Fremantle Stuff > People > John Bruce

John Bruce

John Bruce arrived in Fremantle on the Hashemy in 1850 to take charge of the Enrolled Pensioner Guards, and was granted 150 acres of land in North Fremantle in either 1851 or 1857 (or both, see below).

An 1897 article in the Western Mail mentions the renewal (to Lizzie Trump) of the licence of the Bruce Town Hotel, which was in North Fremantle, part of which at that time was called Bruce Town after Bruce. The hotel stood opposite the western end of the Gilbert Fraser Reserve (formerly North Fremantle Oval) in John St — possibly also named after John Bruce, as it went through the middle of the parcel of land granted to him. James Burrows was in 1892 the first owner of Lot 41, on which the hotel stood.

Following are notes from Hitchcock, the Fremantle History Centre, and two Heritage Council pages.

In the fifties [1850s] the greater part of North Fremantle east of where the railway bridge now [1929] stands was granted free to Colonel Bruce and members of the enrolled pensioner force, the land to the west having been previously taken up by William Pearse, who kept a dairy in that locality. Hitchcock: 27.

Captain John Bruce arrived in Fremantle 25th October 1850 aboard the second of the convict ships, the 'Hashemy', taking up the position of Staff Officer to the Enrolled Pensioner Force in WA. In 1854 Bruce was awarded the local rank of Brevet Major and succeeded Capt. Irwin as Commandant of the W.A. Military Force. He was assigned the task of forming a citizens' volunteer force when the regular troops stationed in the colony were about to be withdrawn in 1861. He also served as Acting Governor of W.A. during February 1862 and again from November 1868 until September 1869. In the 1850's he was granted 10 acres of  land in North Fremantle to the east of Stirling Highway, which became known as "Brucetown" and was a favoured residential area in the late 1800's. Mt Bruce is named in his honour. The name 'Bruce Street' identifies the road which was engulfed by the Stirling Highway extension and bridge. Changed to Stirling Hwy c. 1974. FHC.

The main impetus for the early development of North Fremantle was the arrival of the convict ships from 1850 and with them the Pensioner Guards. Land was provided for the Pensioner Guards in North Fremantle. In 1851 [sic], Captain J[ohn] Bruce, commanding officer of the Guards, was granted 150 acres in North Fremantle. The land was surveyed and small allotments were granted to members of the Guard. By 1862, twenty-one Pensioner Guard cottages had been constructed in North Fremantle, making it the first Pensioner Guard village in Western Australia. Heritage Council.

John Street was the main road surveyed through the parcel of land granted to Lt. Col. John Bruce in 1857 [sic]. The land remained undivided and undeveloped until after John Bruce's death, when his widow arranged for it to be auctioned as residential lots. A land sale was held in October 1890 to dispose of the estate of John Bruce. A large attendance resulted in all 88 lots being sold, for sums ranging from £21 to £102, at an average price of £33/16/0, well above the anticipated price. Towards the end of 1891, the new owners approached the Fremantle Council requesting that scrub be cleared so that they could access their blocks, and it is likely that this is when John Street, which had been marked on survey diagrams from at least 1833, was actually created. The area at this time was known as 'Brucetown'. Pensioner Road, which ran from Stirling Highway (then Bruce Street) to the ocean and beach along the route of current Tydeman Road between Stirling Highway and the railway, and continuing beyond this point at the same angle, was renamed John Street in the late 1890s, being the continuation of the current John Street. This name remained until towards the end of the twentieth century, when roads were realigned to accommodate the expansion of Fremantle Port, and the current alignment of Tydeman Road was constructed. Heritage Council.

References, Links, and Acknowledgement

Baddeley, Margaret, Bio of John Bruce.

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

Fremantle History Centre.

Heritage Council. And also Heritage Council. Note that the first of these sources has 1851 as the date of the land grant; the other has 1857. I suggest that one is a typo, probably the latter, as Hitchcock has the former.

Western Mail.

Many thanks to Margaret Baddeley for permission to publish her biography of John Bruce - part of her research for the degree of Master of Arts in History.


Garry Gillard | New: 26 June, 2015 | Now: 1 February, 2017