A MAJOR heritage restoration project to preserve the façade of The University of Notre Dame Australia’s 130-year-old Law Library building has revealed its links to the West End of Fremantle’s early mercantile history.
Decades of paint were painstakingly removed to expose the Croke Street building’s cement-rendered frontage, along with hand-painted signage bearing the name of the property’s original owners, J &W Bateman Ltd.
The Bateman family were some of Fremantle’s earliest residents, arriving from England in 1830.
John Bateman supplied provisions for the Swan River Colony until his death in 1855.
His sons John and Walter carried on the family business, becoming the colony’s leading importers and exporters with their own fleet of sailing ships.
By 1893, they owned several buildings in the West End, known collectively as the Bateman Buildings, which are now owned by the university and are clustered together on Mouat, Henry and Croke Streets.
Notre Dame project manager Rachel Loughlin said the Croke Street building was already painted over when the university purchased it in the 1990s.
She said the discovery of the original signage was a special surprise for the restoration team.
“Given the age of the building and its delicate condition, this proved to be a very complicated restoration project, taking some nine months to complete,” Ms Loughlin said.
“We were absolutely delighted when we uncovered the signage and simply amazed how good the condition of it was after all this time.
“It is great to think that our students and the community will now be able to enjoy it for many more years to come.
“We are also delighted with the overall finish of the building, which has been lovingly restored to the way it would have looked in the 1890s when it was being used as storerooms for the shipping operations run by the Bateman family.”
The works were undertaken with the help of a $40,000 grant from WA’s Heritage Council.
Notre Dame student Zoey Huntley says restoring Fremantle’s heritage buildings to expose some of their history helped students to connect with the city.
“I love what they’ve done, because the paint basically wiped out what the building was before it became the Law Library,” she said.