Broadmeadows is a residential and industrial suburb 16 km. north of Melbourne and until 1994 it was a municipality.

The lightly wooded landscape between the Merri and Moonee Ponds Creeks attracted pastoralists in the 1840s. In 1850 a Government survey laid out a township in an area along the Moonee Ponds Creek valley, now known as Westmeadows, but then named Broadmeadow. An Anglican church was built in 1850, and the church, police station and Broadmeadows hotel (now Westmeadows Tavern), in Ardlie Street were the first village centre. The old Council chamber and office are nearby.

East of the old village is today’s Broadmeadows, for which the early town centre was Campbellfield. In 1857 the Broadmeadows District Road Board was formed. Its area had Essendon on the south and it extended as far north as Mickleham, placing the village very much in the southern third of the Road District.

A primary school was established by the Anglican church in 1851, becoming a State school in 1870 (now Westmeadows). In 1872 the railway line was extended form Essendon to Seymour, creating a station about 2 km. east of the village. At the height of the landboom in 1889 another line was opened from Coburg, joining the Seymour line at Somerton. A station was provided at Campbellfield. These lines tended to draw subdivision and speculation eastwards, away from the Broadmeadows village. Hence the naming of the local municipal council as Broadmeadows shire on 27 January, 1871, did not reflect where the district’s future prosperity lay. The village was isolated westwards, separated from the railway areas by open grass lands. Broadmeadows consisted of farms, many of them dairying, and the few large holdings were subject to closer settlement subdivision during the early 1900s. The shire was enlarged on 1 October, 1915, when the shire of Merriang, to the north-west, was added. In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Broadmeadows as –

Two weeks and one day after the outbreak of the first world war the Australian Army established the Broadmeadows Military Camp in the open area between Broadmeadows and Campbellfield. Reticulated water was connected in five days, a project which the shire had been unable to persuade the Board of Works to undertake in seven years of negotiation. The camp and the surrounding areas were the venue of numerous bivouacs and military exercises.

Residential subdivisions had been released in the shire’s southern areas since the 1880s, and much of the land was not built on by the end of the first world war. More subdivision took place in the 1920s, and Broadmeadows had its (railway) Station Estate. Reticulated water and electricity were connected to the southern part of the shire in 1924 and 1925, and the railway was electrified in 1921. In 1928 new shire offices were opened near the railway station. These conveniences, plus the quicker travelling time to Melbourne, potentially made Broadmeadows more appealing for residential settlement. The line through Campbellfield, however, was closed between 1903 and 1928, when an infrequent service was resumed. During the 1930s financial depression the military camp accommodated unemployed men. The Broadmeadows landscape, however, remained one of small farms and derelict, undeveloped subdivisions, amounting to 17,000 allotments. In 1949 The Australian Blue Book described the Broadmeadows shire as –

In 1951 the Victorian Housing Commission announced its proposal to take over 2,270 ha. of land in Broadmeadows for a housing estate. The Commission’s housing construction proceeded apace, but the provision of shops and other facilities lagged. Glenroy became the main lcoal shopping area, four kilometres to the south. Schools were opened in time for the new population: Broadmeadows East and Broadmeadows South (later Glenroy North), in 1956, and Broadmeadows and Eastmeadows in 1961, the latter also attended by children from a migrant hostel in the military camp. The Commission built in the area between Broadmeadows and Glenroy in 1958, and the Jacana and Campmeadows primary schools were opened the following year. During the 1960s three secondary schools were opened – two technical and one high. Catholic schools comprise a primary, a co-educational secondary and a boys’ secondary.

Some way through Broadmeadows’ urbanisation it was decided to sever the rural parts north of Somerton Road and attach them to the adjoining shire. This occurred on 31 May, 1955, and next year on 30 May Broadmeadows was proclaimed a city. Six months later the Housing Commission began the transfer of a wedge of its land at Upfield and Campbellfield for the Ford motor car factory, which reactivated the railway which had been closed (again) the previous year. The Ford factory opened in 1959 and four other substantial factories opened the following year along the Hume Highway.

