Geelong – a brief history

The Geelong region and much of the south western parts of Victoria were home to a large tribe of Australian natives called the Wathaurong but with the arrival of the first Europeans in 1802 their full blooded numbers of our original inhabitants began to decline.

Today a large number of words and names from the original Wathaurung aboriginal language are preserved in the place names and street names within the Geelong region. Anglicised, though they may be, we now treasure names such as Moorabool, Gheringhap, Malop, Moolap, Corio, Geelong, Barwon, You Yangs, Bellarine, Colac, Beeac and Birregurra.

Although there has been some proof of Dutch visitors before him. Matthew Flinders was the first known European to visit the Geelong region back in 1802. He came ashore and explored parts of the region including the You Yangs.

The next visitors were explorers Hume and Hovell crossing overland from NSW in December 1824. Local natives told Hume that the bay was called “Jillong” and the land “Corayo”. Somehow, over the years, the names have been reversed.

In 1838, the “Town of Geelong” was pronounced with a population of 545, the survey showed a hotel, general store, church and a wool store

By 1841, Geelong was sending wool to England, it had its own newspaper (the Geelong Advertiser- still going today) and a regular steamer service to Melbourne. By 1851, it was the fifth largest town in the colony and a busier port than Melbourne.

In 1852 the gold rush started which dramatically expanded Geelong’s importance. Its population increased twenty fold. However, the restrictive sand bar at the entrance to Geelong’s harbor and the publishing of a “false map” by the merchants of Melbourne to show its false closeness to the Ballarat gold fields eventually saw it fall behind.

Geelong became the wool capital of Australia, with its busy ports and waterfront Woolstores.

Major manufacturing companies came to the region, like the Ford Motor Company, which commenced its company on Geelong’s waterfront in 1925 close to where the Ford Discovery Centre stands today, before building its first Australian factory in North Geelong.

In later years, Alcoa, Vehicle component manufactures and Shell Oil Refinery boasted Geelong’s economy.

Now as we enter a new century- Geelong is thriving with a new bustle, its long forgotten waterfront being transformed into one of the finest precincts in the land and the largest population growth and highest confidence levels the region has seen for many decades.

Richmond

Richmond, 3 km. east of Melbourne, has been a residential, industrial and residential, and latterly a more residential, suburb. Its western boundary, Punt Road, adjoins Melbourne city and its eastern boundary is the Yarra River, across from leafy Hawthorn. The river curves around to form Richmond’s southern boundary, opposite South Yarra and Toorak. The northern boundary, Victoria Parade, adjoins Collingwood. Richmond was named after Richmond Hill, London. Like its London counterpart it has Kew close by.

Richmond has a prominent hill on its western boundary, known as Richmond Hill but also as Dockers Hill. It is surmounted by four church spires. The land falls away to the river in the east, to the Collingwood flat in the north and to the flat land of Burnley n the south.

Richmond was subdivided into allotments of about twelve hectares by the government surveyor, Robert Hoddle, in 1839. Most were purchased speculatively. Richmond Hill was occupied by Farquhar McCrae (surgeon, suburban speculator) and Joseph Docker. McCrae subdivided his land into smaller allotments in a couple of years, but Docker’s land, from Punt Road to Church Street, backing up to Richmond Terrace, was not all sold until the 1860s. He donated the land on which St. Stephens Anglican church was built.

The main easterly thoroughfare through Richmond was Bridge Road, which crossed the Yarra River to Hawthorn by a punt (1843), and later a bridge. A settlement named Yarraberg was formed, north of Bridge Road and east of Burnley Street, in 1853. It is one of Melbourne’s oldest industrial areas, although at the beginning it was a mixture of villas, tanneries and brickworks. David Mitchell, father of Nellie Melba, began a brickworks there in 1852.

By the mid 1850s Bridge Road had an established retail and service strip between Punt Road and Church Street. Swan Street was slightly less developed, but the Whitehorse Hotel’s outer structure (1849-55) still stands at 250-252 Swan Street.

In 1856 the entrepreneur George Coppin purchased the area known as Cremorne, forming Cremorne Gardens. When the railway entered Richmond two branches diverged from Richmond station on the west side: one went eastwards through Burnley to Hawthorn and the other through Cremorne to South Yarra. Cremorne later became industrialized, the premier landmark being the Rosella jam and sauce factory.

Three church primary schools were opened early in the 1850s: St. James Catholic school (1850) in Abinger Street, off Church Street; St. Stephens Anglican school (1851); and the Wesleyan school (1853), still standing at the rear of the Wesleyan church of the same year at 300 Church Street. Anglican and Presbyterian schools were opened at Cremorne in 1857 and 1862, and a National School in Lennox Street in 1858.

Wesley College Football Teams c.1908

School football teams. Wesley College, c. 1908
(Image courtesy Tony Davies, London. U.K.)

Some notable citizens built in Richmond. Robert Hoddle’s “Millewa” and speculator William Highett’s “Yalcowinna” were incorporated in the Bethesda and Epworth Hospitals in Erin Street. George Coppin moved to Richmond Hill, next to James Henty (son of Portland pioneer, Thomas Henty), who built “Richmond Hill”. Both properties fell to the Pelaco shirt factory.

By 1865, when Richmond’s population was about 11,000 persons, it had bridges across the Yarra to Hawthorn and Prahran (at Church Street), and a private lunatic asylum on the former Cremorne Gardens. There were four tanneries, several quarries (Burnley), wool-washing establishment and forty hotels. The town hall had been built, Richmond having been made a municipality on 24 April, 1855. The Australian Handbook, 1875, described Richmond as –

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During the 1870s and 1880s Richmond underwent industrialization and residential intensification, mainly in the form of workmen’s cottages. In the 1860s it was estimated that there were 4,000 Catholics in Richmond, and the completion of the St. Ignatius church gave Richmond its most prominent landmark. It also proclaimed the importance of Irish Catholic influence in Richmond’s municipal politics and parliamentary contests for the next eighty years.

Tram services were opened in Bridge Road and Victoria Street in 1885 and 1886. State primary schools were opened, four between 1874 and 1878, and two more (Richmond North and Burnley) in the next decade.

By the turn of the century Richmond gentility had retreated. The ill-drained southern area near the Yarra River was a haven for slum landlords’ pokey dwellings. The reality of impoverished householders contrasted with the standard descriptions of Richmond such as the one in The Australian Handbook in 1903 –

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An exception to the picture of industrial servitude was the Bryant and May match factory (1909) in Church Street. By 1928 the factory provided its employees with dining and recreation rooms, tennis and basketball courts, gardens and a bowling green. Along with other large factories such as Bosisto’s eucalyptus and Hardings crumpets, Bryant and May also gave slap-up Christmas parties.

Smaller factories, however, were usually not so generous. Another landmark was the Wertheim piano factory in Bendigo Street, subsequently the Heinz tinned foods factory (1935) and the GTV9 television studio (1955).

Richmond’s premier retailing landmark is Dimmey’s store in Swan Street. Built in 1907, the clock tower and the copper ball on top (1908-16) are widely recognised. Despite business failure in the early 1990s through a costly merger with Forges of Footscray, the Dimmey’s name has been retained in the refloated drapery business.

Like its neighbour, Collingwood, Richmond Football Club has fiercely loyal supporters. The “eat ’em alive” club known as the tigers had won ten premierships by 1997. It joined the Victorian Football League in 1908.

The slum abolition movement completed its first project in 1941 when it built on the land which had been leased to John Wren for the Richmond Racecourse. Consisting mainly of clinker-brick duplexes the estate is between Bridge Road and the GTV9 building, and its street names commemorated Richmond councillors. A high-rise public housing project in north-west Richmond, between Church and Lennox Streets, was completed during the 1960s. It later became part of the housing area occupied by immigrants from South East Asia, which signalled the transformation of the Victoria Street shopping strip to a predominantly Vietnamese business area.

The Richmond Town Hall and surrounding areas have contained significant elements of social history and material culture. Until the 1980s the Town Hall area had the police station, a post office, Richmond baths and oval, a technical school (1926), a girls’ high school (1926) and a primary school (1875). The Town Hall was the scene of intense contests between the Labor and Democratic Labor parties, the scene of Labor-dominated municipal politics and it was the venue for meetings of trade unions. Family dynasties ruled the council and monopolized council seats, got friends and relatives council jobs, and were finally defeated by an enquiry into election rigging (1981). Reform-minded candidates contested municipal election after the Council had a spell under a State-appointed commissioner. Physically the area changed with the closure of the three schools near the town hall, but a nearby open-air Saturday morning street market continued, providing cheap fruit and vegetables for the locals.

