totalling £8,000—£3,000 for new roads and £5,000 for the Town Hall. On Thursday, 10 September 1885 the foundation stone of the new building was laid by His Excellency, Sir Frederick Napier Broome, K.C.M.G., and a banquet was held in the Oddfellows’ Hall that night, when the Mayor of Perth, members of the Executive Council and Mr E. Keane were among the guests of the Fremantle Council.

During the course of construction it was decided to raise the clock-tower 16 feet and Mr William Hooper of Fremantle successfully tendered a price of £748. 10$. for a clock with Cambridge chimes similar to one which had been recently installed in Liverpool. Mr George Foreman as Clerk of Works supervised the construction, and on completion it was found that the original tender for the entire building had been exceeded by only £875. 12$. 10d.

The opening of the new building took place on 22 June 1887 to coincide with the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. An elaborate programme was drawn up. A procession consisting of

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members of the Hibernian Society, the Sons of Temperance, the Rechabites, the New Swan Lodge and the Good Templars, augmented by school children of ten years and over, led the way to the Town Hall which was opened by the governor. After the opening, sports were held, followed by a ball at night. On the next night there was a children’s fancy dress ball.

Everything went according to plan, but after the conclusion of the children’s ball on 23 June the celebrations were marred by a most unhappy occurrence. Between midnight and 1 a.m., after most of the children had gone home and only the mayor, the councillors, Mr W. S. Pearse, M.L.C., and some other officials remained behind, William Conroy, landlord of the Victoria Hotel, came to the door of the banqueting room and asked for Councillor Snook. He was told to wait and a few minutes later when all were about to leave the building, Councillor Snook came out to him. The two talked for a while near the front entrance when suddenly the others, who were paying no particular attention to the conversation, heard a shot. They rushed to the spot to find Snook bleeding profusely from a bullet wound in the neck. Conroy was seized and locked up pending the arrival of the police. 6

Councillor Snook was 69 years of age and had a record of 17 years as a councillor. For some days his condition caused the doctors grave anxiety. Then he rallied and seemed to have every chance of recovery. On 29 July Conroy was charged with shooting with intent to murder and committed for trial at the next sitting of the Supreme Court. However, in September Councillor Snooks’s condition suddenly worsened and on the 25th of that month he died. Thus when Conroy was brought before the Supreme Court on 6 October he faced a charge of wilful murder. His counsel pleaded insanity. The only reason for shooting the old man was that earlier in the evening Snook had refused Conroy admission because he was drunk. ‘He threw me out’, said Conroy, ‘and now I have put him out.’ The jury returned a verdict of guilty with a strong recommendation to mercy. In passing the sentence of death, the Chief Justice promised to place the jury’s recommendation before the governor in Executive Council. However, reprieve was not granted. Conroy was hanged in the precincts of the Perth gaol on 18 November 1887. This was the last hanging to take place there. The previous year, the Convict

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Establishment at Fremantle had been handed over to the colonial government and when in 1888 the pensioner force was disbanded the last phase of convict administration came to an end. Henceforth the gaol at Fremantle was part of the local prison system.

The Town Hall building immediately became the meeting place of the Municipal Council and was greatly sought after for a wide variety of purposes. The Fremantle Telephone Exchange was soon accommodated in one of its rooms. The first theatrical performance was Betsy, given on 8 November by the Railway Reading Room Committee. On this occasion the hall was granted free of charge to see whether its stage was suitable for a dramatic entertainment. That year, too, a performance of the Messiah was given in the Town Hall to open a fund for the purchase of a grand piano. The instrument was installed in December 1889. Pending the erection of their church in South Terrace in 1890, the Presbyterians rented the Supper Room of the Town Hall for church services and Sunday school from December 1887. In July 1888 the Hall was let ‘for rinking purposes’. It was, of course, the scene of many receptions, lectures, and celebrations which included a grand ball on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. A sign of the approach of modern times was the lease of the Hall in March 1909 by West’s Pictures!

Until comparatively recently the Town Hall was adequate to the needs of the Council and the people of Fremantle, but the rapid development which Fremantle shared with the whole of the state in the 1960s necessitated the provision of additional facilities. These are discussed in a later chapter, but in planning them the Council was mindful of the old building’s history and its architectural dignity. Today it stands in the reconstituted King’s Square, with a modest fountain nearby and, completely renovated, is a tribute to those councillors and citizens who, nearly a hundred years ago, planned wisely for posterity. It continues to be used for the public functions for which it was, in part, originally designed.

Another innovation of the eighties was the Fremantle Volunteer Fire Brigade. It will be remembered that £500 of a previous loan had been set aside for the purchase of a fire engine. This was shipped from London in June 1884, and the first suggestion of a Fire Brigade to man it was made in the following August. At first it was proposed

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to call for volunteers from the Fremantle Rifle Volunteer Corps, but at a public meeting convened by the Council on 2 October 1885 the organization was officially established. Mr R. S. Newbold was elected Captain, and the following were enrolled as members: J. J. Higham, Captain Fenwick, C. B. Hall, W. F. Wald, T. Haley, J. Bebbington, F. George, U. Doust, E. Ley, A. Calhoun, J. G. Davis, J. Baldwin, W. J. Nugent, G. Garvey, R. Birch, G. F. Payne, C. Chamberlain, A. Watkins and E. Fordham.

The Council voted £125 towards its initial expenses and opened negotiations with the government for the grant of a block of land on which to erect a Fire Station. Finally, a block was secured in Croke Street and in February 1887 the tender of Mr J. Davies of £254 for a Fire Station was accepted. Following the resignation of Mr Newbold in April 1889 Mr W. Farmer became Captain of the Brigade which continued until June 1892, when it was disbanded and a new body formed. Mr J. C. Fraser was the new Superintendent and the Brigade remained a volunteer body until 1905, when it was reorganized and put under the Metropolitan Board. The foundation stone of its present building in Phillimore Street was laid on 19 June 1908.

The question of an adequate water supply for the town exercised the minds of the mayor and councillors for many years. In April 1884 they had a conference with the Hon. J. H. Thomas, Director of Public Works. He favoured a town supply independent of the government, but the mayor considered this was impossible owing to want of funds. Finally, it was decided to seek permission for the Council to connect service pipes with the main from the prison, for residents in the West Ward, principally those residing in High and Cliff Streets.

Mr Thomas thought a sufficient supply could be obtained from this source for present but not for future purposes. He said:

In going to any expenditure for a permanent water supply, it is impossible to consider the probable increase in future years. It is not, however, expected in a new and undeveloped country like this that the population in its towns will follow any regular law. Vicissitudes that cannot be foreseen may at any time increase or diminish the rate. The successful establishment of new industries, or the discovery of rich

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goldfields, might bring an influx of population beyond the present rate.

1 do not see [he concluded] any probability of this myself. 6

Events proved Mr Thomas wrong, and when in the early nineties Fremantle’s population was suddenly increased by an influx of those who came to Western Australia in search of gold, the scheme which was then in existence proved quite inadequate for the needs of the town. It was supplemented by water from wells, and many of these were contaminated by the insanitary conditions prevailing at the time. Disease was rampant, and it was not until well after the turn of the century that Fremantle obtained a satisfactory water supply from the government. Nevertheless, Fremantle was the first town in the state to organize for a water supply of its own, and in 1890 the first year that its scheme operated, the revenue from the sale of water was £1,004.

The sanitary conditions of the town caused the Council concern as early as December 1885, when a sub-committee was appointed to enquire into it. Its report, presented in the following May, pointed to the necessity for enlarged powers by legislation if they were to enforce the adoption of the dry earth system of closets in the West Ward. The coming of responsible government in 1890 made such power possible. Under an Amendment to the Health Act which came into being on 1 April 1892, 7 a new set of by-laws was drawn up and the whole Council constituted itself the Board of Health. Meetings were separate from ordinary Council meetings and a separate set of minutes was kept.

Sanitary conditions at this time were of the most primitive kind. Human excreta and household rubbish were tipped into open cesspits, which were from time to time cleaned out and their contents carted away to a sewage farm, land for which had been granted by the government. When it is considered that near many of these cesspits were open wells from which the inhabitants of Fremantle obtained their drinking water, it is not surprising that the returns of the Medical Officer, Dr Hope, show frequent cases of typhoid and other fevers.

But when Councillor J. J. Higham suggested in. May 1893 that all cesspits in West Ward should be closed, and again in August hat those in South Ward should be done away with, Councillor Wray gave it as his opinion that the bucket system was very un-

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cleanly and unhealthy. Cesspits, he said, were far preferable and should be kept open. They only required care and the use of a little lime. The Mayor, Mr W. F. Samson, said that at a future date the Board would have to consider the advisability of introducing the double bucket system.

Apparently, some buckets were in use in 1894, for the mayor in that year, Mr D. K. Congdon, said that he had thought over the question of removing night-soil by contract and he was of the opinion that it would be a risky business for one man to be entrusted with the sole responsibility of removing night-soil from the whole of the dwelling houses in the district. He added that one nightman said he would tender for one of the wards if he could be furnished with a list showing the number of cesspits and pans therein. Again Councillor Wray expressed his preference for cesspits. He thought the nightman should procure information respecting cesspits and buckets at his own expense.

A mild stir was caused early in 1894 when two cases of typhoid were reported from the vicinity of the Lunatic Asylum, where night-soil was deposited for garden purposes. This was strictly contrary to the Health Act, and the Board of Health ruled that such deposits should cease. In the Council this matter was dealt with at great length. Dr Barnett, the Colonial Surgeon, wrote that such deposits could not possibly do any harm, and that to deny the inmates the use of night-soil for gardening purposes would lead to a serious shortage of fresh vegetables at the Asylum. However, the Council stood firm on this point. 8

Matters did not improve and during the year feeling ran high on the respective merits of the two forms of sanitation. Finally, with the election of Mr G. A. Davies as Mayor, the Council settled down to a policy of laissez-faire. Only Councillor Higham continued to protest. He told the Board in February 1895 that the only solution was for the Board itself to take over the sanitary arrangements for the town.

A local paper, the Messenger, on 15 November 1895 wrote:

Within almost a stone’s throw of the Messenger office exists and has existed for months what can be described as nothing but an open cesspit. Imagine a hole, 10 feet by 4 feet, several feet deep, overflowing

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with an accumulation of reeking garbage of every sort and kind, the refuse of about half a dozen cottages, the inhabitants of which continually empty their kitchen slush and slops of the baser sort into the mixture just to keep it fermenting, and then wonder why the locality has been a hotbed of typhoid for the last nine months.

It then threatened that, unless this were cleaned up by the Inspector of Nuisances, it would publish next week ‘a list of owners who are responsible and the precise localities which it is under the circumstances absolutely necessary to label dangerous’. 9

The Messenger did not fulfil its threat, but in its next issue the writer said he was looking forward to the advent of Mr Solomon as Mayor, who, ‘I am happy to say joins with me in insisting that the town shall be kept clean and healthy.’ 10 A week later, it complained that Fremantle was still waiting for the removal of a condition of things ‘which is a scandal and an iniquity because certain petty officials think they are backed up in their sluggish methods by a small but dangerous clique in the town’. 11

To make matters worse, newcomers to Western Australia had formed canvas-town settlements at Willis’s Point, Monument Hill, and on the Fremantle Park. At the first-named place there were in March 1895, 100 tents occupied by 175 men, women and children, and sanitary arrangements were entirely lacking. Efforts were made to have these people move on, but with very little result. The Fremantle Times of 21 March 1896 was scathing in its indictment of these tent-dwellers:

First, they plant themselves on land belonging to anyone but themselves; next, they turn the locality into a species of Pandemonium, particularly at night, utterly disregarding such minor details as cleanliness and ordinary morality; finally, after rendering their surroundings an eyesore to passers-by and a menace to their own health, they have the audacity to ask the Board of Health to clear away the mire in which they have wallowed. 12

To add further to the annoyance of the townsfolk, camels were unloaded from incoming vessels and passed through the town on their way to depasture on Fremantle Park or elsewhere. On one occasion they caused a horse to take fright and an accident to ensue. Finally, the government was asked to see that camels should be

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gazetted as wild animals and that like wild cattle they should be landed at Owen Anchorage, and not at the town jetty. The Council subsequently compromised on this point, agreeing that camels and wild cattle might be landed at the jetty, but only between the hours of 12 midnight and 5 a.m.

Apparently, Mayor Solomon moved swiftly after assuming office. The Fremantle Times of 17 March 1896 attributes to him most of the credit for cleaning up ‘the filthy conditions of certain back premises in the town’, and for being ‘mainly responsible for the new by-laws relating to sanitary affairs recently adopted by the local Board of Health’. Throughout that year the Board was actively concerned with sanitary matters. The system in operation in Perth was examined. In February, when Councillor Stubbs thought more night-men should be appointed, the mayor said he believed the whole system needed altering. Councillor Higham thereupon moved that tenders be invited for the carrying out of the sanitary work under the covered pan system. This was carried and a committee, consisting of the Mayor, Councillors Jarvis, Stubbs, Davies and Higham, was appointed to make a report. This did not preclude Councillor F. Jones from rising to oppose the pan system. The health of the town was better, he said, when cesspits were allowed.

And he was not far wrong, either. The number of cases of typhoid fever continued to increase, even after in November 1896 the tenders for the sanitary contract submitted by Messrs Laudehr and Gillespie were accepted. Indeed, in 1897 they reached a new high. In April there were 31 cases; in May 33. The following year was worse. April of 1898 produced 32 and in May there were 41 local cases and 9 imported, making a total of 50. There is every reason to believe that the early operations of the contractors were by no means satisfactory. In July 1898, when Messrs Laudehr and Gillespie applied for a £15 honorarium for carrying out the work efficiently for the past eighteen months, the Council rejected their application. In fact, they imposed fines for breaches of the contract. Typhoid was prevalent in 1899, and in September of that year a new contract was drawn up involving the use of the double pan system.

There were, of course, many other factors militating against the health of the town. The water system was far from satisfactory. There were still newcomers to the state camped on vacant

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allotments in unsanitary conditions. Moreover, public ignorance and prejudice were not easy obstacles to overcome.

All this turmoil throughout the nineties pointed to the need for proper hospital facilities in Fremantle. In 1887 a wing of the Immigration Department in the Barracks was in use, and in 1888 the mayor and Dr Barnett recommended the housing of a casualty ward or cottage hospital in the Police Quarters. But these were at best makeshifts. When the Rev. A. T. Boas of Adelaide visited Fremantle in 1891, he offered to give a lecture in the Town Hall on ‘Proverbs and Sayings, Ancient and Modern’, the proceeds of which were to be used towards the building of a hospital. For this very good cause the Council granted him free use of the Town Hall and the sum of £15 was raised. Thereafter, it was resolved to open a fund for the building of a hospital for Fremantle, although there is little evidence that this was more than a pious resolution.

In March 1893 a public meeting was held to consider the advisability of applying to the government for more suitable hospital accommodation for Fremantle. The premier told a deputation which waited on him that he would set apart a further portion of the old Barracks in South Terrace as a casualty ward. The Colonial Surgeon, Dr Barnett, did not favour this proposal, but the Council pressed for it, at the same time urging that a sum be placed on the estimates for the erection of a cottage hospital. In February 1894 the Undersecretary wrote that ‘if possible the sum of £1,500 will be provided in the next Annual Estimates for a Cottage Hospital—to be erected on a site hereafter determined on’. 18

A year later, Dr J. W. Hope, Medical Officer at Fremantle, suggested that the two-storey building known as ‘The Knowle’ might be suitable. This was originally the residence of Captain Henderson, comptroller of convicts. For a time in 1892 it had been made a branch of the Lunatic Asylum, a step to which the Council had taken strong exception. They now supported Dr Hope’s suggestion, and in March 1895 were told that the government were prepared to make it available and that as soon as possible the necessary additions and repairs would be effected. However, it was not until January 1897 that it was opened for use. Almost immediately additional accommodation was required and steps were taken to extend the building.

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Its management was vested in a board nominated by the government. The first Board was appointed on 25 October 1897, and consisted of the following: The Hons. H. Briggs, A. B. Kidson, D. K. Congdon; Messrs E. Solomon, J. Lilly, J. ]. Higham, W. T. John; Doctors Hope, White, Birmingham and Wheeler.

Naturally, a ‘cottage-hospital’ was soon to prove inadequate to the needs of the community. Some subsequent developments of the Fremantle Hospital are noted in a later chapter of this history, but for a progressive account of its growth readers are referred to Medical Background, by J. H. Stubbe. 14


1 47 Vict. No. 19, cl. V, Act to amend ‘The Municipal Institutions Further Amendment Act, 1882'.

2 M.F.M.C. 13 Sept. 1883, F.T.H.

3 Ibid. 4 May 1885.

4 Ibid. 5 May 1885.

5 Inquirer and Commercial News, 29 June 1887.

6 Report of Mr Thomas, M.F.M.C. 23 Apr. 1884, F.T.H.

7 55 Vict. No. 22, An Act to Amend ‘The Public Health Act 1886' (50 Vict. No. 19) .

8 M.F.M.C. 18 Dec. 1884, F.T.H.

9 The Messenger, 15 Nov. 1885.

10 Ibid. 22 Nov. 1895.

11 Ibid. 29 Nov. 1895.

12 Fremantle Times, 21 March 1896.

13 Letter from the Under-Secretary, M.F.M.C. 6 Feb. 1894.

14 Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1969.

Chapter 10:
The Fremantle Harbour

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Earlier chapters have made it clear that Fremantle’s major problem from the foundation of the colony was the provision of an adequate harbour. The Long Jetty, of which 1,400 feet were completed by 1873, and which was extended to 3,830 feet ten years later, was never more than a makeshift

There was, however, considerable difference of opinion as to where the harbour ought to be situated and what form it would ultimately take. In the early seventies, three Victorian engineers, whom the colonists consulted in the matter, strongly recommended the site at Cockburn Sound as the solution of their difficulties. Mr Wardell, civil engineer, of Sydney, reported that any solid work projecting from Rous Head or Arthur Head would cause the coastal sand-drift to silt up the harbour mouth. This matter of sand-drift remained a real obstacle to any plan for an inner harbour. Yet there is little evidence that anybody took the bother to question whether it was, in fact, a reality.

When Sir John Coode, an eminent English engineer, was consulted in 1875, he issued a report made without a personal inspection of the site. He worked on the excellent marine surveys made by Captain Archdeacon of the Admiralty Survey Department, and he placed great reliance on Mr Wardell’s statement regarding sand-drift, especially as the comparatively small rise and fall of tide would be insufficient to scour the opening to the harbour. Nevertheless, he discarded suggestions that the anchorage should be ‘anywhere than at or immediately adjacent to the Swan River entrance’. 1

In November 1877 he prepared two alternative plans. Each was for an external harbour. The first, known as Design A, provided for an open timber viaduct, 2,600 feet long, running in a north-

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westerly direction from Rous Head into 29 feet of water. At the end of this viaduct was a breakwater of concrete blocks in four connected sections towards the south-west, providing protection to berths on the lee side of it and also to an open-piled jetty of 800 feet and a wharf of over 700 feet. In all there would be a total wharfage of 4,100 feet at depths varying from 29 to 33 feet at low water. Its estimated cost was £638,000.

Design B provided for a shorter viaduct running from Arthur Head in a south-westerly direction for 1,800 feet into 20 feet of water. From this point, a solid arm of masonry continued for 700 feet, and then turned in a southerly direction for a further 800 feet, terminating in 27 feet of water. This scheme provided for 1,500 feet of wharfage at depths varying from 20 to 27 feet at low water, and was estimated to cost £242,000.

Neither design was seriously considered as practicable for the colony in those days, although the Fremantle Municipal Council in 1884 prepared a petition to the governor, praying that design B should be adopted in preference to design A. The petitioners were actuated by the comparative cheapness of the second design, and also by the fact that the more ambitious scheme from Rous Head would necessitate the construction of new railway lines. If would also have shifted the main harbour activities away from the already well-established town on the south side of the river.

In 1884 it was decided to ask Sir John Coode to make a personal inspection of the site. This he did in 1886, spending five weeks examining Gage Roads, Owen Anchorage, Cockburn Sound and the Swan River between Perth and the sea. His second report, presented in March 1887, advocated a harbour somewhat similar to that planned in his former Design B. 2 The viaduct was 200 feet shorter, but the solid portions beyond it were longer. It provided for 2,500 feet of wharfage in water varying between 22 and 29 feet at low tide. The estimated cost was £448,000, with an additional £47,000 to be provided for a dredging plant He added that, if the sum to be made available was not to exceed £150,000, as was the intention at the time, then it would be impossible to provide works of real practical utility.

Here the matter rested until the arrival of Mr C. Y. O’Connor in 1891 as Engineer-in-Chief for Western Australia. He found that the

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main port of the colony was ill-served by a long jetty where in fine weather vessels of 12 feet draught could tie up.* Larger vessels had to lie in the Roads and discharge their cargoes into lighters. Mail-boats from England by-passed Fremantle, making Albany their port of call.

* For a vivid description of conditions in 1892 see Appendix 16.

After studying the various schemes that had been suggested, O’Connor decided that a harbour in the river mouth was practicable. By the end of his first year of office he had submitted to the Director of Public Works, Mr H. W. Venn, two sets of plans. The first provided for works ‘sufficient for some years to come’—a north and south mole to protect the entrance to the harbour, a dredged outer channel, an inner basin and 3,350 feet of wharf on the south side. The reclamation of 19 acres on both sides of the river was involved and the estimated cost was £560,000. 3

As against that scheme, which would take five years to complete, O'Connor prepared a second, designed to meet the requirements ‘of the largest class of ships that might be expected to be necessary to provide for in the next generation or so’. 4 This gave 2,900 more feet of wharfage, and a larger inner basin; a greater amount of land to be reclaimed, but in other essentials it was merely an extension of the smaller scheme. It would take eight years to complete and would cost £800,000. He ridiculed the suggestion that sand-drift would silt up the harbour mouth. This fear, which had gained currency following Mr Wardell’s report in the seventies and which had so strongly influenced Sir John Coode’s subsequent recommendations, was not borne out by the facts. Testing on the spot proved this and the opinions of local fishermen and others with a long knowledge of the sea-floor in the vicinity of the river-mouth confirmed it

However, Sir John Forrest had other ideas. On 6 January 1892 in the Legislative Assembly he moved:

That this House approves of the scheme of harbour improvements for the port of Fremantle as proposed by the Government, which includes opening a passage through the Success Bank at Owen Anchorage, the construction of a wharf at or near Catherine Point, and a connection by railway from such wharf to the Customs House and goods sheds at Fremantle, in accordance with the plans and sections on the table of the House. 5

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This he believed could be constructed for £150,000, in spite of the insistence of the Director of Public Works that the engineer-in-chief said it would cost between £400,000 and £500,000. Obviously, the premier was looking for a ‘cheap’ harbour, and a ‘cheap’ harbour he would have got, had not he met with stiff opposition in the House. The outcome was the appointment of a Joint Select Committee of both Houses to inquire into the question of harbour works at Fremantle, and having regard to the amount of money at present available or likely to be available, to report what plan would be the best to give secure accommodation to the largest class of ocean-going steamers.

On this committee the Assembly was represented by the Hons. H. W. Venn and W. E. Marmion, Messrs C. Harper, A. R. Richardson, and W. S. Pearse; the Council’s representatives were the Hons. W. D. Moore, E. T. Hooley, T. Burgess, G. W. Leake, and M. Grant It will be noticed that the interests of Fremantle were not overlooked when these committee-men were appointed.

In giving evidence before the Select Committee, O’Connor displayed both dignity and patience. Some questions were asked calculated to anger him. ‘Do you think that after the country has decided to refer the matters to an eminent marine engineer his opinion should be totally ignored in favour of the opinions of others—civil engineers and amateur engineers?’ To this he replied that there was no conflict between his ideas and those of Sir John Coode, adding that it was difficult ‘for a layman to form an opinion as to whether one engineer’s views are in conflict with another engineer’s views upon purely technical points’. 6 Since the committee was composed of laymen, this was a sharp rapier thrust Then he proceeded to criticize the cheese-paring attitudes of leaders of the colony. Earlier considerations had been influenced by ‘what was supposed to be within the means of the colony’. He gave it as his opinion that, had Sir John Coode not been ‘cribbed, cabined and confined by these considerations, he would very likely have gone in for opening the river from the beginning’. 7

In urging that it was unwise economy to embark upon a makeshift scheme which must later be abandoned and involve a capital loss, he showed sound judgment. As Dr Harris puts it,

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To the politicians, economy consisted in avoiding spending money, whereas to O’Connor economy implied securing good value for the money spent. 8

Others to give evidence before the Committee were the Hon. J. A. Wright, M.I.C.E.; Mr. Francis William Martin, who had experience of harbour works in New Zealand; Captain Russell, Chief Harbour Master; Mr John Bateman; Captain Ferguson and Captain Owston. After sitting for seven days, the following two resolutions were moved:

(1) That the evidence given and the opinions expressed to this committee by the engineers and nautical authorities consulted point strongly to the superior advantages of opening the mouth of the Swan River over any other project, and this committee is therefore of the opinion that the scheme as recommended by the Engineer-in-Chief and shown on drawing P.W.D. 1468 should be adopted.

(2) That this committee is of the opinion that inasmuch as there is a sum of about £134,000 available for harbour works at Fremantle, and that the Engineer-in-Chief advises that by the expenditure of about £250,000 the scheme he recommends for the opening up of the river can be so far completed as to be available for vessels drawing eighteen feet of water, and that further expenditure will make this harbour available for the largest class of ocean steamers, it is desirable that this work should be undertaken without further delay. 9

And without further delay the scheme was introduced in the Legislative Assembly on 9 March 1892. Sir John Forrest, convinced that expert and lay opinion agreed upon the advantages of a harbour in the river mouth, abandoned his own preference for a site at Owen Anchorage. He told the House he was very pleased indeed with the turn events had taken. He warmly congratulated the country upon having such an authority as their engineer-in-chief. They could depend upon it that the engineer-in-chief was quite alive to the responsibilities he had taken upon himself. If doubts existed in Sir John’s own mind, he was careful not to express them. In the event of the undertaking proving a costly failure, they would know who to blame.

But the undertaking proved a complete vindication of C. Y. O’Connor. From the moment the first truck of Rocky Bay stone was tipped into the sea by Lady Robinson, wife of the governor, as the

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beginning of the North Mole, its success was never in doubt. Fremantle citizens watched the growth of their harbour with a curious pride. True, from time to time, they protested to the municipal authorities about the excessively heavy blasting that was going on at the rivermouth, and the Council passed their protests on to the right quarter. But the bar had blasted their hopes on so many previous occasions that it must have been a day of great joy when on 4 May 1897 the old Sultan, 2,062 tons, a familiar vessel for many years on the Fremantle-Singapore run, came to berth with full flags flying.

Sir John Forrest, too, had long since ceased to fear the outcome. At a postal conference in Hobart in February 1895 he advocated that Fremantle should be made a port of call for the mail steamers—believing as I do that the greatest disadvantage our Colony labours under is that the seat of Government is not on the highway of commerce and civilization from the Old World to the New. I rejoice that there is a probability at no distant date of this great disability being removed, and the chief port and the metropolis being placed on the main highway, not as at present round the comer.

