Port Melbourne, a residential and industrial suburb, is 4 km. south-west of Melbourne. It is bounded on its north and west by the Yarra River, on the south by Hobsons Bay and on the east Bay South Melbourne. The residential part adjoins South Melbourne.
In 1839, four years after the first permanent settlement of Melbourne, Wilbraham Liardet settled at Port Melbourne, building a hotel and jetty on Hobsons Bay and operating a mail service to Melbourne. The area became known as Liardet’s Beach, although the official district name was Sandridge. Land sales were delayed until 1850. The gold rush immigration brought passengers and freight which made use of a government pier on Hobsons Bay, served by Australia’s first railway line from Melbourne to Hobsons Bay.
The first allotments surveyed in Sandridge were between Stokes Street and a linear lagoon on the east, now Esplanade East. (The lagoon was probably an ancient course of the Yarra River.) With the railway, the township was enlarged, westwards to the railway line and northwards to Raglan Street.
A Wesleyan church was opened in 1853, and a Wesleyan school in the following year. By 1860 there were also Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian churches, a Catholic school and a National school (1857). On 13 July, 1860, the Sandridge borough was created by severance from Melbourne City Council, its boundaries being the railway line and the lagoon, but further north to Bourndary Street. In addition to the Railway Pier there were the Sandridge Pier and the Town Pier at the end of Bay Street. The Swallow and Ariell Steam Biscuit manufactory was opened in Rouse Street in 1854, beginning with ships biscuits and expanding to become a major industry by 1880. Thomas Swallow was the Council’s second mayor and was influential in several of its community activities.
The borough remained confined between the railway line and the lagoon because of a planned canal between the Yarra River and the bay and the increasingly noxious condition of the lagoon, contributed to by the run-off from Emerald Hill, South Melbourne. Ideas to make the lagoon a dock did not materialsie, and it remained a harbour for small craft.
The coast west of the railway Pier was Sandridge Beach or Fishermens Bend, which was added to the borough in 1863. Its sand was extracted for Melbourne’s building trade, and in some cases the excavations were used as night-soil dumps. Bone mills, goats and pig-keeping added to the effluvia.
In the early 1860s the cream and red brick courthouse was constructed in Sandridge to a design by architect JJ Clark of the Public Works Department. After the first local election in 1861 the Council had met in the court house for the first time. It was also around this time that the police station and bluestone lock-up were built as part of the law enforcement complex. None of these buildings is still used for its original purpose.
In 1869 the first town hall was built in Bay Street. After congested accomodation in the church schools and the National school, a State primary school was opened in Nott Street in 1874. The Australian Handbook described Sandridge in 1875 as –
In 1884 Sandridge was renamed Port Melbourne. Its role as a transport centre meant that Port Melbourne was home to a number of hotels in the 19th century. The Fountain Inn (1860s), on the corner of Raglan/Crockford and Bay Street, was one such hotel. It remains largely intact today.
Port Melbourne also supported a number of industries during the 1800s. These included a soap and candle works, rice and flour mills, a sugar refinery, boot factory, chemical works, gasworks and a distillery.
In 1893 Port Melbourne became a town and on May 14 1919 was proclaimed a city.
In 1934-35 the cement rendered reinforced concrete beam and Centenary Bridge was constructed in Port Melbourne. Built as part of the Unemployment Relief Program of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the bridge features ornamented piers at its entrances. It was also the major publicly funded monument erected as part of VictoriaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Centenary Celebrations and was officially opened by the Duke of Gloucester. Centenary Bridge is today listed by the National Trust (Vic).
The suburb of Port Melbourne is located on Hobsons Bay, on the east bank of the mouth of the Yarra River, four kilometres south-west of Melbourne. It is today a part of the City of Port Phillip, which was formed by the amalgamation of the former cities of Port Melbourne, South Melbourne and St Kilda in 1994.
The port still plays host to cargo vessels and passenger ships, which dock at Station Pier (the northern section of which was built between 1922 and 1930). In modern times the suburb has also developed from one of Melbourne’s poorest areas into a wealthier residential area, blending more modern development with restored public buildings and workers cottages
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South Melbourne, between the south bank of the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay, originated at the elevated area first known as Emerald Hill, 2 km. south of Melbourne.
Emerald Hill, an old volcanic outcrop, stood out from the surrounding swamp land and had greener vegetation. Its elevation above the Yarra delta attracted the initial settlement. During Summer, the swamp land dried out and it could be used for recreation or military training.
