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Some of John Bateman's houses in and around Fremantle

Bruce Bott

Bott, Bruce 2001, 'Some of John Bateman's houses in and around Fremantle', Fremantle Studies, 2: 17-35.

In this paper I propose to discuss some houses situated in and around Fremantle that were built for and lived in over a period of about 70 years from 1830 to the early 1900s, by a father and his son, both called John Bateman, and their families. Almost all of these houses have been demolished. The Bateman family, through their company J & W Bateman, were involved in various commercial activities based in Fremantle. As the firm became more successful, these activities took them away from Fremantle, first to other parts of Western Australia, then to other parts of the world, but their focus upon Fremantle remained. An examination of some of their houses helps to place them in time and space by establishing their domestic context. Grounding them more firmly in Fremantle allows us to better understand the significance of their activities away from Fremantle.

Although I will discuss here only two men called John Bateman, in every generation of the family since their arrival in Australia there has been a ‘John Bateman’. To avoid confusion, I will refer to the two ‘John Batemans' whose houses are the subject of this paper thus: John Bateman I (1789-1855) and his son John Bateman II (1824-1909). The latter’s eldest surviving son was called John Wesley Bateman (1852-1907), but the suburban houses he and his family occupied will not be directly considered here.

John Bateman I - houses at the Cantonment, lots 274 & 275, 294 & 295 and Fremantle town lots 59 & 60, Henry Street

John Bateman I was probably born in London about 1789. He was 40 when he migrated to Western Australia with his second wife, Mary Ann (née Beningfield), and five children. [1] They travelled in the Medina, a ship of 468 tons and arrived in Fremantle on 6 July 1830.

Abundant land was one of the main enticements used to attract settlers to the new colony and under the conditions of settlement for Western Australia, the amount of capital and labour brought out by a settler determined the amount of land they could be allocated. An inventory of John Bateman I's goods and chattels compiled for the purpose of establishing the extent of his eligibility for land, attributes a value of £345/l/71/2 to them; he was notified in February 1831 that he could therefore select 4600 acres of land. 2 He duly did so, in the Avon valley on the Dale River west of the present townsite of Beverley, but was not attracted to agricultural pursuits and never lived there.

Memory of the family’s arrival in Western Australia was still accessible in 1937 when family members were interviewed for a newspaper article. 3 One anecdote recounts how, upon arrival in Western Australia in mid-winter, John Bateman II, aged 7, and his brother Walter, found '... sheltered sleeping accommodation in a large barrel while the other lads, their shipmates, were housed at night in a tank that was found lying on the beach‘. Another family anecdote mentioned that, along with other personal property, John Bateman brought '... the material for building a three-roomed house'. 4 The presence of house -building material in the inventory of goods he brought to the colony is not apparent (except for hinges and padlocks), but if he did use any such materials, it is probable that it was in association with the construction of his first house at the Cantonment. Chauncy's 1844 survey field book of Fremantle 5 shows a ruined stone building labelled 'Bateman's‘, situated at the back of lot 275 at its furthest and highest point from the river shore and close to its boundary with lot 294. The unresumed portions of a group of four adjoining lots he owned here are situated north east of the present James Street, between Beach Street and Queen Victoria Street. Lot 295 is now occupied by the Flying Angel Club and lot 294 by part of the 'Officeworks' store. That portion of lot 275 immediately behind lot 294 and not resumed for Beach Street road works is covered by part of the 'Officeworks' carpark.

John Bateman I intended that this building would serve not only as a residence for himself and his family but would provide an income by operating as an inn or tavern. He hoped that its proximity to the river ferry crossing would capture passing trade. In October 1830, his application to the Colonial Secretary for a publican‘s license stated: ‘I propose building a good brick house of four rooms on the ground floor with bedrooms above for the accommodation of such persons who may be detained at Fremantle. 7 His application was successful but the inn, the ‘Black Swan', 8 which he operated with Anthony Curtis, who had been a steward on the Medina on the voyage out from England, was not.