These sentiments were warmly applauded by the councillors of Fremantle and a letter of approval was sent to Sir John. On 8 October 1897 the S.S. Cornwall, 5,500 tons, arrived. It was the first British freighter to enter the inner harbour. The first mail steamer was the German S.S. Gera, which arrived on 10 August 1898, followed on 4 October by the Prinz Regent Luitpold.

Royal Mail steamers did not enter Fremantle Harbour until 1900. The first was the R.M.S. Ormuz of the Orient Line on 13 August, followed by the R.M.S. India of the P. & O. Line a week later. Both were outward bound from Australia to England, so it was left to the R.M.S. Himalaya to be the first mail steamer direct from London to berth at Victoria Quay. And by the strangest of coincidences, the master of the Himalaya was a native of Fremantle—none other than Commander William Leake Broun, second son of R. McBryde Broun (or Brown, as he then spelt it), who was for many years government resident at the port.

When this fact was discovered by the Municipal Council, it was decided to make the visit a gala occasion. It was proposed that the

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expected day of arrival, 5 September, should be a public holiday with sports on the Fremantle Oval and a fireworks display at night. In addition, an address of welcome was to be prepared and Commander Broun was to be presented with a large framed and mounted photograph of his native town. Unfortunately, the delayed arrival of the vessel caused the public celebrations to be abandoned. The Himalaya finally berthed on the afternoon of 12 September 1900.

The mayor, Mr E. Solomon, and councillors of Fremantle, together with the premier, representatives of the Perth Chamber of Commerce, Sir George Shenton, Mr C. Y. O’Connor, and other officials formed the reception party. Mr Solomon welcomed Commander Broun back to Fremantle and presented him with the photograph and the address, which read:

We, the Mayor, Councillors and Burgesses of the town of Fremantle desire to congratulate you on the arrival of the first Royal Mail Steamer from London calling at the Port of Fremantle.

We note with pleasure and pride the very singular coincidence, that it has fallen to the lot of a native of this town to command the steamer inaugurating the new departure in the royal mail service, making Fremantle the first port of call in Australia: and we trust that this most pleasant surprise may be taken as a good omen both for yourself and for the place of your birth.

You will no doubt be pleased to note the progress that the Colony of Western Australia has made of late years, and the improvements which have taken place in your native town since your boyhood; and we desire you to accept the accompanying framed photograph of the town and port of Fremantle as a small token of our esteem and as a memento of this important visit to ‘The Golden Gate of Australia’. 10

In reply, Commander Broun said that it delighted him to think that he was in command of the first British Royal Mail Steamer to call at his birthplace from the old country. It was 42 years since he had left Fremantle, although this was not his first trip between home and the colony. It was not now the Fremantle he had known, and the changes he saw were simply marvellous. Now that the British mail steamers had come to Fremantle, he hoped they would always come. He would be only too glad to do all he could to help forward his birthplace.

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The President of the Perth Chamber of Commerce then presented the visitor with a gold pendant for his watch-chain, and in responding Commander Broun proposed the health of Sir John Forrest. The premier made a happy speech, in the course of which he said: ‘We [can] begin to believe now that we are on the high road . . . of trade and commerce between the old country and Australia.’ 11 This day was a landmark in the history of Western Australia. Indeed, among the old colonists present there were many landmarks. He singled out for special mention, Captain John Thomas,

one of the founders of the country, who even in the wildest imaginations of his early days could never have thought of seeing such a magnificent steamer as the Himalaya alongside a wharf in Fremantle. Captain Thomas can tell you that when he landed here, there was only 2 ft. 6 ins. of water across the bar at the entrance to the Swan. Now there [are] 32 ft. of water in every part of the harbour where that steamer [can] or [is] likely to go. 12

It was fitting that Sir John should choose Captain John Thomas as the medium for his comparisons between past and present Fremantle. A settler in 1830, Captain Thomas was a pioneer ship-owner and merchant at the port, and for ten years a member of the committee of the Fremantle Town Trust, and at all times one of the leading citizens in the colony. Before concluding, the premier paid a tribute to Mr C. Y. O’Connor, whose health was proposed by Sir George Shenton. The engineer-in-chief, in reply to the toast, reminded them that in November 1892 he had undertaken to have the harbour so far advanced at the end of eight years as to permit of the entrance of the largest steamers. The eight years had not yet expired and his promise was already fulfilled.

It was, indeed, a happy occasion. Fremantle had at last obtained a harbour designed to meet the needs of both the present and the future. It was not in every respect the harbour which O’Connor had originally designed. He increased the length of the north mole from 2,934 feet to 4,800 feet. He extended the entrance channel and widened the inner basin from 800 feet to 1,400 feet. He added a mail-boat jetty extending from the north shore. At the time of the arrival of the Himalaya the work was far from completed. It was still incomplete at the time of O’Connor’s death in 1902, but, planned to the most minute detail, it provided an anchorage which has

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played a large part in the prosperity of Western Australia. In addition to accommodating a vast tonnage of shipping over the years, it was to serve as an important submarine base during World War II. Some have claimed that it was the largest in the southern hemisphere, but the truth of such claims is hard to establish.

The town’s gratitude was recorded in the minutes of the Council on 4 September 1900, when it was moved:

That this Council place on record their high appreciation of the efforts made by the Government during the past six years in constructing a safe and commodious harbour at Fremantle which has reached so successful a result as was recently witnessed by the arrival and berthing of both Orient and P. & O. Mail Steamers alongside the wharf in the inner harbour. 18


1 M. Harris, ‘A maker of Western Australia, Charles Yelverton O’Connor, engineer and economist’, MA. thesis. University of Western Australia, p. 21.

2 Ibid. p. 24.

3 ibid. p. 38.

4 Western Australia, Minutes Votes and Proceedings (P.P.), 1892, p. 14.

5 Western Australia, Parliamentary Debates, 1892, ii, p. 186.

6 Western Australia, V. & P. (P.P.), 1892, p. 18.

7 Ibid, p. 17.

8 M. Harris, ‘Charles Yelverton O’Connor, Engineer-Economist', University Studies in History and Economics, i, no. 1 (1934), p. 46.

9 Western Australia, P.D., 1891-2, ii, p. 808.

10 Address, M.F.M.C. 12 Sept. 1900, F.T.H.

11 West Australian, 18 Sept. 1900.

12 Ibid.

18 M.F.M.C. 4 Sept. 1900, F.T.H.

Chapter 11:
The Turn of the Century

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The nineties were for Fremantle, as indeed they were for the whole state, years of great change. The population of the town grew from 3,641 in 1881 to 5,607 in 1891. By 1901, it was no less than 14,704.

Changing conditions brought about alterations in the municipal boundaries. Towards the end of 1892, areas in Richmond and Plympton were added and the new East Ward thus created contributed £6,482 of rateable property in the first year. This was to some extent offset by the loss of North Fremantle. In June 1894 a petition signed by 77 ratepayers requested the Council ‘to recommend the Government to proclaim the present suburb of North Fremantle a separate municipality’. 1 This was referred to a committee, the necessary steps were taken, and in September of the following year the new municipality was gazetted. It held its first election on 25 October 1895.

From the outlying areas administered by the Fremantle Road Board came two new municipalities, the East Fremantle Council being established in 1897 and the Melville Road Board three years later. Thus the Fremantle district was welded into a compact group of local governing bodies, which, while retaining their individual identities, could and did in subsequent years combine to further the interests of the area as a whole.

Within the Fremantle municipality an enlarging population was accompanied by a steady increase in rateable values. In 1891 these were £51,839; in 1901 they had more than doubled, growing to £121,819; while in 1905 they reached the considerable figure of £156,476. 2 Revenue increased to an even greater degree. In 1891 the estimated income of the Council was only £3,700. 3In 1905 it was £25,535. This increase was due partly to higher rates on higher

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rateable property, and also to the fact that, after the introduction of responsible government in 1890, municipalities received a government subsidy which, in the case of Fremantle, was as high as 155. for every £1 of estimated income from rates. Moreover, during these years, the Council was becoming the proprietor of municipal properties which were in themselves income earning.

One of them was the Town Hall. Two more, which were added during the nineties were the markets and the Oval. A third venture, although this did not become a producer of revenue until 1906, was the Municipal Tramways and Electric Lighting Scheme.

The first definite move towards public markets for Fremantle was made on 30 April 1889, when a piece of land ‘abutting on the corner of the extension of William and Norfolk Streets’ was sought for that purpose. Apparently this fell through, for in April 1891 the Director of Public Works offered a block at the corner of South Terrace and Henderson Street This block was in due course reserved, but the government decided not to grant the deed until the Council was prepared to go on with the project. It was not until 1898 that the buildings were erected and henceforth rentals varying from £750 to £1,000 were received annually from this source.

Initiative for the provision of an Oval came from two sporting bodies. On 21 April 1893 the Fremantle Football Club and the Fremantle Cricket Club took a deputation to the Council, asking their assistance in obtaining the Barracks Field for a public recreation ground. This was the open space immediately below the gaol, where in the sixties C. A. Manning paraded his Volunteer Defence Corps. Actually it was the parade ground of the enrolled pensioners who occupied the Barracks near by, but since their disbandment it had become an area of crown land with no specific use. There seems to have been no good reason why it should not have been immediately vested in the town, but when the Council took a deputation to Sir John Forrest, he told them bluntly that he thought it was not in the best interest of the town to make it available to them. 4 Four months later they wished to send another deputation, but Sir John refused to see them until after parliament had been prorogued. It was not until June 1894 that the Council were informed that the governor in Executive Council had approved of the grant. This was ratified on 3 July and without delay the Council set about preparing

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it for the opening of the football season in the following year. It was first used for this purpose on 4 May 1895. At that time, a block of land belonging to the Jewish congregation in Fremantle and intended for a synagogue projected into the Barrack Field. 5 After some negotiation this was exchanged for a block on the opposite side of the street. Later in the year the Council embarked on works costing £640 for the improvement of the Oval. This included levelling, reticulating it with water from the existing supply, and forming a bicycle track round its outer circumference, macadamized with a top-dressing of tar pavement. In January 1897 a prize was awarded to F. W. Burwell for a design for a pavilion. This building which cost £3,650 was opened by Sir John Forrest on 6 November of that year.

Since then the Fremantle Oval has become a popular sporting centre. Until the opening of the East Fremantle Oval in 1953 it was the training ground of both East and South Fremantle Football Clubs and many an exciting Fremantle Derby has been witnessed there. Local and interstate cricket matches have been played there, and both Australian and English teams have used it when passing through to a Test series. The first of such occasions was in February 1897, when an Australian eleven played a three-day match.

The first suggestion of tramways for Fremantle was made by Mr D’Arcy Longson of Perth as early as October 1885. The Council decided they were unable to entertain such an idea. It will be remembered that in 1883 the Council had accepted the offer of Mr A. Gra Rosser to light the streets of Fremantle with gas. This led to the establishment of the Fremantle Gas Company, although not all the streets were illuminated in this way. Kerosene lamps still existed in outer sections when in October 1892 it was suggested in the Council that electric lighting should be introduced. Nothing was done in the matter, except to request cheaper rates from the Fremantle Gas Company. This was agreed to and the Council appointed a committee to enquire into the relative merits of electric light and gas light. This committee recommended a continuance of gas and the acceptance of the reduced rate for a period of twelve months.

In the following year, when Alexander Mackenzie offered to instal electric lighting within four months, the Gas Company made a

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similar offer, but there the matter rested until January 1896, when Mr A. F. Williamson sought a licence to instal an electric light system for Fremantle. This was granted pending further investigation. It was approved in March and in the following September an agreement was drawn up, one of its terms being that Mr Williamson was to pay a deposit of £500. A little over a year later, he made a suggestion for tramways for Fremantle. This was subsequently agreed to and the deposit increased to £750, but by 8 February 1898 no steps had been taken towards the fulfilment of the agreement, which was therefore deemed cancelled and Mr Williamson lost his deposit.

Almost at once, there was a suggestion that the Council should undertake the installation of electric light and a committee was formed to go into the matter. 6 While a Fremantle electrician, Mr G. Arthur Wright, was preparing a report for the Council, Mr Williamson was given another chance to make a start, but once again he failed to come up to expectations. At the beginning of 1899 the Electric Light Committee began to have grave doubts about the wisdom of embarking on such an ambitious municipal undertaking. They thought it would prove too great a tax upon the resources of the ratepayers. It was agreed to forward Mr Wright’s report to leading manufacturing firms in England to obtain estimates of the plant that would have to be installed.

Before replies could be received, applications were invited from persons willing to instal a combined system of electric light and trams for a term of 14 years, the Council to have the right to purchase the concern at the end of the first 14 years or every 7 years thereafter. The only applicant was a Mr Deakin, but before the Council could come to a decision regarding this it received two petitions asking that a public meeting should be called to consider the question. This meeting was held on Friday 13 October 1899, when it was decided to take a poll on 20 November. The vote showed a small majority in favour of electric light and tramways. Votes recorded for the proposal numbered 1,085; those against were 903. 7

Apparently Mr Deakin’s offer was not sustained, for on 1 May 1900, the Council transferred the right to construct the system to the British Insulated Wire Company. But again nothing was done, so that the possibility of undertaking the project as a municipal venture was once more raised. This time, the East Fremantle Council

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was also interested, and on 26 August 1903 a referendum was held in both municipalities. 8 The question asked was: ‘Are you in favour of the Municipalisation of the proposed Electric Lighting and Tramways undertakings?’ The voting was not large, but in both cases a ‘yes’ majority was recorded. The figures were:




Majority for yes





East Fremantle




A joint sub-committee was formed of representatives of both municipalities. Early meetings were devoted to interviewing electrical engineers and others with experience of municipal tramway systems.0 Among these was the manager of the Kalgoorlie Council’s electric-light works. The premier was approached regarding the passage of an enabling bill to raise £100,000. Finally, the sub-committee prepared a table of figures showing expenditure and receipts based on an initial outlay of £80,000. 10

The Fremantle Council approved of these recommendations, but not before the mayor, Mr T. Smith, J.P., took strong objection to the fact that two meetings had been held during his absence owing to illness. The sub-committee had recommended that a referendum should be held on 26 August to ascertain ratepayers’ wishes regarding the loan. To this also the mayor objected as it did not give the ratepayers long enough notice. However, he was outvoted on that point also, and the referendum would have been held as arranged had not North Fremantle indicated that the date was inconvenient. The vote was therefore held over and when it was finally taken on 5 March 1904, North Fremantle did not participate. The Fremantle vote on that occasion was: yes, 497; no, 165; informal, 3; majority for yes, 332. 11

Meanwhile, at the invitation of the Council, two experts, Messrs Shaw and Desmond, came from Sydney for a period of six weeks. They checked the sub-committee’s report and figures of capital cost and working expenses. They also prepared plans and specifications enabling tenders to be called.

It is interesting to note that at this stage the mayor of East Fremantle put forward the far-sighted suggestion that provision should

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be made to enable the tramway authority to include the use of motor vehicles in their scheme. These would, he said, be used as ‘feeders’ for the tramway service. The matter was discussed at some length, but nothing of a definite nature was arrived at.

Within a month of the favourable vote for permission to raise a loan, £80,000 worth of debentures were tendered for by Messrs Thonemann & Co. of Melbourne, returnable in 25 years at 5 per cent. This offer, which was conditional upon the work of construction being entrusted to Noyes Bros, was accepted subject to the satisfactory completion of a legal document.

Mr T. Smith’s opposition to the move for municipal electric light and tramways cost him his position as mayor. In the election held on 23 November 1903 he was replaced by Mr F. Cadd who had been untiring in his advocacy of the enterprise. Indeed, in recognition of his efforts in this direction the Council made Mr Cadd a presentation in September 1904. He was chairman of the first Tramway Board elected in the previous June. Other members were E. Solomon, representing the Fremantle owners; C. S. Nathan, representing the East Fremantle owners; R. J. Lynn, representing Fremantle occupiers; and H. Bennett, representing East Fremantle occupiers. The ownership of the system was vested in the Fremantle and East Fremantle Councils in the proportions of six-sevenths and one-seventh, respectively.

Nine days after the election, the Board ratified the agreement made between the Councils and Messrs Noyes Bros. Construction started on 6 February 1905, and on 30 November of that year tram traffic was opened on the South and East Fremantle routes, Beaconsfield and Marmion Street routes being completed shortly afterwards. The work was finished on 11 April 1906.

Meanwhile, the mayor who had been elected in 1903 because of his support for a municipal electricity and tramways enterprise, Mr F. Cadd, had resigned and was succeeded by Mr Michael Samson, eldest son of pioneer settler and businessman, Lionel Samson, and father of the present mayor. Sir Frederick Samson. His wife participated in the official opening ceremony in November 1905, by taking a turn at the wheel of the first tram to run on the East Fremantle route.

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Soon afterwards an arrangement was made with the North Fremantle Council to supply that municipality with electric light and power. The question of extending the tramway to the northern suburb was also raised, but the condition of the traffic bridge across the river made that impracticable for the time being. Indeed, a curious situation had arisen. There were in 1906 two traffic bridges at North Fremantle and neither was suitable for the proposed extension of the tramway.

As early as 1889 doubts had been expressed in the Council as to the safety of the old bridge erected by convicts in the sixties, and in October 1891 the Under-Secretary for Works and Railways wrote that the question of lowering the traffic bridge to the level of the railway bridge was under consideration. But that was as far as the matter got. Two years later the government suggested that the Council might take over the care and control of the bridge, but this was declined. Further complaints in 1894 led to the bridge being specially discussed at a meeting of ratepayers held to consider the needs of the district. That meeting recommended that the government should obtain a professional opinion as to its safety. In the event of its being considered unsafe, they should either lower the present bridge or build a new one. Following this, minor repairs were effected, the roller of the Fremantle Council being borrowed by the government to roll metal.

However, in 1898 the old bridge had become so insecure that a temporary structure was erected alongside the old one. This was lightly timbered, built at a much lower level, obviously not intended for long use. The old bridge was reserved solely for pedestrian traffic, and again the government sought to enlist the Council’s assistance in the care and control of both bridges. Again the Council refused.

Thus matters stood in 1906 when it was desired to extend the tramway service to North Fremantle. In March of that year the Director of Public Works promised to send an engineer to report on the bridge without delay, and a sum was placed on the estimates to cut the level down so as to admit of tramway traffic.

Curiously enough, when the examination was made, the old bridge was found to be in a less parlous state than had been imagined. Of the 319 original piles, only 13 had slight defects. The other 306 were in perfect condition, and in the reconstruction that followed

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none of the old piles had to be removed, although some new ones were added. Over this basic foundation a new superstructure was built, the bridge was levelled off, and on 30 September 1908 the tram service to North Fremantle was opened.

At this time, High Street was the principal thoroughfare in Fremantle and ‘one of the busiest retail marts in the State’.12 Ten years earlier it had begun to extend in an easterly direction, when the section from Ord Street to the Grammar School was formed. In 1897, the portion between Cliff and Adelaide Streets, a distance of 25 chains, was taken up and paved with wooden blocks. The area covered was 6,840 square yards and the cost was £7,000. These blocks did good service. Except for portions where water leaked in adjacent to the tram-tracks, the original paving blocks continued in use until 1954 when, following the removal of the tram-lines, a new concrete roadway was laid in that portion of High Street.

This Grammar School, to which reference has been made, had been opened in 1882 by Henry Briggs on a site where Hoyt’s Theatre now stands. In 1886 Mr Briggs resigned and established a boys’ school of his own further up High Street. As a consequence, the Grammar School closed down and he took it over, continuing in charge until 1897.

C. G. Nicolay’s Handbook of Western Australia reports that

in 1891 there were 27 boarders and 93 day scholars . . . Some of the boys come from Perth and others from the country; the course of instruction being arranged to supply the wants of the children of the middle classes principally. 18

Mr Briggs took an active part in Fremantle affairs and was later knighted when he was President of the Legislative Council. His school was subsequently acquired by the Church of England authorities and became a girls’ grammar school. At first conducted by the Misses Haynes, it was later taken over by Miss Bessie Scott who was joined by Miss Barbara Lightly. Known as Girton College, it continued in existence until late in the 1930s. After a period of disuse, it was allocated to the Air Raids Precautions organization, and A.R.P. lectures were held there during World War II. Finally, in June 1945 it was purchased from the Diocesan Trustees of the Church of England by the Re-organized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who still use it as their place of worship.

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Other educational institutions at the turn of the century included the Christian Brothers’ College, which in 1901 had taken over the older portion of its present building where Mr Otto de Grancy had conducted the Roman Catholic Boys’ School. Of course, schools for both boys and girls, conducted by the state since the early fifties, continued to cater for ever increasing numbers. The Fremantle Boys’ School had grown from the modest building erected in 1854 to the design of W. A. Sanford, and its subsequent additions preserved the harmony of its original architecture. In 1900 the girls shifted to the new school built on a site which had been reserved for the purpose in 1894. It received the name of the Princess May School in 1901, when the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later the King and Queen) visited Fremantle. Meanwhile, the Fremantle Technical School in South Terrace had been opened in 1903, five years after the beginning of evening classes in Fremantle. It was not until 1912 that it was housed in adequate buildings.

During these years the Council was served by a succession of mayors, of whom Mr Elias Solomon occupied the chair for the greatest number of years. In 1901 Mr Solomon was elected the first representative of Fremantle in the Federal House of Representatives. His place was taken by Mr E. W. Davies, who, owing to ill-health, attended only one meeting, after which the position of mayor was again declared vacant and Mr L. Alexander was elected. Short as Mr Davies’s term of office was, it is not the shortest on record. That distinction belongs to Mr J. J. Holmes who was elected on 1 December 1910, but resigned without presiding over a single Council meeting.

The grand old man of the Council was Mr George Bland Humble, who had been Clerk of Works from 1874 until 1883, when he continued as town clerk. At the outset, Mr Humble had received £20 a year. Later this was increased to £100, but in December 1891, two years after he had retired from his position as headmaster of the Fremantle Boys’ School, it was thought that the time had arrived for the appointment of some person ‘able to devote more time and in regular office hours to the performance of his work’. 14 A committee was therefore formed to enquire into the best way to carry this out.

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This committee recommended that the duties of Town Clerk and Secretary of the Local Board of Health should be amalgamated at a salary of £200 per annum. His office hours were from 9 to 12 and 1 to 4 on week days, and on Saturday from 9 to 1. He was also required to attend all meetings of the Council and of the Board of Health. Mr Humble was chosen to carry on in this new capacity, and in 1901 his salary was raised to £400. It must have come as somewhat of a shock to the Council—it certainly did to the town clerk—when at a meeting on 14 March 1904 the mayor, Mr F. Cadd, opened the proceedings by asking for Mr Humble’s resignation on account of age. Considerable discussion ensued, but finally it was agreed that this was the wisest course. Mr S. J. McMillan was appointed to succeed him and continued in office until 1910. It is interesting to note that, when Mr F. Cadd resigned from the mayoralty in July 1905, Mr Humble contested the position at the ensuing election and was only 34 votes behind the successful candidate, Mr M. Samson.

Mr Humble was a man of many interests. In addition to being headmaster of Fremantle Boys' School until 1889, he was for 25 years secretary of the Fremantle Building Society, and for over 40 years secretary of the Fremantle Masonic Lodge. He died in 1930 at the age of 90.

Two other municipal enterprises during this period are deserving of notice. In 1895 Mr J. Lilly was offered a bonus of £300 to be granted on the erection of public baths in Fremantle. Some months later, when it was decided to float a company with a capital of £2,500, the Council agreed to extend its offer of a bonus to the company. A site was chosen near Arundel Street and for some years the public used these premises. In 1900 there was a suggestion that the Council should purchase the baths, but this was rejected. Five years later a special committee appointed to investigate the matter, recommended the construction of Municipal Sea Baths and a site was selected near Douro Road. This was subsequently rejected in favour of a position between the Long Jetty and the Fishing Jetty. The tender of Spence Bros for £3,526. 0s. 11 %d. was accepted and the baths were opened in the summer of 1906-7. They were immediately popular and in 1909 the Council approved of ‘continental' evening entertainments, when mixed swimming was allowed in the

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gentlemen’s baths, the ladies at the same time retaining the use of their own section, dressing rooms, etc. A system for heating the water was installed and the baths continued in use until 1917 when they were finally disposed of.

Adjacent to these baths was the Long Jetty which, no longer required for shipping, was threatened with demolition until the Council made representations to the government that it should be converted into a promenade. It was made safe for this purpose by the erection of a protecting fence in 1906 and in the following year a hall was erected at its extremity. Apparently, Fremantle had ambitions to become another Blackpool or Brighton with promenade concerts on the pier, for in 1907 the hall was leased to Messrs Luscombe and Sumner for a series of entertainments. These were not outstandingly successful. The contract expired after a few months and the building on the jetty was later removed to South Beach which was gradually becoming popular as the watering place of the town. This beach was officially opened by His Excellency the Governor on 15 November 1909, and in the years that followed was developed into an attractive seaside resort—for many years the only beach adjacent to Perth with a shark-proof swimming enclosure. The Long Jetty continued as a promenade until, with the passage of time, it fell into disrepair and was finally demolished in 1921.

The one retrograde step during this period, as far as Fremantle was concerned, was the removal of the railway workshops. These had been built soon after the opening of the Perth-Guildford line and their presence in Fremantle gave added industrial stability to the town. To some extent the harbour works threatened to encroach upon their already restricted area, and in 1892 the government invited Mr Allison Smith of the Victorian Government Railways to advise them on the best possible site for new workshops. Mr Smith, after examining possible sites at Fremantle, Perth, and on the Canning, recommended an area at Midland Junction, This aroused a storm of protest at the port. Public meetings were held and there was no doubt of the temper of the people when in November 1893 they declared the removal of the workshops to be ‘not only an unfair menace to the prosperity of the town, but . . . opposed to the interests of the public of the Colony on the grounds of economy, convenience and policy’. 15 A standing committee was formed to

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ascertain the intentions of the government and if necessary draw up a memorial to the new parliament protesting against the removal. This later became known as the Vigilance Committee and added to its duties a search for other suitable sites within the Fremantle district. In this respect, it subsequently selected and recommended an area at Richmond. These public meetings further pledged themselves to oppose at the next elections any local member of parliament who supported the removal of the workshops.

However, the government was determined. In March 1895 the Premier, Sir John Forrest, notified Mr W. E. Marmion, M.L.A., of its irrevocable decision. Deputations failed to move him. He insisted that the government had ‘to do in the public interest what they would rather have not done if they had only their own personal interests to consider’.16 In September, it was formally moved in parliament ‘that in the opinion of this House, the Railway Workshops should be removed from Fremantle to a site near Midland Junction’. 17 The objections to the Fremantle site were enumerated by the Minister for Public Works, Mr H. W. Venn, when he introduced the motion. It was almost level with the sea, with the result that variations in tides affected the wash-out pits; it was subject to inclement weather; it was too near the heart of the town; and most emphatically it was far too restricted in area. His objection to the site at Richmond which the Fremantle ratepayers had selected after surveys of Mr E. W. Young, M.C.I.E., conducted at their expense, was that it contained not one acre of level ground and would require £24,178 to make it level. He had many other objections, and when the motion was put it was carried in spite of the eloquence and the united voting opposition of the Fremantle members.