Settlement south of the Yarra Rover was focused on Sandridge (Port Melbourne), which was linked to Melbourne by a track from a pier at Sandridge beach. Land sales in today’s South Melbourne were few during the 1840s, but in 1852 a survey of Emerald Hill resulted in the auction of subdivided lots. Grants of land were made to the Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian and Wesleyan churches, and the pick of the blocks was given to the Melbourne Protestant Orphan Asylum. Settlement of Emerald Hill happened quickly and within two years its residents were complaining that the Melbourne city Council was not giving them value for their rates. On 26 May, 1855, Emerald Hill was proclaimed a separate borough.
At the time of the survey of Emerald Hill in 1852 a temporary township was created west of St. Kilda Road, south of the river. It was Canvastown, a low-lying area with tent accommodation for gold-field immigrants. It lasted for two years and gave its name to the first school (1853) in the area at the corner of Clarendon and Banks Street.
Slightly later in Emerald Hill, church primary schools were opened: Presbyterian (1854), Catholic (1854), Anglican (1856) and the Orphanages, Protestant (1856) and Catholic (1857). A mechanics’ institute was opened in 1857.
The opening of the Melbourne to Hobsons Bay railway in 1854 did not benefit Emerald Hill very much because it skirted the area, but the Melbourne to St. Kilda line (1857) had an Emerald Hill station by 1858.
The land around Emerald Hill remained unsuitable for housing or industry until it could be drained. The Victoria Barracks, on higher land in St. Kilda Road, was built in 1859, and the military freely roamed the area: rifle butts were in Albert Park and a shore battery was at the end of Kerford Road for the defence of Port Phillip. In 1863 massive floods inundated the surrounding area and the few optimistic infant industries.
Although flood mitigation did not gain a significant boost until the Coode Canal (1887), land reclamation, drainage and river embankment works encouraged settlement on the flat area. In the 1870s cottages were built at Montague, but the road levels were above those of the housing lots. Small sites, ill-drained yards and accumulated rubbish created a culture which provided the ill-famed larrikin push the “Montagues”. A better housing outlook was created at Albert Park, particularly when the lagoon was excavated to form a lake for boat jaunts. In 1875 The Australian Handbook described Emerald Hill as –
On 1 March, 1872, Emerald Hill was proclaimed a town which led to the council moving its town hall from Cecil Street to the site occupied by the Protestant Orphan Asylum. The orphanage was persuaded to take a larger site at Brighton in exchange, and it retained the balance of the site around the new town hall. Thus the Emerald Hill precinct was formed and kept intact until sold to the State Government in 1973 by the orphanage’s successor, the Melbourne Family Care Organisation. While the town hall move was under way, John Danks was mayor. His time as a councillor ran from 1871 to 1880. Danks hardware foundry and supply of plumbing material was a major industry.
State schools replaced church schools: the Eastern Road school (1877), the Dorcas Street school (1881), the City Road school (1884) and Montague (1889), all grew to become crowded, as the population of South Melbourne more than doubled in twenty years, reaching nearly 42,000 in 1891.
Before trams came to South Melbourne, Clarendon Street emerged with a main retail strip. The Anglican and Presbyterian churches turned their Clarendon Street frontages over to commercial development.
Industries along the river side had been mainly noxious, imparting unpleasantness to the growing residential areas. The Harbor Trust (1877) forced the industries to move downstream, and manufacturing replaced them, drawn by the better access across the Falls (Queens Street) Bridge and the construction of South Wharf. The Montague work force supplied wharf labour.
Football clubs were formed in the 1870s and in 1879 the South Melbourne club with red and white colours took its place in the Victorian Football Association. It was one of the founding clubs of the Victorian Football League in 1897. Emerald Hill town changed to South Melbourne on 25 September, 1883.
Tram lines along Clarendon Street and Park Street were opened in 1890, along with the connection made to the city seven years before with a steam ferry between Clarendon and Spencer Street. Manufacturing and food-processing industries expanded back from the riverside. The giant red brick Tea House building, originally a stationer’s warehouse (1890), is a surviving example in Clarendon Street. Notable food processors were Hoadley’s Chocolates (later Allens Sweets) and Sennits ice-cream. In the later era of neon lights the Sennits bear and the flashing Allens confectionery sign became night time landmarks.
