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Project update

Watch a short video clip on the Warders' Cottages, illustrating their condition prior to conservation work starting.

    Warders’ Cottages, Fremantle (1851 – 1858)

    Captain Edmund Henderson, Comptroller of Convicts, arrived in the Swan River Colony in 1850 to assume charge of Fremantle Prison (Convict Establishment), only to find there was no accommodation for the prison warders and their families.

    The three terraces of Warders’ Cottages were built between 1851 and 1858. Each terrace comprised six cottages, which accommodated two families per cottage – one upstairs and one downstairs.

    The Warders’ Cottages are rare as one of the State’s earliest examples of terrace housing, purpose-built to accommodate public servants. The cottages are associated with the development of the convict establishment, and together with the Fremantle Court House and Police Station, form the western boundary of the original prison precinct.

    From the time the cottages were built, until 1991 when Fremantle Prison closed, the cottages housed prison officers and their families.

    For the following two decades, the cottages were used as public housing until finally becoming vacant in 2011.

    The Heritage Works Revolving Fund started conservation works in 2015.

    Internal paint

    The internal walls were suffering from rising damp and salt efflorescence caused by layers of acrylic-based paint which prevent the limestone from breathing.

    As part of the conservation works, the acrylic paint was stripped from these walls, but it left a dark patina on the original plasterwork. Traditional limewash was not thick enough to cover up this mottled texture.

    To overcome this, an odourless paint made from natural clay was used. The paint provides a matt finish which allows it to look like traditional plaster, while allowing the walls to breathe as a traditional limewash would. 

    Noise reduction

    In order to mitigate the intrusion of external noise, acoustic sash windows were installed behind the original windows facing Henderson Street. The new sash windows match the existing ones in profile and colour, and are fully operational, meaning that both the old and new windows can still be opened.


    The walls of the Warders’ Cottages were built out of solid limestone blocks, approximately 400-500mm thick. As such, there were no wall cavities in which to run new plumbing supplies into the various wet areas. 

    Instead, the plumbing waste and drainage is hidden behind a fixed cabinetry bench in front of the limestone walls and service both sinks and WCs.  Access panels were then fitted to the sides of the benches to allow for easy future maintenance if required.


    As the internal walls of the cottages have significant heritage value, it was not appropriate to chase new lines in which to lay the required electrical conduits to services appliances and light fittings. New electrical supply is provided via wall-mounted conduits, which are then painted to match the wall colour.

    This allows for easy future access and maintenance to the electrical supply, and has helped retain the integrity of the limestone walls.

    August 2016

The final phase of conservation and maintenance works to Warders’ 3 has started. Saunders International, the main contractor, has begun works on site which include:

Repair to back verandahs at Warders' Cottages

  1. Clearing the back yards by removing dilapidated fencing, paving and overgrown vegetation
  2. Removing intrusive vinyl floor coverings and cabinetry
  3. Removal plastic paints from the internal walls.

The overall scope of works included in this phase involves:

  1. Structural repair of the rear verandah
  2. Internal conservation works to cottages 15 and 17  to address rising damp, plaster and floorboard repair
  3. Refurbishing doors and windows to cottages 15 & 17
  4. Sound-proofing
  5. Installing new electrical and hydraulic services
  6. Installing new cabinetry and appliances to cottages 15 & 17
  7. Landscaping works and new fencing to the back yards
  8. Installing a new stormwater system to the back yards
  9. New paving to Market Lane.

Works are due to be completed in October 2016.

    June 2016

    Works are nearing completion at the Warders’ Cottages. The original timber shingle roofs on Warders’ 1 and 2 have now been covered in more durable galvanised steel sheeting. Similar work is nearly complete at Warders’ 3.

    Photo pf galvanised metal roof on Warders Cottages

    Work is underway to paint all joinery at the cottages in a traditional colour scheme, typical of the cottages’ construction period.

    The verandah in front of Warders’ 3 has been reconstructed to match the original plans. It is currently being painted to the same traditional colour scheme as the joinery.

    Warders verandah colour scheme Photo of repaving at Warders Cottages

    Repaving of the front yards of the cottages has started in front of Warders’ 2. During the removal of the later addition concrete slabs in this area, the original spoon drains and flagstone bridges were discovered. Works will see both the spoon drains and flagstones retained insitu.

    March 2016

    Works are progressing at Warders’ 2.  High level joinery, including the rafter ends, window sashes, doors, frames and canopies overhead have been painted in a traditional colour scheme.

    Photo of door painted in traditional colours

    The deteriorated zincalume roof sheeting is being removed to allow for the construction of compliant fire separation walls in the roof space below.  As part of this work, the early roof shingles which have remained insitu since the late nineteenth century have been revealed.  The shingles will continue to remain in place, but will be protected by new corrugated galvanised roof sheeting.

    Photo ofold shingled roof on Warders Cottages Close up photo of timber shingles of Warders Cottages

    Works to the Warders’ 3 verandah are well underway, with the incorporation of the early dwarf limestone wall prepared to support the new timber verandah overhead. The verandah timbers have been delivered to site, with the reconstruction works estimated to take approximately two weeks.

    Photo of dwarf wall at Warders Cottages3

    Deteriorated sub-floor vent grilles were discovered when the concrete slab in front of Warders’ 3 was removed.  New vent grilles have been fabricated to match the original design and will be installed shortly.