There the matter rested for five years, no doubt because during that time the public exchequer and the resources of the Public Works Department were fully taxed by the harbour works. But in September 1900 Mr J. Ewing, a member of the opposition, and representative of the Swan electoral district, moved ‘That, in the opinion of this House, the erection of the workshops at Midland Junction should be proceeded with forthwith.’18 In moving this motion, Mr Ewing was directly interested in advancing his own electorate. In opposing it, the Fremantle members were equally interested in protecting theirs. The resulting debate was bitter. The

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gloves were off and no one pulled his punches. There was much talk of vested interests. The vested interests of Fremantle were known and acknowledged, since the existence of the workshops in that area had led over 250 workers to establish homes there. The vested interests of Midland Junction were more of a speculative nature. There were many suggestions that, since the government’s intentions had been known for five years, there had been land deals in preparation for the removal. Three amendments were moved in the course of the debate and all were lost. When the motion was finally put it was carried by nineteen votes to eight.

This sealed the fate of the workshops at Fremantle. Their removal was a great loss to the town. How great can, perhaps, be best gauged by the population returns which between 1901 and 1911 showed a decrease of 203.

The Fremantle Railway Station was originally some distance westward of the present site, with its main entrance at the end of Mouatt Street. There was also an East Fremantle Station near Edward Street. The decision in 1905 to erect a new station at Market Street to replace both of these was calculated to serve, not only the interests of the new harbour, but also of a town which during the nineties had been steadily spreading eastward. In May 1906 the tender of Mr S. B. Alexander for £12,773. 17s. was accepted for a portion of the work to be carried out. The design for the entire building, very handsome and dignified, was the work of Mr Dartnell, Chief Engineer of Existing Lines. The new station was opened on 1 July 1907.

The effect of its erection at the end of Market Street has been to alter completely the centre of gravity of business in Fremantle. As a result, that part of the town which lies at the western end of High Street at the foot of Arthur’s Head, still contains many interesting traces of the early days. Similar conditions exist in few other Australian cities, where the practice has been to demolish old structures and erect new ones on the site. Moving westward along High Street, one leaves behind the rush and bustle of modern times, and a brooding quietness settles on Henry, Mouatt, Cliff and Croke Streets. Dominating the scene is the weathered stonework of the Round House, which carries memories back to the early 1830s.

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For many years Cliff Street was the commercial centre of the port. Running from the sea jetty to the river jetty, it was the main artery of the town’s traffic. Here may still be seen the old Customs House, and the original home of Lionel Samson, adjacent to the premises of Lionel Samson & Son, built upon the lot purchased in 1829. The old house is now a bond store attached to the business which remains in the hands of the Samson family—a record for longevity of tenure among business houses of Australia. To be strictly accurate, what today appears as the original home of Lionel Samson is only half of what it was at first. In 1898 the adjoining warehouse was burned down and in re-erecting it they increased its size at the expense of the house. Nevertheless, what does remain is genuine enough.

Wandering along these old streets of western Fremantle, it is not difficult to envisage the early town. As late as 1905, they were still the hub of commercial activities. A writer in that year points out that

on viewing Fremantle for the first time the stranger is in many ways reminded of Old Sydney, minus the beautiful harbour. High Street on Saturday night is a block cut out of George Street and the cuttings through the limestone hills increase the resemblance, which is further enhanced when the curious wanderer after dark finds that he can be so easily confused among the maze of tortuous streets. 19

He adds, however, that

There is an entire absence of the slum of Milson’s Point and the Argyle Cut; there is no reeking Chinatown or the deadly stews and horrid smells of Darling Harbour.

Today the tide of progress has flowed to the east. Stranded on the ebb, this western quarter of old Fremantle remains a memorial of earlier days.


1 M.F.M.C. 8 June 1894, F.T.H.

2 Western Australia Yearbook 1896-7, 10th ed. (Perth: Government Printer, 1898).

3 M.F.M.C. 8 Dec. 1891, F.T.H.

4 Ibid. 30 May 1895.

5 ibid. 7 May 1895.

6 Ibid. 13 Jan. 1899.

7 Ibid. 20 Nov. 1899.

8 ibid. 26 Aug. 1903.

9 Ibid. 20 Jan. 1904.

10 Ibid. 27 June 1904.

11 Ibid. 5 March 1904.

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12 ‘Municipal Fremantle', Progressive Westralia, suppl. to Morning Herald, 1 Sept. 1905, p. 2.

13 C. G. Nicolay, Handbook of Western Australia 1881, 2nd ed. (Perth: B. Stein, 1896), p. 190.

14 M.F.M.C. 3 Dec. 1891, F.T.H.

15 Minutes of Public Meeting, M.F.M.C. 3 Nov. 1893, F.T.H.

16 M.F.M.C. 11 March 1895, F.T.H.

17 Hansard 1895, 5 Sept. 1895, p. 884. For further information see Harris, ‘A maker of Western Australia’, pp. 84-9.

18 ‘Votes and Proceedings of Parliament’, Hansard, 11 Sept. 1900.

19 Progressive Westralia, suppl. to Morning Herald, 1 Sept. 1905.

Chapter 12:
The First World War and afterwards

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Visitors to Fremantle who were impressed by the fact that High Street was ‘one of the busiest retail marts in the State’, must also have noticed that it was an extremely narrow street. Indeed, its width from building line to building line is only 49 feet. On this point, Mr J. K. Hitchcock in his History of Fremantle (1929) makes an interesting observation.

When the original survey was made, that main thoroughfare was 66 feet wide. The early city fathers decided that such a wide street was too expensive to maintain and invited owners on either side to encroach to the extent of seven and a half feet, with the result that today the principal street is congested. 1

It is not clear when that decision was made, but with the introduction of trams in 1905 the congestion was further aggravated. In 1913 the mayor, Mr F. J. McLaren, suggested that steps should be taken to widen at least a portion of High Street. A bill was introduced in parliament to enable the Fremantle Council to resume land in High and Market Streets, between the Town Hall and Cantonment Street. 2 The new width of both streets over that portion was to be 62 feet and the corner of Market and High Streets was to be curved to give greater clearance for trams. A double tram-track was to be laid and the footpaths were to be widened from 8 to 12 feet. The mayor envisaged the possibility of the Council acquiring the property in the block under consideration at a cost somewhat vaguely estimated at between £70,000 and £100,000.

Although in the opinion of some councillors the bill was amended by the Legislative Council in such a way as to render it useless for their purpose, a committee was formed to draw up plans and specifications.

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This committee recommended that a complete and detailed valuation of the property should be obtained and that competitive designs should be invited for the buildings to be erected. The term of lease was to be thirty years, so that when it expired the loan raised for the acquisition would also have expired, and the property would then revert to the Council free of any encumbrance whatever.

In seconding the adoption of these recommendations. Councillor W. J. Sumpton said that this scheme would not cost the ratepayers one cent, and it would be a lasting monument to the municipal enterprise of Fremantle if it were carried out.

However, the ratepayers of Fremantle did not share their Council’s enthusiasm for this particular municipal enterprise. When a referendum was held on the subject on 14 October 1914, they registered emphatic disapproval. There were 198 votes cast in favour and 532 votes cast against the proposal, which thereupon lapsed. When it is remembered that the first suggestion to build a Town Hall was similarly negatived and later supported, there is a possibility that had the proposal been persistently pressed it would subsequently have received public approval.

But the war intervened. On 4 August Australia entered her first major world conflict and in the uneasy years that followed large-scale municipal enterprises were of necessity curtailed. On 12 August the first Council meeting after the declaration of war. His Worship expressed the opinion that they should give expression of their loyalty to the Crown. This was conveyed in a formal resolution to be sent to the representative of the King. It was carried with acclamation and the singing of the National Anthem.

Henceforth municipal activity was of secondary consideration. When the nation is engaged in a life and death struggle, local governing bodies must needs halt the natural evolutionary processes of development. Fremantle citizens, in common with all fellow Australians, responded to the call to arms in a way that gave practical demonstration of their loyalty. There were few families who were not represented in the enlistments to the armed forces, and there were many who suffered bereavement.

Crowded troopships steamed out of the harbour. Supply ships came and went, and those at home watched the course of events in a conflict, the magnitude of which was hitherto unknown. As time

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went on soldiers returned, some on furlough, but many more wounded or broken in health. Fremantle welcomed its returning sons and the commonwealth government established in the old Barracks buildings in South Terrace the No. 8 General Australian Hospital. When its accommodation proved inadequate, it overflowed into new buildings erected on a portion of the grounds of Fremantle Oval.

The mayor during these years was Mr W. E. Wray, who, towards the end of his term of office, agreed to accept re-nomination only in the hope that he would one day ‘be able to hoist the Allied flags at the top of the Town Hall’. He had already intimated his intention not to seek re-election for 1919 when his wish was gratified.

On 18 November 1918—Mr Wray’s last night in office—the members of the Council joined in eulogizing the way in which the mayor had carried out his duties over that difficult period. Mrs Wray’s services to soldiers at the Base Hospital was also warmly applauded. In responding. His Worship said that hoisting the flags of victory ‘was about the happiest act [he] ever performed or ever will perform in [his] life’. 3

He proceeded to move four resolutions: one of gratitude to ‘Almighty God for the great victory vouchsafed unto Great Britain and her Allies’; one of ‘deep and heartfelt loyalty to His Majesty, King George the Fifth’; one to record their ‘sincere sympathy with the relatives of those who have made the supreme sacrifice’; and one of ‘thanks to all those who at the Empire’s call of need went forth and fought to victory’. 4

With this gesture and wearied no doubt by the strain of the war years, Mr Wray laid aside the mayoral robes. His successor was Mr W. Montgomery, but at the end of 1919 a comparative newcomer successfully contested the mayoralty. This was Mr F. E. Gibson, who only five years previously had come to Fremantle from Leonora. He continued in office until the end of 1923, when he decided not to seek re-election. For the next three years the position was held by Mr J. Cooke, but when Mr Cooke intimated his intention to resign at the end of 1926, Mr Gibson returned to preside over Fremantle’s municipal affairs. He continued in office until 1951. His completion of twenty-five years of service was recognized by his

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elevation to a knighthood in the New Year honours at the beginning of 1948.

It may be generally conceded that World War I marks a turning-point in history, and this is reflected in municipal affairs no less than on the wider stage of international politics. The year, 1919, which ushered in the peace, was the threshold of a period of struggle and change. The world had to adjust itself to new conceptions. This was not, perhaps, readily admitted at the time, but events which followed created doubts which the passing of time confirmed. No doubt the great majority of people hoped for a return to conditions as they had known them before the war. But the seeds of unrest sown during those four years could not be lightly disregarded. After a brief interim of apparently normal progress and prosperity, the world plunged into an economic depression which, in the havoc it wrought, was no less spectacular than the open conflict ten years earlier. The nations had not fully recovered from the effect of this economic disturbance when they were plunged into World War II, an upheaval more cataclysmic than its predecessor.

It is against the perspective of these restless years that subsequent events in the municipal history of Fremantle must be studied. No longer can we record orderly progress towards planned objectives. Progress there was, but it was periodically arrested and suspended. And in the confusion of these events, all thoughts of ever widening High Street in the central city area went by the board. Probably it had become a project too expensive to contemplate. It remains narrow today, but there may be a compensating factor in this, that motor traffic has to proceed slowly and with caution.

Outside of municipal affairs, the early years of peace were uneasy years. During the war, a strike of waterside workers had led to the employment on the wharves at Fremantle of volunteer workers, who were non-unionists. Their presence was a source of constant friction which, in May 1919 flared into open hostility.5 The demand for the removal of the volunteers met with no support from the government and on Sunday, 4 May, when police were sent to enforce the existing law they were met by an angry but determined crowd of wharf labourers. In the fracas which followed, the Riot Act was read, blows were exchanged, stones thrown, and a lumper named Tom Edwards was killed. Blood-letting is not a characteristic of Australian strikes.

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nor, indeed, of the Australian people, and its occurrence on this occasion led to the subsequent return to the principle of employment for unionists on the wharves.

In 1920 further strikes occurred in such widely separated occupations as those of the civil service and marine dealers. In 1921 there was a strike of locomotive engineers and in 1922 of the mechanical staffs of the state's leading newspapers. In 1924 the shipping services of the whole of Australia were dislocated by a continent-wide strike of the maritime unions, and there were further waterside troubles in 1925. These matters are mentioned because they were symptomatic of the times and reveal the background against which the Fremantle Municipal Council set about putting its house in order in the years following die Treaty of Versailles.

The war had not been over for one month before one of its immediate aftermaths began to concern the Council. Several ships were expected with patients suffering from pneumonic influenza. The Medical Officer of Health, Dr Birmingham, pointed out that, while the handling of these incoming patients was the concern of federal quarantine officers, the health of Fremantle was the Council’s own responsibility. He therefore advocated the preparation of a special isolation hospital, a disinfection chamber, and the provision of facilities for preventive inoculation. Attempts were made to persuade the authorities to land all cases of pneumonic influenza at Rottnest, but sufficient hospital facilities were lacking, so they were brought as previously arranged to the Quarantine Station at Woodman’s Point.

By 16 December 1918 inoculations started in Fremantle and plans were made to mobilize an ambulance fleet, a body of volunteer nurses, and an emergency food supply to afflicted premises, in case of a local outbreak. The first suspected cases of influenza in Fremantle were reported to the Council on 16 June 1919, and thereafter the epidemic spread rapidly. While the main hospital for the sufferers was the old military camp at Blackboy Hill, part of Fremantle Public Hospital was set apart for their treatment, and when accommodation there proved inadequate preparations were made to use the schools at Alma Street and South Terrace. By September 1919, 223 cases of influenza had been reported in the town and there had been 14 deaths. The Alma Street school was now full,

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but the epidemic had passed its peak. Thereafter, the number of cases declined, and, although a single recurrence in May 1920 gave cause for alarm, there was no subsequent outbreak. The epidemic had been savage while it lasted, but the precautionary measures taken by the Board of Health under the guidance and personal supervision of Dr Birmingham greatly lessened its incidence in Fremantle.

While this visitation was dislocating the life of the town, the Council was gathering the threads of its municipal business and planning for post-war expansion. Reference has already been made to the development of South Beach as a watering-place. In 1916 a jetty had been erected for the Council by officers of the Public Works Department.

It was now proposed that more substantial and commodious buildings should be erected there. The dressing-shed in existence, previously the old hall from the end of the Long Jetty, was described by Dr Birmingham as ‘the filthiest place he had ever been in and a disgrace to the community’. He recommended that a charge of dynamite should be placed under it. It is not on record that this drastic step was taken, but early in 1922 it was suggested that, since the buildings erected on the Fremantle Oval as part of the Base Hospital were no longer in use, they should be taken down and re-erected at South Beach. Competitive designs were called for a building to include dressing-sheds on the ground floor, and tea-rooms and a hall upstairs. Of the five designs submitted, that of Mr A. E. Atkinson of Inglewood was selected, and a loan of £3,000 was authorized for its construction.

Thus the Hydrodrome came into existence. It was officially opened early in 1923, although at the time it was in an unfinished condition. The jetty was reconstructed in 1925, and land adjacent to the beach was grassed and planted with Norfolk Island pines. In 1926, with the co-operation of the Public Works Department, a protective sea-wall was planned. This was constructed in 1927 and 1928, during which time the swimming pool was also enclosed with shark-proof netting.

While this extension of swimming facilities in the South Ward was being made, there was a determined move for the reestablishment of sea-baths adjacent to the city proper. The old buildings had

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been dismantled and sold in 1917, but in June 1921 the Fremantle Business Men’s Association, in conjunction with the Fremantle Amateur Swimming Association, brought a deputation to the Council pressing for their revival. 6 A committee which was appointed 7 recommended that the old site near the Fish Markets jetty be granted to the Swimming Club on a 21-year lease, providing they were prepared to enclose the area with shark-proof netting. 8 This the club was financially unable to contemplate, so the Council agreed to place £500 at their disposal, the expenditure of that amount to be spread over 10 years.

There is no record that any of this money was ever expended. Doubts were expressed as to the extent to which the Council could claim to control those waters, and when the matter was submitted to the government, the minister in charge objected to the construction of any permanent features which might interfere with the operations of the fishing fleet.

Opposition to the scheme came from the residents of South Fremantle. Their obvious reasons they disguised by claiming that a site adjacent to the Fish Markets was unhealthy. With this the Health Committee of the Council did not agree, and finally the Colonial Secretary gave permission for the use of ‘that portion of the water between the Fish Markets and the Breakwater conditionally during the summer months, provided it is left available for the fishing fleet in winter time’. 9

A new move was made in 1926, although it was clear by this time that a number of councillors felt that the improvements being effected at South Beach provided the real solution. However, other sites were inspected and the feeling of the ratepayers generally was tested at a referendum on the question at the end of 1926. Those in favour numbered 2,134; those against, 875.

Still the Council dallied with the proposition. After innumerable conferences, it was recommended that a site ‘almost in front of the Bandstand on the Esplanade adjacent to the Naval boat shed’ should be utilized. Once again, nothing was done, until in 1929 we find the Council in agreement that their financial position did not warrant further expenditure on bathing facilities at the present. Further representations were made, but to no avail. And there the matter has rested ever since.

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Contemporary with these abortive moves for sea-baths was a revival in the Council’s interest in the Fish Markets. These had been in operation for many years, but in 1921 the Council sought to acquire a greater participation in their financial return by appointing its own auctioneer. When this was proved legally impossible, they came to a working agreement whereby they should levy 2 per cent on all fish sold therein.

Difficulty was experienced in enforcing the by-law which provided that all fish caught within 15 miles of Fremantle must be landed at the Fish Markets jetty. Many boats continued to land their catch at the harbour jetty, where lower rates were paid to the Harbour Trust. To meet this competition the Council decided to lower their rates from 1s. to 6d. for every 80 lb of fish landed.

In 1927 the government proposed to remove the Fish Markets from the end of the jetty to a position on shore and at the same time to reconstruct the jetty which was in a bad state of repair.10 The cost was estimated at £6,300 and the Council entered into an agreement with the government for a period of 21 years. ‘Should the revenue in any one year exceed maintenance charges, interest at 6% and Sinking Fund [payments] at 1%, such surplus shall be the property of the Council.’11 The work of removal of the markets and the reconstruction of the jetty was carried out in 1928.

This was a curiously unsatisfactory arrangement. In effect it placed upon the Council the full responsibility for maintaining payments of both interest and sinking fund, yet contained no provision for any ultimate reversion of the property to the Council. It was entered into only because of the recognized need of maintaining a fish market in Fremantle and in later years the Council seized the opportunity to relieve themselves of the financial burden entailed.

In July 1922 the mayor on his return from a visit to the eastern states brought up the question of the municipalization of the distribution of milk. This had been raised as early as June 1912, when a referendum taken on the subject showed 861 ratepayers in favour and 129 against the proposal. However, nothing further was done at the time. Now a committee was formed and in August 1922 a report of the municipal milk supply operated by the Wellington City Council, New Zealand, was tabled for the information of the councillors.12 After deliberating for two years the committee was

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rather inclined to favour municipalizing the distribution rather than the whole supply. 13 The Chief Health Inspector, Mr T. J. Smith, recommended pasteurization and the Council asked the Health Committee to submit an alternative scheme under which the retailing was to be left in the hands of private retailers. To this the Committee replied that

no alternative scheme can be of benefit to the health of the community which docs not include the municipal distribution of milk, owing to the fact that the danger of contamination would still exist, and the cost to the consumer would be considerably increased over that outlined in the original scheme.14

It was decided to hold a referendum with the annual elections at the end of 1924. 15 The question asked was: ‘Are you in favour of the Council being granted power to control the milk supply of the Municipality, such power not to include the production of the supply?' 16 The voting was: those in favour, 1,762; those against, 1,191. Thereafter the matter lapsed. Plainly there was a difference of opinion within the Council as to the necessity for such a move. On two occasions the ratepayers had given a clear indication of their views, but they were disregarded. This is all the more surprising because at no time had the Council shown indifference towards matters concerning the health of the town.

A matter which found a more ready response was the suggestion of a war memorial for Fremantle. This was introduced to the Council by a deputation of three (Messrs W. Watson, J. J. Higham and Captain Laurie) representing the citizens of the town. They suggested that the obelisk on Monument Hill should be replaced by a suitable memorial and the entire area made into a beauty spot.

The mayor, Mr F. E. Gibson, said that the reception of no other delegation since he had occupied the mayoral chair had given him so much pleasure. He felt that a reproach rested on the municipality of Fremantle in not having done something to commemorate the memory of the boys who left these shores. He was exceedingly pleased when, after the service in connection with the Armistice Day proceedings, he was asked whether he would receive a deputation of relatives of fallen soldiers. He was pleased to hear the remarks made by the gentlemen who had just spoken in connection with the site

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on which the monument would be raised, because, at that meeting in the mayor’s parlour on the day to which he had referred, he had suggested that there was no other site in Fremantle as suitable as that of Monument Hill. It was so obviously the best that could be chosen in the district that it had asserted itself in the mind of every member who was connected with the movement. He was more than pleased that a committee had been appointed, because he was sure that the association of gentlemen like those present that night, along with others who had been appointed, would spell success to the object of their hearts. He considered there was no spot in Fremantle or in the metropolitan area which so lent itself to so noble an object, no spot so suitable, as one overlooking that ocean across which those lads had sailed away, many of them never to return. He moved

That this Council pledges itself to do all in its power to assist the Committee of Citizens of Fremantle formed to erect a Memorial to Fallen Soldiers on Monument Hill, and places on record its desire that its successors for all time should do everything necessary to keep the grounds surrounding the Memorial in such a manner as to be worthy of the object for which the Memorial was raised.

When the motion was carried unanimously, Mr Gibson turned to the deputation and said: ‘There, gentlemen! That is your answer.’ However, the response to the appeal for funds was not as ready as had been anticipated, and for some years the project hung fire. It was not until 1927 that the work was seriously taken in hand, and it was finally unveiled on Anzac Day, 1928. The memorial is a handsome and dignified structure, the work of two honorary architects, J. F. Allen and C. H. Nicholas. Time and wise planning have combined to beautify the hill upon which it stands, a hill which at the time of its erection was a barren limestone waste.

An interesting feature of the memorial is the brief history of Fremantle, prepared by Dr J. S. Battye, Chief Librarian, and placed in a recess under the base of the pile at the request of the Fremantle Fallen Sailors and Soldiers’ Memorial Committee. Its purpose, to quote the words of the document, was so that

In the passage of years future generations may, when the same is removed, or crumbles to dust, learn something of the people of today and the history of the events which led to the making of them.

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The document concludes with the following words:

The cost of the Memorial, approximately £6,000, has been raised by voluntary subscription from the people of Fremantle, aided by the strong patriotic support and the generous financial assistance of the Fremantle Municipal Council.

Fremantle is eminently fitted to be the site of such Memorial when it is remembered that for the great bulk of all Australian troops it was the port of departure and the port of return.

The site of the Memorial is the most prominent elevation in the District. When erected it will be visible fifty miles at sea. It will be the first Australian object that will meet the eyes of travellers coming from the westward and will serve, it is hoped, for all time as a dignified, silent and reverent reminder of the stress and strain through which the peoples of the Empire were called upon to pass, as well as a standing memorial to the sons of Fremantle and its district who gave all they had, even to life itself, to the service of their country.

While this was looking to the future, the past had suddenly thrust itself upon the notice of the people of Fremantle two years earlier.

In 1926, following a heavy winter, the railway bridge built in the eighties of the previous century unexpectedly collapsed. And in the same year the building known as Manning’s Folly, which was of much older vintage, was condemned because of the daily expectation that it would collapse. The latter was not demolished until 1928, and then only after repeated threats of litigation, and its disappearance probably caused few heart-burnings. But the collapse of the railway bridge was startling in its suddenness and the question of the up-river extension of the harbour was raised all over again when consideration was given to repairing the breach in its timbers. Ultimately, it was decided that for the time being there was no cause to make provision for increased harbour accommodation, and the bridge was restored to a condition of safety—but not without some months of disruption of rail-traffic and a corresponding loss of trade to Fremantle business houses.

Building was brisk throughout these post-war years. An acute housing shortage was revealed in 1923 and there was a suggestion of a Council Housing Scheme. 17 This was rejected in favour of assisting established organizations such as Building Societies and the Workers’ Homes Board, by making available 9 acres of land in

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Gibson, Shepherd and Lefroy Streets and 182 acres of the commonage adjoining Chester Park.

The Council embarked on a major building project of its own in 1929 when it decided to erect premises on the land immediately behind the Town Hall. The structure was such that it could, if necessary, be later utilized as an extension of the Town Hall. For the time being it was planned to use it for letting purposes and two early applicants for office accommodation were the Tramways and Electric Lighting Board and the Federal Electoral Department. With a promise of £500 annual rentals from these two concerns alone, the Council entered confidently upon the expenditure of £10,000 upon what was subsequently named the Centenary Buildings.

A hint of the approach of the hundredth anniversary of the first landing at Fremantle was given when on 20 February 1928 Councillor G. W. Shepherd gave notice that he would move at the next meeting that, as a centenary honour, Fremantle should be made a city. 18 This was formally moved on 5 March, not by Councillor Shepherd, but by Councillor J. Stevens. 19 A petition was accordingly prepared for presentation to the governor and in due course His Excellency notified the Council of his approval.

Meanwhile, arrangements had been made to celebrate the centenary in a manner befitting the occasion. A committee was formed which, in addition to planning a celebration during the year, also decided to publish The History of Fremantle, 1829-1929, which had been prepared by an old resident, Mr J. K. Hitchcock. In a preface to this book, Mr Hitchcock points out that he had ‘lived through three-fourths of the period covered’. He therefore had the advantage of a personal acquaintance with many of the people and events of which he wrote. Its publication was a tribute to the enterprise of the Fremantle Centenary Committee and particularly to its Chairman, Councillor F. Hollis, who then and subsequently was active in arousing and preserving an interest in Fremantle’s historic past.

The last meeting of the Municipal Council was held on 27 May 1929. The mayor took the opportunity of outlining the nature of the ceremony to be held on 3 June and invited the councillors to bring ‘their lady-folk’ with them to the first meeting of the Fremantle City Council to be held immediately after the official proclamation. So another chapter in the story of local government in Fremantle was brought to a close.

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1 J. K. Hitchcock, History of Fremantle (Fremantle: S. H. Lamb, 1929), p. 94.

2 4 Geo. V, No. 23, An Act to empower the Municipality of Fremantle to acquire, use and dispose of certain lands within the Municipal District for the Benefit and Improvement of the Town, 10 Sept. 1913.

