Fremantle Stuff > buildings >
 1913(?), Gilbert Fraser Reserve, John and Johanna Streets, North Fremantle
The pavilion at the Gilbert Fraser Reserve: my photo. Restoration was just about to start when I took it in 2016. I was told by someone (I assumed was a committee-member) I met by chance at the clubrooms that day that the consultants' assessment cost $75k: that would have bought a lot of paint.
Gilbert Fraser, 1894-1958, was Labor MLC for West Province 1928-1958.
Photo courtesy of Roel Looper's blog 7 June 2019 to show the grandstand after renovation: I agree there is a lot of ugly metalwork.
The grandstand in 1917, soon after it was built in 1913. Lieutenant Dowson, officer commanding No. 4, Electrical Company Corps, the first militia engineer officer in the State, is on the right of the group. The hotel in the left background is the Gresham Hotel, now a private dwelling at 20 John Street. Photo courtesy of John Dowson.
Significance. Gilbert Fraser Reserve and Grandstand is the most significant recreation area in North Fremantle. It has been used since 1901 for football and since 1904 for cricket. The reserve and grandstand have high aesthetic values as a picturesque setting with strong landmark qualities. The grandstand is a fine example of a pavilion building designed in the Federation Queen Anne style of Architecture. As well as its aesthetic value the place has high social and historic value.
History. From the earliest surveys for this area of North Fremantle, the area now comprising Gilbert Fraser Reserve was zoned for public recreational use. Some reports suggest it was used for recreational purposes from at least the 1850s. However, it was privately owned until bought back by the Crown in 1894. In 1898, the oval was vested in the new North Fremantle Town Council. A c.1898 photograph shows the place clearly marked out as an oval. In 1901, when the original pavilion was constructed, the oval was in use for football and cricket, and had a cycling track.
In 1902 the place, then known as North Fremantle Recreation Reserve or North Fremantle Oval, was expanded, taking over the old cycling track, to better allow for the needs of football games. A 1906 article describes the place as being 9 acres 2 roods and 32 perches, with an enclosed playing ground of 250 yards length and 140 yards width, which was noted as being a fine playing field. The oval had a pavilion, press box with telephone, two dressing sheds and three ‘up to date turnstiles’. Upcoming improvements were the construction of a bowling green and tennis courts. It has not been established when the hockey fields were put in at the eastern end of the reserve, but by the 1950s a hockey club was active at the place. It disbanded in 1975. The oval is the home ground for the North Fremantle Amateur Football Club, formed in 1920. It has often had problems with flooding, especially prior to river reclamation associated with the construction of Stirling Bridge. Floodlights for part of the oval were installed in 1972, although it was several years until the full ground was lit.
In 1963 the reserve was named in honour of prominent local resident Hon. Gilbert Fraser MLC. Fraser (born 1894; died 1958) was Labour MLC for the West Province from 1928 to 1958. From 1953 he was leader of government in the Legislative Council, and also served as Chief Secretary and Minister for Local Government and Town Planning. Fraser was a long-standing president of the North Fremantle Amateur Football Club, serving from 1932 to 1958, with the exception of 5 years during World War Two. In 1986, gates were named to honour Laurie Tetley, long-time treasurer and supporter of the North Fremantle Amateur Football Club. Memorial gates commemorating L.R. Charlton for his long association with the Tennis Club are also a feature of the place.
The Norfolk Island Pines planted after the Second World War have given the site added aesthetic dimension and landmark qualities, especially when viewed from the river.
A pavilion was erected at North Fremantle Oval in 1901 in the present location, at a cost of £537.16. Photographs show this to have been a similar style building. However, it had more ornate timber detailing and roof work, and three access stairways, and four structural compartments. A 1906 article notes that a new, elevated pavilion is planned for the upcoming season, to replace the 1901 building. However, a 1913 plan shows the pavilion with three stairways, indicating the original building was still in place at this time. By 1939, the current pavilion had been constructed. The style of the place suggests an earlier construction date and, given that it would have been unusual to build a sports pavilion during the war years and it was already being mooted in 1906, it is likely that the place was built soon after the 1913 plan was drawn. The current pavilion features a timber grandstand over timber clubrooms and ablutions. A social hall was added in 1957 to accommodate the Hockey Club. The pavilion was restored in the early 1990s.
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 identified in 'Fremantle's Landscape: A Study for the Municipal Inventory' (2001).
Description. Gilbert Fraser Reserve is a public recreation area dating from at least 1894. It is the home ground for the North Fremantle Amateur Football Club, formed in 1920. It contains a football oval, other playing fields, the grandstand, clubrooms, memorial gates, fences, tennis courts and flood lights. The Memorial gates, [which] honour Laurie Tetley, long-time treasurer and supporter of the North Fremantle Amateur Football Club, and L.R. Charlton for his long association with the Tennis Club, are also a feature of the place. The Norfolk Island Pines planted after the Second World War contribute to the aesthetic and landmark qualities of the place.
The current grandstand, constructed in 1913, stands on the same site as the original grandstand. The current pavilion features a timber grandstand over timber clubrooms and ablutions. A social hall was added in 1957 to accommodate the Hockey Club. The pavilion was restored in the early 1990s.
The grandstand is a timber framed and weatherboard clad structure with enclosed rooms to the bottom and open seating above. It is symmetrical in form. The seating area is tiered and is under a roof cover. The rear of the seating is enclosed, the front open and the sides partially enclosed with a weatherboard clad wall and partially wth a timber balustrade. The roof is hipped, gabled with Dutch gables at either end supported by timber trusses and large chamfered timber posts which have decorative cross braced joinery support the roof. The side facades have decorative timber frieze and timber balustrading. The ground floor of the pavilion is clad in weatherboarding. There is a centrally located decorative gable with a louvred vent and timber detailing. Windows are timber framed. There are two timber and steel staircases leading from the ground to the seating area.
Integrity/authenticity. High degree of integrity (original intent clear, current use compatible, high long term sustainability, restored, sympathetic additions).
High degree of authenticity with much original fabric remaining.
(These statements based on street survey only).
An article in the Fremantle Herald (4 Jan 2020: 1) reports that 'the ground was owned by Sir Oriel Tanner in [sic] Afghanistan before it was bought by Sir John Forrest on behalf of the WA government and transferred to the North Fremantle council as a "recreation for ever" oval.'
Heritage Council page, from which most of the above is taken
Garry Gillard | New: 3 February, 2016 | Now: 17 May, 2020