Port Melbourne 3207

Port Melbourne, a residential and industrial suburb, is 4 km. south-west of Melbourne. It is bounded on its north and west by the Yarra River, on the south by Hobsons Bay and on the east Bay South Melbourne. The residential part adjoins South Melbourne.

In 1839, four years after the first permanent settlement of Melbourne, Wilbraham Liardet settled at Port Melbourne, building a hotel and jetty on Hobsons Bay and operating a mail service to Melbourne. The area became known as Liardet's Beach, although the official district name was Sandridge. Land sales were delayed until 1850. The gold rush immigration brought passengers and freight which made use of a government pier on Hobsons Bay, served by Australia's first railway line from Melbourne to Hobsons Bay.

The first allotments surveyed in Sandridge were between Stokes Street and a linear lagoon on the east, now Esplanade East. (The lagoon was probably an ancient course of the Yarra River.) With the railway, the township was enlarged, westwards to the railway line and northwards to Raglan Street.

A Wesleyan church was opened in 1853, and a Wesleyan school in the following year. By 1860 there were also Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian churches, a Catholic school and a National school (1857). On 13 July, 1860, the Sandridge borough was created by severance from Melbourne City Council, its boundaries being the railway line and the lagoon, but further north to Bourndary Street. In addition to the Railway Pier there were the Sandridge Pier and the Town Pier at the end of Bay Street. The Swallow and Ariell Steam Biscuit manufactory was opened in Rouse Street in 1854, beginning with ships biscuits and expanding to become a major industry by 1880. Thomas Swallow was the Council's second mayor and was influential in several of its community activities.

The borough remained confined between the railway line and the lagoon because of a planned canal between the Yarra River and the bay and the increasingly noxious condition of the lagoon, contributed to by the run-off from Emerald Hill, South Melbourne. Ideas to make the lagoon a dock did not materialsie, and it remained a harbour for small craft.

The coast west of the railway Pier was Sandridge Beach or Fishermens Bend, which was added to the borugh in 1863. Its sand was extracted for Melbourne's building trade, and in some cases the excavations were used as night-soil dumps. Bone mills, goats and pig-keeping added to the effluvia.

Since almost the first local election the Council had met in the court house (1861), and in 1869 the first town hall was built in Bay Street. After congested accomodation in the church schools and the National school, a State primary school was opened in Nott Street in 1874.

Port of Melbourne

The Port of Melbourne has extended from Williamstown and Port Melbourne on Hobsons Bay, to the part of the Yarra River known as Queens Wharf, opposite William Street, central Melbourne.

When the `Enterprize', a vessel carrying settlers from Tasmania, entered the Yarra River in August, 1835, it stopped short of the rocky river bottom which was opposite Market Street. Settlement in that vicinity was commenced, as boats could not be navigated upstream and, within a few hundred metres, drinking water could be fetched from beyond the rocky falls. Within four years a primitive wharf was functioning on the north bank of the river, and a customs house was built between William and Market Streets. Downstream, between Spencer and King Street, private wharves were built, the best known being Coles.

Across Hobsons Bay the township of Williamstown was laid out in April, 1837. A jetty made of boulders was completed in February, 1839. A private pier was built at Sandridge (Port Melbourne), by Wilbraham Liardet in 1839. Both these bayside facilities came about because of the difficulty of navigating the river which, before the construction of the Coode Canal, had an S-shaped course through the West Melbourne swamp lands.

The gold-rush immigration years in the 1850s caused acute congestion of the port. The unloading of goods and passengers was helped, though, by the building of the Melbourne to Hobsons Bay railway and the construction of the Railway Pier (now Station Pier), Port Melbourne. In 1851 the Colonial Architect and Melbourne city's surveyor proposed the cutting of canal across the swamp lands to relieve the congested river. Eight years later the first of four reports recommended the formation of a separate body or harbour trust to manage all the port facilities.

With the support of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce the Melbourne Harbor Trust was established in 1876 and within three years it had a report from Sir John Coode, an English harbour engineer, recommending the route of a canal, not along the shortest possible route to Hobsons Bay, but cutting off the sharpest loop of the river meander (from approximately today's Appleton Dock to south of where the Maribyrnong River enters the Yarra). The route avoided high velocity currents from Hobsons Bay, and retained the scouring action of both rivers' flows to cut down silt deposition at the river mouth and around Williamstown. The Coode Canal, opened in 1886, 1,800 metres long, 100 metres wide, and under eight metres deep, left Coode Island to its north. The island was joined to West Melbourne as the meander was filled.

