Thursday, December 19, 2013

Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society is moving to a new website early in 2014. This blog will become part of the new website, rather than separate from it, as it is now. It will make it easier for readers to find the Society in one place online.
Thank you for your interest in Port Melbourne's history. This blog will take a break from publication until the week beginning the 6th January 2014.

Cottage on the corner

PMHPS has observed a notice of application for a planning permit for this house on the corner of Nott and Farrell Sts, Port Melbourne.
Morley's Cottage: cnr Nott and Farrell Sts, Port Melbourne
This is where William Morley lived. He was the the first chairman of Sandridge when it became a municipality separate from Melbourne in 1860. He was mayor in 1867 and remained a Councillor until his death in 1877. You may have seen his name before - on the Bay St frontage of the former coal store now occupied by South Pacific Gym. Morley was a coal merchant and carter. The coal store, built out of bluestone, gives an indication that Morley was successful businessman.
Read more about Morley, the circumstances of his election and his family life in
The Borough and Its People: Port Melbourne 1839 to 1939 by Margaret and Graham Bride pp 82-84

Thursday, December 12, 2013

One of a kind - Port Melbourne Railway Station

This week a Planning Panel has been meeting in Port Melbourne to hear submissions on the planning future of 1 to 7 Waterfront Place.
The relationship between the proposed development of that site and the Port Melbourne Railway Station is one of the matters being considered. The building is on the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) which is for places of significance to Victoria. The City of Port Phillip heritage register is for places with local heritage significance. This reminds us that the Port Melbourne Railway Station is an important place for Victoria and the citation explains why:
'The former Port Melbourne Railway Station building is historically significant by association with the first public steam railway in Australia, and with the development and use of the Port Melbourne piers. The building played an important role in the history of the piers, in particular Station Pier, and in the social history of Melbourne with its association with the popular bay excursion trade.
The former Port Melbourne Railway Station building, which was rebuilt at a time when the function of the piers was expanding, is significant in demonstrating a critical change in the maritime activity of the Bayside area. Its significance is further enhanced by the fact that, unlike the piers, it has not been dramatically altered throughout the twentieth century. The former Port Melbourne Railway Station building is of architectural and historical significance as a distinctive building type, the only surviving representation within the metropolitan context of a small group of station buildings developed by the Victorian Railways Department following the 1890s depression. The significance is enhanced by the integrity of its building fabric.' (Statement of Cultural Heritage Significance VHR HO983)

The City of Port Phillip's expert heritage witness Anita Brady of Lovell Chen argued that
'For both proposals, there will be impacts on the VHR listed station building arising out of the close proximity of substantial new development. While the impacts vary, both proposals still represent an unacceptable outcome for the heritage listed railway station building. Both proposals also have new building components extending in the VHR extent of registration of the railway station, which are not consistent with the heritage values and character of the railway station, or of maintaining an appropriate setting to the station. Constructing these elements in the VHR registered land would require a permit from Heritage Victoria and not from the responsible authority (the Council)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Beginning and ending: Holden

Today, after weeks of uncertainty but with an increasing sense of foreboding, Holden announced that it will cease to make cars in Australia from 2017. Holden, Port Melbourne, Fishermans Bend - inseparable. This is where Australia began its journey into automobile manufacture and where it will end. There will be much more said, but PMHPS wanted to mark this sad day - the implications of which will be felt throughout Victoria in the years to come. 2,900 jobs will be lost: 1600 in Adelaide and 1300 in Victoria. Read GM's media release.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

More tales from the Bend

Whenever PMHPS speaks with people who grew up in Port, tales from the Bend emerge. It seems that the Bend offered the best kind of adventures a boy could have. (Girls weren't allowed down there). Boys roamed about in a way that would not be permitted in our safety preoccupied world. Many of these stories start with getting on the bike. Fun and fascination included being able to watch ships on the river from the elevation of scrapheaps, and messing about in the swampy wetlands for tadpoles. And how about this ... going down to the abattoirs at the bottom on Ingles St at the weekend and riding the sheep. Apparently animals were held there over the weekend before being slaughtered.  A mother's 'Where have you been!?' would have been a rhetorical question.
The abattoir occupied 5 1/2 acres near the river: 686' frontage to Lorimer, 570' to Hartley , 850' to Boundary St and 112' to Harbor Trust Street.
In tougher times, people would go down to the abattoir for sweetbreads and sheep's hearts. Hughie Sykes, a coalie from Montague would come home at lunch time with a bag full.
This 1872 map is faint, so to get your bearings, the abbattoir is shown inside the rectangle close to the river at the top of the map and Ingles St is the straight road that intersects the railway line. You can also see how little development there was west of the railway at that time and that there were absolutely no obstructions between the railway line and the river.

Jubilee History of the Melbourne Harbor Trust compiled from the original records of the Trust and from the Victorian Hansard /​ by Benjamin Hoare

Does anyone know when the abatoir closed?  Do you have a Bend story? 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

'A sodden expanse' - Fishermans Bend

PMHPS continues to be preoccupied with Fishermans Bend. In the late 1930s Fishermans Bend was on the cusp of a major transformation to industrial development - a change that was anticipated with excitement and optimism. Charles Daley in The History of South Melbourne says:
'The once-despised Fishermen's Bend - a no-man's land - under the pressure of economic circumstance, has come into its own, and its sodden expanse bids fair, under the exercise of human knowledge, skill and labour, directed to its reclamation, to provide eventually scope for great projects and undertakings conducive to the advantage of the State.
In this long-neglected and unoccupied area of 'Siberia,' ... great activity and interest have been aroused. On 5th November, 1936, occurred on, the north side of 'The Bend,' the opening of the great and extensive factory for motor construction of the noted firm of General Motors-Holden's, whose enterprise has set the example for other leading industrial ventures and subsidiary factories.
The Aircraft Factory ... in which the Broken Hill Proprietary, Imperial Chemical Industries and General Motors Companies are jointly concerned, has been established, and many applications have been made for leases on what must become a manufacturing area of great importance, giving employment to thousands of workmen.' (p344)
Rootes Factory in Salmon St
Harold Paynting Collection State Library of Victoria

