National Reconciliation Week

This week is National Reconciliation Week. It is an opportunity for all Australians to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories, to share that knowledge and help us grow as a nation. This is a great video by Reconciliation Australia

Mayor’s bike tour of the unbuilt and the historical saves

This year as part of the Fremantle Heritage Festival I am once again running a free alternative history bike tour called “Demolished and Unbuilt”. It was lots of fun last year but I know many of you missed out as it was fully subscribed. It is almost full again but there are a couple of spots left for Saturday afternoon’s ride.

The bike tour explores what could’ve been – the stories of the unbuilt and the historical saves. Be it the casino proposed for Victoria Quay in the 80s or the demolition of half of the West End’s High Street for a highway in the 70s, join the ride to muse, lament and celebrate Fremantle’s historical planning decisions. Meet under RAINBOW at 2pm, bring your bike. The tour ends in the Fremantle CBD. Numbers strictly limited, bookings essential.


2018 Heritage Festival celebrates the people of Fremantle: custodians, makers and creators

The eighth edition of the annual Fremantle Heritage Festival kicks off this Friday with the traditional Pioneers’ Luncheon at the Fremantle Town Hall.

The Pioneers’ Luncheon, attended by people aged 60 and over who have lived in the Fremantle area for 50 years or more, is held annually to commemorate the foundation of our state.

While Fremantle is blessed with amazing built heritage, the focus of this year’s Heritage Festival would be the people who have contributed to the city’s unique identity.

The 2018 Fremantle Heritage Festival celebrates the people of Fremantle – its custodians, makers and creators. The festival is inclusive of all of the cultures that have contributed to making Fremantle the great place it is today, from the traditional owners to post-war migrants.

The Pioneers’ Luncheon on Friday will be followed by the official opening Wanjoo Welcome event at the WA Maritime Museum on Saturday morning.

Set where the Derbal Yerrigan (Swan River) meets the Wardan (sea), elder Marie Taylor will perform a Welcome to Country and be joined at the free, family-friendly event by musicians Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse to share stories and songs in Nyoongar language.

Other Heritage Festival highlights include Fish Guts and All, where people can get a rare peak into old warehouses and meet the personalities of the Fremantle fishing industry, and Between Wind and Water – a moving and funny play about Fremantle history.

Visitors can also listen to stories of dreaming, spirituality and history on an Aboriginal cultural tour hosted by former Fremantle Docker Scott Chisholm, learn about the history of tattooing at the Skin Sin exhibition, join the Mayor on a bike tour through the streets of Fremantle and celebrate 30 years of live music at Clancy’s Fish Pub.

The 2018 Fremantle Heritage Festival runs from 25 May to 4 June.

For more information and the full program of events visit the Fremantle Heritage Festival page on the Fremantle story website.

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  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.

Lovely Old Freo Video

You don’t have to be just into trains to appreciate some of the old images of Freo in this video. I am guessing this is from the 198os? Thanks to Cr Sam Wainwright for sending this one through.

Saving Heritage Films

Check out this amazing video from Freo Mayor SIr Frederick Samson’s own collection.
It is from the State Library of WA who are currently working to digitise its vast heritage film collection and make it accessible to all. Old films are vulnerable, so time is running out. You can support the WA Heritage Film Appeal by via there corwdfunding page here:

Fremantle Town Hall wins 2018 Western Australian Heritage Awards for the Conservation of a State Registered Place

Well done to everyone involved!

Judges’ Citation:

The external conservation of Fremantle Town Hall is a comprehensive response to a gradually deteriorating 130-year-old building.

This exemplar project distinguishes itself by its consistent adherence to Burra Charter best practice processes, thorough research, innovative technical solutions, and painstaking attention to detail in the execution.

Supported by a strong team of heritage professionals and skilled heritage tradespeople, the restoration of Fremantle Town Hall has been highly symbolic in the move to rejuvenate Kings Square by conserving and enhancing the history and unique character of Fremantle. 

The $3.1 million restoration of Fremantle’s beloved 130-year-old Town Hall was the largest conservation project ever undertaken by the City of Fremantle.

Completed in May this year, the project protected the town hall for the enjoyment of this and future generations and also created a window into the past by reinstating its original appearance by removing paint from the stucco walls, reconstructing the slate roofs and refurbishing the historic clock.

These works were carried out by a team of specialist consultants and skilled contractors with a rare knowledge in the use of traditional building techniques, materials and conservation practice.