Port Melbourne

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 Victoria’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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Port Melbourne circa 1997
Port Melbourne circa 1997


Avalon is an aeronautical establishment 55 km.south-west of Melbourne between the Princes Freeway and Corio Bay. The nearest town is Lara, 4 km. to the west.

An early owner of large land acreages in theAvalon area was James Austin, the person responsible for successfully acclimatisingthe European rabbit at another of his family properties, Barwon Park, Winchelsea. Austin returned to England in 1859, where be bought the historic ruins ofGlastonbury Abbey. His nephews managed the property at Avalon, and the Avalon homestead (at the end of Avalon Road, east of Limeburners Bay) is recorded as exisiting in 1870. The name derived from the Isle of Avalon, the site of the abbey, the first Christian church in England and burial place ofArthur of the Round Table.

Austin’s nephews served on the Corio shire council and rebuilt Avalonhomestead after it was destroyed by fire in 1880. The property was usedby the Geelong District Coursing Club, used for breeding stud sheep and Arab ponies, and later stud cattle. Part of the property was sold for closer settlement farms in 1910, and a primary school operated from 1911 to 1950.

In 1949 much of the Avalon property was sold to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation for a jet test field and assembly plant. In 1960 the homestead and grounds were given to the Brotherhood of St. Laurence as a haven for temporary residents.

In 1951 the Cheetham Salt Works opened a harvesting area west of theairport.

In 1992 Aerospace Technologies of Australian Ltd. (ASTA), wholly owned by the Commonwealth Government, assumed responsibility for Avalon airport(1,750 ha.). It ran the first Australian Airshow and Aerospace Expo at Avalon.

Almost 1,100 persons are employed at Avalon in activities concerned withdefence manufacturing and testing, the airport, and maintenance of commercialaircraft. There are plans for use of the airport for the export of freshfood. Avalon is also well located for access to the ports at Melbourne and Geelong.

Avalon Homestead has become a conference centre.

Avalon is an aeronautical establishment 55 km.south-west of Melbourne between the Princes Freeway and Corio Bay. The nearest town is Lara, 4 km. to the west.

An early owner of large land acreages in the Avalon area was James Austin, the person responsible for successfully acclimatising the European rabbit at another of his family properties, Barwon Park, Winchelsea. Austin returned to England in 1859, where be bought the historic ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. His nephews managed the property at Avalon, and the Avalon homestead (at the end of Avalon Road, east of Limeburners Bay) is recorded as existing in 1870. The name derived from the Isle of Avalon, the site of the abbey, the first Christian church in England and burial place of Arthur of the Round Table.

Austin’s nephews served on the Corio shire council and rebuilt Avalon homestead after it was destroyed by fire in 1880. The property was used by the Geelong District Coursing Club, used for breeding stud sheep and Arab ponies, and later stud cattle. Part of the property was sold for closer settlement farms in 1910, and a primary school operated from 1911 to 1950.

In 1949 much of the Avalon property was sold to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation for a jet test field and assembly plant. In 1960 the homestead and grounds were given to the Brotherhood of St. Laurence as a haven for temporary residents.

In 1951 the Cheetham Salt Works opened a harvesting area west of the airport.

In 1992 Aerospace Technologies of Australian Ltd. (ASTA), wholly owned by the Commonwealth Government, assumed responsibility for Avalon airport(1,750 ha.). It ran the first Australian Airshow and Aerospace Expo at Avalon.

Almost 1,100 persons are employed at Avalon in activities concerned with defence manufacturing and testing, the airport, and maintenance of commercial aircraft. There are plans for use of the airport for the export of fresh food. Avalon is also well located for access to the ports at Melbourne and Geelong.

Avalon Homestead has become a conference centre.

Metropolitan Farm

Metropolitan Farm, also known as Werribee Farm, is 35 km. south-west of Melbourne, between the western bank of the Werribee River and Corio. It borders Port Phillip Bay and has an area of 10,800 ha.

