Fremantle Park History

Fremantle Park was established in 1879 by a state government grant of 45 acres, followed by £500 which the Town Council used to level and fence a portion of the reserve (Ewers: 66). David Hutchison records that the land was given by to the people of Fremantle by the Governor, Sir Harry Ord, in recompense for taking from the citizens (for the purpose of establishing a railway station and associated facilities) that piece of land known as The Green, which had been reclaimed from the river (it extended roughly from the Customs House to the Railway Station in Phillimore St) and which ‘was the recreational and social centre of Fremantle’ (Reece & Pascoe: 25). At one point the park was called Victoria Park (Dowson 2003: 148).

[The Herald] paid tribute to the townspeople's initiative in reclaiming from riverside marsh at the end of Cliff Street a public recreation area known as the Green, where cricket was played on Wednesday afternoons in summer and the Fremantle Band provided music for dancing of an evening in the rotunda. Nearby was the popular Pier Hotel and town jetty where the first English river steamer, the Lady Stirling, discharged her passengers from Perth. The jetty was also the place where rowing boats could be hired on holidays. The Green served as the centre of the town's outdoor social life and there was a storm of protest (duly reported in The Herald) when the colonial government arbitrarily resumed the area for Fremantle's first railway station in 1879, offering in its place the tract of bush east of Parry Street, henceforth known as 'Bushy Park'. Fremantle's fledgling identity had emerged at the Green, finding its clearest expression in the not always good-humoured rivalry that marked cricket and other sporting matches against visiting Perth teams. Fremantle was developing its own sense of place, an awareness of local differences that reflected a small but cohesive community and its growing confidence. Bob Reece 2012, 'Glimpses of Fremantle 1829-1929', in Paul Arthur Longley & Geoffrey Bolton, Voices from the West End: Stories, People and Events that Shaped Fremantle, WA Museum: 36.

Fremantle Park 1909

Looking South East from the Australia Hotel.
From a post card. In the left background is the Obelisk on Monument Hill. In front of it and slightly to the right is Ivanhoe (1889), the large house on the corner of Ord and High Streets erected for James Lilly. Ellen Street runs across the picture, edged with large houses overlooking Fremantle Park. The old Catholic Presbytery is at the extreme right front next to the Proclamation Tree and Marmion Memorial. In the left foreground is a shingle roofed cottage in Victoria Road, occupied by the Nelson family (J W Nelson was a general carrier). A small tram is on the corner of the Princess May School playground.
Photograph, taken 1909, from the Fremantle City Library Local History Photographic Collection: 1775. (Text from the Library entry.)

What buildings in the photograph remain? Ivanhoe is definitely (and sadly) gone, but the building opposite it, across High St, on the extreme left of the photo, is Lenaville, which was built in 1885 for Henry Blinco (1832-1907), Chief Warder of the Prison. And on the other side of Ord St from Ivanhoe, in High St, may be seen what I suppose started as two pairs of semi-detached houses, and which still exist. The higher (left) one currently houses the Fremantle Multicultural Centre, at 241-243 High St. Two or three of the two-storey houses along Ord St to our right from Ivanhoe are probably the houses that are still there. There will be others: those are all I can spot at the moment. The impressive two-storey building on Ellen St, just to the left of the centre of the photo, is identified in the photo further down this page as Christian Brothers College. I think the building is still there, tho may have been enlarged. The building to the left of it still exists. And CBC is still there, taking up most of that city block.

The town suffered a ... loss of territory in connection with the Park, which originally included the land on which the old Lunatic Asylum (now the Old Women’ s Home) was built, and from thence to Quarry Street, the land between Quarry Street and the present park area being sold to private people and built upon.
How Fremantle lost its much-prized recreation ground, the ”Green,” may be briefly stated here. In the early days the area between Phillimore Street and the river, extending from Cliff Street to Pakenham Street, was shallow water, the present irregular line of buildings along the south side of Phillimore Street marking what was once the foreshore. The townspeople, by constituting themselves ”working bees,” reclaimed the land and planted it with couch grass, creating the old recreation ground that was known as the ”Green.”The people were naturally very wroth when it was proposed to resume that land for railway purposes , but ultimately they were appeased by being granted £500 for improvements to the Park. Fremantle's first railway station was afterwards built on the reclaimed area. It is now the site of the Customs House, Chamber of Commerce and other buildings, the new railway station having been built at the foot of Market Street. JK Hitchcock 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council: 29.