Textile mills, timber merchants and furniture trades set up in the 1880s. Clarendon Street, in addition to having many food and drapery retailers, had furniture retailers. Maples, Tyes and Andersons began in South Melbourne and grew to become metropolitan chains. Crofts grocers, later a self-service pioneer in the early postwar years, also began in South Melbourne.
Education broadened to secondary level with a technical school (1919-92), St. Joseph’s technical school (1924-88) and the conversion of the City Road primary school to the Domestic Arts School (1930). Another was the transfer of the Melbourne Girls’ High School to MacRobertson Girls’ High School, in a corner of Albert Park, in 1934.
From Emerald Hill’s beginning with the Orphan asylums, welfare has had strong community support in South Melbourne. The Montague kindergarten opened in 1909, along with Methodist and Catholic kindergartens within a few years. Baby welfare and child hygiene centre were opened during the 1920s. When a South Melbourne local, Harold Alexander, was appointed Town Clerk in 1936, the council deepened its interest in welfare activities. The charitable community-chest and increased rates from commercial properties help to fund welfare activities.
In 1949 The Australian Blue Book described South Melbourne as –
At that time South Melbourne was receiving the first postwar migrants, who increased in the nest two decades. Cricket and football was played beside the South Melbourne Hellas Soccer Club (1959), and adult migrant English classes were run at the Eastern Road primary school. Riverside industry expanded, and the Montague kindergarten closed in 1959. Montague was disappearing, but its sons had enlisted in record numbers for the second world war, and reportedly had been good fighters.
South Melbourne has a strip of land on the west side of St. Kilda Road from the river to the end of the Albert Park. Part of it came from severance form the Albert Park reservation in 1875, providing sites for boulevard mansions. Closer to the river there were several institutional land uses: the Homeopathic (later Price Henry’s) Hospital, 1882, the immigrants’ Home (1852-1911) coming after the health Canvas Town and the Victoria Police beside the Barracks. On the site which would ultimately be the Arts centre complex there were the Green Mill, Wirth’s Olympia and (later) the Trocadero and Glaciarium entertainment venues.
In the postwar years Melbourne’s central business district spilled down St. Kilda Road. Land was cheaper and the council encouraged development attracted by the increased rates.
In 1944 the State Government agreed with South Melbourne’s council that the Wirth’s circus site should be reserved for a cultural centre. Postwar shortages delayed the project, and the first part of the Art Centre was opened in 1968.
As culture officially came to South Melbourne gentrification came to its residential area. The Emerald Hill Precinct is a registered historic area, and inspired conservation initiatives both private and municipal. By 1981 the population was less than half its postwar figure, and local support for the football club had waned. Its premierships had been won in 1909, 1918, 1933 and 1945, with only one finals appearance in 1970. In 1982 the Swans became the Sydney Swans, and the Lake oval lost its main tenant.
The particularly noticeable changes since the 1960s have included high-rise Housing Commission flats (Emerald Hill Court, 1962, and Park Towers, 1969), the Westgate Freeway (1975-95) and the development of Southbank. On a smaller scale there were the conversion of the South Melbourne Gas Works to a park (1992) and the conversion of the Castlemaine Brewery to the Malthouse Theatre (1987).
In common with inner residential areas, South Melbourne’s house prices have outpaced the metropolitan trend. In 1987 the median South Melbourne house price was 37% above the median for metropolitan Melbourne, and in 1996 it was 70% above the metropolitan median.
On 18 November, 1993, the area of South Melbourne defined as Southbank and extending to Docklands was annexed to Melbourne city. On 22 June, 1994, South Melbourne city was united with St. Kilda and Port Melbourne cities to form Port Phillip city.
South Melbourne municipality’s census populations were 8,822 (1861), 25,374 (1881), 41,724 (1891) 46,873 (1921), 32,528 (1961) and 17,712 (1991).
Allom Lovell Sanderson Pty. Ltd., “South Melbourne Urban Conservation Study”, 1987. Daley, Charles, “The History of South Melbourne”, Robertson and Mullens, 1940.
Priestley, Susan, “South Melbourne: A History”, Melbourne University Press, 1995.
Albert Park, a residential area with a large regional park and lake, is 3 km. south of Melbourne. It was named after Prince Albert, the Consort of Queen Victoria.
There are two Albert Parks, one the large recreational parkland and the other the adjoining residential area which spread southwards from South Melbourne’s Emerald Hill in the 1870s and 1880s.
