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The Alma Street Cemetery served Fremantle from 1831-1855, when a new one was opened near Skinner Street. Fremantle Primary School now occupies the city block bounded by what are now Alma, Brennan, Stevens, and Attfield Streets.
The first recognised cemetery, the old burying ground in Alma Street, was opened in 1831, and was in use for over twenty years. After the opening of a cemetery in Skinner Street, the only interments permitted in Alma Street were those of persons who had near relatives buried there. Hitchcock: 22.
The site that the school in Alma Street now occupies was the original Fremantle Cemetery and then the council rubbish tip - I remember the debris from a fire at the merchants Wood & Sons being dumped there. Lewis: 16.
We played on the old tip site up the top of Little Howard Street, on Alma Street. ... They just ploughed in all the old cemetery headstones and iron railings when they closed the cemetery and turned it into a tip. in 1929 they came along and dug it all up. I remember there were lots and lots of little hills made by this. Then they took away all the stones and railings  in the dray and carted them to Stevens Street and buried everything at the east side of the Stevens Steet cricket reserve. They then turned the tip into a park. Morgan: 55-56.
The earliest headstone recorded at Fremantle Cemetery is that of Mary Ann Morrell (1789-1832) at Anglican AA 1669. She died on 8 October 1832 and was buried in Alma Street Cemetery. Her remains were exhumed at the family's request on 20 October 1915 and re-interred at Fremantle Cemetery. It is thought that hers was the first grave to be marked by a headstone.
The first grave to be marked by a headstone in Alma Street appeared to have been that of Mrs Mary Ann Morrell, the wife of John Morrell, who died on October 8, 1832. Hitchcock: 22.
A Heritage Garden marks the existence of the Cemetery which preceded the transfer of the 1904 South Terrace School (now Fremantle Primary School) to this site in 1961.
These are the seven headstones which were given by the Cemeteries Board for the Alma St Heritage Garden. Click on any image to see it in larger size.
This is the photo which has been cropped and put on the sign above. It is Fremantle Library image #3743, c. 1930, with this caption: Jessie Thompson and her mother walking across the old Alma Street cemetery site, now South Terrace Primary School. The Fremantle Hospital nurses quarters (the Balding Nurses Home) demolished in 1999, are in the right background.
The Swan River colony was founded in 1829. Soon after the early settlers arrived the townsite of Fremantle was laid out. In 1830 the Colonial Secretary's office ruled
... that to prevent indiscriminate burials and unpleasant consequences arising therefrom in a warm climate, a Burial Ground will be set apart in Every Township and/or parish ... All Burials by the Chaplain must take place as soon after sunrise as possible or an hour precisely before sunset and at no other time... Signed: F. Brown, Colonial Secretary
Although burials took place from 1830, the Alma St Cemetery wasn't officially allotted until 1847 when it was vested in the Church of England. The original site was approximately 4 acres. It was situated away from the town on the south side of Church Hill (also known as Scotchman's Hill). Access to the site was via a footpath from King St (now Henderson St).
The area remained allotted as a cemetery until closed by proclamation on 18 December 1895. Burials however continued in vaults and in other cases with permission from the Governor until at least 1905.
DEAD CENTRE OF TOWN
On 20 March 1833, a map showing some additional allotments was submitted to the Lieutenant Governor for His approval. It showed Lots 433 and 448 to be 'the reserves of the Crown being the site of the original Burial Ground'. These two lots stretched along Market St from the corner of Bannister St where AE Davies Funeral Parlour now stands, to the corner of Collie St.
Around 830 people were buried in the Alma St Cemetery. When the Fremantle and Karrakatta cemeteries were gazetted in 1897, the wealthier people exhumed the bodies of their relatives for reburial in the new cemeteries. By 1911 all that remained were the bodies of the poor and the 'unknown'.
Tombstones from the Alma St Cemetery may have been used to improve the footpaths of High St. In 1892 a letter appeared in the Inquirer wherein the writer reported that a flagstone turned up for repair in High St was in fact a tombstone from the Alma St Cemetery.
Another was discovered as a hearth stone in an old house owned by the Gourleys on the south side of the Swan River. It was the tombstone of Frances Scott, eldest daughter of Daniel & Frances Scott. She died on 9 March 1833 aged 21 months & 9 days and was buried in the Alma St Cemetery.
The earliest recorded burial is Sarah Ann Lockyer, aged 9 months, who died of dysentery and was buried 25 March 1830. Dysentery and scurvy were common causes of death in the early days of the colony, particularly of children. The Edgecumbe family lost two-year old twins, Richard & Lydia, in April 1830 from scurvy. Other recorded causes of death were old age, water on the chest, fever, change of life, confinement, suicide and cause unknown.
The victim of Fremantle's one and only duel, George French Johnson, was buried on 19 August 1832. He was shot by William Nairne Clark. The precise motive for the duel was never established.
The Alma St Cemetery was finally transferred to the Fremantle Municipal Council in June 1915, 'subject to the Council exhuming and removing the bodies interred there in for reburial in the Public Cemetery (Fremantle Cemetery) the said Council to re-erect the gravestones there and to undertake to lay out and use the land conveyed to them as a public garden'.
Daniel Scott, Harbour Master of Fremantle died 20 February 1865 of fatty degeneration of the heart while his poor wife Frances died on 2 November 1865 at 57 of change of life.
Amelia Pringle, wife of Captain Pringle of the Sea Ripple, died as a result of confinement on board and 'was put in a zinc case with rum, slung from the cabin roof and so brought to harbour'.
Richard Cove, aged 64, buried 16 September 1864, died of decay - convict - no mourners.
William Carpenter, aged 50, 31 October 1831 - labourer - visitation of God.
Maria Wauhop, aged 49, disarrangement of intestines - immigrant, just arrived.
William Sutton, 50 years, went silly, wandered in the bush and found dead with head in waterhole.
Cecil John, about 40, 6 September 1870, hard living.
South Terrace Primary School
The original South Terrace Primary School was to be established where part of the Fremantle Hospital now stands. This land was part of the convict grant. This site was opposed by the hospital authorities, amongst others, who were anxious 'to retain the splendid sea view'. However the Minister for Education was determined to build a school because they had calculated there were 439 children of compulsory school age north of South Terrace and another 498 under six years old. The Minister got his way and South Terrace Intermediate Government School opened in 1904 using some of the buildings on the hospital site including the town morgue and Coroner's Court.
In 1962 Fremantle Hospital arranged with the Education Department to move the school to the Alma St Reserve. One of the buildings erected in 1912 for the school was used by the hospital for a time as a nurses training area and what had been South Terrace Primary School was transformed into a day centre. Today there are 195 pupils and 14 staff at the school.
Errington, Steve 2017, 'Fremantle 1829-1832: an illustrated history', Fremantle Studies, 9: 15-29 (re the Market St burial ground).Hitchcock, JK 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, FCC.
Lang, Karen & Jan Newman 2004, Wharf Rats and Other Stories: 100 Years of Growing up in Fremantle, FremantlePrimary School.
Liveris, Leonie B. 2009, Monuments and Masons: Cemeteries at Karrakatta Fremantle Guildford Midland, MCB.
Hutchison, David 2007, 'Mystery of a headstone', Fremantle History Society Newsletter, Spring: 7-9. [The stone is in memory of Jane Frances Scott, eldest daughter of Daniel Scott.]
Anonymous article in Fremantle History Society Newsletter, Summer, 1996 (republished above).
Garry Gillard | New: 15 June, 2015 | Now: 15 October, 2020