The photograph above shows the Rootes factory under construction. The extensive plant covered almost an entire block and became the headquarters for manufacture of aircraft (principally the Beaufort bomber) by the Department of Aircraft Production during WWII. It reverted to car manufacture after the war.*

*Port Melbourne Walk booklet produced but the Art Deco & Modernism Society 

Three . . . of Port

Sometimes you just can't find the right word. Take icon, for example. Many Port Melbourne people have had enough of the word 'icon'. 'Iconic' as new developments are often described, is almost guaranteed to get people's backs up.
But back to Port. In this photograph, three Port (what word would you use?): the beacon, the newly restored Stothert & Pitt crane and the chimney of Harpers Starch Factory. Icons of Port. They so clearly show how history gives meaning and identity to a place. At one time, the Starch Factory chimney was the landmark, but as this photo shows, it is now dwarfed by the hmas apartments.
the beacon, the crane and the chimney
Stothert & Pitt were 'cranemakers to the world', based in Bath, a place more usually associated with Jane Austen. The two 3-ton Stothert and Pitt electric wharf cranes with 80 foot operating radius were erected at the outer end of Station Pier in 1949.
The Jubilee History of the Melbourne Harbor Trust shows these cranes on Station Pier in a 1927 photograph - an earlier type?

from the Jubilee History of the Melbourne Harbor Trust
Corrections and additions always welcome.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fishermans Bend - the past and the future

PMHPS's head is spinning with thinking about its submission to the Fishermans Bend Urban Renewal Area Draft Vision, so this week's post is about .... Fishermans Bend!
PMHPS will argue that an understanding of the environmental/natural history of Fishermans Bend is fundamental to planning for its future. So lets look at this 1864 map before the Coode Canal went in and altered the course of the river.
See the swamps and sandy terrain, the relationship to the Yarra River, the emerging city and the Sandridge township.

This is how one resident, writing in 1935, recalled the area:
'Fishermans  Bend was a fine place, almost in its primitive state, a great resort for sportsmen, rabbits, wild duck and other game being plentiful. Thick tea tree scrub grew on the south side of the Yarra from the present timber dock almost to the mouth. Three prison hulks were moored in a backwater since reclaimed half way over to Spotswood. A jetty ran some distance in to deep water on the south side, and the prisoners would row over to get supplies brought from the city. The Bend was a fine grazing ground; hundreds of cows and horses were grazed there paying so much a head to the local council, which employed a herdsman. The position was held by Mr Anthony Rodgers. Fishermens houses occupied the beach frontage almost to the mouth of the Yarra' (Sandridge recalled Age 9 2 1935)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Fishing business

Dugga Beazley
In the late 1980s, with great change looming in Port Melbourne, Dugga Beazley spoke to documentary maker Richard Crawley of his fear that a time might come when he would no longer be able to run his fishing business from Dow St. That time seems to come every few years when newcomers complain about his business or his trailer. Once again, his operation is under threat after the Council's crackdown on trailers being kept on the street.
The Beazleys have fished in Port Melbourne since the earliest days of white settlement. Dugga Beazley knows the Bay like few people alive know the Bay - its fish, its winds, its currents, its moods. He knows details about the history of the Bay - the storms, the wrecks, the boats. He has been fishing since he was 13 years old - 60 years on the Bay.
He is a very proud Australian, and one of his proudest moments was leading the flotilla of boats up the Yarra River for the Commonwealth Games.
We invest heavily in protecting our built heritage but don't seem to have the means of celebrating and protecting our living heritage. We should be nominating Dugga as a living treasure rather than hounding him off the street. Keep him on the street where he can share those stories rather than locking him away behind a wall. We have so much to learn from him - lived knowledge you can't find on an iPad or in a book.
Every boat he paints has a story – many that begin right here in Port. Once he was painting The Volunteer. 
The Volunteer was built by Jesse William Merrington at 121 Liardet Street* around 1920 and 21. It was originally owned by the Merrington brothers before being sold to George Beazley. Merrington's boat shed was located on the shores of the Sandridge Lagoon** A further boat, The Enterprise was built off the moulds of The Volunteer at 41 Nott St, Port Melbourne during mid 1930.
'Oo roo' as Dugga would say.
Re-Living the Early Days, The Age 2 February 1935
Ida Campbell writes in (an unnamed) newspaper 27 January 1983
Dugga Beazley
* also known as Kyme Place
**where the pumping station is now on Esplanade West

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Port in the twenties - a difficult, suffering place

Former Supreme Court Judge Frank Vincent is such a fine speaker. He talked about Whittaker in the Port Melbourne and wider social and political context of the late 1920s. In case you missed his speech at the Allan Whittaker commemoration on Friday 1st November, this is what he said:

"Port Melbourne in the twenties was a place of considerable poverty.  It was a place where men were engaged in what was regarded as the most menial of labour possible in the community and the area was regarded as one of those to which no one would ever aspire.The depression hit early in Port Melbourne and it hit very hard, and it hit particularly the members of the two waterside worker unions that operated in this region. They both suffered because there were reducing cargoes well before the depression actually was recognised and there was a militant effort by shipowners to reduce the conditions under which they had to work and live at that time.
So it was of its very nature a very difficult and increasingly difficult environment for them. The men who gathered at Hogans Flat had been waiting for a vessel to arrive so that they were eligible for the pick up. There was a real effort at that time by the shipowners to have the pick ups conducted twice a day so that you had to be available virtually all of the time.
The men who came down on the 2 November had been assembling for four successive days without being picked up at all. Among them was Allan Whittaker. Allan Whittaker was not a well man. When he was subsequently admitted to hospital following receipt of the gunshot that actually killed him, he was described by the doctors as underweight and malnourished.  The people here were very close to starving, and he was one of them.