Schools were overcrowded, swimming pools unbuilt until 1962 and speech nights were held at Coburg or Essendon. A new civic hall and council offices were built in 1964. The adjoining local shopping centre, Meadow Fair, existed only on Housing Commission paper until the 1970s, and finally in 1974 it was completed. It is now the Broadmeadows Shopping Square, considerably enlarged to over 20,000 sq. metres of gross lettable area. The site for a hospital, however, still remained empty in the mid 1990s.

During the 1970s and 1980s Broadmeadows had a reputation for boisterous youth: the Broady Boys rode the trains and daubed graffiti proclaiming that they “rule, O.K.” By the 1990s this had lessened and there was a catch-up of some of the facilities long denied. Jacana gained a golf course, much of Westmeadows is a reserve, the town park and a TAFE are opposite the civic offices and there are two reserves beside the reduced military barracks. The technical school site is occupied by an Islamic College and there are four other secondary colleges. Space is reserved for further enlargement of the shopping centre, but public libraries are in other town areas under the Council’s jurisdiction (1996).

The Broadmeadows municipality contained Campbellfield, Collaroo, Dallas, Fawkner, Gladstone Park, Glenroy, Oak Park, Tullamarine, Upfield and Westmeadows. (Some of these contained smaller localities which are mentioned in their descriptions.) On 15 December, 1994, Broadmeadows city was united with most of Bulla shire and parts of Keilor and Whittlesea cities to form Hume city.

Broadmeadows’ census populations were 333 (1861), 192 (1911) and 522 (1947). The municipality’s census populations have been 2,100 (1911), 8,971 (1947), 23,065 91954), 66,306 (1961, after severance of the northern area), 101,100 (1971) and 102,996 (1991).

Further Reading:

  • Lemon, Andrew, “Broadmeadows: A Forgotten History”, City of Broadmeadows and Hargren Publishing Company, 1982.

Brunswick East

Brunswick East is an inner-urban suburb 6 km north of Melbourne. It lies between Lygon Street and the Merri Creek, and adjoins Carlton North and Fitzroy North at its southern border.

Brunswick East is within 900 metres of Sydney Road which formed the spine of Brunswick when it was first settled. An early industry in Brunswick East was bluestone quarrying, and there were numerous farms. In 1882 land subdivision centered on Evans Street was released for residential purposes.

The swampiness of some of the land was modified by drainage works, and a primary school near Lygon Street (named Brunswick South), was opened in 1886. Another subdivisional sale at the northern end of Lygon Street occurred in 1887, and another school opened in 1888, and the East Brunswick Omnibus Company began its horse bus service along Lygon Street the next year.

Lygon Street became a successful shopping strip, wider than Sydney road, and retaining its period character one-hundred years later.

An old stone quarry was filled in and became Fleming Park, the home of the East Brunswick cricket and football clubs (1919). In 1916 the tram along Lygon Street was electrified, putting the site of Brunswick’s first textile factory, Prestige Hosiery (1922), within easier reach of its workforce. A returned servicemen’s housing area was begun in 1923, identifiable by the Maori Street names, probably in acknowledgment of the Anzac War tradition.

There are eight neighbourhood parks and reserves in Brunswick East, with another being formed over the former Brunswick tip. Next to the Merri Creek is the Brunswick Velodrome, and in the 1980s the Council began its support of CERES, a site for low-energy demonstrations and sustainable ecology, also near the creek.

Another tram service, along Nicholson Street, was opened in 1956.

Brunswick East has a primary school (1893), and the Brunswick East Secondary College, which closed in 1992, was actually in Brunswick.


Coburg, a residential suburb 8 km. north of Melbourne, was also a municipality from 1874 to 1994. The municipality was bordered on the south by Brunswick city and on the west and east by the Moonee Ponds and the Merri Creek valleys. Much of the land is overlain with basaltic lava flows.

In 1837 the government surveyor, Robert Hoddle, surveyed the Coburg area between the two creeks, subdividing it into allotments of between 53 ha. and 287 ha. A village reserve was marked out where the former Pentridge Gaol and Coburg cemetery are now situated. Among the first purchasers were John Pascoe Fawkner (a Melbourne “founder”), Faquhar McCrae (magistrate and speculator) and Arundel Wrighte (squatter and speculator). Fawkner had two lots, totalling 517 ha. A road to Sydney was marked out along the western side of the village reserve.

