Friday, June 28, 2013

Water according to Walter: A Penny a Day

Picking up on last week's watery theme, this post turns to Councillor Walter's connection with metropolitan water supply.
This week, price increases for water were approved by the Essential Services Commission. The increases were largely attributed to the desalination plant.
The Argus of 28 March 1936 contains an article Story Behind the Tap: Our Water Supply cost millions  written by George S Walter. Walter was a Port Melbourne Councillor for an astonishing 40 years, twice Mayor and also vice-chairman of the Water Supply Committee of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. The article, written towards the end of a life time of public service, takes a sweeping historical overview of water supply to emphasise the value of clean water from both a public health and price point of view - a penny a day. He goes back to antiquity to make his argument, and contrasts London and Melbourne's water supplies on price and consumption per head. When he was writing, the importance of  a clean water supply to public health was perhaps stronger than in our minds today. The Yan Yean and Maroondah dams then provided Melbourne with clean drinking water and the MMBW looked to the Upper Yarra for future water supply possibilities. Since then Melbourne's water supplies have been augmented by the Thomson Dam and more recently, the desalination plant.
Walter ends with the contemporary message: 'It all seems so simple to the consumer, who just turns on a tap and obtains the greatest necessity of life. It is hard for him to realise the story behind the tap, the work entailed, the organisation necessary, the engineering skill involved, and all for the benefit of the consumer and to preserve his health.'
Visit the monument to Walter on the Reserve where Bay and Crockford St part company. Font fans may well enjoy the lettering on the plaque.
Walter lives on in Walter St, and Walter Reserve - part of the Railway Reserves

Source: The Argus Saturday 28 March 1936,p10
The facts and figures
George Samuel Walter 1872 - 1937
Councillor of Port Melbourne 1897 to 1937
Mayor of Port Melbourne 1901-1902, 1934 to 1935

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Watery names: A cluster of Floodgate, Pool and Spring

It is shaping up to be our wettest June in many years. It prompted a look at the place names that reveal Port Melbourne's watery foundation.  A particularly flood prone spot was, and remains, the area around Ingles and Crockford St.  In December 1863,
'...a flood of unexampled severity occurred, which overwhelmed the low-lying land along the river course ... The diverted current of water pouring across St Kilda Road is said to have been 11 feet deep. Flowing across Albert Road through the park, the water cut a passage to the sea. Emerald Heill was isolated in a waste of water, communication being maintained by boat. At the appropriately named Floodgate Hotel, near Sandridge, a channel 16 feet deep was cut out, over which a temporary bridge had to be built to carry traffic.'
Floodgate Hotel - Madonnas restaurant
 The PMH&PS calendar (2008) has a great picture of the cable tram making its way along a flooded Crockford St in 1919, with the Globe Hotel (now the childcare centre) in view. The Society also has in its collection a fascinating and very detailed report on Stormwater Drainage of Port Melbourne by Town Clerk Heath dated 1904. The report provides detailed rainfall records, describes the catchment, analyses the performance of the pumping station,  and the direction of stormwater flows. One observation picked out of the report is that
'When the Lagoon was open it acted as a storage reservoir for storm water, and served to quickly relieve the streets of water, which falling now, would cause a flood. It is partly on this account that flooding is more frequent now  than in old times. Then only heavy storms, in combination with extraordinary tides, will produce the same effect.'
He makes a series of recommendations which include - improved street cleaning!
That general area is covered by a Special Building Overlay in the Port Phillip planning scheme which identifies land 'liable to inundation by overland flows from the urban drainage system.' The Special Building Overlay area can be seen quite clearly on this planning scheme map
Pool St and Spring St also reveal their watery origins.
Street names are the theme of the CLUSTER exhibition at the City Gallery in Swanston St, on until the end of July. It includes the poet streets of Elwood, but not the ship cluster of Beacon Cove. Professor Graeme Davision has written an entertaining and interesting essay in the finely designed catalogue - its no surprise to learn that the curator is a graphic designer with a particular interest in typography.

This is just the briefest introduction to flood stories from Port Melbourne - it would be great if you could add anything you know.

