History of Melbourne
- David Collins (1756-1810) immortalised by the naming of Collins St, sailed
into Port Phillip Bay with 300 convicts in 1803 and tried unsuccessfully to
establish a settlement at Sorrento (from where the famous convict Buckley
escaped and managed to live with the local Aborigines for some 30 odd years
until the British returned).
- the settlement on the site of Melbourne was founded in 1835 after John
Batman proclaimed "This is the site for a village" as he sailed
past on the Yarra River. Batman traded commodities with the Wurundjeri tribe
in return for 600,000 acres of land. NSW Governor Richard Bourke later
declared this deal illegal, claimed it for the Crown and named it after
British Prime Minister William Lamb, Lord Melbourne instead of its previous
name Bearbrass village.
- John Pascoe Fawkner (1792-1869), a teetotaller, publican settles in
Bearbrass village, building the 1st house - a hut near the Rialto. He is
remembered by Fawkner Cemetery (where Batman is buried in the pioneers
section), the suburb Pascoe Vale and Enterprize Park along the Yarra named
after his vessel in which he sailed from Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania).
- Major Mitchell travels south to Melbourne in 1836
- in March 1837, the Sydney government sent Robert Hoddle, the surveyor, to
stake out an eruption of civilisation by a bunch of speculative types from
Van Dieman's Land who had occupied the site of Melbourne for 18 months.
- the government's main concern was to raise revenue from the sale of
the land and wanted thus to maximise the amount of land to sell (the
proceeds of which went to Sydney) and in addition, forbade central
public squares on the grounds that they encouraged "the spirit of
- the grid was to follow a strict north-south grid plan in the Sydney
office which was a generic design for colonial townships set out in
government regulations in 1829.
- Hoddle had already used this grid to plan Liverpool, Campbelltown,
Goulburn and others, but in Melbourne, he recognised that it promised to
become a great city and thus he rotated the north-south grid a few
degrees to accommodate the Yarra River and pegged out the streets to be
99' (30m) wide rather than the standard 66' (20m). Gov. Bourke first
objected to the wide streets but agreed on condition that they be
interleaved with lanes - the "Little" streets, which became
the bane of bullockies & Beemer drivers from that day to this.
- had surveyed the Moreton Bay area - the future site of
Brisbane - with John Oxley
- under the direction of Major Thomas Mitchell, he surveyed vast
areas of virtually inpenetrable country for the landmark 1834
map of the colony.
- after taking part in the 1st auction of Melbourne land in
1837, he settled in Melbourne.
- in 1838, a punt service was established across the Yarra River, followed
shortly after by a ferry service.
- 1845, a crude timber toll bridge was built downstream of present Princes
- 1850, the first permanent bridge over the Yarra was built and was the
longest stone arch ever built in Australia at 45.7m.
founding of Victoria & the gold rush:
- 1850: Lorne (Louttit Bay) in the Otways
is used as a port for timber and its 1st settler developed a cattle run in
- 1851, colony of Victoria founded, with Charles La Trobe of Latrobe St fame
(1801-1875) appointed as 1st governor, coinciding with the gold rush which
resulted in 313,000 new settlers immigrating to Victoria, rapidly
outstripping NSW in population & development. In 1852 alone, 86,000
British migrated seeking their fortune.
- 1853, James Blackburn (1803-1854) commences construction of Melbourne's
1st controlled water supply - the Yan Yean Reservoir, but soon after died of
typhoid. Fresh tap water became available in 1857.
- 1853, Joseph Reed (1828-1890), architect, wins competition to design
Melbourne's Public Library and later teams with Frederick Barnes (1824-1884)
to create a number of leading buildings in the boom era including
Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Town Hall, Trades Hall, Rippon Lea and
St Michael's Church.
- 1854, the Eureka Stockade in Ballarat; The Age newspaper is founded and
was soon taken over by David Syme (1827-1908).
- 1854, Melbourne's first railway bridge was built for Hobsons Bay Railway -
a timber trestle bridge just below Yarra Falls, and soon a government built
iron railway bridge with a record clear span of 61m was built across the
Maribyrnong River for access to Williamstown.