The parkland was like much of the land in the Yarra delta, swampy, grassed with sparse tree cover, and with occasional lagoons, some quite large. The lagoon in Albert Park was one of those. The land was used for seasonal grazing, recreational hunting, rifle practice at the Butts (the original name of the Albert Park railway station) and for military training manoeuvres between the Victoria Barracks, St. Kilda Road, and the battery on Port Phillip Bay at the end of Kerford Road.
In 1857 a railway line was opened through Albert Park from Melbourne to St. Kilda. A short-lived rail loop from Windsor to St. Kilda (1859-62) passed through the south of the parkland. On 22 July, 1862, the parkland was temporarily reserved from sale, and permanently reserved two years later. In 1875 the land between St. Kilda and Queens Roads was severed from Albert Park and sold by the government as housing allotments. Between 1862 and 1875 Albert Park was reduced from 385 ha. to 231 ha., the loss being accounted for by the Queens Road severance and an earlier severance on the St. Kilda side.
The St. Kilda Cricket Club obtained permission to site its oval at the south end of the park in 1857 and the South Melbourne Cricket Club gained a permissive occupancy at the other end in 1862. The St. Kilda Bowling Club obtained its parkland site in 1865 and the Middle Park Bowling Club in 1903. A third cricket ground, now the Albert Cricket Ground, predated the Queens Road severance. Its neighbouring tennis courts (1889) became the site for major championships until the Lawn Tennis Association built the stadium at Kooyong. In 1908 the Davis Cup was played there.
Albert Park, 1997
In 1871 the Albert Park lagoons were used for boating, and the Albert Park Boat Club was formed the following year. Between 1873 and 1880 the lagoons were excavated to form the lake, and the excavated material used for land reclamation and embankments. The embankments were strengthened with timber piles and a promenade built. Municipal refuse tipping was also used for land reclamation, and dairy cattle grazed by agistment. Fresh water from the Yarra River was connected to the lake in 1890.
The suburb of Albert Park extends from the St. Vincent Gardens to Beaconsfield Parade and Kerford Road. It was settled residentially as an extension of Emerald Hill, South Melbourne. In 1854 a land-subdivision survey was done from Park Street, South Melbourne, to the northern edge of the parkland (Albert Road). St. Vincent Gardens were laid out and the surrounding streets became the best address for successful citizens. Street names commemorated Trafalgar and Crimean War personalities.
In 1874 the State primary school was opened, which within twelve years had 1,400 pupils. Its proximity to the beach encouraged swimming, and its 1905 squad included future champions, among whom was Frank Beaurepaire.
In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Albert Park as –
(The description includes the adjoining area of Middle Park.)
Albert Park developed a strong shopping strip along Bridport Street and Victoria Avenue, along which a cable-ram service had been opened in 1890. The tram also opened up the South Melbourne beach to people who lived further away.
During the prewar years some nibbles were taken out of the Albert Park. A precedent had been set in 1882 by the St. Kilda Park primary school (after much opposition), and the South Melbourne Technical School (1918) and the MacRobertson Girls’ High School (1935) were sited in Albert Park. The Army occupied large areas between 1941 and 1950, and in 1953 an Army officer proposed a racing Grand Prix in the park. Several races were held until stopped by the Government in 1958. The Army relinquished bits and pieces of space during the next twenty years.
Commercial uses such as the Carousel restaurant raised some money for park maintenance, but the end of Army rentals caused further financial stringency. Rents from South Melbourne and St. Kilda Football Clubs for their home grounds ended when they went elsewhere in 1982 and 1964.
During the early 1990s the lake was emptied to remove weed infestation, and Melbourne Water assumed management from the local committee of Management. On December, 1993, the State Government announced that the Australian Formula One Grand Prix motor race would be held in the park. Notwithstanding the protests by a Save Albert Park group the first race was held in 1996. The race circuit required trees to be cut down and facilities demolished, but funds were injected for replacement facilities.
Albert Park suburb has houses which are larger and built more of brick than weatherboard compared with South Melbourne. They have maintained their appeal to home buyers. In 1987 the median house price in Albert Park was 60% above the median for metropolitan Melbourne, and in 1996 80% above. The socioeconomic level is reflected by the outdoor cafes in Bridport Street. At the western edge of Albert Park the South Melbourne gas works was made into a park in 1982 with creative workshops and a gallery.
Dinghy Race on the Albert Park Lake.
Barnard, Jill and Keating, Jenny, “People’s Playground: A History of the Albert Park”, Chandos Publishing, 1996.
Priestley, Susan, “South Melbourne: A History”, Melbourne University Press, 1995