ORIGIN OF THE TOWN.
Owing to the discovery of gold in Victoria in the year 1851, thousands of people from all parts of the world hastened to Australia, buoyed up with the hope of making their fortunes by digging for the precious metal. The total population of Victoria at that time was 77,345.
The following account of the origin of North Melbourne is contained in the Argus of 8th July, 1852. In the Legislative Council Mr. O’Shanassy moved “That an address be presented to His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor embodying the anxious desire of the Council that His Excellency would cause several blocks of land to the north of the City of Melbourne, and immediately beyond the operation of the Building Act, to be surveyed in convenient sized allotments and sold without delay, with a view to enable purchasers to erect thereon houses of timber in sufficient numbers to provide that house accommodation now so imperatively required by the rapidly increasing population arriving in the colony.”
It was singular that he and the Mayor of Melbourne (John Thomas Smith) should have the same idea occupying their minds at the same time, and it was a strong argument of the necessity for some such steps as those indicated. He would suggest that a line drawn from the Benevolent Asylum to Collingwood would be a good situation for striking out the proposed allotments. The Building Act did not extend further than the Cattle Yards at the end of Elizabeth street, so that the ground if cut up would be sufficient to accommodate 10,000 persons.
Mr. John Fawkner, in seconding the motion, said that the pro-posed plan was a new way of raising large sums in aid of immigration and testing an experiment which might work very beneficially to the community at large, and though at present the only building material consisted of wood, he had no doubt that very shortly they would have brick, stone, and iron.
The Mayor, Mr. J. T. Smith, supported the motion, but trusted the Government would not reduce the size of allotments below a quarter of an acre. He would also advise them to leave a 20-ft. road in the centre, in places where they could with a fall north or south, which would do away with the necessity for each lot to have a separate entrance.
The Colonial Secretary had already said that the Government were anxious to meet the views of honorable members with respect to the sale of land. The present proposition appeared to be a very feasible one, and would probably be carried out with advantage. Government would give every facility for carrying out the measure, but he doubted whether it would have the effect which the honorable member supposed, for the land would still be open for competition, and there were persons who had been some time in the colony, who knew better how to set about these things than newcomers who, perhaps, would still be prevented from obtaining land. However, as he had said before, Government would give every facility for carrying the scheme into effect.
Mr. O’Shanassy was glad to hear the kind way in which the Government was disposed to receive the motion, and could only say that if the newcomers did not succeed in getting land they would at least get house accommodation. The motion was then carried.
The necessity of this motion is shown by the great influx of immigrants to Melbourne, nearly 100,000 persons arriving in the year 1852 alone, so that not a house, a room, or even a bed could be obtained and those were considered very fortunate who had brought tents with them.
The Government lost no time in giving effect to the motion of the 7th July, 1852, and the land on which North Melbourne now stands, and which had formed a part of the Bourke Ward of Melbourne from the time the City was divided into wards in 1842, was surveyed and cut up into allotments, the first sale being held by Tennant and Co. in their auction room, Elizabeth street, on Wednesday and Thursday, the 8th and 9th days of September, 1852, under instructions from His Excellency Charles Joseph Latrobe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria. The allotments consisted of quarter-acre blocks, and they realized from £200 to £700 each, the allotments situated at the corners of Victoria and Capel streets selling for the latter price.
The site of the future town was an ideal one, consisting of undulating land richly carpeted with grass and studded with noble redgum trees, which gave it a beautiful park-like appearance. Such was the site as I saw it on a bright October morning in 1852. The town was bounded on the north by the Moonee Ponds channel and the Flemington road, where they intersect each other at the Flemington bridge; on the south by a straight line from the Moonee Ponds channel to the centre of Victoria street, and thence to Elizabeth street; on the east by a line along the centre of Elizabeth street and the Flemington road to the bridge, and on the west by portion of Batman’s, or West Melbourne, Swamp and the Moonee Ponds Creek.
The last-named boundary was altered on the 28th September 1891, to the Moonee Ponds channel. Running down through its centre from the Royal Park was a large deep storm-water channel. This can still be traced between Park and Gatehouse streets, Parkville, which streets at that time formed a portion of the Royal Park, and passes under the Flemington road, under the playground of the Errol street State school, and under Harris and Arden streets, finally discharging its waters into one of the canals which drain the swamp.
I remember, during a thunderstorm, a workman being washed down this channel and drowned, although his fellow workmen and others did their best to save him. I have already mentioned that a large marsh, at first called Batman’s, but which some years afterwards was called the West Melbourne swamp, formed a portion of the western boundary of North Melbourne. It also was the western boundary of West Melbourne, and extended southward nearly to the River Yarra. Between it and the river the land was slightly raised, and on this mound a fine belt of tea-tree grew about 25 feet in height, from which the settlers obtained their clothes-props. Snakes were frequently met with there.
The land lying to the east and north-east of the town was of a similar character in its park like appearance. From the junction of the Flemington and Sydney roads to the Sarah Sands Hotel, Brunswick, then down the centre of Brunswick-road to the Moonee Ponds Creek, thence along its course as far as Flemington bridge, and then along the Flemington road to the starting point was called Parkside, doubtless from its park-like appearance.
We still have John Buncle and Sons’ Parkside iron works with us. In the early years of the town, the aborigines used to camp and occasionally would hold a corroboree in these park-like lands.
Hundreds of parrots and parrakeets of beautiful plumage, the scarlet lory being quite common among them, the white sulphur crested cockatoo with its harsh screaming note, and occasionally the black cockatoo with its weird cry, the kookaburras or laughing kingfishers, with their joyous laugh, magpies with their flute-like notes, mudlarks (grallinas), ground-larks, honey-eaters extracting the nectar from the tree blossoms, scarlet-breasted robins, and many other native birds made melody in the trees;
Native birdlife. Arthur Herbert Evelyn Mattingley – photographer. State Library of Victoria.
while opossums and native cats (Dasyurus viverrimus), now very scarce in Victoria, inhabited their hollow branches.