Although there was anger and there was violence among the men who gathered that day, and that can’t be put to one side, there was a very different level of violence employed by the police. And of course Whittaker was not a man himself who would have been involved in any of the violent acts because he simply would not have been well enough. Apart from anything else, he limped fairly badly because of the gun shot that he had received at Gallipoli some twenty odd years earlier.

So picture it. Here’s a man malnourished, underweight and on the only accounts that we have of what occurred at the time he was standing on the extreme edge of the group and to the rear. He was shot. He was shot according to the coronial inquiry from the front. That is highly unlikely to have been the case. Only a very very poor inquiry was ever conducted into that matter. This was not a shooting by the police that the authorities wanted investigated genuinely at all. So he never achieved justice during his lifetime and only very limited recognition in the years to follow.

But his story, and who he was, and what happened on that day impacted very powerfully upon the Port Melbourne community.Now I was born into that community only eight years afterwards, and it was still a poor difficult and suffering community at that stage.  It was a place of considerable poverty. And of course I was born into a waterfront family.

But the remarkable thing about what occurred at that time, and which is not simply the story of one man, is that there was a bonding, a linkage between those people who remained with the Waterside Workers Federation in the very very difficult period of almost twelve years that followed that particularly shooting.  Because quite a few defected. Quite a few left the industry entirely.

Those that remained, those that lived in this area of Port Melbourne, formed a very very powerful community and a community that had its effect right across our industrial scene for the many years that followed.
I don’t think anyone should underestimate the significance of the struggles which occurred at that time. The courage that it took for men and women to hold together when they could easily have joined a scab union and defected and given away their principles and given away their community.
But they didn’t do that. And it took a very special kind of courage and it ought to be memorialised, it ought to be understood, we ought to be inordinately proud of it.

There are lots of things in our Australian history of which we should be massively ashamed - some of them are occurring at the present time - but this is certainly not one of them."

Allan Whittaker Commemoration at Princes Pier, Port Melbourne
1 November 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Melbourne Cup Special

Melbourne Cup Day prompts this recollection from member Helen Barry:

“Mum was a milliner. She was busiest at racing time. I always went to the Melbourne Cup with her. We used to walk past the members’ enclosure trying to spot the hats she had made.”

Rose with her future husband, Norman Barry 
"Rose Welsh began her apprenticeship as a milliner at Susanne et Cie at 179 Collins St, Melbourne in 1925.  She was lured by the high class milliner Thomas Harrison, known as ‘the Czar of the Millinery world’ to his shop and workroom at De Vere et Cie, the Block Arcade, 262 Collins Street. She became ‘head of the table’ as they called it. She worked with him for ten years until she married.  By the time she left De Vere she was the overseer of the girls making the hats and regarded as a leader in her profession.  Thomas Harrison held her in high esteem and presented her with a silver tea and coffee service on a large silver tray which was openly displayed in the showroom of De Vere for the customers to admire. She used to take hats in hat boxes on the cable trams to customers through the city. On one occasion, she stitched a hat to a client's head using her hair. It was to look as though the wind had blown it onto her head.

After her marriage Rose - now Barry - worked from home for Lola Canning in the Block Arcade. She made hats from her Garden City home well into her 80s. Her last employer was Wendy Mead who worked out of Toorak. She made hats for Lillian Frank and Pixie Skase. Wendy Mead would tear out a page with a hat on it from Vogue and Mum would then make it. Many a hat was shaped around this wooden block. After mum had made the hats, dad would deliver them.”
Explore further
Visit the National Gallery of Victoria's on-line gallery of the hats of Thomas Harrison. Rose Barry's hand may well have been at work in some of those hats

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A bit early?

Olive's Corner, Port Melbourne

Walking through Olive's Corner earlier this week, saw a person reading the PMHPS book 'Chartered Scoundrels: A Brief History of Port Melbourne Hotels'. Couldn't let this go unremarked and stopped for a chat.
Robert Gooding enjoys visiting Port. By 9 am he had already taken two buses and a train to get here. With the book and his camera, he was looking forward to a morning's wandering around the Borough.
As you would know, the 2014 PMHPS calendar also features historic Port Melbourne hotels and is available at the Port Melbourne Town Hall and the newsagent.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Allan Whittaker Memorial Commemoration

Update 3 November 2013
At sunset people gathered at Princes Pier to commemorate the life of Allan Whittaker, shot by police in the waterfront dispute in 1928. Kevin Bracken emphasised the importance of getting together to tell the stories of the place and the people that have shaped Port Melbourne. 
Former Supreme Court Judge Frank Vincent, who was born into a waterfront family in Port Melbourne in the thirties gave an impressive address - all without notes. Here is a brief excerpt from his speech (for more, click here)

 Frank Vincent, born in Port Melbourne
"But the remarkable thing about what occurred at that time, and which is not simply the story of one man, is that there was a bonding, a linkage between those people who remained with the Waterside Workers Federation in the very, very difficult period of almost twelve years that followed that particularly shooting.  Because quite a few defected. Quite a few left the industry entirely.
Those that remained, those that lived in this area of Port Melbourne, formed a very very powerful community and a community that had its effect right across our industrial scene for the many years that followed.
I don’t think anyone should underestimate the significance of the struggles which occurred at that time. The courage that it took for men and women to hold together when they could easily have joined a scab union and defected and given away their principles and given away their community.But they didn’t do that. And it took a very special kind of courage and it ought to be memorialised, it ought to be understood, we ought to be inordinately proud of it.
There are lots of things in our Australian history of which we should be massively ashamed - some of them are occurring at the present time - but this is certainly not one of them."

