Foundation of Melbourne

The City of Melbourne was meticulously planned but it began as a barely legal, speculative settlement that broke away from New South Wales. It was fortunate to be blessed with farsighted founders who envisioned a great 19th century city with an abundance of parks, wide roads and boulevards.

Melbourne was also blessed by a gold rush...

Foundation of the Settlement
Melbourne was founded during the reign of King William IV, with the arrival of the schooner 'Enterprize' at the place we now call Enterprize Wharf near Queen’s Bridge on Sunday, August 30, 1835.

Melbourne Day is now celebrated on August 30 every year.

Founder of Melbourne
No one person can claim to be the single founder of Melbourne. A number of names who could claim to be part of the founding include John Batman, John Fawkner, John Lancey (Enterprize Captain), William Buckley, or Charles Grimes who first sailed up the Yarra River in 1803.

Interesting Fact
On the all important Foundation Day when the Enterprize landed on Sunday, August 30, 1835, neither John Batman or John Fawkner was physically in Melbourne. The Fawkner's arrived on Friday 16 October 1835while John Batman arrived on the 9th November 1835 (so they say, by foot).

First and second land sales
Governor Bourke authorised the first sale of Crown land in Melbourne, which was conducted by Senior-Surveryor Robert Hoddle on 1st June, 1837.

The sale comprised three areas bounded by:

-:- Swanston Street, Collins Street, William Street and Bourke Street.
-:- King Street, Flinders Street, William Street and Collins Street.
-:- Elizabeth Street, Flinders Street, Queen Street and Collins Street.

Each block, as laid out by Hoddle, was subdivided into 20 allotments (total 100) each of approximately half an acre (0.202 hectares). Each purchaser was covenanted to erect a substantial building on the land within a year to the value of £50. All the land was sold and the more westerly the situation, the more valuable the land.

The second land sale took place on then 1st November 1837 again conducted by Robert Hoddle. It was at this auction that John Batman purchased the block of land on the northern corner of Flinders and Swanston St, Melbourne where Young & Jackson's [Princes Bridge] Hotel stands today.

Incorporation of the Town of Melbourne
On 22 October, 1841, the settlement of Melbourne was divided into four wards for the purpose of electing commissioners for the management of the Melbourne markets established under the provisions of Act 3 Victoria No. 19 of the Governor and Legislative Council of New South Wales.

The internal boundaries of the four wards were the centre lines of Bourke Street and Elizabeth Street prolonged to the settlement’s boundaries.

Melbourne becomes a city
The Town of Melbourne was raised to the status of a City by Letters Patent of Queen Victoria dated 25 June, 1847, just five years after its incorporation. This royal action arose from a desire to establish a bishop’s see of the Church of England in the town: as the establishment of a bishopric required the status of a city, Melbourne was ecclesiastically created a cathedral city by the letters which the Queen gave to the first bishop.

However, it required more than the Royal Letters Patent to proclaim the Town a City, for the Letters Patent merely changed its name. An Act of the Colonial Legislature was necessary to change the name of the body corporate. Accordingly, following the tabling of a motion at a meeting of the Town Council to alter the style and title of Melbourne from a Town to a City, a draft Bill was approved and transmitted to the Government for introduction to the Legislature.

Constructing Melbourne


From the first trams, St Patrick's Cathedral, the Queen Victoria Market, to the first sky scraper - since 1840 Melbourne started to take the form we see today.

Princes Bridge
On 22 April, 1840, a company was formed to build a bridge across the Yarra River. In 1845, controversy erupted over the bridge’s location. Superintendent La Trobe favoured the end of Elizabeth Street where the water was a little over six metres deep with a thick, black mud bottom, but the company preferred Swanston Street where the depth of the water was only two metres but had a hard, gravelly bed.

Despite bitter arguments, the company finally had its way and, on 9 June, 1845, a contract for the bridge and the approaches was let. The bridge was just above the present Princes Bridge. It remained a toll bridge until it was superseded by a free government bridge, the first Princes Bridge, which was finally officially opened on 15 November, 1850, after many delays.

St Patrick’s Cathedral
In 1850 construction begin on St Patrick’s Cathedral to replace the small wooden structure that had been built on 2.023 hectares (5 acres) of land granted to the church by Superintendent La Trobe. Although the first mass was celebrated on 14 February, 1858, the building was not officially opened until November of that year.

City taking shape
It has been said that by 1860 the city had reached its final form, most of the land had been sold and many of the sections of the town had attracted special types of occupancies which still characterise the city today. The eastern end of Collins Street had attracted members of the medical profession while the central and western section of this same street saw insurance companies, banks and building societies established.