I obtained on Kensington Hill the largest native cat I have seen in Victoria. Three kinds of cicadas, generally called locusts, were also found on the trees, viz. the large black, the large green, and the small black kinds. On hot summer days these gave vent to their shrill sounds. Manna in small whitish flakes was found under the trees. It had a sweetish taste, and boys and girls were often seen looking for it. On the waters of the large marsh or swamp lying between North Melbourne and the Saltwater River graceful swans, pelicans, geese, black, brown, and grey ducks, teal, cormorants, water-hens, sea-gulls and other aquatic birds disported themselves ; while curlews, spur-winged plover, cranes, snipe, sand-pipers and dottrels either waded in its shallows or ran along its margin ; and quail and stone plover, particularly the former, were very plentiful on its higher banks. Many a savoury dish of wild fowl the sportsmen among the pioneers obtained from this source, the writer among the number. Eels, trout, a small species of perch about 2 inches long, and almost innumerable green frogs inhabited its waters, and the last-named on warm nights held a regular serenade that could be heard over the greater part of the town. At certain high tides this marsh, which covered an area of 75 acres, was subject to tidal influence. It was drained in 1879 by the Government at a cost of £41,373, as it had become insanitary through sewage which had been diverted into it.
That part of the town called Hotham Hill, lying to the north of the storm water channel before mentioned, with the exception of a few odd allotments, was not sold until the 5th September, 1865, and at succeeding dates.
On the 21st October, 1852, my father, Mr. John Thomas Mattingley, with his wife and family of eight children, landed at Cole’s Wharf and as he had brought a marquee and furniture with him, the officer in charge of the wharf advised him and others who possessed tents to pitch them on the vacant land to the north of Flagstaff Hill (now the Flagstaff Gardens).
This advice was generally followed, and Mr. Mattingley erected his marquee to the east of King street, near Roden street, in what is now West Melbourne, and not far from two large dangerous holes from which gravel had been quarried to cover the footpaths of Melbourne. In the Argus of 4th September, 1854, on the business sheet of the City Council, attention is drawn to these gravel pits at the rear of the Flagstaff Hill, and a recommendation is made that they should be fenced in. They were afterwards filled up. At this time there were many escaped convicts, ticket-of-leave men, and roughs from California about, so that Mr. Mattingley and two of his sons thought it prudent that each of them should do two hours’ sentry-go round the marquee each night armed with a gun.
THE FIRST HOUSES.
The first house in North Melbourne was a four-roomed wooden one built by a Mr. Adams in Bendigo street in October, 1852. This was rented from him in the early part of the following month by my father, who may therefore be looked upon as the founder of North Melbourne. It stood on a portion of the ground now occupied by the Imperial Picture Theatre.
The second house was built in Villiers street, about the middle of December, 1852, by the late Mr. Robert Aitkin, who carried on the business of a wheelwright and blacksmith in a workshop at the rear. The original dwelling, No. 28 Villiers street, is still standing, and is now the property of Mr. Clement Davidson; but the black-smith’s shop has been re-built. The erection of tents and other houses quickly followed, and so the infant town grew apace. At this time it formed a portion of the Bourke Ward of the City of Melbourne, but on the 26th January, 1855, it was proclaimed the Hotham Ward of the City, being named after His Excellency Sir Charles Hotham, the then Governor of Victoria, and it adopted his coat of arms.
Mr. John Thomas Mattingley was the first householder and a well-known man. The father of the writer. Mr. Robert Aitkin, the first blacksmith and wheelwright. A staunch Presbyterian. Mr. John Buncle, agricultural implement maker, machinist, &c., Parkside Works, inventor and manufacturer of Buncle’s chaffcutters, and afterwards a teacher in the Hotham School of Art. Mr. George Matthew Hardess, reader of the Legislative Assembly, head teacher of the Hotham School of Art, for many years superintendent of St. Mary’s Church of England Sunday school, and one who devoted his spare time to the welfare of the young people of the town.
Mr. Andrew Haddow, senr., ironmonger and hay and corn merchant, and the first man to use a water cart to supply the towns people with water. Mr. William Nicol, for many years an active member of the board of advice for the State schools and an earnest advocate of total abstinence. Still living. Mr. John MacGibbon, senr., father of Mr. John MacGibbon, late Secretary for Lands, was the first stationer and bookseller and the first postmaster. As honorary precentor and elder of the Presbyterian Church in 1885, his services were highly appreciated. Mr. Wm. McMaster, baker and pastrycook, father of Mr. Peter McMaster, jeweller, Errol street. A well-known open-air preacher. Mr. Hugh Lennon, agricultural implement manufacturer, celebrated for ploughs and machinery. Mr. John Raper, a well-known resident, a good church officer, and one who gave his own labour in building St. George’s Church, Royal Park, free of charge, to the congregation. Mr. Samuel G. King, who for many years was the largest draper in the town and a great supporter of the Wesleyan Church. Mr. John Barwise, J.P., hay and corn merchant, for many years a councillor and on two or three occasions mayor of the town and for 50 years churchwarden of St. Mary’s Church of England.
The North Melbourne Hotel, Howard street, was the first erected in North Melbourne, and having been built on the crest of a hill it was then a conspicuous landmark looking northwards from Melbourne. It was a centre which the carters and bullock drivers made their first halting place after having secured their loads in Melbourne for the different “diggings” (the term gold fields is now used). Here they used to assist one another in re-arranging their loads so that the heaviest goods should be placed immediately above the axles, the whole of the load being then carefully secured with ropes and chains. The roads to the different diggings were at that time very rough, unmade, and full of holes, so that capsizes were not infrequent, particularly in winter, when the holes were filled with water and their depth could only be guessed at. It is said that on one occasion a carter with a heavy load, observing some water lying on the road in front of him, stopped his horses and asked a lad who was standing near it, if there was a hard bottom under the water; the boy answered there was, so the carter attempted to cross it with his loaded dray, which immediately sank up to its axles and became bogged. “You young rascal” (or probably something stronger) he called out to the boy, “you told me there was a good bottom here.” “So there is,” replied the boy with a grin, “but you are only halfway down to it yet”; and he hurriedly made off.
At first there was but little difficulty in obtaining firewood, all that was necessary being to cut down one of the trees growing either on your own land or on one of the streets and cut it up, but later on this source of supply failed, and then we had to depend on wood-carters, who used to stand with their loads in that part of Elizabeth street north immediately in front of the present Victoria market. The load would probably weigh about half a ton, which no doubt was a reasonable weight for a horse to draw along the unformed roads then existing. It cost from £2 10s. to £3 10s. according to its size. In winter, when firewood was most needed, it occasionally happened that none could be obtained, owing to the bad state of the roads preventing the carters bringing it into the town.