The Allan Whittaker Memorial Commemoration will be held at Princes Pier on Friday 1st November at 6.15 p m.
The commemoration will mark the 85th anniversary of the 1928 Dock Strike and fatal shooting by police of Allan Whittaker, a waterside worker and Gallipoli veteran.
The commemoration will feature talks as well as the sunset presentation of memorial items to commemorate Allan Whittaker, his fellow waterside workers and rich maritime industrial history.
(PMHPS warrants that this is a photograph taken of a notice about the Whittaker commemoration and is not contrived)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Metropolitan Planning 2: Entering Melbourne from Port Melbourne

The Town Planning Commission report of 1929 was very critical of the entrance to Melbourne from Port Melbourne. It reported that 'this approach to Melbourne is a drab and shabby one'.  The honorary secretary of the Commission, Frank Heath, said hopefully 'What a difference a tree lined boulevard, extending for several miles around the esplanade would make to the Port Melbourne waterfront.'
The appearance of Port Melbourne's foreshore also attracted a lot of commentary in the papers of the day along these lines: 'Run your eye along the waterfront scene, and you will realise that the overseas tourist's first impression of Melbourne is one of aesthetic horror.'  Perhaps there is just a hint of exaggeration in the following description: 'The scene which greets the visitor leaving Princes Pier might well serve as the background for a theatre set representing a specially unpleasant corner of American desert country'
So successive dignitaries and royals were taken from Port to St Kilda so they could proceed with appropriate dignity up St Kilda Road. This still rankles. However, the picture of Swallow St in the Town Planning Commission report suggests they had a point.

The Port Melbourne Council maintained that the land between the piers was the Melbourne Harbor Trust's responsibility. The MHT said what happened on the landward side was not their responsibility.Throughout the 1920s the Port Council lobbied the Government for improvements to the waterfront. Finally the Melbourne Harbor Trust proposed a bridge to link the two piers. Centenary Bridge was built for the Centenary of Melbourne in 1934 but roads connecting to it were not completed and open to the public until 1936.
All that remains of that unique structure is the lone pylon opposite the London Hotel. Look for the Melbourne Harbor Trust monogram on the pillar. Centenary Bridge was demolished to make way for the Beacon Cove development in 1991.
Once again the area around the Piers is the subject of discussion by the Council and the Port of Melbourne Corporation.

Cautionary tale: the quotes above are taken from a photocopied compilation of newspaper articles, some of them undated. If you ever cut anything out of the paper (an act that in itself may soon become a historical exercise) write the date and source on it in pencil straight away. Without accurate dating, they are less useful.
Sources, notes and further information
The Melbourne Harbor Trust is the antecedent organisation of today's Port of Melbourne Corporation
Please read the fabulously detailed account of the stories surrounding the construction of Centenary Bridge at
G & M Bride The Borough and Its People, Port Melbourne 1839 to 1939

Monday, October 21, 2013

Launch of the ANZAC Centenary at Princes Pier: a time for re-connection

In a way it was fitting that it was a grey and rather sombre day for the launch of the ANZAC Centenary commemorations at Princes Pier. Today marks the day 99 years ago that the HMAT Orvieto departed from then Railway Pier in Port Melbourne. The Orvieto troop ship was the lead ship in the convoy to Albany, and then again led the convoy to the Middle East. Ted Baillieu, chairman of the ANZAC Centenary Committee, spoke of the moment of enlisting as a moment of dis-connection - when people separated from families, friends and communities. The ANZAC Centenary project is an opportunity to re-connect through personal and family stories to the shared history of the First World War.
A descendant of one of the soldiers on the Orvieto has gone on just such a journey into his father's past. At this distance he can only imagine what motivated his father to volunteer in those early days of the war. He referred to the amazingly extensive and accessible resources available to any person inquiring into their family history. They are available to us all.
PMHPS has made a list, for further exploration, of all those on board the Orvieto who gave a Port Melbourne address. (Of course, they are also available through the embarkation lists below).A brief scan suggests that Albert Street had most people on board.

ANZAC Centenary: Sharing Victoria's Stories
Embarkation of the Orvieto: including embarkation lists and images
Herald Sun 21 10 2013

Its History Week from 20 to 27 October

What better way to celebrate History Week than to visit the City of Port Phillip's brand newly opened Emerald Hill Library and Heritage Centre in the former Post Office opposite the South Melbourne Town Hall.
If you can't get there for any reason, there is plenty to explore on the City of Port Phillip's Heritage Website
If you are out and about in Victoria, there is a huge amount on. For a calendar of events, visit

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Metropolitan Planning

Last week, Premier Napthine and Planning Minister Guy released Plan Melbourne which sets out the government's vision for Melbourne to 2050.
In the Society's collection is a copy of the first plan for Melbourne prepared by the newly formed Metropolitan Town Planning Commission in 1929. While the whole report is full of interest, unsurprisingly PMHPS headed straight for the Port Melbourne references. The report is also available online, downloadable chapter by fascinating chapter.
By 1929,  a considerable number of the Garden City Bank houses had been completed or were under construction, as can be seen in the photographs below. (The book is quite fragile so it couldn't be opened fully) Can you help in identifying some reference points?
Garden City Bank houses under construction
Brand new but treeless Crichton Avenue
Of particular interest are references to places still topical or in contention today. The further development of Fishermans Bend was contemplated in the Plan as follows: 'Fishermans Bend aimed at the creation of an industrial suburb of which 340 acres were planned for residential development, 420 acres for industrial purposes and over 80 acres for open space and playing fields.' (p254)
More about the 1929 Plan next week . . .