Richmond High School was opened in 1920 in a silvan site beside the Yarra River, looking across to Hawthorn’s historic St. James precinct. The girls’ high school near the Town Hall was transferred to the high school, amidst much acrimony, and renamed the Melbourne Girls’ College. In 1982 Richmond had six State primary schools plus one in Yarra Park, next to its border. Ten years later there were three. One of the primary school sites, along with the second technical school, had been converted to a TAFE.

There are three Catholic schools. Two of them, St. Ignatius primary and The Vaucluse Convent secondary school for girls, are on Richmond Hill, adjoining the ecclesiastical neighbourhood which is a conservation area on the Register of the National Estate.

Between 1961 and 1991 the population of the Richmond municipality declined by about 11,000 persons to just under 23,000. Previously crowded family cottages were purchased by couples and a degree of gentrification entered Richmond. The change was reflected in house prices and the revitalization of shopping strips, particularly Bridge Road. Clothes-conscious young residents and bargain-conscious shoppers made Bridge Road the factory-seconds shopping capital of Australia. Eateries also traded well. Victoria Street scarcely had a non-Vietnamese shop sign, and attracted locals for food stuffs and others wanting a well-priced Vietnamese meal. Jesuit Publications, not out of place in Victoria Street in a Catholic Vietnamese community, began publishing an influential monthly in 1991, named after its back lane, Eureka Street.

Between 1986 and 1996 the median house price in Richmond went from 93% of the median for metropolitan Melbourne to 136%. This remarkable change, however, contrasted with the fact that 60% of Richmond’s children were in families on a welfare benefit or classed as working poor.

Richmond’s public open space is mostly in its southern and eastern areas. Its football club headquarters are in Yarra Park in neighbouring Melbourne. The eastern-area parklands are described under Burnley.

Richmond municipality’s census populations were 7,071 (1854), 23,405 (1881), 40,442 (1911), 35,213 (1954) and 22,789 (1991).

On 22 June, 1994, Richmond city was united with Collingwood and Fitzroy cities to form Yarra city.

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Wertheim Piano Factory, Bendigo Street, Richmond, Later the GTV 9 Studio. Postcard dated 1912

Further Reading:

  • “Copping It Sweet, Shared Memories of Richmond”, City of Richmond, 1988.
  • McCalman, Janet, “Struggletown: Public and Private Life in Richmond 1900-1965”, Melbourne University Press, 1984.
  • O’Connor, John and Thurley, “Richmond Conservation Study, Commission of the City of Richmond”, 1985.
  • Stirling, Alfred, “Old Richmond, The Hawthorn Press”, 1979.

Collingwood

Collingwood, an industrial and residential suburb, is 3 km. north-east of Melbourne. Its western boundary is Smith Street, Fitzroy, and its southern boundary is Victoria Parade.On its east are Clifton Hill and Abbotsford, both included in the former Collingwood municipality. It was named after Admiral Lord Collingwood, who fought at Trafalgar.

Along with Fitzroy, Collingwood was subdivided in 1838 into allotments each of about 12 ha. At that time both districts were generally known as Collingwood, although the Fitzroy part was differentiated by being known as upper Collingwood or Collingwood west.

It was the elevated part, as the land falls away to a plain about 200 metres east of Smith Street, otherwise known as the Collingwood flat. Storm water drained from the elevated part along today’s Alexandra Parade and thence south-east from Smith Street to near the Victoria Park football ground into the Yarra River. The entry to the Yarra was a swampy area.

Buyers of the 12 ha. allotments set about further subdividing them for resale, and by 1854 nearly all but the swampiest parts were cut up. Settlement intensified after the gold rushes, and the area was exempt from building control laws, which encouraged the concentration of cheap houses on small blocks of land. The flat topography made subdivision easy. Increasing urbanisation in elevated Fitzroy increased storm water run-off, and east Collingwood was frequently flooded. The impervious subsoil caused stagnant sheets of water. Calls for drainage were neglected by Melbourne City Council, which had jurisdiction over Collingwood. On 24 April, 1855, Collingwood became a municipality. It was called East Collingwood until1873, when it was proclaimed a town.

Between 1856 and 1860 primary schools were opened by the Methodist, Independent, Free and Catholic churches. Collingwood’s early civic and commercial centre was in Johnston Street, which was a route to the eastern suburbs via the bridge (1857) over the Yarra River. A town hall and police court were built on the site now occupied by the TAFE.

The Yarra River on Collingwood’s east attracted industry. In 1840 John Dight hewed out a mill race through the basalt rocks in the river near where the Merri Creek joins it. He operated a mill for flour making, with varying success. A more productive use was harnessing the water for wool washing. Local councillors advocated the repeal of laws for Yarra River water purity, arguing that effluent from noxious trades was merely an addition to the sewage from Fitzroy and the Collingwood flat.By 1857 the Reilly Street drain (now under Alexandra Parade), had been built,and discharged into the Yarra with reasonable efficiency except when over-filled with storm water or brewers’ waste. The purificationists struggled against the advocates for “unlocking the Yarra”, to provide employment for workers after the gold boom.

Beginning in the 1860s several churches built their future permanent structures: St. Phillips Anglican Church, Hoddle Street(1863-1969); the Methodist Church, Hoddle Street (1874); St. Georges Presbyterian Church, Wellington Street (1859) and the Baptist Tabernacle, Sackville Street(1878). Practical help for Collingwood residents was provided by Doctor Singleton from his dispensary, Wellington Street, 1869-1932, later becoming a Council health clinic. In 1875 The Australian Handbook described Collingwood as –

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The reference to drainage and health was more a preoccupation with the problems than their solution.)

On 14 January, 1876, Collingwood became a city.

During the 1850s Wellington Street was the busiest commercial strip, but it was overtaken by Smith Street which ran into Queens Parade and drew custom from Northcote and Heidelberg. By the 1870s Smith Street was a major retail thoroughfare, by when Mark Foy had opened his drapery store which was the forerunner of the Foy and Gibson retail empire.

A tram service from the city to Smith Street was opened in 1887, adding to Smith Street’s regional shopping role.

Train services to Collingwood were not of much convenience to its resident workers. No direct connection to the city was available for some time, the line being an indirect one which ran from Heidelberg via Fitzroy, Carlton and North Melbourne to the city (1888). Consequently residents’ employment was concentrated in local factories. Footwear, hats and garments were locally made in large quantities. Collingwood’s famous John Wren (tote operator and sporting entrepreneur) was a boot clicker in his early working life.

The Collingwood Football Club was founded in 1892, formed from the Britannia Club. It joined the Victorian Football Association in 1892 and was one of several which broke away to form the League in 1897. A forerunner of the Britannia Club played in 1880 in an area near the Reilly Street drain.


Victoria Park, Collingwood, c.1910.
(Image courtesy Tony Davies, London, U.K.)

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Advertisement for T.W. Sherrin Sporting Goods, c.1904.
(Image courtesy Tony Davies, London, U.K.)

Collingwood municipality’s population nearly doubled between 1871 and 1891 to 35,000 persons. The town hall was transferred to more opulent premises in Hoddle Street in 1885. Small houses proliferated.South of Alexandra Parade there were fifteen houses per acre compared with about half that density in neighbouring Clifton Hill. Outside of Melbourne,the Collingwood area was Victoria’s biggest brewing centre. The Fosters Brewery (1888) in Rokeby Street generated nearly a monopoly in bottled beer and the Yorkshire Brewery, Wellington Street, was noted for the brick brewing tower which still stands. In 1903 The Australian Handbook described a mature Collingwood –

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After 1890 Collingwood’s population stabilised.Some old shacks were demolished for factories, an example being the Foy and Gibson’s factories and Gibsonia woollen mills east of Smith Street.A train service direct from the city to Collingwood was opened in 1901,opening Collingwood’s factories to a wider workforce. A tram also ran along Johnston Street from 1887 to 1939.

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Johnston St, Collingwood, c.1910.
(Image courtesy Tony Davies, London, U.K.)

Collingwood gained a reputation for working-class culture and tenacious support for the local football team. It continues to maintain a high level of club membership. Between 1902 and 1936 the club won eleven football premierships, including an unbeaten four in a row in 1927-30. The club also gained an agreement for undisputed use of the Victoria Park oval, formed on Dight’s Paddock by the council.

In 1877 the non-Catholic primary schools closed when the State school was opened in Cambridge Street. State schools were opened in the neighbouring localities of Abbotsford (1877), Clifton Hill (1874 and 1891) and Victoria Park (1889). A technical school was opened in Johnston Street in 1912 on the former town hall site. The Catholic primary school, originally in Ryrie Street (1859) continued in Otter Street and St. Joseph’s boys’ technical school in Nicholson Street continued until the 1990s when it was leased for a Rudolf Steiner inner-city school campus.In 1915 a school of domestic economy was opened in Vere Street, becoming a co-educational high school in 1968 and the Collingwood Education Centre in the 1970s.