The Park has been a venue for cricket since 1879, football since the 1880s, and tennis and lawn bowls since the 1890s. A new cricket pitch was laid in 1884. In 1887 the Union Football Club moved to Fremantle Park; it became the Fremantle Football Club. The Fremantle Tennis Club was established in 1895, and the Bowling Club in the following year, 1896. The Bowls clubhouse is known as the Samson Pavilion, and was constructed in 1958. The current tennis pavilion dates from 1956.

freo park 1914

Fremantle Park c.1914, looking across a citizens defence bivouac towards Ivanhoe, right of centre in the background. Image from John Dowson, Old Fremantle, UWAP, 2003: 149.

freo park sign

Sign at the end of Barnett St, adjacent to Dr Barnett's house at 13 Barnett St, and at one of the entrances to the Park.

freo park 1940

This is the photograph reproduced on the sign above showing Fremantle Park about 1940.

Looking across Fremantle Park, Ellen Street and Monument Hill from the Bushells Building, Queen Victoria Street. The house in the centre foreground is 13 Barnett Street (1897). Christian Brothers College is the two storied building to the right across the Park. The two houses in the centre, are, at the left, 59 Ellen Street, and 55 Ellen Street. The Monument is in the centre background. Photograph from the Fremantle City Library Local History Photographic Collection: Image Number: 1722. Date taken: c1940. Photographer: I. N. Branson. Location: From Bushells Building. (Text from the Library entry.)

Of the buildings in this photo, 59 and 55 Ellen St are still with us and looking good, and so is 57, mostly hidden by trees in the snap. Dr Barnett's house still overlooks the Park, and has had a conscientious owner since the 1980s. Is the whitish building on the left of the snap the Fremantle Grammar School (Girton College) and Dr Briggs's house?

freo park 1930

Looking north west from Ivanhoe, Ord Street is in the foreground, with the house at 5 Ord Street immediately opposite. Fremantle Park is behind to the left and the Bushells Building (1929), Queen Victoria Street, is in the centre background. To the right are Elders Wool Stores. Photograph from the Fremantle City Library Local History Photographic Collection: Image Number: 3622. Date taken: c1930. (Text from the Library entry.)

freo park 1947

A view of Fremantle Park from the south west showing the tennis courts and Ellen Street in the background. Photograph from the Fremantle City Library Local History Photographic Collection: Image Number: E000010-01. Date taken: c1947. (Text from the Library entry.)

fsnewsletter

Fremantle Society Newsletter November 2007. Source: the FS website.


Some documents on this site

A History of Fremantle Park, David Hutchison, 2009; image version

Tennis Club history

Bowling Club history

Workers Club history

References and sources

Davidson, Ron, Fremantle Impressions, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2007.

Dowson, John, Old Fremantle, UWA Press, Crawley, 2003.

Ewers, John K., The Western Gateway: A History of Fremantle, 2nd ed., FCC, 1971.

Fremantle Park Conservation Management Plan, prepared for the City of Fremantle, 2009, by Heritage and Conservation Professionals, Crawley.
Marcus, Eddie, 'History of Fremantle Park', in Fremantle Park Conservation Management Plan, 2009: 23-48.

Hutchison, David, 'A History of Fremantle Park', 2009; attachments; first draft.

Fremantle History Centre, Fremantle City Library

Reece, Robert & Rob Pascoe, A Place of Consequence: A Pictorial History of Fremantle, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1983.

Silbert, Eric, Dinkum Mishpochah, Artlook Books, Perth, 1981.


Website by Garry Gillard