There was at first much more trouble in obtaining water than there was in getting wood. The earliest pioneers, after their day’s work of from nine to ten hours was over, had to take a barrel and bucket on a wheel-barrow or truck down to the Yarra, which was then fairly good water (above the falls), and with the bucket fill their cask from the river and then wheel it back to their respective homes over roads some 6 or 7 inches deep with fine powdery dust, and this was exceedingly trying during the hot evenings of summer (I speak from experience), especially when they had to face the awful dust raised by a strong north wind. I smile when I hear some of the people of the present day complain about the “dust fiend.” He is only a puny weakling now; then he was a veritable giant. In 1849 Mr. James Blackburn, afterwards City Surveyor, erected a small steam engine which pumped water from the Yarra into a tank situated in Flinders street. From this tank water carts were filled from four stand pipes, afterwards increased to six.
These Early pipes stood at the corner of Elizabeth and Flinders streets in front of where Fink’s buildings now stand. From this source the city was supplied with water by means of water carts. It was not an uncommon sight to see 40 or 50 water carts standing one behind the other in Flinders street waiting their turn to get a load of water, for which they paid a shilling. After a time, when sufficient inducement offered, Mr. Andrew Haddow, one of the residents of North Melbourne, had a water cart built by Mr. Robert Aitkin, of Villiers street, by means of which he was able to supply his fellow townsmen with water at about 7s. per hogs-head. In 1859-60 some of the streets of North Melbourne were reticulated, and a large amount of pipe laying took place in 1865. As the service from the Yan Yean was extended the water carts became less in number, until the year 1872, by which time the reticulation was completed in North Melbourne and the water carts, having served their turn, disappeared.
Having given you the cost of wood and water, I may as well state here the prices of provisions, &c. In 1853-4, they were as follows, viz.—The 4-lb. loaf ranged from ls. to ls. 3d., at that time our supplies of flour being mostly imported from Chili, in barrels similar to those in which cement is brought here now. Of course, when stocks of flour ran low the higher price was paid for the loaf. Meat was cheap, a hind quarter of mutton costing 2s. 6d. and the fore quarter ls. 6d. Beef sold at 3d. to 6d. per lb. Afterwards there came a time, in 1865, when it was cheaper still, as the flocks and herds had so largely increased that sheep and cattle were killed and boiled down for their tallow. During that time, I had three fat legs of mutton offered to me at my house for ls. Imported salt butter was 3s. 6d. per lb., fresh ditto, 4s. ; cheese, 3s. 6d. per lb. ; eggs, 10s. per doz. ; potatoes, 7d. to 9d. per lb. ; cabbages, 2s. 6d. each ; apples, 3s. 6d. per lb. House-wives made their apple puddings and pies of American dried apples, which were much cheaper. Wages for first class artisans were from £5 to £6 per week for a day of 10 hours. House accommodation cost in proportion, if obtainable, say about 7s. 6d. to 10s. per room per week.
A very large iron building, the property of Mr. Hugh McMeikan, was known as the Havilah stables. In the early fifties, these stables presented a very busy appearance from the large number of carters who kept their horses and drays there while they were securing fresh loads for the diggings. At night, many of them slept in their drays as a protection to the goods entrusted to their care. The entrance to these stables was from a right-of-way leading off Raglan street, and the front entrance was from Errol street. Messrs. Hill and Luckman’s shop, No. 24 Errol street, now stands on the latter entrance, but the stables are still in existence and are being used for their original purpose.
The Club House, or “Noah’s Ark,” was a building made in England for a boarding house, and after having been fitted together there, and then taken apart, shipped to Melbourne. It was erected in Blackwood street on the back portion of the land now occupied by the Metropolitan Meat Market. Internally, on the ground floor, it was fitted with cabins all-round the building similar to those of the sailing ships of that time. A balcony ran round the building on the inside above these cabins and was reached by stairs fixed in suitable positions in order to give access to other similar cabins above. Two long dining tables ran parallel to each other the whole length of the building on the ground floor, with convenient openings in their length, so that the waiters could readily serve the boarders. It was nick-named ” Noah’s Ark ” because it presented somewhat the appearance of a child’s Noah’s Ark and from the number of people it contained. This building served a much needed want in the earlier days, when it was almost impossible to obtain private board and residence owing to the continued great influx of immigrants. It provided accommodation for between two and three hundred persons. A Mr. Synnot was for a considerable time in charge of it and he was succeeded by Mr. Richardson. It was the property of an English company.
FIRST BUSINESS STREETS.
Howard street at first was the busiest one owing to so many drays passing through it on their road to the diggings, but after a year or two the traffic became gradually less in consequence of the formation of the Flemington road. A year or two later it appeared as if Curzon street would be the principal one, but this in turn had to give way to Leveson street, which held the position for about ten years and then in its turn had to retire in favour of Errol street, which had been gradually creeping ahead, in consequence of the Albert cars and afterwards the waggonettes passing along it. These vehicles were followed by the buses belonging to the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company, and then by the trams, and from that time there was no doubt but that Errol street was to be the premier business street of the town.
In the early days there were some very fine basaltic columns on the western side of Shiel street. They were of a pentagonal form and 2 feet or more in diameter, larger than any I saw at the Giant’s Causeway in the North of Ireland. Unfortunately they were destroyed by being knocked down and broken up for the purpose of metalling the roads. I believe traces of these columns can still be found there, but of a very much softer nature than those broken up.
THE FIRST CHURCHES AND SCHOOLS.
Anglican.- In the early days only vessels of about 200 tons or less could come up the Yarra because of the mud banks then existing in the river, consequently the larger ships had to anchor in Hobson’s Bay and discharge their cargoes into lighters placed alongside them, and these, when loaded, were taken up the river by small steam tugs to the wharfs where their goods were landed. A Mr. Throgmorton, who was the owner of several of these lighters, made a present of £50 to Dr. Macartney, the first Dean of Melbourne, for church purposes.
