Fremantle Stuff > Arthur Head
See also: courthouses, lighthouses, fort, fort quarters, the kerosene store, the pilots cottages, the powerhouse, the Round House, the Whalers Tunnel, the whaling complex, J Shed, the Residency, Bathers Bay, the mortuary.
Arthur Head was so called by James Stirling, who named the promontory in 1827 for George Arthur, Governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). The nearby bay was called Manjaree by the first people, and that name applied to the headland also.
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 - because all of the available rock has been quarried out of the western end of the area, almost back to the Jail. However, the name remains, and now refers particularly to the elevated area where the Round House is, but also the area west of the entrance to the Whalers Tunnel, the area around J Shed, and the land on which some of the Challenger TAFE buildings now stand.
Reproduction of an early map showing the Arthur Head area before reduction by quarrying
Bas-relief in the pavement outside the Town Hall, showing the original size of Arthur Head in 1829 and the small area that remains today. From Brad Pettitt's blog.
Modern map indicating the position of former structures
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, 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. Photograph by Stephen Stout, c. 1864, Battye 88278P.
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.
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 Round House (at the left) is the Police Quarters. Fremantle Library c. 1888 photo #3108A.
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.
Now demolished western portion of Arthur’s Head in foreground. Exact date unknown - but after 1906 when the guns were put in place, source: Brad Pettitt's blog.
Fremantle Library 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 Fremantle Library 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.
Quarrying from the western end of the Arthur headland. 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. More rock is still to be removed, as J Shed is currently where the lighthouse is in the photo - but at a level about six metres lower.
Compare Arthur Head in Stout's 1890 photo above 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, 1986. Photographer unknown: image courtesy of Brad Pettitt. The area in the image has changed considerably. As the mayor writes, '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.'
Detail (1980s) of steps to southern side of Arthur Head (as seen from the air in the photo above). Source: Brad Pettitt's blog.
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.
As the former City Héritage Architect, I was in charge of the planning and implementation of the long term Strategy Plan for Arthur Head A class Reserve, involving its the 1980s-2009 incremental implementation. Including the 1888 restoration and adaptation of J-shed to local artists studios. The implementation of the long term strategy for Arthur Head A class reserve designated (from memory) for the ‘historic buildings, community and environment’ was the 25 years long process involving reconstruction of the 1870s foreshore, dunes and its vegetation; conservation of the whalers tunnel and cliffs; conservation of the Round House; restoration and adaptation of the Fort Arthur and Pilots cottages; upgrading of the headland including construction of the stone steps and walk around the Roundhouse, public toilets, walking paths and whalers jetty. In 2009 it culminated with the final upgrade of the Old Port, which I also managed, including restoration of the former Kerosene Store (now Kidogo), the boardwalks and beach steps and reconstruction of the former mortuary as the shade structure. As the result Arthur Head has been transformed from the former depot into one of the most significant for WA heritage sites and a very popular public reserve. This also fulfilled the City of Fremantle’s obligation and commitment to the State Government undertaken when it transferred the area into the City of Fremantle in the 1980s for a peppercorn rate. In light of this the approval by the City granted to Sunset events for use of J-shed as a tavern is a breach of that commitment and a violation of the designation of the Arthur Head A-class Reserve. So what I would like to know is how could the City get away with such an obvious breach of the area’s formal designation and its own strategy plan for the area? Agnieshka Kiera, personal communication (Facebook)
The Arthur Head Collection was a project coordinated by the City of Fremantle with funding from a grant available from the Federal Government to celebrate the Bicentennial year in 1988. Basically researchers were contracted to collect information about Arthur Head from 1829. The end result is a huge collection of materials in various formats including documents, reports, photographs, maps, bibliographies etc. to help research the site. It has a card index as well as a printouts from a database which was created electronically, unfortunately the database didn’t survive. The information was collected from repositories around Australia and the UK. In total it consists of a 4 drawer filing cabinet as well as around 200 maps and plans. Currently the collection is held with the Fremantle History Centre and it is being stored offsite whilst the Library is in temporary premises. Digital images of the photograph collection can be viewed at the History Centre. Pam Harris, Librarian, Fremantle History Centre. May 2018.
The City Council in 1990 published a folder containing a summary of the research Pam Harris mentions above, consisting of a page about each of these buildings (etc.): the lighthouses, the courthouses, the fort, the fort quarters, the kerosene store, the pilots cottages, the powerhouse, the Round House, the Whalers Tunnel, and whaling complex, a front cover, and the full map (only part of which appears above).
When Stirling first named Arthur Head, he would probably have written it with an apostrophe, as 'Arthur's Head' (but not 'Rous's Head'). However, names of places and businesses with an apostrophe tend to drop the punctuation over time, and even the possessive S - as Boans, for example, and Myer. Personally, I think we should might as well make that move without delay and use the name Arthur Head [sic]. Compare Kings Square, however: like Kings College etc., we seem to like the S - but can do without the apostrophe. GG
Sir George Arthur (1784-1854) was Governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) in 1827 when Stirling visited in Success on his way to Rottnest and to explore the Swan River. He was well entertained in Hobart Town during January and February, and the two governors became friends, and corresponded for many years. So it was that the southern headland was named for the older man. Another visitor to Hobart at that time was Captain H.J. Rous a former schoolfriend of Stirling. In 1829 he also had a headland named after him: the one at the northern entrance to the river. The Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Station at the time, Admiral Gage, had his name given to Gage Roads, the water between Rottnest and Fremantle. (Statham-Drew: 67-68)
Dowson, John 2003, Old Fremantle: Photographs 1850-1950, UWAP.
Hitchcock, JK 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council.
Hutchison, David 1999, 'Shedding light on sheds in transit', Fremantle Studies, 1: 66-76.
Nayton, Gaye 2010, 'Old Port, Arthur Head', Fremantle Studies, 6: 105-110.
Pettitt, Brad, 'Arthur's Head's Changing Face', blog entry.
Sherriff, Jacqui 2001, 'Fremantle South Slipway: a vital World War II defence facility', Fremantle Studies, 2: 106-119.
Souter, Corioli & M. McCarthy nd, The Maritime Archaeological Resource at Arthur Head: A Report for the Arthur Head Conservation Plan, Dept Maritime Archaeology, WA Maritime Museum, report no. 145.
Statham-Drew, Pamela 2003, James Stirling: Admiral and Founding Governor of Western Australia, UWAP.
Notes in Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle Society: Vol 10 No 2 1982, and Vol 12 No 3 1984 (pages 1 and 3).
Garry Gillard | New: 21 June, 2015 | Now: 17 June, 2018