Further information
History of Strategic Planning in Melbourne

Friday, October 11, 2013

PMHPS 2014 Calendar featuring Port's Hotels is now available

Historic Port Melbourne Hotels
The 2014 Calendar is now on sale for $12 from the Port Melbourne Town Hall Assist Desk - enter off Spring St south.
'In 2000 the Historic Port Melbourne calendar Pubs and Pastimes sold out, so that many of those who keep a collection haven't that copy. We therefore decided to publish an encore, and have included several favourite hotels from 2000'

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Foundation stories

PMHPS finds it endlessly fascinating that it is still possible to 'read' the shaping stories of Port Melbourne in its street layout - the influence of the Lagoon and the Railway in particular.
This is well explained in this report: 'Perhaps the most significant element of Port Melbourne's infrastructure in terms of its ability to demonstrate aspects of the history of the place is its street layout. A reading of the history of the suburb reveals the background to the siting of the original settlement and its main route to Melbourne, the subsequent early surveyed street layout back from Beach Road along the axis of Bay St, the influence of the siting of the railway line in effectively dividing the suburb in two, and the much later and quite distinct planned layout of the model housing estates west of the railway line. (will post about those another day)
The original topography of Port Melbourne, is also reflected in the street layout. This is most important to our ability to visualise large natural features such as the lagoon which dominated local affairs for so long. Few suburbs have a street layout which so distinctly reflects different phases of its history.'
All the elements referred to above, apart from the 20th century housing estates - can be clearly seen  in this 1860 plan which would still help you find your way round Port Melbourne today.
The Borough of Sandridge 1860

Port Melbourne: A Thematic History prepared for the City of Port Phillip by Allom Lovell and Associates 1994

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Notice to Port-ers

  • For Farams fans on facebook, Kevin Anderson has started a facebook page for the Last of the Independents. It includes some great still photographs from the documentary
  • First Fishermans Bend information session is on - this Tuesday 8 October, 5 to 7 pm at Sol Green Community Centre, Cnr Coventry and Montague Sts, South Melbourne

Ghost signs

Dr Stefan Schutt is documenting 'ghost signs' around Melbourne. That led to thinking about signs in Port Melbourne.
Port Melbourne's most splendid signs would have to be those that adorned the UDL building (now the id apartments) on Pickles St. They were painted by sign writer Keith Martin. UDL was a successor company to Joshua Bros Distillery which made brandy, whisky and rum here. More on Joshua Bros another day - this post is about signs.
It is perhaps unlikely that in today's more alcohol sensitive times that such overt advertising would be considered acceptable. The mural was  required to be preserved in the redevelopment to apartments. Here they are in all their splendour - uninterrupted by window openings.
Alison Kelly collection Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society
The sign below is painted on the rear of the service station on the corner of Salmon St and Williamstown Road. Can anyone tell what product Diamond Hudson was?

An all time favourite is the barely visible Rootes sign on the roof of the former car makers in Salmon St (south side) between Williamstown Road and Plummer St. Sharing this photograph with you even though you can probably barely make out the sign - a better photo taken from above would show it more clearly.

Schutt says the signs 'remind us that the places we inhabit have former lives. We can easily forget that we're not the first to navigate these streets and live in these buildings.' (Age 28 09)

Do you know of of any other signs of interest in Port Melbourne?

Sources and further information
Ghost signs exhibition on line

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Notices to Port-ers

Its blowing a gale on the Bay as PMHPS prepares this post. A bit of a change gale is happening in Port's environs.
Major Projects Victoria is inviting Expressions of Interest for Princes Pier. Submissions are invited that 

  • activate the pier as a high quality place on the waterfront and contribute to the broader revitalisation of Beacon Cove
  • encourage Melburnians, local residents, and visitors to Port Melbourne to visit the pier, stay longer and interact
  • improve the year round look, feel and function of the pier and contribute to its rich heritage
  • accommodate public access requirements and events and fit within the local setting and planning controls
  • provide a revenue stream to offset the costs of the ongoing management of the pier.
Fishermans Bend
Places Victoria has released its draft vision for Fishermans Bend. All the documents are available on the Places Victoria websiteThe closest information forums to Port are 
  • Tue 8 October: 5-7pm - Sol Green Community Centre, Cnr Coventry and Montague Sts, South Melbourne
  • Sat 19 October: 10am-12pm - Gasworks Farmers Market, Cnr Graham and Pickles St, Albert Park
  • Wed 30 October: 5-7pm - Boyd School, 207 City Road, Southbank
Submissions are due on the 22 November. PMHPS will review the draft vision to see what it says about heritage in a subsequent post.  