The Dean, knowing that Mr. George Train had several imported two-roomed houses for sale, and seeing that some houses and tents, &c., had been erected in North Melbourne, which at that time, formed a part of the parish of St. James’s Cathedral, determined to provide church services for the inhabitants of the growing town. Accordingly he added other money to the £50 and instructed one of his curates, the Rev. Mr. Vance, who himself afterwards became Dean of Melbourne, to purchase one of the houses and to have it erected on the site reserved for Church of England purposes in the town. The building was a zinc one and, after the middle partition was removed, formed a room about 40 feet long and 14 feet wide. It was erected in the centre of the present school ground and the opening service took place about the middle of August, 1853. It was used on Sundays as a church and Sunday school, and as a day school during the remainder of the week. It was named St. Mary’s by Mr. Vance as there was no other church of that name in Victoria. This building used to be crowded on Sundays and in summer it was so exceedingly hot that it was styled the “Dutch oven.” It was in this building that the Rev. Mr. Vance used to conduct the services on Sundays. Mr. John Sircom, sen. (afterwards an inspector of the Education Department), was appointed the first teacher of the day school, which was opened on the 8th November, 1853. This building was soon found to be too small for the increasing congregation, and a fine wooden building was erected, furnished and opened during the early part of May, 1856. This was capable of seating 250 persons, and was at that time the finest building m North Melbourne. It is still standing. The Rev. Thomas Heron, another curate of St. James’s, was appointed to the charge of the rising church. On the 24th July, 1856, the late Rev. Robert Barlow was appointed the first incumbent of St. Mary’s, and it was during his incumbency that the foundation stone of the present handsome bluestone church was laid (during a very dusty north wind) by His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly on the 25th of October, 1858.
The Rev. William Byrnes was appointed its incumbent on the 18th January, 1859, and it was during his term of office that the new church was opened for public worship on the 11th of March, 1860. Mr. Lloyd Tayler was its architect. The Rev. Robert Potter, B.A., succeeded Mr. Byrnes on the 9th September, 1865. He conducted the services with the greatest ability for a period of 28 years. During his term of office he was elected a canon of the cathedral. The Rev. Mr. Carlisle, who also was elected a canon, took charge of the parish on the 21st of September, 1893, and retired on account of failing health in November, 1904. The Rev. William A. Phillips then held temporary charge of the church until the appointment of the Rev. H. S. Begbie on the 20th March, 1905. He was a most enthusiastic and lovable clergyman and the church greatly prospered under his ministry.
The present able vicar, the Rev. John Frewin, MA., succeeded the Rev. H. S. Begbie, on the 22nd of May, 1908.
Presbyterian. – Early in the year 1853 the late Mr. Robert Aitkin carried on the business of a wheelwright and coachbuilder on his premises, Villiers street, North Melbourne. On each Saturday afternoon, his blacksmith’s shop was cleaned and put in order for a religious meeting on the following Sunday afternoon, and he arranged as far as possible with Presbyterian ministers to conduct the service. Afterwards these meetings were held in the hay loft of the Havilah stables, lent by Mr. Hugh McMeikan for that purpose. Access was obtained to this loft by means of a spiral iron staircase from the yard. The opening service was held on Sunday afternoon, the 29th of October, 1854, at three o’clock, the officiating minister being the Rev. Samuel Corrie, Moderator of the Presbytery of Melbourne in connexion with the Established Church of Scotland. These services were conducted on Sunday afternoons only, alternately by the Rev. Samuel Corrie and the Rev. John Reid, of Doutta Galla (Essendon). At the end of six months, Mr. Corrie being unable to continue his part of the work owing to pressure of work south of the Yarra, Mr. Reid was requested to take the services every Sunday, to which he consented, and on the 13th May, 1855, he began his undivided oversight of the growing congregation. A grant of land, consisting of 2 acres at the corner of Curzon and Queensberry streets, was made to the church in December, 1854, and in 1855 the Denominational School Board made a present to the church committee of all the materials of an iron building 64 ft. 9 in. long by 33 ft. wide. This was erected within three months, and the opening services in the newly erected iron church took place on the 30th of September, 1855. On 6th April, 1856, the Rev. John Reid was inducted to the charge, and he thus became pastor of the congregation. Mr. John Marshall, A.M., was appointed first teacher of the North Melbourne Grammar School, which was opened on the 7th January, 1856. The foundation stone of a bluestone church was laid by Sir Henry Barkly on the 8th April, 1859, and the opening ceremony took place on the 27th of November, 1859. This building was pulled down in 1878, and from the materials a Sunday school room was erected in Elm street. The present graceful and handsome church was opened for service on the 31st August, 1879. The United Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland in Victoria, having effected a union, on the 7th of April, 1859, became the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. The Union Memorial Presbyterian Church of North Melbourne was so named in commemoration of this union.
Mr. Evander McIver was its architect. The Rev. John Reid resigned on the 15th December, 1856, and was succeeded by the Rev. George McCullagh Reed, who was appointed on the 23rd November, 1857, and inducted on the 14th January, 1858. It was during his ministry that the erection of the old bluestone church took place. He resigned on the 20th January, 1861, having received a call to Ipswich, Queensland. Mr. Reed was succeeded by the Rev. Alexander Kininmont, who was inducted on the 1st July, 1861, and who owing to ill-health retired in October, 1876. The Rev. Dr. Gilchrist, M.A., LL.D., who was inducted on the 19th June, 1877, followed Mr. Kininmont. During his charge the church was very prosperous, but on the 18th March, 1883, he felt compelled to resign owing to failing health. It was during his pastorate that the present handsome church was erected. Its foundation stone was laid by James MacBain, Esq., M.L.A. (afterwards Sir Jas. MacBain), on the 14th of January, 1879.
Dr. Gilchrist was succeeded by the Rev. J. T. Robertson, M.A., who was inducted on the 1st December, 1884, and who resigned on the 6th June, 1892, to become the Minister of St. Andrews, Adelaide. The Rev. A. J. Wade was inducted on the 23rd September, 1892, and resigned in February, 1902, having been called to the church at Armadale, and the Rev. J. T. Robertson returned to his old church after an absence of ten years and was inducted in June, 1902. He is its present capable and highly esteemed minister.