In 1949, when Collingwood was regarded as industrial working class, The Australian Blue Book described the municipality as –

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The Victorian Housing Commission built numerous estates in outer suburbs in the postwar years, encouraging an exodus of residents from inner suburbs. The inner suburban cottages were taken by postwar migrants. Greek and Italian migrants accounted for 8% of Collingwood’s population in 1954, 21% in 1961 and 27% in 1971. Fifteen years later residents born in Europe and Asia were 23% of the population, and those from south-eastAsia 8.2%. In 1958 the Commission moved into Collingwood, demolishing cottages near Johnston and Hoddle Streets. Three-storey blocks were built, and later twenty-storey blocks (1967-71), for over 2,000 people. They almost halted the municipality’s population decline, but it was renewed by the mid 1970s.

The population decline lessened the local catchment for the Smith Street shops, and the growth of Bourke Street, Melbourne, since Sidney Myer opened there in the 1920s, eroded Smith Street’s regional shopping role. G.J. Coles and Company started its first variety store in Smith Street in 1912, and left there when variety stores were superseded by Kmarts and supermarkets. The density of subdivided land at the rear of Smith Street has discouraged the opening of a drive-in shopping centre, which would probably have drawn patronage away from the strip. The exceptional land parcel is the gigantic suite of industrial buildings once used for Foy and Gibsons garment manufacturing, but some of them are on the Victorian Heritage Register.

By the 1990s Collingwood underwent moderate gentrification. Housing prices reflected the change: in 1987 Collingwood’s median house price was 86% of the median for metropolitan Melbourne, rising to 117% in1996. Abbotsford and Clifton Hill, from higher base figures, behaved much the same. On the other hand, a report in 1997 showed that 21% of Collingwood’s children were in families on a welfare benefit or classed as working poor. Only ten of 57 metropolitan suburbs had more children classed as working poor.

On 22 June, 1994, Collingwood city was united with Fitzroy and Richmond cities to form Yarra city.

Collingwood municipality’s census populations were 10,786 (1857), 23,829 (1881), 34,239 (1921), 25,413(1961) and 13,388 (1991).


Further Reading:

Barrett, Bernard, “The Inner Suburbs: The evolution of an industrial area”, Melbourne University Press, 1971.

“Collingwood Centenary, 1855-1955”, City of Collingwood, 1955.

Hibbins, Gillian M., “A Short History of Collingwood”.Collingwood Historical Society, 1997.

“In Those Days, Collingwood Remembered”,Carringbush Regional Library, 1994.

Taylor, Percy, “Collingwood Football Club,1892-1948”, The National Press Pty. Ltd., 1949(?).

“The Flat and The Hill: Conserving old Collingwood”,Department of Planning and Housing and the City of Collingwood, 1991.

Kew

Kew is a residential suburb 6 km. east of Melbourne, bordered on its west and north by the Yarra River, on its south by Hawthorn and on its east by Balwyn.

In 1840 John Hodgson (1799-1860) took a squatting licence over Studley Park, on Kew’s eastern bank of the Yarra River. Hodgson was born at Studley, Yorkshire (hence “Studley Park”), and his surname became a street name in a subdivision nearby. Hodgson’s “Studley” in Nolan Avenue is on the Register of the National Estate. In 1851 Crown land sales in lots of between 15 and 80 ha. took place in Kew. One of the purchasers, Nicholas Fenwick had his 495 ha. estate subdivided into quarter-hectare blocks with streets laid out. He named the streets after English statesmen (Walpole, Gladstone, etc.), and the subdivision was named Kew, probably because its closeness to Richmond mirrored the relationship between London’s suburbs of the same names. The estate was north-east of the Kew junction, bordered by Princess and High Streets.

Access across the river was provided early in the 1850s by a bridge to Burwood Road, Hawthorn which resulted in Hawthorn being developed ahead of Kew. Nevertheless, two hotels were opened along High Street by 1854, one at the junction and the other, the Harp of Erin, at the corner of High Street and Harp Road. Congregational, Baptist, Primitive Methodist and Anglican churches were opened in 1854, 1855, 1856 and 1858 respectively. The Anglican church opened a school in 1856 and the combined Protestant Churches opened one in 1859. It was replaced by a government school in 1870. Direct access to Kew was gained when the Johnston Street bridge was built in 1858.

In 1856 the Boroondara Road Board District, comprising Kew, Hawthorn and Camberwell, was proclaimed. After Hawthorn in effect seceded from the Board in 1860, Kew acted likewise later in the year and was proclaimed a municipality on 22 December. It became a borough on 1 October, 1863.

Some way north of the village, next to the river, a site was reserved for a mental asylum in 1856. The project was delayed and was increasingly objected to by the borough council, but by 1871 the building was completed, becoming the Willsmere Hospital. The Kew Cottages for children were added in 1887. The erection of such institution was somewhat of a contrast to the well-to-do homes built in streets named after statesmen and legal luminaries. In 1875 The Australian Handbook described Kew as –

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In 1878 Kew gained the first of its numerous private schools, Ruyton Girls’ School (Anglican) and Xavier College (Jesuit Fathers), which is on an elevated site with a domed chapel visible from several kilometres away. The Methodists Ladies’ College (1882), Genazzano – girls, Faithful Companions of Jesus (1889) and Trinity Grammar (1902), which absorbed an earlier Anglican high school, are nearby. Later schools, also in the east-west part of Kew between Barkers and Cotham Roads, include the Sacred Heart Catholic school, Carey Baptist Grammar (1923) and Preshill – The Margaret Lyttle Memorial School (1931). In the same east-west part, but closer to the river are Xavier College Preparatory (Burke Hall) and the School of Early Childhood Development, both in former mansions.

The result of this concentration of private school in Kew was that in 1990 the municipality had six government campuses and twenty-eight non-government campuses. The non-government school pupil populations were fifteen times those of the government school populations.

The first public transport service in Kew was a horse tram from the Hawthorn railway station (1876). Ten years later a horse tram service was opened along High Street, from the Boroondara (Kew) Cemetery to the cable tram on the other side of the river. (The cemetery is noted for its elaborate monuments to prominent citizens.) In the same year a railway replaced the horse tram between Hawthorn station and Kew, and the spur line provided an often criticized service until 1957. The line ran along the west side of Xavier College terminating short of the Kew junction. The railway station site was later occupied by the Country Roads Board’s headquarters. Its other station was Barker. Another attempt at providing public transport was the Outer Circle railway from Oakleigh to Fairfield.. It entered Kew at Burke Road, about 500 metres north of Cotham Road, travelling generally north-west to the Chandler Highway bridge over the river. Most of the route is now a linear park. The Kew section opened in 1891 with stations at East Kew, Willsmere and Fulham Grange. It was so unsuccessful that passenger services were ended within two years. Trams proved to be more successful, with services opening along High Street, Cotham Road and northwards along Glenferrie Road to the private schools’ area between 1913 and 1915. The Burke Road tram opened in 1918.

In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Kew, with about four times the population as in 1875, as –

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High Street developed two strip shopping centres, the main one east of Kew junction and the other near the Harp Hotel. A minor landmark near the Harp Hotel, on land formerly occupied by the Outer Circle, is a wood yard. Each year before Winter a metropolitan newspaper can be relied on to feature the yard’s wood pile, acknowledging the preference for a traditional wood fires in Kew’s comfortable homes.

Between 1910 and the outbreak of the second world war Kew’s population approximately tripled. It was proclaimed a town on 8 December, 1910, and a city on 10 March, 1921. There was scope for postwar housing growth, in outlying areas near Yarra Bend Park and around Stradbroke Park to the north-east. Over the road from Kew’s boundary Coles-Dickens opened their first supermarket at the corner of Burke and Doncaster Roads in 1961.

Kew is generously provided with parks. Alexandra Gardens is in the original village and a larger reserve with the cricket ground is next to the cemetery. On a much larger scale the colonial government reserved the Yarra Bend Park and Studley Park (1877) adjoining the Yarra River. Yarra Bend was the site of the first asylum (hence the pejorative expression “gone around the bend”). Both parks retain much of their original bush land, although part of the park in Kew has had an excision for a golf course. (The part in Fairfield on the other side of the river has had larger excisions for a larger golf course, ovals, infectious diseases hospital and a women’s prison.) The scenic Yarra Boulevard (1936) runs through the park. In the north-east of Kew there is Willsmere Park and Hays Paddock, each with a bushland billabong. In Kew North, next to the Yarra River, there are Green Acres and Kew Golf Clubs. They are skirted by the Eastern Freeway.