In 1892 the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works established a sewerage filtration system on 3,580 ha. of land west of the Werribee River. The sewage was transported from the metropolitan area by a main which was assisted by a pumping station at Spotswood. The initial sewage-treatment process was the flooding of low-gradient land with untreated effluent, and its effectiveness was improved in 1926 with grass filtration, when evaporation is weakest during the winter months. A proportion of the land was available for livestock grazing.

Because of the area’s isolation employees were housed in a village which by 1910 had a post office and a population of about 300 persons. By the early 1920s there were three primary schools and a public hall. The schools were Cocoroc (1894), Cocoroc South and Cocoroc West.

Beef production became a profitable sideline, despite a scare about beef measles during the 1930s. Prize-winning bulls were produced on the Farm. Sheep grazing was usually done by bringing in flocks during the summer.

By the 1960s the availability of private transport increasingly enabled employees to live away from the Farm. The township was shut down by the early 1970s.

In addition to the land and grass filtration systems there are about 1,500 ha. of coastal lagoons for sewage purification. They have become a haven for birdlife and have been designated as a wetland of international importance by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Metropolitan Farm’s census populations were 379 (1933), 477 (1947) and 129 (1966).

Further Reading:

  • Dingle, Tony and Rasmusden, Carolyn, Vital Connections: Melbourne and its Board of Works 1891-1991, Penguin Books Australia Ltd., 1991.


Altona is a residential and industrial suburb 13 km. west-south-west of Melbourne. The township is on an indented bay (Altona Bay) on Port Phillip Bay, and the industrial sector extends several kilometres inland. Altona’s southern boundary is Skeleton Creek (separating it from Werribee), and its opposite boundary is Kororoit Creek (separating it from Williamstown).

The coastal part of Altona is alluvial flats and recent estuarine deposits, with alluvial valleys extending inland along the Kororoit, Cherry and Laverton Creeks. The last two drained into swamps. Inland are newer basalt plains.

In 1842 (or probably before then), Alfred Langhorne leased pastoral land on Altona Bay, and shortly afterwards began building a homestead. The area was then known as Laverton. The homestead became known as “Altona” by the 1860s. The reason for the name is not clear, but in 1843 a neighbour of Langhorne’s, R. Wrede, gave his residential address as Altona, Port Phillip Bay. In any event Langhorne’s homestead acquired the name “Altona,” and it is in Queen Street, Altona, having served as a Council office and a community centre. “Altona” derives from a German village on the River Elbe, later a suburb of the Hamburg seaport.

Altona and Laverton were occupied for pastoral purposes. Prominent landowners were the Chirnside family, the Cherry family (hence Cherry lake), and the Blackshaws (hence Blackshaws Road). In 1881 a coal prospecting company was formed in Williamstown for the purpose of winning coal at Altona. Brown not black, coal was found and water penetration was a problem in the bores and tunnels. The activity, however, caused Altona to be noticed, for in 1882 a Sanitarium for infectious diseases was opened in Altona East.

In 1887 a syndicate acquired the Altona/Laverton property which had been assembled by Langhorne (who died in 1874), and marketed it as Altona. They commenced the connection of Yan Yean water, a railway extension from Newport and lengthening of the pier to deeper water for bay excursion boats. A nearby attraction was the Williamstown racecourse (now the Altona Sports Park). Land sales took place in 1888 and the train service commenced. Actual settlement at Altona, however, was meagre. The train service ceased in 1890, and Altona’s industrial potential was again assessed. Fresh coal mining ventures were started, and the colonial government established an explosive-storage depot near Skeleton Creek, Altona West, relieving a similar facility at Footscray. Proposals were examined for using the coal for the generation of electricity and for iron smelting. The Melbourne and Altona Coal Mine continued until 1919, and another one operated in the early 1930s.

Altona’s growth was slow, although enjoying moments of fame when early aeroplane flights were made by Gaston Cugnot (for the French Bleriot planes), and by Joseph Hammond in 1910 and 1911. Apart form coal mining the main industries were dairying, poultry, piggeries and the growing of animal fodder.

