Roof reno rumble

THE renovations of the old Fremantle Boys’ School have been labelled “a desecration” with its roof of shingles replaced by sheet metal that would look at home on a new tilt-up in Ellenbrook.

High Street cobbler Robert Bodkin (right) appealed to Freo council, the building owner, to “stop work on a very important piece of history that visually is suffering a major change to its integrity in having its roof changed to zinc alum corrugated steel”.

“This to my mind is vandalism of the highest order… the people who are the caretakers of this historic city have no idea of heritage and its enhancement and importance.”

Council heritage coordinator Alan Kelsall responded “the works are being undertaken in accordance with good conservation practice”.

He says the existing tiles are not slate, as many believe, but asbestos cement and they’re being replaced with galvanised corrugated steel sheeting. It might look shiny now but “it will however soon oxidise to a duller finish”.

• The new roof at Fremantle Boys’ School. Photo by David Bell

• The new roof at Fremantle Boys’ School. Photo by David Bell

Mr Kelsall says the old school was built in stages, most of it between 1898 and 1911 and notes it did originally have sheet-iron roofing, so it’ll look like it did in the World War 1 era.

Heritage guardian John Dowson says a better option would be to go with the original material.

“From 1854 the original building had timber shingles and should still today have timber shingles.

“Yes, timber shingles are expensive and need replacing after some years, but replicas in appropriate materials would capture the character.”

Mr Dowson says the treatment of chimneys and their bright white new mortar are “alarming… ugly, and dominating”.

He says the school is “arguably the most important heritage building in Fremantle”. It’s not as old as the Round House, but is a more substantial building “and represented something positive like education instead of incarceration… it is, or was, a gem”.


Melissa Parke 10x3

Leave a Reply