1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Melbourne

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MELBOURNE, the capital of Victoria, and the most populous city in Australia. It is situated on Hobson’s Bay, a northern bend of the great harbour of Port Phillip, in Bourke county, about 500 m. S.W. of Sydney. The suburbs extend along the shores of the bay for more than 10 m., but the part distinctively known as the “city” occupies a site about 3 m. inland on the north bank of the Yarra river. The appearance of Melbourne from the sea is by no means picturesque. The busy shipping suburbs of Port Melbourne and Williamstown occupy the flat alluvial land at the mouth of the Yarra. But the city itself has a different aspect; its situation is relieved by numerous gentle hills, which show up its fine public buildings to great advantage; its main streets are wide and well kept, and it has an air of prosperity, activity and comfort. The part especially known as the “city” occupies two hills, and along the valley between them runs the thoroughfare of Elizabeth Street. Parallel to this is Swanston Street, and at right angles to these, parallel to the river, are Bourke Street, Collins Street and Flinders Street—the first being the busiest in Melbourne, the second the most fashionable with the best shops, and the third, which faces the river, given up to the maritime trade. These streets are an eighth of a mile apart, and between each is a narrower street bearing the name of the wider, with the prefix “Little.” The original plan seems to have been to construct these narrow streets to give access to the great business houses which, it was foreseen, would be built on the frontage of the main streets. This plan, however, miscarried, for space grew so valuable that large warehouses and business establishments have been erected in these lanes. Little Flinders Street, in which the great importers’ warehouses are mainly situated, is locally known as “the Lane.” In the centre of the city some of the office buildings are ten, twelve or even fourteen storeys high. The main streets are 99 ft. wide, and the lanes somewhat less than half that width. Round the city lies a circle of populous suburbs—to the north-east Fitzroy (pop. 31,687) and Collingwood (32,749), to the east Richmond (37,824), to the south-east Prahran (40,441), to the south South Melbourne (40,619), to the south-west Port Melbourne (12,176), and to the north-west North Melbourne (18,120). All these suburbs lie within 3 m. of the general post office in Elizabeth Street; but outside them and within the 5 m. radius is another circle—to the east Kew (9469) and Hawthorne (21,430), to the south-east St Kilda (20,542) and Brighton (10,047), to the south-west Williamstown (14,052) and Footscray (18,318), to the north-west Essendon (17,426), and Flemington and Kensington (10,946), and to the north Brunswick (24,141). Numerous small suburbs fill the space between the two circles, the chief being Northcote, Preston, Camberwell, Toorak, Caulfield, Elsternwick and Coburg. Some of these suburbs are independent cities, others separate municipalities. In spite of the value of land, Melbourne is not a crowded city.

The Parliament House, standing on the crown of the eastern hill, is a massive square brick building with a pillared freestone facade approached by a broad flight of steps. The interior is lavishly decorated and contains, besides the legislative chambers, a magnificent library of over 52,000 volumes. At the top of

Collins Street a building in brown freestone is occupied by the Treasury, behind which and fronting the Treasury Park another palatial building houses the government offices. A little further on is St Patrick’s Roman Catholic cathedral, the seat of the archbishop of Melbourne, a building of somewhat sombre bluestone. Two striking churches face each other in Collins Street, the Scots church, a Gothic edifice with a lofty spire, and the Independent church, a fine Saracenic building with a massive campanile. The seat of the Anglican bishop, St Paul’s cathedral, has an elegant exterior and a wealth of elaborate workmanship within, but stands low and is obscured by surrounding warehouses. On the western hill are the law courts, a fine block of buildings in classic style surmounted by a central dome. In Swanston Street there is a large building where under one roof are found the public library of over 100,000 volumes, the museum of sculpture, the art gallery, and the museums of ethnology and technology. In connexion with the art gallery there is a travelling scholarship for art students, endowed by the state. The Exhibition Buildings are situated on a hill in Carlton Gardens; they consist of a large cruciform hall surmounted by a dome and flanked by two annexes. Here on the 9th of May 1901 the first federal parliament of the Australian commonwealth was opened by King George  V. (as duke of Cornwall and York). The Trades Hall at Carlton is the meeting-place of the trades-union societies of Victoria, and is the focus of much political influence. The Melbourne town hall contains a central chamber capable of accommodating 3000 people. The suburban cities and towns have each a town hall. The residence of the governor of the colony is in South Melbourne, and is surrounded by an extensive domain. The university is a picturesque mass of buildings in large grounds about a mile from the heart of the city. It comprises the university buildings proper, the medical school, the natural history museum, the Wilson Hall, a magnificent building in the Perpendicular style, and the three affiliated colleges, Trinity College (Anglican), Ormond College (Presbyterian) and Queen’s College (Wesleyan). The university, established in 1855, is undenominational, and grants degrees in the faculties of arts, law, medicine, science, civil engineering and music; instruction in theology is left to the affiliated colleges. Melbourne has numerous state schools, and ample provision is made for secondary education by the various denominations and by private enterprise. Of theatres, the Princess and the Theatre Royal are the most important. Other public buildings include the mint, the observatory, the Victoria markets, the Melbourne hospital, the general post office, the homoeopathic hospital, the custom house and the Alfred hospital. Many of the commercial buildings are of architectural merit, notably the banks, of which the bank of Australasia, a massive edifice of the Doric order, and the Gothic Australian bank are the finest examples.

