THE STORY OF MELBOURNE.
Primitive Huts to Lofty Structures.
Great Work by Pioneers.
By A. W. GREIG.
The first buildings erected on the site of Melbourne were the huts
of the "Enterprise" party, who had managed to work their schooner up the Yarra to about opposite the present Custom
House. According to the account given many years afterwards by John Pascoe Fawkner, they began to form their camp on Tuesday, September 1, 1835. John Lancey was in charge of the expedition, and with him were William Jackson, George Evans, Robert Hay Marr, and some of their servants. Fawk- ner they had been obliged to leave behind in Launceston, as the rough tossing on Bass Straits, waiting for a fair wind, had proved too much for him. About a fortnight after they had
landed, some of Batman's party, including his brother, Henry Batman, came up from the depot at Indented Head to join them, and in October Fawkner himself arrived and proceeded to erect an inn or house of accommodation. John Batman did not take up his residence at the settlement until April, 1836. The site he chose for his dwelling was on the slopes of "Batman's Hill," near the river, where now stand the Spencer street railway goods sheds. When Mr. George Stewart, the police magistrate sent by Sir Richard Bourke to report on the new venture, made his ap- pearance in May, 1836, there were 13 buildings, mostly turf huts,
grouped together on the banks of the Yarra. Thus was Melbourne begun.
In September and October, 1836, the first resident officials arrived headed by Captain William Lonsdale, who had been placed in charge of the settlement as police magistrate. He selected a level piece of ground between what are now the western ends of Collins and Bourke streets, on which to erect more or less temporary accommodation for himself and his staff. A party of surveyors, under the direction of Robert Russell, had been sent to make preparations for an extended survey of the district; and while waiting until their horses were fit to convey their equipment through the bush, these, thereupon plotted out the ground on which the settle- ment stood. A small wooden building for use as a church and school was by this time in course of construction near what is now the intersection of William and Little Col- lins streets, and there were two or three stores and about the same number of public houses. Nobody had yet any legal title to the ground they were occupying, as the town had not yet been laid out, nor, indeed, had its formation been officially decided
The Naming of Melbourne.
In March, 1837, Sir Richard Bourke him self came to see what was being done on the banks of the Yarra. He selected sites for two townships, which he named "Mel-
bourne" and "William's Town" in honour
(ILLUS.) The city terminus of Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway, 1854.
of the reigning sovereign and his Prime
Minister. The first of these was on the spot already chosen by the pioneer settlers when their progress up the river was blocked by the rocky barrier of the "Falls," where now the Queen's Bridge crosses the Yarra. The second was at the landing place on the sheltered side of Hobson's Bay, at the mouth of the river.
In 1838 the town was in its swaddling clothes, "It reminded me," says a new arrival at this time, "more of extensive preparation's being made to hold a rural fair, many of the buildings being of wood, and more like booths than houses." Official business was carried on by means of makeshifts. The post-office was a cottage in Flinders street; a store was rented for use as a temporary gaol; and one of the original buildings erected before the survey of the town was purchased for the combined purposes of a police office and a hospital. The principal means of access to Melbourne, from the bay continued to be by a roundabout route from Williams- town, across a ford on the Saltwater River, but a punt had been established on the Yarra, and some use was being made of the beach at what is now Port Melbourne.
Progress was being made, however, and there was some speculation in town allot- ments. Fawkner had produced a manuscript newspaper at the beginning of the year, and later had obtained a printing-press. His venture was suppressed because he had not obtained a licence, but another paper commenced publication in October. In February a bank agency was opened, and in April it was stated that no fewer than 10 brick buildings were in course of erection at one time, six of them being of two stories.
Melbourne's First "Boom."