3 M.F.M.C. 18 Nov. 1918, F.T.H.

4 Ibid.

5 Communication by the Mayor, M.F.M.C. 5 May 1919, F.T.H.

6 M.F.M.C. 20 June 1921, F.T.H.

7 Ibid. 5 Sept. 1921.

8 Ibid. 19 Sept. 1921.

9 Ibid. 20 Oct. 1924.

10 Ibid. 24 Jan. 1927.

11 Ibid. 16 Apr. 1928.

12 Ibid. 21 Aug. 1922.

13 Ibid. 14 Apr. 1924.

14 Committee Report, M.F.M.C. 24 Apr. 1924, F.T.H.

15 Ibid. 24 Apr. 1924.

16 M.F.M.C. 3 Nov. 1924, F.T.H.

17 Ibid. 17 Sept. 1923.

18 Ibid. 20 Feb. 1928.

19 Ibid. 5 March 1928.

Chapter 13:
The Fremantle City Council

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Fremantle was proclaimed a City on Monday, 3 June 1929—100 years after the arrival of the first colonists in Western Australia. As if to mark the occasion, the weather provided almost a replica of those wintry conditions that greeted the Parmelia and its heroic band.

The day opened with a tree-planting ceremony in Fremantle Park, where twenty-nine trees were planted by representatives of the Council and other prominent citizens. Then followed the official proclamation from the balcony of the Town Hall. A large crowd, despite the unfavourable weather, filled the streets immediately below the balcony when the mayor opened the proceedings. He told them briefly of the steps by which Fremantle had advanced to the civic dignity of a city. The Minister for Works and Local Government, Mr A. McCallum, who represented the South Fremantle constituency in the Legislative Assembly, spoke of the development of the state over the past 100 years. Then His Excellency, Colonel Sir William Campion, K.C.M.G., D.S.O., under the shelter of a large umbrella, read the following proclamation, which had been signed by the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir R. F. McMillan, on 12 February 1929:

I, the said Lieutenant-Governor and Administrator, by and with the advice and consent of the Executive Council, do by this my proclamation declare that the municipal district of Fremantle shall, as from the third day of June, 1929, be a city, and the name of the said district ... is, as from such date, hereby altered accordingly, and shall be the City of Fremantle . . . God Save The King. 1

The Municipal Corporations Act 1906, 2 under which this Proclamation was made, provides that ‘The Governor may declare a

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municipal district having in the year preceding such a declaration a population of 20,000 persons and a gross revenue of £20,000 a city.' At 31 October 1928 the municipality of Fremantle, with an area of 3,710 acres, was estimated to have a population of 22,340. Its revenue during 1928 totalled £73,354. 3

The first meeting of the Fremantle City Council took place at twelve noon, immediately following the official proclamation. It was declared open by the governor, who said:

I feel that in coming here today and in carrying out these ceremonies on behalf of His Majesty, I am fulfilling and carrying on the work that has been done by my predecessors in office during the last hundred years, and throughout the whole of that time their relations with what is now the City of Fremantle have been of the most intimate and cordial nature.

This is not an occasion for making a long speech, but in declaring this first Council meeting open I should like to express the hope that your decisions may be, as I am sure they will be, guided by good judgment, and that you may be given the gift of all gifts which is valuable—the gift of wisdom, and that your discussions and deliberations may result in the advancement, the still further advancement, and development and welfare generally, in every sense and the best sense of the word, of the City of Fremantle in the future. 4

The Proclamation was read once more, this time by Mr Sanderson, Officer in Charge of the Local Government Department, and after votes of thanks were moved to His Excellency and the Minister for Works and Local Government, the meeting closed.

Then followed the official luncheon, to which a large and representative number of officials and representatives of early Fremantle families had been invited. In proposing the toast, ‘The City of Fremantle’, His Excellency presented to the assembled guests an admirably concise and accurate account of Fremantle’s story through the first hundred years. The mayor suitably replied. Other toasts were: ‘His Excellency the Governor’, proposed by Dr J. S. Battye; ‘The Pioneers’, proposed by Mr A. McCallum, M.L.A., and responded to by representatives of three early families, Messrs W. F. Samson, J. W. Bateman and J.' G. Harwood. Finally, Councillor

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Shepherd proposed the toast of ‘The Parliament’, to which the Federal Member for Fremantle, Mr J. Curtin, M.H.R., responded. (For a complete list of those who have served on the Fremantle City Council since 1929, see Appendix 8.)

Three months later, Fremantle became the scene of the most picturesque feature in the State’s Centenary Celebrations. On 28 September a series of pageants on the Esplanade recreated significant pages of our early history. The proceedings opened with the singing of a massed choir of over 1,000 children from Fremantle schools, under the baton of Mr O. G. Campbell Egan.

At 10.40 a.m. a party of marines, wearing blue trousers, red coats and tall shakos, were rowed ashore by sailors from H.M.S. Challenger. This represented the morning of 2 May 1829. The marines smoking clay pipes reconnoitred the country and presently a flagstaff was brought ashore and a suitable place chosen for its erection. Soon afterwards Captain C. H. Fremantle arrived, accompanied by Lieutenant Henry. As the flag was unfurled, Fremantle read a proclamation annexing the whole of the coast of New Holland. The marines fired a volley, followed immediately by a 21-gun salute from the twentieth-century H.M.A.S. Canberra, the presence of which in the harbour significantly marked the progress from 1829 to 1929.

The second pageant depicted the coming ashore of Captain James Stirling, together with Captain Irwin, who read the proclamation of the foundation of the Colony of Western Australia.

A more human and less official note crept into the third tableau. This represented 5 September 1829, the day on which the first settlers, who had been wintering at Garden Island, came to the mainland. They gazed around them with well simulated interest and curiosity. A sailor produced a kangaroo for their inspection and, while they were exhibiting mixed reactions of admiration and alarm at seeing such a strange animal, a gun-shot was heard in the distance. This was the parting salute of the Parmelia which had weighed anchor and was about to return to England. Upon a freshening breeze were borne the strains of ‘Home Sweet Home’ (sung, in this instance, softly by the children’s choir). Tears were wiped away, but as the ship faded from sight the settlers put

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nostalgia aside and set to work on die tasks that so abundantly awaited them in the new land.

The fourth pageant leapt sixty years forward, to 31 October 1890, the date of the proclamation of Responsible Government. Led by the band of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, detachments of the Royal Australian Artillery and the Australian Garrison Artillery arrived and hoisted the Western Australian flag alongside the Union Jack. While doing so, they were challenged by a sentry wearing the uniform of 1829. To him came Memory, white-clad and carrying a palm in her hand. She whispered to him, whereupon, putting the Trumpet of Fame to his lips, the sentry told of the pioneers and their courage.

Thus concluded a tapestry of history, and the inhabitants of Fremantle and elsewhere who had witnessed it, wrenched themselves back from the past to the present, concluding their celebrations with a semi-final football match at Fremantle Oval in the afternoon and a sports and fireworks display at night. But the significance of the past was not allowed to die with the passing of that centenary year. Every year since then, on the first Monday in June, the Fremantle City Council has celebrated in a simple but impressive manner the foundation of the colony, which is synonymous with the foundation of Fremantle. Nor is the observation merely one of lip-service. The desire to preserve historic buildings is evidenced in the decision not to remove Arthur’s Head and the Round House in spite of repeated requests from a section of ratepayers. Instead, this has been vested in the Harbour Trust, with the Council and the W.A. Historical Society as joint Trustees. In 1936 the building was strengthened, repaired, and its approaches beautified.

It would be pleasant to record that this hundredth anniversary of the birth of a new community ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity for the descendants of those hardy pioneers. Unfortunately, this was not so. Following post-war years of glamourous promise, the world was in the grip of an economic depression, Every section of the Australian community faced increasing unemployment and a reduction of the community income.

Fremantle was no exception. The year that marked the proclamation of the city saw also the opening of the first soup kitchens. Two committees were formed by the Council, one under the chairmanship

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of Councillor Hollis in charge of single men, the other under Councillor Rennie to care for the married men. In June 1930 the government suggested that local governing bodies should undertake special works to relieve the situation by finding employment for men who were receiving government sustenance money. In Fremantle there were at this time 282 recipients, 186 general workers and 96 wharf labourers.

Although at this time the Fremantle City Council had a bank overdraft of £12,900, it was generally agreed that they should strain their finances to the utmost to meet the situation. A programme of special works was drawn up. This provided for improvements to Monument Hill, a soak dam in Samson Street, and road construction in Wilkinson, Marmion, Edmund, Smith, Shepherd, Gibson and Holland Streets. By 26 September 1930 the Council had paid out £5,836 for work for unemployed, of which £3,360 was recoverable from the government. At that time it was anticipated that, if all accounts were met, there would be a deficit of £15,000 by the end of the year. In actual fact, it amounted to £14,667.

The situation was not one that could be regarded complacently. Retrenchment was essential if they were to weather the storm. Council affairs would have to be administered with the strictest economy and henceforth they must finance all their undertakings on revenue and not on loan money. To a large extent, this was making a virtue of necessity. Even had they desired to borrow, there was no loan money available in those years.

Nor was the revenue of the Council as robust as it had been. The previous ten years had been years of expanding property and increasing prices. These two facts are shown in the following table of rateable values in the Fremantle Municipality from 1919:

1919 £130,000
1920 £134,360
1921 £157,965
1922 £163,414
1923 £167,669
1924 £173,973
1925 £181,419
1926 £184,806
1927 £189,369
1928 £196,065
1929 £202,362

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During this period, too, assessments were high. They were seldom lower than 3s. 6d. in the £1 and the loan rate alone was as high as 1s. 5 1/2 d. in the £1 in the early part of the decade, although by 1929 it had fallen to Is. The difficulty of collecting these rates, high as they were, had not been a serious one. But from 1930 onwards the collection of outstanding rates became increasingly difficult. It was not thought desirable to take harsh measures to recover money from people who were finding it difficult to make ends meet. Thus we find the mayor repeatedly referring to these figures in his half-yearly reports, and stating that every endeavour was being made to collect the money due. In addition to a present failure to collect a proportion of the rates that were owing, the gross income of the Council was reduced by a fall in the valuation of property. As a result of the non-borrowing policy there was a corresponding diminution of the loan rate, which dropped from 1s. 7 1/2 d. in 1933 to 1s. 1d. in 1935, to 8 1/4 d. in 1937. Thereafter, it fluctuated a little, with a general downward tendency, until in 1944 it was only 5 1/4 d., and by 1945 had disappeared entirely from the assessment. In 1938 it was possible to reduce the total amount of rates to 2s. 8d. in the £1. They remained at that figure until they were raised to 3s. 1d. in the £1 for the year, 1947-8. The extent to which valuations fell in 1932 is shown by the following figures:

1930 £211,305
1931 £212,070
1932 £176,955
1933 £172,069
1934 £166,588
1935 £166,463
1936 £168,508
1937 £171,445
1938 £174,290
1939 £178,826

Income from municipal investments also shrank during this period. As early as October 1930 it was pointed out that, whereas for the previous three years the average amount received from the Tramways and Electric Lighting Board was £3,000, the amount for 1929-30 was only £284. 6s. 0d. In the following year they received nothing from this source and this was again their experience in 1933-34.

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Unemployment continued to be a problem. For the last week in 1930 there were 290 men receiving work from the Council. For the corresponding week in 1931 there were 304. A major project carried on by this means was the levelling and laying out of the grounds of Monument Hill where the War Memorial had been unveiled in 1928. There is more than a touch of irony in the fact that these grounds, the beauty of which is generally agreed upon, were made beautiful by men who could not be found normal employment in a society for which many of them had fought during World War I. They were now thrown upon the charity of government and municipality for their livelihood.

But just as these individuals and many others in those days, to paraphrase the Psalmist, ‘passed through the valley and made of it a well’, so did the Fremantle City Council emerge from this difficult time strengthened by the experience and more than ever determined to maintain its reputation for municipal enterprise.

Particularly is this apparent in matters appertaining to the health of the community. In November 1932 the Council gave its approval to the Schick test for diphtheria immunization and subsequently made an annual contribution to a clinic established at the Children’s Hospital, Subiaco. In 1935, following a circular letter from the Commissioner of Public Health, Dr Everett Atkinson, a conference of representatives from the Fremantle City Council, East Fremantle Council, North Fremantle Council and the Melville and Fremantle Road Boards was called. As a result, a clinic was opened at the Fremantle Hospital on 30 June 1936.

Throughout the years, there had seldom been a report from the Health Inspector which had not included some cases of diphtheria. Frequently from 5 to 7 cases were reported, and on some occasions the numbers varied between 8 and 12. It was the regularity of its incidence that prompted at one time the proposal that an infectious diseases hospital should be provided for Fremantle. Diphtheria occurred in a proportion of about 8 to 1 of other infectious diseases, but at the time of the opening of the clinic at the Fremantle Hospital, Dr Dunkley, the Medical Officer of Health, gave it as his opinion that this new move would make an infectious diseases hospital for Fremantle unnecessary.

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Events proved him correct, although the response of parents to have their children immunized was not at first encouraging. Thus, two years after the establishment of the clinic, it was estimated that less than 50 per cent of the children in the district had been treated. However, results even at that stage were startling enough to convince even the sceptics. Of every 1,000 non-immunized children, 44 had contracted the disease. Of the same number of children who had been immunized, there were only 4 cases of diphtheria. Two years later, the incidence among non-immunized children was 21.6 per 1,000 as compared with .076 per 1,000 of those who had been treated. In March, April and May of 1941 the City of Fremantle was completely free of the disease.

In 1935 a Free Dental Clinic for children was established. This was the combined effort of seven local governing bodies who initially contributed in the following ratios: East Fremantle Council £40.06, North Fremantle Council £30.27, Buckland Hill Road Board (now Mosman Park) £19.72, Melville Road Board £42.41, Fremantle Road Board £17.67, Rockingham Road Board £10.26, and Fremantle City Council £139.84. The Council agreed to house the clinic in its Centenary Buildings, making two rooms valued at £100 per year available without cost to the clinic. 5

Even earlier than the establishment of these two clinics, came the suggestion to make radical and lasting improvements in the sanitary service controlled by the Council. Following the introduction of a Government Sewerage Scheme, the Council had administered a pan system for premises not connected with deep drainage. In particular there were outlying areas where settlement was too scattered for the introduction of sewerage and others where the low-lying nature of the land rendered it equally impracticable. In 1933 the Council approved of the principle of a uniform system of septic tanks which would completely do away with the pan system. It was proposed that each connection would not cost more than £25 and the generous terms for repayment, spread over 10 years, would not exceed the annual pan-charge levied at the time. As a beginning, the Minister for Works was asked to connect all premises within the sewered area, so that when the septic tanks were installed the pan system would be completely abolished.

Installations were commenced in the second half of 1933 and continued until in his Half-Yearly Report for 1937, His Worship the

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Mayor was able to announce: ‘The work of providing a septic tank to every habitation and occupied building in the district not sewered has now been completed.’ 6 The total cost was £7,234, the whole of which would in time be repaid with interest at 4 per cent.

There were some interesting educational developments during this period. In 1920 the mayor had suggested the inauguration of University Extension Lectures in Fremantle and these became a feature of the winter months in the years that followed. 7 In 1929 the newly-appointed Director of Adult Education, Mr F. Sinclaire, visited the Council to suggest the establishment of adult classes in the town, and in the course of his address told the assembled members that the Council chamber represented his ideal of a class-room. The upshot of this was that this chamber became the meeting-place of Adult Education classes every Thursday night, starting from 3 August 1929. University extension lectures continued to be held as before.

At the other end of the educational scale was the proposal of the Kindergarten Union to erect a kindergarten in Price Street. Plans were submitted to the Council (who had already granted the land for this purpose) in October 1930,8 and two years later the Hazel Orme Kindergarten was opened. It was at the time regarded as the model kindergarten building in the state, and at this centre many hundreds of children have since received elementary training in the art of living together. This was in no way a municipal venture, but the Council gave practical assistance and encouragement in the initial stages of this activity of the Kindergarten Union.

A request for the establishment of a high school in Fremantle came from the Parents and Citizens’ Association of the Fremantle Boys’ School in 1924. 9 It was raised again by the mayor in 1929 and again in 1934, but although the Director of Education on each occasion agreed that it was long overdue, nothing was done.

While municipal expenditure was limited to essential maintenance, there was one important new project at the beginning of the decade. This was the provision of an adequate system of storm-water drainage in the City Ward. This area, much of which is low-lying, had been subject to repeated flooding in winter-time, but by the end of 1931 it was evident that the work done to overcome this had been completely successful.

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Outside of municipal affairs the most important undertaking affecting Fremantle was undoubtedly the provision of a new traffic bridge. In July 1935 a deputation representing the Fremantle City Council, the Cottesloe Council and the Peppermint Grove and Buckland Hill Road Boards waited on the Minister for Works. 10 They were told that, so long as his engineers assured him that the bridge was safe, the minister would not recommend any expenditure in connection with the bridge. However, pressure was maintained and the decision to reconstruct the Perth-Fremantle Road, or Stirling Highway as it was called, on modern and durable lines made it necessary to complete the road link between port and capital by a modern bridge. After considerable discussion as to whether a steel or wooden structure should be erected, it was decided to utilize local timbers reinforced with concrete. On 15 December 1939, the new bridge was opened. Including approaches, it cost £74,600 and crossed the river at a point almost identical with that occupied by the old, temporary, low-level bridge of 1898. The original traffic bridge was immediately closed for traffic, but it was not until towards the end of 1947 that its demolition was begun.

The erection of the new bridge was timely. World War II had broken out three months earlier, and in the anxious years that followed the amount of traffic and the nature of the traffic that streamed across the bridge and along the Stirling Highway in both directions was so considerable that neither the old bridge nor the original highway could have coped with it.

On 4 September 1939, the night following Mr Chamberlain’s dramatic broadcast to the Empire, His Worship the Mayor, Mr F. E. Gibson, addressed the Council.

As you are aware, a state of war exists in this country. I am sure that it is the desire of every citizen to do all in his or her power to assist in the defence of the country and in helping to strengthen the hands of Britain and her allies overseas.

I think this assistance and help can best be rendered by refraining from expending our energies and resources on spectacular and unnecessary things, and by conserving them for the carrying on of the normal activities of the national life, and taking care as far as possible not to discourage or upset the lives of others.

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The knowledge of the intensity of the struggle ahead should be ever present in the mind of each individual, as on it depends the very existence of the Commonwealth of British Nations, and this knowledge should inspire us to be instantly ready to meet the needs of the hour and prepare ourselves in good time to meet those needs.

We have many people of different nationality ... in Fremantle. As individuals they are not responsible for the present state of affairs, and against them we have no grudge or hatred. I would like to appeal to all our citizens to extend to these people that courtesy and consideration which we ourselves would appreciate if we found ourselves in their position.

Meetings of citizens will shortly be called to organise those who are willing to assist in Air Raid Precaution measures and also Red Cross services.

During the Great War, Fremantle was second to none in Australia in supplying those services which were essential to the successful prosecution of the struggle, and I feel sure that the same enthusiastic, generous and self-sacrificing spirit which was made manifest then will be evidenced again now that the need is so much . . . greater. 11

Thus once more a halt was called to civic progress. Every effort of the Council was henceforth mobilized towards the prosecution of the war. Those were years of dark uncertainty for Fremantle. This was global war and the main port on the coast of Western Australia occupied a strategic significance that was a challenge to its very existence.

In June 1940 the Council decided, in view of pressing demands the war was making on the leisure time of every one of its members, to hold meetings only once a month. Meanwhile, it had formed itself into a committee of the whole to plan and undertake the air raid precautions necessary for the city and the district. 12

The first move towards an Air Raid Precaution organization for Fremantle was made a fortnight after the outbreak of war, when the mayor visited Professor Bayliss, Chief Warden, and discussed with him details of the organization. 13 Following this a school of instruction—the first in the state—was held in the Fremantle Town Hall during the months of September, October and November 1939. Graduates of this school subsequently occupied important positions in the organization: notably, Mr E. I. Wilkinson who later succeeded Professor Bayliss as Chief Warden; Mr L. P. (later Sir

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Laurence) Gadsdon, who, having organized a system of A.R.P. communications, afterwards became the Director of Communications (he was also the Mayor of the Town of Cottesloe); Councillor R. Evans, who was the first Head Warden for Fremantle City; and Mr M. A. G. Anderson, who became the Deputy Divisional Warden for the Fremantle Division.

This Division originally consisted of all the local governing bodies from Claremont to Fremantle. Later the Cottesloe Division was formed, and Fremantle then embraced all the area south of the river—Fremantle City, East Fremantle Municipality, and the Road Boards of Fremantle, Melville, Armadale-Kelmscott, Rockingham and Mundijong.

In the city proper there were four distinct A.R.P. areas: (a) residential, (b) business, (c) factory sites, (e) The Harbour Trust with its walls, sheds, approaches and railways.

The last-named formed its own organization, and appointed and trained personnel as wardens. In the city and residential areas there were 40 sectors, each under a senior warden. The residential areas were fully manned by the end of 1940, but in the city where few people resided all posts were under strength, when in April 1941 Mr A. Norrie was appointed Head Warden, with Councillor W. F. Samson as his Deputy. A Civil Defence Advisory Committee was formed during that month, consisting of Councillors Samson, Lee, Davies and Fisher Beard.

The entry of Japan into the war, followed by the fall of Singapore, the occupation of the Netherlands East Indies, the Philippines, Solomons and other Pacific areas, was a direct threat to the safety of Fremantle. A.R.P. training was immediately intensified and all sectors brought up to strength. In all shops, factories and warehouses, internal sectors were established and the employees were trained to report air-raid damage, to use stirrup-pumps, to give first-aid treatment, and to handle incendiary bombs.

Almost overnight Fremantle was blacked out, plate-glass windows were removed and shopfronts boarded up. Bunds were erected in the streets of the city, and hundreds of slit-trenches were constructed for civilian protection during air-raids.

The nerve-centre of the A.R.P. organization was the Control Centre, first at Paterson & Co.’s premises in Pakenham Street, but

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later in a specially constructed concrete bomb-proof bund on the Fremantle Golf Links.

The significance of Fremantle Harbour during those dark days and the extraordinary amount of congestion which existed there, what with transports, refugee ships and naval vessels arriving in unprecedented numbers, suggested that here was a very tempting target for enemy bombers. Fortunately, Australian, American and British naval forces were active on the high seas, and no attack was made, although on 10 June 1942 and 10 March 1944 genuine alerts did occur. These, if they did nothing else, tested the efficiency of the A.R.P. organization and emphasized the seriousness of the situation.

It is not possible to give in detail a categorical account of the services rendered by private individuals and business houses. Individuals gave freely of their time, corporations raised funds and purchased equipment, and owners of motor-cars offered them for ambulances and cars for sitting cases. Very often this involved considerable loss of both time and money, but where possible, expenditure was recouped. During the war, the Fremantle City Council spent £10,982. 6s. 4d. on civil defence, of which only £3,377. 7s. 6d. was refunded to them by the state government and the other local authorities.

These were indeed trying times for every single citizen, but to those in responsible positions the strain was intense. None shouldered his responsibility more cheerfully than the mayor, Mr. F. E. Gibson. When evacuation plans were prepared and circularized, he was visited by countless elderly people seeking his advice. Mr Gibson firmly assured them that they would be quite safe and that no enemy plane would dare approach Fremantle. He did so with a confidence he was far from feeling. Frequently he went home at night, wondering whether a raid would take place before morning.

Early in 1940, just after the fall of France a Home Defence Corps was formed at Fremantle. The idea originated in the mind of Councillor F. Fisher Beard who requested the mayor to convene a public meeting in the Town Hall. Prior to this meeting, a committee was formed to draw up a constitution for the new body. Among those actively interested in the committee stage of the movement were the mayor, Colonel Dunkley, Mr J. Tonkin, M.L.A., Councillor

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F. Fisher Beard and Messrs G. Thompson and N. Cullen. At the public meeting the Town Hall was filled to capacity, membership cards were distributed and most of those present were enrolled. The first parade was held on the Oval on the following Sunday.

This was the first body of its kind in Western Australia and its early formation indicated that the men of Fremantle were fully alive to their responsibility as citizens entrusted with the defence of their country in the event of attack. Colonel Dunkley was the Commanding Officer, and a staff sergeant-major was engaged to conduct schools for officer-training. They had no equipment; their rifles were dummies; but the weekly parades were enthusiastically attended.

When a few months later the formation of the Returned Soldiers’ League Volunteer Defence Corps was announced, the Fremantle body provided an already established unit. Later this became known as the Volunteer Defence Corps and the Fremantle area comprised units in districts south of the Swan and Helena Rivers. Parades were held at weekends and, although equipment was scanty at first, this was gradually remedied and an effective civilian army was built up. Councillor Fisher Beard, who had taken the initiative in the original corps, retained membership in the new one until 1942, when he resigned from both it and the Council because he was no longer residing in the district. Meanwhile, the V.D.C. continued to prepare for the defence of Fremantle and for the greater part of its existence was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel J. E. P. Herlihy.

A feature of the war years was the Mayor’s Patriotic Fund which was inaugurated in July 1940 for the purpose of raising money for the care and entertainment of allied servicemen who passed through Fremantle or were based there. The Chairman was His Worship the Mayor; Councillor A. Hines was organizer, and the Town Clerk (the late Mr James Shepherd) was Hon. Secretary. During the war, £21,000 was raised by the committee for patriotic purposes. In addition to the provisions of meals and other amenities, a Services Hostel was opened in premises made available for the purpose by the Fremantle Gas Co. Here accommodation was provided nightly for 120 men and it was always fully availed of. Other committees were formed by church organizations, sporting bodies and citizens, notably the Salvation Army and the W.A. Sportsmen’s Council.

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Furthermore, older established bodies, such as the Red Cross, the British Sailors’ Society and the Mission to Seamen gave continuous service to men of the Allied Navies and Merchant Navies. On a number of occasions they were required to tend survivors of ships that had been sunk near our coast.

Particular mention should be made of the outstanding service of Councillor Hines. Throughout these years he was one of the busiest men in Fremantle, being in addition to Organizer of the Mayor’s Patriotic Fund, the citizens’ delegate to the Fremantle Branch of the W.A. Sportsmen’s Council, and Chairman of the British Sailors’ Society. He gave up the whole of his time to these services, and was tireless in his execution of them. With the mayor, he visited practically every warship that came into Fremantle Harbour. After the termination of hostilities. Councillor Hines was awarded an O.B.E., a distinction that was richly merited, and one upon which the Council, and indeed all citizens of Fremantle, joined in congratulating him.

Nor were the Council’s activities confined to the Mayor’s Patriotic Fund. Under its auspices were also conducted the Fremantle and Districts’ War Loan Committee, the H.MA.S. Sydney Fund, the Food For Britain Appeal and the U.N.N.R.A. Appeal.

The story of Fremantle Harbour during these years and afterwards is told in the next chapter. Suffice it briefly to mention here that over 300 British and Allied vessels of war visited the port.* Considerable work was done in maintenance, repairs and degaussing of both naval and merchant vessels. One Fremantle firm alone serviced 573 ships during the war years.

* For complete list of ships of war victualled in Fremantle during World War II, compiled by the Mayor’s Patriotic Fund, see Appendix 11.


1 Proclamation, M.F.M.C. 3 June 1929, F.T.H.

2 6 Edw. VII, No. 32, An Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to Municipalities.

