Town Hall conservation works
It has been almost thirty years since the last major capital expenditure on the Fremantle Town Hall and key elements such as the roof cladding, down pipes and gutters needed to be replaced as a matter of urgency to protect the building from ongoing deterioration, prevent the loss of culturally significant fabric and address concerns about public safety.
Problems were caused by inappropriate surface treatments and repairs to masonry elements carried out in the 1950s - 60s, when there was little understanding of how to conserve traditional building fabric. These have been be addressed to prevent ongoing deterioration of masonry, embedded steel and timbers and decorative stucco work.
Reinstatement of the spectacular slate roofs with cast iron finials together with the removal of paint on the facades to reveal the original stucco finish of the town hall has enhanced the presentation and character of the Kings Square Precinct.
Conservation of the external shell of the Fremantle Town Hall has paved the way for future refurbishment of the interior of the building that will be undertaken in conjunction with the construction of the future new Fremantle City Library and civic administration building.
The City’s program\ of works followed the guidelines set out in the nationally recognised ICOMOS Burra Charter for heritage conservation and the recommendations of the Fremantle Town Hall Conservation Plan (1985/ 2004) by Considine and Griffiths Architects. The works included:
- Replacement of all roof cladding and roof drainage system:
- Reinstatement of slate roof cladding and cast iron finial and balustrade details to the feature roofs (turrets, mansard roof)
- Reinstatement of flat metal sheeting to flat roofs, dormer windows etc.
- Reinstatement of corrugated galvanised steel sheet cladding to the concealed roofs and auditorium roof
- Conservation of all timber joinery including doors, windows, roof trims, flagpoles etc.
- Conservation all rendered masonry by removing impermeable paint and cement renders and make good with lime render, lime mortar and natural hydraulic lime to match original
- Conservation of iron portico columns, treat rust and repaint
Current status / timeline
May 2017 update
The iconic Fremantle bells will sound for the first time in over a year as the City of Fremantle celebrates the completion of the Fremantle Town Hall’s extensive restoration works as part of a free Fremantle Heritage Festival event this Friday 26 May.
The monumental $3.1m restoration project, which began in May 2016, has seen the heritage building’s exterior restored to its original condition - much as it looked 130 years ago in 1887 when first unveiled.
Works have included major structural repairs, a new slate roof with improved drainage and the refurbishment of the clock, which was taken apart to be cleaned and serviced.
March 2017 update
With conservation works nearing completion, scaffolding will gradually be removed to reveal the Fremantle Town Hall’s exterior in all its original splendour – much as it looked 130 years ago in 1887 when first unveiled.
The $3.1m works—which were extended into this year after specialist contractors found additional critical restoration work was required— has included major structural repairs, a new slate roof with improved drainage and the refurbishment of the clock, which was taken apart to be cleaned and serviced.
Throughout the restoration we’ve been very careful to respect the original intention for the town hall to look like a high-quality, finely-detailed stone building. This has involved removing the external paint which has been slowly suffocating the town hall since the 1960s to reveal its unique stucco finish, with natural variations in colour and texture that form part of this.
December 2016 update
Conservation works have been progressing well on the Fremantle Town Hall since May 2016, with most tasks to be completed by Christmas as originally planned.
However it has been discovered during the works, that some inaccessible parts of the building were in worse condition than expected and extra works are now required to conserve the façades and tower and make them structurally sound. To prevent further deterioration of the building, and to make use of the existing infrastructure already in place for the current restoration works, it was more efficient and cost effective to complete these additional works now.
The completion date for the entire project is currently being negotiated with the contractor but at this stage, has been extended into 2017. The town hall will remain in use during the course of these works, with City officers continuing to work in the building and events held in the auditorium and atrium.
The scaffold surrounding the building will be gradually dropped as the works are completed, starting with the upper levels of the tower and then working around the building from Kings Square into William Street. This is anticipated to occur in early 2017.
Public access into the town hall remains through the front door (under the tower) and on William Street and High Street through safe ‘tunnels’ in the scaffolding.
The public footpath and parking bays adjacent to the town hall on William Street remain a contractor’s yard for storage of materials and equipment and deliveries. Pedestrians using William Street are directed to use the footpath on the opposite side of the street adjacent to the commercial properties.
The City is very keen to have the project finished as soon as possible but does not want to rush this important once-in-a-generation conservation project that will enhance and protect our iconic town hall for the enjoyment of future generations.
Background / useful information
The Fremantle Town Hall was constructed in 1887. This exuberantly composed two storey stuccoed limestone and brick building was designed by the architects Grainger and D'Ebro in the Victorian Free Classical style and features a 32 metre high clock tower and a picturesque roofscape of turrets and mansard roofs.
Over the last 128 years the Fremantle Town Hall has under gone a number of changes and refurbishments but the building, and in particular the exterior, has remained largely intact. The major changes that have occurred to the exterior are the:
- original slate roofing and cast iron finials to the turret and mansard roofs were replaced with terracotta tiles in the 1950s
- unpainted stucco facades were gradually painted between 1920 and 1960
- unpainted swans and other decorative details on the tower were picked out with coloured paint in the 1960s
- open triangular courtyard in the centre of the building was covered with a glazed roof in 1987
In 1993 the Fremantle Town Hall was permanently included on the State Register of Heritage Places (Place No. 01015).
The primary document to guide the conservation and management of the place is the Fremantle Town Hall Conservation Plan that was prepared in 2004 by Considine and Griffiths Architects Pty Ltd with Robin Chinnery Historian. This updated an earlier plan from 1985.
Fremantle Town Hall c. 1888
Investigating condition of cast iron column, 2015
Investigating condition of limestone below cement render, 2015