Some allotments near the Sydney Road were subdivided as small farms, and the village reserve was named Pentridge in 1840, probably after Pentridge, Dorset. A Sydney Road Trust was formed in 1840, principally involving McCrae and Fawkner who were antagonistic to each other. McCrae built La Rose (now Wentworth House, at 22 Le Cateau Street), in 1843. In addition to the Pentridge village there were villages called Bolingbroke to the west and Newlands to the north.

In 1850 the Port Phillip authorities chose Pentridge as a site for a penitentiary, sufficiently remote form Melbourne and on a road with nearby road-making materials to keep the felons employed. By then churches had been built by the Catholics (possibly as early 1844), the Wesleyans (1849, preserved at the corner of Sydney Road and Bell Street and on the Register of the National Estate) and the Anglicans (1849, next to the Wesleyans, and on the Victorian Heritage Register). Pentridge’s first school opened in 1850 in the Anglican church and others followed in 1853 (National School), and 1854 (Wesleyan). The National School became Coburg primary school.

In 1859 the Pentridge District Road Board was formed, changing its name to Coburg on 21 January, 1869. The change came from residents wanting to dissociate their place name from the gaol, and Coburg was chosen because of the Royal visit by Prince Alfred, Duke of Saxe Coburg. The Sydney Road attracted numerous hotels and commercial premises, and two thirds of Coburg’s rateable properties were under 4 ha. in 1865. Friendly societies were formed: Manchester Unity (1863), Druids (1867), Rechabites (1868) and a St. Patrick’s Society (1870). By 1870 there were 1,300 people in Pentridge village and surrounds and 645 in the gaol (including warders and their families).

Coburg was proclaimed a shire on 24 December, 1874. The most populous trade or profession was warder (80), followed by 60 farmers or market gardeners, 54 quarrymen and 28 retailers. Market gardens were near the Merri Creek and most farmers grew hay for Melbourne’s increasing numbers of horses. In 1884 the railway line from Melbourne to Coburg was opened, the station being close to the village. A tram service to Moreland, south of Coburg village, began in 1887. The transport links provoked a boom in residential land subdivisions, predominantly in the south of the shire. Residents, however, found work on farms or in neighboring Brunswick’s factories, and Coburg was described as a pretty suburb with charming valleys.

In January, 1905, Coburg was proclaimed a borough, in evidence of the four-fold growth in its population since 1880. In 1914 the Brunswick and Coburg Tramways Trust was created, replacing the antiquated horse-tram service. Electric trams ran along Sydney Road to Coburg North by 1916. Sporting and swimming facilities were provided in that decade along with the laying out of some parklands, but a public library was not. The Coburg lake and parkland became a popular recreational area until the 1930s.

Coburg had experienced intermittent infectious outbreaks and the influenza outbreak after the first world war provoked Coburg into opening Victoria’s first Truby King health centre. By the 1920s Coburg’s developed area extended about one kilometre either side of Sydney Road, but the War Service Commission encouraged servicemen to settle and build on Coburg’s relatively cheap land. Local industries grew: the Lincoln Mills (garments), Invicta Manufacturing, Dawn Vices, bottle, plaster and timber-milling factories provided local employment. The Coburg electorate returned Labor candidates to the State and Federal Parliaments. New housing westwards was followed by the Coburg West primary school (1917) and eastwards with another school in 1926. Coburg was proclaimed a city on 1 April, 1922.

Gaffney Street became the address of many factories, maintaining employment through to the postwar years. Textiles and garments were the main outputs, but paint, chemicals and engineering goods were significant. Coburg technical school was opened in 1954 five years after the College of Textiles. Sydney Road’s shops became a service retailing area as well as one for comparison shopping. Neither east nor west between the boundary creek valleys is there any other shopping centre apart from a medium-size one at Pascoe Vale South. The trams and motor traffic along Sydney Road make the strip very busy. Its viability has been maintained by rear-of-shop parking areas and the building of supermarkets.

Between 1947 and 1981 the proportions of Coburg municipality’s residents who were born overseas increased from 9 to 34%. Over one-third of them were Italian, and one-eighth were Greek. There are several Catholic schools and churches in the municipality. Later immigrants from Middle Eastern countries have opened two Islamic colleges and a mosque in Coburg.

