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Fremantle significant sites and buildings

Western Australia's first surveyor-general John Septimus Roe, first designed Fremantle's town plan in 1829. The struggling colonial port town was transformed by the 1890's gold rush into a vibrant, attractive Victorian port city, with a thriving international port. The city's layout remains largely the same, with Fremantle's character defined by many of the surviving heritage buildings, streetscapes and squares.

Fremantle's time line provides a chronology of events in Fremantle since settlement.

Some of the City's most significant sites and buildings include:

The Round House
Whalers' Tunnel
Fremantle Prison
Fremantle Arts Centre
The Moore's Building
Monument Hill Reserve
The Army Museum

The Round House

The first permanent building in the colony, and the oldest remaining building in Western Australia, the Round House was originally built as a gaol.

It was designed by HW Reveley, the colony's first civil engineer, and was built in 1830-31. The Round House had eight cells and a gaoler's residence which all opened up into a central courtyard. Fremantle Prison was built by convicts as a new goal and completed in the 1850s. Fremantle Prison continued to be used as a prison until 1991.The Round House was used as a police lock-up until 1900. It then became the living quarters for the chief constable, his wife, and their ten children.

The City of Fremantle took over responsibility for the Round House in 1982, when the headland was vested to the City.

Whalers' Tunnel

The Fremantle Whaling Company constructed the Whalers' Tunnel in 1837, under the Round House, to move goods between the original port at Bathers Beach and the town.

It was Western Australia's first tunnel and the only one for 64 years until the Jane Brook deviation railway tunnel was built.

The tunnel is of significance as it is the only structure remaining of the whaling station complex.From 1905-19 electricity cables ran through the tunnel connecting the power station on the western side with the tram barn on its eastern side.

During WWII the Whalers' Tunnel was used as an air raid shelter, and as part of the shelter, a secret side tunnel was built leading up to Gunners' Cottage. Whalers' Tunnel was re-opened June 2001, the result of a major joint restoration project by the state government and the City of Fremantle.

Fremantle Prison

Fremantle Prison was the last convict establishment built in Australia and remains the most intact. It features the longest and tallest cell range, constructed by the British Royal Engineers', in this country.

The main cell block stands amidst the austere parade grounds. The empty prison with its thick limestone walls, bleak exercise yards, solitary cells and the gallows are a sombre reminder of days past.Built in 1850s, it was decommissioned as an operating gaol in 1991.

Fremantle Prison is one of Western Australia's premier cultural heritage sites situated on 6 hectares overlooking the port city.

Fremantle Arts Centre

Built by convicts, this excellent example of Australian Gothic architecture opened in 1864, as the Convict Establishment Fremantle Lunatic Asylum and Invalid Depot. During the 1890s gold rush, miners and Chinese labourers were admitted suffering the effects of sunstroke and opium smoking.

Built by convicts, this excellent example of Australian Gothic architecture opened in 1864, as the Convict Establishment Fremantle Lunatic Asylum and Invalid Depot. During the 1890s gold rush, miners and Chinese labourers were admitted suffering the effects of sunstroke and opium smoking.

In 1909, it was declared a poor house, to be known as the Women's Home, and in 1910, it became Western Australia's first maternity training school.

The buildings remained home to poor and elderly women, until protests in 1941 by several women's groups concerning the condition of the home finally resulted in its closure.

During WWII, 22 additional buildings were erected and a total of 21 officers, 139 enlisted men and 102 civilians were employed in the activities of the depot.

After the war, Fremantle Technical School was opened on the site. In 1953, students from the overcrowded Princess May Girls' School and Fremantle Boys' School attended classes in pre-fabricated buildings in the grounds, awaiting the completion of John Curtin High School in 1955.

In 1958, the old Fremantle Lunatic Asylum was finally threatened with demolition and was saved largely through the efforts of Sir Frederick Samson, then mayor of Fremantle. His vision for the site was to establish both a Mariners' Museum and an Arts Centre. The building was restored and finally completed in 1970.

Fremantle Arts Centre opened in 1973.

The Moore's Building

The Moore's Building was the site of William Dalgety Moore's general merchant business, which began operating in 1868. Originally, the site contained a complex of buildings including a family cottage, later replaced by the town house, stables, and warehouse, factory and office facilities. It was a typical arrangement where the owners lived and conducted their commercial, business and production activities from the site.

The building's fine classical facade was constructed at the height of the Western gold rush in 1899 and was designed to unify a number of the earlier buildings existing on site into a one, cohesive frontage. The buildings were constructed from local materials including, limestone blocks, sandstone bricks and sawn shingles.

In 1900, William Moore sold the business and while the building progressively deteriorated, it survived essentially intact when it was purchased by City of Fremantle in 1986.

Restoration was conducted by City of Fremantle over an eight-year period in two stages, in 1986 and 1993. The project was made possible with a Commonwealth America's Cup Grant, which supported the initial stage of a practical and thorough six-stage conservation process.

The Moore's Building represents a model of successful conservation, of one of the oldest and most significant surviving groups of buildings in the metropolitan area.

Monument Hill Reserve

Built and funded by the citizens of Fremantle in 1928 to commemorate the 59 330 Australian's killed or posted as missing in action in WW1.

It was redesigned by local architects Allen and Nicholas, at a cost of £5 931, due to lack of funding for the original design.

The memorial is constructed from Donneybrook stone and stands at 14 m high. Monument Hill Reserves is Fremantle's most spectacular lookout.

The site is also home to a number of other memorials including:

  • R.A.N Corvettes Association (WA)
  • U.S Submariners Association
  • Royal Naval Association (Perth)
  • Netherlands Ex-Services Association
  • Royal Marines Association
  • Submariners Association Australia
  • Allied Merchant Seaman Association R.A.N. in Vietnam Memorial.

Army Museum

The Army Museum is located in the historic Artillery Barracks, and is the longest continually occupied military establishment in Western Australia.

The museum has a series of galleries showcasing the colonial and post Federation periods through to the end of WW II. There are many significant military heritage items on display, including a substantial collection of tanks and other armoured vehicles.


Contact us

Fremantle City Library
Town Hall Centre
William Street, Fremantle
T 08 9432 9739
F 08 9432 9895
E lhc@fremantle.wa.gov.au

The local history collection is located at the rear of the library.

Opening hours
Monday to Friday 9.30 am–5.00 pm

Useful documents

Fremantle time line of events
Moore's Building Heritage Booklet

Useful links

Fremantle Arts Centre
Fremantle Prison
Moore's Building Contemporary Art Gallery


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