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Market Street

North to south, Market Street runs from Phillimore Street (and Elder Place) to Collie Street (and South Terrace). It is called Market Street not because it led towards the site of the present Fremantle Markets but because it was intended that there should be markets at the northern end, where the present Railway Station is. J.S. Roe's survey of 1833 shows that a Market Place was planned to be there - but that never eventuated. In fact the triangular lot intended for the market had disappeared from maps as early as 20 March 1833 (Errington).

Market Street was beginning [in 1851] 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. Ewers: 43.

railway station

Railway Station, 1907. Architect: Acting Chief Engineer Dartnell. Builder: S.B. Alexander.

It is constructed of Donnybrook stone and brick in a Federation Free Classical style. The spacious central hall has a high arched roof of steel latticework with a lantern and skylight.

Former No. 3 Pumping Station. On the corner of Market Street and Elder Place. As a consequence of the rapidly expanding population during the goldrush, Fremantle was provided with a reticulated water supply in 1898. This pumping station was completed in 1913. Later, the building was converted for use as public toilets - now very closed. The building may be seen as 1 Elder Place, as Phillimore St takes that name after the Market St intersection.

Taylor Memorial Fountain and Horse Trough, between the pumping station and the coffee shop, commemorates two young English migrants, Ernest and Peter Taylor, who died in Western Australia in 1905. Their father, John Taylor of London, commissioned the memorial. He intended, it is believed, that it would be a facility for all creatures: humans, animals and birds. It was prefabricated at the Doulton factory in London and arrived in Fremantle in 1905. It was erected when the alignment of the station had been determined. It fell into disrepair by 1976 due, it was found, to foundation problems. It was restored by the City of Fremantle in 1981-83 using a National Estate grant. The renowned Fremantle potter, Joan Campbell, reconstructed missing pieces, producing a glaze to match the original green of the tiles. The memorial was moved about two metres onto new concrete foundations.

I'm calling this the Lewis building because it was built for him, and seems never to have had any other name. It has the lowest number in the street: 2-6 Market Street on the corner of Elder Place. This richly decorated brick and stucco building, with some Byzantine influence, is of an unusual style for Fremantle. It is a pity that ground-floor alterations have been unsympathetic. The site was owned by the Wesley Church Trustees and this building was completed in 1915 for Ivan Lewis. The Wesley Trustees owned it again subsequently, as did the builder Richard Rennie for a period. The building currently houses a cafe called Il Cibo, but the didgeridoo shop is closed.

Between the Lewis building and the Wesley church on the corner of Cantonment St are some very ordinary shopfronts where the Wesley arcade used to be.

The first extant building on the western side of Market St is the (current) 1907 Post Office. Architect, Hillson Beasley, Chief Architect, Public Works Department. Builders: Atkins and Law. This building, completed in 1907, is of a somewhat severe Romanesque style with little ornament. However, this is softened by cement dressing over brickwork to accentuate openings.

wa chambers

West Australian Chambers used to be between the Post Office and Princess Chambers, 1907-August 1971, and was demolished in favour of an extension to the PO with a perfectly blank brick wall set back from the street.

The glass cases across the front displayed illustrations from the Western Mail, a weekly newspaper with a central picture section.


Princess Chambers, Nos. 21-27 Market Street, 1897. Architect: Edwin Summerhayes.
These commercial premises were built in 1897 for the businessman Captain Frank Biddles, a Broome pastoralist with pearling interests. After settling in Fremantle in 1902 he established himself as a developer.
The 1912 building next door is also called Princess Chambers, but should be called the Princess Theatre building, even tho the cinema was closed in 1969, to distinguish it from this one.


Princess Theatre building. Nos. 29-53 Market Street. Architect: J McNeece. Builder: C Moore. This extension to Princess Chambers was built in 1912 for Captain Biddles. It was a cinema and occasional vaudeville theatre. During World War I, Captain Biddles made the basement available as an amenities centre for service personnel. Extensive works to the building were carried out in 1941. The theatre closed in 1969 after operating for fifty-seven years. A panel-beating firm was established in the auditorium. The front of the building is now occupied by several retail businesses, while the former auditorium is used for storage. I'm told the auditorium (but not the office building at the front) is owned by Polimeno Nominees, but it's only hearsay.


Uniting Church (Formerly Wesley Church). Architects: Terry and Oakden (Melbourne). Builders: Davey Bros. Corner of Market and Cantonment Streets. The first Methodist service was held near the mouth of the Swan River soon after two Wesleyan Families, the Hardeys and Clarksons, arrived on the Tranby in February 1830. The 175th anniversary of this event was celebrated in 2005. The first chapel for the Methodist congregation in Fremantle, Wesley Hall, was built in 1840-41 on a site east of the present church; the Wesley Manse (1893) was next to it. With the rapidly increasing population in the 1890s a larger church was soon needed. This Gothic-style church was built in 1889, and extended nine years later. Stone for its construction came from the government quarry in Cantonment Street. Inside, the clerestory, with elliptical windows, is supported on cast-iron columns finished in gold bronze. In the 1970s the Methodist, Congregational and Presbyterian Churches formed the Uniting Church of Australia and the last Methodist service in this church was held on 19 June 1977.


The Imperial Chambers building, Nos. 55-55, extending from Leake Street to the National Hotel. These substantial commercial premises were built for Edwin Foss in 1896. His family retained ownership until 1947.