In 1913 a syndicate of Sydney entrepreneurs began replicating their success in developing beach-side suburbs by laying out generous subdivisions at Altona. The syndicate also established Seaholme, immediately to the east of Altona. Land sales began in 1917, and the railway recommenced. Two years earlier a primary school had been opened in Altona and Baptist church services begun. Residents obtained relatively cheap land on large blocks, and put up houses as owner-builders. During the first world war some families with German or other origins associated with enemy nations found it better to settle at Altona out of reach of patriotic workers at Newport. In 1920 land sales picked up, and houses were built with help from the War Service Homes Commission and the State Savings Bank.

In 1924 the Commonwealth Oil Refinery (C.O.R.) began production east of Seaholme. The refinery had mixed results: whilst providing local employment, the sulphur compounds in its effluent made the area smell. However, suburban comforts came to Altona with electrified trains, the promise of reticulated water and a shopping centre with a cinema. Subdivisions were released during 1928-9 at Altona North, Paisley and Galvin, the latter two being supplied with stations on the railway line to Geelong.

One suburban facility lacking in Altona was a hospital, until one was opened in 1932, financed by public subscriptions. It was kept during the depression by fund raising, donations of fish and eggs from local producers and by working bees.

During the second world war effluent entered Altona Bay from plant to the west. the I.C.I munitions factory at Deer Park.It poisoned the kelp, an important fish-breeding ground, and damaged Altona’s fishing and local amenity. Although the discharge was stopped, Altona’s seaside reputation was not enhanced during the war.

In 1949 Vacuum Oil began operating a refinery at Paisley, and in 1953 the Mobiltown railway station (Altona line) was opened to serve the refinery. Two years later a catalytic cracking plant increased production tenfold. There was a rapid growth in postwar population, and the Seaholme primary school opened a little earlier.

Altona was a destination for many postwar European migrants, and temporary and hostel accommodation was provided at the Williamstown racecourse and later on land on the other side of the Kororoit Creek at Wiltona Hostel.

Industries which opened in Altona included Gilbertsons/Don Smallgoods (1951), Red Robin hosiery (1949) and Australian Carbon Black (using refinery by-products for a component of tyre-making).

During all of its growth Altona was part of the Werribee shire. On 29 May, 1957, Altona was proclaimed a separate shire, and on 21 December, 1968, it was proclaimed a city.

The land at the Galvin railway station became the location of major petrochemical works in the late 1950s when Slough Estates purchased the large triangular wedge west of where the railway line crosses Kororoit Creek Road. The Altona Petrochemical Company’s plant came into production in 1961 and several others followed – synthetic rubber, several chemical plants and Union Carbide.

Two primary schools east and west of Altona’s town centre opened in 1961 and 1962, and a high school in 1960. The shire’s population grew by more than 50% between 1961 and 1966.

During the 1960s and 1970s Altona’s residents were troubled by air-borne particles and unpleasant chemical smells. Suspicion fell on petrochemical plants, although decaying seaweed might have been a cause. Air monitoring and political agitation reduced the incidents, and the closure of the Paisley briquette yard in 1972 removed an obvious cause. In the early 1970s sewerage connections were completed and reticulated water supply improved. The local hospital, a source of pride, was enlarged.

Altona township’s shopping centre in Pier Street has maintained its precedence. Drive-in shopping centres have been built further afield, in Altona North and Altona Meadows. During the 1980s the Pier Street shops were extended north of the railway line, unusual for a suburban strip.

North of the town the swamp area has become the Cherry Lake, surrounded by a conservation reserve and several sports facilities; to the east are a coastal park, yacht club and marina; and the western swamp area has water-treatment works and open-space reserves. At its extremity is the Kooringal Golf Club and a wetland which was previously the Cheetham Salt Works. Beach works during the 1980s stopped sand erosion. In 1985 the railway line was extended west of Altona to join the Geelong line at Laverton and the Westona station was opened.

