The growth of Melbourne as a city was closely linked to migration from Great Britain and the discovery of gold to the west of the city in the 1850s. Melbourne boomed into a small town within a decade that supplied the entrepreneurs and gold prospectors. The downtown area that is still called the Golden Mile gave some of the inhabitants of Melbourne, the capital of Victoria State, grand mansions and great wealth. Flinders Street as the closest street to the Yarra river and to the east of the present docklands on the north bank of the river, grew into a booming street of shops one mile in length. It was named for the explorer Matthew Flinders, who was erroneously credited with discovering Port Phillip and the extensive bay at the time of its naming.

Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), a Lincoln man, left Portsmouth in 1795 on Reliance commanded by Capt. Henry Waterhouse with George Bass, also from Lincoln, as ship’s surgeon with the purpose of conveying Capt. John Hunter as the new Governor of Port Jackson (Sydney). The two intrepid mariners, Flinders and Bass, made many discoveries around the south east corner of Australia, with the Bass Strait named after George Bass. Flinders arrived back in August 1880 at Portsmouth, and on a second voyage on Investigator he sailed in 1801 and arrived at Cape Leeuwin on the south west corner of Australia in December 1801. Flinders then accurately charted the coast of the Great Bight, the Eyre Peninsula, Spencer Gulf and Kangaroo Island, and while he may have entered Port Phillip Bay there is no evidence that he landed there as he wintered at Port Jackson (Sydney). He then drew up accurate charts for the coast of Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, but was unfortunately imprisoned by the French Governor of Mauritius when he put in there for supplies. After seven years, he was released and returned to Portsmouth where he died in 1814.

The large Flinders Street central railway station with its grand portico and next to busy road public transport services is located at the intersection of Flinders Street and Swanston Street. Other landmarks on Flinders Street include Federation Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the old Herald and Weekly Times newspaper offices, Melbourne Aquarium and Batman Park, lying next to the Yarra river. It was also once home to Melbourne Fish Market, an ornate building similar to Flinders Street Central Station dating from 1890, but demolished during 1958/60.

An aerial view of the Melbourne Docklands.


History Of Melbourne Port

Melbourne was founded in 1834 by John Batman, the son of a New South Wales convict, who arrived in the schooner Rebecca and entered into a form of sale treaty with local tribal elders, payment being by axes, blankets, scissors, knives, mirrors, flour and garments. In order to seal the deal a handful of earth was poured from the hand of a local tribal elder into his palm. He left after a few days for Launceston to organise a larger expedition, but while he was away, John Pascoe Fawkner arrived from Launceston with another expedition and landed at the north end of Port Phillip Bay. On a second voyage later in 1835, Fawkner landed two cows, two calves and two horses, and took control of the site of the future location of Melbourne. Melbourne became the capital of the smallest and most densely populated State in Australia, Victoria. It has 71% of the State’s 5.2 million people, and was then permanently settled in the late 1830s by British farmers arriving in the Yarra river. The discovery of gold in 1851 led to ‘gold fever’.

No fewer than 153 ships anchored in Hobson’s Bay close to the Melbourne beaches in 1853 as news of the gold rush spread. A new wharf of six hundred metres in length was built downstream of Spencer Street a year later and named Australian Wharf. The Hobson’s Bay Railway Company also opened a line in 1854 to link Melbourne to the Railway Pier, later called Station Pier, now the cruise and ferry terminal, at the edge of the bay. British imports from the Empire were running at the modern day equivalent of £150 million per year in 1856, with Australian gold, grain and wool swelling that figure. The population of Melbourne in 1857 was overwhelmingly British, with 68% of the settlers coming from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Station Pier is the main passenger terminal of Melbourne with the greatest sentimental association for the many migrants who arrived by ship in the 1950s and 1960s, including the ‘Ten Pound Poms’ on assisted passages. The Australian Army and Navy personnel used the pier during World War II, as part of its continuous operation since 1854. The Spirit of Tasmania ferry to Devonport on Tasmania leaves from here, as well as being used for berthing cruise ships and Navy vessels of many nationalities.

The sand bar at the mouth of the Yarra river stopped ships entering, so they had to anchor in Hobsons Bay and ferry passengers and cargo upstream. In 1843, the survey of the Yarra river was completed and the Point Gellibrand Railway Pier was completed in 1859 to allow ships to dock there and transport their goods to Melbourne by rail. The original bluestone embankment led to a timber pier with four rail lines and weight cranes. Two wings on either side accommodated several ships at any one time, but the pier has now been completely remodelled as part of a large oil handling facility. A Tide Gauge House recorded the depth of water at the mouth of the Yarra river until 1955, but is not now needed and it was removed to Commonwealth Reserve in Nelson Place, Williamstown.


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