Fremantle Stuff > buildings > Whalers Tunnel

The Whalers Tunnel

Civil engineer Henry Reveley (who saved Percy Bysshe Shelley from drowning in the Arno in 1821) supervised the construction of the Whalers Tunnel (1837-38) which runs underneath the Round House jail.

round house

This photo of the Round House on Arthur Head was used by Hitchcock in 1929, so presumably taken at that time, perhaps by Nixon. Note that the stairs on the left are the ones in use; now it is the other way around.


This photo of the Round House was taken by George Davidson, an amateur photographer who worked for shipping company McIlwraith McEachern 1910-60. Here the RHS stairs are unblocked: before or after the previous photo? Thanks to FHS for photo #2390 with this caption:

The Harbour Master's house on the left was built 1870/1880s and demolished c1928. The Round House was constructed 1830/1831. The Pilot cottage on the right is No 9, built c1904 as part of the Light House compound. The original Round House steps were built 1836 and rebuilt to straddle the Whaler's Tunnel in 1838. They were truncated in 1966 because of the railway line.


In this photo from 1960, the stairs on both sides of the Whalers Tunnel are in use. W.F. Samson's house is gone (the vacant block is behind the fence on the left), and neither the Tramways building on the left nor the Samson warehouse on the right have been rebuilt as accommodation.

The headland was always in demand by port authorities, and for defences, due to its prominent position and its proximity to the port. Since the Round House ceased functioning as a gaol, there have been numerous proposals to demolish it. The most recent was in the mid 1960s when the Fremantle Harbour Trust suggested rebuilding it on another site. It was during this period that the steps from High Street to the Round House were modified. The construction of the whaler's tunnel in 1837 led to the demolition of steps running up to the headland. A new stairway was built soon after. It had two flights which ran down from landings either side of the tunnel. The flights were removed in the 1960s to provide space for a new railway line. Excerpt from an information sheet compiled by David Wood from reports by Debby Cramer and Jack Kent.

References and Links

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

Oldham, Ray 1967, bio of Henry Reveley in the ADB.

Reece, Bob [2013], 'Henry Willey Reveley : Swan River Colony's first architect', unpublished paper.

Webb, David & David Warren 2005, 'Why the Round House has a poetic touch',  Fremantle: Beyond the Round House, Longley, Fremantle; 54-55.

Wikipedia page

Garry Gillard | New: 7 October, 2017 | Now: 9 November, 2019