3 Statistical Register of Western Australia 1928-9.

4 M.F.C.C. 3 June 1929, F.T.H.

5 Ibid. 6 Apr. 1936.

6 Ibid. 29 March 1937.

7 M.F.M.C. 3 May 1920.

8 M.F.C.C. 20 Oct. 1930.

9 M.F.M.C. 21 July 1924.

10 M.F.M.C. 15 July 1935.

11 Ibid. 4 Sept. 1939.

12 Ibid. 18 Sept 1939.

13 Ibid.

Chapter 14:
Fremantle Harbour and the Twentieth Century

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Before looking at Fremantle Harbour today, let us remind ourselves of the stages by which early port facilities developed at Fremantle. First, there was the small sea jetty and the small river jetty, with traffic between the two moving along Cliff Street. When the small south jetty was supplemented by the first long jetty and its later extensions, the position was not seriously changed, except that the coming of the railway line in 1881 meant some reduction in the river transport of goods to Perth in favour of rail. However, a quite active up-river traffic by barge continued for many years. The really significant change which O’Connor brought about was the development of a harbour within the river mouth. There the little Sultan, beflagged for the occasion, berthed in 1897, and there the Royal Mail steamers began to call, in 1900. From that time until the end of World War II the concentration of activity was within this Inner Harbour.

Early port facilities had been handled by various authorities until 1 January 1903, when the Fremantle Harbour Trust took over from the Commissioner of Railways. This stabilizing body established by special act of parliament consisted of five commissioners whom the government appointed triennially, one of them being appointed annually as chairman. 1 The Trust was charged with the control of the port and its facilities, and the maintenance and preservation of all property vested in it. Unlike other main port authorities in Australia, the Trust also acted as wharfinger for the port, employed all labour for the handling of cargo upon the wharves, and operated all port equipment. In addition, the Trust provided and controlled the pilots, maintained pilot and signal services, undertook the mooring and unmooring of all vessels, and was responsible for the buoyage and light systems of the port. Today, these responsibilities

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rest with the Fremantle Port Authority, established in November 1964.

Until fairly recently, most people have probably thought of Fremantle Harbour as that part where they have been accustomed to seeing vessels arrive and depart. But it consists also of an Outer Harbour covering an area of approximately 180 square miles, which is acquiring and probably in the future will have the greater significance of the two. Of course, people were aware of that part of the Outer Harbour just outside the moles, known as Gage Roads. Vessels entered or departed through it, or anchored there awaiting a berth. The public, too, passed through it to or from holidays to Rottnest Island or, if they were lucky, gazed shorewards from it when they left on an overseas trip. Gage Roads is about 8 by 5 miles, open to the north but otherwise enclosed by islands, reefs and the mainland.

Owen Anchorage, immediately south of it, had only two activities: the discharge of livestock at Robb Jetty for the near-by meatworks, and the discharge of explosives at Woodman Point. It was a place seldom thought of as part of the harbour proper.

Still further south was Cockburn Sound, bounded on the east and south by the mainland and on the west by Garden Island (6.5 miles long), from the northern and southern extremities of which extended protective reefs. It was barred to all except ships of shallow draught by the Success and Parmelia Banks. Early talk of establishing a Naval Base there led to certain preliminary works, including the partial construction of a number of groynes and the dredging of a channel through the sandbanks in World War I. The work was abandoned in 1920 and resumed during World War II to enable some naval vessels to use the anchorage. But in the main, Cockburn Sound was to most of us just an empty sheet of water, a place for amateur fishermen and yachtsmen, its shoreline from Coogee to Rockingham; Point Peron and Garden Island the playground of holiday-makers and picnickers. The announcement by the Prime Minister on 8 October 1969, foreshadowing the possible establishment of naval support facilities there has reawakened interest in the idea of a naval base, but that is a long term project. In the meantime, as we shall see, Cockburn Sound has been developed as the port of the growing Kwinana industrial complex.

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But it was the Inner Harbour on which most people's thoughts centred during the first fifty years of this century. It is entered by a channel 5,500 feet long and 450 feet wide at its mouth, widening to 800 feet, where it joins the harbour proper. Protecting in on the north is a mole, 4,835 feet long, and on the south another mole, 2,040 feet long. The Inner Basin, now covering an area of 201 acres of water, is a dredged area, 7,000 feet long, widening from 800 feet where it joins the Entrance Channel to 1,400 feet. The depth throughout the Entrance Channel and over the whole of the Inner Harbour basin is 36 feet (below datum).

In 1900 there were only three sheds at the eastern end of Victoria Quay, as the wharf on its southern side is called. Each was 240 feet long, which was considered commodious enough for the ships of that day. In 1904 the Harbour Trust constructed four more sheds, each 340 feet long. In the early stages there was comparatively little activity at North Quay. Over the years a total of ten sheds were built on Victoria Quay before a complete reconstruction of sheds and wharves began in the late 1920s. Originally, the wharves were wholly of timber, but this was in time replaced by concrete piles with a timber superstructure carrying a surface of bitumen at Victoria Quay and of concrete at North Quay. The cargo sheds on Victoria Quay have now been reduced from ten to seven, with an average length of 438 feet and an aggregate floor-space of 285,100 square feet. These sheds have easy access for loading for road or rail transport inland.

The North Quay was developed to cater for shipments of grain, flour, phosphates, sulphur, timber and coal. Originally wheat was shipped in bags, but in 1932 experimental shipments in bulk led to the gradual installation of bulk-handling equipment. This was first provided by Co-operative Bulk Handling Ltd, and was used to an ever-increasing extent until the old method was almost entirely displaced. In March 1947 the State Public Works Department constructed orthodox shipping galleries connected to silos already built by the Australian Wheat Board during the war period. Galvanized iron structures with a bin storage of 2,000,000 bushels were erected by the commonwealth government during the war but, as we shall see, much of this equipment has since been modernized by far more capacious silos.

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With the advent of oil-burning vessels in 1921, Fremantle became equipped to bunker oil as well as coal. By 1947 the storage capacity for bunker oils at Fremantle was in the vicinity of 120,000 tons, and the maximum amount supplied to shipping in any one year to that date was 231,215 tons to 30 June 1946. Today three grades of oil-marine diesel, marine fuel, and medium marine fuel—are piped direct from the B.P. Refinery at Kwinana. This enables harbour storage to be reduced to approximately 60,000 tons. The maximum amount supplied to shipping in any one year was 572,494 tons to 30 June 1968. On the other hand, coal bunkering has shown a steady decline and in the following year, to 30 June 1969, for the first time no coal was bunkered there.

The Inner Basin is not by any standards a commodious harbour and its berthing facilities have many times been fully taxed. In 1924 when H.M. Ships Hood and Repulse were expected, many anticipated difficulties. Hood was 45,000 tons and 861 feet long, but both vessels were manoeuvred in midstream and berthed without incident. On Hood’s departure, only twenty minutes elapsed from the time she cast off her last mooring-line until she dropped the pilot in Gage Roads. For many years. Hood held the record for the largest vessel to enter the Inner Harbour, but this was eclipsed by H.M. Aircraft-Carrier Ark Royal of 57,000 tons as recently as August 1962. The record for the largest mercantile vessel to berth in the harbour was for many years held by the Empress of Britain, 42,348 tons and 733 feet long, which formed part of a convoy visiting Fremantle in May 1940. This, too, has been eclipsed by the S.S. Canberra, 45,270 tons, with a draught of 33 feet 9 inches, which first berthed in 1961 and has been a regular visitor since.

During World War II an 80-ton floating crane was provided by the commonwealth government as part of the programme of defence. However, the launching of the pontoon section from a site alongside the northern end of the railway bridge was not undertaken until after hostilities had ceased. Although it was no longer required for its original purpose, the commonwealth government proceeded with the erection of the crane section and the unit was completed by the principal contractors, the Structural Engineering Co. of W.A., Ltd, for load test on 1 December 1946. The crane was first brought into commission on 1 August 1947, when cases of machinery weighing

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up to 60 tons were lifted out of the Kaipaki and deposited on the North Quay for storage in No. 3 grain shed. The machinery consisted of electrical equipment for the new power house at South Fremantle.

A war-time addition was the 2,000-ton slipway at Arthur’s Head, completed in 1942. This was greatly in demand for the servicing of submarines of the Royal Navy, the United States Navy, the Royal Netherlands Navy and other craft which could be accommodated on it. Even after the arrival of the United States Navy floating-dock, capable of accommodating vessels up to 3,000 tons displacement, the slipway was continuously in use. Its capacity has since been increased to 2,750 tons, and two smaller slipways were added in 1957 and 1958, adjacent to the war-time construction.

The most serious fire in the history of the harbour broke out at 3 p.m. on 17 January 1945. Starting at No. 8 Berth, North Quay, it spread to the merchant vessel, Panamanian. Fortunately, the fire brigade of the United States Navy was available, and several metropolitan fire brigades as well as the Harbour Trust’s own volunteer fire brigade quickly responded to the alarm. The fire raged fiercely on the Panamanian and, spreading over the oil-film on the surface of the water, threatened several near-by vessels, including two United States Navy submarine depot ships and H.M.S. Maidstone. The depot ships were removed from the danger area and the Maidstone pulled into mid-stream.

By 6 p.m. the fire on the wharf was under control and all efforts were concentrated on the Panamanian, which began to list to port and finally broke her mooring-lines. However, tugs pushed her back to the wharf and within reach of the hoses. Owing to the danger of fuel tanks being likely to give way, the naval authorities ordered all warships to stand by ready to proceed to the Outer Harbour. The Harbour Master issued similar instructions to all merchant vessels. By daylight next morning the fire on the ship was under control and the risk of its total loss had passed, but not before damage estimated at £517,000 had been done.

During the war the Harbour Trust greatly improved the amenities available to port workers. These included a cafeteria on Victoria Quay with seating accommodation for 400 persons, and rest and smoking rooms in most of the sheds. On North Quay similar conditions

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were installed on a smaller scale. Electric systems provided boiling water at one end of most of the sheds on Victoria Quay and at two points on North Quay. This enabled round-the-clock workers to make tea during rest periods of all shifts. And it was round-the-clock work, especially after the entry of Japan into the war. From that time the harbour, once ablaze with lights, worked through the hours of darkness under strict black-out restrictions. Never before in its history had the Inner Harbour been forced to accommodate such an aggregate of shipping. Ships of all allied nationalities, ships of all sizes and for all purposes, came there during those fateful years, but there was none of the glamour usually associated with a busy port. The merchant vessels were a drab grey or streaked with camouflage, their companies’ colours painted over, and they had small cannon mounted where they could be most advantageously used. The naval vessels wore their usual battle dress of grey or camouflage. Often too, convoys of ships too large to enter lay outside, ships like Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, Ile de France, Nieuw Amsterdam and Mauretania comprising one convoy in April 1941, with a gross tonnage of 280,384 tons.

No official document of the admiralty or of the United States government appears to have been issued respecting the use of any Western Australian harbour for war purposes, but those on the spot were aware of the great extent to which Fremantle operated as a base for submarine attacks on enemy shipping. It has been said to have been the largest submarine base in the southern hemisphere, but, as pointed out earlier, there are no statistics to prove this. Some idea of the great variety of war vessels victualled at H.M.A. Victualling Yards during these years is shown in Appendix 11.

With V.E. Day occurring on 9 May 1945, it was realized that the resources of the port would be strained to the limit in an effort to bring about the defeat of Japan. Fortunately, V.P. Day arrived little more than three months later, and with the departure of the United States Navy units very shortly afterwards, it was felt that the strain of war was at last lifted.

The resources of the harbour had never been so severely taxed. Improvements that were regarded as having high-priority were of necessity curtailed by shortage of material supplies in the early post-war years. Some work was done on Berths 1 and 2 at North

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Quay, extending them 300 feet in a westerly direction. Work was also begun extending the Woodman Point explosive jetty and the Owen Anchorage stock jetty. Then on 23 March 1949 Mr F. W. E. Tydeman, C.I.E., Consulting Engineer to the State Government for Ports and Harbours since 1946, released for publication a report on extensions to the Fremantle Harbour, both upstream and seawards. 2

Mr Tydeman, who had been a colonel in the Royal Engineers and who came with a fine record of service in Singapore, India, Burma and Malaya, had spent over two years studying the special problems of the harbour at Fremantle. His report proposed immediate and longer-term improvements to existing facilities at an estimated cost of £8,082,000, the latter to be completed by 1972. His plan for up-river extension involved the re-siting of the railway and traffic bridges to provide an additional 11 berths, with a target date of 1995, and at an estimated cost of £12,400,000. Seawards, he proposed a protected harbour north of the present harbour mouth to provide 39 berths, and another south of the present harbour mouth to provide 80 berths. No date was set for the completion of these, but their combined estimated cost was £47,181,000.

The Tydeman plan was in every way suited to the growing needs of a state that was to make unprecedented progress in the next twenty years. It probably would have been set in motion but, as we shall see later in this chapter, other developments in Cockburn Sound led to a different kind of thinking. However, Mr Tydeman was to play a highly important part in the immediate development of Fremantle Harbour. When Mr G. V. McCartney, Manager of the Harbour Trust from 1929, General Manager from 1946, and an employee since its inception in 1903, retired on 15 May 1950, Mr Tydeman was the next day appointed to succeed him. Unfortunately, Mr McCartney did not live long to enjoy his retirement. He died on 14 November the same year.

The new general manager lost no time in going to England where he secured the services of Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners as Consulting Engineers for the implementation of his plans for harbour extensions, but by 1953 indications that an oil refinery was to be established at Kwinana ruled out his proposed seaward extensions and instead necessitated the immediate deepening and widening of existing channels across the Success and Parmelia Banks. The Harbour

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Trust was not involved in the construction of jetties for the refinery as the oil company had undertaken to do this work itself under certain conditions which, with similar conditions applying later to other companies, were to have some unexpected effects on harbour finances. The up-river extensions, involving re-siting the two bridges, were deferred pending further investigations, and were subsequently in part abandoned.

Meanwhile, there was plenty to be done in the Inner Harbour itself. Mr Tydeman began an active campaign to mechanize the handling of general cargo. Much time had formerly been lost through man-handling, but within two years of his appointment the harbour equipment included 133 fork-lift trucks, 45 tow motors and 45 mobile cranes. These in turn necessitated a start being made on the provision of a commodious and up-to-date workshop for the maintenance of all mechanical equipment. Increased accommodation was essential because of the great variety of vessels, apart from the general commercial trade, including migrant ships which had then begun to arrive and which continued to do so in ever-increasing numbers. A start was made to extend North Quay in an easterly direction, but shortage of both labour and loan funds slowed the work down so that the new No. 10 Berth was not actually completed until 1959. This provided additional berthage of 653 feet. However, North Quay, hitherto equipped for handling bulk cargoes only, had in the meantime been adapted to handle general cargo as well, with new transit sheds, roads, railways, paved areas. Custom fences and ancillary services.

The year 1954 had conferred a unique honour upon Fremantle Harbour when, for six days. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh were visiting Western Australia. An epidemic of poliomyelitis made it desirable for them to live on board the Royal Yacht, Gothic, instead of at Government House as planned. This not only enabled the people of Fremantle to see the royal couple frequently while driving to and from the capital, but also provided colourful and moving scenes on their departure. After music by Service bands and a children’s choir drawn from Fremantle schools, the last farewell was given by His Excellency, Sir William Slim, Governor-General of Australia, and Lady Slim. Then the Gothic sailed out between the moles accompanied by a picturesque flotilla of small craft.

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From 1955 activities in the Outer Harbour began to play a significant part in the over-all tonnage of shipping arriving at and departing from the port of Fremantle. The channel through Success and Parmelia Banks was officially declared open on 11 January of that year by the Hon. J. T. Tonkin, Deputy-Premier and Minister administering the Fremantle Harbour Trust Act. Its width was then 400 feet and its depth 34 feet, but the contract allowed for an increase to 500 feet and 38 feet, at datum, respectively. There was also a steel-rolling mill about to be erected near the refinery and while the Broken Hill Proprietary Ltd were to build the necessary jetty, it was the Trust’s responsibility to dredge access channels and swinging basins and to provide marking buoys and navigation lights. This Outer Harbour activity also necessitated the erection of a new signal station on Cantonment Hill at an increased elevation so that it had visual observation of all vessels proceeding through the channels. To this was added radar equipment with an effective range of 40 miles. From the opening of the B.P. Oil Refinery in 1955, oil for bunkering was piped to the Inner Harbour direct, resulting in a reduction of oil fuel tankers unloading direct, a reduction that with time meant almost a complete cessation of that practice. The oil refinery is exempt from wharfage dues. The steelrolling mill, which later became a fully integrated steelworks connected with the standard gauge railway, pays concessional rates on inward cargo, but is exempt from wharfage on outgoing cargoes.

This aggravated a state of affairs that was already embarrassing the Harbour Trust because there was also a general policy imposed by the government by which practically all normal exports from the Inner Harbour had for many years been exempt from wharfage dues. Thus in 1959 we find the commissioners making an official report to the government on the matter:

Out of a total Port Trade of 6,695,836 tons, only 1,367,382 tons of cargo were subject to the payment of wharfage, either at full or concessional rates. In accordance with Government policy the balance of 5,328,454 tons was exempted from such charges, the principal components of this balance being 4,533,143 tons of oil imported and exported over the Oil Refinery jetties and 761,886 tons of exports of primary and secondary industry commodities.

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Imports continue to contribute the major portion of wharfage revenue, and as has been stated in previous Annual Reports, if this policy, with which the Commissioners do not agree, is to continue, the Trust must increasingly depend upon diminishing import trade for its essential wharfage revenue, and saturation point has been reached in so far as the levying of wharfage on imports is concerned. 8

The commissioners were of the firm opinion that, ‘in accord with the policy of all Australian Port Authorities, all cargoes, whether import or export, should contribute commensurately towards the cost of establishing, maintaining and operating the Port and its services.’4 Indeed, from 1953 until 1964, the Harbour Trust’s reports show very occasional net surpluses and more frequently net deficits. Finally, in 1965, after annual reminders from the commissioners, the government agreed to introduce wharfage charges on grain, other products of the soil and locally manufactured goods exported through the port. Shortly the Alumina Refinery of Alcoa of Australia (W.A.) N.L. was to be added to the Outer Harbour. This was granted concessional rates on both inward and outward cargoes, and when later a fertilizer works was mooted near by, the commissioners insisted on constructing its jetties and that cargoes handled there should be subject to wharfage.

Just before and during World War II, the gross tonnage of shipping using the harbour fluctuated around four, five and six million tons. The cargo tonnage then handled at no time exceeded 2,000,000, its maximum over this period being 1,729,861 tons in 1945, the year the war ended. Immediate post-war years showed an increase and in 1951 the cargo tons handled exceeded 3 million tons for the first time. The real turning point came in 1955, the year in which the Outer Harbour really began to operate on a large scale with the opening of the oil refinery. Next year the gross registered tonnage was 11,480,111 and the cargo tonnage 6,091,267. In 1968, the commissioners pointed out with pride that for the first time the cargo tonnage handled exceeded 10 million. All records were broken for the year ending 30 June 1970, with a gross registered tonnage of 17,673,497, the total of cargo handled reaching 12,536,323 tons.*

* For a comprehensive picture of the Fremantle Harbour’s shipping and cargo handling activities from 30 June 1937 to the present time, see Appendix 12.

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But the income of the Fremantle Port Authority did not benefit proportionately. If this increased cargo had been handled in the Inner Harbour, assuming that it could have been, much of it would have paid full wharfage dues instead of the concessional rates or total exemptions already mentioned. The way in which the inequitable wharfage charges have operated on the wharfage income of the port is clearly shown in the following breakdown of cargo trade from 1962-70 and its relation to wharfage received. For ease of reference, income is shown in dollars throughout.

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The year 1966 [marked with an asterisk in the foregoing table], was the first full year when the introduction of wharfage on some additional items was effective. From that date the wharfage revenue begins to look a little more robust and the relative percentages are better balanced. But there still remains an extraordinary tonnage of cargo which is totally exempt from wharfage.

However, while the commissioners were having headaches over this aspect of harbour finance, they continued an active policy of

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development. In 1960 the first cargoes of bauxite and pyritic cinders were exported, the former a pilot shipment to Tasmania and the latter to Japan, and this led to plans for additional facilities on North Quay for general bulk handling. By 1964 two portable conveyors had been installed, each capable of 550 tons per hour, and at Berths Nos. 4 and 5 there were four 7^-ton grabbing cranes for the rapid unloading of bulk cargoes such as phosphate rock, coal, sugar, etc. Fremantle had become mechanically the best equipped port in Australia, with 26 electric quay cranes, 2 floating cranes operated by steam, 32 diesel or petrol electric mobile cranes, 133 fork-lift trucks, 52 tow motors, and 348 cargo floats and trailers. Work on a new grain terminal of vertical cement cell storage began in 1962 and was completed in 1964. It had a capacity of 4,000,000 bushels and was able to load by bulk conveyor 1,600 tons per hour. Behind North Quay a new network of roads was constructed, including the Port Beach Road to Cottesloe, opened for use in November 1960, and linked with a new wharf exit behind No. 4 Berth. This may in time connect with West Coast Highway which could ultimately extend perhaps as far north as Moore River, and possibly beyond.

On Victoria Quay the first stage of a new passenger terminal at ‘F’ Shed was begun in anticipation of the 40-50,000 ton P. & O. and Orient liners promised for the England-Australia run about 1961. When this date was put forward work was accelerated so that it was opened on 12 December 1960, by the Premier, the Hon. David Brand, M.L.A. (now Sir David). Eleven days later the first of these new, large liners, S.S. Oriana (41,923 tons) berthed alongside. Work began immediately on the second stage with similar facilities for ‘G’ Shed and was completed in May 1962. These are the most up-to-date passenger terminals in the southern hemisphere, 1,300 feet long, with the upper floor for passengers and visitors connected directly by a covered way to the ships’ deck, and the ground floor for cargo and general shipping facilities. The upper floor is reached by escalators and every amenity is provided. Very often two large liners are accommodated simultaneously and the terminal is a scene of great animation. One cannot help being reminded of the many years when people welcoming or farewelling overseas ships crowded the

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open wharf in all weathers, when it was wet, seeking what shelter they could find in the lee of the adjoining cargo sheds. The new terminals were greatly appreciated by the many visitors who came to Western Australia for the Commonwealth Games held in Perth from 23 November to 1 December 1962.

The building occupied by the Fremantle Harbour Trust in Cliff Street, on the harbour side of the railway line, had been in use since 1904 and had long been inadequate for the administration of the rapidly expanding port. Plans were drawn up for a new multistorey building and construction began in March 1962 after demolition of the old building. The new building was officially opened by the Premier, David Brand, M.L.A., on 5 March 1965. 5 Towering nine storeys above ground level and with a basement below the ground floor, it is one of the most imposing buildings in the city. Surmounting it is a new signal station replacing the old one on Cantonment Hill and commanding full visual view of the whole port of Fremantle, from Cockburn Sound to Gage Roads, an area of 180 square miles. Equipped with radar, it is, to quote the Premier, ‘a nerve centre . . . which can efficiently handle whatever the future may bring’.

The future, as we have noted earlier in describing the Tydeman Report, had envisaged re-siting the rail and traffic bridges to allow for up-river extensions, and elaborate Outer Harbour development. The latter had taken its own turn with developments in Cockburn Sound, but the former was not entirely ruled out until the government decided only the rail bridge would be moved further eastwards. When work on this began in 1962, the Harbour Trust made preliminary surveys for the provision of 5 new berths. The bridge opened for traffic late in 1964, by which time some of the dredging of the additional area had been completed. A small-craft haven at the eastern end of Victoria Quay was in full use by 30 June 1965, and on the north side preliminary earthworks and drainage begun on a site later to be occupied by Berths Nos. 11 and 12. As the first container ships from overseas were expected to arrive during 1968 work on a container berth (No. 12) was given priority, and a W.A. engineering firm secured the contract to construct a Portainer crane with a capacity of 45 tons. The container berth was opened by the

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Premier on 29 March 1969, and arrangements were in hand for a second container berth at No. 11, North Quay. The first container ship to arrive there was the Encounter Bay on 28 March 1969 on her maiden voyage from the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, there were further developments in the Outer Harbour. The decision of Alcoa of Australia (W.A.) N.L. to erect an alumina refinery had made necessary the dredging of the Calista Channel. The first shipment of alumina was despatched on 20 February 1964 on the Lake Sorrell. All these channels were subsequently deepened—the Success and Parmelia to 45 feet, the Stirling and Calista to 38 feet, and on 13 May 1968 a new bulk cargo jetty was opened a little south of the Oil Refinery by the Hon. Ross Hutchinson, D.F.C., M.L.A. This had a bulk unloader of 500 tons an hour capacity and another has since been added. As we have seen, acting on the principle that ‘the facilities of the Port should be owned and controlled by the Port Authority’, the commissioners had insisted on undertaking the whole of this work. To what extent they will be able to maintain this policy may depend on many factors, not the least of which will be the extent to which the south-western portion of Cockburn Sound passes under the jurisdiction of the commonwealth for the establishment of naval support facilities or a full naval base. This will require the construction of a road traffic link from Point Peron to Garden Island, which is commonwealth property, the state government having sold it to the commonwealth in 1915 for £116,000! The road link will be a causeway with two bridges over openings, one of 2,000 feet and the other of 1,000 feet in width. 6 It is to be hoped that these openings will allay the fears of conservationists who view the industrialization of the area with genuine concern.

On 20 August 1965 Mr F. W. E. Tydeman, C.I.E., who had been General Manager since 1950, retired, and was later made a C.M.G. in recognition of his services. During his term of office he had been responsible for great developments, including the re-designing of North Quay, the Passenger Terminal, an overhaul of cargo handling to the point of complete mechanization, and the new Administrative Building. In addition, Mr Tydeman instituted a great deal of forward planning for the future development of the port. He was

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succeeded by Mr H. C. Rudderham who had been a member of the staff of the Authority since 1926. Another retirement that year was that of Captain F. H. B. Humble, the Harbour Master, who was succeeded by Captain A. B. Brackenridge.

Perhaps this is the place to record a retirement of quite a different kind. After more than sixty years as the port’s pilot boat, the Lady Forrest was withdrawn from service in June 1967. A number of former pilots and crew members made a final trip in her round the Inner Harbour. Then she was lifted from the water for the last time by the 80-ton floating crane, and guests added their signatures to the last entry in the launch’s log-book. Restored to resemble her original lines, she has been handed over to the City of Fremantle to find an honoured place in the new maritime museum. Her place has been taken by the Lady Gairdner, named after the wife of a former governor of Western Australia, Sir Charles Gairdner.

This review of the developments of the Port of Fremantle shows that there have been many which not even the most optimistic could have foreseen when C. Y. O’Connor declared that the impossible could be achieved, the river bar blasted, and a harbour made in the river mouth. Originally planned at a cost of £800,000, the capital expenditure on the Harbour to 30 June 1906 had been £1,377,541. At 30 June 1969, equipped for all the needs of modem sea transport and with a capital expenditure of $42,458,140, it is the largest bunker port in Australia and, in terms of cargo, passengers and bunkering, the third largest.

From its inception in 1903, the Fremantle Harbour Trust (the Fremantle Port Authority since November 1964) has shown vision and enterprise. It has always been a forward-looking body. In March 1966 a report was drawn up, envisaging the doubling of port trade in the next ten years, and dealing with the developments in the Outer Harbour which might be expected in that time. It was adopted in principle by the government and forwarded to departmental committees for study. In August 1968 it was decided to engage a postgraduate research student of the University of Western Australia to investigate and report on ‘The Equilibrium of the Cockburn Sound Natural Environment’. This is expected to provide the Port Authority with valuable data in the planning and development of the Outer Harbour.