    Photo of deteriorated grate at Warders Cottages Photo of new grate at Warders Cottages

    Jan - Feb 2016

    The next round of works at the Warders’ Cottages has been awarded to Colgan Industries. The roofing and joinery works started on site in early January 2016.
    Significant progress has been made on Warders’ 3. The double-storey verandah has been removed, in view of replacement, and all redundant electrical cabling and services have also been removed from the front facades of Warders’ 3.

    WC verandahs on Warders 3

    Recent works to remove the concrete slab under the verandahs of Warders’ 3 revealed the original verandah limestone dwarf wall, along with other items dating to the 1860s. As part of the conservation works, the dwarf wall will be retained insitu and incorporated into the verandah reconstruction.

    WC verandah dwarf wall

    October 2015

    The stone work at the Warders’ Cottages is now complete. This month saw the final touches being made to the repointing of the front garden walls along Henderson Street.
    Other works completed this month included removal of minor areas of paint which had failed to come off in the first few tries.

    Investigating original slab on verandah of Warders' Cottages
    Investigations were undertaken on the verandah slabs of Warders’ Terraces 1 and 2 to see if the slabs were original. This involved making a small cut in the concrete to reveal the area below the slabs. It appears there was an older concrete verandah slab with a crushed limestone base below the existing slab in front of Warders’ Terrace 2. Conversely, the verandah slab in front of Warders’ Terrace 1 appears to be an early or original concrete slab, likely poured and set around 1898.

    September 2015

    Repairs to the laundry block behind Warders’ block 3 are now complete. Previous inappropriate cement repairs were raked out and the joints repointed with lime-based mortar. The damaged top corner of the laundry wall has also been reconstructed.

    Photo of repointed wall

    An inspection of the Warders’ Cottages chimneys found that the slender end chimneys of each terrace block did not comply with the current earthquake standards. While the chimneys are sound, they will be further strengthened with steel supports internally. The external appearance of the chimneys will not be altered and the flues will remain functional.

    The majority of mortar repointing on all Cottages has been completed, with many of the new repairs standing out in contrast to the surrounding mortar and stonework. The new repairs match the original mortar in terms of colour and composition, and will blend into the surrounding fabric once weathered.

    The capping to the Warders’ block 2 front garden walls was removed as it was too deteriorated to salvage. A new lime based cap has now been constructed on top of the garden walls to match the original profile, and will help in shedding water off the top of the wall quickly.

    Photo of new capping on garden walls

    Trenches have now been dug along the Henderson Street Mall to install a stormwater drainage system. The next stage will involve connecting the new downpipes to the stormwater drainage system.

    August 2015

    The removal of paint and previous cement repairs from the stonework was completed on all cottages. While finalising this, it became clear that some of the lintels over the doorways and windows in Warders’ blocks 2 and 3 are badly corroded due to flaking of the steel reinforcement embedded in the stonework.
    Additionally, the northern corner of Warders’ block 3 garden wall was found to have been badly damaged in the past, with much of the corner bogged up with cement filler. Works to rectify these issues are currently underway.

    Garden walls of Warders' Cottages showing severe damage and inappropriate repairs

    To improve onsite drainage, trenches have been dug on Henderson Street Mall in order to lay new stormwater pipes for the Cottages.
    The existing roof sheeting over Warders’ block 2 has been temporarily removed to assess the condition of the rafters below. This uncovered the early timber roof shingles (likely from the 1870s) which are still in place below the roof sheeting. These will remain in situ below the metal roof.

    Photo of original roof shingles found under roof sheeting on Warders' Cottages

     July 2015

    Work started on the front garden walls on Warders’ block 3, ie the terrace closest to Fremantle Markets. A temporary fence was erected in front of the cottages to allow secure access to the front garden walls. The work includes: •    removing previous cement repairs and patching to the front and side garden walls •    providing test panels for repointing and stonework repair to match existing detail.

    Photo of fencing outside of Warders' Cottages stone wall

    June 2015

    Removal of the various surface treatments to the external walls was completed.
    Other work involved finalising repointing to the new and original mortar joints along the front and back of Warders’ Cottages blocks 1 and 2, and starting repointing works to the chimneys.

    Photo of brick chimney on Warders' Cottages

    May 2015

    Work included:
    •    finalising the replacement of deteriorated stones
    •    refacing eroded limestone with a reconstituted mix
    •    repointing raked out mortar joints using a lime based mortar.

    When it came to repointing the mortar joints, it became apparent that the type of pointing was different in various areas of stonework around the cottages. This is possibly because the convicts who built the cottages, and their overseers, came from different parts of the United Kingdom, and brought with them regional variations in the building trade.
    Care has been taken in repointing the mortar joints in a ‘like-for-like’ fashion, so that the authenticity of the stonework is maintained.

    Photo of repointing mortar joint in stonework

    April 2015

    Removal of various inappropriate surface treatments to the external walls started. This involved removing non-permeable paint from the limestone walls, as well as washing away a thin layer of cement render.
    Other works included:
    •    ongoing removal of previous cement repairs and patches
    •    cutting out deteriorated stones and replacing with new to match original
    •    patching the limestone, where exposed by the removal of cement render.

    Photo of work to remove inapproprate surface treatments to stonework

    March 2015

    Conservation work to address critical issues identified in the Warders’ Cottages’ Conservation Plan started, with:
    •    removing verandah sheeting to Warders’ Cottages blocks 1 and 2, to allow scaffolding to be put up. The verandah sheets will be replaced at the completion of the works.
    •    test panels for lime-wash and cement render removal
    •    test panels for repointing and stonework repairs
    •    removing previous cement repairs and patching.

    Photo of work to remove non-permeable paint from stonework

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