Fremantle Stuff > West End > Cliff Street (See also Cliff Street history.)

Cliff Street

North to south. Click on any image to see a larger version.


Cliff St used to lead at its northern end to the north or river jetty, while the south (sea) jetty was at its southern end.

Goods to be transported from ships to Perth had to be taken along Cliff St to be put on small boats for the river part of the journey, as ships could not enter the river until 1897.


The postal address of Fremantle Ports building is 1 Cliff St.

The unnamed driveway at its entrance is in line with Cliff St and could at a stretch be considered to its continuation, but to all other intents and purposes Cliff St now ends at Phillimore St.

However, it should also be pointed out that it used to extend right to the river and to the North Jetty there, as seen above.


Dalgety Building, corner of Cliff and Phillimore Sts. Architect: J.J. Talbot Hobbs. At the north end of Cliff Street. This handsome building was erected in 1902 for the merchants and shipping agents Dalgety & Co., and is associated with the Bond Store at the rear. J J Talbot Hobbs was a distinguished army officer during World War I as well as a leading architect, achieving the rank of Lieutenant General. He was knighted in 1918.
Dalgety and Company was a major shipping agent and stock and trading firm. In 1927 the firm sold the building to Elder Smith and Company, who remained owners until 1982, and it became known as Elder’s Building. World War II saw it taken over by the Australian Navy as its administration and intelligence headquarters. It recently housed the Norwegian shipping company, the Wilhelmsen Line, owners of the Tampa, which was involved in the rescue of refugees from a sinking vessel near Christmas Island in August 2001, which became a major political issue at the federal elections later that year. This building is one of the most intact in the West End. The entrance lobby off Cliff Street has a handsome jarrah staircase and panels of pressed metal on walls.
It is now the property of the Mediterranean Shipping Company.


Next to the Dalgety Building, at 11 Cliff St, is a new building designed by Murray Slavin for the Mediterranean Shipping Company, who ship containers. They are also in the Dalgety Building. The Slavin building is now the main entrance to the whole thing.

See photographs of a tour.

phillimore chambers

The building on the NE corner of Cliff St with Phillimore St is Phillimore Chambers.

6 Cliff

Atlas Chambers, 6-8 Cliff St. On the right is the 1986 garden courtyard of the Fremantle Hotel, which is on the corner of Cliff and High Sts.

This building is of unusual design for this part of Fremantle, with its window awnings and a pair of tall pyramidal roofs. The awnings and roofs were tiled at one stage, possibly in place of shingles. This gave them a heavy appearance. The tiles have been replaced with corrugated iron. The site was owned by the Helpman family from 1855 to 1881. From 1880 to 1882 a printer, James Pearce, leased buildings on the site, and in c. 1882 W.F. Samson bought the property and used it as additional premises for Lionel Samson & Son. From 1901 it was let to Margaret Currie and a Miss Smith who ran a boarding house and restaurant there. The Samsons sold the property to the Municipal Tramways in 1903, which, thirty years later, became the Fremantle Municipal Tramways and Electric Light Board, which continued to own it until 1951. It was then acquired by Elder Smith and Company and leased to Robert Laurie and Company. It was sold back to Lionel Samson and Son in 1968.

union bank

The building on the NW corner with High St is the former Union Bank building, no. 4 High Street. Architects: Robertson and Inskip (Melbourne). The first building on the site, on town lot 5, was Captain Daniel Scott's residence. The Union Bank of Australia purchased it in 1881 and operated in it until the present building was constructed in 1889. The monogram ‘UB’ can be seen above the doorway. The Church of England bought it in 1930 for use by the Flying Angel Mission to Seamen. The Seamen’s Chapel, next to it, was built in 1937 and functioned until the 1960s; it was deconsecrated after 1966 when the church sold the former bank building and moved to new premises in Queen Victoria Street. It is now Notre Dame building 32: Arts & Sciences. NDU has preserved the name of a previous occupant on top of the door, and on the corner first-floor window: G. S. Murray, Customs Brokers.

wf samson house

On the SW corner with High St is an NDU parking area, with the remnant Liebler Building facade on the Cliff St frontage. The corner was the site of a house which was the residence of Mayor W.F. Samson 1881-1700. The house apparently dated from about the late 1850s and was demolished by Elders who put a metal shed there for the storage of wool. The story of the site is told by the Fremantle Society in its newsletter for August 1991. Another photo of the house features on the cover of the special newsletter of 2000.


Hotel Fremantle, 6 High St, on the NE corner with Cliff St, lacking its corner turret and flagpole, like the P&O Hotel. This was designed by Wilkinson & Smith and built in 1898-99 for Bacon Forrest Co. At the rear, part of W.D. Moore's house survives, converted for use as a kitchen. During the defence of the America’s Cup, the hotel was headquarters for the New Zealand team, with Steinlager on tap. At that time application of a heavy surface coating masked the texture of the limestone and detail of the stucco mouldings. It lacks its original corner turret and flagpole. The garden area to the north was created in 1986. It is now the NDU Chancellery and includes, I believe, the staff club.


The Bank of NSW building, at 7 High St, on the SE corner with Cliff St, was designed by Wilkinson & Smith, and built for the Bank on land owned by Pearse and Owston in 1899. On the south-east corner at No. 7 High Street. This was constructed for Captain W M Owston in 1899, and he operated a branch of the bank there until 1916-17. It has a superb carved jarrah ceiling, typical of the sober opulence of older banks. On the top of the facade are scallop shell mouldings, a decoration found on other buildings in the West End.
The building was fully leased to NDU when it was sold in 2014. Now NDUA Comms Lab and offices. See also: Wikipedia page.