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1 2 Edw. VII, No. 17, The Fremantle Harbour Trust Act, 1902.

2 F. W. E. Tydeman, Report on the Port of Fremantle, 3 vols (Perth: Govt. Printer 1948).

3 Port of Fremantle, Western Australia, 60th Annual Report for year ending 30th June 1959, p. 8.

4 G.F., R.S.A. 30 June 1963, F.T.H.

5 West Australian, 6 March 1964.

6 West Australian, 5 Nov. 1970.

Chapter 15:
The Kwinana Industrial Complex

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It is not proposed to give a detailed description of the huge Kwinana complex, but its rapid development is not without significance for the present and future progress of the City of Fremantle. Lying some 15 miles south of Fremantle, it takes its name from the State Shipping vessel, Kwinana, which in 1920 had been anchored at Careening Cove, Garden Island, for repairs after a fire at Carnarvon. Two years later she broke her moorings during a storm and was driven ashore a little north of Rockingham. For years the rusting hulk was a centre of interest along a somewhat featureless, sandy beach. The southern end of Cockburn Sound, of course, had many much earlier historical associations. The first settlers to the colony, including the lieutenant-governor. Captain James Stirling, were off-loaded on Garden Island from the transport Parmelia, when it ran aground on a sandbank in 1829. In 1847 the town of Rockingham was founded and during the mid-century developed busy shipping activities. In the 1870s it exported large quantities of timber brought by rail from the Jarrahdale Mill in the Darling Ranges. It also unofficially exported six Fenian convicts whose escape in 1876 has been described in Chapter Eight. However, Rockingham ceased to be active commercially and became instead a popular holiday resort, with an increasing number of permanent homes being built in the town and its southern extension to Safety Bay.

It is only in the past fifteen-twenty years that the township of Kwinana has emerged with two satellite towns—Medina and Calista —already developed, and two others—Orelia and Parmelia—to be developed later. Facilities in the area now include a modern shopping centre, four schools (including a high school), a kindergarten, a community hall, library, hotel, infant health centre, maternity

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hospital and a district club. All this has come about because of the establishment near by of heavy industry on a large scale.

The Kwinana industrial complex was triggered off by the decision of British Petroleum Ltd to build an oil refinery there. This came on stream in 1955 and was followed by something of an industrial chain reaction. First came a steel-rolling mill and then in quick succession a blast furnace, an alumina refinery, a nitrogenous fertilizer plant, plants for producing steel pipes, for prefabricating steel and sand-blasting and, somewhat to the north and well back from the beach area and not visible in the over-all view of the complex, a cement works. When fully developed, the Cockburn Sound-Kwinana-Rockingham region is expected to have a population of 200,000 and to provide employment for 80,000.

No doubt, the most significant single industry there is the oil refinery, occupying 1,000 acres, about half of which are developed. With a capital investment totalling $100 million, it processed more than 30 million tons of crude oil in its first 12 years of operation. It not only produces various types of refined fuel piped for bunkering to Fremantle Harbour, but supplies these for near-by industrial plants, as well as a number of side-products used by others. At present the State Electricity Commission is constructing an oil-fired power station at Kwinana with an ultimate total generating capacity of 1,000,000 kilowatts. This will be built in progressive stages to meet the requirements both of the area and the state’s electricity grid into which part of its power will be fed. The first section, expected to be completed by mid-1971, consists of two 120,000 kilowatt units, the first of which is already in commercial operation.

The steel-rolling mill of B.H.P.’s subsidiary, Australian Iron and Steel Pty Ltd, developed by various stages from 1956, until on 19 November 1960, the parent company signed an agreement with the West Australian government by which it undertook to develop an integrated iron and steel industry at Kwinana in return for leases of the high-grade iron ore deposits at Koolyanobbing and Bungalbin, north-east of Southern Cross. One of the conditions of the agreement was that the West Australian government should undertake to build a standard-gauge railway connecting the Koolyanobbing mine with the Kwinana works before the end of 1968, with the company paying freight on the iron ore. This was done and the blowing in of the

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blast furnace at Kwinana in May 1968 was a major event in the industrial development of the state. It is the first major plant to carry the processing of Western Australia’s enormous iron ore reserves to the tertiary stage. By 1978 it will become a fully integrated iron and steel making centre.

The refinery of Alcoa of Australia (W.A.) N.L. was established at an initial cost of $22,000,000 and made its first shipment of alumina in 1964. In 1965 the company decided to double the refinery’s annual capacity and successive additions to the plant boosted it to 800,000 tons with an ultimate target of 1,040,000 tons by the end of 1970. Its bauxite is mined by open-cut from an area 200 miles long and 25 miles wide in the Darling Ranges near Jarrahdale, 32 miles from Kwinana, and is brought to the refinery site by a narrow-gauge railway constructed by the W.A.G.R. When the company saw that the Kwinana plant would reach its designed capacity of 1,250,000 tons by the end of 1970, it chose a new site for a second refinery near Pinjarra.

A $30,000,000 fertilizer complex just south of the oil refinery has an initial capacity of 300,000 tons a year. It is operated by C.S.B.P. & Farmers Ltd, the state’s major superphosphate producer, and Kwinana Nitrogen Co. Pty Ltd, and is designed to expand production with increased demand. It produces superphosphate, anhydrous ammonia, and compound fertilizers containing nitrogen phosphates and nitrogen, phosphate and potash. The nitrogen plants are on a 6-acre site between the oil refinery and the main fertilizer works. They produce ammonia, nitric add and ammonium nitrate, the main raw materials being by-products of oil refining. Another example of the interlocking of industry in the Kwinana complex is that the Western Mining Corporation’s nickel refinery, one of the latest additions, will require about 40,000 tons of ammonia a year from this source. Western Mining occupies a 200-acre site and when its refinery went on stream in May 1970, its capital expenditure was $30,000,000. Ore is brought on the standard-gauge railway from Kambalda, south of Kalgoorlie, where the Corporation will later set up a nickel smelter. The refinery will have an annual capacity of 15,000 tons of nickel metal, with about 150,000 tons of ammonium sulphate as a by-product.

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These are the giants of the Kwinana complex. But many other firms have been quick to see the advantage of the availability of a large number of by-products, excellent road and rail communications, and good harbour facilities. Among them is Electrical Power Transmission, established at Kwinana by the parent company, Society Anonima Electrica of Milan, Italy, in 1965, with a capital outlay of $1,500,000. It handles about 500 tons of steel a month, half the steel being locally manufactured, the rest coming from eastern Australia. Branches of E.P.T. have been established in all Australian states, and an engineering shop similar to the one at Kwinana, has been constructed at Port Hedland.

There are many other firms operating at Kwinana, many of them with considerable growth potential. They include Brambles Industrial Services, a subsidiary of Brambles Industries Ltd; C. A. Parsons of Australia, Ltd; Australian Liquid Air (W.A.) Pty Ltd; the Readymix Group (W.A.); Transfield (W.A.) Pty Ltd; N. B. Love Starches (W.A.) Pty Ltd; Gardner Bros. & Perrott (W.A.) Pty Ltd; Stanton Pipes of Australia Pty Ltd; H. Rose & Co.; Commonwealth Industrial Gases Ltd; Armco (Aust.) Pty Ltd; Chicago Bridge (Aust.) Pty Ltd; Co-operative Bulk Handling Ltd; Chemical Industries (Kwinana) Pty Ltd; O’Connor Crane Service; T. W. Crommelin & Co., Pty Ltd; and Mephan Ferguson Pty Ltd.

The last-named firm has an interesting historical association with Western Australia. In 1898 C. Y. O’Connor had been impressed by the unique locking-bar pipe this firm had invented. After seeing it under test conditions in Adelaide he recommended it in preference to riveted pipes for the Coolgardie Water Scheme. Mephan Ferguson Pty Ltd and the Sydney-based firm of G. Y. C. Hoskins secured the contract for their manufacture, but in those days the steel plates used had to be imported, some from Germany and some from U.S.A. Today these would be Australian-made, perhaps Kwinana-made.

The Western Australian Government Railways is currently constructing a $7,000,000 railway terminus and marshalling yard at Robb Jetty, on the northern fringe of the industrial area. It will occupy 90 acres and there are already connecting rail links to Midland Junction and Kwinana. The terminus will handle both 3 feet 6 inches and 4 feet 8.5 inches gauges and will, when completed, link

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the area with the standard-gauge railway across Australia. The first stage of the project came into operation in October 1970.

This brief survey shows how a huge industrial complex, with an over-all capital expenditure of something like $350,000,000, has come into being in less than two decades. Connected with it is a complicated set of roadways which have given new significance, both for industry and for housing, to a vast area south of the river which at the end of World War II was virtually empty bushland. Altogether there are 7,000 'acres at Kwinana reserved for industry. Indeed, probably nowhere else in Australia do such opportunities exist so close to a major city and to such up-to-date harbour facilities as those described in the preceding chapter.

Chapter 16:
Fremantle in the Post-War Years

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Before World War II, Fremantle had three main road outlets. The oldest and most used was across the North Fremantle traffic bridge to Stirling Highway through a heavily built-up area to the city of Perth. Less used was the Canning Highway, a narrow ribbon of bitumen on the south side of the river. It began east of the traffic bridge and passed through the old-established town of East Fremantle and the newer and only partly built-up residential area of Melville. Beyond that there was very little building until it crossed the Canning River and led through the older suburb of South Perth, eventually reaching Perth by a somewhat roundabout route over the Causeway. The third outlet was to the south, through the market-gardening district of Spearwood and thence through mostly undeveloped bushland to the holiday resorts of Rockingham and Mandurah, turning inland at that point to Pinjarra, then south to the fruit-growing, farming and timber country of the south-west.

The Stirling Highway outlet is today much the same as it was then, except for the deviation made possible by Tydeman Road in North Fremantle to give access to North Quay and to link up with the Port Beach Road.* The other two have changed dramatically. Canning Highway, considerably widened and in parts a dual carriageway, now goes entirely through residential areas with their associated shopping centres, and its approach to Perth is more direct, via the Kwinana Freeway and the Narrows Bridge which was opened in 1959. The southern outlet now passes the Kwinana industrial complex [described in the previous chapter], with offshoots to its satellite towns of Medina and Calista. These changes need to be appreciated in relation to a rapidly expanding metropolis. Suburbia is

* Described in Chapter Fourteen.

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spreading over much of the area south of Canning Highway and will in time merge with residential and industrial areas moving eastward and northward from Kwinana. Already a network of roadways runs through these parts, with several major roads running eastwards. One of these. High Road, is really a continuation of High Street and joins Albany Highway near Cannington.

A new traffic bridge is planned to begin on the north shore of the river near Bruce Street, North Fremantle, and will cross at somewhat of an angle upstream, reaching the southern shore near King Street. This bridge will supplement the present one, not replace it. Its purpose will be to by-pass traffic destined for, or originating from, points south of Fremantle. In the first stage, south-bound traffic from the bridge will flow along Silas Street and into Wood Street, while north-bound traffic will approach the bridge via Amherst and King Street. Ultimately, the Fremantle Eastern bypass highway will be constructed from Canning Highway, which is to be diverted to a new location south of its present one and widened to Rockingham Road connecting with Cockburn Road.

But this is for the future. Looking back at the end of World War II, we find that the Fremantle City Council was poised ready for the changes it felt were inevitable with the coming of peace. Few people would have been sure of exactly what those changes would be; certainly none could have foretold the speed at which some of them would take place. In Fremantle, as elsewhere, development had been restricted during the 1930s, over most of which hung the shadow of the economic depression. During the war, development came to a standstill because of the over-all preoccupation with defeating the enemy and with national and personal survival. But even during that dark period the Council looked ahead and made plans. There were, for instance, hints of establishing a free library, and preliminary discussions on a town planning scheme. But naturally enough, immediate priority had to be given to overtaking work suspended during the war, and even here progress was slow owing to the general shortage of materials in the early post-war years.

Chapter Eleven has mentioned the inauguration of the Fremantle Tramways and Electric Lighting Board, with both trams and power extending over an ever-widening area. This joint enterprise had

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been authorized by act of parliament in 1903 and was vested in the municipalities of Fremantle and East Fremantle in the proportions of six-sevenths and one-seventh, respectively. 1 Both the tramways and the electric light and power services were a sound source of municipal revenue. It is amazing to realize that until 1948 there had been no increase in tram-fares since its inception. There were still ‘penny sections’ on all routes, and special workers’ tickets were still available up to 8.55 a.m. for 4d. return, with transfer privileges, so that a journey from the Road Board office at Bicton to the terminus at South Fremantle (a distance of over 10 miles, there and back) could be made for fourpence! Transfers and penny sections were abolished in 1948 and there was an over-all rise in fares.

Actually, the writing was on the wall for the trams themselves. Even before World War II, omnibuses had been introduced on some sections and early post-war work included the total replacement of trams by buses and the removal of tram-tracks. The latter work was spread over many years, so that it was not until 1958 that all tram-lines had been lifted, a total of 8 miles 68 chains, the necessary road repairs effected and the steel rails sold.

Meanwhile, an act of parliament passed in 1952, (1 Eliz. II, No. 66)2 authorized the sale of the electricity undertaking to the State Electricity Commission for the sum of £700,000. Later, the transport facilities were sold to the Metropolitan Transport Trust for £182,150 and another act of parliament, the City of Fremantle and the Town of East Fremantle Trust Funds Act (10 Eliz. II, No. 78), established a Trust to handle the balance of the money received from both sales, after a certain amount had been allowed for capital expenditure. The interest was to be divided—six-sevenths to the City of Fremantle and one-seventh to the town of East Fremantle Fremantle’s share of this Trust Fund now stands at $1,312,880 and the interest it earns has proved a valuable annual supplement to the city’s finances. For the year ending 30 June 1970 it was $90,776.

In 1947 the death occurred of Mr James Shepherd who had been with the Council for more than 40 years, 25 of them as town clerk, during which time he had given sterling service. Mr N. J. C. McCombe was appointed Acting Town Clerk and his position was confirmed in 1948. Born in Caulfield, Victoria, he had come to Western Australia in 1928 and begun business on his own account.

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but a succession of difficult years during the depression had led him to seek employment with the Fremantle City Council in 1939 as a temporary clerical officer. That he quickly impressed his employers by his efficiency is shown by his being appointed Assistant Town Clerk in 1942. As town clerk, Mr McCombe was to be actively associated until his retirement in 1966 with many policy-framing decisions during what were perhaps the Council’s most productive years. He was awarded an O.B.E. in 1967.

Even during the war, the Council had given thought to the need for a limited zoning plan for building in Fremantle, and in 1947 had ratified an earlier decision of its Town Planning Committee to make land available for housing on the south side of South Street and for industry on the north side. The story of the new housing areas and the development in various stages of the industrial centre which later came to be known as O’Connor is told in the next chapter. This was the first scheme of industrial planning to be undertaken by a local-government authority in Australia.

Because it realized the need for specialist advice on planning, the Council in 1947 appointed Mr Harold Boas, a well-known architect and planner, to draw up a town planning scheme. His report, completed in 1950, made sweeping suggestions for over-all planning and zoning. The appointment of a full-time City Engineer, Mr K. G. Bott, M.I.E.A., in place of the Consulting Engineer, Mr R. A. Oldham, M.I.E.A., who had resigned, gave the Council greater flexibility in implementing its plans. However, in 1953, it decided to hold its own town planning scheme in abeyance because of the state government’s decision to prepare an over-all plan for the metropolitan area. A highly qualified English planner, Mr Gordon Stephenson (now Professor of Town Planning at the University of Western Australia), together with the State Town Planning Commissioner, Mr J. A. Hepburn, made a detailed and far-sighted study of the problems involved and issued their joint report in 1955. This paid a special tribute to the City of Fremantle for its initiative in establishing an area for industry, although this was then far from fully developed. It said: ‘It stands as an excellent example of a combined operation, in which a local authority and private enterprise join forces to promote better civic development.’ 3 We shall see later in this chapter how the Fremantle City Council proceeded to put

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into operation its plan for the re-development of the city proper, amending the recommendations of its own town planning scheme in accordance with those put forward in the Stephenson-Hepburn plan, and also in accordance with new thinking regarding those stages demanding priority of treatment.

As early as 1940, Councillor E. M. Davies, M.L.C., had raised the question of establishing a municipal library and in 1941 the Council appointed a special committee to investigate the possibility. It consisted of E. M. Davies (chairman), J. Stevens, W. F. Samson and B. W. Lee. The growing financial difficulties of the Fremantle Literary Institute in South Terrace suggested that here was an already established library which the Council might acquire. This was approved in principle by the Council in October 1944, and four years later it adopted the draft bill prepared by its solicitors for presentation to parliament. The City of Fremantle (Free Literary Institute) Act (12 & 13 Geo. VI, No. 65) was finally assented to on 21 January 1949. The library was opened on 5 September 1949 by Dr J. S. Battye, State Librarian. With 5,000 books on its shelves it became the first wholly rate-supported municipal library in Western Australia. Its first librarian was Mrs F. Kirtley Anderson. In the next few years membership grew steadily, and in Sir Frank Gibson’s final Mayoral Report in 1951, there was a hint that when the Library Board which the government was then planning was established, Fremantle would be one of the first municipalities to participate in the new scheme. It then had 1,365 registered members, extensive renovations had been completed in the old Literary Institute building and some of the rooms were being used by the Adult Education Board for classes in a variety of subjects.

The record long period of service as mayor of Sir Frank Gibson is summarized in the final chapter of this book. His successor, Mr W. F. Samson, introducing his first Mayoral Report, said:

During the past 15 years, and particularly since 1945, the functions of Local Government in Australia have expanded very considerably, and the City of Fremantle has been particularly active in expressing in a practical manner the new conception that Local Government accepts responsibility for- more than the physical improvement of the locality in which people live and gives attention to the social and cultural needs of the community. 4

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He was able to cite as examples the Free Lending Library, the Women’s Rest Room, the new Infant Health Clinic, the Ante-Natal Clinic, increased facilities for physical recreation and well-equipped children’s playground areas.

The Women’s Rest Room had been opened in the Town Hall block in 1948. It had a fully equipped first-aid room, a rest room with telephone and books, two rooms where babies could be bathed and fed, toilets, and a shower room with clean towel service. This rest room was immediately popular with women visiting the city for shopping or entertainment. In its first full year, 20,637 women used it and by 1960 the number had grown to 59,578. It has continued to be an extremely useful public utility.

The Infant Health Centre and the Ante-Natal Clinic to which the mayor had referred, were part of an over-all municipal enterprise which had first been suggested in 1943, and now bears the name of the Birmingham Infant Health Centre after Dr H. J. Birmingham who was a member of the Board of Management and an honorary medical officer to the Fremantle Public Hospital from its inception until he resigned in 1915. A competition for a design, conducted through the Royal Institute of Architects, was won by Messrs Marshal Clifton, A.R.A.IA., and Eric Leach, A.RA.IA. It occupies a site at the comer of Parry and Holdsworth Streets, adjoining the south-east comer of Queen’s Square. The Infant Health Centre was opened on 20 December 1950, and the Ante-Natal Clinic in November 1953. To it was later added a dental clinic and an immunization clinic. The initial work of the latter was directed to eliminating from the district two diseases, diphtheria and poliomyelitis, which had a high incidence of occurrence in most parts of Western Australia. Soon Fremantle was able to claim complete freedom from both. Since then there has been no relaxing of efforts to maintain this control and the clinic also administers the triple prophylactic (whooping-cough, diphtheria and tetanus).

A very recent addition, at a cost of $53,469, is the Esme Fletcher Day Nursery opened in 1967. Named after Councillor Esme Fletcher, at present Deputy-Mayor of Fremantle, it is situated on a portion of Queen’s Square alienated by special permission. An average of about 50 children, from babies to pre-schoolers, attend daily and there are three different areas for three age groups. A fully

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trained nurse, Sister L. D. Gomme, is in charge with a staff of 10 assistants. Parents who can afford to do so pay $12 a week, but others pay according to their ability and in special cases of hardship there is no charge. The facilities of the Health Centre and the Day Nursery are not restricted to children of parents living within the boundary of the municipality of Fremantle. For a while one youngster travelled with his father, all the way from Kelmscott over 20 miles distant, to attend the Day Nursery and arrived there at 7.30 a.m. At the time of writing, work is about to begin on an Occasional Accommodation Centre in Holdsworth Street, adjacent to the Health Centre. It will cater for residents of Fremantle who may, for a number of different reasons, find themselves in genuine need of temporary accommodation. It is expected that this will apply mainly to women and children. The Health Centre and other health matters in Fremantle had been the special concern of Mr W. G. Berry, the Council’s Chief Health Inspector, who retired in 1969 after 26 years of service. He was succeeded by Mr V. W. Now-land, whose position is now known as Chief Health Surveyor. Mr Berry is now secretary of the Esme Fletcher Day Nursery. Another who was closely concerned with the Health Centre was Dr C. R. Dunkley, the Council’s medical officer for 42 years. He retired because of ill-health in 1969 and died a short time afterwards.

Perhaps while speaking of health matters this is the place to review briefly the considerable extensions that have been made to Fremantle Hospital, the establishment of which was mentioned towards the end of Chapter Nine. This, of course, is not a municipal enterprise, but the Council shares the satisfaction of the whole district that such excellent medical facilities exist within its boundaries. A new children’s ward, the Adelaide Samson Ward, named after an aunt of the present mayor, was opened as recently as November 1970, replacing the original one of 1927 which bore the same name. Miss Samson had bequeathed a generous legacy to the hospital on her death in September 1921. The total bed accommodation is now about 320. This includes two annexes—one at Mosman Park where patients recuperate before discharge, and one in Moss Street, East Fremantle, for the rehabilitation of patients with physical disabilities after severe illness or accident.

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A surgical block opened in 1928 was followed in 1934 by an outpatients’ department, known as the ‘Ron Doig Block’ and built out of public subscriptions to commemorate a popular local footballer who died as the result of injuries received in a football match. A new community ward was added in 1939—the ‘Alexander McCallum Block’, named after the Hon. A. McCallum, M.L.A. for South Fremantle from 1921 to 1935, and for his final five years in parliament the Deputy-leader of the Labor Party. More recent times saw the provision of a temporary major operating theatre, superseded in 1966 by a permanent building with every modem equipment for surgery, including an X-ray block. In 1960, a new wing was opened and named after Mr William Wauhop, a member of the Hospital Board since 1933 and its chairman from 1947 to 1970. The former Alma Street State School was acquired from the Education Department in 1962 and modified to become the hospital’s school of nursing. Later the South Terrace primary school also became available and was enlarged and remodelled into a Day Centre in 1964.

Nurses’ accommodation has over the years extended from one near-by building to another, but further accommodation costing $350,000, known as the ‘Olive Jones Nurses’ Home’ after a member of the nursing staff from 1928 and matron from 1943 to 1962, was opened by the Minister for Health, the Hon. Ross Hutchinson, on 20 July 1962. Today the hospital complex in Alma Street seems to occupy every square foot of available space and no doubt time will see extensions elsewhere or perhaps an entire re-siting. For the year ending 30 June 1969, the number of patients admitted totalled 8,562, there were 5,272 operations, and out-patient attendances totalled 91,082."

As already pointed out in Chapter Fourteen, Fremantle was the host city to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh in 1954 when, because of an epidemic of poliomyelitis in Western Australia, they lived aboard the Royal Yacht, Gothic. They were accorded a civic reception at the Town Hall and in his Annual Report for that year, the mayor expressed his pleasure at ‘the excellent manner in which the people of this City decorated and illuminated their buildings’, adding that ‘the warmth of the welcome they extended to Her Majesty must have filled her with pleasure and gratitude.’ 6 Fremantle has since been honoured by the

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visit of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, who was in Western Australia to open the Commonwealth Games at the Perry Lakes Stadium, Perth, in November 1962. In March 1966, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was also accorded a civic reception at Fremantle.

Meanwhile, the ordinary affairs of civic progress continued to move steadily. In 1954 more children’s playgrounds were provided, adding to the fifteen recorded in the previous year and in 1955 the total was twenty-three. More tram-lines were being lifted and road repairs effected, with a new concrete roadway in High Street replacing the jarrah paving blocks which for so long had carried its bitumen surface. The rehabilitation of quarry land for small factories and warehouses started a few years previously was continuing. Perhaps not the least important event of 1954, apart from the first Royal visit, was the acceptance of the Council’s application for its library to be registered as a participating body with the newly formed Library Board of Western Australia. This necessitated certain building alterations and in 1955, with a membership of 3,249, the library began to function in its new capacity, and became known as the Evan Davies Civic Library. Councillor Davies, it will be remembered, had taken the initiative in recommending the establishment of a free library in Fremantle in 1940.

The adoption of the Stephenson-Hepburn Plan for Regional Development in 1955 left the Council clear to go ahead with its own zoning plans and, as far as possible, a complete town planning scheme. Part one was ready in the next year and was duly advertised in the newspapers. So that the ratepayers would be left in no doubt of its intentions, the Council displayed the proposed details of land use in the Town Hall with an officer to explain them and answer questions. Among the projects the Council had in mind were a new civic centre and municipal offices, the opening up in the heart of the city of an extensive new retail shopping complex, the centralization of bus-terminals, the development of further industrial and residential areas, and the establishment of a Historical Museum and Arts Centre. There were also the re-development of Fremantle Park and additional recreational facilities in various places. These were all ready to be set in motion by 1960, a year in which the mayor had attended the sixth Annual Planning Congress in Brisbane, and

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on his return from which he reported that the planning of Fremantle’s industrial centre ‘was considered one of the highlights of the Congress’. (The details of these new developments are explained in some detail in the next chapter.)

Affiliation with the Library Board of Western Australia had resulted in a great increase in the number of books available in the Evan Davies Civic Library. By October 1957 it had 16,547 volumes, its membership had grown to 6,688, and the addition of a children’s library was being planned. In 1958, Mr John E. V. Birch, Borough Librarian of Taunton, Somerset, England, was appointed City Librarian. He took up his duties in December of that year, the children’s library opened in 1959 and the total membership of the Library increased to 10,517, of which 2,798 were children. Indeed, such was the influx of child-members that the stocks of juvenile books proved to be quite inadequate and had to be increased to cope with the demand. For some years, membership had been extended to elderly recipients of the meals-on-wheels service. In 1961 the library began to issue books to ships on the coastal service.

In that year, it supplied 8,243 volumes to ships’ libraries. Within a few years, hospitals and homes for the elderly were also supplied With books from the Fremantle Library. Later this service was extended to elderly recipients of the meals-on-wheels service. In addition, to catering for coastal ships, the library was soon making books available to lighthouses on the West Australian coast. Membership at 31 October 1969 was 11,276 and it was then also servicing 18 ships, 3 lighthouses and 7 local hospitals.