The National Hotel, 1902, on the corner of High and Market Streets. A branch of the National Bank operated on the site from 1880 in a former shop. Six years later the bank relocated and the building was converted to a hotel for J.J. Higham, opening in 1886 as the National. It underwent major reconstruction in 1895. Its first manager after reconstruction was W Conroy, who had the tragic distinction of being the last man to be hanged at the old Perth Gaol. On 23 June 1897, the day after the Town Hall was opened, the event was celebrated with sports and a ball in the evening. Early in the evening, Councillors Elias Solomon and WJ Snook, with the Town Supervisor, Mr Gliddon, had difficulty keeping a group of unruly men out of the hall. One of them was Conroy, who returned after midnight and gatecrashed a supper at which the mayor was congratulating officials on the happy conclusion to the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee - the day of the Town Hall opening. Conroy left after a few minutes, but was seen, soon after 1am, in the courtyard. A shot was heard; Conroy had shot Councillor Snook, allegedly because Snook had refused him entry. Snook eventually died of his wounds on 25 September. Conroy, although pleading temporary insanity, was found guilty of murder at a trial in the Supreme Court on 6 October. Although the jury recommended mercy, he was sentenced to be hanged.
The original hotel was demolished in 1902 and replaced with the existing building in September of the same year. The top floor was destroyed by fire in 1975. In 1995 renovations by architect Michael Patroni saw the reconstruction of the original first-floor balconies. The facade was restored in 2001. In 2019 the hotel is fully restored.


The Broadway, Stevenson & Finch's mercery, as shown in a c.1900 postcard; now a 7/11 American-style junkfood store.


Higham's Building. Architects: Oldham and Cox. On the corner of Market Street. This building dominates the western side of this section of Market Street to Bannister Street. John and Mary Higham arrived in the colony in June 1853 on the Sabrina. John opened a bakery, confectionery and grocery business on the north-west corner of Pakenham and High Streets, and the date on the present building, 1853, suggests that he began this business soon after arriving. The couple’s infant daughter and second child, Mary Ann, died soon after they arrived. They had three other children before John died in 1858. His wife continued to run the business and became a highly respected businesswoman. Higham (1994) tells the full story of her achievements. She bought the site of the present building in 1861, and expanded the business by building larger premises, under the name of M. Higham and Sons. The company sold imported drapery, dresses and hats so successfully that a large store was erected alongside the first; the two were amalgamated in 1882. Mary died in the following year. The family maintained the firm. Edward, the eldest child, died in 1885. His widow, Alice, married William Silas Pearse in 1895 and commissioned the present premises, including fourteen two-storey shops and a bulk store. In 1924 the property was sold to Edward J.G. and W.M. Higham and remained in the family for another fifty years. It has housed various retail outlets. See also: Palladium Theatre.


Barney Silbert's Corner, c. 1900, on the corner of the Mall and Market Streets at No. 109 High Street and built c.1900. By 1907 it was occupied by Freedman and Company Ltd., one of a number of drapers then operating in High Street. Barney Silbert operated his shoe shop and drapery business in the premises until the 1950s. The Silbert family came from the area known as The Pale, between eastern Poland and the western border of Russia. As a corner site, it was a convenient rendezvous for citizens and became known as ‘Barney's Corner‘. 1n 2005 it was occupied by another shoe store. In 2019 there is a retailer in the ground-floor corner store, and the sign with 'Barney Silbert's Corner' has been removed from the first-floor corner window. It is one small part of the extensive Manning Buildings - which in 2019 have been radically renovated by Silverleaf.

Shops along the eastern side of Market Street between High Street and South Terrace included the Roma Fruit Palace and Fremantle Fish Supply.

Building of Arthur E. Davies & Co., funeral directors, on the corner of Bannister St. Nos. 85-87 Market Street, opposite the Newport. This site was owned by Amalia Dixon in 1880, when there were a residence and two cottages on the site. She owned the property until 1900; her trustees owned it until 1920 and they owned it in partnership with J J Holmes until 1931. In 1883 the rate books listed a new shop, almost certainly the existing building, and Amalia Dixon was recorded as the shopkeeper. The properties had various lessees over following years. By c. 1894 the lessees were butchers, Reen and Headley, to be Followed, in 1896, by another firm of butchers, Baker and Stevens. In 1898 a third firm of butchers, Holmes Brothers, were occupants; they remained until 1910-11. In the 1920s there was an auction room, possibly in part of the building. The Funeral directors, A.E. Davies and Co., were in the building from 1921, and in 1958 commissioned substantial alterations, which concealed some of the original facade. Another firm of funeral directors, Bowra and O’Dea was there from 1982 to 2004. When they left, the building was restored - to what appears, from a photograph, to be its original condition - revealing the elaborate brick and stucco facade. The awning is unusual for Fremantle, being markedly curved and supported on decorative iron brackets. The restoration was under the direction of John Kirkness.

The traffic from Market Street continues around a slight bend as it becomes South Terrace, beginning on the east side with the Newcastle Club (Newport) Hotel and on the western side with Gino's. However, there is a bit more of Market Street - now called Little Market Street, I think, to indicate its different status. It contains half a dozen shops and eateries, with Sandrino near the end. There is then an intersection of Collie and Nairn Streets with (Little) Market Street, with business premises on the pointy bit, and Market Street terminates at the Millennium cinema in Collie Street.


Sandrino, 99 Market St cnr Nairn St.

References, Links, Acknowledgement

Errington, Steve 2017, 'Fremantle 1829-1832: an illustrated history', Fremantle Studies, 9: 15-29.

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

Hutchison, David, Fremantle Walks.

Top photo courtesy of Roel Loopers, from his blog.

Garry Gillard | New: 18 July, 2016 | Now: 11 November, 2023