This Royal needs our help

PMHPS is a member of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. The RHSV has a great collection, supports local history societies such as ours, and sponsors the local history awards - which PMHPS has won from time to time.
The RHSV has occupied the former Army Drill Hall in A'Beckett St for 14 years.  To find out more about this interesting Art Deco building, click here. They only have a lease to July 2014 and have been seeking confidence in their future at this site from the Government for some time.
Entrance to the Royal Historical Society of Victoria in A Beckett St
The context in which the building sits is changing very quickly. As The Saturday Age (21/9) said 'Formerly full of low rise factories A'Beckett Street offers large sites developers are quickly filling with skyscrapers.' A recent development proposal has been put forward for a 63 level of 196 m nearby. The Drill Hall is a survivor of the modest scale. The building is in a very historic part of Melbourne, of course, near Flagstaff Gardens.
The government has been evaluating the Drill Hall for possible sale, and a recommendation has been sent to Minister Guy. The RHSV does not know the content or result of that recommendation which leaves the Society in a state of uncertainty.
RHSV would like the Drill Hall to become Melbourne's History House - a permanent home for Victoria's nation wide historical and genealogical societies and kindred bodies.
Two questions arise: the future of the Art Deco Drill Hall  building and a place for Victorian history to call home. PMHPS does not use bold font lightly. Please respond to the request below.
The RSV is asking societies to support the RHSV in its quest for seecure accommodation and the establishment of History House. Please email Matthew Guy, Minister for Planning,

Remembering Letty

Margaret Bride tells the story of her grandmother Letty Bellion. Her story is a window into Port life through the 1890s depression, the First World War and the difficult post war years that followed. The story tells of a disappeared cluster of shops in Graham St, and the shadow cast on this family and community by the First World War. The harsh treatment of their German friends during the war leaves a lasting impression.  In later years, Letty comes back to Port and makes some observations about the improvements she sees, especially in housing. Read Letty's Story

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Women in Port

With this week's debate about the inclusion of only one woman in the cabinet post the September 2013 federal election, PMHPS blog will next week begin an occasional series on women in Port Melbourne.
The patron of the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society, Liana Thompson  - and this is a part of our Port Melbourne lore - was the last Mayor of the City of Port Melbourne and the first Mayor of the City of Port Phillip.
The Society's current President is Ann Gibson.

Darke and Sandridge

William Darke gave the name Sandridge to the area now known as Port Melbourne. He was one of three surveyors sent by Governor Bourke in 1836 to survey the shore of Port Phillip Bay and plot the course of the Yarra River. The name described the 'mile upon mile of sand dunes' that were a defining feature of the foreshore.1 Liardet painted this charming picture full of interesting detail of Darke at work.
State Library of Victoria
Examine it closely and you can see the familiar picture of a surveyor at work outside the caravan home. It was said that he even had a cottage piano in this quaint dwelling.1
Where did all that sand go? To build Melbourne. Sandridge sand became part of the fabric of the brick and masonry buildings built through the 1850s. So much sand was removed that in time Sandridge actually became quite devoid of sand and the landscape became severely degraded.2  Sand carters took the sand away, leaving many great holes that filled with stagnant water. In Turnbull and U'Ren's words 'Whereas Sandridge had always been flat, it was never quite as flatly flat as it is today' from all the sand that was taken away.3 Removal of stabilising vegetation, including the ti tree shown in the painting, led to ongoing issues with sand drift and wind blown sand. The errant practices of sand carters dominated the Council agenda for many years.
Sandridge became the formal name of  the Municipal District on 11 July 1860, and remains associated with the Sandridge Ward in the City of Port Phillip.
Now the name Sandridge will apply to a new precinct of the Fishermans Bend Urban Renewal Area - a name dislocated from its original context.

1 Liardet's watercolours of early Melbourne: introduction and captions Susan Adams edited by Weston Bate on line at the State Library of Victoria
2 The Fisherfolk of Fishermans Bend Allan Meiers
3 A History of Port Melbourne Nancy U'Ren and Noel Turnbull

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The first Australian railway

'Yesterday was memorable in the annals of Victoria and of Australia, for the opening of the first Australian railway' (The Argus 13 September 1854)
On 12th September 1854, the first journey on the first steam railway in Australia was taken between Melbourne and Sandridge. The railway may only have been 21/4 miles long, yet as one writer boldly said, it was 'the parent of the 25,000 miles of railway in Australia today.'
The discovery of gold and the attendant population explosion had highlighted the need for a more efficient connection for passengers and cargo between Hobsons Bay and Melbourne than the tortuous course up the Yarra. The Melbourne and Hobsons Bay Railway Company was formed to raise capital and to build the railway.
Four steam engines were ordered from England for delivery in May 1854. A month later, with the line completed and still no sign of the engines from England, engineers were asked to quickly build an engine which was assembled at the Sandridge Terminus depot.
To celebrate the occasion 'A festal excursion by rail from Melbourne to Sandridge, numerously attended and of the most pleasant description' was held. The refreshment 'set forth was an agreeable surprise to those who imagined the affair was to be on the cheap and shabby system.' Public traffic began the next day and straight away it was well patronised.
The Port Melbourne train line was closed in October 1987  (a move that was both mourned and resisted)  to be replaced with light rail - all part of a broader government strategy to open up redundant industrial and railway land for redevelopment.
In 1993, the viaduct at Queens Bridge which connected the Port Melbourne line with Flinders St Station was demolished to make way for the Casino. The Sandridge Railway Bridge, after lying neglected for many years and after many public debates about its future use, was brought back to life for the Commonwealth Games to tell Melbourne's story of immigration. The bridge is striking for the angle at which it crosses the Yarra as illustrated in the photo below.
Major Projects Victoria
David Maloney at the National Trust wrote passionately in defense of the heritage significance of the railway 'The singular importance of this route is emphasised by the uncompromising manner in which it cuts across Melbourne's north-south grid layout. The industrious solidity of the Sandridge rail bridge skews dramatically across the Yarra like a giant signpost pointing to the port and the world beyond.'

