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Robb Jetty Abattoir

Robb Jetty Abattoir

Above: Aerial picture of the Fremantle Freezing Works in the 1920s, with Cockburn Road running along the top right. The chimney is visible in the centre. Image © State Library Victoria.

The lone chimney that stands north of C.Y. O’Connor Reserve in North Coogee was once part of the Robb Jetty Abattoir.

The meatworks served Cockburn and international markets for nearly a century, employing locals and migrants, men and women, through several generations of slaughtermen.

Built in the 1870s, Robb Jetty was originally too short to offload cattle. The animals were pushed off ships that brought them down from the Kimberley and swum ashore with men in boats herding them onto the beach.

Several private abattoirs were served by the jetty and the cattle were pastured in vast paddocks stretching most of the way to Jandakot, as there were no cold storage facilities to keep slaughtered meat fresh.

This new abattoir was plagued with financial difficulties and government bailouts.

A freezing and chilling works was planned, and today’s chimney is a remnant of the original 1921 Fremantle Freezing Works. The State Government eventually took it over in 1942 to ensure meat was produced for soldiers in WWII.

The abattoir was expanded throughout the next decades but grew increasingly inefficient, and the decision was made to shut it down in 1992. All equipment was removed by 1994 and the building was demolished, with only the chimney left standing as a reminder.

Local history questions or anything to add? Please let us know by commenting below.

This article can also be seen on the Cockburn Libraries’ Local History blog.

Further reading: The Robb Jetty Abattoir site : archaeological report for the Heritage Council of Western Australia and the Department of Trade and Commerce held at Spearwood Library.

About The Author

Leah

Leah works as the Reader Services Librarian at Spearwood Public Library, where she orders the books, and takes requests for anything you can't find in the library! She also researches and writes local history articles for the Cockburn Soundings, and for anyone who has a local history question. Comment below to ask Leah a question.

7 Comments

  1. I was interested to see if there was a photographic history of the WAMEWorks. I worked there in the mid 1960’s. The office then was an old house.The fuel pump outside.
    My 18 months or so there were interesting from the point that it was my first full time employment after leaving Hamilton High School.
    I remember some of the names – I met many interesting people.

    Reply
    • Adrian

      Hey Neville,

      I will forward your details on to Leah, who wrote this article. Hopefully she can find some more information for you.

      Thanks.

      Reply
  2. In the late1960s I was involved with the penning and selling of the last cattle shipments sold at the robbs jetty yards. The cattle were large and swung their horns at our legs as we moved along the the auctioneer rail.
    We worked for Dalgety Co
    Auctioneer- E. Garside
    Stockmen- K. Edgar and G. Parslow

    Reply
  3. I worked at robb jetty meatworks in 1976 as a 17 year old.
    Various jobs including the ice works,sheep slaughter floor,in the freezers.
    It was a wild place back in those days,OHS did not exist.
    Best part of the job was the canteen,hot pies on a freezing winters day after being in a minus 30 freezer was heaven.

    Reply
  4. I hope this query is appropriate for this page, as its relating to Robbs Jetty. Would anyone know where I may be able to find info on the Old Stock Route which ran from Midland to Robbs Jetty?
    My grandfather was a stockman, working for Goldboro(?) Mort who drove cattle from Midland/Bellevue holding yards to Robbs Jetty in the 1920’s-30. My mother, 92YO, has always wanted to know where he travelled as she was born in a Midwifes house in Carlisle in 1922. My Grandfather and family where living in a 2 Story House, owned presumably by Goldsboro Mort in Helena Valley. This Homestead is still being lived in.
    The Stock Route would have to have stops where there was fresh water as I thought she said the travelling time was a couple of weeks, not sure.1 Stop n the Carlisle area could have been Tomato Lake.
    I remember as a child, in the 1950’s, living in Bellevue, the cattle wandering past our house. Still being driven by stockmen on Horses to Elders paddocks near the Helena River.

    Any info would be greatly appreciated. thank you.

    Reply
    • Leah

      Thanks for your query, it’s an interesting one!
      I’d suggest getting in touch with the City of Swan Local History Librarian here to see if they have anything more concrete on this, as I’ve not found much about the routes taken by stockmen droving cattle from Midlands to Fremantle.
      I’m not sure about the timing of the route, but I don’t think it would have taken two weeks. One article from 1909 on the subject mentioned that it could take 10-12 hours to get cattle from the saleyards at Midland to the abattoirs at Fremantle, so even with stops for water I would say the journey wouldn’t have been more than overnight. Their main problem was always avoiding suburban traffic and pedestrian areas, and there were some unfortunate incidents involving herds of cattle injuring and even killing bystanders.
      However, the stockmen had other duties to perform with the cattle, such as marking them after they had been sold at auction, and working with the selling agents to get them to the right places after sales, so this could have added to the time taken.

      Cattle being driven in that direction would have come from the Eastern Goldfields and other southern areas of the cattle-farming state, usually during the summer months. Winter months were dominated by the Kimberley cattle trade and the animals were brought down by sea and landed at Robb’s Jetty, so any droving would have gone in the opposite direction then. Later a lot of the transportation was done by train, so that the cattle did very little walking at all.

      Here are a couple of articles about the timeline of cattle from farm to abattoir in the 1930s: When Outback Cattle Come to Market, and The Meat People Eat: A Great Industry

      Reply
  5. many thanks Leah for taking the time to answer my query. I’ll get in touch with the Swan Library and see if they have further info. thanks again.

    Reply

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