Arthurs Head’s Changing Face

This week we will be debating the planning merits of the latest iteration of the J-Shed proposal.

There has been some interesting claims that this part of Freo is along the lines of:  ” a pristine heritage area”, “one of unparalleled significance” and “untouched gem”.

The area below Arthur’s Head is great location but it is also one that has, perhaps surprisingly, changed more significantly than many realizes.

With that in mind I thought it worth teasing out and explaining how the Arthurs Head area has changed and evolved over time with some old photos.

While I fully acknowledge the heritage significance of the intact part of Arthurs Head on top of the cliffs that contains the Round House and Pilots’ Cottages, I believe it is misleading to suggest that the area down below around J-Shed shares the same heritage values.

The area currently housing the J-Shed only dates from the 1960s when a large portion of the western part of Arthur’s Head was excavated and levelled off about 1.5m above sea level to create a large open area for port activities.  As part of these works J-Shed, which was originally part of a goods shed that stood on Victoria Quay, was relocated to stand in this new area next to the cliff remnant of Arthur’s Head.  As a result J-Shed sits about six metres below the ground level of the Round House and is quite separate from it.  (The approximate original location of the Arthur’s Head cliff is interpreted by a low limestone wall in front of the J Shed)

There have been some strong claims about the potential for the proposed new use at J-Shed to damage the heritage values of the Arthur Head area but, as someone who cares deeply for our heritage, I believe that this is not backed up by the evidence.  The photographs hopefully demonstrate this well.

The first is my favourite bronze plaque in Fremantle, set in the pavement outside the Town Hall, which shows the first town plan in bas-relief.  The plaque indicates the original extent of the Arthur’s Head landform in 1829 and the small area that remains intact today.  Three quarters of Arthur’s Head has been removed including the area that contains J-Shed.

 

 

Below are some photos of when Arthur’s Head extended further West over the top of where the J Shed is now. Thanks to the amazing https://fremantlestuff.info/  and the City of Fremantle History Library for much of this info and photos

 

Kerosene Store with Round House behind

Arthur’s Head before much of the Western Portion was removed

‘A view from Arthur Head light house, with the stone wall around the Round House in front. On the left is the Commissariat; and in the centre, South Jetty. To the right is the Long Jetty with the Kerosene Store and Bathers Bay in front.’

Quarrying from what is now the approximate site of J Shed. Source and date unknown, but it is after 1903, when the timeball was moved to the remains of the first lighthouse.

Now demolished western portion of Arthur’s Head in foreground

 

 

The final set photographs below are of the Arthur’s Head area from the early to mid-1980s.

It can be seen that the area around Arthur Head was not always the quiet backwater that it has become today.  It was part a busy, noisy and smelly port.  Even though the area may look like a natural environment today the reality is that much of it is a 1980s reconstruction that sought to remove the industrial past in order to create a pleasant recreational space. It is very well done and should be largely retained but what we have now should not be seen as original or pristine.

Taken from the top near the Roundhouse of Bathers BEach

This photo is from when J-Shed was considerably longer and the Bathers Beach area was a port dump and car park with little beach at all.

From around the time of the America’s Cup defence.

About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

9 Responses to Arthurs Head’s Changing Face

  1. Pam Harris says:

    Lovely images from the Fremantle History Centre

  2. Richard Bartlett says:

    Unfortunately the Mayor is completely wrong in suggesting that the J shed area is not an area of enormous heritage significance. It was the site of an early lighthouse, the early time ball, the whaling station house, the whaling workstation to name several. The mayor should read the submission from the Fremantle inner-city residents Association,he received 2 days ago, which on page 5 provides a detailed map prepared in 1984 by an archaeological study prepared for the city of Fremantle,which indicates the location of these among other historic sites. They are all in and about the J shed location. The J shed location is most certainly not an area which used to be part of the limestone headland!

    • Richard
      Your claim that “The J shed location is most certainly not an area which used to be part of the limestone headland!” is just factually wrong to the best of my knowledge. The old photos show this. The heritage interpretation on bathers beach show this.

      As I said, the area currently housing the J-Shed only dates from the 1960s when a large portion of the western part of Arthur’s Head was excavated and levelled off about 1.5m above sea level to create a large open area for port activities. As part of these works J-Shed, which was originally part of a goods shed that stood on Victoria Quay, was relocated to stand in this new area next to the cliff remnant of Arthur’s Head. As a result J-Shed sits about six metres below the ground level of the Round House and is quite separate from it. (The approximate original location of the Arthur’s Head cliff is interpreted by a low limestone wall in front of the J Shed)

  3. Richard Bartlett says:

    Mayor.
    It is apparent that you have not bothered looking at the Fremantle inner-city residents Association submission which contains the map at page 5,from the 1984 study which clearly indicates the location of several historic sites in the J shed location. The only evidence you put forward Is based on the photographs which are significantly to the South of where the J shed is located – that Southernarea was unquestionably quarried –but the area where the whaling station and the other Historics sites was located was not.
    The J shed location quite clearly is a site of great historic significance where several historic buildings were located and their archaeological remains continue to exist..I’m afraid that, as you put it above, “the best of your knowledge, is flawed. May I suggest youfirst study the map provided from the 1984 study and then respond?

    (this corrects an earlier reply of mine which gave the wrong direction of the photographs).

    • Richard
      I have read your submission and it confirms what I have written above.

      I added put the overlay of the current buildings and former buildings into the blog post above. The lighthouse which was on top of the hill sits 6 metres directly above where J Shed is now. This cliff was excavated away in the 20th century.

      cheers

      • Richard Bartlett says:

        Mayor.
        Thank you very much for incorporating the map. We seem to differ as to the heritage significance of the area, but I appreciate the addition to the blog which provides the complete background to the J shed vicinity.

  4. Perhaps Richard Bartlett should have been there protesting back in 1903 or shortly after when according to the photo the sight of the first light house was extensively quarried and removed. Man kind has made some significant changes to the area by the looks of it and as long as any new ventures take care of whats left then why not give the go ahead as long as those who will use the area respect it as they do at the old Kero Shed.

  5. luggerite says:

    Brad, I do think you are missing the point – several points in fact. One is that the Sunset Events proposal will significantly impinge on a public area, that FCC spent a lot of time rehabilitating as public open and cultural space – you do know that the archaeological site of the whaling station and its interpretive elements will disappear under Sunset’s liquor licenced area for instance? Two, the proposal actively works against the respectful quiet public space FCC has spent its money to achieve, as your photos show – it is ripping up the tax payer dollars previously invested. Three, the Sunset Events proposal is a full blown tavern and brewery, with an enormous outside footprint far larger than U1 J Shed – this is hardly the cafe/gallery/cultural space called for in the initial tender documents, and it is mystifying that it was ever even considered as it didn’t meet the tender. Four,

  6. luggerite says:

    Four, if a licensed venue had been proposed in the original tender, undoubtedly there would have been interest from other licensees, with perhaps a rather less blemished record than Sunset. I can think of several Ffremantle luminaries who would have put forward a much more suitable and sustainable small bar venue if they knew it was even an option. Five, your dismissal of the Aboriginal association to the area by suggesting rock was carted away is disturbing. Really, I am disturbed that your expressed knowledge of both Aboriginal culture, and society in general’s sense of place is so shallow. Please, have a rethink – and perhaps we could have a sensible conversation from first principles?

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