The city of Fremantle has played an important role in the history of Western Australia's courts. In fact the colony's first murder conviction was handed down in Fremantle's first courthouse, then located at Arthur's Head (at the western end of High Street).
The small courthouse building, constructed of limestone and with magnificent ocean views, was located adjacent to the left of Fremantle's distinctive landmark, the Round House (built by the colony's first civil engineer Henry Reveley in 1831).
The original courthouse served the colony until the mid 1880s when it was demolished and replaced by the building at the corner of Marine Terrace and Mouat Street, known locally as the "old courthouse". JJ Harwood and Sons built this classic-style building which was designed by Captain R E Wray in 1884.
The Henderson Street courthouse and police station were originally a number of buildings designed by Captain E Y L Henderson and built by convict labour in 1850 under the direction of J Manning (Clerk of Works) to house military guards, Sapper Instructors (Royal Engineers) and prison warders.
In 1897, they were redeveloped into the courthouse that was used for more than a century. Built during the economic boom of the gold rush, the Henderson Street courthouse was classified by the National Trust as an outstanding architectural example of the convict period in both design and workmanship.
The current Fremantle Justice Complex was built at a cost of $15m, and opened for business on the 9 April 2001. It provides not only a spectacular new home for the court and Community-Based Services, but for the first time in more than a century, the ability for jury trials to be held in Fremantle.
A substantial investment in art, and a wealth of technology are just two of the factors that contribute to make this new millennium building a notable addition to the history of Fremantle courts. The futuristic pale brick and glass design took the top honour at the 2001 Royal Australian Institue of Architects awards, winning the George Temple Poole Award for the best building overall, as well as one of three commercial awards
The Fremantle Justice Complex provides not only a superb Holdsworth Street architectural landmark, but ensures quality access to justice for the cosmopolitan city of Fremantle - well into the next century.
Last updated: 1-Sep-2015
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