The years 1839 and 1840 may be said to have witnessed Melbourne's first "boom." The population of the town rapidly increased, and the arrival of shiploads of free immigrants gave rise to the first "Canvas Town" on the southern bank of the Yarra." There were four or five temporary places of public worship in use, and before the end of 1839 the erection of two substantial churches had been commenced, and the foundations of the first permanent public building - a Custom House - were laid. Some- thing like a mania for land speculation set in, and allotments which had been bought at the Crown sales two years before for £20 or £30 changed hands for £600 to £1,000, or even more. The first suburban land was sold by the Government in 1839, and although if was disposed of in blocks of about 25 acres it was soon subdivided, and to
the north-east of the town a "Newtown" sprang into existence, on the site now known as Fitzroy; while along the river to the east were the germs of another subur-
ban settlement, afterwards to grow into Richmond. The extravagances of some of the land salesmen of this period make amusing reading in the advertising columns of the early Melbourne newspapers, of which, from the beginning of 1840, three were being published. It is to the credit of the land-hungry speculators of Melbourne that
when Mr. C. J. Latrobe, who had arrived in October, 1839, to take up the duties of Superintendent of the Province, desired to purchase a site for the building he had brought with him ready for erection, he was allowed to secure it at the upset price,
although it was submitted to public auction. This was the 20 acre block which Mrs. Latrobe christened "Jolimont."' It has long since been converted into a residential area, but some part of the original "Government House" was until very recently still standing.
In 1841 a post-office was erected on the site at the corner of Elizabeth and Bourke - streets, and before the end of the year a market had been established on the square and placed under the control of a locally elected "Market Commission."
There were at first no regular market buildings, the ground being merely enclosed by a post-and-chain fence. About this time an attempt was made to establish a theatre in Bourke street, as an adjunct to the Eagle Tavern, which stood where the Bull and Mouth is to-day. A gable-fronted wooden structure, 32ft. wide,
and 65ft. deep, was erected next to the hotel, but when ready for use the licence was refused it, and it had to be opened as a concert-room only. In 1842 it was actually used for dramatic performances, a temporary permit having been issued to an amateur dramatic company; but it soon fell into disrepute, and after a brief and chequered career was converted into a livery stable. Meanwhile the public busi- ness was being carried on by various makeshift contrivances at the western end of the town; but another strip of ground had been taken in on the north-west, and the town boundary pushed on to Latrobe street, so named in honour of the new superintendent; and on the rising slopes beyond Latrobe sheet, towards its eastern end, a gaol and a courthouse were being built. The former was opened in the middle of 1843, but the prison was not ready for use until the end of 1844, although more than one public execution had taken place in its vicinity in the meantime. We have, still living amongst us, a citizen who remembers seeing condemned prisoners, sitting on their own coffins, being conveyed in a cart from the temporary gaol in Collins street west to the place of execution.
Melbourne a Municipality.
It was rather unfortunate that the incorporation of Melbourne as a municipality should have taken place at a time when its citizens were beginning to feel the throes
of the financial crisis which followed the
boom of 1839-40. The first election of a council took place on December 1, 1842, and was attended by the riotous proceed- ings usually associated with such functions in those days. "About noon," says the contemporary newspaper report of the pro ceedings in one ward, "Condell's ale grew too strong, and caused much confusion at the polling; but the confusion was caused principally by those who were not voters, as all invited to partake and make welcome.'" The Condell referred to was Harry Condell, a brewer, who was elected as the first mayor. "Garryowen" gives an amusing account of the solemn proces sion to the temporary courthouse at the corner of King and Bourke streets a fort night later, when his Worship the Mayor garbed in a Masonic gown of crimson silk and attended by the members of the council in blue coats with gilt buttons, white vests, and polished Wellington boots, appeared before the resident judge to take the oath of office and listen to a homily from the Bench. But though thus aus piciously inaugurated, the new corpora tion had something of a struggle to estab lish itself. The citizens resented any fresh burdens being placed on their shoulders in the shape of taxation, and in some cases placed as many difficulties as possible in the way of the rate collector, while the early town councillors were much given to squabbling among themselves, in pre ference to carrying on the public business for which they had been elected. Some
years were to elapse before the council had a meeting-place of their own. In the mean time they obtained accommodation in the building of the Mechanics' Institution which had been erected in 1842-3 on the site now occupied by the Athenæum Theatre, in Collins street. In 1845 a wooden bridge was built across the Yarra at Swan ston street by a private company, and the same year John Thomas Smith opened the Queen's Theatre in Queen street-the first building worthy of the name of a theatre in Melbourne. It was here that George Coppin made his fast bow to a Melbourne public, in June, 1845. Super
intendent Latrobe, who had been obliged to conduct his official business for some time in the house erected by John Bat man, on Batman's hill, was enabled at the
beginning of 1846 to move into a building of some pretensions, which had been erected as Government offices on the site now occupied by the Law Courts; and be tween 1847 and 1849 a police office was built on the site in Swanston street where now the municipal offices stand, adjoining the Town Hall. With a new front, added in 1858, this institution retained the name of the "Old Court" for many years after its use in this capacity had been discontinued.
