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Ford Motor Company building

Matilda Bay Brewing Company

Stirling Highway North Fremantle; Ford, with Oldham Boas and Ednie Brown

Heritage Council:
Statement of Significance
The Former Ford Motor Company Factory, is a rendered brick large volume factory with single storey office area attached constructed in 1929. The place has aesthetic value for its contribution to the streetscape and strong landmark qualities. The place is a fine example of the Inter War Stripped Classical style of architecture. The place has historic and social significance as a long standing place of employment in the North Fremantle area. It was one of a number of standard factories developed throughout Australia and elsewhere in the 1920s as car ownership became more popular and affordable and was one of the very few if not the only car manufacturers in Western Australia.
Physical Description
Large volume factory with single storey office area attached. The former Ford Factory building is constructed of rendered masonry with large expanses of small pane windows. The factory frontage is dominant on the Stirling Highway frontage. It has a large pyramidal shaped parapet wall. It presents a classical balance of horizontal banding and vertical brick pilasters former by the recessed vertical glazed panels. In contrast to the dominant factory frontage, the offices provide a horizontal counterbalance. The single storey office frontage is as for the factory frontage, symmetrical and classically proportioned. The entrance is centrally located and recessed with a flat suspended canopy over it. A mosaic tile rectangular detail located in the parapet responds to the geometric shaped detail in the gable parapet of the factory front. Although now painted over the building is red brick with stone and stucco horizontal banding. It is an example of the Inter war Stripped Classical style of architecture. An external Heritage Assessment was prepared in March 2010 by Heritage and Conservation Professionals for a DA submission to Council (DA0725/09) for partial demolition of a rear portion of the building.
The portion of Stirling Highway to the north of Queen Victoria Street was originally part of Perth Road. The area developed with mixed residential, commercial and industrial uses from the 1860s following the construction of the North Fremantle Traffic Bridge and the upgrading of Perth Road by convicts. The portion of Stirling Highway that runs between the Swan River and the junction with Queen Victoria Street was formerly called Bruce Street. It was named after Colonel Bruce, head of the Pensioner Guards. In the early days of North Fremantle’s development, the favoured residential area for settlement was slightly west of the North Fremantle oval and named ‘Brucetown’. Settlement of North Fremantle began in earnest in the late 1890s and Bruce Street was characterised by a mix of building types. On the southern side of the street between Queen Victoria Street (formerly Perth Road) and Tydeman Road (formerly Pensioner Road and then John Street), the buildings were predominantly residential. Industrial use was more common on the northern side. Stirling Bridge was constructed across the Swan River at the end of Bruce Street in 1974. As Bruce Street was now the major arterial link between the bridge and Stirling Highway, the street was widened and renamed as an extension of Stirling Highway. In recent years, new high-density residential development of the areas adjacent to the river on either side of Stirling Highway has seen a significant change in the mix of buildings in the southern section of Stirling Highway. In 2004, the street continues to have a mix of residential, retail and industrial land use. In 1929, the Ford Motor Company had a factory built in North Fremantle. The factory was built to a standard Ford design, but did include the involvement of local architects, Oldham Boas and Ednie Brown. The building’s modernist design influences place it at the forefront of factory design in Western Australia at the time. Ford in Australia was part of Ford (Canada) as tariffs were not raised against imports from other Commonwealth countries. At the time, Australia was a good market for cars, with the third highest per capita ownership behind the United States and Canada. The Fremantle site was chosen because of its proximity to Fremantle Harbour, the railway line and roads. Chassis were sent by sea from Geelong in Victoria (Ford’s largest factory in Australia) and the bodies were shipped from Canada. Later, cars were shipped ready made from Melbourne and, as cars now only required a clean and spray of paint where they had been damaged, staff numbers were reduced. According to workers, the Fremantle factory followed the Ford Motor Company principles of working to the clock and the glass front of the office allowed management to keep an eye on the workers. The factory operated until 1987 when it was sold to Alan and John McGillvary of the Mac’s food centres. They initially planned to turn the factory into shops and housing, with part of the building used as a museum. However, their plans changed and in 1988, Brewtech (Matilda Bay Brewery) submitted an application to the City of Fremantle to use the existing ex-warehouse (Ford Motors) as a brewery warehouse, office and visitors’ centre. The works involved the relocation of sales, marketing and warehousing to the site, involving the construction of cool rooms and refurbishment of the existing offices, construction of brewery plant (including new site access and refurbishment of the existing building) and construction of a visitors’ centre. Previously located in Nedlands, in 1988 Matilda Bay Brewing’s speciality beer market was one of the fastest growing in Australia. In 1996, the site was short listed in the Fremantle Awards New Development Category.
The place has been identified by the Heritage Council of Western Australia as being worthy of consideration for entry in the State Register of Heritage Places (March 2004). This place was included in the 'North Fremantle Heritage Study' (1994) as a place contributing to the development and heritage of North Fremantle. It was also included in the list of heritage places in the City of Fremantle identified by the Fremantle Society (1979/80) - RED - significant for contributing to the unique character of Fremantle. An external Heritage Assessment was prepared in March 2010 by Heritage and Conservation Professionals for a DA submission to Council (DA0725/09) for partial demolition of a rear portion of the building.

