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?