The shopping centre east of the Kew junction contains a landmark post office and war centograph, passed on either side by tram lines. The congested site saw the postal activity removed – mail sorting to a more functional site and retail sales to a shop. The post office became the QPO restaurant, and is on the Victorian Heritage Register. Willsmere Hospital (also on the Register) was decommissioned and became the Willsmere housing development site in the early 1990s.

The median house price in Kew in 1987 was twice the median house price for metropolitan Melbourne, and in 1996 it was 211% of the metropolitan median. Kew East’s median house price was two-thirds higher than metropolitan Melbourne’s during 1987-96.

On 22 June, 1994, Kew city was united with Camberwell and Hawthorn cities to form Boroondara city. Absorption with Camberwell saw Kew’ civic offices become a customer service centre.

Kew municipality’s census populations were 1,439 (1861), 8,462 (1891), 17,382 (1921), 30,859 (1947), 33,341 (1961) and 27,291 (1991).

Further Reading:

Beardsell, David V., and Herbert, Bruce H., “The Outer Circle: A History of the Oakleigh to Fairfield Railway”, Australian Railway Historical Society, 1979.

Rogers, Dorothy, “A History of Kew”, Lowden Publishing Co., 1973.

Vaughan, W.D., “Kew’s Civic Century”, W.D. Vaughan Pty. Ltd., 1960.

Avondale Heights

The actual name of Avondale Heights was derived from the old name of area between Clarendon Street, Military Road and Brown Street, which was for many years known as Avondale Estate.
The postal area of what is now known as Avondale Heights was previously Maribyrnong West. Some years ago the Council took action to re-name the area. It was agreed that the name of the area now known as Avondale Heights should be called Avondale after the fore-mentioned subdivisional estate.
However, the postal authorities drew attention to the fact that there was a similar town in Queensland by the same name as “Avondale” and in consequence of this, “Heights” was added to the original proposal by Council.

During the 1930’s, when Avondale Heights was known as West Maribyrnong, the district was subdivided into small dairy and cattle farms, with some poultry farming. Some of the families who lived in the area at that time were – Ahern, Duffy, Pearson,, Creegan , Fitzpatrick, Engblom, Johnston, McKenna, Roberts, Grech, Lauricella and Hicks.
Three separate market gardens owned by the Aherns, were rented originally by Chinese farmers.

The area, a plateau above the Maribyrnong River has a superb view of the distant city.
In the 1960’s the area was still dotted with small farms, with a small row of shops, it has grown as a suburb since then.
There is only one main road – Military Road which runs from Canning Street and Maribyrnong Road, then becomes Milleara Road; which has a row of shops about 60 at the Canning Street end and 30 at the other end.

Geological History of the Area

The Maribyrnong River was originally called ‘Salt Water River’, because sea water from the Hobson’s Bay penetrated the river for a considerable distance. The skeletons of a shark and dolphin were found under Maribyrnong Park, while oysters and other marine shells have been found where Steele Creek enters the Maribyrnong. Once the tides of Hobson’s Bay influenced the Maribyrnong as far as Braybrook and Avondale Heights.

Volcanic rocks have determined much of the physical character of the area. Molten lava flowed from active vents and cooled to form sheets of basalt, or bluestone. the flat plains of the Western Suburbs, owe their flatness to these lava flows.

Since the plains of bluestone were formed, the Maribyrnong River has cut through the plain, and it is because this rock was so hard and resistant that the river has such steep banks.

Bluestone from Fowler’s Quarry at Niddrie is about four and a half million years old. This means that rock in the Keilor Plains area belongs to the geologic period called Pliocene.

Aboriginal History

Aboriginal people that lived in the area from before white settlement were the members of the local clans, the Wurundjeri and the Marin-Balluk.

Early Explorations

On their journey of exploration from Sydney to Victoria, Hume and Hovell made their way towards the Keilor Plains, passing over the site where Keilor is today, until they reached the sea near Geelong. They were the first white men to travel over the great plain which sweeps up from Port Phillip to Sunbury.

The Keilor Plains

The Keilor Plains are composed of bluestone rock, which flowed down as molten lava from the Sunbury area towards Port Phillip Bay. the bluestone rock north of the Maribyrnong River ( where Avondale Heights is today) is some of the oldest volcanic rock in Melbourne.

Solomon’s Ford

Solomon’s Ford is at the west end of Canning Street. In 1803, an expedition led by Charles Grimes, the New South Wales Surveyor General, sailed up the Yarra and sent a party in a rowing boat up the Saltwater (Maribyrnong) River. The boat got as far as Solomon’s Ford and could not go any further. Grimes was the first recorded white man to explore the area. The ford was named after Michael Solomon who had a sheep station there. He was one of the first settlers in Victoria.
The first record of European farming interests in the area was in 1835, when Edmund Davis Fergusson and Michael Solomon had a pastoral holding in the Avondale Sunshine area.

Solomon’s ford was the lowest crossing point on the Saltwater (Maribyrnong) River, and was for many years the only way from Melbourne to Geelong and westward.

Canning St Bridge

During World War 1 you had to know a password to cross over the Cordite Bridge, which is now known as the Canning St Bridge. A curfew on the river was imposed at the beginning of World War 2 from 6pm to 6am. A boom was drawn across the water to stop any access.

First Evidence of Humans in the Area

On the 10th October 1940, Mr. James White dug up an ancient human skull, (now known as the Keilor Cranium) on the banks of the Maribyrnong River. This skull has been found to be more than 8,000 years and less than 15,800 years old.

Evidence has been found along the Maribyrnong River that proves that people lived in the area 18,000 years ago.

Animal bones were excavated and sent to the museum where work was done to determine which animals they belonged to, thus it has been possible to learn about part of the fauna of the Maribyrnong River valley during the latter part of the Ice age. Bones of Diprotodon or two-toothed marsupial as big as a Thylacoleo (Marsupial lion), and a Tasmanian Devil larger than the species living now. Kangaroos and wombats also lived in the Maribyrnong Valley at the same time, which was 31,000 years ago according to the radio-carbon analysis on charcoal from the same matrix as their bones.

References:

Jennison, S, 1997, Keilor’s Heritage, Keilor Historical Society, Keilor,Vic; pp72-74

Other information from Sam Merrifield Library Local History Collection

Flemington Racecourse History

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Flemington Racecourse is one of the world’s great racecourses, and is home to the Melbourne Cup. It is one of Melbourne’s four racecourses, the others being Caulfield, Sandown, and, nearby, Moonee Valley. Flemington Racecourse is bounded by Epsom Rd, Smithfield Rd and the Maribyrnong River. Racecourse Rd starts/ends at the racecourse. Today Flemington is a spacious pear-shaped course with sweeping turns and long straight. There is also an integrated 1200-metre straight course, sometimes referred to as the “Straight Six” (because of the old six-furlong measure).

The first “official” race meeting in Melbourne took place in 1838 at Batman Hill (where Spencer Street railway station now stands). From March 1840, racing was moved out of the city to “Saltwater Flat” on the banks of the Maribyrnong River, with meetings held over three days.

The racecourse was set up on land owned by Robert Fleming and the property was used at the time for farming cattle and sheep and running a butchery. According to sources, the property became known as Fleming Town, and this soon attached to the racecourse on it. Today, the Flemington Racecourse site is Crown (state) land, and encompasses 127 hectares (320 acres).

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The first racing club was the Port Phillip Turf Club, but the course was then leased to the Victoria Turf Club in 1848. In the next decade the course was well placed to share in the great expansion of population and wealth in Melbourne and Victoria due to the 1850s gold rush. One can imagine a lot of money earned from digging or mining being won and lost at the course a short time later. The first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861, establishing a tradition that would later see it become Australia’s most famous horse race – “the race that stops a nation”. Winners have included Archer (the first winner in 1861), Carbine (1890, to this day the carrier of the greatest handicap weight of 10.5 stone), Phar Lap (1930), Rain Lover (1968 and 69), and Think Big (1974 and 75). That first Melbourne Cup attracted about 4,000 people, but within 20 years there 100,000 people flocked to see the race, a figure that is regularly beaten today. Today the Melbourne Cup is promoted as part of the Spring Racing Festival which has many of its features races at Flemington. Meanwhile, in 1864, the Victoria Turf Club merged with the Victoria Jockey Club to form the Victoria Racing Club. With the passing of the Victoria Racing Club Act in 1871 the VRC got state approval to legally control Flemington Racecourse.