The community has had a high proportion of residents from southern and eastern Europe, with a high proportion of religious adherents of both Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Altona had unusual municipal government, electing councillors by an unsubdivided municipality (i.e. no wards) and keeping them re-elected. Although in a Labor area, the Labor party gave up endorsing candidates when the voters’ preference for good local candidates was overwhelmingly obvious. The council staved off takeovers from Werribee and Williamstown councils in the 1980s. When the 1994 amalgamations happened, Altona city was united with Williamstown city and parts of Werribee shire and Footscray city to form Hobsons Bay city (22 June). By then the Altona municipality contained Altona Meadows, Altona North and the smaller localities of Paisley and Seaholme.

Between 1987 and 1996 the median house price in Altona was about 90% of the median for metropolitan Melbourne.

The census populations for the Altona township were 50 (1911), 694 (1921) and 2,841 (1947). For the Altona municipality they were 16,167 (1961), 25,020 (1966), 30,909 (1981) and 34,492 (1991).

Further Reading:

  • Priestley, Susan, “Altona: A Long View”, Hargren Publishing Company, 1988.



In September, 1836, Sydney’s Governor Richard Bourke sent Captain William Lonsdale to the Port Phillip district, thereby acknowledging that settlement beyond the permitted boundaries had occurred. Lonsdale selected Gellibrand Point at the north-west of Port Phillip Bay as the place for the official settlement, but the better situated Melbourne overtook it in his later estimation. Nevertheless a town was surveyed and named William’s Town (after King William IV), on 10 April, 1837. Land in Nelson Place, Williamstown, was sold two months later.Williamstown Wharf ca 1850

William’s Town’s pre-gold rush role in Port Phillip was farming and maritime activities. It was Melbourne’s port, with ship mooring and repair facilities. The time ball tower at Gellibrand Point (1852) was for the synchronisation of ships’ chronometers, and the Naval Dock Yards and Hobsons Bay dredges were installed in the 1850s. The description of Williamstown in the 1875 edition of The Australian Handbook was –


By 1904 the population had doubled to about 15,000, representing the consolidation of industry and institutions. The Handbook’s 1904 entry for Williamstown was –


The Williamstown municipality contained Newport and Spotswood. Housing construction took place in the 1950s in Spotswood and housing was built on the decommissioned Williamstown Rifle Range in the 1990s. By then the older parts of Williamstown were undergoing a residential renaissance, attracting people with a preference for historic renovation. Access by car across the West Gate Bridge in 1978 made Williamstown a “gentrifiable” inner suburb. A population peak of 30,606 had been reached in 1961. By 1991 it was 22,100, despite the number of private dwellings having increased from 8,228 to 8,856.

Williamstown’s shoreline features remained much the same from 1900 to the present day: numerous piers and recreational sailing facilities facing the calmer waters of Hobsons Bay, the Williamstown Cricket Ground and football club on Gellibrand Point, facing Port Phillip Bay and the beach (served by Williamstown Beach railway Station) a little to the west. The web of railway lines serving four piers and the graving dock were dismantled in the 1960s.

There are 15 sites in the former Williamstown municipality on the Victorian Heritage register, including the Railway Station and the Alfred Graving Dock.

On 22 June, 1994, Williamstown city was united with Altona city and parts of Footscray and Werribee cities to form the City of Hobsons Bay.


Postcard dated 1906.


Historical Cafe Strip, Williamstown, 1997.


Williamstown Jetty, 1997.

Further Reading:

  • Davison, Graeme (ed.), “Melbourne on Foot: 15 walks through Historic Melbourne”, pages 168-83, Rigby Publishing Ltd, 1980.
  • Evans, Wilson, “Port of Many Prows”, Hawthorn Press, 19??.
  • Strahan, Lynne, “At the Edge of the Centre: A History of Williamstown”, Hargren Publishing Company, 1994.


Queenscliff is a township at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, named by Lt. Governor C. J. La Trobe after Queen Victoria in 1853. Before then the settlement had been called Whale Head and Shortland’s Bluff.