Facade (only) of the Liebler Building, at 21-29 Cliff St. Nos. 21-29. The building was also known as the Reckitt and Colman Building and is believed to have been constructed in the 1880s or 1890s for the Samson family. The facade was to be demolished in 1967 but, due to two Fremantle identities—Alec Smith, then owner of the Fremantle Hotel, and the cartoonist Paul Rigby—it was saved.
In 2018 it was renovated, with the doors and windows openings restored.
The site behind the facade is a car park, tho NDUA has plans for a building there.


A pair of semis, private dwellings at 16 and 18 Cliff St: the worst houses in the best street.

At least one is rentable accommodation.

31 Cliff

Samson Building, 1892, 31 Cliff St. Architects: J.J. Talbot Hobbs (1892), F.W. Burwell (1898). Lionel Samson, who arrived in the colony on the Calista in 1829, is believed to have been one of the first three people to take up allotments in Fremantle in September 1829, when surveys were completed. In that year he was granted a spirit merchant’s licence and began to operate a wine, spirit and grocery business in a small cottage. He was the acting postmaster in 1830. During a trip to England in 1842, he married Fanny Levi, whose grandfather founded the London Stock Exchange. His son, W.F. Samson, took over the company after his death in 1878, and the business remained in the family’s hands until recently. Possibly no other business in Australia remained in the one family on its original site continuously for nearly 200 years. The original cottage and an office building were destroyed by fire in the 1890s. W.F. Samson commissioned the architect J.J. Talbot Hobbs to design a new warehouse and premises which were built in 1892. The building was extended six years later, to a design by F.W. Burwell.
Part of one of the original buildings, 'Fanny Samson's Cottage', survived the fire and now houses a company museum.

33 Cliff

'Fanny Samson's Cottage'. One of oldest houses in the state and used by the same family for more than a century and a half. The imposing building to the right is the Samson Building which was built in 1892, after a fire destroyed most of the original house and office that had been on the site. However, part of this original building survives and houses a Samson museum.

22 Cliff

The McDonald Smith Building, 22-32 Cliff St, has had various owners, including Vincent, James Lilly, and Tompkins and Co. The Vincent Family rented a cottage and warehouse on the site in the 1870s and 1880s. The buildings were acquired by Captain Lilly for a time, and it was owned by J.E. McDonald and Smith from 1961 until the 1970s and then Tompkins and Company took it over as their general store. The building was designed, as Cliff Street Chambers, by architect Herbert Nathaniel Davis. To the right: Lilly's Building, 1896, 34-42 Cliff St, also designed by architect Davis, now mostly private dwellings; then NDU's Tannock Hall of Education, named after the first VC. This stands where the Pier Hotel was once.

Between 32 and 34 Cliff Street is a laneway which has a name and is possibly a gazetted street. It is called Mary Lilly, after James Lilly's wife.


Lilly's Building, 34-42 Cliff St, completed 1896, designed by architect Herbert Nathaniel Davis. There was a stone house on the site as early as 1844. Captain James Lillyacquired the property in 1880 and operated a business there. He was known as the 'Father of Western Australian Shipping', as he operated the first regular mail service between Western Australia and the other states, and was later manager of the Adelaide Steamship Service Company and co-founder of the Fremantle Gas and Coke Company. An earlier two-storey building was demolished to make way for the existing building in c. 1894. Lilly died in 1903 and the property was managed by his executors. The building was bought by the City of Fremantle in 1973, and demolition was scheduled. Public pressure from the Fremantle community and a National Trust of Australia (WA) covenant enabled it to be saved. It was bought by Peter Grace in 1977 and used as an art gallery for two years. Renovations for this purpose were carried out by Grace and architect Richard Longley. Part of the building is used for residential accommodation.
Tannock Hall (NDU) is on the NE corner of Croke St. On the SE corner is yet another of those carparks where once a fine building stood - in this case the Cliff St post office, built 1889, demolished 1955.
The next buildings, the Water Police Station and Quarters, are on the corner of Marine Terrace.


Elder Shenton & Co Building. Architects: J.J. Talbot Hobbs (1903), Allen & Nicholas (1957). At Nos. 37-45 Cliff St, on the corner of Croke Lane. The site featured a number of buildings from as early as 1868. One of them housed the Fremantle Literary Institute and Working Men's Association. George Shenton bought the site in c. 1881 and had new offices and a warehouse constructed on the site in 1883. In 1896 he commissioned the building of a new two-storey facade along Cliff Street for existing buildings. In 1903 a new warehouse and cellar were built, the former designed by J.J. Talbot Hobbs. The upper part of the facade of the building was removed c. 1925 and four separate buildings on the site were amalgamated. Renovations were designed in 1957 by Allen & Nicholas and, in 1992, the upper storey was converted into residential apartments. The offices of the local newspaper the Fremantle Herald are also housed in it. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Pier Hotel directly across the road.

47 Cliff

Buildings of the Imperial Convict Establishment, built 1852, 1894, 1896, 1897, occupy all of the space on the west side of Cliff St between Croke Lane and Marine Terrace. The central portion is the oldest. Worth noting are the mail slot under a window to the left of the main entrance, showing the use of this part of the building as a post office, and the flagstones in front of the doorway. These would have been imported as ballast and to use to construct pavement. They were damaged by gas workers in about 2010.

Garry Gillard | New: 28 September, 2014 | Now: 14 April, 2020