Fremantle Stuff > Buildings > Pensioner Barracks. See also: Pensioner Barracks Perth

Pensioner Barracks

The Barracks, South Terrace, 1853, was built to house the Enrolled Pensioner Force, ex-soldiers who were assigned to guard convicts on the ships when transportation started in 1850.

The Pensioners' Barracks survived in a variety of uses until their final service as a temporary hospital through the second world war years of 1939-1945. In their original form, they provided onIy spartan accommodation by comparison with the neighbouring Warders' Quarters, but would still have been a relief from the overcrowded temporary accommodation at the old whaling station described by Captain Bruce. In the new building there were thirty-two units on two floors, each of two rooms 12' x 10'6" with  access via an external galIery and staircases at each end. There were external shared facilities of cook-house, wash-house, and 'necessaries'. They were built of limewashed limestone and shingled roof, with-well-proportioned windows and doors and projecting pilasters to break down the horizontal scale into repetitive units euphemistically labelIed 'cottages'. In fact, it is a simple, unpretentious, army barracks building using classical georgian proportion and detail. (Campbell 2010: 3.4)


Further along South Terrace, the first stage of the barracks for the Pensioners was also completed in 1851. A two-storey terrace of 32 units, each of two rooms, with four to a ‘cottage’, and with communal facilities — cook-house, wash-house, and ‘necessaries’ out in the yard. Access to the ground floor units fronting South Terrace was through a formal front door and a shared access passage, stairs at the rear led up to a first floor gallery and shared entry doors and passages. The elevation (above) is another example of the modulated georgian facade favoured by the Engineers that could be added onto without losing architectural integrity. Additions in 1857 included more family units, single men’s barracks, and a sergeant-major’s quarters; there are now 11 bays in the photograph over the eight in the original drawings (below). The pensioner’s barracks served on as an old men’s home, an immigrants hostel, and then a military hospital through the first world war years of 1914 - 1918. The trams ran to South Beach from 1904 to 1952. The building has gone, but the retaining wall to South Terrace remains in front of a 1970s elderly peoples’ centre. (Campbell 2017: 18; the last sentence refers to the Stan Reilly Centre, demolished in 2018 to make way for ... a carpark)

The building was demolished in the 1950s, so there are few photos showing it. The first one below shows the Barracks in 1889, on the left, with what was the Barracks Square/Field/Green and is now Fremantle Oval in the foreground. Next to the right is the Infants and Girls School (now part of the Maritime Studies TAFE) also on South Tce. The second lighthouse is barely visible in the distance near the centre of the photo. The Henderson St Warders Cottages are prominent to the right of centre.


Fremantle Library photo #3414, 1889, shows - 'Barracks Square: Viewed from Scotsman's Hill'. The area abutting the Barracks buildings was used by the Pensioner Guards as a parade and drill ground: consequently it became known as Barrack Square, Barrack Green or Barrack Field. Today the area is known as Fremantle Oval. Prominent buildings in the photograph include: Left - The Pensioner Barracks: built in 1853 to house 32 enrolled Pensioner Guards and their families. Used as an immigrant home in 1886. Demolished in the 1950s. The site of the Stan Reilly Frail Aged Lodge in 1976. Middle-left - Fremantle Infants and Girls School: Foundation stone laid by Lady Ord 5.12.1877. Renovated in 1983 and commissioned as the Maritime Studies School, Technical and Further Education. Middle-right - Warders Quarters [click on the image for larger version]


Fremantle Library photo #1756, [1864]. The Fremantle Volunteer Rifles was formed in 1861. A public meeting recommended an Infantry Corps of 100, however, with such a small population and employment uncertain that number was never attained. In 1864 there were still only 69 members. The corps was armed with obsolete muzzle-loading muskets. By 1869 there were only 51 members and the group was disbanded on 8.02.1870. It is stated in the Inquirer & Commercial News 30/11/1864, p.2 that photographer Stephen Stout was invited to record the occasion of C.A. Manning's appointment as Captain commanding the Fremantle Volunteer Corps, in a ceremony held at the Parade Ground. It is likely that this is that photograph.

The building in the background is not the Pensioners Barracks in South Terrace (1853-1950s). It seems likely, or at least possible, that it is the Married Quarters section of the Sappers Barracks, which were on the corner of Henderson and Queen (formerly Doonan) Streets. See the Convict Establishment page for a map showing where this was.


In the background of this c. 1905 photograph are, from left, the Barracks, the Synagogue (1902) and the Victoria Pavilion (1897).

Carnival at Fremantle Oval, Fremantle Library photo #539, c. 1905: Carnival at Fremantle Oval, possibly during Fremantle Week. Note: Oval Pavilion. In January 1897 a prize was awarded to F.W. Burwell for the design of a pavilion. The foundation stone was laid by the Governor Sir Gerard Smith on 25th June 1897. On 6th November 1897 the building was opened by Sir John Forrest. Rear of the Jewish Synagogue in South Terrace. Foundation stone laid on 8th January 1902 by Elias Solomon. Architects Oldham and Eales, builder: J. McCracken. See: 726.3 Miscellany File. Partial view Oddfellows Hotel. A building first appears on Lot 241 in 1887, the owner and occupier being George Alfred Davis [Davies]. According to Council minutes 17.03.1896. a plan was passed for the enlargement of the hotel. See: 728.5 Miscellany File. Pensioner Barracks, built c1850s and occupied by the enrolled pensioner force. During 1914-1918 war, used as the No. 8 General Australian Hospital. Immigrants Home, demolished 1950s. Stan Reilly Frail Aged Lodge now on site, completed 1976.


In this pre-1914 photo, the Barracks building is partly concealed behind the trees on the left. The synagogue is left of centre, then the Scots Church spire, with the Victoria Pavilion on the right. Fremantle Library photo#1927: 'A cricket match in progress on the Oval. In the background are the Synagogue (1902), Scots Church (1890, with tower) and Victoria Pavilion (1897). A postcard printed for the Fremantle News Agents Association. Taken before 1914.'


Fremantle Library photo #1174C, Fremantle Oval: Fremantle Oval taken from Scotsman's Hill some time between 1912 and 1938. A picket fence surrounds the oval and sheep are grazing in the foreground. In the background, from the right, are the Oval Pavilion and the Oval entrance. The tower of Scots Church and the Synagogue are also visible.

The Barracks is just to the left of centre. The trees are big enough now to make it almost invisible.


Recent Google Maps capture with the bright orange roof of the Stan Reilly Centre at the bottom of the photo representing where the Barracks stood 1853-1950s. The Stan Reilly Centre has since been demolished and replaced with ... another carpark.

References and Links

Campbell, Robin McKellar 2010, Building the Fremantle Convict Establishment, PhD, UWA (Faculty of Architecture). Available online to download (not from this site) as a 40MB PDF.

Campbell, R.McK. 2017, Henderson & Coy, privately published in association with the Faculty of Architecture, UWA.

Fremantle Library.

Garry Gillard | New: 2 August, 2016 | Now: 8 November, 2019