Fremantle

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Fremantle is a major Australian port city in Western Australia, located at the mouth of the Swan River. Fremantle Harbour serves as the port of Perth, the state capital. Fremantle was the first area settled by the Swan River colonists in 1829. It was declared a city in 1929, and has a population of approximately 27,000.

The city is named after Captain Charles Fremantle, the English naval officer who established a camp at the site on 2 May 1829. The city contains well-preserved 19th century buildings and other heritage features. The Western Australian vernacular diminutive for Fremantle is Freo. The Nyungar name for the area is Walyallup.

History of Fremantle

The area was considered as a site for possible British settlement in 1827, when Captain James Stirling, in HMS Success, explored the coastal areas near the Swan River. His favourable report was welcomed by the British Government, who had for some time been suspicious of French colonial intentions towards the western portion of Australia. As a result of Stirling’s report, Captain Charles Howe Fremantle of HMS Challenger, a 603-ton, 28-gun frigate, was instructed to sail to the west coast of Australia to establish a settlement there.

On 2 May 1829, Fremantle hoisted the Union Flag in a bay near what is now known as Arthur Head, and in accordance with his instructions, took formal possession “of the whole of the West Coast of New Holland” in the name of Britain’s King George IV.

Western Australia Day (formerly Foundation Day) is observed on the first Monday in June, although it was actually on 2 June 1829 that Captain James Stirling on the Parmelia arrived with Surveyor-General Roe and the first contingent of immigrants to set up the Swan River Colony. The settlement of Perth began on 12 August 1829.

Captain Fremantle left the colony on 25 August after providing much assistance to Stirling in setting up the colony. It was then that Stirling decided to name the port settlement “Fremantle”.

In early September 1829 the merchant vessel Anglesea grounded at Gage Roads, at the mouth of the Swan River. She did not break up, as had been expected, but instead survived to become Western Australia’s first prison hulk.

On 1 June 1850, the first convicts arrived at Fremantle aboard the Scindian. The thirty-seventh and last convict ship to dock at Fremantle was the Hougoumont on 10 January 1868, signalling the end of penal transportation to Australia. Among the 280 convicts on board were 62 Fenian military and political prisoners—members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood—six of whom managed to escape the Convict Establishment in the Catalpa rescue of 1876. During this period, notorious South Sea pirate Bully Hayes lived in Fremantle with his fiancée Miss Scott, daughter of the Fremantle Harbour Master.