For a while the initial impact of television had affected reading habits, but by 1961 the city librarian was able to report that this was beginning to be less obvious. In 1966, the theatrette in the library building enjoyed a period of renewed activity when it began to be used by a number of cultural organizations, in particular a group of amateur players calling themselves the Harbour Theatre. This activity has continued. However, the building itself, erected before the turn of the century, was proving to an ever-increasing extent inadequate for a modern library service. The setting up by the City Council in 1969 of a Cultural Development Committee to advise on the organization of all forms of cultural activity in the community will ensure that the re-housing of the library will be

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given early consideration. Its natural site would seem to be within the centrally placed new Civic Administration Centre, adjacent to the old Town Hall.

It will be remembered from an earlier chapter that requests for a high school in Fremantle were made in 1924, 1929 and again in 1934. While agreeing on its need, the Education Department was unable to do anything except in 1947 it officially raised the status of both Fremantle Boys’ and Princess May Girls’ Schools to that of high schools. Actually they had been functioning as such for many years. However, on 29 October 1954 the foundation stone of the John Curtin High School was laid. This was one of the first of the new government multi-lateral, co-educational high-schools, and the site chosen was an elevated area of land in East Street overlooking Fremantle Park and made available by the Council for that purpose. A special guest on that occasion was Mrs E. Curtin, widow of the late Hon. John Curtin, Australia’s war-time Prime Minister, after whom the school was named. To symbolize the joining of Fremantle Boys’ and Princess May, the senior student from each placed their respective school badges in the cement of the wall.

The school was partially ready for occupation in 1956 when students from Fremantle Boys' began classes there. Building continued throughout 1956 and was still going on when girls from Princess May transferred there in 1957. In that year the enrolment reached a staggering all-time high of 2,527 and overflow classes occupied rooms at North Fremantle school, Fremantle Boys’, Princess May and the Finnerty Street annexe for some time to come. Its first headmaster was Mr Jack Howieson who faced a herculean task of administration during those early years. It was officially opened on 15 October 1958 by the Premier, the Hon. A. R. G. Hawke, M.L.A.

By that time, the building and laying out of the grounds had been completed, the latter supervised by the Fremantle City Gardener.

Today its enrolment has stabilized at about 1,300, following the establishment of other high schools in or near Fremantle. These include Kwinana High (1959), Melville High (1960), and Hamilton High (1963) . The latest is South Fremantle High School, opened in 1967. This architecturally pleasing building occupies a large, undulating area in Winterfold and has playing fields on two sides of it. Near by is the new Fremantle Technical College which opened in

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February 1968 and which, with the former building in South Terrace still housing some classes, has over 5,000 students. Not far away from both these new educational establishments is the Winterfold Primary School which was opened in 1967. 7

These are all conducted by the State Education Department, but Catholic schools have also been active in their growth. Because of Fremantle’s large migrant population, mostly of southern European origin and predominately Catholic, there have always been a number of Catholic boys’ schools and convents in the district. The best known of these is probably Christian Brothers’ College in Ellen Street, which the present mayor, Sir Frederick Samson, attended in 1903, two years after its opening. Of very much earlier origin were St Joseph’s girls school in Parry Street, now called St Patrick’s, and St Joseph’s College in Adelaide Street. Both started soon after the Sisters of St Joseph arrived in the colony in 1855. In 1968, the latter shifted to Hilton Park and was renamed De Vialar College. Among new post-war Catholic schools are Our Lady of Mt Carmel (1955), Maristella Kindergarten (1963), and St Brendan’s College at Winterfold which at present caters for boys to third-year high school but is building up to full five-year high school requirements. This opened in 1964, and in the same year Our Lady of the Missions High School, an amalgamation of three convents, opened in Tuck-field Street.

The Stephenson-Hepburn Report had noted that Fremantle had ‘a very distinctive community life, flavoured not a little by the cosmopolitan character of its inhabitants and its close contact with sailors and visitors from all over the world’. 8 At the outbreak of World War II the then mayor, F. E. Gibson, had reminded the Council that Fremantle’s population included people of many different nationalities and had made a plea on their behalf. He said: "As individuals they are not responsible for the present state of affairs ... I would like to appeal to all our citizens to extend to these people that courtesy and consideration which we ourselves would appreciate if we found ourselves in their position.’ 9

This migrant population of Fremantle has played a very significant part in the city’s affairs and prosperity. It is mainly, but not entirely, centred round the fishing industry. As we have seen in an earlier chapter, the Council had for a time been involved in the

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marketing of fish but had abandoned it. A system of open auctioning had come into being but this was far from satisfactory and in 1947 a small group of fishermen, about nine or ten, held a meeting to see what could be done to their mutual benefit. As a result the Fremantle Fishermen’s Co-operative Society was formed and today it has about 500 members—Italians, Portuguese, Yugoslavs and some Australians. They operate for crayfish as far north as Freshwater Point, just south of Dongara, and for large fish and prawns as far north as Onslow. They have various receiving depots along the coast and their major exports are crayfish tails, or ‘rock lobsters’ as they are called for sale in the United States. Their present building is being extended to cope with the great increase in trade in recent years.

The fishing fleet is housed during the off-season in Fishing Boat Harbour, a well-protected area of over 80 acres controlled by the Harbour and Lights Department. Quite recently, a new-angle breakwater was completed, rendering it safe in all weathers. For a fee any fisherman may berth there, and there is an additional fee for those wishing to have their own private mooring pen. The foreshore is fringed by various service companies who supply gear and service the fleet when in port. Each November there is great activity as the fisherman prepare to put out to sea, and since 1948 this has been preceded in the third week in October by the Blessing of the Fleet, a colourful ceremony which never fails to attract large crowds.

Until comparatively recently, the retail trade at the co-operative and at Cicerello’s next door to it attracted large numbers of people anxious to buy fresh fish or fish meals which they could, if they wished, eat under the trees on the near-by Esplanade. However, the coming to Fremantle of the standard gauge railway led to the erection of a high wire fence which can only be surmounted by an overway for pedestrians. Motorists are forced to leave their cars on the Esplanade side of the railway and cross the overway on foot, or cross the line by a vehicular approach about three-quarters of a mile away. But there is limited parking space on the waterfront side of the fence and this has greatly inhibited the retail trade in a location that looked like growing into a popular ‘sea-foods' centre.

It should not be imagined that Fremantle’s southern-European migrants are entirely concerned with fishing. They and their children

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follow many different walks of life. Perhaps one of the most unusual was Yugoslavian Kris Martinovich. The newspapers of the 1950s carried stories of this man who for many years had treated fellow-miners in Boulder for spinal and other bone injuries. They told of people travelling great distances, some interstate, to wait in Kalgoorlie as long as two or three weeks for their turn. In 1957, he and his family shifted to South Fremantle where he soon had a large local clientele. After his death in 1967 his three Australian-born sons, now registered as chiropractors, have carried on using the simple but skilful techniques their father taught them.

The Fremantle City Council has always advocated the extension of the area and population of local governing authorities by amalgamation. It believes that this will strengthen local government by making facilities, not always economically possible for smaller districts, readily available to all. To this end, it conferred several times with the North Fremantle Town Council, the East Fremantle Town Council and the Melville and Fremantle Road Boards, but nothing came of it. In September 1953, it prepared a statement to place before a commissioner appointed by the government to enquire into the boundaries of Municipal and Road Board districts. The mayor in his Annual Report for 1955 commented on the fact that amalgamation with North and East Fremantle had been deferred but the attitude of the Fremantle City Council remained unchanged. He made it clear the Council had ‘not attempted to influence an amalgamation by offering any inducement to contiguous local Authorities, other than an offer to share with them the amenities and facilities [it has] developed and by unity of purpose to give strength and status to Local Government generally’. 10 Nothing happened until, following a petition of the mayor and councillors of North Fremantle and the City of Fremantle, the two municipalities were united by an order of the governor in Executive Council as from 1 November 1961. Actually, North Fremantle had once been part of the Fremantle municipality but had broken away in 1895. 11

From 1 November, however, the two came together again and until the following May nine previous councillors from North Fremantle sat with the councillors of the City of Fremantle, with the former Mayor of North Fremantle, Mr W. H. Walter, acting as deputy-mayor. At the new elections in May 1962, North Fremantle

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became an additional ward of the City of Fremantle, the North Ward, with three members the same as other wards, and at the June meeting of the Council, Councillor the Hon. E. M. Davies, J.P., M.L.C., resumed his office of deputy-mayor by unanimous vote. However, within a short time of this amalgamation, the Minister for Local Government excised 260 acres of the North Fremantle area and annexed it to the town of Mosman Park. This moved the mayor, Sir Frederick Samson, to point out in the Annual Report to SO June 1963 that ‘this decision was made at a time when the City of Fremantle, for very good reasons, [was] seeking an expansion of [its] Local Government territory’ which he considered to be ‘inadequate for a commercial and industrial centre as important as Fremantle’. 12

On 10 April 1963 the City of Fremantle suffered an even greater loss, in the death of Councillor E. M. Davies. He had been a councillor since 1928 and under both Sir Frank Gibson and Sir Frederick Samson was invariably chosen as acting-mayor during the mayor’s absence. He was the strong man of the Council whose views were never uttered until he had given full consideration to the matter under discussion, and his opinion was invariably respected by all members. He had been expected to stand for the position of mayor when Sir Frank Gibson retired in 1951, but he decided against it. He had served on numerous committees and was chairman of many. He had been the Council’s representative on the Advisory Board set up by the government in 1955 to co-ordinate local planning with the recommendations of the Stephenson-Hepburn plan of regional development for the entire metropolitan area.

When North Fremantle amalgamated with Fremantle, its town clerk, Mr S. W. Parks, became Deputy Town Clerk to the City of Fremantle. He was born in Subiaco and after war service with the R.A.N. he found employment with the North Fremantle Town Council in 1949. When he became its town clerk in 1953 at the age of 27, he was one of the youngest holding that office in Western Australia. On the retirement of Mr N. J. C. McCombe in 1966, he was appointed Town Clerk of the City of Fremantle, with the new title of City Manager, and is now assisted by a deputy town clerk, Mr M. J. Edmonds.

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This chapter has given a broad picture of many aspects of development in post-war years, not all of them directly connected with the Fremantle City Council. It is now time to look specifically at the outcome of the Council’s wisdom in taking the initiative in establishing its own Town Planning Scheme.


1 3 Edw. VII (Private Act), Fremantle Municipal Tramways and Electric Lighting Act. 1903.

2 1 Eliz. II, No. 66, The Fremantle Electricity Undertaking (Purchase Moneys) Agreements, 1952.

3 Gordon Stephenson and J. A. Hepburn, Plan for the Metropolitan Region, Perth and Fremantle, 1955. (Perth: Govt. Printer, 1955).

4 C.F., R.S.A. 31 Oct. 1952, F.T.H.

5 For further information see J. M. Scrymgeour and A. J. Smith, 'The Fremantle Hospital’, Appendix in J. H. Stubbe, Medical Background (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1969).

6 C.F., R.S.A. 31 Oct. 1954, F.T.H.

7 Information on state schools supplied in private communication from the Director-General of Education, 18 Sept. 1970, and from certain of the schools themselves.

8 Stephenson and Hepburn, Plan for the Metropolitan Region, Perth and Fremantle.

9 M.F.M.C. 4 Sept. 1939, F.T.H.

10 C.F., R.SA. 31 Oct. 1955, F.T.H.

11 Government Gazette of Western Australia, 13 Sept. 1895, pp. 14, 65-6.

12 C.F., R.S.A. 30 June 1963, F.T.H.

Chapter 17: Early Results of Council Planning

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Most of the results of Fremantle’s No. 1 Town Planning Scheme in the central part of the city came into being in the 1960s, but the development of its industrial area at O'Connor, a mile or so to the east, was spread over a longer period. The first parcel of land, comprising 173 acres, was offered for sale in 1949, the second of 35 acres in 1952, the third of 66 acres in 1956, and the fourth of 47 acres in 1964. These were all parts of a large area of ‘endowment land’, vested in the Council since about 1834 for the use and benefit of the citizens, and it was necessary to obtain the governor’s approval to make it available. In addition, the Council purchased about 75 acres of land. Not all of it was to be used for industry; the development of residential estates kept pace with that of industry.

Initially the industrial land was offered at $2 (or £1 as it was then) per acre plus the cost of roads, drainage etc. These early contracts were found to be unwieldy and the Council then prepared a subdivision of the land in various sized allotments, ranging from one to fifteen acres. The cost of development was assessed and a price per acre, including all incidental costs, was fixed. This price was subject to review from time to time to meet increased costs and . increased land values. When the Council finally disposed of available land in 1966, the prices ranged from $2,000 to $3,000 per acre, based on an estimated valuation of $4,000 to $6,000. In this way, industry always had the advantage of purchasing the land at well below comparable land prices. At the same time, the Council was in a position to have a selective control over the type of industry permitted, and where necessary to segregate industry so that, for example, food processing industries would not have their products contaminated by proximity to an undesirable neighbour. The purchaser

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had to agree to begin within 12 months and complete within two years a building with a floor area of not less than 20 per cent of the land area, and of a specified value and in compliance with specific building requirements. The frontage of the building had to be in brick, stone, concrete or similar approved material. It had to be set back at least 30 feet from the road and this space had to be landscaped.

It is worthy of note that a number of industrial concerns already established elsewhere in Fremantle were glad to take advantage of the additional area available at O’Connor, so that they could expand their buildings and plant to a degree impossible at the sites they then occupied. There are now over one hundred firms operating at O’Connor, including a number of national companies. Their total capital expenditure exceeds $16,000,000. The current work force is approaching 3,500, but as the allocations of land have been made with a view to future expansion in the next 15-20 years, there is a possibility that by the end of that period the work force could reach 10,000. In this respect, O’Connor has amply fulfilled one of the objectives of the planners. Hitherto much of the work available in Fremantle had been seasonal; now it has been given a new measure of stability. (For a list of industries established at O’Connor, see Appendix 14.)

Simultaneously with this industrial development, residential areas have been opened up to the south and east of the city proper. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s new areas were proclaimed, subdivided and provided with roads, drainage and other amenities. The greater part of Hilton Park and a newer area known as Winterfold now provide a variety of good class homes, some built by the State Housing Commission and some by private contractors. Willagee in the adjoining Shire of Melville also owes its existence, in no small measure, to the fact that there was a growing demand for labour near by. Only Stock Road separates its western boundary from O’Connor. Among the new residential estates there are some flats, but their number is not excessive and they do not dominate the normal domestic architecture.

To see the full results of town planning for industry and housing, one has to travel over a wide area, but the impact within the city proper is immediate and impressive. Anyone revisiting Fremantle

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after an absence of some years would see that the heart of the city has a ‘new look’. This is, of course, true of most Australian cities in post-war years, but in some the ‘new look’ has destroyed much of the former character of the place. Fremantle has achieved a ‘new look’ and at the same time maintained its atmosphere.

Indeed, in one part in particular, it has actually re-established some part of its very early ‘old look’. This has been achieved by closing off portion of High Street and making a one-way traffic rotary incorporating Queen, Newman, William and Adelaide Streets, so that King’s Square has again come into existence. In 1843 all that there then was of High Street had a gaol at one end and a church at the other. (See ch. 4, p. 28.) That is more or less true of the same portion today. The church is St John’s. But it is a different building from the old St John’s and it occupies not the centre of King’s Square, but the left-hand side of it, with the Town Hall and new Civic Centre occupying the other half. Centrally situated between the church and the Town Hall is a series of fountains. As early as 1952 the Council required owners of premises in central High Street and elsewhere to remove their old verandah posts and substitute cantilever verandahs. This gives the narrow street a less cluttered appearance, while re-routing the traffic as described to link up with High Street east of King’s Square ensures a quicker and quieter flow of vehicles.

While the Civic Centre was being built, the old Town Hall was completely renovated at a price that was approximately three times that of its original building cost! The two together are known as the Civic Halls of Fremantle. Before building of the Civic Centre could begin the row of shops east of the old Town Hall had to be demolished and also the Centenary Building in William Street. The Civic Centre consists of a basement, a ground floor and one upper floor, but when needed two more floors can be added. It is built of concrete with facings of white tiles and concrete aggregate slabs resembling stone, and cost approximately $750,000. This modern Civic Centre, containing new Council Chambers, various committee rooms, administrative offices and an exhibition hall 80 feet by 40 feet, was officially opened on 9 March 1966 by His Excellency the Governor of Western Australia, Major-General Sir Douglas Kendrew.

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This is part of the ‘new look’ which, in a sense, restores the ‘old look’. Another impressive outcome of Town Planning Scheme No. 1 is the establishment in Adelaide and Queen Streets of a large retail centre. In 1960 the Fremantle City Council took the unique step of having a Consumer and Economic Research undertaken by a Perth firm, the Western Australian Public Relations Pty Ltd, Market and Consumer Research Section. This was then condensed into a booklet, The Fremantle Trend, 1960, 1 and its wide distribution in this state, interstate and overseas was intended to attract business houses, both wholesale and retail, to the Fremantle area in the immediate present and also the future. In any case, there was a willing response from large firms to the Council’s decision to zone for retailing this large area in the heart of the city, and building was soon under way. The extraordinary upsurge of building permits during these years is shown diagrammatically in an Appendix. (See Appendix 13.)

The building line in the southern end of Adelaide Street was set back to widen the street so that it could become part of a central bus terminal. Previously, buses from various directions had ended their runs at widely scattered places which caused much inconvenience to the public. Now all bus passengers to and from Fremantle arrive or depart in near-by locations in Cantonment, Queen and Adelaide Streets. This centralization of bus terminals was made easier by the fact that all transport services are now operated by the Metropolitan Transport Trust.

Every modern city has been faced with the problem of car-parking and Fremantle is no exception. The earliest mention of street parking meters is contained in the Annual Report for the year ending 30 June 1963. Two years later the Council was planning to instal these to coincide with the opening of a multi-storey car-park it was building. Installation began in the same year and in its first phase there were 339 meters. Today there are 674. The Westgate Multistorey car-park, with accommodation for approximately 400 vehicles was opened in Cantonment Street, quite close to the main retail and business area of the city, in 1965. Other off-street parking in the Holdsworth Car Park and in a small area adjacent to the Civic Centre now provides for a total of approximately 900 vehicles.

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Another multi-storey car-park, with accommodation for more than 1,100 vehicles, is soon to be erected in Henderson Street.

This will be incorporated in a vast, new retail complex, details of which were made public on 8 December 1970. It has a 380 feet frontage to King’s Square and is bounded by Newman, Queen, Henderson and William Streets. The total complex will cover over three acres and will cost more than $13,000,000. Part of it will have four floors for trading with provision for the addition of a fifth when required. Work is expected to begin early in 1971 and completion is scheduled for August 1972. One firm alone will provide employment for 700, of whom 650 will be women. This complex will replace old warehouses and a small council car-park on the site, and will certainly enhance Fremantle’s ‘new look’.

Fremantle has always been well endowed with open spaces, and scenically the most attractive of these is Memorial Reserve, built, it will be remembered, during the depression years. This is impeccably maintained and to the original memorial have been added entrance pillars and plaques to commemorate those who died in World War II. There is also a mounted torpedo which is in memory of United States sailors on submarines which used Fremantle as a base, and some of which never returned to base. Memorial Reserve is a popular place with visitors and tourists. It commands fine panoramic views over the city and harbour.

An important part of the Council’s post-war planning was the improvement of facilities at existing reserves and playing fields and the provision of new recreational areas. Central to the city is Fremantle Park of 22 acres, and because it is adjacent to a number of schools, to the Museum and Art Centre described in the next chapter, and also to the Aquatic Centre now nearing completion opposite the museum, it really forms part of Fremantle’s cultural centre. It has tennis courts, bowling greens, croquet lawns and ample room for football, cricket, lacrosse and hockey. New change-rooms were built there in early post-war years. Also in the central city area is Fremantle Oval where considerable work has been done tiering the spectator area with concrete to provide more sitting and standing accommodation. More than half of this was ready for the 1970 football season. For many years, Fremantle Oval was used for both football and cricket, but two years ago the cricket pitches were removed

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and a new home for cricket created at Stevens Reserve. In the winter Stevens Reserve is also used for hockey, and the up-to-date change-rooms are used by players of both the summer and winter sports. Gibson Park has been improved to provide facilities for rugby, lacrosse, hockey and basket-ball. Hilton Park Reserve has new bowling greens and the Bruce Lee Reserve serves for the recreation of students from the near-by Fremantle Technical College and other schools in that area. Fremantle has been well served by its city gardener, Mr P. Luff, who retired on account of ill-health in 1967 after being with the Council for 34 years. His place has been taken by Mr I. M. Heughes, previously Superintendent of Parks and Gardens at Aldridge, Staffordshire, England. (For a list of Fremantle parks and reserves, see Appendix 10.)

As pointed out in an earlier chapter. South Beach had long been a popular swimming resort, especially attractive to younger children because it does not have the rough surf of the more northerly parts of the coast. Once it had a jetty and a shark-proof enclosure, with a large building called the Hydrodrome equipped with change-rooms, a tea-shop and an upstairs hall for social purposes. The years and the gales of many winters took their toll of all three and, one by one, they were demolished because they were no longer safe. Today South Beach is being entirely re-planned. Two groynes built some time ago between the South Fremantle Power House and the old site of the jetty have built up an extensive sandy beach which has been protected by a handsome, curved, retaining wall of limestone. Change-rooms and a small shop are there for patrons and a large area above the retaining wall is under grass. As I write this, the sandy beach is being levelled in preparation for the 1970-71 summer season and there is no doubt that, when fully developed. South Beach will again be a highly attractive and popular watering-place.

In 1969, with most of its No. 1 Scheme completed and functioning, the City Council was ready to go ahead with No. 2 Scheme which it had been preparing for some years. Its promulgation led to two meetings of electors, both of them very well attended. The interest shown by the public at these is an indication that the citizens of Fremantle had a lively concern for the future of their city and, no doubt, for their personal stake in it. Finally, after lengthy

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negotiations by the Council with ratepayers and with public authorities concerned, most objections were satisfied, and the stage is now set to put this new scheme into operation.

To what extent Fremantle will be able to retain its distinctive character remains to be seen, but the Council is anxious that it should do so and at the end of its first Town Planning Scheme it has been remarkably successful in this respect. One can think of many cities whose ‘friendly smile’ has changed into a ‘glassy stare’, with sky-scraper buildings converting the streets into concrete canyons. It is largely the absence of tall buildings in Fremantle’s ‘new look’ at the end of its first phase of planning that has prevented this from happening so far. The tallest building at present would, no doubt, be that of the Port Authority which occupies its own place adjacent to the harbour. In the city area proper, it is nearly equalled by a block of flats in Adelaide Street called Johnston Court. This has a terrace of shops on the ground floor and nine storeys of accommodation. Because it presents a narrow front to Adelaide Street it is pleasantly unobtrusive from that angle, perhaps made the more so by an old ship’s anchor used as part of its exterior decor. However, when viewed from other parts of the city it does rather dominate its surroundings. The only other tall building so far erected in the centre of the city is Crane House in High Street, a block of six storeys devoted to commercial offices. One would like to hope that the comparatively low level of buildings will be maintained in the years to come, but perhaps that is too much to expect.

But perhaps it is the people of a city rather than its buildings that retain the ‘friendly smile’, and the people of Fremantle have always been noted for their friendliness, just as the friendly service in its retail stores attracts shoppers from far and near.


1 Fremantle City Council, The Fremantle Trend, 1960: A Consumer Research of Fremantle and Surrounding District. Conducted by WA. Public Relations Pty Ltd (Fremantle: S. H. Lamb, 1960).

Chapter 18: Living with History

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It is less than 200 years since Phillip and the First Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove, less than 150 years since Stirling and the pioneers from the Parmelia disembarked on Garden Island. Of course, for more than 200 years before that, navigators—many Dutch, some English and a few French—had made acquaintance with the western coastline of what was then called New Holland. It was not always a happy acquaintance as the number of historic wrecks shows. Even so, when set against the long centuries of European civilization, our own record covers only a brief span of time, and the period of actual white settlement here is even more brief. But because this period has been one of active development and because development does, by its very nature, tend to destroy somewhat ruthlessly what was previously in existence, there is every reason to guard zealously any worthy reminders of our beginnings.

Fremantle is full of such reminders and the Fremantle City Council has a lively sense of history. Each year on Foundation Day, the first Monday in June, it commemorates the landing of Captain C. H. Fremantle to take formal possession for the British Crown ‘of all that part of New Holland which is not included in the territory of New South Wales’. The site is marked by a flagstaff on the Esplanade, but as the Captain who gave his name to the town left no footprints in the sands of time, there is some difference of opinion as to whether this is the actual site. However, the flagstaff with its explanatory plaque serves to recall an event which took place on 2 May 1829, about a month before the arrival of the Parmelia.

We have seen how the commercial hub was at first at the western end of the town site and how this moved eastward after the coming of the railway line in 1881. This left a small pocket at the western

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end of High Street which contains some interesting old buildings. There is, for instance, the Round House, the colony's first gaol, now restored and well maintained. In Cliff Street is the old Customs House, built in 1853 and marked by a plaque placed there by the Fremantle City Council. It is flanked by buildings of similar stone construction and has a small area of the original Yorkshire flagstones at its front door. On the northern side of it is a building used as the Government Stores and on the left another which is the office of the Inspector of Fisheries and Fauna. Behind these are some other large stone buildings, and it has been suggested that this whole complex of very old, stone buildings might be restored and renovated and converted into a modern ‘market place’ with an old-time atmosphere. This would certainly bring people into a part of Fremantle which at present is comparatively seldom visited. They would see near by a portion of the original home of Lionel Samson, built on a lot purchased in 1829 and now used as a bond store for the firm of Lionel Samson & Son Pty Ltd. Not far away, on the comer of Marine Terrace and Mouatt Street, they would see the old courthouse built during the 1880s to replace Fremantle’s first courthouse on Arthur’s Head.

It would be wrong to give the impression that this western end of the city is in a decrepit condition or that it is deserted in any way. It is quiet because it is no longer a retail centre. It is an area of wholesale houses, warehouses, insurance and shipping companies, a number of banks and several hotels which are advantageously dose to the wharves. Most of these buildings were built before or just after the turn of the century and some have fascinating architectural facades of that period. Many have in recent years been renovated and repainted so that they present an appearance of quiet prosperity. The entire west end of Fremantle is surprisingly clean and tidy and the establishment of a number of cafes, bistros and night dubs, very recently indeed, has made it the centre of Fremantle’s night life. Those who visit it for this purpose are probably entirely unaware of the places of historical interest near by.

One of the most significant acts of the City Council in post-war years was the restoration of King’s Square by dosing off a portion of High Street, described in the previous chapter. This gives a new quality to St John’s, a very beautiful little church, and to the Town

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Hall which seems to stand with a greater civic dignity than it ever had before. The church and the Town Hall are separated by a series of fountains, one large and three smaller ones. Another very handsome church is St Patrick’s built of stone in Adelaide Street near the Moreton Bay fig known as the Proclamation Tree because it was planted on 1 October 1890 to commemorate the granting of responsible government to the colony. Perhaps the Methodist Church in Market Street might be deemed worthy of preservation, although it is a modest little building and not the first one on that site. No doubt, churches continue to exist mainly so long as they have a congregation and the tendency is to move out of cities to where people actually live. But at least both St John’s and St Patrick’s make it worthwhile travelling some distance to attend worship.

