A SHORT HISTORY OF MELBOURNE, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
By Tim Lambert
Dedicated to Terry and Rhonda Luff
The first Europeans visited the site of Melbourne in 1803. A group of settlers landed at Port Phillip Bay but within a year they moved on to Tasmania.
The city of Melbourne in Australia was founded in 1835. In that year a group of Tasmanian businessmen formed the Port Phillip Association to found a settlement on Port Phillip Bay. Acting on their behalf John Batman (1801-1839) bought land from the local Indigenous Australians, the Dutigalla clan. However, the indigenous people had no concept of owning or selling land and did not really understand the deal.
Nevertheless Batman and others then settled on the north bank of the Yarra River. A man named John Pascoe Fawkner AKA Little Johnny Fawkner (1792-1869) led another group, which settled on the south bank shortly afterward.
However the governor of New South Wales Richard Bourke (1777-1855) declared that Batman's treaty with the Indigenous Australians was invalid. Nevertheless, settlers flocked to the new settlement and a town of huts and tents grew up. Eventually, in 1837 Bourke was forced to accept the new colony.
He sent a surveyor named Robert Hoddle (1794-1881) to plan a proper town laid out in a grid pattern. At first the settlement was named Bearbass. However it was renamed after British prime minister William Lamb, Lord Melbourne (1779-1848).
St Francis Church opened in 1845. Its the oldest Catholic Church in Victoria. St James Old Cathedral opened in Melbourne in 1842 (though it was not completed till 1847). The cathedral was moved to its present site in 1913. Meanwhile in 1837 Williamstown was laid out as a seaport for the town of Melbourne. However, in the 1880s it was superseded by the growth of Port Melbourne. Meanwhile in 1842 Melbourne was incorporated (given a mayor and corporation).
Melbourne in the late 19th Century
By 1851 Melbourne was already a considerable town with 29,000 inhabitants. In that year Victoria became a separate colony from New South Wales and Melbourne became its capital. In the same year, gold was discovered in Victoria and a gold rush began. As a result, Melbourne mushroomed. Settlers flocked to the town.
As Melbourne exploded in size many new buildings were erected. Princes Bridge was built in 1850. Melbourne University was founded in 1853. The Royal Melbourne Hospital was founded in 1848. Then in 1857 Melbourne gained a gas supply. In 1865 a monument to the explorers Burke and Wills was erected in Melbourne.
Furthermore between 1842 and 1929 over 130 people were hanged in Old Melbourne Gaol including Ned Kelly
The first railway in Australia was built in 1854 between Melbourne and Port Melbourne. Flinders Street Station was first built in 1854 but it was rebuilt in the 1900s.
Collins Street Baptist Church was built in 1862. St Michael's Church in Collins Street was built in 1866. St Patrick's Cathedral was consecrated in 1897. Scots' Church was built in 1874. St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne was designed by William Butterfield in 1878. The foundation stone of the new cathedral was laid in 1880. However, St Paul's cathedral was not consecrated until 1891. Originally the cathedral did not have spires. They were designed by James Barr and were added in the years 1926-1931.
The State Library was built in 1856. The Old Treasury Building was built in 1862. Melbourne Town Hall was built in 1870. The Mint in Melbourne opened in 1872. Government House was built in 1876.
Treasury Gardens were laid out in 1867 by Clement Hodgkinson (1818-1893). The Conservatory was built in 1928. Fairies Tree was carved in 1932 by Ola Cohn 1892-1964. Queen Victoria Market has met on its present site since 1878.
The first telephone call in Australia was made in Melbourne in 1878. Melbourne was connected to Sydney by railway in 1883. Meanwhile, Royal Arcade was built in 1870. The Royal Exhibition Building was built in 1880. Block Arcade was built in 1892. It was modeled on the Galleria Vittorio in Milan.
Then in the 1880s, the price of land in Melbourne rose to dizzying heights. However it became overpriced. In 1889 the property market collapsed and economic depression ensued.
20th Century Melbourne
Flinders Street Station
In the early 20th century Melbourne continued to develop, especially in the 1920s. Melbourne City Baths were built in 1903. The Shrine of Remembrance was built in 1934.
Manchester Unity Building was erected in 1932. It was designed by the architect Marcus Barlow (1890-1955). He was influenced by the Chicago Tribune Tower. When it opened the Unity Building was the tallest building in Melbourne. Marcus Barlow also designed the Century Building, which opened in 1940. Meanwhile, Captain Cook's cottage was dismantled and shipped to Melbourne in 1934. By 1940 the population of Melbourne was 1.1 million.
The first electric trams began running in Melbourne in 1906. Furthermore, Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games in 1956. City Square opened in 1980. Furthermore, the underground railway, City Loop, was completed in 1985. Work on City Loop began in 1971 and it was opened between 1981 and 1985. Museum Station (now Melbourne Central) opened in 1981. Parliament Station opened in 1983 and Flagstaff Station opened in 1985. Meanwhile, Melbourne Airport opened to international flights in 1970.
However tragedy struck Melbourne on 15 October 1970 when the West Gate Bridge over the Yarra collapsed while still being built, killing 35 men. Work on the bridge began again in 1972. West Gate Bridge was opened on 15 November 1978 by R J Hamer the Premier of Victoria.
In the late 20th century people from many nations migrated to Melbourne including Italians, Greeks and Turks. Melbourne is now a multicultural city.
The Beach at Melbourne
In the late 20th century the number of manufacturing jobs in Melbourne declined but the service industries boomed. Several new museums opened in Melbourne including the Jewish Museum (1982), The Museum of Chinese Australian History (1985), The Gold Treasury Museum (1990), Scienceworks Museum (1992), The Museum of Printing (1993), Melbourne Museum (2001) and The Tram Museum.
Meanwhile the National Tennis Centre opened in 1988. Melbourne Exhibition Centre opened in 1996. Furthermore, another building boom occurred in Melbourne from the late 20th century. Among famous buildings in Melbourne Rialto Towers, which was erected in 1986. Bolte Bridge was built in 1999.
21st Century Melbourne
Eureka Tower was built in 2006. The Yve Building was also built in 2006.
At the beginning of the 21st century Melbourne was a thriving city. In 2002 a new development, Federation Square opened. In 2004 UNESCO declared the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne a World Heritage site. Then in 2008 UNESCO designated Melbourne a city of Literature. Today Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia. The population of Melbourne is 4.4 million.
A timeline of Melbourne
A short history of Adelaide
A short history of Brisbane
A short history of Canberra
A short history of Perth
A short history of Sydney
A short history of Australia
Last revised 2019