- 1856, a wrought iron bridge built at Church St
- 1857, Ferdinand Von Mueller (1825-1896) becomes Victoria's 1st government
botanist and curator for the Royal Botanic Gardens. 16 years later he was
replaced by English landscape gardener William Guilfoyle(1840-1912) to
changed it from an educational facility to a recreational one much to Von
- 1861, iron lattice-girder road bridge built across the Yarra at eastern
end of Bridge Rd which is Australia's oldest surviving metal truss bridge,
although it has been modified twice since.
- 1876: William Wardell (1823-1899) architect, builds St Patrick's
Cathedral, one of the biggest Gothic Revival churches in the world, and
depression years of the late 19th century:
- 1880, white population reaches 2.2m; Ned Kelly hanged for murder of
Mounted Constable Thomas Lonigan;
- 1881, George Adams (1839-1904), the founder of Tattersalls, initiates
Australia's 1st public sweepstake on Easter Monday in Sydney.
- 1883, Edward W. Cole (1832-1918) founds his book arcade in Bourke St
which stayed in business until 1929.
- 1880's, falling export prices, over-borrowing for expansion, bank
failures, & general depression leads to strikes & class
bitterness which encourages labour parties into politics.
- Melbourne's elite develop coastal resort towns of Sorrento,
Queenscliff, Torquay and Lorne as well as a multitude of bay-side sea
baths and bathing boxes for health and status purposes.
- 1887: Dame Nellie Melba debuts in her opera career in Brussels.
- 1888, Lennox's stone bridge over the Yarra was replaced with an ornate
three-span iron arch bridge which was much photographed with the city
skyline behind it. Sandridge Rail Bridge built.
- 1889, Queens Bridge built
- 1890, a steel lattice-truss bridge at Fairfield was completed for the
Outer Circle Railway
- 1891: H.V. McKay's combined grain harvester revolutionised the
farming process and helped make Australia a significant grain
exporter. Initially manufactured in his Braybrook factory, peaking
in 1910, he then went on to found a new factory, technical school,
railway station & football oval and essentially, a new suburb
called Sunshine - see History of Sunshine.
- 1893, iron swing bridge across the Maribyrnong built at Napier St to
provide the first direct road access to the western suburbs, without
closing the river to navigation.
- recession contributes to slowing down of immigration. Many Chinese
immigrants begin to return to China (some 100,000 arrived between
1840-90) as the gold rush ended & they became isolated with
Victoria introducing a poll tax on new arrivals & creating
- NSW once again gains ascendancy over Victoria & the new colony
- the Heidelberg School of Australian impressionist painters - see Ian Potter Gallery.
- 1899, the Morell Bridge opposite the Botanic Gardens was built
using the patent Monier Reinforced Concrete process. It is generally
regarded as Victoria's first major reinforced concrete structure and was
the last significant bridge to be built over the Yarra for 25 years.
- 1900: Sidney Myer opens his 1st store - in Bendigo.
- 1901: Australia's federation
- 1910: escapologist, Harry Houdini flies 1st plane in Australia at
Diggers Rest, north of Melbourne
- 1911: Sidney Myer buys Bourke St drapery and begins a 20 year property
consolidation to form the Myer complex in the 1920's & 30's.
- 1907: RACV introduces certificates of competency for car drivers to
- 1912: increasing use of Melbourne's beaches by the working classes,
although still required to wear neck to knee bathing costumes, and only to
wear bathing costumes whilst bathing and walking directly to change rooms
results in mixed bathing on Melbourne beaches branded "the viper of
promiscuous hoodlums" by a Presbyterian minister. Luna Park
established in St Kilda to profit from the new beach culture based on
fun rather than just health and status. Many Surf Life Saving Clubs became
established in 1900-1910.
World War I:
- 1st Coles store opened (Collingwood), with nothing costing more
than a shilling;
- "RACV" launches its first insurance scheme & a
touring department managed by George Broadbent (of Broadbent maps
fame) & in 1915 began a register of hotels for its members to
visit whilst savouring the country air. In 1916 the Automobile Club
of Victoria became the RACV after its contributions to ferrying
soldiers from ships to hospitals.