Western Australia's unstable economic environment meant that in order to provide for his family, John Bateman I became associated with various paid government positions in addition to his private mercantile ones. As early as February 1831 he was writing to the Colonial Secretary to seek employment as a clerk in the Harbour Master's Office as '... I have not business in my present concern to employ my time during the middle of the day ...' 9 In a letter of March 1832 to the Colonial Secretary, he asks hopefully that ‘... if there is any appointment at Fremantle vacant, or about to be established there, to which my abilities might be suitable, that His Excellency might be pleased to give me the appointment’. 10 A note at the foot of the letter states ‘Mr. Moore to appoint him Bailiff at Fremantle if appointment not already made’. 11

His most significant government appointment came on 18 March 1833 when he was appointed to the position of Deputy Postmaster at Fremantle. 12 While the annual salary that was paid to him for carrying out the duties of this position saved him from destitution, it did not stop him applying for (and receiving) further government appointments and being involved in further private commercial ventures. However, since his Cantonment house was located on the fringes of the settlement and at an inconvenient distance from the main focus of commercial and government activities in the West End of the town, it was unsuitable for the execution of his duties as Postmaster. Early in 1835, therefore, he moved to a house built on another of his allotments, lot 59 in Henry Street. For as he explained in a letter to the Colonial Secretary, ‘As I do not now carry on the public house or any other business, my removal will be attended with the least inconvenience’. 13

Although a post office had been established at Fremantle on May 9 1830, when Lionel Samson was appointed acting postmaster, John Bateman I was Fremantle’s first official postmaster.

He held the position until 1854 when deteriorating health caused his wife to take over the duties. He performed his postal duties from his own house and a report on the Western Australian Post Office published in 1847 gives us an idea of the impact that this activity may have had upon his domestic situation.

One apartment in the Govemment Offices at Perth is appropriated for the Post Office, the Postmaster General does not reside there. At Fremantle and the other places, the Office is at the Postmaster‘s house, where a letter box is required to be fitted up, but a room is not set apart exclusively for the performance of the duties ... The offices are open to the public from 10 am to 4 pm. It is the practice to close the letter box about thirty minutes before making up a mail, but no fee is taken for late letters; which seldom are refused, if there be time to forward them ... [Ship] Mails are landed at Fremantle and at Albany, where they are opened by the Postmaster in the presence of the Magistrate, who certifies to the number of letters taken out and delivered, or forwarded to other offices. 14

Upon John Bateman I's death, Mary Ann Bateman relinquished the position she had held during her husband's incapacity. She was succeeded by her son, Walter Bateman, who held the position of Post Master from April 1855 to November 1861. 15

bott1Chauncy’s surveying fieldbook of 1844-45 shows stone and wooden dwellings (including the post office) situated at the very rear of the John Bateman I’s allotments and extending across both lots 59 and 60. There are stone walls (no doubt constructed of local limestone) around the perimeter both on the Henry Street frontage and as a boundary with neighbouring allotments. Many pictures of the time show such walls and visitors of the time describe them.

< Campbell R. McK. Fremantle 1844: From the fieldbook of Phillip Snell-Chauncey, Unpub, 1884.

William Wade, a young migrant to Western Australia in 1841 says of Fremantle

But I could see no town as towns are understood. There were dozens of round little sandhills covered with a kind of grass or rush and no visible streets, or roads, only tracks through these hummocks. There was the wooden customs house on the beach. Behind some sandhills about 300 yards from the sea, two little wooden cottages painted green, were the locale of the Post Office, the Postmaster being Mr Bateman, an old Londoner. 16

A portion of John Bateman I's original house was still standing in the late 1920s but no complete picture of the house and other buildings seems to exist although there is what may be a partial photograph, probably from the 1920s, showing Thomas Mews sitting outside it. Alec Bateman (when serving his architectural apprenticeship with the Henry Street firm of architects, Allen and Nicholas in the early 1930s) also remembered an old grapevine on the site which was said to have been planted by John Bateman I. 17


Thomas Mews outside what may be Bateman’s original post office in 1928? (JK Hitchcock, The History of Fremantle, Fremantle City Council, Fremantle, 1929, p 18)

The Fremantle Workers Social and Leisure Club at 5 Henry Street and its car park now occupies the site but part of the original perimeter wall may survive at the rear of the Club.

