Fremantle Stuff > Arthur Head

Arthur Head

See also: Residency, Lighthouses.

Arthur Head received its name from Captain James Stirling, who named the promontory in 1827 for George Arthur, Governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). In one sense, Arthur Head no longer exists - if you take the name to refer specifically to the rocky point shown in the old map following. Partly because all of the available rock has been quarried out of the western end of the area, almost back to the Jail. Alternatively, the actual head or point has been subsumed into the area of reclaimed land on which some of the Challenger TAFE buildings now stand. However, the name remains, and now refers to all of the elevated area where the Round House is, plus the area west of the entrance to the Whalers Tunnel, and the area around J Shed.


Reproduction of an early map showing the Arthur Head area before reduction by quarrying


Modern map indicating the position of former structures


mews boathouse

Photo reproduced in Hitchcock's 1929 History, page 148. His caption describes the scene as 'old lighthouse and shipyard, about 1865'. The building on the left is, as the sign says, Thomas Mews' premises. The right-hand building, demolished in the 1890s, is the ruin of the Fremantle Whaling Company (est. 1837) building. Hitchcock's 'old lighthouse' is ambiguous - as that is actually the second lighthouse, completed in 1879, so his date is misleading. The remains of the 1851 lighthouse can be seen just to the left of the newer one.

arthur head

Arthur Head, 1860s. The first courthouse, top left, was renovated and expanded after 1851 and was the harbourmaster's house from 1869. The building in the middle with the flagstaff behind is the Round House, with the first lighthouse to the right rear. The second courthouse (1851) is top right. The Whalers Tunnel beneath Arthur Head was completed in 1838, paid for by Daniel Scott and under the supervision of Henry Reveley, who also designed the Round House.


Arthur Head c1870. The large building right of centre is the Government Quarters aka The Residency, which was built in 1856 (Dowson has 1851) for the Water Police and demolished in 1967. To the left is the second courthouse, left of which may be seen the steps going up to the Round House. To the left again is the harbourmaster's house. On the right is the first lighthouse. The photo (WAHS R2775) is beautifully reproduced in John Dowson's Old Fremantle, pages 26 and 27. His caption on page 26 has a brief but complete history of the occupancy of the Residency. The photo is also available from the Fremantle History Centre, photo #1801, and the FHC text is as follows.

The Residency first appears on a plan dated 1856, built for the Water Police. It was demolished in 1967. The lighthouse was erected in 1850 by convict labour. About 1876 the tower was cut down and the stump covered with a conical roof. The flagstaff was originally at Anglesea Point and was moved to Arthur Head before 1837. The house in the left background with the verandahs was the Harbour Master's house. Between it and the Residency is the second court house. Reproduced from "Twentieth Century Impression of W. A.", 1901. Taken before 1876.

view from arthur head

Fremantle History Centre c. 1888 photo #3108A. Looking east from Arthur Head. At the left is the Residency (1856), demolished 1967, with the Cliff Street Railway Station (1887) behind. Behind again and to the centre is Manning's Folly (1858-1928). Just to the right of centre are W D Moore's home (1884) in Cliff Street and Daniel Scott's home. Also in Cliff Street is W F Samson's home (1881-1950s). Between it and the Roundhouse (at the left) is the Police Quarters.

The building on Arthur Head to the left of the Round House with the external staircase is the Second Courthouse. The one in the extreme foreground, at the bottom of the photo, is the Lightkeeper's Quarters. The photo would have been taken from the second lighthouse.


The Round House in the 1890s, with the harbourmaster's house (formerly the first courthouse) on the left and the second courthouse on the right. Source: Wikipedia.

arthur head

Fremantle History Centre photo #4702. Houses on Arthur Head in the 1910s. The house on the extreme left was occupied by the Windsor family and on the right side by the Nicholas family. The steps of the Roundhouse are to the left.


Bathers Bay RWAHS UN731. This photo is also available from the FHC as photo #2034A by S.M. Stout, c. 1890: The second lighthouse (1876/1878-1905) built on Arthur Head is to the right. Below is the TW Mews shipyard in Bathers Bay, established between 1840 and 1860. Next to the right is the abandoned building of the Fremantle Whaling Company, demolished in the 1890s.

Compare Arthur Head in Stout's 1890 photo with the 1986 aerial photo below: a great deal of rock has been removed from the western section, where J Shed now is.

arthur head

Arthur Head, 1986.


Quarrying from what is now the approximate site of J Shed. Source and date unknown, but it is after 1879, when the second lighthouse was first lit, and also after 1903, when the timeball was moved to the remains of the first lighthouse.

arthur head

Arthur Head, perhaps from the Fremantle Ports building, Roel Loopers, c. 2010


Bathers Beach from Arthur Head, 2015, showing the Kidogo Arthouse (the kerosene store - which would have stored fuel for the second lighthouse), a structure representing the mortuary, and part of a sculpture exhibition.

References and Links

Hitchcock, JK 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council.

Notes in Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle Society: Vol 10 No 2 1982, and Vol 12 No 3 1984 (pages 1 and 3).

Arthur Head Music - details about the Sunset Events 'concerts' on a Council page

Wikipedia page

Garry Gillard | New: 21 June, 2015 | Now: 3 January, 2018