- the new cars had to contend with poor roads, horse dung and were
advised to limit speed to 20mph.
- the rise in popularity of cars and buses
- 1921: Keith Murdoch (the father of Rupert Murdoch) begins as editor of The
Herald newspaper, and then started The Sun News Pictorial.
- 1922: Fred Walker (1884-1935) enlists help of chemist Cyril Callister to
- 1923, new Church Street Bridge built in reinforced concrete.
- 1926: Myer's store Lonsdale St facade completed.
- 1929-30: the Railways Construction Branch built the Spencer Street Bridge
depression years of the 1930's:
- 1930: Spencer Street Bridge built blocking river traffic upstream and
increasing usage of Victoria Dock.
- 1932: Cole's Book Arcade in Collins St demolished to make way for
G.J.Coles' store (no relation to E.W.Cole, founder of Cole's Book Arcade)
- 1933, The Country Roads (Borrowing) Act 1933 finally gave the CRB
the powers to raise loan funds for metropolitan bridges.
- Melbourne's Myer's Store becomes the largest department store in
- 1934: a big storm destroys many of Melbourne's bayside sea baths and
bathing boxes that had been established in the late 19thC.
- 1934: the Grange Road Bridge built from a donation by confectionary
entrepreneur MacPherson Robertson to celebrate Victoria's centenary.
- 1936-38: a composite design of welded steel girders and reinforced
concrete deck was used to build Lynch's Bridge over the Maribyrnong while a
single-piece concrete superstructure, cast as a single process over 117
hours, was used to build the Hoddle Bridge over the Yarra.
- 1939: after a long drought, on Jan 13th, Black Friday - 71 killed in a
devastating bushfire affecting a large area of eastern Victoria and
destroying the township of Narbethong - subsequently the Country Fire
Authority (CFA) was formed.
World War II:
- cars were put up on blocks in garages because of lack of fuel
- car headlights had to be almost completely covered in case of enemy attack
- 1944: 32 killed in a severe bushfire season which destroyed 700 homes
including 50 in beachside suburbs Beaumaris and Mentone
- 1948: the FX Holden car introduced, followed in the 1950's by the iconic
- 1948-52: the Swan Street Bridge over the Yarra took five years to complete.
- 1954: after the Country Roads and Level Crossings Act 1954
provided funding for bridges to eliminate dangerous railway crossings, a new
type of bridge emerged the concrete ramp overpass - the first was the
Clifton Hill Railway Overpass.
- 1956: Myer's Bourke St facade gets a facelift.
- 1956: Melbourne Olympic Games; B&W commercial TV starts; Barry
Humphries creates "Edna Everage"; subscriber trunk dialling
introduced in Sydney & Melbourne;
- the start of wholesale demolition of many of Melbourne's historic
- 1957-61: King St Bridge built, although a span collapsed in 1962 due to
brittle failure in a cold spell.
- 1959: historic Melbourne Fish Market building on Flinders & Spencers
Sts built in 1890, demolished to make way for the Flinders St overpass at
King St which was built in 1961.
- 1959: historic Equitable Life Assurance Building (built 1896) on the cnr
of Collins & Elizabeth Streets demolished. A 7 storey building of marble
walls & floors with 15 tonne roof blocks. The building's 4m sculpture Charity
being kind to the Poor had towered 4 storeys up over Collins St, and now
stands on the lawn in the University of Melbourne.
- 1960: the 113yr old Eastern Market at Exhibition & Bourke St
demolished to make way for the 16 storey Southern Cross Hotel which
was demolished in ~2000. The Eastern Market flourished in the 1880's
having been run by E.W.Cole who went on to found Cole's Book Arcade
which spanned the area from Bourke to Collins St where David Jones
store now stands.
- 1962: the Southern Cross Hotel opens, ushering Melbourne into a
new era of international jet travel. Built, designed & run by
American hotel chain, Intercontinental in partnership with local
stockbrokers Potter Partners, primarily to cater for Americans
travelling down under. With its vivid interior tiling decor, 17
second room service response time, shops and Melbourne's 1st tenpin
bowling alley, it became the place to be in the 1960's, famously
hosting the Beatles in 1964, but by the 1990's it had become passe
and closed in 1995 and demolished in 1997.
