AGM/Warders Cottages/Local History Library/J Shed

Fremantle Society AGM, with some Art Deco

Come for a Christmas drink at 6.30 next Thursday 6.30pm at the Fremantle Tennis Club for the Fremantle Society AGM. Meet legendary Vyonne Geneve of the Art Deco Society.

Buy a copy of Vyonne’s Picture Palaces of the Golden West for $59.95 and receive a FREE copy of Fighting for Fremantle (the history of the Fremantle Society worth $35). Proceeds to the Fremantle Society and the National Trust.

Members – Please pay your membership NOW or at the AGM. We have asked three times already. We don’t have rows of volunteers manning desks and telephones to keep reminding people about the membership fees.

Our fees are too low and are not enough to cover the work we do commissioning expert reports and giving you glasses of wine.

Please consider a donation to help fund the work we do.

Local History Library Staff Cut

The Fremantle Society can reveal that Fremantle Council intend to cut the Local History staff in half.

Fremantle’s Local History Library, the best in the state, has been untouchable as the best local history department in the state, and untouchable as an important osurce of information for staff, councillors, developers, and the community. No mayor in history has dared allow the local history library to be pruned or nobbled.

The move of staff out of the administration building while it is demolished and replaced by an utterly unnecessary new $50 million new one, will allow for changes to be made to the number and composition of staff, to suit the ideology of the current council.

It is hoped members will support the Fremantle Sociey in its push for the Local History Centre to retain its two full time staff.

Next Wednesday Council Planning Agenda

Warders’ Cottages:  Wednesday 6 December 6pm Fremantle Council planning committee will deal with the boutique hotel proposal and tavern for 475 people proposed for the 6 warders cottages in Henderson Street bought by the same people who run the Hougoumont Hotel, which extraordinarily sought and won permission for 5 storeys in the West End precinct where only 3 (plus possibly one extra storey set back) are allowed.

The proposal for 475 bar patrons seeks the building of two storey structures in the rear of the gardens CONTRARY TO THE CONSERVATION PLAN WHICH ONLY ALLOWS ESSENTIAL SINGLE STOREY WORKS. The plans have been ticked off by the Heritage Council, which is nothing more than a developers’ club nowadays. That is no reason for Fremantle Council to also ignore the sensitivity and importance of the rear gardens and the conservation plan.

The officers’ report fails to provide a heritage impact statement and assessment, and nowhere is there reference to the fact that the cottages, being of national importance, being nationally listed, and in the buffer zone of the World Heritage prison, need Federal approval.

This was the Fremantle Society submission, which is ignored in the officer’ report:

The Warders Cottages are convict built, rare, and of national importance. They are the only buildings in WA (outside the prison) that are significant enough to be on the Federal Government heritage list.

 Unfortunately the main focus for this development is alcohol (475 patrons). As one conservation architect said: “Imagine Tasmania proposing hotels for the Port Arthur convict site?” The same architect wrote: “The real test should be a carefully researched and considered assessment based on the cultural values of the Convict Establishment as a place, the cottages as significant fabric in their own right, and the townscape qualities of that part of Fremantle.”
The proponent, who somehow was granted a 5 storey approval for the next stage of the Hougoumont Hotel in the West End, where only 4 storeys are permissible, will only buy these cottages if he gets the approvals he wants, so he can easily walk away if there is a refusal.
Just next door, the six Warders Cottages with verandahs have already been sold to private owners. Council policy on venues serving alcohol (DBU6)  ‘does not support proposals which may encourage conflict betwen land uses’.

The boutique hotel proposal for the cottages has merit, because the cottages were residences for 150 years, and giving people access to such authentic places is laudable. But the plans show entry to the second floor via a second storey walkway. Yet the conservation plan (policy 171) clearly states that only: ‘small single storey structures may be acceptable in the rear  yards if they are required for the amenity and practical functioning of the cottages.’ 
The rear gardens of all the Warders’ Cottages are an important part of their significance and magic, despite the brutal clearing of vegetation by the Heritage Council.

 Fremantle Society Submission Comments:

SIGNIFICANCE: The Warders Cottages are the only buildings in Western Australia on the Federal Government heritage list besides the adjacent Fremantle Prison and are thus of supreme importance as rare convict built terrace houses over 150 years old. Council should ensure that the highest standards are applied to this application.
 IMPACT OF PROPOSAL: The idea of a boutique hotel development for these cottages has merit as one way of maintaining their residential use. The cottages have over 150 years of use as private dwellings with their own private backyards, and a major part of the heritage significance of the place lies in the cottages with their conjoined backyards. The question is, how much impact does the current development proposal have on that heritage which was earned over a very long time?
The impact of an 11 room boutique hotel on the fabric of the main building is sensitively managed in many respects, and it is heartening to see the trees retained, though the apparent inability to use the existing staircases because of code compliance issues necessitates a rather clumsy and intrusive upper floor entry. Sightlines to and from the rear of these significant cottages are thus negatively affected.