The Rev. John Reid, upon resigning his first charge in North Melbourne, rented an iron building at the corner of Errol and Queensberry streets from Mr. J. T. Mattingley for the purposes of a United Presbyterian Church and school. Mr. John Reid, jun., was appointed head teacher of the school (No. 232) on the 8th December, 1856. It was at this school that the late Mr. Hugh Reid, of the Melbourne Steamship Company, and his brother George Reid, now High Commissioner of the Commonwealth, attended.
It was also used for some time as a church. Then Mr. Albert Mattingley (the writer) opened his National School there on the 8th August, 1858, and this was afterwards merged into the well-known Errol street State School, at one time the largest in Victoria, and still known as “Mattingley’s school.” It was from the front of the building before referred to that the first vehicles conveying passengers to Melbourne started. It has now for many years been a pawnbroker’s shop. In the olden days three wooden steps led up to the building from Errol street. Since then it has been underpinned with bricks and the floor lowered to the level of the street.
North Melbourne was created the Municipality of Hotham, under the provisions of Act 18 VictoS No. 15, by the proclamation of His Excellency Sir. Henry Barkly, Governor of the Colony of Victoria, on the 30th September, 1859.
The first councilors were Messrs. John Davies, Samuel G. King, John Buncle, James Carroll, Thomas Cattanach, Andrew H. Flanagan, and William M. Cook ; and at their first meeting, held in the Peacock Hotel, Errol street, on the 21st October, 1859, Mr. John Davies was elected as chairman. The area of the original municipality, which was the smallest in the metropolitan district, was 502 acres, but this has since been increased to 554 acres. The following statistics concerning it were compiled about 1862 :—
Streets formed and metalled, 8 miles 11 chains ; kerbed and channelled, 2 miles. Churches and Chapels.—Church of England 1, containing 300 sittings ; Presbyterian Union Church 1, 412 sittings; Wesleyan Chapel 1, 400 sittings. Total, 1,112 sittings. Schools:–Denominational 4, containing altogether 374 boys and 319 girls ; National 1, containing 234 boys and 218 girls ; Private 3, containing 20 boys and 96 girls. Total, 1,261 school children. A branch post office. Court House.—The sum of £800 having been granted to the Council for the purpose of building a court house, steps were taken for its immediate erection. Habitations:—Houses of stone or brick 351, of wood 1,277, of iron 112. Total houses, 1,740. Public reserves.—Ten for various purposes, containing in all 47 acres. Population.-3,618 males and 3,439 females. Total, 7,057 persons. Electors of the municipality, 1,663. Revenue:—Rates collected, £5,864; grants from Government, £8,877. Chairman, Francis Thomas Gell, J.P.; Town Clerk, George Evans.
It was constituted a Borough on the 14th October, 1863, and on the 30th June, 1870, was divided into wards, viz., the Eastern, Middle, and Western Wards. It was proclaimed the Town of Hotham on the 18th December, 1874. In 1884 it was the most thickly populated of all the municipalities, there being 31 persons to the acre. Its name was changed by proclamation to North Melbourne on the 26th August, 1887. It was again incorporated with the City of Melbourne, together with the Borough of Flemington and Kensington, from the 30th October, 1905. Combined they now form the Hopetoun Ward of the City, named after. Lord Hopetoun, the first Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Councillors James H. Gardiner and Clement Davidson were the first representatives of the town in the City Council, and Messrs. Crichton and Parris of the Borough of Flemington and Kensington. On the 8th December, 1905, Mr. Crichton was elected the first alderman of the ward by the combined City Council. Gas was first laid on in North Melbourne by the Melbourne Gas Company in 1859, the large gas holder, facing Macaulay road, which has a capacity of 3,000,000 cubic feet, being erected in 1889. Electric lighting was not introduced until 1906.
COUNCIL CHAMBERS AND TOWN HALLS.
A shop and dwelling, situated at No. 116 Queensberry street, was rented as the first temporary council chambers. This building is still standing, and is now occupied by Mr. E. H. Tasker, painter and decorator.
The foundation stone of the ” old ” Town Hall, which was a red brick building, was laid on the 1st May, 1862. The building was completed towards the end of December of the same year, and the first meeting of the Council held therein was on the 5th January, 1863. The old fire bell tower stood about midway between it and Alderman John Fitzgerald’s Empire Hotel, Errol street.
The foundation stone of the ” new ” Town Hall was laid by the Mayoress, Mrs. H. A. Clarke, on the 8th August, 1875, and it was opened on the 27th June, 1876. It stands on the site of the old one, which was pulled down to make room for it. During its erection the Council rented from Mr. Mattingley the house and shop at No. 85 Errol street as temporary Council Chambers.
The Town Hall is a handsome building, and is one of the finest suburban Town Halls in Victoria. It cost £19,000 to build, and occupies a commanding site of which it is worthy. Its spire is 150 feet in height, and from its summit one can not only view Melbourne and its suburbs, but can also see the country around, as well as the bay. At night its illuminated clock is visible at a considerable distance. The main hall is 84 feet long by 45 ft. 6 in. wide, and will seat 700 persons. The supper room is 67 ft. 7 in. long, and 44 ft. 9 in. wide. The council chamber is a spacious one, and all the other rooms and offices are in keeping with this fine building. Attached to it are the Post, Money Order, and Telegraph offices, the Public Library, and the Mechanics’ Institute.
SHEEP AND CATTLE YARDS.
The old Melbourne Sheep and Cattle Yards occupied about 2 acres of land in North Melbourne, at the corner of Victoria street and Elizabeth street north, where the National Bank of Australasia and surrounding buildings now stand.
They had very high and strong fences, as the station cattle, having only been accustomed to see the boundary riders on horseback, would rush people on foot. The cattle were much larger than the present ones, their bodies being in form something like those of greyhounds, and they had wide spreading horns of about 4 feet span from tip to tip, sometimes more. The sheep being of the Merino breed were much smaller than our present crossbreds. Their carcases when dressed would weigh from 35 to 40 lbs. Most of the main roads leading into Melbourne are 3 chains wide. They were made this width for the convenience of droving cattle. In the early days some of the mobs would contain 500 head. Although these roads were originally intended for the benefit of squatters, yet they are of equal value to us of the present day, viz., for beautifying the approaches to the City. The St. Kilda road for instance being an example.
BREWERY AND DISTILLERY.
