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Colonial Buildings of Thomson Bay

Rottnest Island
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Unknown
Length: 2.796 miles
Duration: Unknown
Family Friendly

Overview :  Rottnest Island lies off the Western Australian coast, 19 kilometres from Fremantle. The Aboriginal name for Rottnest Island is... more »

Tips:  Visit the Museum and the Salt Store for information on other tours available on Rottnest Island.

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Points of Interest

1. Aboriginal History

Since the beginning of time it has been an important part of Aboriginal culture and spirituality, formed by the Wagyl - created by the Rainbow Serpent in the Nyitting Nyitting and protected by Yrprinri (Caterpillar) Dreaming.

Following European settlement, Rottnest Island was declared "an Aboriginal Establishment" in the Government Gazette of... More

2. Settlement and Recreation Overview

Rottnest Island was surveyed in 1830. A townsite, to be known as Kingstown, was proposed and town lots were offered. The Bay is named after Robert Thomson, who moved to Rottnest Island in 1831, becoming a major landholder, acquiring land for the purpose of farming and salt collection.

In 1839 the Crown resumed all land for the establishment of... More

3. Buildings Materials and Construction Overview

In the 1840s, when a number of the buildings in this guide were constructed, Perth and Fremantle had been settled for less than 20 years. Before the introduction of convicts in 1850 sourcing and transporting building materials and skilled tradesmen was a challenge so the Island's natural resources where used wherever possible.

Limestone was... More

4. Old Mill and Hay Store - Built 1857

This building, along with the General Store (originally a hay store), is part of the complex of farm buildings associated with the Aboriginal Prison Establishment that were built to replace the original 1840s farm structures destroyed by a fire in 1856. The agricultural aspect of the Prison was significant. Several hundred acres of crops of wheat,... More

5. Boys Reformatory - Built 1880-81

The Boys Reformatory was designed by the Public Works Department and built by 1881 through a contract with John Watson who became the first and only Superintendent of the Reformatory.

Prior to the establishment of the institution on Rottnest Island, juvenile prisoners had been incarcerated with adults in the Perth Gaol. The reformatory was not... More

6. The Old School and Chapel - Built 1856-57

This building was originally built as a school, but it also assumed other uses as a social focal point for the Island’s community. Evidence from the late 1880s describes it as being used as a school during the week and a chapel on Sundays.

It is also described as the venue for tea dances and meetings of the Rottnest Island Institute. Following... More

7. The Quod - Built 1863-64

After the fire of 1856, the replacement prison, referred to as the Quod, was not built until 1863-64. (The term 'quod' is English slang for prison). The only entrance into the Quod was on the eastern side. The rooms on either side of the gateway, which face eastwards, housed the Superintendent’s office and provided accommodation for the Warders.

... More

8. Lomas Cottage - Built 1871

This building was specifically built for Fremantle prisoner John Benedict Lomas at the direction of the Colonial Secretary.

Lomas had suffered a mental breakdown and was in his sixties when he was released from Fremantle Prison. He attracted the sympathy of government officials when he could not find suitable employment and uncommon provisions... More

9. School House - Built c.1895

Originally built as the Leading Hand Pilot Crew’s quarters, the cottage became the second school and teachers’ quarters from 1910-1963.

It is one of the early weatherboard, timber stud dwellings in the Settlement. The kitchen, surrounding wall and earth closet are made of limestone.

10. Pilot Crew's Kitchen - Built 1867

Originally this building was a simple one roomed cottage, with a large fireplace at the northern end, a split beam truss roof and timber floor. It was re-roofed with shingles in c. 1876.

The front verandah was constructed in 1907 and two more bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom were added to the rear of the house (framed and clad in timber)at... More

11. Coxswains Cottage - Built 1871

The responsibilities of the pilot service, which was first established on Rottnest Island in 1848, increased as more ships sailed to the growing Swan River Colony. The pilot crew increased in number and more buildings were required to accommodate them.

This building originally accommodated the Coxswain(assistant Pilot) of the pilot boat and... More

12. Pilot Crew's Quarters - Built 1846-1852

The northern half of this building is the oldest section. It began as the first boathouse for the Pilot Service, which was established on Rottnest Island in 1848. Living quarters for the Pilot crew were built above the boathouse later. In the mid 20th century, the building was used by the Rottnest Island Board of Control.

Also known as Board... More

13. Pilot Boat House - Built 1859

This is the second boathouse built on Thomson Bay, the first is below the Board Cottage. The boathouse was constructed with a sentry box on its north side.

A small room was added on the south side of the boathouse some time after 1871 and is referred to as the holding or transit cell and it is thought to have been used to secure prisoners... More

14. Pilots' Quarters - Built 1847

In 1847, Francis Armstrong arrived on Rottnest Island as Moral Agent and Storekeeper. He helped to build his own cottage, however in August 1848, the Governor gave orders for the cottage to be used by the newly appointed Pilot, Captain Edward Back, and his crew. Armstrong moved out to quarters in the lighthouse at the centre of the Island and... More

15. Second Superintendent's House - Built 1848

Construction began on this house for the Prison Superintendent in 1848 when Governor Fitzgerald expressed interest in residing in the First Superintendent’s House.

Captain James Dempster completed construction and this became his own residence until the prison was reopened in 1856.

The building has also accommodated the Island’s Store Keeper ... More

16. Military Barracks - Built c.1844

This building originally consisted of three rooms and was built to accommodate the Prison Guards. The prison was guarded by less than eight soldiers from the 51st Regiment of the British Army at this time.
Later it was modified for Prison Wardens and their families. The building was again altered and extended to the north in 1898 to provide... More

17. First Superintendent's House - Built c.1841

Built as the residence for the Superintendent of the Rottnest Aboriginal Prison this is one of the oldest and most significant buildings on Rottnest Island.

The Prison was closed in 1904 and in 1913 the building was divided into two cottages and used by government officials. Its current use, as holiday accommodation for the general public, was... More

18. Hay Store - Built 1857

The site of the current shopping mall was the approximate location of the Island’s first prison, built c.1840. These buildings included a two storey prison/workshop building, stables, barns and a piggery. A fire destroyed most of these buildings in 1856, but their location is interpreted through modern paving in the Shopping Mall.

Originally... More

19. Salt Store - Built c.1868

Salt, which crystallises on the beds of the salt lakes when they dry up, had been collected by settlers on the Island since the late 1830s. Salt was brought into the Salt Store through doors on the north side of the building and removed through the eastern doors. A tramway between the Salt Store and the jetty (in the approximate location of the... More

20. Governor's Residence

Governor Fitzgerald first expressed an interest in a summer residence on Rottnest Island in 1848 and temporarily resided in the First Superintendent’s House.
His replacement, Governor Kennedy, authorised the building of a new Government House on the Island.

Richard Roach Jewell designed the residence in Victorian Tudor style in 1858.
Jewell, as... More