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Freshwater Bay Depot


A party of men set up camp on the Fremantle to Perth road adjacent to Bay View Terrace leading down to Freshwater Bay. Allotments of 9.5 acres were surveyed for 20 pensioners around Stirling Road to Butlers Swamp, and cottages were progressively built for them along what was then ‘Pensioners Terrace’ and is now up-market riverfront Victoria Avenue. In 1853, to cope with another surge in numbers, a canvas covered wooden barracks to accommodate 80 men together with four warders houses were sent up from the Fremantle workshops to Freshwater Bay as the camp became a ‘temporary depot’. Limestone cliffs around the bay were quarried for road and building materials. (Campbell 2017: 34)


Although Freshwater Bay did not appear as a detachment in Captain Bruce‘s monthly returns to the War Office until October 1858 (43) some Pensioners had settled there as early as 1851. By this time seventeen lots of approximately 9.5 acres each had been surveyed. These blocks were situated a little distance inland from the river but the grantees (whose names are listed below) also held a half acre block each on the river front.

Andrew Gordon, James McMullen, Michael Stokes, William Finley, Robert Lindsay, James Murphy, Moses O‘Keefe, John Atkinson, Henry Herbert, John Kirwin, Thomas Bandy, Joseph Foot, John Kingdon, Samuel Butterworth, Michael Reddin, Samuel Sutton, Peter Murphy

In addition, John Barrett and Charles Clarke, not listed as holders of the larger grants, held a half acre block each also on the river front. In this area at the present day are situated some of the most valuable properties in West Australia.

The schoolmistress at Freshwater Bay was Anne, wife of Henry Herbert, of the Royal African Corps, an original grantee as will be seen, and another of the first land holders was that Michael Reddin, Pensioner sergeant, who later commanded the detachment at Port Gregory, where he died untimely in 1854.

In February 1858 a deed of grant was signed in respect of the following locations, the owner's name appearing against each:

Perth V93 Robert Campbell
Swan 222, 242 Michael Stokes
Swan 223, 243 Robert Lindsay
Swan 224, 244 Moses O‘Keefe
Swan 225, 245 Henry Herbert
Swan 229, 252 Thomas McMullen
Swan 232, 258 Samuel Sutton
Swan 236, 249 John Atkinson
Swan 237, 250 James Murphy
Swan 238, 280 William Finley
Swan 258 Charles Clarke

From this list, which includes the names of ten of the first Freshwater Bay settlers, it was evident that the passing of the years had brought to the first comers the realisation that the distance of their blocks from a sizable urban area where their produce would find a ready market and their labor a reasonable price, was too great and that a decision to move on to fresh and possibly more fertile fields was inevitable.

At any rate, by the end of May 1860, all the Pensioner settlers had withdrawn from Freshwater Bay, and from that time onward this locality ceased to figure in the Pensioner records.

References and Links

Broomhall, Frank H 1975, The Veterans: A History of the Enrolled Pensioner Force in Western Australia 1850-1880, Hesperian Press.

Campbell, Rob 2017, Henderson & Coy: Royal Engineers & the Convict Establishment Fremantle, WA, 1850-1872, Faculty of Architecture, UWA.

Oldman, Diane, 'Convict Hiring Depots', on her Sappers and Miners website. See also the 'Mt Eliza Convict Depot' page.

Gibbs, Martin 2001, 'The archaeology of the convict system in Western Australia', Australasian Historical Archaeology, 19.


Garry Gillard | New: 10 July, 2018 | Now: 15 November, 2019