There was in the early days a small brewery in North Melbourne. Mr. Sony was its proprietor. It stood in Errol street, near the corner of Victoria street, where Maple’s furniture warehouse now stands. It had not a very long existence, whether from the North Melbournites not being a thirsty lot or the beer not being good, deponent knoweth not. There was also an illicit distillery in Queensberry street, opposite the present Lalla Rookh Hotel, which was run by an Austrian named Ruff, a prosperous candlemaker. He was soon caught and fined £100, his plant, still, materials, and spirits being also confiscated. No doubt he felt it was pretty rough.
509-511 Queensberry Street. This is the former Lalla Rookh Hotel. Picture Victoria. Melbourne Library Service.
FIRE AND FLOOD.
On the 25th February, 1859, about 10 o’clock p.m., as a Mr. Franklin and myself were passing along Vale street, the wife of Mr. Davey, a baker residing in the street, rushed out of her house in a very excited condition, with her baby and a cash box, and deposited both in the middle of the street. I asked her what was the matter? She replied that the bakery at the rear of the house was on fire. I advised her to take both her baby and cashbox round to her mother, who resided in the next street, and we would do our best to put out the fire. It had, however, obtained too strong a hold on the building, and there being only a hogshead partly filled with water to quench the flames, we and others were quite unable to master the fire. It spread with great rapidity and destroyed 42 houses, nearly the whole of the block, before it could be got under control, thus causing 263 of the inhabitants to be temporarily homeless.
The 19th December, 1863, was noted for a disastrous flood, some of the houses in the lower parts of the town being inundated to a depth of 4 feet. There was another great flood on the 7th September, 1870, the waters of which came up Harris street as far as Curzon street. Numbers of large logs of timber, which had been unloaded from vessels and stacked in the neighbourhood of the Melbourne Gas Works, were washed across the swamp and left strewn along the south side of Shiel street, and a fine yacht was stranded on the Macaulay road opposite the same street.
Flocks of sea gulls were to be seen flying about North Melbourne. Another flood occurred on the 11th July, 1891.
THE FIRST CRICKET GROUND.
This was situated in the Royal Park, a splendid site having been granted to the North Melbourne Cricket Club by the Government. The club fenced in the land, erected a pavilion on it, and laid down an excellent pitch early in 1858. The following were some of the earliest members, viz., Messrs. George Verdon (afterwards Sir George), Rev. Mr. Handfield (afterwards Canon Handfield), Rev. Mr. Watson, Alexander Short, Angel Ellis, Albert Mattingley, Henry Barlow, Edward, Somers, and Sydney Puckle (three brothers), King, Manton, Hollis, Wills, Barrass, D’Assonville, and others. After a few years, the old enthusiastic members either married or left the district and resigned their membership of the club, leaving successors who were not so enthusiastic in the game.
First one panel and then another disappeared from the cricket-ground fence and was not replaced, until at last little more than the pavilion remained. This, together with what was left of the fence was, I believe, sold.
THE NORTH MELBOURNE CHORAL SOCIETY.
This was inaugurated in St. Mary’s Church of England school room early in 1858. Its conductor was Mr. George L. Allan, at that time a singing master under the Denominational Board of Education. During its existence several very successful concerts were given.
In the Argus of the 15th July, 1859, it is stated that ” Mr. George L. Allan gave one of his pleasant concerts in the Mechanics’ Institute [Melbourne] last night. He is entitled to much praise for his constant endeavours to promote the study and practice of vocal music.” This society was disbanded when Mr. Allan’ retired from the Education Department, in order to enter into partnership with Messrs. Wilkie and Webster in their music shop, Collins street. After the deaths of his two partners Mr. Allan, who was an energetic and far-seeing man, erected a handsome and spacious music warehouse on the site of the old shop, and changed the name of the firm to Allan and Co. After Mr. Allan’s death his son, Mr. George Allan, became manager of the business.
NORTH MELBOURNE VOLUNTEERS.
On the 12th July, 1859, an influential meeting of 2,000 people was held in the Old Exhibition Building, William street (where the Royal Mint now stands), to consider our national defences, as there appeared to be every possibility of a European war. The Mayor of Melbourne presided at the meeting. Resolutions were passed requesting His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly to summon Parliament to meet without delay, and to send to England for naval assistance. A proposition of Mr. Goodwin’s that the banks should be requested to head the Defence Fund with £100,000 was carried. The speakers were Messrs. Fawkner, Hull, Franklyn, Service, Amsinck, and Captain Cole. On the 15th July, 1859, a proclamation appeared in a Gazette Extraordinary, calling upon all loyal and faithful subjects of the Queen to enrol as volunteers. In a proclamation bearing the same date, there is a list of the ten companies to form the volunteer rifle corps in Melbourne and its suburbs, and of these ten companies one was to be formed at North Melbourne. On the 2nd August, 1859, the Argus stated that the volunteer movement was a failure, as not more than 150 men had enrolled. It must have gone ahead after that, as on Saturday, the 25th February, 1860, there is a notice in the Argus that the Volunteer Rifles were to be inspected that afternoon at 4.30 at Prince’s Bridge Reserve (where the Homoeopathic Hospital and the Victoria Barracks now stand) by Major-General Pratt, and a large muster was expected.
His Excellency Sir Henry Barkly was present at this parade, which was attended by 500 Volunteers out of an enrolment of 700 men. The North Melbourne company alone paraded 114 men, one of its sergeants being Thomas Watson, a Waterloo veteran. The writer was one of the 114. The Argus of 27th February, 1860, gave a full account of the review, and reported the eulogistic remarks made by the General on the efficiency attained in so short a time. The North Melbourne company was formed in July, 1859. Its old orderly room is still in existence, its interior having been altered so as to form two cottages, Nos. 57 and 59 Chetwynd street. On the 24th July, 1860, the 40th Regiment left Melbourne for New Zealand, as some of the Maori tribes were in rebellion, and had killed many of the settlers, Major-General Pratt and staff, Captain Pasley, and the remainder of the officers of the 40th following in the Victorian steam sloop of war Victoria. Colonel George Dean Pitt having been appointed Commandant of Victoria, the volunteers carried out under his direction those duties which had previously been performed by the regiment, such as furnishing the garrison guards, &c. In 1863 the North Melbourne company and the Melbourne company were amalgamated. On the 8th March, 1866, the name of the two companies was changed to the Metropolitan Rifles, and they thus formed the basis of the present 51st Infantry Regiment, under the able command of Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. Courtney.
