Fremantle Stuff > buildings > Commissariat


Between Cliff St and Bathers Beach is what is now the WA Museum Shipwreck Galleries, built by 1853 as the Convict Establishment Commissariat (store).


Former Convict Establishment Commissariat
Architects and builders of earlier components: Imperial Convict Establishment

This complex of handsome limestone buildings houses the Shipwreck Galleries of the Western Australian Maritime Museum. The earlier parts were constructed, in the main, by convicts. On entering, the visitor will be in the oldest part of the building, which was constructed in 1852 to answer the urgent need of the recently arrived Imperial Convict Establishment for a store. The stone walls and simple brick arches provide an evocative background for the displays of artefacts from the wrecks of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch East Indiamen. Hutchison: 91.

The Commissariat Buildings was one of the first places built using convict labour in the Swan River colony: construction began in 1852. The building was designed by James Manning and was constructed under the supervision of Captain Henderson, Royal Engineer and Comptroller-General of Convicts for Western Australia. It now houses part of the Western Australian Maritime Museum. Text and photograph (cropped) thanks to Gnangarra, Wikipedia.


The Commissariat offices in Cliff St

The erection of the Convict Establishment was commenced in 1851. In that and the following years the Imperial Government carried out by prison labour a number of other works, among them being the Commissariat buildings in Cliff-street, the pensioners' barracks in South Terrace, the warders' quarters in Henderson Street, the Comptroller's residence, known as ”The Knowle” (now part of the hospital), the North Fremantle traffic bridge as originally constructed and numerous other works of public utility, including roads, streets and public buildings. With the exception of the old court-house, [35] which was demolished to make room for pilots' quarters, all those buildings and the North Fremantle bridge are still [1929] standing, and are monuments to the stability of the work done by the convicts. ... The Commissariat buildings were erected in 1853, and after serving the purpose for which they were built in connection with the convict system they were used successively as post office, Customs house and the offices for the State Shipping Service. They are still in use to house minor governmental departments. Hitchcock 1929: 34-35, 39.

References and Links

Crawford, Ian, Anne Delroy & Lynne Stevenson 1992, A History of the Commissariat, Fremantle 1851-1991, WA Museum.

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

Hutchison, David 2006, Fremantle Walks, Fremantle Arts Centre Press: 91-93.

Wikipedia page

Garry Gillard | New: 25 June, 2015 | Now: 8 November, 2019