Melbourne in the 'Forties.
A glance at Melbourne in the 'forties reveals some curious features. The streets,
notwithstanding the work which had been #
(ILLUS.)One of the earliest known drawings of Collins Street, looking down from the
site of the present State Government offices.
By courtesy of the Historical Society of Victoria.
# done by convict gangs sent from Sydney
in the early days of the settlement, were far from being in a passable condition ex- cept in dry weather. A gully run down a great part of Elizabeth street, and from Collins street to the Yarra rejoiced in the name of "the River Townend," while a similar ditch, known as "the River Enscoe,"' developed in Flinders street, as the result of the banking-up of drainage by the first attempt at a wharf. The flat portion of Collins street- now known as The Block became a bog in wet weather, and as late as 1845 it was estimated that there were still 1,000 stumps to be grubbed in the streets. For illumination at night the citizens were dependent on the tavern keepers, each of whom was required by law to keep a light burning in front of his premises all night, and there were frequent prosecutions for failure to comply with this provision. No effective attempt at street lighting seems to have been made by the city fathers until the 'fifties.
Up to 1846, and perhaps later, stocks stood in the market square, adjoining the police office there, for the punishment of minor offenders. Imprison- ment for debt was in vogue until the beginning of 1844, but debtors
were allowed the liberty of "The Rules," which included four or five blocks of streets in the vicinity of the old gaol in Collins street west. Down by the river there were sights which would strike us to-day as strangely unfamiliar. Right through the 'forties herring-fishing seems to have been indulged in quite close to the town. In May, 1842, the banks of the Yarra were "studded with anglers of every grade," and half-a-dozen years later the same phenomenon is remarked on by
the local press. Some sort of a wharf was built at the end of 1841, and a few months later Captain Ward Cole and Mr. Dobson were digging "docks" for private wharves near the end of Spencer street. By the end of 1843 swimming baths had been con structed on the south bank, near the "Falls," and remained in use for some years. There were at this time tanneries farther down on that side of the river, and opposite to them, about the site of the present Victoria dock, were slaughter houses and boiling down establishments. Along the south side of the swinging basin, boat building flourished, and there were even shipwrights who dared to build vessels up to 200 tons burthen. All this activity makes it hard to realise that the Yarra was still the source of the town's water supply. Hand pumps stood along the river bank, and from these water carters filled their barrels on wheels up to 1849, when Mr. James Blackburn and a partner erected a reservoir and pumping station at the foot of Elizabeth street, and made some attempt at filtering the supply. On the flat across the river the dairy cattle of the inhabitants grazed on the "Town Common," under the charge of herdsmen who resided in huts erected in that locality, and nearer the bank, not far from the wooden bridge, brickmakers carried on their business, forming a class to themselves.
Such was the Melbourne of the 'forties — increasing during the decade from a town of 4,000 inhabitants to a city with 20,000, and acquiring, besides the buildings already mentioned, a hospital, half-a-dozen churches, and a "St Patrick's Hall"; the last named being destined, two or three years after its erection, to house the first Legislative Council of the colony of Victoria. By way of suburbs, in addition to Williamstown, Collingwood, and Richmond, there were the beginnings of water-
ing places at St Kilda and Brighton, and the nucleus of a port at "Liardet's Beach," where the enterprising colonist of that name had erected a hotel, helped to make a road up to the town and established a passenger conveyance to run backwards and forwards. In 1850, the first Prince's Bridge — a bluestone structure which had been building since 1846 — was opened amid the rejoicings over the forthcoming separa tion of Victoria from New South Wales. On this occasion the whole town made holiday, and some thousands of school children picnicked in the Botanic Gardens, which had been established in 1846. These were merely episodes in a week's fes tivities which made a fitting close to the first period of Melbourne's history.
"Canvas Town" and "Rag Fair."