THE MASONIC LODGE, NORTH MELBOURNE.
At a meeting convened for the purpose of forming a Masonic Lodge, which was held at the New Court House Hotel, Queensberry street, Hotham, on the 1st August, 1862; it was proposed by Bro. James Maths, and seconded by Bro. George Davidson, that a Masonic Lodge be formed, and that it be named the Hotham Lodge.
The names of the brethren present were:—Bros. S. P. Barnsdale, G. Davidson, J. Dugan, J. Louden, J. N. Marris, J. Neale, W. Pearce, A. Short, W. S. Smith, J. Stirling, and J. Wilson. The Provincial Grand Secretary (R.W. Bro. Angel Ellis), the Provincial Grand Steward, and Wor. Bro. Ruck, P.M., attended the Lodge Room at the New Court House Hotel, on the evening of the 15th August, 1862, at 7.30 p.m., and in the absence of the R.W. Provincial Grand Master (Bro. John Thomas Smith) proceeded to consecrate the Hotham Lodge, the Provincial Grand Secretary occupying the chair. The ceremony being concluded, the lodge was declared duly opened, and the officers were then elected.
The jubilee of the lodge was celebrated on Monday, the 5th August,. 1912, in the Lodge Room, Freemasons’ Hall, Curzon street.
Freemasons Hall, Curzon Street North Melbourne. photographer Graham Butler.
There were about 170 brethren present, including a large number of Grand Lodge officers, as representing the Grand Master. Two of the oldest living Past Masters of the lodge, viz., Wor. Bro. Albert Mattingley, who dates back as P.M. to 1863, and W. Bro. T. J. Rivis, whose record goes to 1878, were present, and received quite an ovation when they rose to respond to their welcome, each giving reminiscences of the early days and doings of the lodge. Several other old P.M.’s graced the evening with their presence. A most enjoyable reunion was spent, and a souvenir, giving the history of the lodge from its consecration in 1862 to 1912, was presented to each of the brethren.
THE FLAGSTAFF HILL.
The Flagstaff Hill was so named on account of a high flagstaff like the mast of a large ship having been erected on its summit in September, 1840, for the purpose of signalling the arrival and departure of vessels in Hobson’s Bay. Behind the flagstaff stood an octagonal or eight-sided building, with dormer windows projecting from the face of the roof, and looking to the four points of the compass. From these windows a powerful telescope was directed, and within the building the signalling flags were kept in lockers, and the officer in charge, Mr. Harvey, also had his quarters. The names of the vessels and the times of their arrival and departure and other information concerning them were posted on the notice board, which stood just inside the fence.
Prior to the erection of the flagstaff, the eminence bore the name of Burial Hill, because on its southern slope, near King street, were the graves of some of the earliest settlers of Melbourne. I remember seeing those graves in the early days. Two dead wattle trees marked their position, and they appeared to be altogether uncared for. A monolith has since been erected in the gardens to their memory, and a large cross on the lawn in front of it marks their supposed resting place. This hill was a regular resort of the citizens of Melbourne on Sunday afternoons, in order to obtain the latest shipping news, many of them continuing their walk as far as the Benevolent Asylum and Parkside, and on week days His Excellency Mr. La Trobe and his orderly were frequently to be seen there also. A magnetic observatory was afterwards erected on the side of the hill nearer to North Melbourne.
It was under the charge of Professor Neumayer, who afterwards held a similar position in Berlin. The observatory stood 120.7 feet above the level of the sea.*
* See also Mr. G. G. McCrae’s description of the Flagstaff Hill and its buildings on pp. 118-119 of Vol. II. of this magazine. In later notes on the subject, Mr. McCrae inclines to the opinion that the original signal-station was a six-sided, not an eight-sided, structure. It was, he says, carried clear of the ground on stump supports, lightly boarded over, the door, which faced the south, being reached by a short flight of steps. The roof terminated in a point surmounted by a ball finial. The mast stood a little to the west of the building, and most of the townspeople became familiar with the meaning of the signals displayed thereon, a full description of which may be found in Butterfield’s Melbourne Directory for 1854. It is possible that the Observatory erected in 1858 incorporated the original building. Neumayer himself, in his first report presented to Parliament, states that, as the site selected by him for an Obsrvatory near the Botanic Gardens was not available, ” temporary arrangements were made on the Flagstaff Hill, using the buildings of the late Signal Station for offices and quarters.” The Flagstaff Observatory was closed in 1863, but the building remained in existence for some years longer. —ED.
The Argus of 6th September, 1849, states that “the site for the proposed Benevolent Asylum on the summit of the hill over-looking the junction of the Moonee Ponds Creek with the salt-water swamp is immediately behind the old cattle yards of the Melbourne Auction Company. The site selected is about the most magnificent that could well be imagined, the view not only being extensive and beautiful in the extreme, but peculiarly eligible for a public building, from the fact of its commanding every entrance to the city—north, south, east, and west—as well as forming a most prominent object of observation from the bay.”
This was the only building standing on any part of North Melbourne in September, 1852. It occupied a position on the boundary, about one half being in North Melbourne, and the other half in West Melbourne. On the 12th October, 1849, a meeting was called by His Worship the Mayor of Melbourne, Doctor Greeves, in compliance with a requisition from several of the principal inhabitants of Melbourne, which meeting was held in the hall of the Mechanics’ Institute.
At this meeting it was resolved that a committee be formed to obtain subscriptions for the building of a Benevolent Asylum at Melbourne, and the Government granted £1,000 towards the erection of suitable buildings. Mr. Richard Grice was appointed treasurer, Messrs. Charles Hotson Ebden, William Bell, and Edward Westby were elected trustees, and Mr. Joseph A. Marsden was appointed secretary.