Lots 59 and 60, land and buildings, were sold by John Bateman II to Thomas William Mews for £250 on 23 April 1870. The Fremantle Municipality Assessment Register records his ownership from 1871.

John Bateman II - Fremantle town lot 192 Norfolk Street, Fremantle

John Bateman II married Rachel White at the Anglican Church in Fremantle on 17 August 1850. He is described on his marriage certificate as 'boatman' 18 and she as ‘servant’. Their first home consisted of two rooms in a house in Pakenham Street where possibly three children - their sons, Charles Henry and John Wesley and their eldest daughter Emma - were born. Only after John Bateman II went whaling again to make some money, could they afford to build the house in Norfolk Street where the remaining 13 of their 16 children were born. The last one, Samuel Beningfield, was born there in 1874, only four years before his eldest surviving brother, John Wesley, married in 1878. 19

John Bateman II acquired town lot 192 on 26 February 1851. The house on lot 192 was possibly built as early as 1853 though there is a record of his ownership of the lot only from 1855 in the Fremantle Municipality Assessment Register books. This could suggest an 1854 construction date. In 1909 the house was described as '... a long low house in Norfolk Street, which is still inhabited'. 20 A plan of the buildings on lot 192, prepared for probate purposes at John Bateman II's death in 1909, shows a long simple structure with twelve main rooms which are separated into three sections. They were described at the time as '3 stone cottages, each 4 rooms & bath; also stone stable'. 21

The plan shows that in each section there is a bathroom on the rear verandah, an earth closet in the back yard and a rain water tank. There was also a stable in the common yard at the back in the eastern corner of the block. In the two southernmost sections, only two rooms had a fireplaces while in the most northerly section, and the only one with a separate passage, three rooms have separate fireplaces.

The house was basically Georgian in style. This is unsurprising, for as Apperley et al. say, ‘The Georgian style was the basis for most architecture in Australia from the time of the first European settlements until at least the middle of the nineteenth century‘. 22 While it is probable that the original roofing material was shingle, we see here a house with a double-hipped, galvanised iron roof and rendered chimneys with simple moulded tops on six of the seven fireplaces. The walls are of limestone with the rough stonework of the northern end wall visible.

Fremantle town lots 156, 157 and 192, 1909


Plan of John Bateman II’s Norfolk Street house, c.1853 to c. 1879

The front face stonework, however, under the separately roofed verandah, has been rendered to resemble ashlar. Also at the front, sash windows with the traditional Georgian feature of twelve small panes each are visible, as is one of the door openings, though not the door itself. The separate verandah roof is supported by slender square wooden posts without decorative brackets or fringe. At the front property boundary there is a limestone wall with three gates, projecting pillars and plain wooden rail fence panels between each pillar. If the wall was constructed before the family moved to their new house on the corner of Croke and Mouat Streets, it was certainly modified at the time the house was made into three cottages.

Fremantle municipal records of licenses for dogs, horses and cows show that John Bateman II owned one of each of these animals while living in this house. Subsequently, he also bought the two adjoining allotments: lot 156 on the corner of Norfolk Street and Fitzgerald (now Marine) Terrace, from his friend, the harbour master Daniel Scott, in 1873 and lot 157 facing Fitzgerald Terrace but with a common boundary (at least in part) to both lots 192 and 156. Two semi-detached houses are shown in the 1909 plan of lot 156 and another separate house on the same lot is shown as having been transferred to Rachael Hollis, one of John Bateman II's daughters. The plan of lot 157 in 1909 shows that John Bateman II had a warehouse on the site and the yard at the back connected with the yard at the back of lot 192 in Norfolk Street.


John Bateman II’s Norfolk Street house, c 1853 to c. 1879 (Courtesy Bruce Bott)

The Norfolk Street house was only a five minute walk from the commercial heart of Fremantle and from his business premises which were probably situated on the corner of Croke Street and Mouat Street, at least after 1870 when he no longer owned his father’s original lots 59 and 60 near the river end of Henry Street. It was also close to the shipbuilding operations at the beach and in the waters of South Bay, which were still both accessible and unreclaimed below Norfolk Street. His view of activity across the bay to the old and new jetties was not obstructed by the workshops and tourist structures that now block the view and restrict access to the beach.