Coburg has been affected by tariff reductions for garments and textiles. The Lincoln Mills closed in 1980 (although later used by smaller firms) and the Government Clothing Factory was sold in 1981.

The area around Pentridge has changed. A teachers’ college was opened in 1959, later becoming a campus of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and a combined primary/secondary school after Coburg and Newlands high schools were closed. On 1 May, 1997, the Pentridge Gaol was closed.

Coburg municipality contained Pascoe Vale, Pascoe Vale South, Coburg North and Moreland. Most of it was united with Brunswick city to form Moreland city on 22 June, 1994.

The median house price in Coburg in 1987 was 82% of the median for metropolitan Melbourne, and in 1996 it was 93%. In 1997 the median price increased sharply as home buyers chose Coburg as an affordable location next after the inner suburb of Brunswick which had house prices beyond their reach. In 1996 the median personal income of persons 15 years or more was $239 a week, compared with a metropolitan median of $331 a week.

Coburg township’s census populations have been 1,033 (1861), 2,370 (1881), 6,772 (1901) and 9,454 (19110. The municipality’s census populations have been 5,272 (1891), 9,505 (1911), 33,118 (1933), 70,771 (1961) and 53,100 (1991).

Further Reading:

  • Broome, Richard, “Coburg Between Two Creeks”, Lothian Publishing Company Pty. Ltd., 1987.


Land at Heidelberg, 14 km north-east of Melbourne, was sold by Crown auction in 1838, making it one of the earliest rural allotments. (Central Melbourne’s first land sale was on 1 June, 1837). By 1840 there was a surveyed township named Warringal (Aboriginal for eagle’s nest). Warringal gave way to Heidelberg, a name applied by a land agent after the town in Germany.

Heidelberg was reached by a track from Melbourne via North Fitzroy, and in 1841 the Heidelberg Road Trust was formed. As a form of local government it preceded the Melbourne town council. By the late 1840s the road had a toll bar at the Merri Creek, and a macadamised surface. It became a tourist attraction, enhancing Heidelberg’s reputation as a desirable place for views, excursions and rural estates. Cattle overlander Joseph Howden had built his Gothic Banyule homestead in 1846 overlooking the Yarra Valley.

Heidelberg was made a shire on 27 January, 1871, and The Australian Handbook in 1875 described it as –


The village-like appeal of Heidelberg was repeated in the 1904 Handbook, and town amenities had grown –


Until the 1960s the Heidelberg municipality extended into Northcote on the west side of the Darebin Creek and northwards until 1964 when the semi-rural North Ward was severed and made the Shire of Diamond Valley.


Heidelberg. 1937

Heidelberg had been proclaimed a City on 11 April, 1934, but its rural space exceeded the urban area. Subdivision and settlement clustered around Heidelberg Road and the Melbourne to Hurstbridge railway line which bisected the municipality in a generally north-east direction. Along that line are Darebin, Ivanhoe, Eaglemont, Heidelberg, Rosanna, Macleod, Watsonia and Greensborough. Mont Park was reached by a spur line from Macleod. Heidelberg West, unserved by railway, was sparsely settled until the 1950s when it was built on by the Housing Commission and provided the site for the athletes’ village for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. In 1947 The Australian Blue Book described Heidelberg as –


The appealing rural scenery had attracted artists in the 1880s, not least because the absence of public utilities and a railway (until 1888) caused houses to be vacated and available at low rents. The plein air school of painting from Box Hill rented a cottage at Eaglemont in 1888, culminating in the “Heidelberg School” of Australian art. Two years later the Chartersville homestead was occupied for similar purposes. The views from Mount Eagle and across the Yarra Valley were especially impressive.


The new Heidelberg town hall (Ivanhoe), Heidelberg 1937

By the 1970s the residential development of the Heidelberg municipality was complete but for some areas in Viewbank or Rosanna East. The shopping areas were mostly of the typical strip kind, but an early (1956) free-standing centre was built in Heidelberg West, to a design by the Housing Commission which drew on American trends.

