Miles Lewis, Introduction of services and utilities to Victoria
Introduction of services and utilities to Victoria
Interview with Miles Lewis
Filmed by Tribal Media
Contributor: Heritage Victoria
What house is that? Interactive, created by Heritage Victoria.
Miles Lewis describes how Victorian Melbourne transformed from Smellbourne to a modern city, with the development of sewerage services and other utilities through the 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 Melbourne, there was no water supply until the 1850s, when the Yan Yean reservoir was developed.
And before that time, water was got out of the Yarra and taken around in a water cart, delivered to your water butt, which is just a large barrel outside the house. And there was no formal sewerage - there were drains in the main streets - and the water tended to drain into the Yarra, and the water was got from the Yarra, so there were epidemics of typhoid and cholera, especially in the late 1840s.
By 1849, the first mechanical pumps were set up on the Yarra banks, so you could draw the water up and put it into a dray without having to actually drive your cart into the Yarra.
And in the late 1850s, gradually most of the inner suburbs were linked to the Yan Yean reservoir so there was a pipe to water supply.
Most houses in the city would have a cesspit for sewage, which was supposed to be emptied, so there was a big underground tank, and, at intervals, somebody was supposed to come and pump it out.
What happened often was that - A - the tank leaked, it wasn't fully sealed and it seeped into the surrounding ground, and often it wasn't emptied enough and it overflowed.
So they weren't very desirable, and, later on, they in fact were banned.
Then a night cart service was largely used, in which somebody came at night took away your pan from the back dunny on the boundary of the property.Often to save time, they would tip that into the Yarra as they crossed it, and that caused problems as well.
So regulations were established and a manure depot was established where the Children's Hospital now is to dispose of this material and deodorise it.
And then in... from about 1888 onwards, the Melbourne sewerage system was developed, and very quickly spread out through most of the suburbs. There were fuel stoves before that time, quite elaborate stoves.
American stoves especially were favoured, which were freestanding stoves which you could heat the room with and also cook upon to a small extent.
And then there were leading English ranges, like the Flavel range, which were 'kitcheners', that is, they were a complete equipment which would heat water as well as cooking.
People tended, of course, to use candles to get around the house, to get out to the dunny outside, that sort of thing. But most lighting, especially from 1870 onwards, was kerosene.
Before that time, whale oil was used. It was more expensive. Electric lighting comes in gradually in the late 1880s in the richer houses. But in some cases, well into the 20th century, houses were still being lit by oil.
When electricity comes in at first, people are unsure about it, and you might often have a light point with gas and electricity connected to the same place, just in case the electricity failed.
Gas was introduced in Melbourne in 1855, but, in other towns, mostly a bit later. And gas was at first used only for lighting, but, by the 1870s, was more and more being used for gas cooking, so that had an impact as well.
At first, you would rent your cooker from the gas company, and only later on did people tend to buy their own gas appliances. Gas caused no dramatic change over kerosene lamps.
More importantly, perhaps, was its effect on street lighting, which was huge, because people... Until at that time, hotels were required to keep a light outside in the street, but there was very little public street lighting, until gas was installed.
The first power station was in Richmond. It was a private company.Later on, councils established their own power stations.
Yes, and often the power systems were incompatible - different voltages and so on were used in different council areas.
And then only under Sir John Monash after World War I was a State-wide system gradually developed. Well, electricity comes in gradually from the late 1880s in domestic uses, but only really in the richer houses.
And after 1900, becomes more and more common as a standard element in ordinary houses. And from that time onwards, the use of oil reduces.
At first, electricity is used almost entirely for lighting.
Electric appliances are very rare almost until World War II. I mean, they were a small minority of regular household appliances until that time.