In 1969 the City Council set up a committee of senior officers to investigate fully and report on the policy that it should adopt on the question of preserving historic buildings in Fremantle. Its purpose is to draw up a report on those worth saving and to make recommendations to that effect. 1 A firm policy with this in view will, it is hoped, forestall their precipitate destruction by private developers or by the government, where the buildings stand on land that is government-owned.

Without in any way anticipating what the findings of this committee may be, let us look quickly at some buildings, other than those already mentioned, of architectural or historical interest. No doubt, time will see the removal of the present Fremantle gaol, but there are some features there worthy of preservation—certainly the impressive gateway and perhaps the prison chapel. Not far from the gaol is a two-storey terrace of warders’ quarters in Henderson Street. They are amongst the first buildings to be erected by convict labour, the earliest dating from 1851. Renovated and modernized within, they might attract those who like to live in old buildings in a modern city, as has happened in certain older parts of Sydney and Melbourne. Now used as the administrative centre of the very large, present-day hospital complex is ‘the Knowle’, originally the impressive home of Colonel E. Y. W. Henderson, R.E., the Comptroller-General of Convicts. Later it became the first Fremantle Hospital and perhaps its present position will ensure its permanency. Should the whole

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hospital complex ever be moved to another site, it is to be hoped ‘the Knowle’ will be preserved.

The old Fremantle Boys’ School is now in a derelict condition and the block it shares with Princess May Girls’ School, also now disused, is so centrally situated that the demolition of both buildings seems inevitable, if not imminent. But it is hoped that at least the original part of the Boys’ School will be preserved. Erected in 1854 to the design of W. A. Sandford, and at present not easily distinguishable from later additions of somewhat similar design, it has pleasing architectural features with its Cape Dutch gables. Another interesting school is the old Grammar School in High Street. Opened in 1882, it is built of stone and has on one wall its own ‘coat of arms’. Here and there in the city are memorials and statues of various kinds which, while not in themselves possessing perhaps the highest degree of aesthetic value, nevertheless serve as reminders of people or events of the past. Certainly, no one would ever dream of removing the War Memorial on Monument Hill overlooking the city.

The mayor, Sir Frederick Samson, has indicated his intention to bequeath to the Council his home in Ellen Street. This 82-year old building is in excellent condition and was the first house designed by the late Sir Talbot Hobbs. Set in nearly an acre of land, laid out with a garden which includes over 200 rose bushes and with lawns and trees, the house contains many valuable pieces of period furniture, together with a rich assortment of documents and photographs dealing with the Samson family and others who were closely connected with the early days of Fremantle. Because of Sir Frederick’s life-long habit of collecting and treasuring items of historic value, this house comes ready equipped as the museum he wishes it to be.

Not all old buildings are endowed in this way. For instance, there was the imposing, if somewhat austere, grey limestone building in Finnerty Street. Most people entering or leaving Fremantle by the traffic bridge were aware of it without knowing much of its past. Some school-children knew it when the John Curtin High School, overcrowded in the first years of its existence, occupied some rooms temporarily. Some students of arts and crafts from the Fremantle Technical School knew it when it was used for a number of years as a temporary annexe. The first close-up view many of the public

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had of it was probably in 1966 when, during the Festival of Perth, it was used as the background of a son et lumiere presentation of significant events in the state’s history. And a most impressive background it made, even if the dark of night concealed the damage which time and vandals had done to it.

Erected by convict labour in the years 1861-65, it was the first lunatic asylum in the colony. After the last of its patients were shifted to the new Claremont Mental Hospital in 1909, it was for a time disused until it reopened as a ‘temporary’ Home for Aged Women. As such it continued until 1942 and then, until the end of World War II, it was the headquarters of the United States Forces stationed at Fremantle. Military occupation is seldom a way of improving the condition of any building and they left it somewhat worse than they found it. Except for those small portions used for the temporary accommodation of classes by the Education Department, it was derelict. Too often used as a ‘temporary’ this or that, there seemed little reason for preserving it—certainly not because of the purpose for which it was originally erected, nor those for which it was subsequently used. In 1957 it was marked down for demolition. However, as related elsewhere, through the initiative of Sir Frederick Samson and with the full support of his Council, the Premier was persuaded to agree that his government would share the cost of its restoration and maintenance as a maritime museum and arts centre, and so fulfil part of the city’s Town Planning Scheme.

It was opened to the public on 17 October 1970 by His Excellency the Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, who reminded his audience that he had been born in Fremantle although he could not claim long or close association with it. Only the museum section of this old building has been completed, the state government contributing $110,000 and the Fremantle City Council $80,000. There are thirteen galleries, seven on the ground floor and six on the upper. They are appropriately named after ships that visited Western Australia in the early days, and each is devoted to a certain aspect of our history. This is the first regional museum to be established in Western Australia and may well be the forerunner of many others. Conducted as a branch of the Western Australian Museum at Perth, it is manned by experienced museum staff.

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It was really the building itself that saved it. Sir Paul, in his opening address, pointed out that ‘the architectural merit of the building, the native rock from which it is made, and the labour of those who worked on it have left for us a building of importance in itself’. Quite apart from the interest of its exhibits, one is impressed on entering it by its lofty ceilings and archways. The limestone of its exterior walls have been faithfully restored and, from whatever angle one views it, it is a building of noble and dignified proportions.

The project architect, Mr R. McK. Campbell, had to work without copies of its original interiors, but became so absorbed in his task that he devoted the greater part of his working hours to it in an office set up within the building for that purpose. In a brochure prepared for the opening day, he writes:

The design of the façades shows some Gothic influence which was enjoying a revival in England at that time, while the form of the roofs and gables are patently Cape Dutch, which may have made an impression on Colonel Henderson on his voyage back to Fremantle. The building as a whole bears no architectural similarity to any contemporary institutions in England, and appears to be a happy synthesis of the ideas, materials and techniques that were available at that time. 2

No other single feature of Fremantle's early days will focus public attention on the past as much as this building. When the Arts Centre is later established, people will have the opportunity of becoming familiar with some aspects of the present-day life of the community not usually revealed to them. It will not only be a place where works of art will be exhibited; it will be a centre where craftsmen in various fields will be seen at work. Men and women skilled in weaving, ceramics, sculpture, woodwork, jewellery, art-metal work and fabric printing will be there at certain times and the public will be able to watch them at work. Some of the items they have made will be on sale. The whole complex should excite a lively interest and attract a constant stream, not only of local people, but also of tourists from interstate and overseas.

In Fremantle, more perhaps than in most Australian cities, we feel that we are living with history, side by side with the busy stream

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of twentieth-century life. This should remind us that only out of a remembered past can we build a reasoned, intelligent, satisfying present and future.


1 Fremantle City Council, Fremantle—preservation and change (Fremantle: Civic Administration Centre, 1971).

2 Western Australian Museum, Fremantle Museum (Perth, 1970), p. 10.

Chapter 19: Two Great Civic Leaders

For the past half century, except for the years 1924-26, only two men have occupied the position of Mayor of the City of Fremantle. Neither would claim that he imposed his will upon the Council, but with the late Sir Frank Gibson and the present Sir Frederick Samson at the helm for such a long period, the Fremantle City Council has enjoyed stability and a continuity of purpose that might well be the envy of many another local governing authority.

Frank Ernest Gibson was born at Egerton, Victoria, on 17 July 1879. After education at Grenville College and the Ballarat School of Mines, he came to Western Australia in 1902. He went first to Cue on the Murchison goldfields and then to Leonora where he was a councillor for some years before being elected mayor in 1912. In 1914 he removed to Fremantle and opened business as pharmaceutical chemist. That he quickly gained the confidence of the people of Fremantle is shown by his success at his first mayoral election in November 1919, without previous membership of the local Council. However, his apprenticeship in local government at Leonora had given him a fine sense of its dignity and responsibility, a sense he was to develop further during his long years of office in Fremantle.

In March 1921 he was elected as Member of the Legislative Assembly for Fremantle, occupying the dual position of M.L.A. and mayor until November 1923, when he did not seek re-election as mayor. His immediate successor was Mr J. Cooke. However, in March 1924 Frank Gibson was defeated at the Assembly elections by the Labor candidate, Mr J. B. Sleeman, later the Hon. J. B. Sleeman and Speaker in the Legislative Assembly, and felt free to stand again for the mayoral election in November 1926. He was

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successful and from the beginning of the following year until 1951, when he retired from office, he enjoyed an unbroken period as mayor, being opposed at only three subsequent mayoral elections. Later, in 1942, he became Member of the Legislative Council for the Metropolitan Suburban Province and in 1950 survived a change of electoral boundaries to continue as M.L.C. until 1961 when he retired from politics. He died on 31 December 1965. In the New Year’s Honours, 1948, he had been created a Knight Bachelor in recognition of his long period of public service.

It was as Sir Frank that I came to know him well when in 1948 the Fremantle City Council invited me to prepare the first version of this book to commemorate the centenary of the establishment of the Fremantle Town Trust. He had by then become something of a father figure in the community, and I gathered the impression that he wore his knighthood lightly. People who had known him as Mr Gibson, the chemist, to whom for years they had taken their doctors’ prescriptions to be made up or perhaps whose advice they had sought in the event of minor ailments, appreciated the friendly smile of Sir Frank when they passed in the street. Tall and white-haired, he was an unhurried man and would often pause for a chat.

In Council matters, too, he was modest and unassuming. When I asked him to define his policy over the years, he smiled and said that he didn’t think he had one. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that, without having a direct policy himself, he possessed a temperament which encouraged policy in others. He was quick to recognize a wise suggestion the moment it was put forward in the Council Chamber, and from that moment it had his active support.

He thought and acted collectively for the Council as a whole. Although he not infrequently instigated progressive measures, he never claimed for himself any individual credit. It was the work of the Council as a body. On the other hand, he was not slow to recognize the part played by individual councillors and to extol them personally for their contribution to the general good.

Nowhere was his attitude more clearly shown than in his reply to a petition, signed by all twelve councillors in October 1934, asking him to nominate for a further period as mayor. That the request should have been unanimous touched him and in reply he said,

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It would be difficult for me to express my feelings at the present moment. 1 would like to assure you that I regard this document I hold here as being one of the most valuable it has been my lot to possess. To know that I have the friendship of every Councillor round this table and that you have appreciated what I have done, goes a long way to recompense one for the efforts put forward on behalf of the community ... I have done it because I like doing it, not altogether from a sense of duty. 1

A lifetime of public service, given because he ‘liked doing it' and ‘not altogether from a sense of duty', is as rare as it is valuable. The years in which he served as mayor were, in the main, troubled ones. He reminded the Council of this in his final Annual Report for the year ended 31 October 1951.

We have had to contend with a world depression, a destructive economic condition that destroyed contentment and happiness and created uncertainty and bitterness, the consequences of which were almost as chaotic to our well-being as a war, and a further world war more devastating in its action and consequences than the first conflict. Furthermore, a war which was brought to the very shores of this country. [Although six years of peace had passed in the meantime, he added:] the world has not yet recovered and its people are not yet at peace with one another. The present unsettled and unhappy conditions are to me as apprehensive and even as ominous as they were in 1939. 2

Yet he could report that in those early uneasy years of peace, ‘Fremantle has progressed and developed to a greater extent than at any other period of its history, and the citizens have every reason to feel proud of the part they have played in this eventful era.’ Those post-war years had seen the establishment of the free library, the Health Centre, the Women’s Rest room, new recreation reserves and playgrounds, and the early stages of the city’s town-planning scheme which, he said, would ‘ultimately give to our citizens even greater well-being and contentment’.

He saw as highlights of the past three decades the erection of the War Memorial (with plans then in hand to commemorate also those who had served in World War II), the elevation of Fremantle ‘to the dignity of a city in 1929', and the number of occasions when it had been his privilege and honour to ‘extend a welcome to members

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of the Royal Family’. This was the backward glance of an essentially simple and modest man. In conclusion, he congratulated his successor upon his election to the office of Mayor of Fremantle. He said:

Councillor Samson needs no introduction to the people of Fremantle; he is one of the best known figures in this community, having lived here all his life, and having served on the Council as a member for the City Ward for a period of 15 years. 3

In point of fact, his successor, William Frederick Samson, was unopposed at that election and it is a testimony to his instant and sustained popularity that he has been unopposed at every subsequent mayoral election. Indeed, while I was engaged on the revision of The Western Gateway for this edition, I have been deeply impressed by the warm reaction people of all walks of life have given at the mention of his name. ‘Fremantle is very lucky to have him as mayor’, and ‘Everyone loves Sir Frederick’ are examples of their comments, always quite unsolicited. It is not always easy to retain a reputation like that in public life and the reason probably lies in the fact that, in addition to his own tireless enthusiasm and bluff cheerfulness. Sir Frederick Samson is Fremantle in a very personal way and to a very significant degree.

His grandfather, Lionel Samson, pioneer settler and merchant, was a member of the Fremantle Town Trust from 1855 to 1858 and again in 1862. His uncle, William Frederick, after whom he was named, was a councillor from 1883 until 1891, and mayor for two years, 1892 and 1893. His father, Michael, the eldest son of Lionel, was educated at St Peter’s College, Adelaide, travelling there in 1855 and returning in 1859 in ships chartered by Lionel Samson. Not being attracted to his father’s business, he went to China and returned after many years to become Inspector of Customs at Fremantle. Shortly after his retirement from that position at the age of 60, Michael Samson became Mayor of Fremantle in 1905 and died in office in 1907. From this it will be seen that Sir Frederick not only has his roots in the town of Fremantle, but his forebears by their example bequeathed to him an interest in its local government He was born in Ellen Street in 1892 in the same house he lives in today. Indeed, he likes to point out that he sleeps in the same room

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he was born in, One of his earliest memories when he was four years old is of the camels of Tsai Mahomet and Fsai Mahomet camped in the park opposite, before setting out on their long trek to Coolgardie where Hayley and Ford had found gold the year of Sir Frederick's birth. They used to bring their camels to the backyard and water them from a well inside the house and opposite the kitchen The well is still there today, all 70 feet of its depth untimbered in solid limestone. Indeed, the entire Ellen Street house is the repository of much of Fremantle’s early history. Sir Frederick has intimated that he wishes it to be preserved as a historical museum.

His education commenced at the age of seven when he went for a few years to a school conducted by Miss Hamer at the rear of the old Johnston Memorial Church, but in January 1903 he began school in earnest at the Christian Brothers’ in Fremantle and later became a boarder at Christian Brothers College, Perth. He recalls how, in his early weeks at the former, he was given six cuts of the strap, a bit of leather trace about 15 inches long, for answering Brother Purton back. Incensed, he announced to his schoolmates that they were not going to knock him around like that, that he would get a note from his father. His father obligingly wrote a note for him which the young Frederick presented to the Principal, Brother Morgan, that afternoon. A little later during a mental arithmetic lesson, Brother Morgan called him to the table and gave him the note his father had written. ‘Read it, my boy’, he said, a smile on his face. The youngster looked down at his father’s clear handwriting and read, ‘My dear Brother Morgan, Fred has complained very bitterly to me that he has been soundly strapped by one of the brothers, for of course no misdemeanour whatsoever. I would be very much obliged if you could see your way clear to give him a good thrashing three times a week, whether he deserves it or not.’ After that, he recalls, no complaint ever went home, and adds, ‘I thought in after life that that was a great compliment to the Christian Brothers by my father for the great reliance he placed on their integrity.'

After matriculating through the Adelaide University, which in those days were conducted the matriculation examinations in Western Australia, Frederick Samson enrolled at the newly established University

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of Western Australia in 1913, intending to study Engineering, and recalls attending the first lecture given by the late Professor Ross. He was secretary of the University Cricket Club. Cricket and rifle shooting have been his two favourite sporting activities and he has retained an interest in both through membership of many associations connected with them. However, World War I intervened in his university studies. Having been a lieutenant in the Citizens Forces he expected to be an early member of the Australian Imperial Force, but as he did not meet the minimum height requirements, he then joined the Air Force. An accident at home incapacitated him from further service. He did not return to the university, but instead obtained work for the duration of the war with the Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Department.

Although at 78 Sir Frederick is a picture of robust health, he has had two accidents that might have been serious and two illnesses that certainly were. As a boy of thirteen he was blown up by a steam engine he had which ran on methylated spirit. While some methylated spirit was being poured into it the drum exploded and threw him against the side of the house, setting fire to his clothing. He remembers running around the side and sitting under a tap which he turned on to put the fire out. He was, as he puts it, covered with blisters, blinded for a fortnight, and away from school for six months. Then there was his home accident in which he cracked a kneebone. After the war he was articled to the surveying firm of Crossland and Hardy and in 1919, while surveying outside of Moora, caught pneumonic influenza and was, in his own words, ‘out of action for five years’, suffering from seven haemorrhages in that period. Later he joined partnership with another surveyor, W. H. Shields, until in 1931 he began his own real estate business. When asked why he chose to be a land and estate agent, he replies with a smile, ‘Well, I knew a bit about land.’ In 1935 he married a Fremantle girl, Daphne Alice Marks, but they had no issue when she died in 1953. He still looks in at his office in Queen Street every day, but admits he does not do much work there other than valuations—big ones. His main activities today are, of course, connected with the Fremantle City Council and at special functions his younger sister, Mrs A, R. D. Laurie, O.B.E., acts as a very gracious hostess. But even after his election as Councillor for the City Ward in 1936, serious illness

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again threatened him in 1948 when he was stricken with Bright’s disease, a complaint from which few recover.

It seems that he has survived all these contingencies of accidents and illness because it was his destiny to become the popular and energetic Mayor of Fremantle that he is today. At 78, he attends all committees of the Council, although he is by choice chairman of none, except the Executive Committee. At Council meetings he presides without a gavel. All he has on his table are a blotter to dry his signature when he appends it to the Minutes, and the Council Bible open at Psalm 133, the first verse of which reads: ‘Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.’ Sometimes, when contentious matters are under discussion and the public gallery is filled with ratepayers who might be expected to make noisy interjections, he has been known to read that verse at the outset of the meeting to remind them of the spirit in which they are met together.

In 1962 he was created a Knight Bachelor, but like his predecessor he wears his knighthood lightly. Although he is a stickler for protocol when called upon to receive important people, including Royalty, at the Town Hall, he manages to invest the proceedings with a degree of informality which must be refreshing to visitors accustomed to listening to somewhat starchy addresses of welcome at such functions. He has a great fund of anecdotes and digs deeply into Fremantle’s past for incidents that are relevant to the occasion as they affect Fremantle’s present.

My own favourite story does not go far back in time. The Council Chambers were being renovated in 1938 and, happening to look in when these were nearing completion, he saw that the wood-carver had just finished the Council’s motto, Nec prece, nec pretio, but had made the last word, pretic. ‘That’s wrong’, he told him. ‘That “c” should be an "o". ‘That’s easily fixed’, said the wood-carver, and with a deft blow of his chisel changed the ‘c’ to an ‘o’. He stood back surveying his handiwork. ‘What's it mean, anyhow?’ he asked. ‘Well, literally translated, it means “Neither by prayer nor by price”, but we freely translate it as “Neither by entreaty nor by bribery”.’ ‘What's the strength of that?’ asked the wood-carver. ‘It means that councillors can’t be got at', Frederick Samson explained. 'What bloody rot’, said the man. ‘You could buy any of ’em for

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sixpence!’ With a smile on his face, Mr Samson was about to leave the Council Chamber, but at the door he turned. ‘You’re wrong, you know. You couldn’t buy me for under a shilling!’ and went out. Only then did the wood-carver realize he had been speaking to one of the men whose incorruptibility he had disparaged. He went out of his way to make sure he had not given offence. Sir Frederick recalls that at a Council meeting some months later, when certain members were making a parade of their personal virtues, he told them this story and he still remembers with a chuckle that it rather ‘quietened them down’.

Any conversation with him is likely to be punctuated with stories like that, although most of them go much further back in history. But he brings a deep seriousness of purpose to his position as Mayor of Fremantle, which he almost invariably refers to in his Annual Reports and at civic receptions as ‘the Western Gateway to Australia’. I asked him what he considered were the highlights of achievement during his years with the Council. The first of these took him back to 1946 when he was Chairman of the Town Planning Committee. He put forward the suggestion that part of the 1,250 acres of Fremantle’s original land grant should be developed, some for housing and some for industry. An area of 1 square mile was agreed upon for industry, although this was later reduced somewhat, and the land was to be offered at £1 an acre. This was the genesis of the industrial complex that later became known as ‘O’Connor’, the full development of which was, as we have seen, spread over many years.

That initial decision of the committee had an amusing aftermath. When this was ratified by the Council and the daily newspapers carried the story of land for industry at £1 an acre, 1.5 miles from the port, he was visited at his office in Queen Street by a group of angry men who accused him of ‘giving away the birthright of the workingman to the capitalists’. He heard them out patiently, and then said: ‘I am very busy, but if you can answer this question sensibly I will listen to you. If there are no factories and no industry, where is the worker going to work?’ The balloon of their protest was effectively pricked and they melted away without further protest. But he was equally outspoken to the industrialists. Even after he became mayor, not all who had applied for land had developed it as quickly or as fully as expected. One such firm, Melbourne based, had indeed

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erected only a few sheds when one of their directors happened to visit Western Australia. The local manager invited the mayor to meet him at lunch and Sir Frederick lost no opportunity of telling him that it was high time his firm stopped spending their money in New South Wales or wherever they were spending it, and started at Fremantle. Within a very short time the building of a modern factory began. Sir Frederick has this blunt way of letting people know exactly what is in his mind, and of doing it without giving offence.

The other highlight he remembers with pride is of a meeting he called at his home in Ellen Street in 1958 to see what steps could be taken to preserve the former Old Women's Home and Lunatic Asylum in Finnerty Street as a historical museum. Following this, approaches to the state government for assistance met with only a lukewarm response. Then in 1963 the Earl of Euston, then Chairman of the National Trust of Great Britain, and Lady Euston in company with Mr Hew Roberts, Director of Adult Education and a member of the Council of the Australian National Trust (W.A.), inspected the building. Sir Frederick tells of the outcome in these words: ‘The Earl of Euston came over to my home on the Saturday morning for tea with my sister and me. He said: “Don’t let them pull that place down. It is the best example of Colonial Gothic in Australia”.’ Its story has already been told, but Sir Frederick Samson initiated the move in 1958, five years before an impressive outside authority caused the government to take notice and agree to make a handsome grant available for the purpose.

Perhaps on that note we should close this brief sketch of the man who is at the present time Mayor of Fremantle. Just as everything that ever happened in Fremantle from the earliest days to the 1970s is part of his being, so he, too, occupies a unique place in its history with which he, through his family and through himself, has been so closely identified.


1 M.F.C.C. 15 Oct. 1934, F.T.H.

2 C.F., R.S.A. 31 Oct. 1951, F.T.H.

3 Ibid.


1 Parmelia migrants
2 Names of the purchasers of allotments between 1829 and 1837 (the same list was first published in Hitchcock)
3 Children at the Colonial School at Fremantle, 1835
4 Census taken in Fremantle in 1848
5 Summary of members of the Fremantle Town Trust, 1848-71 (v. infra)
6 Summary of office-bearers of the Fremantle Town Council, 1871-83 (v. infra)
7 Summary of members of the Fremantle Municipal Council, 1883-1929 (v. infra)
8 Summary of members of the Fremantle City Council, 1929-70 (v. infra)
9 Fremantle street names (see my page for street names - which includes all of Ewers')
10 Parks, reserves and recreation grounds in Fremantle today (see my page for parks)
11 Allied vessels victualled at Fremantle in World War II
12 Shipping tonnage and trade at Fremantle, 1937-70
13 Building activities, 1946-70
14 The firms established at O’Connor
15 Plan of Fremantle, 1833
16 An American view of port facilities in 1892

Appendix 1


The transport Parmelia arrived at Fremantle on 2 June 1829, and as a matter of historical interest the official list of passengers is given hereunder, the ages of junior members being shown in parentheses:

Captain Stirling, R. N, (Lieutenant-Governor), Mrs Ellen Stirling and Andrew (3) and Frederick Stirling; William Stirling; P. Broun (Colonial Secretary), Mrs Caroline Broun and MacBride (2) and Ann (6 months) Broun; Commander M. J. Currie, R. N. (Harbour Master), Mrs Jane Currie; John S. Roe (Surveyor-General) and Mrs Matilda Roe; H. C. Sutherland (assistant surveyor) and Mrs Ann Sutherland; W. Shilton (clerk to the Colonial Secretary); Charles Simmons (surgeon); Mrs Jane Daly and Joseph T. (6), Henry John (4), Edward N. (2) and Eliza Rose (2 months) Daly; Alex. Fandam (cooper) and Mrs Mary Fandam; William Hoking (artificer), Mrs Mary Hoking and John (14), William (12), Mary (10), Thomas (8), David (6) and Charles (2) Hoking; James Morgan (storekeeper), Mrs Rebecca Morgan and Rebecca (12) and James (11) Morgan; John Drummond (agriculturist), Mrs Sarah Drummond and Thomas (18), Jane (16), James (15), John (13), Johnson (9) and Euphemia (3) Drummond; Thomas Davis (smith), Mrs Catherina Davis and John (3) and Charlotte (2) Davis; James C. Smith (boat builder) and Mrs Sarah Smith; George Mangles; George Eliot (11); Thomas Blakey and Mrs Sarah Blakey; John Kelly and Mrs Elizabeth Kelly; Richard Evans; Margaret McLeod; Mary Ann Smith; Ann Shipsey; Patrick Murphy; Frederick Ludlow and Mrs Mildred Kitts Ludlow; Jane Fruin; Charles D. Wright; Elizabeth Gamble; James Elliott; W. H. Reveley (engineer) and Mrs Amelia Reveley.

Appendix 3


The following list of children attending the Colonial School at Fremantle is taken from the Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence for the year 1835.


The following scholars were in attendance at an examination held on June 19, 1835:—Edmund Lamb, Charles Duffield, Samuel Duffield, John Bateman, Walter Bateman, Shakespeare Hall, Joseph Cooper, Rebecca Cooper, Mary Ann Cooper, Richard Maxworthy, Mary Ann Maxworthy, William Christmas, George Christmas, Edwin Sharpe, Anne Sharp, Mary Sharpe, Isaac Cousins, William Australis Cousins, George Woods, Maria Woods, Frances Read, Jane Read, Thomas Kelly, Thomas Clulow, Henry Robinson, Isaac Summerland, Louisa Bond, John Pengilly [Pengelly], John Harwood, Frederick Tapper, Ann Draper, John Cox, Richard Cox, William Kelly

Visitors at this public examination were:
R. McB. Brown, Esq., Resident; G, Leake, Esq., S. G. Henty, Esq., D. Scott, Esq.
Prizes were awarded to:
Best Reader and Speller, Charles Duffield; Best Writer, Edmund Lamb;
Best Arithmetician, Samuel Duffield.
For General Good Conduct, Edwin Sharpe, John Harwood, William Australis Cousins, George Christmas, Mary Ann Maxworthy, Anne Sharpe.
(Sgd.) LANCELOT TAYLOR COOK, Master of the Fremantle School.

Appendix 5

Appendix 6

Appendix 7

Appendix 8

Appendix 15