There are many rail experts out there - please notify PMHPS of any errors or if you have further information.
Sources and further information
The Argus Wednesday 13 September 1854, p5
David Maloney Trust News March 1990
David Maloney Trust News, October 1992 for strong arguments on the historic significance of the railway
undated typed notes in the PMHPS files, no author, but very detailed information

Friday, September 6, 2013

Tall Ships Festival: 6 to 15 September

The Tall Ships Festival starts today with ships coming through the Heads and arriving in Williamstown tomorrow.
The Tall Ships came to Port Melbourne in 1988 for the Bicentenary Celebrations which were launched nationwide on New Year's Eve at Princes Pier by Prime Minister Bob Hawke. A quarter of a million people visited the Tall Ships over the week they were in Port.
The visit of the Tall Ships is an opportunity to revisit that exciting week in Port, and to get a sense of the foreshore before Beacon Cove.

Cranes on Station Pier, Tall Ship and pylon at the western end of Centenary Bridge 
viewed from the driveway of the Mission to Seamen building
One of the cranes is soon to be re-instated at the finger pier next to Station Pier
photo Alison Kelly PMHPS collection

The Mission to Seamen building,
demolished in 1995
photo Alison Kelly PMHPS Collection

Crowds flow across Centenary Bridge after viewing the Tall Ships
The Bridge was demolished in 1991
photo Alison Kelly PMHPS Collection

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The History of Melbourne Ports

Electorate of Melbourne Ports
Existing since Federation, Melbourne Ports has been held by the Labor Party since 1906 and has had only five members in 107 years since. Former Labor members are 

Jim Matthews 1906 - 1931
E J Holloway 1931 - 1951
Frank Crean 1951 - 1977
Clyde Holding 1977 - 1998
Michael Danby since 1998

Source:  ABC, Anthony Green's Election Guide

Random post about dogs

There is something in the Society's collection for every interest. A leather bound alphabetical index book lists all dogs registered in Port Melbourne in 1892 by owner surname. Even in 1892 there were dogs large and small - from Newfoundlands to poodles. The names of the dogs are not recorded - that would have been revealing.
Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society Collection
This undated portrait of Mrs Caroline Liardet as a young woman, before she came to these shores, shows her with a rather surprised looking dog on her lap - is it a King Charles spaniel?  You can see her image as an older woman in our banner picture. 

State Library of Victoria
Caroline Liardet was the  wife of Wilbraham Frederick Evelyn Liardet and mother of their nine children. They arrived in Sandridge on board the William Metcalfe in November 1839.

Port Melbourne plays Williamstown at North Port Oval this weekend. The role dogs play in this old rivalry is amusingly told here.  As you can see, no dogs are allowed but that rule was apparently flouted by a President of the Williamstown Football Club.
Any dog tales out there? 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Port Melbourne's History On Display

In one week, The Borough and Its People: Port Melbourne 1839 to 1939, by members Margaret and Graham Bride has been spotted on display at the State Library of Victoria, the Port Melbourne Library and the Prahran Mechanics Institute Victorian History Library. Congratulations!
At the State Library
At the Port Melbourne Library
At the Prahran Mechanics Institute Victorian History Library

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Great White Fleet and Port Melbourne

In Melbourne from 29 August to 5 September 1908
President Roosevelt commissioned 16 new battleships between 1904 and 1907. He sent them on a 15 month goodwill visit around the world. Prime Minister Deakin invited them to visit Australia. The young Australia was feeling exposed following the defeat of the Russian Navy by Japan in 1905. The British Navy had withdrawn their warships from the Pacific. The visit was a formative step in the relationship between the US and Australia. The popular support and the excitement generated by the visit gave an impetus to the subsequent establishment of the Royal Australian Navy in 1911.
The ships' hulls were painted white, except for the gilded scrollwork with a red white and blue banner on their bows. Fourteen thousand sailors came to town. Melbourne was in a fever of excitement. The sailors made their entrance to Melbourne via Port Melbourne's Town Pier. Crowds lined the entrance to the Pier as the sailors set off to parade to Melbourne for the week long celebrations.

The Bride's write: 'They arrived in Port Melbourne, where they were greeted with great enthusiasm and given a formal Entry to the City at the Town Pier. The ships were anchored in the Bay. On the day of their arrival, thousands of people crowded around the foreshore to watch. The Standard considered this to be a truly wonderful day:
'Last Saturday was no doubt one of the greatest days in the history of Port Melbourne, and proved once again that whatever the desire of those in high places to treat this town with contempt, the general public recognise that it is a favourite place of resort, when anything of interest in the maritime world stirs the great heart of the people.' (1)
There is much much more of this story to explore via the links below.
Town Pier was built in 1849, where Liardet's jetty had been, at the southern end of Bay St.
(1) M and G Bride The Borough and Its People: Port Melbourne 1839 to 1939, p239
Links to further information

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society celebrates 20 years

Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society AGM 
What tales have been told, what stories recorded in that time! A chronicle of the work packed into those twenty years and the companionship enjoyed along the way will be documented in the Annual Report. The impressive number of publications created over the time are available for sale from the PMHPS website. 
Those publications weave into the larger Victorian and Australian story. Members Margaret and Graham Bride's recent publication The Borough and Its People: Port Melbourne 1839 to 1939 was observed today on display under the dome at the State Library of Victoria.

