Fremantle Stuff > Parks > Fremantle Oval

Fremantle Oval

This was formerly the Barracks Green or Field or Square, the original purpose of which to provide a parade ground, the Pensioners Barracks (1853, now gone) being adjacent in South Terrace, but cricket was also played there, and other games including tennis. It is now the home of the WAFL's South Fremantle Football Club (and temporarily the Fremantle Workers Club) and also of the AFL's Fremantle Dockers until their facility is completed in Cockburn (tho they don't play matches at this oval). It's possible the East Fremantle FC will move to this oval, allowing the East Fremantle Oval to be developed for other uses. The heritage Victoria Pavilion was built in 1897.

Click/tap images for larger size.


The SFFC Members Stand (thanks to Wikipedia) with the Victoria Pavilion extreme right. The spire in the left background is that of Scots Church.

The year 1861 saw the organisation of a volunteer force in Fremantle. The movement was enthusiastically taken up by C. A. Manning ... The ”Barracks Green,” now the oval, was used as a parade ground for both pensioners and volunteers and it was there that Captain (afterwards Colonel) Finnerty and Sergeant Major Latimer put the young recruits through their facings often at daylight and at other times by moonlight. The old Colonel expected them to attain the same proficiency as the Imperial Army veterans in the barracks who had been drilling all their lives and who manoeuvred with clock precision. ... In March of [1895] a commencement was made with the work of converting the Barracks Field into the present Oval. Hitchcock: 43, 44.


Fremantle Library image no. 2056, 1896.

The area now known as Fremantle Oval was originally known as Barracks Green Field and, as it is below the Fremantle Gaol walls, was used as a parade ground for the pensioner forces quartered nearby. The Pensioner Guards came to WA to guard convicts and ticket of leave men. Mostly retired servicemen, the guards were an important part of the convict establishment and brought with them skills, some capital and a desire to establish a lifestyle for themselves and their families in WA such as they were unable to achieve in England. Although used mainly to guard the convicts, the pensioners could, if necessary, be used to protect citizens and their property. The Volunteer Defence Force, raised by C A Manning in 1861, organised manoeuvres and parades on Barracks Green and the volunteer bands provided entertainment. Development of Fremantle Oval was the initiative of two local sporting bodies, the Fremantle Football Club and the Fremantle Cricket Club. In 1888, under the leadership of A J Diamond, the two clubs took a deputation to the Fremantle Municipal Council requesting assistance in obtaining Barrack Green for a public recreation area. The Council later took a deputation to the new Premier seeking approval of a Crown grant, which although initially refused, was later approved in June 1894. The Fremantle Municipality had acquired the oval in order to provide recreational facilities for increasingly sophisticated and demanding ratepayers, many of whom were migrants from the eastern States. Fremantle Council made preparations for the opening of the football season by instigating improvements to the grounds. Australian Heritage Database entry.


Fremantle Library image no. 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 1950's. 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]


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 image no. 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 in the centre. The synagogue is further to the right, then the Scots Church spire, with the Victoria Pavilion on the right. Fremantle Library image no. 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 image no. 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.

Dad [Barney Silbert] was involved with the Ugly Men's Society, which was down near the railway station. He rowed with the Fremantle Rowing Club and for a short period of time he was some sort of an official with the South Fremantle Football Club. He was in the famous Buffalo Lodge and he was a director of the Fremantle Speedway. And of course the Fremantle Speedway went broke pretty fast. There used to be a bitumen track around the Fremantle Oval; that was Fremantle Speedways Ltd., which didn’t take off. Dad was a most colourful, happy go lucky guy, but he wasn’t Fremantle’s top business man and Fremantle Speedway was one of his failures. Eric Silbert 1999: 86.


The track around the oval referred to by Barney Silbert above. The 1959 photo shows Ray Ellement leading Red faction of South Terrace Primary School. (Thanks to Fremantle As It Was for the photo.)

References and Links

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

Silbert , Eric 1999, 'Jewish personalities of Fremantle', Fremantle Studies, 1: 77-91.

Notes on the 'new [1994] development at Fremantle Oval' in Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle Society.

Wikipedia page

Entry in the Australian Heritage Database.

Garry Gillard | New: 21 July, 2015 | Now: 22 April, 2020