The foundation stone of the Benevolent Asylum, the first permanent building in North Melbourne, was laid on 24 June 1850. On this clear and sparkling winter’s day a long and colourful procession stretched from Flinders Street through the streets of old Melbourne Town towards the green and wooded hill on which the asylum was to be sited.
Led by the Chief Constable and mounted Native Police, the procession comprised the Superintendent, the Mayor, members of parliament, the judiciary, representatives of the churches and all the schools and societies of the day, many in ceremonial dress and holding aloft spectacular banners. Bands played and people danced as over half the population of Port Phillip celebrated the laying of the foundation stone of the asylum to house the aged, disabled and destitute of the colony.
At 10.30am on Friday 10 November, to mark the 150th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone, the Hotham History Project invites all friends and residents of North and West Melbourne to assemble at the corner of Curzon and Miller Streets and join in a procession around the boundary of the asylum site (Curzon, Elm, Abbotsford and Miller Streets). The unveiling of a brass plaque in Curzon Street and refreshments will follow this procession.
With the coming of white settlement to the area, the Wurundjeri people were pushed out of North Melbourne. In a spirit of reconciliation and in recognition of the fact that this is traditional land, members of the Wurundjeri people will participate in this community event. Local schools will provide the music and dramatic content and there will be an opportunity for everyone to be involved. Father Jim Brady, the former Vicar of St Mary’s Anglican Church, is masterminding the event and welcomes your input and ideas. We hope to make this a really wonderful day and look forward to seeing you there.
By Mary Kehoe & Rae Nicholls, 2000.