FOCUS ON ALCOHOL: The applicant is seeking to do much more than just run a small boutique hotel – there is provision for serving alcohol to 475 people. This appears to be an overintensification of the site, however well managed. New owners of adjacent residential warders’ cottages are understandably concerned, and they have every right under current liquor laws to have their amenity and privacy protected.
The size of the proposal leads to a parking shortfall of over 122 car bays and 20 bicycle bays. The applicant argues that the temporary lift on requirement for cash in lieu to be paid in case of a parking shortfall was suspended until September 2014 and that technically it is still suspended and should stay that way because of all the nearby council controlled car parks. But, in recent years council has sold a significant number of its car parks and some have disappeared altogether. Also, a number of recent major development applications are, like this application, focussing on liquor sales, and it appears that Fremantle is heading down the path of becoming less of a place to live, work, and recreate, and more of a “Northbridge by the Sea.”
RECOMMENDATIONS: The Fremantle Society believes:
 a) the intensity of this proposal in terms of patron numbers if excessive and should be scaled back.
 b) this intensity adds too many new physical elements to this significant site and they should be scaled back. 
 c) Council should consider reintroducing cash in lieu payments in order to facilitate provision of parking nearby.
 d) The applicant’s plans show 5 car bays in Henderson Street earmarked for the hotel. If council is going to hand those car bays over to the hotel, a fee, the equivalent of lost parking revenue, should be charged.
 e) The applicant’s report acknowledges the hugely significant vistas in adjacent streets, and thus in William Street, the totally incongruous hotel awning proposed that juts out into William Street should be deleted.
 f) The proposed new blank wall facing William Street should be reduced in impact.
 g) The proposed art works for the 1% for art scheme are for a light show highlighting the building. While this sounds like an advertising campaign to promote the hotel, it has merit compared with the dismal outcomes at other new development sites around Fremantle under the same scheme.
 h) The important original lettering on this building carved into the facade (VR) is bisected by the installation of a downpipe, and this issue should be addressed.
 i)  Any aerials, lift overruns, or plant installation should be strictly conditioned to be not visible from surrounding streets.

J Shed

The controversial liquor outlet at J shed for up to 400 patrons is on the agenda again for Wednesday, with a recommendation for refusal. The applicant’s submission for this liquor application begins  with a laughable graphic showing 14 people enjoying the site without a glass of liquid visible, though there is a single bottle sitting on one table. There are also some children playing with an environmentally unacceptable plastic balloon in this marine related area.

The Fremantle Society Submission on Manning Buildings 135 High Street

(Members who want a full copy of the report with illustrations and maps can send $12 to The Fremantle Society PO Box 828 Fremantle 6160. The $12 covers the printing, binding, and postage  of the report. Alternatively, contact President John Dowson at for a colour pdf by email free of charge) .

Executive Summary

The proposal for the Mannings Buildings at 135 High Street in the Mall seeks partial demolition of the Mannings Buildings, the separation of first and second floors, which have been united for over 100 years, the removal of all existing staircases, works to shopfronts and awnings, removal of various existing walls, and provision of a 1500 sqm brewery.

This is a once in a generation opportunity to revitalise a critically important central city building and in particular to make better use of the underutilised upper storey. This opportunity to get an excellent outcome must not be missed.

Unfortunately, the proposal is brutal in its treatment of heritage elements such as the rear structures, dismissive of the social history of shops like Norm Wrightsons’ Hairdresser, whose business has existed in the same shop since 1933, silent on the 1995 council recommended reinstatement of original verandahs, and does not seek to restore and reuse the former existing Majestic Theatre still in existence there.

This is a major development of a level 1b building, designated as being of ‘exceptional significance’ to the city.  Under council’s town planning scheme, nothing of heritage significance can be allowed to be demolished. A very detailed and careful assessment of this proposal is essential to prevent any loss of original heritage fabric.

The Fremantle Society believes this project should deliver a carefully refurbished heritage building where internal and external heritage elements are respected and kept, where the original verandahs and shopfronts are reinstated, and where important social history like Norm Wrightson’s is celebrated and encouraged to continue in its current location.

The Manning Buildings

Designed by renowned architects Cavanagh and Cavanagh in 1902 in Federation Free Classical style, the collective group of buildings make a bold, confident, and significant contribution to the streetscape. The three shops in William Street (7, 9, and 11) were constructed earlier and had a two storeyed open verandah, rare in Fremantle (see next page). The Majestic Theatre was not opened until 1916 and closed in 1938, becoming the location of the first Coles to operate outside the Perth CBD,  The buildings have housed many and varied tenants over the years, including the famous photographers Izzy Orloff and Charles Nixon.

It is unfortunate that the original verandahs were removed in the 1950s as with many Fremantle properties and that the original shopfronts in most cases have been unattractively altered.

However, the building is listed as being overall of ‘exceptional significance’ to Fremantle and there are many individual original elements remaining on the facade, at the rear, and inside some of the shops.



Given the recent highly controversial Atwell Arcade development by the same developer (Silverleaf’s Gerard O’Brien) just 10 metres from this proposal, extreme caution and care should be taken with this development to ensure that mistakes made there are not repeated here.