In the more than 150 years of its existence, Flemington has been transformed from rough paddocks to a world-class facility.The first Secretary of the Victoria Racing Club, R.C. Bagot, for whom the New Years Day Bagot Handicap is named, introduced training facilities and upgraded both public and administration facilities. The Old Members Grandstand was built in 1925, and in 1977, the Hill Stand was completed on the site of the old grandstand and cost $8.5 million. The four-tiered stand is situated opposite the winning post and consequently is the best position to view a race.

A well known part of Flemington was the “Birdcage”, so named in less politically correct times because it became the area where gentlemen paraded their “birds” (lady friends). It was sectioned off from the rest of the course and a fee had to be paid to access it. This lasted until the late 1960s. Today the Birdcage consists of 130 stalls and remains in the same original layout but houses the competing horses. Each horse is allocated a stall by the VRC the day prior to the racemeeting. Before a race, horses are paraded in the Mounting Yard, off limits to all except jockeys, trainers and some officials.

Just over the last five or six years, over $26 million worth of improvements have been made to the racecourse and environs. This does not take into consideration the new Grandstand opened in 2000 and costing $45 million.

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Kensington

Kensigton is a residential and decreasingly industrial suburb 3 km. north-west of Melbourne. It is commonly associated with Flemington, once being in the Flemington and Kensington borough (1882-1906). Its northern boundary is Racecourse Road, the western boundary is Smithfield Road and the Maribyrnong River, the southern boundary is Dynon Road and the eastern boundary is the Moonee Ponds Creek. Kensington contained the Newmarket saleyards and abattoirs, and in its south there are the Dynon Road railway yards and a small area known as Browns Hill east of the railway yards.

Kensington has a substantial low-lying alluvial area on which the abattoirs was built. To the east was Seagull Swamp, now J.J. Holland Park. North of the low-lying area is a basaltic layer, defined by an escarpment at the back of the abattoirs and skirting the swamp to Browns Hill at Lloyd and Radcliffe Streets. Healy’s Point Hotel below Browns Hill has frequently had its cellar filled with flood water.

On 30 August, 1856, a Crown grant was made to the Melbourne City Council for cattle saleyards on the south side of Racecourse Road, Newmarket, and the abattoirs adjoining the saleyard to the south-west. Its most south-westerly boundary conveniently adjoined the Maribyrnong River for the discharge of liquid waste. The buildings were primitive and unhygenic and were replaced by better facilities between 1898 and 1908. Nearby, on the river bank, there were factories for boiling-down, fellmongery, bone manure and glue.

The cattle saleyards opened in 1859, the year before a railway line from North Melbourne to Essendon began operation, with stations at Kensington and Newmarket. Although sheep and cattle were driven to the stockyard on the hoof (and used residential streets as stock routes until the 1950s), the Newmarket railway siding also became active during night hours for holding and delivering stock.

In the mid 1870s Kensington included a small area named Balmoral. Future subdivisions yielded street names with a similar regal flavour, somewhat ironical given the proximity of the proletarian slaughter yards. In addition to the riverside industries there were three tanners, a candlemaker and a chapel with a school. By then moves were made for a State primary school, and the site in McCracken Street was found and the school opened in 1881. Commercial and residential development clustered around Racecourse Road and down beside the railway line. McConnell Street, McCracken Street and Rankins Road had several shops, but Macaulay Road had only Hardimans Hotel and three shops. The school precinct had Wesleyan and Anglican churches, and later gained the borough hall.

Flemington and Kensington borough was formed by severance from Essendon and Flemington borough on 17 March, 1882. The borough hall was opened in Bellair Street in 1902, four years before the borough was amalgamated with Melbourne City Council. The Council had run the saleyards and abattoirs for several years.

Between 1881 and 1890 the State school’s enrollment increased from 230 to 700 pupils, and to over 1,000 before the turn of the century. Overcrowding, classes in shelter sheds or pavilions with canvas enclosures, annexes in church halls and the town hall persisted until the 1920s. The peak enrolment was 1,241 in 1913. It had some notable ex-pupils, including Dr. E. Morris Miller and Hal Porter, who lived in a cottage in Bellair Street with smaller dimensions than described in his “Watcher On The Cast Iron Balcony”.

The abattoirs and saleyards dominated Kensington’s life. Newmarket saleyards became a national barometer for stock prices, growing in throughput for export sales after 1904. The peak throughput for sheep and lambs was 6.45 million head in 1944, and the daily record was nearly 146,000 head in 1953.

The swamp areas were virtually untouched until the Army established an ordnance depot at the back of the abattoirs in 1941. Twenty years later the Housing Commission began filling the margin of the Seagull Swamp with high-rise flats at Altona Street. By then upstream flood mitigation works and pumping stations had lessened the risk of inundation. Known as the Macaulay pumping stations, they are near the Macaulay railway station.

Marauding stock in old Kensington were effectively stopped when a stock bridge from the Newmarket railway siding was built in 1964. Within twenty years, however, there was general agreement that time was up for the saleyards and abattoirs, and the State Government began planning the Lynch’s Bridge project, replacing the stock facilities with housing and open space. (Lynch’s Bridge marked an early crossing place over the Maribyrnong River, joining Kensington to Ballarat road, Footscray.) The project extended to Footscray where the Angliss Meatworks site had similar medium-density housing put on it.

Kensington’s Lynch’s Bridge development marked the first time that open space was sensibly provided, apart from Holland Park. The Macaulay shopping area had been a struggling precinct for generations, and a Council report in 1987 predicted possible further decline from loss of jobs at the saleyards and abattoirs along with the general decline in manufacturing. Medium-density housing and gentrification of the cottages seem to have proved to be its salvation, although not without much-troubled traffic mitigation works to get heavy trucks out of Macaulay Road.

The Holy Rosary Catholic church and school continue to be notable landmarks in Kensington. The dominant red-brick church looking down Macaulay Road was disposed of by the Anglican Church to the Coptic Orthodox Church. It forms part of an interesting precinct consisting of the State school, a former Methodist church and Sunday School hall and an old Anglican parish hall. Kensington Community High School (1975) has found a site in the Lynch’s Bridge housing area.

In 1987 the median house price in Kensington was 70% of the median for metropolitan Melbourne, and in 1996 it was 117% of the metropolitan median.

Kensington’s census population in 1911 was 7,341 persons. Census figures for Flemington and Kensington have been 1,291 (1861), 10,946 (1901) and 12,860 (1991). (The last figure was calculated by Moonee Valley City council, which had Flemington and Kensington within its boundaries following the re-absorption of the district by Essendon city on 1 November, 1993).

FURTHER READING: Breen, Marcus, People, Cows and Cars: The Changing Face of Flemington, Melbourne City Council, 1989. Vincent, Keith, On the Fall of the Hammer: A personal history of the Newmarket Saleyards, State Library of Victoria, 1992.

North Melbourne

North Melbourne is a residential, commercial and industrial suburb immediately north-west of central Melbourne. It is often associated with West Melbourne (in which is situated the North Melbourne railway yards), and the boundary between the two is Victoria Street.

In 1842 the first institution of significance erected in the North Melbourne area was a cattle yard at the corner of Elizabeth and Victoria Streets (now the Queen Victoria Market). In 1851 a Benevolent Asylum was built between Abbotsford and Curzon Streets, straddling Victoria Street and thus partly in North Melbourne. The opening of the asylum coincided with the Melbourne Town Council’s overtures for a new township to accommodate the gold-rush population influx. A site for the township was found by severance from an open-space reserve of 1,035 ha. that had been approved by the Governor of New South Wales in 1845. The result was a smaller reserve – now Royal Park – and a township called Parkside which now comprises North and West Melbourne. Town allotments were put up for sale in September, 1852.

The first subdivision was south of Arden Street and confined by a watercourse from Royal Park running south-west to the West Melbourne swamp (itself a limitation on Melbourne’s expansion until it was drained and filled in 1879). The second subdivision north of Arden Street was in 1855. Both subdivisions sold well and the influx of population was rapid. Churches were established in a few years: Presbyterians in Curzon Street (1852), Catholics (1854), Wesleyans and Anglicans (1858). The Presbyterians opened a primary school in 1856, and their site after several changes of use became the Melbourne College of Printing and Graphic Arts (1950). The school generally accepted as pioneering North Melbourne’s education, however, was opened by John Mattingley and his wife in 1857. Their son, Albert, taught there and went on to open the Errol Street State School in 1874. In 1915 Albert Mattingley wrote of his recollection of North Melbourne when he first arrived there with his parents –

In the early years of the town, the aborigines used to camp and occasionally would hold a corroboree in these park-like lands. Hundreds of parrots and parakeets of beautiful plumage, the scarlet lory being quite common among them, the white sulphur-crested cockatoo with its harsh screaming note, and occasionally the black cockatoo with its weird cry, the kookaburras or laughing kingfishers, with their joyous laugh, magpies with their flute-like notes, mudlarks (grallinas), ground-larks, honey-eaters extracting the nectar from the tree blossoms, scarlet-breasted robins, and many other native birds made melody in the trees ; while opossums and native cats (Dasyurus viverrimus), now very scarce in Victoria, inhabited their hollow branches. I obtained on Kensington Hill the largest native cat I have seen in Victoria. Three kinds of cicadas, generally called locusts, were also found on the trees, viz. the large black, the large green, and the small black kinds. On hot summer days there gave vent to their shrill sounds. Manna in small whitish flakes was found under the trees. It had a sweetish taste, and boys and girls were often seen looking for it.