The period from 1853 to 1878 when he lived in the house was one of intense commercial activity for John Bateman II. Over this time he became a substantial shipowner and a successful trader. He acquired twenty-two ships (and lost some of them) in the period and, while continuing to hunt whales, engaged in various successful and often pioneering trading ventures. It is possible that his schooner, the Flying Foam of 33 tons became the first to engage in commercial pearling in Australia when it collected pearl shell and pearls at Nichol Bay in 1861. His barquentine Sea Ripple of 187.35 tons was chartered to take the first European settlers to the north west in 1864 and, in the same year, brought back the first cargo of wool produced from that area.

The change in his economic circumstances over the period he lived in the house is also illustrated by the provision he made for the education of his children. The two surviving elder sons, John Wesley (born 1852) and Francis (born 1854) were educated locally as were all his daughters, but William Augustus (born 1866) and Lewis Beningfield (born 1868) were sent to school in Adelaide. The building on lot 192 was valued for probate after his death in 1909 at £490. All the buildings on lots 192 and 156, described as ‘seven stone cottages’, including the house considered here, were only demolished in January 1956. The land remained vacant until 1972 when a cool store was constructed on the site for Richmond Cool stores.“ This complex has in turn been replaced by apartments, offices and shops. Nothing of the original buildings remains.

John Bateman II - Fremantle town lot 53, cnr Croke Lane and Mouat Streets, Fremantle

Of the lots that later constituted the J & W Bateman complex of buildings, lot 53 was the first acquired by John Bateman II who bought it on 18 October 1854 from John Picton Beete, then a resident of Charlotte Town, Prince Edward Island. When Beete’s purchase of lot 53 (and lot 54) from the original grantee, Lionel Samson, was confirmed in 1840, lot 53 had improvements to the value of £100 in the form of buildings and enclosures, while lot 54 had no improvements. The building on lot 53, however, was described in 1840 as 'small ... in part not yet finished? 24 This statement is confirmed by the sketch of a very small rectangular building towards the front of the lot in Chauncy’s surveying field book of 1844-1845. 25 Lot 54, the triangular-shaped block on the south side of lot 53 which extended along Croke Street and followed the old high water mark of the original shoreline of South Bay, was also bought by John Bateman II from Beete in September 1856. 26

The small building on lot 53 was possibly where what became the firm of J & W Bateman commenced operations, though this may have been in John Bateman I's original buildings on lots 59 and 60 near the northern end of Henry Street. The firm's operations were almost certainly conducted from buildings on lots 53 and 54 after the sale lots 59 & 60 in 1870. It was not until 1873 that for a sum of £100, John Bateman II bought lot 52, the area of land to the north along Mouat Street. Lots 69, 70, 71 and 72 running south down Henry Street to the corner of Croke Street were only acquired in 1875 and 1876.” The amount paid for lots 52, 69, 70 and 71 indicates that they had buildings on them at the time of purchase, but lot 72 probably did not. In 1872 John Bateman II bought out Walter Bateman's share of J & W Bateman. It was at that time that the 20 year old John Wesley Bateman began to take an active and important role in the internal management of the business, a role that expanded until he finally acquired the business from his father in 1900. Another son, Francis, inherited his father's love of the sea and by the age of 21 had secured his master mariner's certificate. Thereafter he served as Captain on various of his father's ships until he was forced to retire prematurely due to ill health.