In 2022, a proposal for 130 Stirling Highway includes additions, alterations and restoration of the former Matilda Bay Brewery buildings and the addition of three residential towers of 10, 11 and 16 storeys in height. The proposal has 207 multiple dwellings, a café/restaurant, shop, office, reception centre and industry-light land uses, as well as landscaping, amenity areas, car parking and public realm additions.

Matilda Bay snub leaves bitter taste

Steve Grant, Fremantle Herald, 29 June 2022

THE North Fremantle Community Association says a planned redevelopment of the Matilda Bay Brewery is insensitive to the site’s heritage, uninviting and a “bland, dominating group of apartments that could be anywhere”.
NFCA convenor Gerry MacGill said the association hadn’t heard from the developers, 3 Oceans Property, before it submitted the planning application to Fremantle council, despite a structure plan approved in 2020 intimating this would be done.
Mr MacGill says it’s not the only part of the plan, or other council policies, the development ignores.
He says the community worked with the site’s previous owner in 2015 and prepared a vision which helped form a structure plan that year, but the current iteration is so far from complying the association says it should go back to the drawing board.
While the council’s feedback page lists the tallest of three towers as being 16 storeys high, NFCA member Ann Forma says there’s also two levels of parking before the tower sits on a podium, and with equipment on the roof her tally comes to 20 storeys.
Ms Forma said after all the work with the previous owner, the community had been expecting heights similar to those at Northbank, but possibly reaching 10 storeys.
Twenty storeys was outrageous and totally out of character with the surrounding suburb, she said.
In its submission to the council, which will ultimately be handed to the state-based JDAP committee, the NFCA says the height and bulk of the development “trivialises” the site’s heritage buildings as well as the nearby Dingo Flour Mill.
“The scale of the Dingo has always been the marker of North Fremantle, the sign you see out at sea that Fremantle is near,” the submission says.
It claims the development is a lost opportunity to be a “seamless extension of the North Fremantle community”.
“The two-storey podium forms a hard and uninviting edge to the development, transmitting a message of ‘stay out’ rather than ‘welcome inside’.
Ms Forma says this will be felt by anyone using the green space next to a proposed provedore, as they’d be sitting next to a six-storey wall, while all the concrete means any greenery will have to be in pots and is unlikely to reach the size indicated in artists impressions.
Ms Forma also took a shot at the size of the tavern, saying it could lead to problems in the area, including parking and anti-social behaviour.
She says cashing in on the site’s use as a brewery ignores its longer history as a factory for Ford.
The association says the factory buildings are the last remaining opportunity for a new development to recognise the precinct’s role in WA’s industrial development, and the current proposal doesn’t come near.

References and Links

Heritage Council.

Fremantle Herald. 


Garry Gillard | New: 20 April, 2016 | Now: 7 August, 2022