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Lionel Samson Building


City of Fremantle

Place Number

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31-35 Cliff St Fremantle

Location Details

This place comprises the original Samson Cottage adjacent to the c.1899 Lionel Samson Building.

Other Name(s)

Samson Cottage

Local Government




Construction Date

Constructed from 1835, Constructed from 1895

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents More information
Heritage List YES 08 Mar 2007

Heritage Council Decisions and Deliberations

Type Status Date Documents
(no listings)

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management More information
Category Description
Municipal Inventory Adopted 18 Sep 2000 Level 1B

Level 1B

The City of Fremantle has identified this place as being of exceptional cultural heritage significance in its own right within the context of Fremantle and its conservation is required. It is recommended that this place be considered for entry in the Heritage Council of Western Australia's Register of Heritage Places.

Classified by the National Trust Classified 01 Apr 1974

Heritage Council
Register of the National Estate Permanent 21 Mar 1978

Heritage Council

Statement of Significance

Lionel Samson Building is historically significant for associations with Lionel Samson who arrived in WA in 1829. The place is of historic significance as an example of a commercial building in the Old Port City of Fremantle dating from the gold boom period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The place is a highly decorative example of a commercial building in the Federation Free Classical style that remains substantially intact. The place is a significant landmark in the Old Port City of Fremantle. The place is of social significance as evidenced by its classification by the National Trust.
Samson Cottage has considerable historic significance. It is one of the very few buildings dating from the first decade of white settlement in the Swan River colony. It is also significant for its association with Lionel Samson who arrived in 1829. It is a rare remnant building from the first phase of development in Fremantle. The place is of social significance as evidenced by its classification by the National Trust.

Physical Description

Lionel Samson Building is a three storey building with a basement, rendered and highly decorative building, adjoining Samson Cottage. The façade has a bracketed parapet featuring 'Lionel Samson & Son Pty .Ltd' in stucco beneath, 'Established 1889' appears in the highly decorative pediment. The windows and doors are flanked by engaged pilasters and surrounded by arched and highly decorative stucco above.
Samson Cottage is a two storey rendered and unadorned building with a corrugated iron slightly pitched hipped roof, with zero setback from the pavement. It adjoins the Lionel Samson Building.


Lionel Samson came to Western Australia in 1829, and built a cottage in 1835 on lot 10. He returned to England in 1843 to be married. He and his wife, Fanny, then returned to Western Australia and took up residence in Perth until after the birth of their 6 children, when they moved to Fremantle in 1856.
Cliff St in the 1850s was a busy thoroughfare connecting the sea front jetty with the river. Many businesses were located along the route. The street was paved in 1858 with hand-tolled Yorkshire flagstones by sappers of the Royal Engineers. The job was completed by private contract after the sappers were needed elsewhere. Apparently, convicts were not skilled enough for the job. To meet the expense, dog licences, poundage fees and fines were raised by the Town Trust.
Samson Cottage (35 Cliff Street) was used as a warehouse in the 1870s for Lionel Samson & Son, the State's oldest company. After the death of Lionel Samson in 1878, his widow continued to live in the house until 1888. The house was then leased to a bank, and served as a commercial bank and residence.
A stone building on Lot 9 was demolished in 1891, and a larger office building (Lionel Samson Building 31-33 Cliff Street) was built for the company on the site in 1892 by Sir J. Talbot Hobbs. The cottage, office building and warehouse were burnt in a fire in the 1890s and all were rebuilt. (The fire also engulfed the old Customs Store at No. 40 Cliff Street.) The new building for the Head Offices of Samson Co. was completed in 1898 under the supervision of F. W. Burwell.
Samson Cottage was restored in 1978-79 for use as a museum. NB: The façade "Established 1829" refers to the business, not the building itself. The architect was Kim Stirling, and the work cost $30, 000. Works revealed that the limestone came from Arthur's Head and the bricks were French, used as ballast in the sailing ships. An unusual truss system roof, used in some houses at Rottnest Island, was also revealed. The museum was on the first floor and a cinema was installed on the ground floor for wine appreciation, in association with a cellar. The cinema featured old seats from His Majesty's Theatre, Perth. This place received a Fremantle Award.




Name Type Year From Year To
Kim Stirling, 1979 conversion to museum Architect - -

State Heritage Office library entries

Library Id Title Medium Year Of Publication
998 Interiors project: Lionel Sampson and Son Pty Ltd 31 Cliff St Report 1992
11848 Conservation plan for Samson Buidings Fremantle Western Australia Heritage Study {Cons'n Plan} 2020

Place Type

Individual Building or Group


Epoch General Specific
Original Use RESIDENTIAL Two storey residence
Present Use COMMERCIAL Warehouse
Present Use EDUCATIONAL Museum
Other Use COMMERCIAL Insurance Building
COMMERCIAL Shop\Retail Store {single}
Original Use COMMERCIAL Shop\Retail Store {single}
Other Use OTHER Other
Present Use COMMERCIAL Other
Original Use COMMERCIAL Office or Administration Bldg

Architectural Styles

Victorian Georgian
Federation Free Classical

Construction Materials

Type General Specific
Wall RENDER Smooth
Wall STONE Limestone
Wall BRICK Rendered Brick
Roof METAL Corrugated Iron

Historic Themes

General Specific
PEOPLE Famous & infamous people
DEMOGRAPHIC SETTLEMENT & MOBILITY Immigration, emigration & refugees
OCCUPATIONS Commercial & service industries
DEMOGRAPHIC SETTLEMENT & MOBILITY Land allocation & subdivision

Creation Date

30 May 1989

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

21 Mar 2019


This data is provided by the City of Fremantle. While every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of this data, the City of Fremantle makes no representations or warranties about its accuracy, reliability, completeness or suitability for any particular purpose and disclaims all responsibility and all liability (including without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages (including indirect or consequential damage) and costs which you might incur as a result of the data being inaccurate or incomplete in any way and for any reason. Under no circumstances should this data be used to carry out any work without first contacting the City of Fremantle for the appropriate confirmation and approval.