Because the Norfolk Street house on lot 192 was no longer adequate, and so that he could provide accommodation for his large family and be closer to his business operations, John Bateman II built a simple Georgian style building of two stories on the corner of Croke Street and Mouat Street in about 1879.” It was built wholly on a small front section of lot 53 facing Mouat Street, which made it appear to project into the street when viewed from the Henry Street corner of Croke Street. Its Mouat Street frontage was 49 ft 6 in but it extended only about 22 feet onto the block. It had two storied separately attached verandahs on both the Mouat and Croke Street frontages.” A newspaper article written at the time of John Bateman II's death in 1909, gushingly describes the house at the time of its construction as ‘ of the finest residences of the State'.~‘° It was certainly of grander conception than his house in Norfolk Street. The only available picture showing the whole building must have been taken in 1890 or soon after, as the two storey office building on the front of lot 52 was first noted on the Fremantle municipal rate assessments in that year. A family anecdote records the difficulty of establishing firm foundations for the house and also illustrates the practical approach John Bateman II took to problem solving. The site was very close to the old shoreline and large beds of decaying seaweed were encountered as the footings for the building were being prepared. To provide material for secure footings, John Bateman organized a wood cutting party (which he accompanied) to gather jarrah posts." 31 The architect of the 1997 renovations of one of Bateman's warehouses for the Notre Dame law library confirmed the presence of these decaying seaweed beds two metres down and about 36 metres from the old shoreline when excavating the well for a lift. 32


John Bateman II’s house c1879 to 1899 and J & W Bateman’s commercial premises (Courtesy Bruce Bott)

Other features reflecting the simplicity of the Georgian style are the large multipaned windows on the lower level. The 1890 picture also shows a sign next to one of the doorways opening onto Croke Street, which indicates that the lower rooms behind these windows were being used as offices. There is also a d [?] leading from the lower Croke Street end of the verandah into the small commercial building facing Croke Street. The lower Mouat Street section (behind the lattice divider) and the upper storey were certainly being used for residential purposes. A water supply map shows the house with a cellar situated under the southern section was still standing in 1916. At that time it was being used by J & W Bateman entirely for commercial purposes. At some time after that date, the building was demolished to make way for the building that still stands on part of the site, a building that has now been consecrated as a chapel for the University of Notre Dame Australia.

John Bateman II - Canning location 28, Bull Creek, Canning River and 'Grasmere', 12 Pulo Road, Brentwood

In July 1881, John Bateman H, as mortgagee, paid a sum of £300 to David Bras Francisco and had Canning Location 28 of 1280 acres conveyed to him as security for repayment of this sum with interest. As the debt was not repaid according to the terms of the mortgage, the property was sold at auction in January 1885 and bought by John Wesley Bateman for his father. The house on the site was probably constructed about 1886. John Bateman II intended that he and his family would use it as a ‘... place of quiet retreat, a kind of week-end sojourn in the country’. 33 This was the first of the Bateman houses built for other than purely utilitarian purposes and it was the first for which there is a name recorded. It was called 'Grasmere', reportedly because Rachel Bateman said the location reminded her of Grasmere in the English Lake District. 34 It was always her special delight to spend time there as she liked living away from town. Transport to and from Fremantle would generally have been by river.


‘Grasmere’, Bull Creek, John Bateman II’s holiday house (Courtesy Miss BA Bateman)

The house was constructed in brick with walls two bricks deep without a cavity. The bricks and other building materials were transported by flat-boat or barge and delivered to a small jetty built for the purpose in Bull Creek 35 which is still called ‘Bateman’s landing’. Some of the materials, including the galvanised iron roofing and the cast iron fringe and brackets (which no longer remain), were imported from England as ballast in ships making the voyage to Australia. William Augustus Bateman, who was the 13th child of John Bateman II and Rachel White, and who was renting one of his father’s houses at 118 Mary Street (now Solomon Street) when his father died, took up permanent residence in ‘Grasmere’ with his family in 1910. 36

The house is built on a slight rise and would have overlooked Bull Creek though the view is now obscured by mature trees and shrubs. The east elevation, the ‘front’ faces the head of Bull Creek where, still partly visible from the front verandah, are the remains of the jetty, built to land (or load) goods and visitors.