Bourke Street had its theatres and music halls, while the western section of Little Collins Street had attracted the legal profession. Prior to 1860, a large fountain graced the centre of the intersection of Collins and Swanston Streets; but to enable the laying of tram tracks in these streets it was transferred, in the mid 1860s, to the Carlton (or Exhibition) Gardens where it still stands today.

Public Works Committee
In 1845, the Council appointed a Public Works Committee which reported three months later that 400 tree stumps had been grubbed from the main streets of the town but that 1000 still remained to be cleared. By 1849, however, most of the principal streets were paved, the footpaths gravelled and the centres of the roads metalled. Some streets had kerbed and pitched water channels while one thoroughfare even had a few oil lamps placed on wooden posts.

Gold, gold, gold
The discovery of gold in Victoria in the early 1850s had a remarkable effect on the growth of Melbourne. The Melbourne Morning Herald in October 1851, stated that – “The whole city is gold mad; the city is getting more and more deserted every day”. But this trend to leave the city was only temporary, the gold seekers drifting back after a week or two, some successful, some disappointed.

News of the discovery of gold spread all round the world and during 1852, 1853 and 1854 the average number of people arriving in Victoria by sea was 90 000 a year. From 1855 to 1858, the average was still 60 000 with less than 30 000 disappointed people departing each year over this whole period. By 1854, the population of Melbourne was nearly 80 000 but by 1861 had increased to 140 000.

Victoria’s Parliament
In 1851, Victoria was separated from New South Wales and Melbourne became the capital of the colony. The State Legislation Council, having no other home, sat in St Patrick’s Hall in Bourke Street. Building commenced on Parliament House early in 1856 and was sufficiently completed for it to be officially opened on 25 November, 1856, by the Acting Governor General, Sir Edward Macarthur (a son of John Macarthur of Camden, New South Wales, who pioneered the wool industry in Australia).

The State Parliament met in that building until the Federation of the States in 1901, when Australia became a nation. The building then became the seat of Federal Parliament, and the State Parliament transferred to the Exhibition Building (which opened in 1880), where it continued to meet until 1927. In that year, Canberra became the official capital of Australia, and the departure for Canberra of the Federal Parliament left the way open for the State Parliament again to take up residence in Parliament House.

The Mint opens
The year 1872 saw the opening of the Melbourne Mint (a branch of the British Royal Mint) to meet the problems created by the large discoveries of gold in Australia and to reduce its export as much as possible. When the Sydney Mint closed in 1926, the Royal Melbourne Mint became the mint of the Commonwealth and the sole contractor for the production of Commonwealth coinage. The Melbourne Mint closed in 1968 and the production of coinage now takes place at the Royal Mint in Canberra. Melbourne’s Mint had been given an ‘A’ classification by the National Trust of Australia, which means it is to be preserved unconditionally.

Queen Victoria Market opens
The Queen Victoria Market opened on 20 March, 1878, on the site of the old settlement’s first general cemetery. The first graveyard was on Flagstaff Hill; but on the first survey approximately 4.047 hectares (10 acres) were set aside for a general cemetery. This cemetery was closed in 1853, but was used occasionally until the Markets Lands Act 1917 gave the Council control of the old cemetery area for the market purposes. On 28 November, 1921, the Council approved the removal of the bodies buried therein and their reinterment in the New Melbourne General Cemetery, Fawkner. The market then was extended to its present area of 5.458 hectares (13 acres).

Land booms
The period between 1880 and 1890 was the time of the land booms, with surpluses in government revenue and buoyant optimism creating great progress for the metropolis of Melbourne. Where previously in the city three or four storey office blocks had been the highest buildings, virtually overnight eight and nine storey buildings were built as a result of private enterprise. The foundation stone of St. Paul’s Cathedral at the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets was laid in 1880 and the building consecrated at the beginning of 1891.

The early 1890s cast a shadow on the growth of Melbourne when the land boom subsided and, in 1891 and 1892, numerous banks and building societies ceased operation. By the middle of 1892, 21 financial companies were in suspension.

Trains and trams
The first steam-operated trains and railway in Australia was established by the Melbourne and Hobson’s Bay Railway Company in 1854. The line, which was single, ran from Flinders Street to a pier at Sandridge (Port Melbourne), a distance of approximately 4km (2.5 miles). The Governor, Sir Charles Hotham, officially opened it on 12 September, 1854 The first cable tramway was opened in 1885 and ran from the corner of Spencer and Flinders streets to Richmond. In 1886, to permit the extension of the cable-tram lines to Collins Street, the Bourke and Wills Monument was removed from the corner of Russell and Collins streets and repositioned in Spring Street.

