History articles

Melbourne’s first pop-up theatre

Melbourne’s first pop-up theatre

By David Thompson Few theatre-goers pushing through the crowded foyer of the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne take note of the brass plaque beside a door leading to the stalls. The plaque tells how “… George Selth Coppin, Philanthropist and Father of the Theatre in Victoria, Erected the Olympic Theatre on this Site in 1855”. The

“For women, by women” 

By David Thompson The Queen Victoria Hospital opened its doors in 1899 in Little Lonsdale St, near William St.  This was Melbourne’s first hospital for women and children to be staffed by female doctors, and was only the third such hospital in the world. The idea for the hospital came from Constance Stone who was

Livin’ in the ‘70s

If you are feeling discomfited by the Metro tunnelling, take heart, it has all happened before. Back in the ‘70s the City Loop was built with the first sod being turned in 1971 and Flagstaff Station not opening until 1985.  This photo was taken around 1970 just prior to the city loop being built. The

Old Government Printing Office in William Street. Government Printer John Ferres lived in the adjacent cottage.Site now occupied by Supreme Court of Victoria. Image courtesy of State Library of Victoria.

Getting the message out

By David Thompson For society to function, a government needs a means of communicating its rules, regulations and processes with the governed.  Today it is Twitter but in the early days of European settlement around Port Phillip the only means available, apart from word of mouth, was the printed word. Thus even during the first

The forgotten telegraphist

By David Thompson On the William St wall of the Supreme Court building in Melbourne there is a small plaque, ignored by most passers-by, which commemorates one of the most significant events in the history of Melbourne and indeed Australia. That was the opening in March 1854 of the first electric telegraph line in Australia

Where government found a home

By David Thompson Although today Spring St is synonymous with government, in Melbourne’s early days, government was centred on the western end of what is now the CBD. Superintendent La Trobe and other government officials occupied a range of temporary accommodation in the area, including John Batman’s old house near Batman’s Hill. In 1843 James

Melbourne’s first “respectable” theatre

Early theatrical performances in Melbourne usually took place in temporary or makeshift venues and were often of a rowdy and disorderly nature.  John Thomas Smith was a publican, councillor and several times Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and wanted to raise the tone of the theatre in Melbourne. In May 1843 he applied to the magistrates

Where “Chloe” once hung 

By David Thompson, Royal Historial Society of Victoria The curious passer-by in Lonsdale St may wonder why an old-fashioned pair of wrought iron gates, slung between two stone pillars, stand in splendid isolation beside the modern office buildings at No. 460.  A closer look will reveal the word “Rostella” amongst the moss and other growths

Palace of Winged Words

By David Thompson, Royal Historical Society A 19th century three-storey redbrick building in Wills St in the CBD hardly rates a glance from most passers-by who are unaware that this building was once Melbourne’s first purpose-built telephone exchange.  Although now surmounted by a multi-storey apartment block, externally the lower three storeys still retain many of

“The Smith House” – 300 Queen St

By David Thompson, Royal Historical Society of Victoria The Lord Mayor lampooned and criticised for questionable electioneering tactics! No, not 2018, we have stepped back in time 167 years.  The Lord Mayor was John Thomas Smith, known as the “Dick Whittington of the South” as he was seven times lord mayor between 1851 and 1864.

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