The house is square in a bungalow style, with a double-hipped galvanized iron roof, with separately supported concave galvanized iron roofed verandahs all around and a symmetrical arrangement of rooms either side of a central passage running from front to back. From the west side, a covered way leads to what was formerly a detached kitchen building. Adjoining it was a bathroom. More recently, one of the back bedrooms has been converted into a kitchen and a bathroom formed by enclosing a section of the verandah on the west side. From the living room on one side of the front door, French doors open out onto the verandah providing views of Bull Creek. French doors also open out from the main bedroom on the other side of the front door. The verandah posts are square cut timber. They originally had some timber moulding as well as a fringe and brackets of cast iron. There was a wooden verandah balustrade with each baluster made of fretwork. The painted pattern of wide stripes of alternating colours on the verandah roof was a decorating feature popular for much of the 19th century. The underside of the verandah roof, or soffit, until recently also retained traces of its original (and traditional) eau de nil paint. The quoins are of simulated ashlar and the external face brickwork may always have been rendered and/or painted, though not the decorated chimneys.

‘Grasmere’ Brentwood 1999


Plan of 'Grasmere’ (Courtesy Considine & Griffiths Architects)

John Bateman II - ‘Brentwood’, Fremantle town lot 759, 73 Solomon Street, Fremantle

‘Brentwood’, built by John Bateman II, as the house for his retirement, was completed around the beginning of 1898 on an elevated site overlooking Fremantle in what was then known as Mary Street. The architect/designer of the house is unknown. John Bateman II named it ‘Brentwood’ after the town in Essex near where his parents had been married and where his mother's family was then living. The suburb of Brentwood, near Bull Creek and where his house ‘Grasmere’ still stands, is named for the same reason.

‘Brentwood’ was certainly the best house he ever lived in. While it reflected his realization that he had been successful in his achievements and could afford to enjoy some of the fruits of his labours, we may wonder if he ever reflected on the change in his accommodation and circumstances when, as a boy of 7, upon arrival in Western Australia in 1830, he had camped in a barrel on the beach. Unfortunately, Rachel, his wife of nearly 50 years, was only able to enjoy the house for 20 months before she died of pneumonia. A photograph taken soon after the house was completed shows her on the front verandah with one of her daughters and a granddaughter.

The old man had lived close to South Bay for more than fifty years. Now from his verandahs he had panoramic views over the town, the long jetty, the new inner harbour and the Indian Ocean across Cockburn Sound to Garden Island and across Gage Roads to Rottnest. He could see white caps on the waves, observe the approach of winter storms and, with his telescope, monitor ships coming and going from the port. He was thus able to maintain his connection with the sea and its activities that had been such an important part of his life. Although the house was only single storey, its position at the top of the sloping block and quite close to the street, allowed an extensive basement area to be built underneath the dining room and kitchen, with both internal and rear access. In 1909 it was noted that the house was well constructed of fine materials and had ‘high class fittings‘ when it was valued at £2,962-5-0. 37

The main building material for the foundations and lower level walls was limestone with brick quoins, with cavity brick walls for the upper section. The face brickwork was tuck-pointed. The roof was of imported slate with lead capping, unusual in Western Australia, and with an additional iron cresting fringe. The verandahs were separately roofed with bullnosed, galvanized iron painted in stripes. The verandah roof was supported by elaborately moulded cast iron posts and decorated with ornate cast iron brackets and fringe. Equally elaborate cast iron panels were used as verandah pallisading.


'Brentwood’ c1899, John Bateman II’s retirement house, Mary Street (Courtesy Mrs G Nicholas)

The front fence was also of cast iron cemented into a tuck-pointed brick foundation. The gate posts and end fence posts were of ornate cast iron and seem almost out of scale with the rest of the building. The chimneys were rendered and moulded in the Victorian version of the Italianate style. Apperley et al. consider that the stylistic feature illustrated here by the asymmetrical front and side elevations of the house, also has the same Italianate origins as do the two faceted bays, one at the front and the other at the side. 38 The floor plan of the house indicates that, at least in 1909, the room behind the front bay window was the drawing room while that behind the side bay window and the largest room in the house, measuring 26 feet by 15 feet, was the dining room. 39 The plan also shows us that there were seven main rooms: the drawing room and dining room, four bedrooms and a sitting room. On the main floor were also a kitchen, pantry, bathroom, and lumber rooms and an internal staircase outside the dining room, leading down to the cellar and basement rooms below. An external staircase also led from the back verandah to the lower level.