- Sept 1965: conscription for Vietnam war starts.
- pubs allowed to open till 10pm instead of 6pm in Victoria;
- decimal currency introduced.
- 1967: PM Harold Holt disappears whilst surfing off Portsea; postcode system for mail introduced;
- 1968: KFC arrives;
- 1969: 23 killed and 230 homes lost in 230 bushfires break out, many on the
urban fringe including the Lara fire which killed 18 people who left their
cars on the Princes Highway trying to out-run the fire front.
- 1969: natural gas piped to residential homes;
- Westgate Bridge span collapses during construction killing 35
& injuring 19;
- seatbelts become compulsory in Victoria (other states followed in
- McDonald's & Pizza Hut arrive in Australia
- 1971: 72% of Victorian pop. live in Melbourne;
- 1973: Bourke St closed to traffic to become a mall;
- 1978: Westgate Bridge opens after 13yrs construction;
- 1981: one of the best snow seasons ever in Victoria
- 1982: Melbourne's Art Centre & Concert Hall opens;
- after a long drought, a massive dust storm hits Melbourne, then Ash Wednesday bush fires
on Feb 16th decimate
Victorian rural areas, especially Mt Macedon, Dandenongs, Warburton and
Otway regions. 47 killed and 2000 houses lost.
- 65yr old farmer
Cliff Young wins Sydney-Melbourne marathon;
- world's 1st frozen embryo baby (Zoe Leyland) born in Melbourne;
- Melbourne's smog problems revealed: 24 days (cf 18days Sydney) -
4th worst in world behind Tokyo, Mexico City & LA;
- census shows that of Melbourne suburbs:
- highest paid live in Brighton; most qualified live in
Hawthorn/Kew; most married live in Melton;
- most divorced live in St Kilda; youngest in Melton; oldest at
- 1990: Melbourne loses its bid for 1996 Olympic Games;
- controversial Myer bridge over Lonsdale St built.
- John Cain resigns as Vic. Premier after a series of financial
blunders caught up with him - Joan Kirner becomes Australia's 2nd
- Melbourne's Swanston St closed to form Swanston Walk, a
controversial pedestrian mall;
- the early 1990's was a period of real estate and economic recession and
recovery from the poor fiscal position that the previous Labor state
government had left the state in.
- Kennett slashed the public service workforces esp. in health and education
and went ahead with industrial reform which together created social unrest
and hardship for many, and continued the privatisation of public
utilities (electricity supply, Port of Portland, prisons, public transport
systems) which had commenced in the 1980's
- He was instrumental in the development of major infrastructure initiatives
for better or worse:
- the Grand Prix to Albert Park as of 1996
- 500cc motorcycle Grand Prix was held at Phillip Island as of 1997
- the Crown Casino and Southbank precinct and the introduction of poker
- CityLink tollway and Bolte Bridge
- Melbourne Exhibition Centre ("Jeff's shed") opened 1996
- the development of Docklands & Telstra Stadium
- the development of new art galleries including refurbishment of the
- the new Museum
- demolished the ugly Gas and Fuel Building on Flinders St and replaced it with
- the amalgamation of health into larger health services
- wins right to stage the 2006 Commonwealth Games
- 1994: Werribee Mercy Hospital opens;
- 1995: 6th World Police & Fire Games held at MCG - the largest
sporting event in Melbourne since 1956 Olympic Games.
- Victoria's Metcard automated public transport ticketing system
- Victorians without gas in winter for 2wks after explosion at the
Esso Longford Gas Plant in Sale, Gippsland.
- 1999: redevelopment of Sunshine Hospital commences
- despite having the enviable prospect of a large State fiscal surplus,
little infrastructure has been added, but instead, some of the excessive
service and job cuts of the Kennett era have been reversed to improve
services on the back of the efficiency levels achieved under Kennett.
