Miles Lewis, Growth of Melbourne in Victorian times
Growth of Melbourne in Victorian times
Interview with Miles Lewis
Filmed by Tribal Media
Contributor: Heritage Victoria
What house is that? Interactive, created by Heritage Victoria.
Miles Lewis talks about the development of Melbourne’s inner suburbs in the nineteenth century, and the relationship between the railways and the development of new subdivisions and suburbs.
To learn more about the mid Victorian period of architecture, Click Here.
Miles Lewis is an architectural historian and Professor in the faculty of Architecture, Building & Planning at the University of Melbourne. He is editor of Architectura (London and New York 2008) and author of Victorian Primitive, Don John of Balaclava, The Essential Maldon, Two Hundred Years of Concrete in Australia, Victorian Churches, Melbourne: the City’s History, Suburban Backlash and numerous articles and papers on architectural and building history, urban conservation, urban renewal and housing policy. Miles is Vice-President of the Comite International d’Architecture Vernaculaire.
In the 1850s, Melbourne was largely a city with villages around it.
That is, places like Richmond were partly isolated from the city. And they would have dairying on the flats near the river and industries like brick-making surrounding them.
What happened from the late 1850s onwards was gradually the spaces in between these areas filled out, and the pressure of population, especially in Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond, created a very dense population, and then areas like St Kilda became linked in.
But places like Brighton, for example, were still separate, and you went by train through areas like Hillwood, which was still largely swampy, undeveloped land.
And, I suppose, more than anything, it was the transport system which changed the structure of Melbourne more than the services.
If you bought land in a place like Brighton, you might be given, as part of the deal, a season ticket by rail.
And in many ways, the rail services were not servicing the existing suburbs so much as creating them. So, part of a land deal was to provide the railway service to it, so the land became saleable.
From, I suppose, the mid-18th century onwards, there was a great boom in suburban development - and speculation, which gave rise ultimately to the crash towards 1890, in which there were auctions held and free champagne provided, people were encouraged to speculate in buying these blocks in distant areas.
Even in places like Doncaster, terrace houses were built on the anticipation of them becoming dense areas. And people would open up an estate, build one or two large mansions on it to try and encourage people to think this would be a prosperous, dense development, and some of those estates collapsed and almost were never developed, at least until late in the 20th century.
The well-known property Medlow in Surrey Hills is an example where the subdivision was all planned out. One house was built, which survives today, and none of the other houses were built on that estate.
In the 1850s, there were large numbers of single men from the goldfields, and they lived often in rooming houses, and they would regard the hotel as almost their living space.
So there were huge numbers of hotels in Melbourne. Almost every street corner in the inner suburbs would have a hotel.
And that only changed over time as a more normal social situation developed in the 1860s and the suburbs developed, and the idea of a suburban house with its own grounds became important from the 1860s onwards. And people wrote about the smiling parterres, the lawns and flowerbeds of suburbs like, say, Essendon, for example, from the 1860s onwards.