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See also: Clarence.

Woodman Point

Wikipedia (excerpts):
Woodman Point is a headland on the west coast of Western Australia. It is located in the Perth, suburb of Coogee, 22km SSW of the CBD and 8km south of Fremantle. It extends westward into the Indian Ocean. The coastal waters immediately to the north of the point are known as Owen Anchorage, while to the south is Jervoise Bay. Woodman Point marks the northern extent of Cockburn Sound.
Woodman Point is contained completely within the Woodman Point Regional Park, a 54h regional park with recreational facilities including parklands, playgrounds, jetties, and a caravan park; and historic sites including a World War 2 POW camp and munitions bunkers.
Woodman Point was named after Thomas Woodman who accompanied Captain James Stirling on the 1827 HMS Success expedition which explored the upper reaches of the Swan River. When Stirling returned in 1829 with the first settlers for the Swan River Colony, Woodman Point would have been one of the first mainland landmarks sighted by the new arrivals.
Woodman Point Quarantine Station
In the 1880s a quarantine station was established there to isolate immigrants from the community whilst being cleared of smallpox, bubonic plague and Spanish influenza which was ravaging Europe, the Americas and Asia.
The facility continued to be used intermittently as a quarantine station until about 1979 when it closed. The buildings, including dormitories and administration buildings as well as the crematorium were placed in the Register of the National Estate in 1999. The dormitories and most other buildings are currently in use for school and other groups and now known as Woodman Point Recreation Camp.
Racecourse
Early accounts of horse racing in the Swan River Colony indicate that Woodman Point was always a favourite location for racing enthusiasts, with the first races being run there in 1833. By the mid 1880s, a regular carnival of events had grown around the unofficial racecourse, and Fremantle residents would come down by steam boat or private yacht to spend the day watching the races and picnicking. The course was taken over by the Fremantle Jockey Club in 1894, granted a 99-year lease in 1899, and run with varying degrees of success until 1900, when the club lapsed. During this time the racecourse was kept in excellent condition, with the 3-furlong straights levelled over a width of 66 feet and planted with couch grass. It was watered by a windmill and reticulation, and the club had built a bird cage of 24 stalls.
For years racing enthusiasts had been requesting that the existing railway line to Robbs Jetty be extended to Woodman Point for ease of access, but to no avail. This eventually led to the decline of the area as a popular racecourse. In 1903 the State Government decided to resume the racecourse land for a new explosives magazine, as it was by then considered to be abandoned. Only then was the railway line extended.
Other uses
Woodman Light, a lighthouse built in 1902, is located just beyond the eastern boundary of the reserve. The light is on a small hill to the East side of Cockburn Road and nearby are stone cottages used to house the lighthouse keepers.
In 1966 the State Electricity Commission (now Western Power) built a wastewater treatment plant at Woodman Point. It was replaced by another plant in a new location also at Woodman Point in 1984.
Munitions site
The munitions bunkers, located in a munitions reserve East of the quarantine station, were actively used for that purpose until the 1980s when the facility was de-commissioned and moved to Karnup, southeast of Rockingham.
By that time the Navy had also established its own facility at HMAS Stirling on Garden Island.
Railway line
A dedicated railway spur line to service the munitions reserve originally ran parallel to Cockburn Road past Coogee Beach to South Fremantle and then to the inner harbour of the Port of Fremantle which was a major allied naval base during World War 2. Removal of the munitions reserve was necessary before nearby land was developed into the residential suburb now known as Coogee.
In the 1980s, a proposal to create a tourist railway operations centre at Woodman Point was proposed, but it never eventuated.

Kristi McNulty:
In March 1876 it appeared in the Government Gazette that 20 acres of land had been reserved at Clarence Townsite near Fremantle, for a Quarantine Station. The first buildings appeared in 1886, the aim being to isolate plague sufferers from the mainstream of hospital patients. In the same year Mr. T.W. Whitely built a limestone wall across the base of the peninsula to mark the eastern boundary, its length extending 376m from sea to sea. Remnants of the wall can still be seen today along the south eastern side.
Significant additions were made in 1900-1901, including a crematorium in response to the outbreak of Bubonic Plague and the necessity of disposing of the unfortunate victims. The presence of the crematorium was quite unique then as cremation was very unusual in Australia up until the 1920s-30s. On religious grounds it was seen as a declaration of disbelief in the resurrection of the body and reconciliation with the soul.
Woodman Point was a favourite location for horse racing enthusiasts from as early as 1833. By 1890 summer race meetings at the unofficial racecourse had become terrifically popular, and crowds came to spend the day watching the races and picnicking. The racecourse was kept in excellent condition, planted with couch grass and watered by a windmill and reticulation. However, popularity began to wane towards the end of the decade due to the very poor condition of the access roads, and the area fell into decline. In 1903 the State Government resumed the land for a new explosives magazine, as it was by then considered abandoned.

Early accounts of the quarantine station paint a fairly grim picture: “The sanitary arrangements were of the most primitive description”... “Overseas visitors who were caught up in isolation there wrote of the prehistoric muddle and conditions that were disgracefui for a Government place”. Conditions obviously improved over the years as Athol Thomas, a reporter for the West Austraiian in 1969, said the station was more like a holiday camp.

References and Links

McNulty, Kristi 2021, Lead article in Fremantle History Society, newsletter January 2021 (as above), used with permission.

Gnangarra's photos from Wikipedia: thanks!


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