- introduced the 30yr plan to restrict further outward growth of residential
Melbourne amidst a real estate property boom from 1996-2003
- redeveloped Austin Hospital with a budget blowout to some $350m
- introduced 50kph residential speed limits and 40kph school zone limits
- created driver paranoia by introducing a multitude of speed cameras which
appear to be more a revenue raising tactic rather than the stated objective
of reducing road trauma. Forced to repay millions of dollars in fines as
fixed speed cameras found to be faulty while the contracted company that
runs them goes into liquidation.
- other than that, it seems to have bumbled its way through its terms trying
to please everyone without much to show for it, while at the same time
apparently wasting its surplus.
- Jan: lightning strikes start 87 bushfires in Victoria's eastern alpine
region which raged for 70 days and burnt 1.3 million hectares of land
(~5% of Victoria or 15% of public land) but despite a 800km fire front,
fortunately only 1 person died and 41 homes lost in Victoria (although
Canberra in the ACT was severely affected).
- Aug 14th is Melbourne's coldest day for 6 yrs and its coldest August
day for 26yrs
- snow season is the best since 1981, beating 1990.
- Melbourne had its eighth consecutive year of below normal rainfall,
the first time this has happened since records began in 1855.
- Victoria has its wettest February since 1973 followed by its driest
Autumn on record
- Aug 10th: snow falls widespread across Victoria down to sea level,
even at coastal towns of Torquay & Apollo Bay - the 1st time since
1986, but spares Melbourne itself.
- plans to redevelop the Royal Children's Hospital
- the redeveloped Spencer St Railway Station becomes Southern Cross
- Dec: Melbourne's hottest December on record and its hottest New Year's
Eve on record (43.4degC at the airport near me and 46degC in Horsham!)
- Jan: bushfires devastate the Grampians
region in Victoria's west.
- March: Melbourne hosts the Commonwealth Games.
- Melbourne's 2nd driest October on record as the 10yr drought worsens
and driest Spring since 1939.
- Melbourne voted world's no.1 sporting city as well as being in the top
2 most livable cities in the world.
- after a poor snow season, snow falls in mid-November in regional Victoria as well as Stanthorpe
in Qld as Sydney and Brisbane have their coldest November night in
- the ALP, led by Bracks is easily re-elected to parliament.
- Dec: bushfires rage through Victoria's eastern alps, threatening Mt
Buller's alpine village for the 2nd time in 4 years only to be saved by
timely rain and then, incredibly, snow for Christmas Day while the
bushfires in the alps continued to burn.
- Melbourne finishes the year with its 8th driest on record and starts
2007 with stage III water restrictions.
- May: global warming? what global warming? Let's keep trying to put our
heads in the sand.
- Melbourne has its driest 365 days on record as dams fall below
30% full and the 11 year drought continues.
- Melbourne has its warmest May night on record with a minimum
- Victoria has its warmest Autumn on record.
- Docklands retail shopping precinct and ferris wheel opens.
- drought continues
- following record heat waves reaching 47degC, Black Saturday bush fires
in Feb devastate Melbourne's northern regions including Kinglake and
- the heat wave damages the new massive ferris wheel at Docklands which
opened in 2008, forcing it to be dismantled and repaired.
- Hilton Hotel and Melbourne Conference Centre along with yet another
DFO retail precinct open west of the Casino.
- Geelong FC beats St Kilda wins its 3rd AFL Grand Final in 4 years
after its shock loss to Hawthorn in 2008.
- major modifications to Bolte Bridge-Westgate Bridge-Kings Way-Burnley
Tunnel road interchange
- record heat wave for early November, although not as severe as in
- drought continues
- new public transport ticketing system - Myki - a RFID smartcard system
finally commences but with substantial problems and less than
enthusiastic public support.
- Jan - equal warmest night on record - minimum overnight of just over
- real estate market continues to boom but slowing by year's end after a
series of interest rate hikes.
- John Brumby loses state election to Liberal's Ted Baileau after a
string of controversies including Myki ticket system, north-south water
pipeline, desalination plant costs, failure to plan for transport and
- La Nina's rains result in Melbourne's dams hitting 50% full after good
Winter rains, and the wettest Melbourne Spring since 1992.
- Collingwood and St Kilda draw in AFL Grand Final, but Collingwood
easily wins replay. Gary Ablett and coach, Mark Thompson leave Geelong
- locust plague