The public gardens and parks of Melbourne are extensive. Within the city proper the Fitzroy Gardens are a network of avenues bordered with oak, elm and plane, with a “ferntree gully” in the centre; they are ornamented with casts of famous statues, and ponds, fountains and classic temples. The Treasury, Flagstaff and Carlton Gardens are of the same class. Around the city lie five great parks—Royal Park, in which are excellent zoological gardens; Yarra Park, which contains the leading cricket grounds; the Botanical Gardens, sloping down to the banks of the river; Albert Park, in which is situated a lake much used for boating; and Studley Park on the Yarra river, a favourite resort which has been left in a natural state. Besides these parks, each suburb has its public gardens, and at Flemington there is a fine race-course, on which the Melbourne cup races are run every November, an event which brings in a large influx of visitors from all parts of Australia. Melbourne has a complete tramway system; all the chief suburbs are connected with the city by cable trams. The tramways are controlled by a trust, representing twelve of the metropolitan municipalities. The chief monuments and statues of the city are the statue of Queen Victoria in the vestibule of the Houses of Parliament, and a colossal group commemorating the explorers Robert O’Hara Bourke (b. 1820) and William John Wills (b. 1834), who died of starvation in 1861 on an expedition for the crossing of Australia from south to north. There are also the statue to Sir Redmond Barry, first chancellor of the university, outside the public library, the Gordon statue in Spring Street, a replica of that in Trafalgar Square, London, and a statue of Daniel O’Connell, outside St Patrick’s cathedral.

Port Melbourne, originally called Sandridge, is about 21/2 m. distant from the city, with which it is connected by rail and tramway. It has two large piers, alongside of which vessels of almost any tonnage can lie. One of these piers is served by the railway, and here most of the great liners are berthed. Vessels drawing 22 ft. of water can ascend the river Yarra to the heart of the city. There are 2 m. of wharves along each bank of the river, with two large dry-docks and ship-repairing yards and foundries. Below Queen’s Bridge is an expansion of the river known as the Pool, in which the largest ships using the river can turn with ease. Leading from a point opposite the docks is the Coode canal, by means of which the journey from the city to the mouth of the river is shortened by over a mile. As a port Melbourne takes the first place in Australia as regards tonnage. It is also a great manufacturing centre, and both city and suburbs have their distinctive industries. The chief are tanning, fellmongery, wool-washing, bacon-curing, flour milling, brewing, iron-founding, brick-making, soap-boiling, the manufacture of pottery, candles, cheese, cigars, snuff, jams, biscuits, jewelry, furniture, boots, clothing and leather and woollen goods.

The climate of Melbourne is exceptionally fine; occasionally hot winds blow from the north for two or three days at a time, but the proportion of days when the sky is clear and the air dry and mild is large. Snow is unknown, and the average annual rainfall is 25·58 in. The mean annual temperature is 57·3° F., corresponding to that of Washington in the United States, and to Lisbon and Messina in Europe. The city is supplied with water from the Yan Yean works, an artificial lake at the foot of the Plenty Range, nearly 19 m. distant.

The little settlement of the year 1835, out of which Melbourne grew, at first bore the native name of Dootigala, but it was presently renamed after Viscount Melbourne, premier of Great Britain at the time of its foundation. In June 1836 it consisted of only thirteen buildings, eight of which were turf huts. For two years after that date a constant stream of squatters with their sheep flowed in from around Sydney and Tasmania to settle in the Port Phillip district, and by 1841 the population of the town had grown to 11,000. The discovery of gold at Ballarat in 1851 brought another influx of population to the district, and the town grew from 30,000 to 100,000 in the course of two or three years. In 1842 Melbourne was incorporated and first sent members to the New South Wales parliament. A strong popular agitation caused the Port Phillip district to be separated from New South Wales in 1851, and a new colony was formed with the name of Victoria, Melbourne becoming its capital. In 1901 Melbourne became the temporary capital of the Australian commonwealth pending the selection of the permanent capital in New South Wales. The population of the city proper in 1901 was 68,374, and that of “greater Melbourne” was 496,079.