Men of Hotham and other extraordinary people.

Launch of Annals of Hotham Vol 5

Pride of Hotham: A tale of North Melbourne and a red-headed architect, the fifth in the Hotham History Project’s Annals of Hotham series, was launched by the Hon Barry Jones on Tuesday 27 June, the 130th anniversary of the opening of the North Melbourne Town Hall.

About 200 local history enthusiasts crowded into the supper room of the town hall to hear the entertaining speeches and join author Bill Hannan in a rousing rendition of the hit tune of 1876, ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’.

The weather in 2006 was an improvement on the “wet and sloppy conditions” that greeted guests at the grand ball, held to celebrate the opening of the Hotham Town Hall, 130 years earlier.

Bill Hannan, author of Pride of Hotham, has lived within sight of the North Melbourne clock for 40-odd years. His wife, Lorna, is the Hotham History Project’s longstanding chair, and although Bill wrote the book, Lorna has been his indefatigable helper, checking facts, taking many of the photographs featured in the book, reading proofs and generally acting as Bill’s sounding board.

Pride of Hotham is the definitive history of the town hall, North Melbourne’s major landmark, and tells the story of its prolific architect, George Raymond Johnson, who also designed another major North Melbourne icon, the Metropolitan Meat Market in Courtney Street.

The lane that runs between the North Melbourne Post Office and the library has recently been named George Johnson Lane, in recognition of George Johnson’s contribution to the urban landscape of North Melbourne.

George Johnson’s great-great-grandson, Peter Johnson, also an architect, was a speaker at the launch. In his introduction to Pride of Hotham he wrote:

“I usually expect such works to be rather dry affairs, but in Pride of Hotham we have a most entertaining account of an architect, his buildings and his clients.”

The book retails at $44.95 and can be ordered through our website. Enquiries can be made through the Hotham History Project, c/o North Melbourne Library, 66 Errol Street, or

The Hotham History Project was formed at a public meeting in 1995, with the aim of researching and publishing the history of North and West Melbourne. Men of Hotham will be the 10th publication produced since then.

We are always keen to welcome more members to the group and are interested in your ideas and input into future areas of research. If you would like to become involved in our activities or join our committee please contact us.

Launch by Bill Hannan of People and Places in North and West Melbourne Vol 1 The Hotham History Project will launch a new series, People and Places in North and West Melbourne, at the AGM in September. The inaugural volume in this new series will be a dictionary-style biographical study, Men of Hotham: Municipal Government in North Melbourne 1859-1905, by local history librarian Heather McKay. This volume should be an extremely useful resource for anyone interested in the history and administration of local government in 19th-century Hotham. It will act as a companion volume to our recently published book, Pride of Hotham.

Heather was a constant source of information for Bill Hannan when he was writing Pride of Hotham and both authors became extremely knowledgeable about the activities, achievements and shenanigans of Hotham councillors almost 150 years ago. Bill Hannan is therefore the appropriate choice to launch Men of Hotham.

Men of Hotham will retail at $25 but will be $22.50 at the launch. If you are interested in buying the book or attending the launch, please enquire at the North Melbourne Library or at

The Melbourne Benevolent Asylum

The Hotham History Project’s first book, The Melbourne Benevolent Asylum: Hotham’s Premier Building, has recently been reprinted and copies are now available for $15. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, it can be ordered through the website, Alternatively, you can make enquiries through the secretary, Mary Kehoe, on 9329 5814 or through the North Melbourne Library.

We look forward to meeting you at some of our events.

by Mary Kehoe, committee member of the Hotham History Project, September 2006. (story first published in the North & West Melbourne News.)

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