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bruceJohn Bruce

John Bruce was Commandant of the Enrolled Pensioner Force and then of the WA Military Force. He also acted as governor during the tenure of Benjamin Pine (2Nov1868-29Sept1869) as Pine never actually arrived in the colony.

He arrived in Fremantle on the Hashemy in 1850 to take charge of the Enrolled Pensioner Guards, and was granted land in North Fremantle in 1851. His wife was Johannah Jacoba Henklotz, who is remembered by Johannah Street North Fremantle. John Street, North Fremantle, was so named because it was associated with his land. The present Tydeman Road was originally Pensioner Road, and then John Street (or Road, on some maps). The present John Street has never changed name nor alignment. One of his sons was Edward 'Ned' Bruce; John Bruce gave him 'Ned's Land', which was in time to become Nedlands.

John Bruce was born in Athlone, Ireland, in 1808, and was educated at the Sandhurst Military Academy. He joined the army in 1829, and had had 20 years of service in India and China before being appointed Staff Officer to the Enrolled Pensioner Guard in WA. He arrived with his wife, two children and two servants, and the family settled in Perth, where Major Bruce in 1854 also took command of all of the troops stationed in WA. Later, he served two terms as Lieutenant-Governor before his death in 1870. Campbell: 2.3.


An 1897 article in the Western Mail mentions the renewal (to Lizzie Trump) of the licence of the Bruce Town Hotel, which was in North Fremantle, part of which at that time was called Bruce Town after Bruce. The hotel stood opposite the western end of the Gilbert Fraser Reserve (formerly North Fremantle Oval) in John Street — also named after John Bruce, as it was associated with the parcel of land granted to him. James Burrows was in 1892 the first owner of Lot 41, on which the hotel stood.

In the fifties [1850s] the greater part of North Fremantle east of where the railway bridge now [1929] stands was granted free to Colonel Bruce and members of the enrolled pensioner force, the land to the west having been previously taken up by William Pearse, who kept a dairy in that locality. Hitchcock: 27.

Captain John Bruce arrived in Fremantle 25th October 1850 aboard the second of the convict ships, the 'Hashemy', taking up the position of Staff Officer to the Enrolled Pensioner Force in WA. In 1854 Bruce was awarded the local rank of Brevet Major and succeeded Capt. Irwin as Commandant of the W.A. Military Force. He was assigned the task of forming a citizens' volunteer force when the regular troops stationed in the colony were about to be withdrawn in 1861. He also served as Acting Governor of W.A. during February 1862 and again from November 1868 until September 1869. In the 1850s he was granted 10 acres of  land in North Fremantle to the east of Stirling Highway, which became known as 'Brucetown' and was a favoured residential area in the late 1800's. Mt Bruce is named in his honour. The name 'Bruce Street' identifies the road which was engulfed by the Stirling Highway extension and bridge. Changed to Stirling Highway c. 1974. Fremantle City Library.

Heritage Council:
The main impetus for the early development of North Fremantle was the arrival of the convict ships from 1850 and with them the Pensioner Guards. Land was provided for the Pensioner Guards in North Fremantle. In 1851 [sic], Captain J[ohn] Bruce, commanding officer of the Guards, was granted 150 acres in North Fremantle. The land was surveyed and small allotments were granted to members of the Guard. By 1862, twenty-one Pensioner Guard cottages had been constructed in North Fremantle, making it the first Pensioner Guard village in Western Australia. Heritage Council.

Heritage Council:

John Street was the main road surveyed through the parcel of land granted to Lt. Col. John Bruce in 1857 [sic]. The land remained undivided and undeveloped until after John Bruce's death, when his widow arranged for it to be auctioned as residential lots. A land sale was held in October 1890 to dispose of the estate of John Bruce. A large attendance resulted in all 88 lots being sold, for sums ranging from £21 to £102, at an average price of £33/16/0, well above the anticipated price. Towards the end of 1891, the new owners approached the Fremantle Council requesting that scrub be cleared so that they could access their blocks, and it is likely that this is when John Street, which had been marked on survey diagrams from at least 1833, was actually created. The area at this time was known as 'Brucetown'. Pensioner Road, which ran from Stirling Highway (then Bruce Street) to the ocean and beach along the route of current Tydeman Road between Stirling Highway and the railway, and continuing beyond this point at the same angle, was renamed John Street in the late 1890s, being the continuation of the current John Street. This name remained until towards the end of the twentieth century, when roads were realigned to accommodate the expansion of Fremantle Port, and the current alignment of Tydeman Road was constructed. Heritage Council.

BRUCE, (Capt) John. b. 25.7.1808, d. 5.11.1870 of Athlone, Ireland, arr. 24.10.1850 per Hashemy with family & Pensioner Guards, m. 1828 Johannah Jacoba HERKLOTZ b. 1810 d. 6.1904. dtr. of Dutch judge to India. Chd. (most born in India), Charlotte Elizabeth, Jane Mary b. 1834 d. 1854, Mary b. 1835 d. 1913, Caroline, Clarrie, Emily Helen, Edward b. France d. England (Col. 19th Bengal Lancers). Military Officer. 1828 to India as Ensign, 1840 to England, then China. Capt. 1842. Staff Officer to Pensioner Force. Sent to W.A. 1850 in charge of Convict Stations. Commandant of W.A. Military Force 1855. Colonel of Volunteers force which he organised 1863. MLC & Executive 1854. Acting Gov. of W.A. 1868-9. Member Mechanics Institute Perth & Perth Building Society, owned Nedlands etc. Mt. Bruce named in his honour. Employed 1 T/L man 1860.

References, Links, Acknowledgementsbruce grave

Baddeley, Margaret, Bio of John Bruce.

Campbell, Robin McKellar 2010, Building the Fremantle Convict Establishment, PhD, UWA (Faculty of Architecture). Available online to download (not from this site) as a 40MB PDF.

Campbell, R.McK. 2017, Henderson & Company, privately published in association with the School of Design, UWA.


Hitchcock, JK 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council.

Williams, A.E. 1984, Nedlands: From Campsite to City, City of Nedlands; chapter 6, ‘Ned’s Land’ And The Bruce Family: 35-41; Appendix C: 293-295.

Heritage Council. And also Heritage Council. Note that the first of these sources has 1851 as the date of the land grant; the other has 1857. I suggest that one is a typo, probably the latter, as Hitchcock has the former.

Western Mail.

Many thanks to Margaret Baddeley for permission to publish her biography of John Bruce - part of her research for the degree of Master of Arts in History.

Top and bottom images from Williams.

Garry Gillard | New: 26 June, 2015 | Now: 16 November, 2022