The valuation schedule prepared after the death of John Bateman II provides more detail of the interior. There we learn that the ceilings were high and the rooms well ventilated, that each of the six fireplaces had a marble or granite mantelpiece with a tiled grate and that the bath was porcelain. When the house was demolished, many of these materials were salvaged and sold by building demolition yards so some of them probably still exist in houses around the Perth metropolitan area. The roof, chimneys and cast iron posts and filigree work would have been considered old fashioned features in a new house, even in architecturally conservative Western Australia. 40

At the rear of the block was a walled garden and a feature that now seems quaint, a cow shed. It reminds us of one of the practical difficulties of life at that time: obtaining a supply of fresh milk. A third of the way along the north side of the block was a limestone-walled building with brick quoins. This was a stable and coach house with a fodder room and loft above. Access to it was along a driveway leading from Mary Street.

Three mature Norfolk Island pines that grew in front of the entrance along Solomon Street 41 and part of the north and south side limestone boundary walls are all that remain. The house was demolished with almost indecent haste in 1971 by the owners, Fremantle Hospital, reportedly on the grounds that the wiring was faulty. The block was then left vacant for about 20 years before the present high density townhouse developments were constructed.


For about 70 years, the Batemans lived in the west end of Fremantle close to the location and focus of their commercial operations. In spite of opportunities to live elsewhere - especially as they became more prosperous - they concentrated upon business, living close to offices, shops or warehouses and sacrificed the possibility of greater domestic comfort. Only in the last decade of the nineteenth century did John Bateman II and John Wesley Bateman build themselves relatively substantial suburban ‘villas’ within Fremantle’s environs.

The first John Bateman was a middle class townsman and capitalist who, like many of his fellow colonists, had unrealistic expectations of life in Western Australia. Even though he was granted 4,600 acres of land in the Avon valley near Beverley upon arrival in the colony, he was not tempted to agricultural pursuits and made only such improvements to the land as were necessary to avoid forfeiting it under the terms of the grant. His economic circumstances were unstable and the houses he lived in were all he could afford.

The wife of John Bateman II, Rachel Bateman, who came from Sydenham in Oxfordshire, missed living in the country. Some time after he was able to afford it, her husband built her a modest holiday house near Bull Creek but even then did not allow rustic dallying to deflect his attention from his Fremantle-based business operations.

In the late nineteenth century, John Bateman II was also very active around Fremantle as a builder of houses for investment purposes. Many of these houses are still in existence and will be considered on another occasion.

Although the houses built by John Bateman II and John Wesley Bateman and lived in at their maturity were more substantial than those of many of their contemporaries, they were by no means the grandest houses of their time, nor as grand as their owners probably could have afforded. Their houses could be regarded as reflecting modest success, but none could be described as a mansion. 'Grasmere', built at BullCreek in 1886, was roughly contemporary with Charles Harper's 'Woodbridge' at Guildford, though Charles Harper was of higher social status than the mercantile Batemans, father and son. 42

'Brentwood' in Fremantle and 'Sydenham' at North Fremantle were roughly contemporary with houses built by other men successful ‘in trade’, for example, 'Hillcrest' by WS Pearse in North Fremantle, and 'Woodside' by W D Moore in East Fremantle, but quite modest by comparison.

John Bateman I lived as well as he could afford but neither John Bateman II nor John Wesley Bateman sought more than adequate comfort in their houses and did not seek to display their wealth through their houses. They were effective businessmen and their focus was always upon the health of their business investments and future prospects. They bought land, goods and ships, and built houses with this in mind.

Presented at the Fremantle Studies Day
29 October 2000


1. His first marriage to Elizabeth Sherrif took place on 26 February 1816. There were five children of the marriage which ended when Elizabeth died in 1821. Only two daughters, Elizabeth and Maria, survived from his first marriage to make the journey to Western Australia together with three sons, John, Walter and Charles from his second marriage. Charles died during the voyage and another daughter, Mary Ann, was born while the Medina was at Cape Town.

