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The Left Bank

15 Riverside Road East Fremantle, aka the Boatbuilder's house, Carrolls' house, Driver House

left bank

The land here was originally owned by John Morgan Ley in 1896. Fanny Carroll, wife of Thomas Henry Carroll, a boatbuilder, bought the property in 1898. The Carrolls operated a boatbuilding yard next door to the house, which was built about 1900 by Thomas William Whitely. Another boatbuilder, Alan Henry Sargent, purchased the property in the late 1970s.


This house, variously known as Carroll's house, Driver House, and the Boatbuilder's house (Carroll was the boatbuilder), was in disrepair from the late 1970s, after it was bought by the Main Roads Department. Clough restored it, and called it The Left Bank bar and cafe. Skip Watkins photo, 1985, Fremantle Library Local History Collection.


Thomas Henry Carroll married Fanny Jessop (1865-) in Guildford on 31.08.1889. He was a boatbuilder and from 1894 to 1897 his business was at Beach Street. About 1900 he built a house at 15 Riverside Road and established his boat building yard next door. The Left Bank Cafe is on this site. Brent Sumner photo c. 1980s, Fremantle Library Local History Collection, # 302.

Driver House, Riverside Road, East Fremantle. [City of Fremantle Local History Collection]

This photo of the Carroll house hangs in the hotel. I took a photo of it.

Driver House, a magnificent turn-of-the-century riverside building in East Fremantle, was about to be restored in 1990. It was built by Tom and Fanny Carroll, with Tom’s boat building business next door, and had been purchased by the state government in the 1970s for public open space and subsequently vested in the East Fremantle Council. The Council had attempted unsuccessfully to lease the building for many years; it was finally leased to a developer planning a combined restaurant and tavern complex, and the proposed restoration plans were published in the local press in late 1989.
On seeing these plans the Society wrote to the Minister for Planning objecting to what looked more like renovation than restoration; it also contacted the East Fremantle Council to offer advice and a photograph of the original building. The Council’s Town Planning Committee called a meeting, inviting the project architect to attend, as well as a representative of the East Fremantle Council’s Advisory Panel, which had been set up in the mid-1980s to advise the Council on aesthetic, heritage and planning issues. However, in the meantime the developers had sold their interest in Driver House to Clough Engineering, who assured concerned community members that the house would be properly restored.
page 113
Once ‘restoration’ was under way, the Fremantle Society soon discovered that verandah posts, doors and windows would be nothing like the original, and the stonework on the ground floor had been rendered rather than restored. With criticism of the work mounting, in May 1990 leading conservation architect Michael Patroni was called in by Clough Engineering to advise on bringing the exterior at least up to Burra Charter standards. The Society commented in its newsletter: ‘That this sorry catalogue of disasters can occur in relation to a building of such historical significance, which is owned by the government and vested in a council, is nothing short of scandalous.’188
While today’s exterior may still not be completely faithful to the original, Driver House has nevertheless found a prosperous new life as The Left Bank cafe.
Footnote 188: Fremantle [FS newsletter], July 1990.

References and Links

Davidson, Ron & Dianne 2010, Fighting for Fremantle: The Fremantle Society Story, Fremantle Society: 112-113.

Left Bank website

Note in Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle Society: July 1990

See also: Castlemaine Brewery

Thomas William Whiteley built the house >

Top photo mine; bottom (Whiteley) from a Left Bank wall.

Garry Gillard | New: 13 July, 2015 | Now: 28 November, 2023