Port Melbourne had 38% of the lineal wharves' length, Williamstown 26% and the up-river areas 36%. The up-river Queens wharf area was situated on a naturally wider part of the river, sometimes likened to London's Pool. At various times it had been a quagmire, a receptacle for waste from slaughter yards and discarded tallow, and an unsightly collection of flotsam. Its proximity to Flinders and Spencer Street stations (Now Southern Cross Station) and the Melbourne Fish Market preserved its activity, but by the 1950s the northern side had been substantially filled in for land reclamation. There were also wharves along the south side of the river.

In 1892 the West Melbourne Dock (now the Victoria Dock) was opened, down stream and immediately west of the Spencer Street railway shunting yards. It contains a swing basin for ships, replacing the one which ha been provided on the south side of the river, later to be the Duke and Orr dry dock, west of the Charles Grimes Bridge. Further west was the South Wharf along the river bank.

Shortly before the opening of the Coode Canal the piers at Williamstown were lengthened, the largest being the Breakwater pier. There were also minor wharves along the west sides of the Maribyrnong and Yarra Rivers, and the latter were later developed for bulk cargoes.

The spacious Victoria Dock was hampered by a shallow river entry until the Canal was deepened to 8.2 metres in 1917. Meanwhile a second railway pier was built at Port Melbourne in 1914, and named Princes Pier in 1920.

Deep-draught vessels continued to put pressure on the Port's harbour facilities and the construction of the Spencer Street bridge in 1929 effectively closed the Queens wharf area to all but the smallest craft. In anticipation of this a new harbour at the mouth of the Moonee Ponds Creek had been commenced (1929), to become Appleton Dock, and South Wharf was extended west. Williamstown's Nelson Pier was extended in the late 1920s for bulk cargo, particularly wheat. While the excavation and fitting out of Appleton Dock was under way Station Pier was rebuilt in 1930.

Oil wharves were on the west side of the Yarra at Newport, Spotswood and Yarraville. They were later concentrated at Yarraville, for bulk ammonia, sugar, phosphate and soda ash. The Holden Oil Dock is the southern-most facility at Yarraville. There are oil and gas cargo wharves at Williamstown and opposite Holden Dock on Coode Island.

In the 1960s containerized cargo resulted in Swanson Dock being constructed on Hobsons Bay, down stream from Appleton Dock and Webb Dock, between Princes Pier and the river mouth. Swanson Dock was excavated out of Coode Island and Webb Dock was built by both excavation and land reclamation.

By the end of the 1980s Swanson Dock handled about one-third of the port's total trade, Webb Dock about one-sixth and Victoria Dock the same. Smaller volumes went through Appleton Dock and South Wharf.

The Port of Melbourne was brought under the Melbourne Harbor Trust in 1876, which in 1978 became the Port of Melbourne Authority. It was headquartered in the Harbor Trust building in Market Street, Melbourne, until it moved to its World Trade Centre (1983), west of the Spencer Street Bridge. Opposite the Centre, on the other side of the river is the former Little Dock, with the Melbourne Maritime Museum and the barque "Polly Woodside". The Authority's territory stops at the Spencer Street Bridge. Further up the river the Queens Wharf "Pool"has been filled and the reclaimed land made into Batman Park, after first being a car-park area. Batman Park also extended over the site of the architecturally ornate but ultimately decrepit Melbourne Fish Market. The Park's most prominent structure is the yellow-painted sculpture "Vault", which fortuitously found a better home than its original position in Melbourne's city square.

The Authority's territory occupies most of Coode Island south of Footscray Road, ribbons of foreshore down to Williamstown and around Port Melbourne and a large area around Webb Dock. Webb Dock has a railway line to the Spencer Street yards, as do the others. The railway lines to the Williamstown piers, however, have been taken up, and Station Pier lost its railway to a tram passenger service.

❊ Web Links ❊

Port Melbourne 3207 

History of Port of Melbourne

Port of Melbourne Corporation

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Port Melbourne

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