One Fremantle architect described the completed Atwell Project as ‘such a tragedy’ with ‘a gigantic loss of original fabric’. The damage to the world famous gold rush roofscapes of Fremantle with the new glass office block, the alterations to the arcade, the lack of restoration of verandahs and shopfronts,  the failure to complete the building as approved, and the failure to complete restoration as promised, are clear warnings.

1) Restoration of verandahs

The developer is not proposing to restore the verandahs of the shops, as he should, yet council spent several years between 1994 and 1999 discussing the issue, and paying for plans to be drawn up with all the detail necessary to encourage the Manning Estate. The detailed plans and files are in the council archives.

As one architect stated: ‘The Mannings Buildings are naked without their verandahs and awnings.’ In particular, the double storeyed verandah originally on 7-9 William Street as shown below, should be reinstated.

2) Norm Wightson’s – Important Social History

Plans submitted show the relocation of this business to Market Street, and the demolition of much of the shop, to facilitate a brewery.

The tenant does not want to relocate. There is enormous social history with this business having being been there since 1933. Only Warren’s Menswear is an older business (1931) in the Manning Buildings, but they are not been asked to relocate and their shop is not being demolished.

The developer wishes to make this shop, which is directly opposite the entrance to the town hall, the entry to his brewery.  Such proximity to the town’s most important civic building is an inappropriate location for such a business. The shop should stay.

The social history of the various shops in the Manning Buildings is highly significant and should form part of the assessment to ensure that any relevant significant fabric is preserved and the story of those businesses told. Such story telling would add significantly to the marketing advantage of the refurbished premises. For example, Swansea Cycles and Motor Co factory was originally at 9 William Street adjacent to Norm Wrightson’s and significant original fabric may still exist at the rear (see image below). Given the current interest in cycling, this heritage is relevant today.

As the WA Historical Cycle Club notes: They started business at 9 William Street, Fremantle, with a small annex at the rear of the shop where they began making their own bicycles using components imported from England

In the first year of trading Swansea made and sold all of 70 cycles. The great Wall Street crash of 1929, followed by the disastrous Depression years actually helped Swansea Cycles, as many people found bikes a great means ofcheap transport that was healthy as well By 1939 Swansea Cycles had expanded to larger factory premises in Newman Street Fremantle, with 5000 square feet of floor space, a staff of 33, and a turnover of more than 1500 cycles a year, as well as trotting spiders and children’s tricycles. There were also branches at Barrack Street, Perth and in Kalgoorlie and Bunbury, with agents throughout the state. 1939 saw the introduction of the top end 4 and 5 Swan models.

3) Facade Works and Shopfronts

a)  Shopfronts: Most of the existing shopfronts have been altered and do not match the significant heritage values of the rest of the building above. This is a once in a generation opportunity to create a high quality shopping environment that will be an attractor for the businesses with distinctive high quality shop fronts which match the heritage values above by recreating the original shopfront configurations.
Some shops currently have roller shutters, which should not be permitted because of the detrimental effect on both the building and the street scene.

In terms of security it should be remembered that smaller paned glass, transoms, mullions and stallrisers are more difficult to break into than large areas of glazing as recently installed by this developer nearby at the Atwell Arcade buildings. They are also cheaper to repair.

b) Cinema Facade: The developer proposes to ‘tuck paint’ the former cinema’s facade  on High Street. The paint should be stripped and a proper tuck pointing restoration carried out.

c)  Electronic Security: all security systems should form an integral part of the design and be located unobtrusively in order not to interfere with any architectural detail.

d) Lighting: Internally illuminated letters or fascias can conflict with the design of historic shopfronts, are
incongruous in heritage areas and must be resisted by council. Full details of the fitting, method of fixing and
luminance should be provided by the applicant. Moving signage, as currently existing on one Manning Building shop (tobacco shop) is not allowed under council bylaws.

e) Materials: Traditional materials should be used. Timber is appropriate as is wrought and cast iron.

f) Corporate colours and styles: Corporate housestyles can seek to have shopfronts and advertisements inappropriate for historic buildings, and may have to be adapted to fit in with the age and character of the building.

g) Original detail: Where possible, original detail should be preserved. The photos below show how the original pediments on the left of the Manning Buildings have been covered over and need to be revealed again.

4) Significant Value of the rear of Mannings Buildings

The developer proposes drastic changes to the rear of the shops, including demolition of significant heritage fabric.

The rear elements of heritage buildings are undervalued, but often have highly significant heritage values with useable and interesting spaces.

Melbourne is world famous through its laneway projects and the rear of the Manning Buildings provide an unusually open and accessible urban space that should be utilised and appreciated, while preserving significant heritage features. Paddy Troy mall is in effect a public street and the streetscape values of this area, especially being unusually so open for an inner city location, should be respected, enhanced, and should form an integral part of any proposed development. In particular, significant heritage features should not be obscured by new works.

This is a rare opportunity to create a unique and authentic inner city urban space that would be of great interest, and a high value commercial attractor.

John Dowson
The Fremantle Society
28 November 2017

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