North and West Melbourne were made the Hotham Ward of the Melbourne Town Council. (Hotham was Lieutenant Governor and Governor of Victoria, 1853-1855.) On 30 September, 1859, the area was proclaimed as the Hotham borough.

By 1861 the borough had a population of over 7,000 people. In addition to the churches and the benevolent asylum, it had numerous hotels, which by the turn of the century numbered over seventy. By then the North Melbourne railway station was a junction for the lines to Sunbury, Williamstown and Geelong, and Essendon. North Melbourne was a working men’s suburb, with employment in local industries and houses within walking distance of work. The male population formed the North Melbourne Football Club in 1869 which became a foundation member of the Victorian Football Association in 1877.
One of the prominent entrepreneurs in North Melbourne was John Buncle (1822-1899), who started his Parkside Iron Works in 1853. His business in Wreckyn Street expanded to agricultural implements and household ironmongery. A founding borough councillor, his name is commemorated by Buncle street.

On 18 December, 1874, Hotham was proclaimed a town and its name was changed to North Melbourne on 26 August, 1887. By the end of the century its period of booming growth had come to a close: the town hall had been built in 1883, the equally imposing Metropolitan Meat Market in 1880 and the Presbyterian Memorial Church, Curzon Street, in 1879.

On 30 October, 1905, North Melbourne town hall was amalgamated with Melbourne city.

In 1890 tramlines ran along the eastern sector of North Melbourne and along a dog-leg route as far west as Abbotsford Street. They traversed the areas of earliest settlement, leaving the more westerly part available for industrial occupation. A gas works was opened in opposite the football ground. The football oval, however, was within walking distance for local supporters who gained a reputation for ardent barracking.

The concentration of population in North Melbourne produced some congested housing conditions. During the 1930s the slum reclamation movement recorded instances of houses in lanes off lanes, in one case receiving ten minutes of sunshine a day. In 1940 the Housing Commission declared a slum reclamation area of two hectares between Molesworth and Haines Streets. War intervened before much physical work could be done, but by the 1960s the Haines Street estate was built and the high-rise estate at Boundary Road and Melrose Street completed. The Boundary Road primary school (1883) doubled its enrolment.

The area around Haines and Harris Streets had received philanthropic attention as an area of need since 1911, when the Free Kindergarten Union and the Methodist Church opened a short-lived kindergarten. It was flood-prone and consisted of small cottages. The contrasting areas of higher elevation and higher status were around Brougham and Chapman streets.

The general pattern of land use in North Melbourne for most of the twentieth century has been general industry along the western (Moonee Ponds) sector and the southern (Victoria Street) sector. Taking North Melbourne as a triangle, the residential sector is along the middle and the third boundary (Flemington Road), extending into the triangle to the gas-works and football ground sites and to the vicinity of the town hall at the corer of Queensberry and Errol Streets. The residential area was well located for walking to work.

In the 1960s about one third of North Melbourne’s land was residential. During that decade self-contained flats increased more than threefold, mostly as Government-owned units.

Because of its proximity to central Melbourne, North Melbourne was affected relatively early in the gentrification process as younger, usually better-off people displaced the postwar migrants. The new population, however, did not have an up-market effect on the Errol Street shopping centre which continued a slow decline in prosperity and variety of outlets. Residents had the nearby Queen Victoria Market for food buying, and Errol Street’s food retailing became increasingly of the take-away kind during the 1980s. It did not achieve the smartness of the Lygon Street eateries strip. A small Housing Commission shopping centre, near the Melrose Street flats, however, maintained an active range of retail uses.

At the turn of the century North Melbourne had three State primary schools and at least two Catholic schools. North and West Melbourne had four State and at least three Catholic. By 1996 only the Errol primary school remained as the surviving State school, but the Catholic school system maintained a strong presence, locally and regionally: the Mercy Sisters St. Aloysius girls’ school (1887), the Christian Brothers St. Joseph’s boys’ school (1903), St. Michael’s primary school and the Simmonds Catholic boys’ college in Victoria Street, West Melbourne.

The Presbyterian church in Curzon Street and the Anglican church in Howard Street are notable buildings and are on the Victorian Heritage Register. For visual display, however, they are outdone by the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral (1963) in the high part of Dryburgh Street. Other buildings on the Register include the Errol Street and Queensberry Street schools, the Metropolitan Meat Market (latterly a craft centre), and the railway station.

The North Melbourne Football, after winning six Association premierships during 1903-18, joined the League and languished near the bottom of the ladder until winning premierships in 1975 and 1977. Another one came in 1996, by when the Club had forsaken the Arden Street oval as its home ground, and the gasometer wing was a distant memory.

In 1987 the median house price in North Melbourne was 19% above the median for metropolitan Melbourne and in 1996 it had risen to 32% above the metropolitan median.

The North Melbourne municipality had census populations of 7,053 (1861), 13,491 (1871) and 20,997 (1891). In 1911 the township had a census population of 17,750.

Further Reading:

  • Butler, Graeme, North and West Melbourne Conservation Study, Melbourne City Council, 1983.
  • Johnson, Ken, People and Property in North Melbourne: development and change in an inner suburb of Melbourne, in the nineteen fifties and sixties, Australian National University, Urban Research Unit, 1974.
  • Mattingley, Albert, The Early History of North Melbourne, The Victorian Historical Magazine, December, 1916, and March, 1917, The Historical Society of Victoria.

History of Windy Hill, Essendon

(Essendon Recreation Reserve)

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Photo: Essendon Football Ground in 1920. The A.F Showers pavilion is where the building stand. The big tree in the foreground was a well known landmark for many years, The horse (left of picture) was used by the curator to pull his mower.

The Changeover to Windy Hill

The Essendon Football Club association with the Essendon Recreation Reserve began in 1921. But before then in 1881 the club did apply for the use of the Essendon Recreation Reserve when they were forced to move from an oval in Kent Street, Ascot Vale. However, Essendon Mayor Cr James Taylor rejected this application on a casting vote because he considered the ground to be suitable only for the gentlemen’s game of cricket. This saw Essendon play their home games at the East Melbourne ground at Jolimont from 1881 to 1921.

In 1922 the shift to the Essendon Recreation Reserve in Napier Street was necessary due to the expansion of the rail yards close to the Jolimont site. The move was suggested to by the City of Essendon Council which announced it’s preparedness to improve the ground by spending over ?12,000 which included a new grandstand, scoreboard and re-fencing of the oval. The transfer also saw a change in the name of the club symbol from “The Same Olds” to “The Bombers”.

At the same time as the club was planning it?s move from Jolimont, there was substantial argument as to whether it should have shared the North Melbourne Football Club ground at Arden Street. It was the Essendon Football Club committees original recommendation for the use of the Arden Street ground as it next home base.

This recommendation was seen as a virtual amalgamation of the Essendon Football Club (E.F.C.) with the North Melbourne Association Club. During the week following the disbanding of North Melbourne, the future of the Arden Street venue was a great talking point and the amalgamation was met with mixed feelings. The general consensus of opinion was that North Melbourne (then a VFA club) should have been admitted to the VFL in it?s own right (which it did so by the start of the 1925 season).

Essendon Councillor and future club president Arthur Showers andmembers of the E.F.C committee who opposed the move to Arden Street had it deemed illegal after the consulting the State Minster for Lands. The E.F.C committee then accepted the Essendon Council?s proposal and made the Essendon Recreation Reserve the home base of the E.F.C by signing a 5-year contract to the ground from 1922 to 1926. This however led to the disbandment of the Essendon Association Club which had played at the venue in the then VFA competition.

A New Beginning

After finishing the 1921 VFL season on the bottom of the ladder (3 wins, 11 losses, 2 draws), the only way for the club was up and the change of home grounds had instant results. A foundation stone was laid for the new grandstand at their first home game in Round 1 1922 at the new venue and the original goal posts from the East Melbourne ground were installed in the ground.

