Prior to decommission in 1991, the 19th century limestone façade of the Gatehouse and the perimeter walls were the extent of most West Australians’ familiarity with the maximum security Fremantle Prison.
In 1854-1855, convict labourers quarried limestone on site in order to build the Gatehouse and entry complex according to Royal Engineer Edmund Henderson’s design. Despite alterations, the function and character of the entry complex ensures that it remains a key element in the prison precinct.
Initial work to conserve the interior of this central landmark, providing entry, café and office areas, was completed in 1995. The 1995 design and management of the Gatehouse project by the Building Management Authority’s Heritage and Special Projects Branch ensured that the adaptation of this significant landmark has retained the cultural heritage significance of the building within the context of the Fremantle Prison. The Gatehouse project was refurbished by the Building Management Authority’s Construction Operations Directorate.
A major restoration of the Gatehouse building took place in 2005, managed by Considine and Griffiths Architects Pty Ltd. The stonework was conserved by building conservationist and master stone mason Antonio Granieri who removed all non original stone render, including hard cement render, faced stone or replaced it. The joinery and cast iron wall grilles were repaired and repainted, and the terracotta chimney pots and lantern replaced.
In 2005 Considine and Griffiths Architects Pty Ltd presented their design for the restoration and upgrading of the gatehouse precinct. The design had its foundation in Kerr’s ‘Fremantle Prison, a policy for its conservation’ (BMA second edition 1998), and ‘Fremantle Prison heritage precinct, the convict establishment, master plan’ (Palassis Architects July 2003). It focussed on improving both the visitor experience and the operation of the gatehouse; including café, ticketing and gift shop, visitor’s centre, prison gallery, waiting area and general presentation of the area. It took into account the management of visiting school groups, adequate accommodation for guides, upgrading of toilet facilities and access to toilets. The intention was for the whole area to become an integral part of an improved visitor experience. A new cafe was built in the former PWD (Public Works Department) Store.
(Currently houses: Fremantle Prison Tour Guides, Prison Gift Shop, Visitor Centre and Convict Café)