The population of the Heidelberg municipality (before the severances in the 1960s) was 8,610 (1911), 34,401 (1947, excluding Greensborough), and 60,007 (1961). The population in 1991 was 60,468. On 15 December, 1994, most of Heidelberg City was united with part of Eltham Shire to form Banyule City.


Contemporary homes, Mount Street, Heidelberg, Heidelberg 1937

Further Reading:

  • Garden, Donald S., “Heidelberg: The Land and its People 1838-1900”, Melbourne University Press, 1972.
  • “Heidelberg Since 1836: A Pictorial History”, Heidelberg Historical Society, 1971.
  • Topliss, Helen, “The Artists’ Campus: Plein Air Painting in Melbourne 1885-1898”, Monash University Gallery, 1984.

Fitzroy North

Fitzroy North, 4 km. north-east of Melbourne, is separated from Fitzroy (South) by Alexandra Parade. Its other boundaries adjoin Carlton North, Brunswick, Northcote and Clifton Hill.

It was laid out in the 1850s, by and large to a design developed by government survey staff in contrast to the under-dimensioned thoroughfares and allotments arising from private speculation and development south of Alexandra Parade. The design was fitted around the north-easterly thoroughfares of Queens Parade and St. Georges Road, the latter running over the Yan Yean water-supply pipe (1857). An unrealised suburban design from the government survey department was “Merriville”, but the name is acknowledged by the locality of Merri in Northcote, just over the border. The border is, in fact the Merri Creek.

Suburban allotments were not sold until the 1860s and 1870s. Near Merri is Rushall, the site of a housing development begun in 1869 by the Old Colonists’ Association. The idea of the Association and the houses seems to have been that of the theatrical entrepreneur, George Coppin, who was concerned about accommodation for elderly Port Phillip pioneers and for retired actors. The two hectare site has houses ranging from bluestone cottages to 1960s home units.

In the middle of Fitzroy North is Edinburgh Gardens, a circular site with a sports oval at its southern end. The oval was the home ground of the Fitzroy Football Club from its formation in 1883, entry to the Victorian Football League in 1897 until its departure from the oval in 1967. The Gardens had the Brunswick Street/St. Georges Road tram alongside (1887), and railway lines from Preston and Carlton North, which converged on a spur which ran through the Gardens. The railway line from Carlton North was part of the inner circle which became superfluous when radiating suburban lines were finally run through other inner suburbs to connect directly with central Melbourne.

Churches and schools were opened: St. Luke’s Church of England (1874), the Alfred Crescent primary school (1875) and St. Brigid’s Catholic church and school in Alexandra Parade (1880s). In 1891 the Merri primary school in the very north of the district was opened.

The tram in Nicholson Street, along the western boundary, was begun in 1887 and the service along Queens Parade in the same year. Shopping strips developed along the three tram lines, Nicholson Street, St. George’s Road and Queens Parade, the last one being the strongest and having the attraction of a plantation and service road protecting it from the main traffic.

In 1915 a central school was opened in Falconer Street, becoming a high school/secondary college in 1956 and changing in 1992 to a campus of the John Batman TAFE.

The inner-circle railway lines were kept for goods traffic, but in the 1980s and 1990s they were given over to linear parks. The spur line down to the former Fitzroy station has been treated in the same manner. The football club’s homeground became a community oval.

In 1987 the median house price in Fitzroy North was 14% above the median for metropolitan Melbourne and in 1996 it was 46% above the metropolitan median. Housing types in Fitzroy North are similar to those in Clifton Hill – mainly brick with a solid look about them – and their price levels and movements closely mirrored those in Clifton Hill.

Further Reading:

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

Clifton Hill

Clifton Hill is a residential suburb 4 km north-east of Melbourne, separated from Collingwood by Alexandra Parade and the Eastern Freeway. Its eastern boundary is the Merri Creek, and the northern boundary is the road to Heidelberg.

An early landowner, better known in Richmond, was John Docker, who owned Clifton Farm in 1841. A land speculator, John Knipe, later named the area Clifton Hill.