A crowd of 21,000 watched the club play one of their cross-town rivals Carlton, who were runner-up in the competition the previous year. It was a close and see-sawing game with Carlton leading by 7 points at three-quarter time, but in the final quarter the Bombers kicked 3 goals, 7 behinds (25) to Carlton 0 goals, 0 behinds to win by 18 points (11.14. 80 to 9.8. 62).

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Photo: The new grandstand at Essendon in the late 1920’s, later to be known as the R.S Reynolds Stand

By the end of this season, the Bombers had appeared inthe finals series for the first time since 1912, and finished the season in third position. For the next two years the Bombers new found success continued, finishing on top of the VFL ladder and winning back to back premierships. Their success was mainly due to captain / coach Sid Barker and the?Mosquito Fleets? ? the group of Essendon little men who were Charles Hardy, George Shorten, Jack Garden, Jim Sullivan, Vince Irwin and Frank Maher, all between 160 to 167 cm tall.

The Essendon Recreation Reserve was soon nicknamed “Windy Hill” due to the fact that the ground stood on the crest of a hill with no construction behind it but the vast sweep of the Victorian plains. It was always windy and sometimes gale force. When the Victorian winters kicked into full swing the press boxes took the front of the winds and the frozen journalists soon dubbed the ground “Windy Hill”.

In Round 8 1934, the Bombers kicked their highest ever score at the ground by kicking 29.16 (190) to defeat North Melbourne 15.13 (103). The main goal kickers that day were Keith Forbes with 8 and Ted Freyer with 7.

In 1939the Windy Hill ground hit the headlines as the issue of ground and entry charges came to the fore, when the VFL caused an uproar by raising entry charges to the outer by two pence. The league also agreed to deal with the Ground Management Association ? the cartel of ground managing cricket clubs, after an eight-year stand off. The GMA in return gave a pledge that all additional gate receipts would be spend on ground improvements. This didn’t curb the rise in random outbreaks of crowd misbehaviours; such as at the ending to the Essendon – North Melbourne game at Windy Hill when a gang of youths savagely attacked several police outside the ground. Earlier a group of 30 young men had rushed forward to the fence from the top of the embankment and several spectators were knocked to the ground.

Also in this year, another stand was completed and named the A.F Showers Stand in honour of the former club president Arthur Showers. It was built to accommodate about 1,200 spectators. This was to be the last major football stand to be build in Melbourne prior to World War 2.

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Photo: The A.F Showers Stand as it stand today, underneath the stand is the Windy Hill Gym

A Grand Era – Coleman and Reynolds – 1940’s -1950’s

In 1949 John Coleman joined the club and with his first match for the Bombers proved an instant success by kicking 5 goals against Hawthorn in the first quarter of their Round 1 clash that year at Windy Hill. He went on to kick 12 goals for the match in the sides 63 points victory (17.18.120 to 9.3. 57). That year Coleman went on to become the first player to kick 100 goals in a year on his debut season and kicked his 100th goal in the final quarter of their 1949 Grand Final victory over Carlton by 77 points (18.17.125 to 6.16. 52).

The club’s success continued into 1950 when they lost only 3 games of football for the entire season (1 at senior level and 2 at reserve level) and went to win all the premierships at the 3 levels of VFL football. The senior result was again thanks largely to their full-forward John Coleman who kicked 120 goals for the season included a bag of 11 goals against South Melbourne in round 2 and 10 goals against Collingwood in round 11, both at Windy Hill.

Coleman continued to kick more goals at Windy Hill in the early 50’s including 2 more bags of 10 goals in 1953,against Fitzroy in round 1 and St Kilda in round 3. In round 7 1954 he kicked his, and a ground record of 14 goals at Windy Hill against Fitzroy to win by 91 points (22.13 145 to 7.12. 54). However, the following weeks game at Windy Hill against North Melbourne was to be the full-forward?s final match. He had kicked 5 goals in the match until early in the last quarter when he fell awkwardly taking a mark and was carried from the ground with a serious knee injury. Essendon, who were trailing the Kangaroos when Coleman left the ground, kicked 5 goals to none to go on and win the game despite playing the remainder of the match with 17 men. Coleman never played again and finished up having played 98 games for Essendon and kicked 537 goals. He later went on to coach Essendon from 1961 to 1967 guiding the Bombers to 2 premierships in 1962 and 1965.

Also during the season of 1950, the first grandstand at the ground was finally named and titled “The R.S Reynolds Stand” in honour of the club great Dick Reynolds who retired as a player from the club the previous year after playing what was then a record 320 VFL games. Reynolds was the winner of 3 Brownlow medals (1934, 1937, 1938) and coached the club from 1939 to 1960 to help Essendon win 4 premierships and finish runners-up 7 times during his time as coach.

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The R.S Reynolds Stand named after club champion Dick
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Right: A View from inside the sitting area of the Stand looking towards the Shower Stand end (right): Jan 2003

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Big Games and Big Crowds In The 60’s

One of the best games ever to occur at Windy Hill was in Round 15 of 1964 when Geelong (then second on the ladder) played Essendon (third). Both sides were separated by percentage when they met this day and at the last change, the Cats lead by 5 points and with last use of the wind seemed set to win their first game at the venue in 10 years. But the Bombers had different plans and matched Geelong all the way in a thrilling finish. Essendon trailed by a point when Ken Fraser for Essendon kicked for goal 60 yards out at the 33 minute mark. He was felled immediately after the kick which traveled through for a behind. Asked if he wanted to let the score stand or take another kick, he choose the former after conferring with captain Clarke. Less than a minute later,the siren sounded with the game ending in a draw. Afterwards Fraser explained that kicking into the wind and in such bad conditions, he was very doubtful another kick at goal or even a set shot would have made the difference. Also in 1964 the Bombers claimed their biggest ever winning margin at the Windy Hill ground by defeating South Melbourne by 165 points (28.16.184 to 2.7.19).

The biggest ever crowd at Windy Hill occurred in Round 3, 1966 when 43,487 people turned up to see Essendon (the previous years premiers) defeat Collingwood (who finished 3rd in the previous season) by 12 points (8.18.66 to 8.6. 54).

A third grandstand, the Memorial grandstand, was opened in 1969 and later renamed in 1972 the W.H Cookson Pavilion in honour of the former club secretary Bill Cookson. In 1973 the Victorian Premier Rupert Hamer opened the A.T Hird Stand, named in honour of the former player and club president Alan Hird, the grandfather of 1996 Brownlow medallist and club premiership captain James Hird. However these new stands and improvements to the outer, with terraced and rows of seats now placed around the ground, limited the crowd capacity to less than 30,000 people, far fewer than the record crowd a decade before.

An Ugly Day in 1974

In round 7, 1974, in a game against Richmond, the Windy Hill ground was the venue for one of the biggest all-in-brawls in VFL/AFL history. It occurred between players and officials of the two clubs as the half-time siren sounded. At the time, the media described the incident as a black day in the history of football as both sides wrestled and threw punches, and police were forced to intervene to stop further violence. The aftermath of it all saw four players, an Essendon runner and staff member and a Richmond official charged by the league with conduct unbecoming or prejudicial to the interests of the league. 5 of the 7 people charged were found guilty.

Both clubs denied responsibility for the half-time incident. The VFL was quick to get its investigating officer to work out the conflicting stories between the two clubs. The tribunal declared that the whole incident was sparked off by comments Essendon runner Laurie Ashley to Richmond player Mal Brown to the effects of ?you are a filthy player?. According to the tribunal chairman John Winneke; Ashley had ?the dubious distinction of starting off what we can describe as an unseemly brawl. We have no doubt that Brown was provoked by into action by the conduct of Ashley?. Ashley was suspended for six matches and Brown for one match.

Of Essendon fitness advisor Jim Bradley, Winneke said, ?We have no doubt that he went into a group of players with the intention to strike Brown and carried out that intention.? Bradley was also suspended for six weeks.

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Photo: The half-time brawl between Essendon and Richmond in 1974

In 1991 crowd control was a problem again, this time almost affecting the result of the Essendon ? Melbourne game at Windy Hill. Melbourne player Steven Clark received a free kick just before the final siren in the last quarter with his side trailing by 6 points. Before he could take the kick, the siren blew and fans raced onto the ground, so Clark had to take the free kick amid a sea of people. In the goal square Essendon supporters helped the defenders stop the ball from going through but as it turned out the torpedo punt just fell short. The Demons President said if the front person to touch the ball wasn?t a player, then the game should be declared a draw, but the result of the game still stood.

The final match played at Windy Hill occurred in Round 21 1991 when Essendon played the (then named) Brisbane Bears in front of 19,010 people who saw Essendon win by 45 points (23.19.157 to 17. 10.112). Little was known then that this was to the final senior VFL/AFL match played at the venue. Later in September that year, the Essendon Football club announced that the club would move to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for home matches from 1992 onwards.