Dr Miles Lewis is the guest at Monday's AGM. Dr Lewis was a sub-consultant on the 1979 Port Melbourne Conservation Study commissioned by the Port Melbourne City Council and the Australian Heritage Commission which laid the foundation for the protection of heritage areas in Port Melbourne. Dr Lewis is an architectural historian and Professor in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne. The breadth and depth of is his research interests and publications is revealed on his website.

The Annual General Meeting will be held upstairs at the his Melbourne Town Hall at 333 Bay St on Monday 26 August from 7.30 pm followed by supper.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

For National Science Week: The CSIRO in Port Melbourne

This post is a fragment of a huge story. Fishermans Bend has a very strong association with science and innovation and their application to industry and manufacturing. CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, was a very significant presence in Port until the eighties.
In 1938, CSIR as it was then known, leased 5.9 hectares of land at Fishermans Bend from the Government. At one time, CSIRO employed over 600 people at Fishermans Bend. Even though CSIRO acquired the Clayton site in 1959, the move from Port Melbourne was gradual. With the Fishermans Bend site too small to accommodate CSIRO's range of research activities, from 1964 the CSIRO Minerals Division moved to the former BALM Paint factory at 399 Williamstown Road. It was only vacated in 1989.
former BALM Paint Factory
399 Williamstown Road, formerly the Minerals Divison of CSIRO
'The research of the Minerals Division was directed towards assisting the development of new, and the improvement of existing methods of mineral processing through the application of continually developing expertise in physical and inorganic chemistry related to minerals. This scientific base enabled it to advance to to technology in areas such as environment and energy.' (Commonwealth Government Directory, Vol 2, 1985)
Tantalising snippets of discoveries, innovation and scientific leadership have been gleaned from casual web searches such as 'The 1990 system, a Cray Research Supercomputer Y-MP 2/216, was housed in Port Melbourne and managed by Leading Edge Technologies, which used a share of the system for seismic data processing.' 
It was also a local employer. Just this morning, taking these photos on Williamstown Road I met a man whose father used to be a carpenter at CSIRO. His father never owned a car, since work was just over the road. 
There must be many people who worked for  CSIRO in Port Melbourne and it would be great to hear from them.
Sources and further information search by BALM 
Encyclopedia of Australian Science

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Corner Shop

Calling those with stories to share
Port Phillip Council is inviting contributions to the Seniors Writing Awards - due by 2 September. Successful pieces are included in a publication. Here is a small excerpt from a delightful longer poem from the 2010 competition. Its about a corner shop in the Wimmera but it sounds as though it would also describe some of Port's corner shops
"From the levelled drawers behind him would the grocer ladle spice,
With his fingers form a "poke" and tuck it in;
The same for sage or pepper. It was neat, it was precise,
It was never in a packet or a tin!
The paper "poke"!
And when we paid the weekly bill, a poke of peppermints
Or sugar drops or wine gums came our way!"
with permission from George Hall
Only the other day, a Port resident spoke of a 'poke' (and not in a facebook kind of way) and how everyone settled bills on a weekly basis - no matter how much money they had.
This shop was called Bulloughs. John May recalls: 'They sold small goods. I loved going there, thought it was wonderful. It had steps going up to the door, and the counters were all of scrubbed timber.'
Bulloughs, cnr Dow and Graham St
Any shop stories out there?
Sources and further information
Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society Calendar 2001
Port Phillip Writes: Tales and Stories 2010: City of Port Phillip (available from the Port Phillip Library Service)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Maskell and McNab

What is a monument to railwaymen doing on the foreshore so far away from trains?

The monument commemorates engine driver Frederick William Maskell and fireman James McNab who, along with three passengers, were killed in a rail accident at Windsor in May 1887. Maskell was 46, McNab 21. One hundred and fifty four people were injured. Mr Maskell was driving an express train when it ploughed into the back of an ordinary train which had broken down just before Windsor Station. Only his presence of mind in pulling on the steam brake of his engine seconds before he was crushed prevented the accident from being much worse. At the subsequent inquest, it was revealed that an untrained station hand was left to apply the steam brake before he and his fireman were killed.
The loss of the two Port Melbourne citizens galvanised a strong local response and fundraising for a memorial soon began.  On Wednesday 16 July 1890, around 350 people, including Mayor Plummer and Councillors, gathered at the unveiling of the monument in Graham St near the the intersection of Station and Princes St.
The monument was re-located to the foreshore when the Graham Street overpass was built. Along with the monument went a mini-community of shops and pubs centred on the rockeries, see image below, which shows that the monument once had decorative features that have since been lost.
The Maskell and McNab memorial fountain was designed by architect J B Grut. His hand can also be seen in the second storey addition to Chequers/Bay & Bridge as well as the former South Suburban Building Society (currently occupied by SAM Sales and Marketing in Bay St)

Sources and further information
Monument Australia lists all monuments in Australia
Railway Rockeries: Tales of the Melbourne and Hobsons Bay Railway Reserves - a Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society publication

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bits and pieces

A reminder that its Open House Melbourne this weekend. So many places to see - perhaps for the first time. Even if you don't get to visit any of the places, the book that accompanies the weekend is a great resource. There are no Port Melbourne places featured this year. Nearest to Port would be the Mission to Seafarers and the Port of Melbourne boat tours - for which you probably need to book.
Also, for those of you on facebook, Lost Melbourne features new old photos every day. This image of Allens Sweets with Flinders St Station in the foreground is a favourite - topical in this week when designs for the Station were revealed. To vote in the People's Choice for the redesign go to