Whalers Tunnel canopy taking shape

Adin Lang
3 min readFeb 2, 2022


Construction on the new rockfall canopy at the entrance to the Whalers Tunnel at Arthur Head.

A new canopy to protect pedestrians from the risk of falling rocks is taking shape at Fremantle’s historic Arthur Head.

The rockfall canopy at the western entrance to the Whalers Tunnel is part of the third stage of works to stabilise the severely eroded cliffs at Arthur Head, the site of WA’s oldest public building — the Round House.

The new canopy will be clad in corten steel and have Aboriginal artworks incorporated into the design.

City of Fremantle Infrastructure Director Graham Tattersall said the Arthur Head conservation project has been a difficult and painstaking process.

“This third stage of the project has involved not only constructing the rockfall canopy but also reinforcing the entrance to the tunnel and the cliff face above it,” Mr Tattersall said.

“The limestone cliffs at Arthur Head are severely eroded and unstable, so we’ve had to be extremely careful to ensure the safety of the contractors as well as protect the sensitive heritage of the site.

“It has taken longer than we’d anticipated, but it’s a complicated job and it’s better to take the time to do it properly and complete the works to a high standard.

“We expect the rockfall canopy will be completed by the end of the month, with the Whalers Tunnel to reopen in mid-March once fencing is installed and the site is tidied up.

“We apologise for the inconvenience of having the tunnel closed while these works are carried out, but the end result will be a great addition to the Arthur Head precinct and make the area a lot safer.”

Since 2018 the severely eroded limestone cliffs at Arthur Head have been fenced off due to the safety risk from falling rocks.

In 2020 the City of Fremantle and the state government committed matching funding of $500,000 each for works to stabilise and repair the cliffs.

The first stage was to repair and repoint the imposing limestone wall to the north of the Whalers Tunnel, while stage two involved the extension of the large limestone retaining wall on the eastern side of Arthur Head, adjacent to the railway line.

Planned future stages, including repairs to the limestone walls around the top of Arthur Head, restoring the stairs and the eastern entrance to the Whalers Tunnel and works to repair and conserve the Round House itself, are subject to further grant allocations.

The Round House was the first permanent building in the Swan River Colony and is the oldest public building still standing in Western Australia.

It was built as a jail and opened in 1831, with the Whalers Tunnel added in 1838.

Between 1833 and the 1960s Arthur Head was extensively quarried to provide building material and to facilitate works on Fremantle Port and the railway.

The quarrying left the cliff faces exposed to the harsh coastal environment and has contributed to ongoing issues with cliff instability and erosion.

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