In 1887, more than 32 kilometres (20 miles) of tramway system had been constructed. The Crown Law offices in Lonsdale Street and the Spencer Street Railway Offices were built during this period. A new Prince’s Bridge was built and officially opened on 4 October, 1888, and the year 1890 saw the opening of a seaward road bridge leading out of the city – the present Queens Bridge.

The Twentieth Century
The new century saw a fresh surge of activity; the Council Baths in Swanston Street were built in 1903. In 1906, following the success of electric tram lines in Sydney, the first electric tram service was introduced and operated from the cable-tram terminus at Flemington to Essendon and the Maribyrnong River. In the five or six years around World War 1 a large number of public buildings were built - including completion of Flinders Street Station, the Council’s administration building, the Spencer Street post office and the City Courtst. The Melbourne Hospital, which became the Queen Victoria Hospital, was almost entirely rebuilt.

The roaring 20's
After World War 1, public buildings continued to be built, culminating in the building of Spencer Street Bridge in 1929. The electrification of the entire suburban railway system was carried out between 1918 and 1923. The conversion of the cable trams to electric traction did not commence until 1925 and did not conclude until early in World War 2.

Following the worldwide depression of the 1930s, World War 2 together with postwar building restrictions and material shortages, building development in Melbourne remained fairly static until the early 1950s.

First skyscraper
In the late 1950s and 1960s there were enormous changes to the Central Business District. Between 1956 and 1958 Melbourne witnessed the construction of what was to be its first skyscraper. ICI House was designed by Bates Smart & McCutcheon and represented an international style glass curtain wall development. In the lead up to the 1956 Olympic Games the removal of verandahs further contributed to the radical changes taking place in the city fabric. In the 1960s the first stage of the Victorian arts centre complex was openend, and the National Gallery of Victoria designed by Roy Grounds.

This period of growth and development also saw the start of construction of the West Gate Bridge and the demolition of the old Eastern and Western Markets and their respective replacement by the Southern Cross Hotel (since demolished) and the National Mutual Centre building.

Undergroud railway
In the early 1970s digging commenced on the first tunnels for the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop line and this project was completed in 1986. Construction also began on the Collins Place and Nauru House developments. Other major developments that have altered the City’s skyline and character in the 1980s and 1990s include the award winning redevelopment of the Melbourne City Baths, the promotion and development of an inner city housing strategy by the City of Melbourne, and major redevelopments of the State Library of Victoria, the old Queen Victoria Hospital site, and the Queen Victoria Market.

The installation of light towers at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Yarra Park in 1985 and the construction of the National Tennis Centre in Melbourne Park (formerly Flinders Park), saw major alterations to the landscape of one of Melbourne’s principal assets, namely its parks and gardens.

Recent additions
The modern Melbourne Museum development proposed for the Carlton Gardens continued this trend, while Federation Square is one of the most recent and different additions to the city skyline.

Mayors and Council
The Act incorporating the Town of Melbourne provided for the creation of a Town Council to administer the affairs of the town, and for the election of town councillors and aldermen.

Coat of Arms
The City of Melbourne's Armorial Bearings (or arms) were first granted to the Corporation of the City of Melbourne by Letters Patent of the Kings of Arms dated 30 January 1940.

They were based on the device approved by the Council of the Town of Melbourne on 2 January 1843, for the common seal of the corporation.

The seal, engraved by Thomas Ham, was presented to, and formally adopted by, the Council on 9 February 1843. The seal device was used from that time until 1940 as the arms of the corporation.

Melbourne Flag
The City of Melbourne's flag features the coat of arms, with the bull, whale, ship and the fleece hanging from a red ring. They are in the four quarters of the Cross of St George, with the Royal Crown in the centre of the cross.

Source: City of Melbourne - History and heritage - Introduction

Melbourne International Gateway
Officially named the ‘Melbourne International Gateway’, Melburnians have taken to calling these the Ribcage and Cheesestick.

The Melbourne International Gateway was built to create a create a gateway to the City of Melbourne. The Cheesestick represents the Victorian Gold-Rush and the Ribcage represents the Wheat Industry of Australia.

Good Reading


Melbourne Foundation of Melbourne

Melbourne History of Melbourne [Long]

Melbourne History of Melbourne [Short]

Melbourne John Batman

Melbourne Batman's Treaty of Melbourne

Melbourne John Pascoe Fawkner

Melbourne Enterprize | Tall Ship

Melbourne Enterprize Wharf

Melbourne Melbourne Day | 30th August




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