Sources and further information
Charles Daly A History of South Melbourne
Graham and Margaret Bride's The Borough and its People Port Melbourne 1839 to 1939 discuss the 1863 flood in some detail
The Argus for 18 December 1863 which can be read online at Trove
Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society calendar June 2008
A V Heath Report on the Storm-Water Drainage of Port Melbourne April 6, 1904 (PMH&PS collection)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Migrant hostel in Fishermans Bend

Mike Brady's huge contribution to Australian life has been recognised in the Queens Birthday Honours with an AM.
A less well know part of his story is the time his family spent in the migrant hostel in Fishermans Bend after their arrival in Melbourne in the '50s.  The experience of life in the hostel is described in a colourful way by Noel Delbridge in his book 'Up There Mike Brady':
"A blind man could describe the scene, because the inescapable odours of Port Melbourne are penetrating the tiniest chinks in the bus doors and windows. It’s an obnoxious smelling cocktail of animal, vegetable and chemical waste. 
To the south of the hostel is the Port Melbourne tip, permanently burning the rotting garbage deposited from homes and nearby vegetable and fish markets. The prevailing wind drives the sour smoke over the hostel. 
To the east, stretching almost to the city, is a chain of animal-holding yards and abattoirs. Here, pigs are slaughtered and put through a furnace to burn off their bristles. The stench of burning hair and flesh is compounded as it joins the stink of boiling fat from the Unilever and Cedel soap factories.
 Adjacent to the hostel is the Kraft Vegemite factory. The pungent, yeasty smell drifts over constantly. Vegemite is not the spread of choice at breakfast in the hostel canteen.
The Brady's accommodation was in a large corrugated-iron hut divided into four flats. Each flat had three rooms - a living room in the middle and a bedroom at each end. Bathroom and toilet blocks, concrete and wet, were outside.
An easement on the southern perimeter of the hostel became the boys' secret adventure park. It was a dumping ground for hard rubbish. ... Near Cook Street, adjacent to the hostel, was a brackish swamp of uncertain depth containing unknown liquids ... Old car bodies provided islands. This was a scary place, and they banned horseplay among themselves for fear of falling into the ooze and dissolving."
It is poignant to recall those times when there was work for everybody, the car industry was in a growth  phase and new migrants were welcomed to the country. As another resident of the hostel recalled, her mother got a job at GMH 'just a walk over the sand dunes'. She attended Graham St School and her brother went to South Melbourne Tech.
I am not absolutely sure of the precise location of the hostel. PMHPS member Don delivered telegrams to the hostel, and he is definite it was in Ingles St near Lorimer St, even though Delbridge says it was in Hall St. Do you have any further information or recollection of the hostel? 

Sources and further information
Noel Delbridge Up There Mike Brady (Coulomb Communications Port Melbourne)
Vivienne Gunn, recording of talk to the PMH&PS 23 September 2003

Friday, June 7, 2013


The earliest streets named on the Street Plan of Sandridge 1849 were those clustered around the foundation place of the early settlement - Bay, Dow, Rouse, Stokes, Graham. They were named from Sydney.
Garryowen made this unflattering assessment about some of the later names: ‘the nomenclature (street names) was distributed amongst a batch of local mediocrities.' He adds ‘Certainly they have amongst them a Pickles Street –no misnomer considering the briny nature of the place.’ 
John Pickles, a shipwright blacksmith, is best known - not for what he did - but for what others did to him during the election for mayor in 1862. He was lured out to the Bay on the pretext that work needed to be done on a ship. While absent, he was elected mayor. On returning to shore, he resigned the role he had never sought and Morley was elected. Punch headlined it ‘a case of Pickles.’ But don’t be too quick to join with those early commentators in having a joke at Pickles expense.  According to E C Crockford, reminiscing about the early days in Port, John Pickles loved Shakespeare to the extent that he named some of his children Horatio, Orlando and Ophelia and could command ‘rapt attention’ for his recitations of excerpts from Shakespeare including The Address by Polonious to his son Laertes.
Nevertheless, it is true that most of Port’s streets, parks and reserves have been named after Mayors and Councillors.  The first place in Port Melbourne, as I’m aware, to be named after a woman was Olive’s corner (Liardet/Bay) named for Senator Olive Zacharov who died in 1995. That is a story for another day.
The City of Port Phillip’s policy now favours the recognition of indigenous people and places, women and community contribution.
Sources and further information
Graham and Margaret Bride The Borough and Its People: Port Melbourne 1839 to 1939
The Age 2 February 1935
Garryowen: Chronicles of Early Melbourne 1835 - 1851. Thanks to local history librarian Kay Rowan for advising me that this is freely available on line through Trove

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Beacon views

Do you remember that in a previous post I mentioned that the off shore beacon used to have a timber walkway connecting it to the shore?
These two great images from the City of Port Phillip's collection show this perfectly.
From the left looking towards the foreshore:  the Commonwealth Engine Works  and on the right the Missions to Seamen.

The citation says the photos were taken between 1960 and 1970. Can you assist with dating the pictures more accurately?
To view more images from the City of Port Phillip collection go to and search the heritage database
Got some information to add, some photos to show, some memories to share? Post a comment here, or write to