The most striking features of the early 'fifties, when the beginning of the "Gold Rush" brought so many thousands of immigrants flocking into Melbourne from over
seas, were the forming of "Canvas Town" and "Rag Fair." Early in 1852 a collection of tents and huts made its appearance on the south bank of the Yarra, where their proximity to the water was a great advantage while the summer season lasted. But with the break-up of the weather they were driven back to the higher ground crowned by the Government Domain, and here, on the site now crossed by St. Kilda road, near the new Police Hospital, the encampment attained such dimensions that at one time it had a population of nearly 5,000 persons. "Rag Fair" had its origin
in the necessities of destitute immigrants
arriving to find themselves helpless with
out ready money, and compelled to estab lish an impromptu market near the foot of Elizabeth street, where they offered the contents of their boxes for sale. Both of these institutions were ephemeral, born
of the needs of the moment; and we have to turn to a time when the excitement of the gold rush was to some extent abating to find substantial developments taking place in the city.
There was one building, however
whose construction spread practically right over the gold rush period. This was the first Melbourne Town Hall, the site of which had been decided after much discus sion. It was commenced about the end of 1851, and was not completed until early in 1854, its building being much inter
fered with by the scarcity of labour at a time when everybody was rushing to the diggings. The year 1854 really marked the steadying down of the public pulse and the beginning of great things as far as Mel bourne was concerned. It saw the hold
ing of the first exhibition in a building
which had been hurriedly constructed in William street, where now stands the Royal Mint; the opening of the first Aus tralian railway from Melbourne to Hob son's Bay; and the laying of the founda tion stones of the Public Library and the University. The streets now began to be macadamised and to have fairly continu ous footpaths; and while the taverns of Collins street — such as the famous "Cri- terion," the headquarters of the American
colony in Melbourne — retained their place as centres of social intercourse, Bourke street and its environs were coming into their own as the home of popular amuse ment. In quick succession came "Astley's Amphitheatre"' (the old Princess Theatre), the first Theatre Royal, and Coppins "Olympic" — better known as "the Iron Pot" — all of which were opened by the middle of 1855, supplanting the earlier circuses and the "Salle de Valentino" which had flourished in the same vicinity in 1852 and 1853. Music halls and other shows flourished amain, and the lucky digger had no lack of variety in the way of entertainment. The Eastern Market, which had been estab- lished in 1847, developed into "Paddy's Market" and provided attractions of its own. The building of Parliament House was commenced at the end of 1855, and by Novem ber, 1856, was sufficiently far advanced for the assembling there of the first Parliament under responsible Government. At this time also were launched the rebuilding of the Customs House and the Western Market on a scale more commensurate with the growth of the city; while the erection of the Victoria Barracks on St Kilda road was commenced to provide for the accommodation of the increased garrison which had been rendered necessary by the influx of the gold seekers, the military headquarters being transferred from Sydney to Melbourne in 1854. The Government Print ing Office was erected between 1856 and
1858, and the Treasury Building at the top of Collins street was commenced in 1857.
To provide for suburban expansion, the inner suburbs of Carlton, Hotham (North Melbourne), and Emerald Hill (South Mel bourne) were laid out in 1852. Colling wood spread down towards the river as East Collingwood, which retained the name after the original Collingwood had become the Fitzroy Ward of the City of Melbourne. Prahran became populous, and something of a land boom filled up the districts round Essendon, Footscray, and Williamstown. To provide for this growing population increased public facili
ties were necessary. The Yan Yean water supply scheme, commenced in 1853, was brought into operation at the end of 1857; and so enthusiastic were the city coun cillors about it that before long they had established public baths and even erected a fountain at the intersection of Collins and Swanston streets, although the latter proved such an impediment to traffic that it had to be removed a few years later. A Gas Company was formed as early as 1850, but not until 1857 were the oil lamps in the streets superseded by the more modern illuminant. The suburban rail- way system was extended to St. Kilda in 1857, to Richmond and Brighton in 1859, to Essendon in 1860, and to Hawthorn in 1861. Suburban municipal councils began
with the election of the first at Emerald
Hill in June. 1855. East Collingwood followed suit in October; and Prahran, Rich mond, and Williamstown early in 1856. East St. Kilda waited until March, 1857. North of the town Brunswick, Northcote, and Preston were being filled up, but had not as yet got beyond the stage of "Road Board Districts."
