Fremantle Stuff > courthouses. See also: Perth's first courthouse.
There have been five courthouses in Fremantle.
The first (1835) and second (1851) were on Arthur Head, the first on the southern side and the second on the northern side of the Round House. The first courthouse, expanded, was being used in 1869-70 a residence for harbourmaster Croke. It was repaired in 1877, with a verandah, added to in 1895, and demolished in 1828. The second courthouse was also converted for accommodation in 1888 before being demolished in 1904 in favour of pilot cottage no. 9.
Arthur Head, 1860s, photo by Stout. The first courthouse, top left, was renovated and expanded after 1851 to become accommodation, and was the harbourmaster's house from 1869. The building in the middle with the flagstaff behind is the Round House, with the first lighthouse to the right rear. The second courthouse (1851) is top right. The Whalers Tunnel beneath Arthur Head was completed in 1838, paid for by Daniel Scott and under the supervision of Henry Reveley, who also designed the Round House, which was built by Richard Lewis.
'Swan River' was established as a colony for free settlers in 1829. Convicts did not arrive until 1850. The first permanent building to be constructed was the Round House, a gaol, completed in 1831. Later, two courthouses were built close to the Round House but neither now stands.
Officially opened in July 1835, the first courthouse was a two storey whitewashed building with stepped parapet walls on the north and south faces, sited south of the Round House. Only a year later, repairs were already required. Henry Willey Reveley, the colony's civil engineer, wrote to the Colonial Secretary in 1836 stating that the stone taken from the water's edge was of such poor quality that the building had "settled" and that the walls required protection from rain. He suggested covering the whole building with weatherboards and shingles using prisoner labour but stated: "the unity of the building ... would be destroyed". Soon afterwards Reveley wrote to the Colonial Secretary and suggested an alternative; the roof could be battened, shingled and extended over two faces of the building to protect the stone. A tender was advertised and this work was done. When Hillman surveyed the headland in 1838, he measured the courthouse as being 44 links (8.7 metres) by38 links (7.48 metres).
In 1851 an advertisement was placed in the Inquirer calling for tenders for "The intended alterations ... to the present courthouse" and to build a new one. Probably these alterations were to convert the first courthouse into accommodation for harbour staff. Colonial Secretary's Office records for 1869 and 1870 indicate that the first courthouse was being used as a residence for Harbour Master Croke. They contain details of the poor condition of the building. One letter from Croke states: "owing to heavy rains, the house and walls are saturated with water". From correspondence and photographs, it is evident that by 1877 the building had been repaired, an extension added to the western face and a verandah built around the upper floor.
The Harbour Master's house was added to again in 1895 for a total cost of £419 ($838). The additions included extensions to the south and west walls. Thirty-three years later, in 1928, a tender was let for the demolition of this building and the Round House. Although demolition of the Round House was stopped soon after commencing, work continued on the Harbour Master's residence. Archaeologists located its remains under the lawn in 1987.
The second courthouse was built north of the Round House in 1851. Similar to the first courthouse, it had two storeys with a staircase running up the east and north walls and another on the west wall. In 1853 Austin, a surveyor, measured it as being 45 links (9.05 metres) by 41 links (8.24 metres)
In 1869 the Resident Magistrate wrote to the Colonial Secretary stating that the building needed '(whitewashing, colouring and painting". he also complained that the roof leaked and that the "steps heading to the courthouse are much in need of repair". The Clerk of Works at Fremantle recommended that the roof be shingled by contractors, using "she oak of the best description" and that the steps be repaired using convict labour.
Correspondence between Croke, the Harbour Master, and the Colonial Secretary's office in 1869 indicates that the basement was divided by a wall and that his office was on one side, with a "dead house" (morgue) on the other. He complained that when there was a body in the dead house, his office was "unbearable" and that the "residents of [his] quarters felt quite sick from the stench".
After 1881 the second courthouse was converted to quarters for the "Harbour Master's crew" (pilots). It was then used for a short time around 1885 for "Engineers ... at work in connection with harbour works, surveys, etc.". In 1888 the West Australian carried an article which read as follows. "The old courthouse on the Lighthouse Hill Fremantle, has been renovated and reconstructed into comfortable quarters for the use of the pilot crew from Rottnest when they are compelled to stay overnight in Fremantle."
The building was demolished in 1904 to allow for the construction of cottage 9, built to house pilot crews following the demolition of quarters on land west of the Round House, which became a defence reserve. Remains of the second courthouse can now be seen under the front verandah of cottage 9.
City of Fremantle
This information sheet and the reports on which it is based were prepared by David Wood. The reports are available for inspection at the Fremantle Library.
The third courthouse, 1884, still exists, in Marine Terrace. It is now part of Notre Dame University Australia and is used by the Law faculty for moots. First photo from Google Maps Streetview; second from Fremantle Library.
The fourth, from 1899, also still exists and has only recently fallen into disuse. It's at 45 Henderson St and is part of the former police station complex. The buildings were renovated, and then sold to Silverleaf in 2016. Karl Bullers, co-owner of the National Hotel, will be the publican. Photo by Gnangarra, from Wikipedia.
Part of the former Fremantle police complex with the courthouse on the left. Taken from the Henderson St carpark by Derek Graham for Google.
The fifth is almost across the road, at 8 Holdsworth St, and is a modern building. Photo from Google Maps Streetview.
See also: Henderson St Police Station.
Conole, Peter 2010, 'Policing the port in early colonial times', Fremantle Studies, 6: 12-28.
Conole, Peter 2015, 'Courtly things', FHS Newsletter, Winter: 9-10. [on William Mackie and the first JPs in 1829]
Notes in Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle Society, about the third courthouse: Vol 2 No 6 1974 , October 1994.
Wikipedia page for the Fremantle Police Station complex
Heritage Council page for the same (but the link is broken)
Garry Gillard | New: 21 June, 2015 | Now: 23 January, 2021