Fremantle Stuff > West End > Cliff St History
See also: Cliff St Buildings

Cliff St History

In the early days of the Swan River Colony, Cliff Street was the most important thoroughfare in the western half of the continent. Tho only two blocks long, it connected the sea jetty with the river jetty, meaning that everything arriving at Fremantle that was needed in the capital had to be carried along it. The river was closed to everything except the smallest boats by a limestone bar, so until that was removed and larger ships could enter in 1897, the road had to be used.

cliff st

Possibly the earliest photo, c. 1885, along Cliff St (looking from south to north) is from the Fremantle History Centre, photo no. 1396.

On the right is Flindell's Pier Hotel, originally built for William Brown. He was formerly a Coxswain with the Water Police and applied for a Publican's licence in 1873. The Pier Hotel had a convenient location between the ships and the railway, with a stockyard and holding paddock for horses imported from the Eastern States for the North West. (FHC)

Cliff St in the 1850s was a busy thoroughfare connecting the sea front jetty with the river. Many businesses were located along the route. The street was paved in 1858 with hand-tolled Yorkshire flagstones by sappers of the Royal Engineers. The job was completed by private contract after the sappers were needed elsewhere. Apparently, convicts were not skilled enough for the job. To meet the expense, dog licences, poundage fees and fines were raised by the Town TrustHeritage Council.

south jetty

This is the photo of the Short Jetty used by Hitchcock in his 1929 History. His caption reads: 'The Only Jetty, 1870'. The large building is the Commissariat, which stills stands at one end of Cliff St.

river jetty

... And the other end of Cliff St can be seen in this photo of the river jetty, in the Battye Library's photo BA1341/28, from 1880-90. This photo is beautifully reproduced in John Dowson's Old Fremantle, page 24, where his caption describes it thus: 'The Swan River from the lighthouse on Arthur Head. c1885. The River Jetty, convict-built in 1853, is on the left; beyond it are Ferry Point, then the 1880 railway bridge and in the distance the 1866 passenger bridge. In the foreground is the Government Cottage or Residency, built in 1851 for the water police, demolished 1967.'

References and Links

Dowson, John 2003, Old Fremantle, UWAP.

Ewers, John K. 1971, The Western Gateway: A History of Fremantle, Fremantle City Council, with UWAP, rev. ed. [1st ed. 1948].

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

Heritage Council entry for the Pier Hotel


Garry Gillard | New: 17 June, 2016 | Now: 23 September, 2017