The progress of the 'sixties and 'seventies was not so meteoric as goldfields days. Melbourne had a population of 140,000 in 1861,and this had risen to over 200,000 in 1871. Public buildings now began to grow in number and impor tance, and to lend a more substantial appearance to the city. Between 1866 and 1874 the spires of the Scots and Independent churches arose on the Collins street hill; while St. Patrick's Cathedral, commenced in 1858, made substantial progress. The original post-office, to which extensive temporary additions had been made in the 'fifties, was removed to make room for the present building, erected between 1859 and 1867. In the lastnamed year His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh
laid the foundation-stone of a new Town Hall, which was completed by 1870. Another memento of his visit was the Alfred
Hospital, in Commercial road, Prahran, which was erected about this time. Early in the 'seventies the Mint took the place
of the old Exhibition Building, and the original Government offices were swept
away to make room for the Law Courts. In Bourke street the Theatre Royal was rebuilt after its destruction by fire in 1872, and about the same time the Opera House was completed, on the site of an
earlier theatre known as "The Varieties,"
which had also suffered demolition by fire. Indeed, this fate seems to have been a common one for Melbourne theatres, for the "Haymarket," a venture of George Coppin's, which occupied the site of the present Eastern Arcade, stood only from 1862 to 1871 before falling a victim to fire,
and his earlier "Olympic" in Exhibition street was burnt in 1866. Several exhibi tions were held during this period. The first, in 1861, took place in the original building in William street, but for the later ones held in 1866, 1872, and 1875, a tempo
rary structure at the rear of the Public Library served. In 1864 Melbourne acq uired its first public monument — the Burke and Wills statue — and in 1869 the
first organised omnibus service was begun by a company of which the late Francis Boardman Clapp, one of the coach pro
prietors of the 'fifties, was the active head.
Space will not permit more than a passing reference to the growth of sport in Mel bourne as the Saturday half-holiday be
came a more and more widely recognised institution. Cricket had flourished sporadic ally almost from the foundation of the game, and in 1855 the MCC secured pos session of their now famous ground. Foot ball commenced in earnest about 1858, and Yarra rowing clubs and "regattas"
became popular about the same time. In 1861 the famous "Melbourne Cup" was first run. Cycling had its first tentative beginnings — the "boneshaker" period in 1869, and volunteer fire brigades, originating away back in 1853, were in the full glory of competitions and torchlight processions
by the end of the 'seventies.
Passing of "Old Melbourne."
In 1879-80 the present Exhibition Build ing was erected in Carlton Gardens, and was shortly afterwards occupied by
our first great International Exhibition. The decade thus opened saw the passing away of Old Melbourne. In 1881 the metropolitan area held nearly 300,000 in habitants, but 10 years later the number was not far short of half a million. With such rapid growth progress was inevitable. Buildings of eight and nine stories began
to spring up where before the maximum height had been three or four. More than anything else, perhaps, the introduction of the cable tram system in 1885, with the wood blocking of the streets and the formation of underground stormwater channels which accompanied and followed it, transformed the appearance of the city.
The old wooden verandahs disappeared one by one, two new bridges were built across the Yarra, and the river was so widened and deepened as to do away with all fear of such floods as had inundated the low-lying parts of the town at intervals since its history had begun, the worst being that of 1863. Three times in the 10 years between 1870 and 1880 the waters had spread over the flat lying between the town and Emerald Hill, cutting off com munication with the southern suburbs, but under the scheme initiated on the advice given by Sir John Coode in 1879 such invasions became things of the past. In 1880 a telephone exchange was established and in the same year the foundations of St. Paul's Cathedral were laid; in 1881 electric light was installed in the new Eastern Market building, and in the following year a generating station capable of supplying 2,000 incandescent lamps was in operation. Suburban growth was facili tated by further railway extensions, and with the opening of the line to Box Hill in 1882 a whole new group of "Eastern Suburbs" sprung into existence.
The outstanding feature of the 'nineties was the severe financial depression which followed the "land boom"; but even this decade saw the completion of the Yarra improvements, the introduction of the sewerage system, and - towards its end - the beginning of those two important factors in our daily life, the moving picture and the motor car. Two more dates will suffice to bring our record to a close. In 1906 the first suburban electric tramlines — from St Kilda to Brighton and from North Melbourne to Essendon — were opened for traffic; and in 1919 the electrifica tion of the suburban system was commenced, to be completed in 1923.