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Map: A 1982 bird eye view of the Windy Hill ground

The move away from Windy Hill was seen as necessary to keep the club financially viable for the future. The new Great Southern Stand had just been completed at the MCG, which was being recognised as one of the best sporting stadiums in the world, allowing a capacity of around 100,000 people. This compared to Windy Hills’ recent capacity of about 22,500, and in recent seasons Essendon scheduling of major matches away from the ground, had lead to a downturn in gate receipts, lost revenue through membership tickets sales and problems in developing the clubs’ marketing potential.

The ground was still used as a venue for AFL reserve matches up until the late 1990?s and is still used as a cricket venue in the summer months by the Essendon Cricket Club for their home matches in the Victorian Premier Cricket Association.

Windy Hill Today

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A view of the ground in January 2003 when the ground is used for district cricket matches during the summer months, to the right in the background of this picture is the Essendon Bowling Club

Today Windy Hill is still used as the Essendon home for their administration and training base, a players gym is now located under the Reynolds Stand. The Essendon Football Club Hall of Fame is also located at the ground. The facility was first opened in 1996 and displays player memorabilia including the premiership cups the club has won throughout their existence; as well as letters, medals and items such as jumpers and boots used by past players. The history of the club is told and a library of football articles and books is also a feature of the venue. This display is open to the public 5 days of the week. The Bomber Shop is also located at the ground as fans can purchase Essendon items of apparel such as jumpers, caps, scarves, videos and footballs to name a few. The outside of the ground also features an Essendon Walk of Fame where each past player from the club has a plaque dedicated to them. The walkway also features the names of past club coaches, captains, presidents, best and fairest and Brownlow medallist winners. A fans walkway is also located outside the ground where fans have a plaque with their name with either the town where they live or a short support message. The Windy Hill gym is located under the Showers stand and the Essendon Bowling club is located next to it on the outer wing side of the ground.

The Essendon Football Social Club is located in the Allan. T. Hird Stand, which features a bistro and gaming facilities and photos of the premiership winning years’ grand final squads. People can still walk freely today onto the ground and have a kick of the footy like the legends of Sid Barker, Dick Reynolds and John Coleman did in the past; or to recent heroes such as Terry Daniher, Tim Watson and Simon Madden or the modern day greats such as James Hird and Matthew Lloyd.

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The Essendon Football Social Club, located in the A.T.Hird stand (left) and entrances to the Bomber Shop and Hall of Fame located at Windy Hill on Napier Street.

Photos: A small selection of the great players/ coaches names that can be seen on the Essendon Walk of Fame (from left to right: Dick Reynolds Brownlow Medal plaque, John Coleman playing plaque, Kevin Sheedy coaching plaque, James Hird Brownlow Medal plaque

References:

Piesse, K, The Complete Guide to Australian Football Completely Updated

Downes, S, Hutchinson, G, Ros, J, The Whole Australian Football Catalogue

Hess, R, Stewart, B, Flangan, M, More Than A Game – An Unauthorised History of Australian Rules Football

Holmesby, R & Main, J, This Football Century

Caruso, S, Fiddian, ,M, Main, J, Football Grounds of Melbourne

Rodgers, S, Every Game, Ever Played, VFL Results 1897 to 1989

Maplestone, M, Flying Higher: The History of the Essendon Football Club 1872 to 1996

Chalmer, R, W, The Annuals of Essendon Volume 1 (1855-1924), Volume 2 (1925-1962), Volume 3 (1963-1985)

http://www.essendonfc.com.au

History of North Melbourne FC

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North Melbourne Football Club was born in 1869, 32 years before federation making it older than the Commonwealth of Australia itself. Formed soon after the formation of the first set of rules for Australian football it can be said to be one of the oldest football clubs in Australia and indeed one of the oldest football clubs, of any code in the world.

A view of the Arden street oval in 1928 (including the famous gasometer)
A view of the Arden street oval in 1928 (including the famous gasometer)

Australian football evolved from many forms of the game with Rugby and Gaelic Football having the most influence on its development. Some schools of thought put its primary influence as coming from an Aboriginal game played with a stuffed possum skin in which the players jumped on each others back shouting “marruk” as they caught the ball. The forerunner to the great feature of Australian football the Mark. The diggers on the Victorian goldfields witnessed this spectacle and developed a game drawing on their own ethnic influences to produce a unique football code.

Whatever its origins it is known that the game was played around Melbourne and the first official match between Melbourne Grammar and Scotch College was played on the site of the now famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, home of the Australian Football Leagues Grand Final.

Two prominent sportsmen of the 1800s, T.Wills and H.C.A. Harrison decided to draw up rules for this increasingly popular game and Wills set about encouraging the formation of football clubs in order to keep cricketers fit during the off season (the winter).

Acting upon this James Gardiner and other prominent citizens of the city of Hotham (an urban development to the North of Melbourne) formed the North Melbourne Football Club in 1869. At first the club played games against any other club with which they could arrange a match. Playing its matches at Royal Park (where the Melbourne Zoo now resides) In 1876 the club decided to amalgamate with another team Albert Park and for twelve months were known as “Albert Park cum North Melbourne”. Quite a mouthful! After just one year the amalgamation collapsed and the club changed its name to Hotham Football Club after its locality of origin.

In 1877 Hotham (North Melbourne) and 7 other clubs decided to form the Victorian Football Association (VFA) in order to compete in football matches on a regular basis. The VFA being one of the first football associations formed in the world.

In 1888 the club once again became the North Melbourne Football Club after Hotham municipality changed its name to North Melbourne in order to cash in on the reputation Melbourne had gained throughout the world.

In 1896 a breakaway group saw the establishment of the Victorian Football League (VFL) from which North Melbourne was excluded mainly through the opposition of the Collingwood Football Club which had not forgiven North for a controversial game in which they had met. North were upset by there non inclusion as they felt that they were as good as, if not better, than any team that formed the League.

North continued in the VFA becoming Premiers in 1903 and 1904. 1907 saw North attempt, for the first time, to enter the Victorian Football League. It proposed to amalgamate with the West Melbourne Football Club and seek membership of the League. The application was rejected with the result that the club was expelled from the Association (VFA) and found themselves without a competition in which to play. In 1908 a “new” club was formed and its application to join the VFA was accepted. North Melbourne Football Club was once again part of the VFA.

In the years 1905, 1910, 1914, 1915, 1918, and 1919 North finished at the top of the ladder, winning the premiership in 1910 and 1914 as well as going through the seasons 1915 and 1918 being undeafeated as well as being premiers. From 1914 to 1918 they won 58 games in succession.

1921 saw North once again seek admission to the VFL. They felt their record of dominance entitled them to admission into what was becoming the strongest competion in the land. Essendon Football Club, a foundation member of the League found themselves without an arena on which to play. North, an adjacent suburb to Essendon, offered them their ground, Arden St., if they would amalgamate thereby gaining a team based at North Melbourne into the League. Essendon agreed. North advised their players that they would disband and asked their players to transfer to Essendon so that in their next season they could continue their association with the team based at Arden St.

Unfortunately Essendon gained the use of a ground at the time being used by an Essendon team playing in the Association. This left North a disbanded club without players. The most highly regarded being Syd Barker who later captained Essendon and was a member of two premiership teams with that club.

In a clever move North quickly amalgamated with the displaced Essendon Association team and was once again competing in the VFA the following season having failed to complete the 1921 season.

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In 1925 North finally gained admittance to the Victorian Football League, not by stealth as they had tried previously, but by invitation brought about by lobbying of the clubs supporters.

After a promising start in the League North had many lean years, not reaching a Grand Final until 1950, where they were beaten by their former proposed amalgamation partner Essendon.

It was not until 1975 that they finally won their first League Premiership, the culmination of a plan hatched under the presidency of Allen Aylett 4 years before. They followed this up in 1977 with another Premiership. Between the years 1974 and 1978 North participated in every Grand Final.

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In 1990 the Victorian Football League became the Australian Football League as it extended its operations Australia wide. A foundation member of this league North Melbourne took out its inaugural Premiership under this banner in 1996. ( A year that North sought another amalgamation; this time with Fitzroy Football Club. A move that failed due to the opposition of other League teams fearing North would become too strong)

This was a season celebrated by the League as their centennial year as it was the hundredth season of VFL/AFL football. By winning the gold cup North Melbourne Football Club became the Centennial Premiers. A fitting tribute to this historic club.

References: Downing, Gerard “The North Story”, Revised and Enlarged Edition, Playright Publishing Pty Ltd, Sydney,1997

The Age “Aussie Rules CD- ROM” Melbourne 1995

The following will I am sure be of interest: