By 1928 Fremantle's High Street was lined with busy merchants, family cars and pedestrians displaying inter-war fashions.  014501PD SLWA.<br>

High Street, 1928
By 1928 Fremantle's High Street was lined with busy merchants, family cars and pedestrians displaying inter-war fashions.  014501PD SLWA.
Walking the West End

Dr Shane Burke

Dr Shane Burke leads the archaeology program at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

Fremantle’s west end has changed over time. Thirty years ago before the America’s Cup defence it was shabby and industrial – utilitarian, but seen better days. Today, despite little outward physical change, the area has a different culture. Change is a part of the west end’s character, and this project by archaeology and history students from the University of Notre Dame Australia in the unit titled Unearthing the Past: The History and Archaeology of Western Australia is about documenting this change at specific sites in the west end.

Fremantle is the best preserved late Victorian period British port in the world, but the west end’s ornate architectural style and structures mask the area’s previous uses. Evidence of 1830s to 1880s Fremantle is still there – but under one’s feet – with the remains of the whaling station fronting Bathers Bay, court house on Arthur Head, police station at the beginning of High Street, the Grand Pier Hotel and earlier jetty near Croke Street and private residences discovered in archaeological excavations. The project therefore required upper level students to gather historical evidence – chiefly information from primary sources like rate books, photographs, surveyor’s note books and post office directories – and to document a specific site’s history over time. The concept is two-fold, providing a history of a site, but also providing the essential site context an archaeologist requires before excavation occurs.

Students have discovered that their research proposes more questions about sites than answers. Deep inside the present P & O Hotel built in 1901 at the corner of High and Mouat Streets are walls with many blocked in doors and windows – are they vestiges of the original Victoria Hotel that existed on the site from the 1850s? How old is the north east part of the Fremantle Hotel – 1880s, when it was the residence of William Dalgety Moore and family, or does it extend back to the 1840s when Richard McBryde Broun lived on the site? Join us as we ask these questions and others linked to the people and personalities of Fremantle’s west end.

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Walking the West End