Competitive designs were invited, and Mr. C. Laing’s was selected. Tenders were then called for the erection of the building, and Messrs. Ramsden and Brown’s for £2,850 was accepted. A general holiday having been proclaimed to mark the importance of the occasion, the foundation stone was laid on the 24th June, 1850, by His Honour Charles Joseph La Trobe, Esq., Superintendent of Port Phillip, assisted by the Masonic brethren, who formed a circle around the stone. This function was observed as a regular gala day in Melbourne, and a large procession marched to the site led by the;-
City Chief Constable and Native Troopers (mounted);
The different schools;
The various lodges with flags flying;
The City and Territorial Magistrates;
The Mayor and Corporation;
His Honour the Resident Judge;
His Honour the Superintendent;
Military and Police;
About 12,000 of the latter witnessed the ceremony. The Asylum was opened on Thursday, 27th’-November, 1851, and the number of inmates received up to the end of the year was 32, viz., 23 males, 4 females, and 5 children. Port Phillip was at the time of laying the foundation stone one of the districts of New South Wales. It was named Victoria after our late Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, on the 1st July, 1851, on which date the colony was separated from its mother colony of New South Wales.
Queen Victoria. State Library of Victoria.
From year to year, as the population of the colony increased, the Asylum expanded, and at its jubilee on the 24th June, 1900, the numbers in the house were 433 males and 244 females, most of whom were pioneers of the colony, 28 of them having been more than 21 years in the institution. On the same date there were 210 patients in hospital, a larger number than there was in any hospital in the colony, with the exception of the Melbourne Hospital; there were also 100 blind inmates (one man had been an inmate 44 years, and one woman for 43 years), a greater number than was housed by the Blind Asylum.
JUBILEE OF THE ASYLUM.
On Sunday morning, 24th June, 1900, at 9 o’clock, the Rev. Father Carey celebrated mass in the men’s dining room, and gave a suitable address, and in the same room at 10.30, the Anglican Bishop of Melbourne, Dr. F. F. Goe, held a special service. In the afternoon about 500 Freemasons, including a large number of the Grand Lodge Officers, held a commemoration service, under the auspices of the Australia Felix No. 1 and the North Melbourne No. 41 Lodges ; the Rev. J. Caton, Grand Chaplain, offered up a prayer, which was followed by singing and also addresses by M.W.G.M. Bro. A. J. Peacock and V.W. Bro. Dr. Llewelyn Bevan, P.G. Chaplain.
On Thursday, the 28th June, the Committee held an “At Home” without charge to the Institution, and were pleased to welcome about 600 guests. In addition, the Police and Tramway Bands were in attendance, and also a Guard of Honour of 110 cadets, under Lieut. Faravoni, of the Errol street schools. His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor and Lady Madden arrived at the institution shortly after 3 o’clock, and were shown through some of the wards, and before leaving His Excellency wrote the following minute in the minute book: “I am greatly gratified to have been permitted on this anniversary to participate in its celebration, and in the midst of those ladies and gentlemen who have so admirably maintained its noble and humane purpose, to see how well and abundantly the work of the Institution has been and is being done.” During the visit, one of the inmates, Mrs. Margaret Brady, aged 95, presented Lady Madden with a basket of flowers.
REMOVAL OF THE INMATES.
On the 27th March, 1911, new buildings at Cheltenham having been completed, the removal of the old people from North Melbourne was commenced, when about 130 of the worst cases were safely transferred to their new quarters, and from day to day the work was continued until the whole of the inmates were comfortably settled in the new Asylum at Cheltenham.
When it is considered that there were altogether 530 inmates, and of these no less than 313 were helpless, bedridden cases, it can be readily understood that the Committee viewed the prospect of removing them such a distance with considerable trepidation, and they were heartily congratulated that the whole formidable undertaking was accomplished without any hitch, and free from any accident to the old folks. The total expenditure on the new buildings, fencing, and planting, &c., amounted to the sum of £103,644, as compared with the £2,850 paid for the erection of the original building at North Melbourne.
BENEVOLENT ASYLUM CLOCK.
There has always been a doubt as to whether the Asylum clock was obtained from the old Post Office, Melbourne, or from the old Town Hall, Melbourne. Mr. Cooper, who was for so many years the accountant of the Asylum, as well as several of the old residents, assert that it was the old Post Office clock, and that when that building was pulled down its clock was placed in front of the Asylum. There can be no doubt as to the correctness of their statement, as the records of the City Council show that the old Town Hall clock was presented to St. Andrew’s Church, Carlton, and is the one erected in the tower of that church.
By the kind permission of Dr. G. B. Pritchard, Lecturer on Geology, &c., at the Working Men’s College, and sometime Acting Lecturer on Geology at the Melbourne University, I am permitted to make the following extract from a paper read by him on the 8th June, 1899 :—”A short time ago Mr. W. S. Dawson, M.C.E., of the Metropolitan Board of Works, forwarded to me a specimen for examination and identification, which had been obtained during the course of the sewerage excavations in North Melbourne.
The specimen proved to be a fairly good example of a portion of the lower jaw of Diprotodon Australis, first described and named by the late Sir Richard Owen, and I have to thank Mr. Dawson for the opportunity of examining it and recording its discovery.
The specimen is a fairly large fragment of the right half of the lower jaw, measuring about 81 inches in length, and showing portion of the incisor in its socket and indications of the four molar teeth. The fragment appears to have been broken before, or perhaps during deposition, as some of the fractures are very ancient, but there are also a number of recent flaws and breaks, evidently due to carelessness in excavation. The specimen was found in a tunnel excavation under the Moonee Ponds Creek, near Arden street, North Melbourne, the depth of the tunnel below the present bed of the creek being approximately 25 feet, or 35 feet below the surface.
The matrix in which the bone was found is a sandy clay of a fawn to a brownish colour, containing glassy quartz grains up to one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter—some well rounded, while others are sub-angular—and small flakes of a white mica, apparently muscovite. The discovery of this specimen in this locality is of special interest and importance, on account of its bearing on the geological age of the marine deposits of the West Melbourne Swamp area. In the extension of this same sewer towards Kensington, at a distance of 200 feet from where the bone was found, numbers of marine shells were discovered, all of which appear to be of recent species, and this close association of these remains seems to warrant the allocation of Pleistocene for the geological age of the deposits in this area.”
by Albert Mattingley. First published in the Victorian Historical Magazine, December 1916 volume 2 & March 1917 volume 3. first published by The Historical Society of Victoria, 421 Collins Street Melbourne.