Fremantle Stuff > organisations >

Water Police

The Water Police station is now at the end of Harvest Road, North Fremantle, adjacent to Harvey Beach, on Point Direction.

An older building of office and four dwellings is at the commencement of Marine Terrace, facing what is now Esplanade Park.

The first WP station was in Cliff Street just to the north of the Whalers Tunnel.

Michelle McKeough writes (2000) that it can be seen in the 'bottom right corner' of Stout's c. 1864 photograph above.
Hitchcock, writing in 1929, recalling 1869, does not mention a Water Police station at that location:
Descending the steps from the Round House we will wend our way up the old time High-street taking the northern side first. The first buildings were the Police Station and constables’ quarters, located close to the tunnel and on both sides of the street. These were old fashioned structures, and in these days would be considered too primitive for even a bush township.

Hitchcock 1929:
Formation of Water Police
The water police force was organised in 1852 and continued as a separate body until it was amalgamated with the land forces after the opening of the new harbour. The water police of the old days were a fine type of men selected with great care from an always overloaded list of applicants. Being mostly young seamen with an ambitious turn of mind many of them took advantage of the opportunities their occupation afforded them to study the art of navigation. The sea-carrying trade of the State at that time was maintained entirely by sailing vessels and some members of the force graduated from water police constables to master mariners. Hitchcock 1929: 37, 39.

Writing in 1919, Hitchcock mentions the Residency in these terms: '... the house still stands in which lived the Superintendent of Water Police, the late Mr. John F. Stone, who represented the Government on board the S.S. Georgette (Captain M. O’Grady), when that steamer carrying an old cannon and about 50 military pensioners armed with ‘Brown Bess’ rifles, and under the command of Major Finnerty, gave chase to the American whaler Catalpa, in which the Fenian convicts escaped to America in April, 1876.

Hitchcock 1919:
... The only other buildings in the Cliff-street of that day [1869] were the Water Police Station and quarters at the corner of Marine-terrace ; these were practically rebuilt in later times, but were used for their original purposes until the recent disbandment of the water police, or rather, their amalgamation with the land forces. The water police of those days were a fine body of men, selected with great care from an always overloaded list of applicants. Being mostly young seaman of an ambitious turn of mind many of them took advantage of the opportunities which their occupation afforded them to study the art of navigation. The sea carrying trade of the State at that time was carried on entirely by sailing vessels, and I can recall the names of the following who graduated from water police constables to master mariners : Patterson, of the Sea Ripple; Godfrey, of the Laughing Wave; Cornford, of the Bungaree; Reid, of the Belle of Bunbury; Owen, of the Dawn; Shepherd, of the Dolphin; and Davis, of the Dania; the first three were foreign-going vessels, and the others coasters. The superintendent of the water police was Mr. J. F. Stone, and the coxswain was Mr. William Brown. The latter built and conducted the Pier Hotel after his retirement from the force. With the opening of the river harbour in 1897 the glory of Cliff-street began to fade. The Customs House, Post Office and shipping offices moved nearer to the new centre of gravity, and the old street now lacks the business air that pervaded it in the eighties and early nineties.

References and Links

Hitchcock, J.K. 1919, 'Early Days of Fremantle: High Street 50 Years Ago', Fremantle Times, one of a series of articles on 'Early Days of Fremantle' publ. 21 March - 20 June 1919.

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

McKeough, Michelle 2000, Rescues, Rogues and Rough Seas: 150 years of Water Police in Western Australia, WA Water Police, Fremantle.


Garry Gillard | New: 27 November, 2015 | Now: 11 March, 2021