Celebrating our heritage
By Cr Jackie Watts, Chair of Melbourne Heritage Network and Councillor at the City of Melbourne
So much has been happening in online “virtual” world of maritime heritage that few of us feel that we have been “locked-in” or “locked-out” completely.
Emerging tentatively from various levels of “ISO” it’s time to come outside and look around Docklands with fresh eyes. For example, as you look about with fresh eyes, check out the many maritime references in the names of your streets, lanes and land spaces.
Few Docklanders would be aware that Hubbuck Lane, takes its name from the vessel S.S. Hubbuck, the first commercial ship to enter Victoria Dock on February 20, 1893. Some Docklands names are obviously nautical but others less so. If you are puzzled by the names you see or if you can share information of “strange” names email [email protected],au.
Take a look at look at Central Pier - notice the “art”? A long-term Docklands resident worried about deterioration of the murals on the walls prompted Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN) to investigate. We questioned Development Victoria (DV) about deterioration of the murals which initially formed part of a DV “History Walk of Docklands” launched in 2002 to celebrate the maritime and industrial history of Docklands.
In 2009 and 2015, DV undertook a retouch of the images but they plan to leave them on the Pier for the time being but have reassured MMHN that the originals are in safe keeping should other copies be required at a later date. Central Pier has been, of course, an iconic ste- vedoring presence in Victoria Harbour since 1916-17. At the very centre of Docklands, the harbour has significant heritage value in its own right. It was excavated 125 years ago largely by hand and steam shovel and is a body of water which is an astounding example of 19th century civil engineering – the second largest excavated harbour in the world.
MMHN member and Docklands resident Tony Bryer has compiled a brief history of Victoria Dock in his blog (tonybryer. com/2018/02/). It’s hard to comprehend today that much of Melbourne’s and Victoria’s prosperity has emanated from trade via these docks in the modern precinct of Docklands. By 1908, Victoria Dock was handling 90 per cent of Victoria’s imports. And it grew. To increase the amount of wharf space available to hand cargo, Central Pier was constructed in 1916-17. By the 1950s Melbourne claimed that its port was the most mechanised in the Commonwealth. Containerisation, larger ships and technological changes in the stevedoring industry changes led to the docks gravitating to the new down-river Swanson Dock with its massive container cranes opened in the late 1960s.
But it’s important to understand that Docklands heritage extends beyond Victoria Harbour and turning towards the CBD you will find another fascinating heritage “docks” precinct on the north bank of the Yarra. Keeping the river on your right hand side, wind your way along Australia Wharf dating from 1855, the wharf was an important loading facility, especially for the now demolished gasworks. The area was used as a wharf up until the construction of the Charles Grimes Bridge in 1975. See vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/13853/ download-report.
Walk or cycle on towards the CBD along the Jim Stynes Bridge, built in 2014, suspended parallel to the Yarra River linking Docklands with the CBD via Northbank. Once you reach the small pocket park, pause and look up. Dramatic change will confront you. The recently revealed skeleton of a truly vast Goods Shed stretching way along the wharf towards the CBD. This Shed and the now restored heritage-listed electric crane (1948) on the wharf alongside it form the last intact example of an “integrated wharf-shed-crane berth” in the Port of Melbourne making this one of Melbourne’s most significant heritage waterfronts. Developer, maritime enthusiasts, and MMHN member Riverlee has now commenced restoration of the iconic Goods Shed No.5. The roof is being dismantled and this wharf has countless links to Melbourne’s maritime heritage, including an enduring relationship with Australia’s Antarctic ships.
This photo was taken on March 17, 1971 onboard Thala Dan alongside North Wharf No.5/6. She is looking aft and west towards Nella Dan with port side alongside on North Wharf No. 7/8 with a Melbourne Gas Works silo to the right north of North Wharf No. 9.