Queenscliff is connected by an isthmus to the Bellarine Peninsula on the west side of Port Phillip Bay. It overlooks The Rip, the entrance to the Bay. In the early 1840s a pilot service for ships was set up at Queenscliff. Lighthouses were erected at Shortland’s Bluff (the white lighthouse, 1862); at a point 300 metres north-north-east (the black lighthouse, 1861-2); and at Point Lonsdale (4.5 km. south-west). Ships fixing their position in relation to the first two lighthouses can navigate The Rip. Between those lighthouses was built Fort Queenscliff (1884-5) one of a defensive network of armed stations guarding the entrance to Port Phillip.

A local fishing industry was established quite early, having access to both the Bay and to Bass Strait. A telegraph station was built in 1856, and a municipal borough created in 1863. Its name is Queenscliffe, and includes the town of Point Lonsdale.
Around this time several other institutions began. A Queenscliff detachment of the Geelong Volunteer Artillery and rifle Corps was formed, the forerunner of the Fort. Presbyterian, Anglican, Catholic and Wesleyan churches were opened between 1862 and 1869. Four hotels and the large Foresters Hall were built by 1875. The railway was extended from Geelong in 1879, and during the next decade Queenscliff’s grand hotels were built. A gas works was opened in 1884.

By the turn of the century Queenscliff was a well established holiday resort, reached by railway of Bay steamer. The Australian Handbook, 1904, reflected Queenscliff’s importance –


Queenscliff’s importance for tourists and holiday-makers was eclipsed by motor-car access to other destinations in the inter-war and postwar years, but is had an extensive array of amenities. In 1940 the Victorian Municipal Directory’s description was –


A higher elementary school (1945) became a high school in 1957.

Despite the town’s infrastructure, modern motoring and motels caused a severe decline in Queenscliff’s prosperity. Maintenance standards and property values declined.

The tourism and civic infrastructure saw a revival in the 1980s, not least because of the grand hotel and civic architecture and the proximity to metropolitan Melbourne for day trips and weekends. Passenger and vehicular ferry services also connect to Sorrento on the east side of The Rip. Tourist attractions include the restored Bellarine Peninsula railway, between Drysdale and Queenscliff, the Vue Grand, Ozone and Queenscliff Hotels (making Queenscliff the culinary centre of the Bellarine Peninsula), and the wharves where fresh fish can be bought from the fishing co-operative. The shopping centre in Hesse Street is relatively large for the size of the community. Next to the wharves are the Marine Science Laboratories, and the remainder of the coast around the township is foreshore reserves with a pier and the Australian Staff College (formerly the Fort).
Bowling, tennis and netball facilities are in the town, and the golf course is reached by a bridge to Swan Island. In addition to the high school there are a primary school and a Catholic school in Queenscliff. Registered historic buildings include pilots’ cottages (1853), a lifeboat shed (1887) and the railway station (1881), but not the hotels. The median house price in 1987 was $88,500 and in 1996 it was $150,000.
Queenscliff’s census populations equated with those of the borough until Point Lonsdale grew during the early 1900s. Separate figures for each town have not been published.
Census populations of the borough have been 954 (1871),2,000 (1891), 2,386 (1947) and 3,193 (1996). The 1991 census recorded that 26% of Queenscliff residents were 65 years or more, compared with 11% for Victoria.
The borough was unaltered by the 1994 local government amalgamations, a striking exception to the rest of Victoria.

Further Reading:

  • Bognuda, Joan and Moorhead, Leslie M., “Gateway to Port Phillip”, Jolbo Studio, 1980.
  • D.O.D., “Early Memories of Queenscliff”, 1931.
  • Dunn, N.A., “Borough of Queenscliffe 1863-1963”, Centenary Committee, 1963.
  • Loney, Jack,”Queenscliff Point Lonsdale (Tourist and Historical Guide)”, Marine History Publication, c.1980.
  • “Queenscliffe! How To See It, 1876-7, Facsimile”, Queenscliffe Historical Society, 1984.
  • Whillingham, Allan, “Geelong Region Historic Buildings and Objects Study”, Vol. 3, Geelong Regional Commission, 1986.

South Melbourne

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).

Further Reading:

  • 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.

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.