The Melbourne City Council operated a basalt quarry in Clifton Hill, between Yambla Street and the Merri Creek, in the 1850s, continuing until the 1950s. Most of the other land was held by the Crown for agistment purposes, and Government land sales began in 1864. Residential settlement ended the use of Clifton Hill for the burial of sewage in the 1870s. It was the more salubrious part of Collingwood council’s area, having elevated land with larger houses and two reserves. Mayors Park and Darling Gardens. It had about seven houses per acre compared with fifteen per acre in Collingwood, south of Alexandra parade. Most were red brick and terra cotta tile compared with weatherboard and iron roofs in Collingwood.

An industrial landmark, the shot tower, was erected beside Alexandra Parade in 1882. Primary schools were opened in Gold Street (1874) and Spensley Street (1891). The shot tower and the Gold Street school are on the Victorian Heritage Register, as is the railway station (1888). The railway line connected Collingwood and Heidelberg until a link between Princes Bridge and Collingwood was opened in 1901.

Of more commercial significance was the cable tram (1887), which brought the Smith Street shops within easier reach. A local shopping strip grew along the tramline in Queens Parade.

Clifton Hill’s residential attraction lessened after the turn of the century as middle class housing grew in the eastern suburb and industry took up land for factories. The Victorian Municipal Directory described Clifton Hill in 1933 as –


The Merri Creek loops around the eastern and part of the northern boundary. By the 1990s the whole of the river bank was edged with parklands, including a large space occupying the quarries site. Clifton Hill underwent accelerated gentrification compared with Collingwood: by 1987 Clifton Hill’s median house price was 112% of the metropolitan median, and in 1996 it was 160%.

There is an attractive shopping centre along Queens Parade, separated from the main thoroughfare by a plantation and subsidiary motor track. The shop facades are in a good state of preservation and comparatively few have fallen to non-retail uses.

Further Reading:

  • Barrett, Bernard, The Inner Suburbs: The evolution of an industrial area, Melbourne University Press, 1971.
  • The Flat and the Hill: Conserving Old Collingwood, Department of Planning and Housing and the City if Collingwood, 1991.


Abbotsford, a residential and industrial suburb, is in the eat of Collingwood, between Hoddle Street and the Yarra River. It was named after a property owned by John Orr in Kew, the bordering suburb over the Yarra River.

In the 1850s a land auction for the “Abbotsford township” was promoted, the site being between the Convent of the Good Shepherd and Johnston Street. It was the most attractive part, on the river bank, as west of it was the low-lying Collingwood flat.

The western side of Abbotsford has the railway line from Collingwood to Heidelberg (1888) and Princes Bridge to Collingwood (1901). The town hall and other civic buildings (1880s) are next to the railway station. A short way north is Victoria Park, the home of the Collingwood Football Club (1892). There is a railway station, and the primary school (1899), closed in 1995. Alongside Victoria Park in Lulie Street is Dorothy Terrace, eight row houses (1888), on the Victorian Heritage Register.

Two notable buildings are in the east of Abbotsford, either side of a loop in the Yarra River which runs around the Yarra Bend Park. The first is the Convent of the Good Shepherd (1864), subsequently enlarged for a home for girls. It became the Institute for Childhood Development in the 1980s and later a campus of LaTrobe University. The Collingwood Children’s Farm is on the river bank. Around the river loop is the Abbotsford brewery. Opened in 1904 by the Melbourne Cooperative Brewing Company Ltd., it was absorbed by Carlton and United Breweries in 1909.

Industry is mainly on the river side of Abbotsford. The Johnston Street approach features the Yarra Falls textile factory and the skipping-girl neon sign, a remodelled copy of the sign on top of a vinegar factory. A little north, Dights Falls are in the Yarra River, near where the Merri Creek enters. John Dight formed a mill race in about 1839 for making flour. Dight’s Paddock was the site of the Victoria Park Oval.

Abbotsford’s northern boundary is the Eastern Freeway and Alexandra Parade. The Parade was previously Reilly Street, constructed above the Reilly Street drain which was important for reducing the swampiness of the Collingwood flat.

There are a few shops in Johnston Street and a larger strip in Victoria Parade on Abbotsford’s northern boundary.

In common with Collingwood, Abbotsford underwent moderate gentrification in the late 1980s and 1990s. In 1987 the median house price in Abbotsford was 96% of the metropolitan median and in 1996 it was 133%.

Further Reading:

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

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


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 –


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.)


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 –


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.


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 –


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.