2. Colonial Secretary to John Bateman, 11 February 1831, Colonial Secretary's Office, correspondence outward, State Record Office of Western Australia, AN 24, Acc 36

3. The West Australian, 10 July 1937, ‘Builders of the State, John Bateman’

4. ibid

5. P Chauncy, Survey of the town of Fremantle (1844, 1845), unpub, copy held at Fremantle Local History Collection, Fremantle City Library

6. Most of the land that comprised the original lots 274 and 275 is now covered by Beach Street. It is situated back to back with lots 294 and 295 which front what is now Queen Victoria Street but was originally called Cantonment Road, an extension of the street presently bearing that name on the other side of Edward Street. It was only after Mary Ann Bateman's death that John Bateman I's children disposed of the four lots and any buildings they contained to W E Marmion in October 1868.

7. John Bateman to Colonial Secretary, 9 October 1830, Colonial Secretary's Office, correspondence inward, State Record Office of Western Australia, AN 24, Acc 36

8. T Tuckfield, ‘Early colonial inns and taverns’. Early Days: Journal and proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society, 7 (3), 1971, p 78

9. John Bateman to Colonial Secretary, 7 February 1831, Colonial Secretary's Office, correspondence inward, State Record Office of Western Australia, AN 24, Acc 36

10. John Bateman to Colonial Secretary, 1 March 1832, Colonial Secretary's Office, correspondence inward, State Record Office of Western Australia, AN 24, Acc 36

11. ibid

12. Colonial Secretary to John Bateman, 18 March 1833, Colonial Secretary's Office, correspondence outward, State Record Office of Western Australia, AN 24, Acc 36

13. John Bateman to Colonial Secretary, 23 January 1835, Colonial Secretary's Office, correspondence inward, State Record Office of Western Australia, AN 24, Acc 36

14. The Western Australia Study Group, Western Australia, The stamps and postal history, A guide to its philately, the Western Australia Study Group, Perth, 1979, appendix

15. J K Ewers, The western gateway: A history of Fremantle, 2nd ed, University of Western Australia Press for the City of Fremantle, Nedlands, 1971, p 21

16. R Oldham, ‘The Reminiscences of William Wade’, Early Days: Journal and proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society, 6 (2), 1963, p 14

17. Personal communication (1979) with Rev A W Bateman

18. Whaling was his principal occupation at the time.

19. MA Harper, The Bateman Family. Personal reminiscences, 1946-1968, unpub

20. The West Australian, 5 May 1909, obituary: ‘The late Mr J Bateman, An adventurous career’

21. Supreme Court of Western Australia, Probate Jurisdiction, John Bateman, Last will and testament, Schedule of valuations (1909)

22. R Apperly, R Irving and P Reynolds, A pictorial guide to identifying Australian architecture, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1994, p 42

23. Fremantle Local History Collection records, Fremantle City Library

24. Application for a full title to a building allotment in town of Fremantle Western Australia, 7 February 1840

25. P Chauncy, Survey of the town of Fremantle

26. 11 September 1856 for a sum of £50

27 Lot 72 on 27 February 1875 for £80 and lots 69 70 and 71 on l January 1876 for £550

28 The West Australian 5 May 1909 obituary The late Mr J Bateman

29 Location plan from valuation of the estate of John Wesley Bateman 31 October 1907

30 The West Australian 5 May 19, obituary The late Mr J Bateman

3l Personal communication (2000) with Robin Roe

32 Personal communication (2000) with Marcus Collins

33 M Uren, The City of Melville: From bushland to expanding metropolis, Melville City Council Melville 1975 pp 48 S2

34 M A Harper, The Bateman Family

35 M Uren, The City of Melville p 48

36 Supreme Court of Western Australia, Probate Jurisdiction John Bateman Last will and testament, Schedule of valuations (l9O9)

37 Supreme Court of Western Australia Probate Jurisdiction John Bateman

38 R Apperly et al. A pictorial guide to identifying Australian architecture p 70

39 Supreme Court of Western Australia Probate Jurisdiction John Bateman

38 R Apperly et al. A pictorial guide to identifying Australian architecture p 1O8

41 These are not visible in the picture of the house

42 Though Prescott Henry Harper (1886-1957) a son of Charles Harper did marry in succession two granddaughters of John Bateman II's sister Grace Williamson Edgar and Mary Alison Edgar.

Garry Gillard | New: 17 August, 2017 | Now: 19 January, 2020