TTWWD – a potted history of Melbourne

True Melburnians will forgive me if I get some of this wrong. This is history as told in the back of a taxi, so maybe it is not exactly Encyclopaedia Britannica more Wikipedia.

Melbourne had two previous incarnations before the present city was founded and authorised by  Governor Burke in the 1830s. The first two illegal settlements were on the coast, one at Frankston, with some indigenous people. This failed as the indigenous people were nomadic and there was not enough food or fresh water, so they moved on (with one white convict who was not found again for about 25 years, by which time he had practically forgotten English – he was returned to Tasmania a freed man).

The second settlement was out the other way at Werribee and also failed, but in the early 1830s a man called Batman came out, also from Tasmania and began a settlement in what is now the CBD. After four years in around 1834/6 Governor Burke (no relation of Burke the explorer, who died crossing towards Northern Territory) ratified the settlement. The first city surveyor appointed by Governor Burke was sacked for incompetence and intemperance (a heavy drinker possibly) and Hoddle was appointed instead. This was a stroke of pure genius. It is entirely due to Hoddle that Melbourne streets are so wide. Hoddle was influenced by the re-ordering of Paris by Baron Haussmann and as a consequence designed all the main streets 3 chains wide, rather than 2 chains  which is the norm. Tens of thousands of English trees were imported to create a familiar ambience.  The white trunks and grey leaves of the eucalyptus were too alien, so oaks and elms were brought in; the European Plane trees were a later addition to the street scenes.

Melbourne flourished for 25 to 30 years before the gold rush brought thousands of prospectors and their camp followers to the area, first at Ballerat, then out towards Bendigo.

The city has suffered several boom/bust events, and today seems to be building again. The area was well known for its wine as early as the 1880s but lost the vines to phylloxera and did not recover until about 30 years ago.

It is a lovely city, blighted in places by heavy industry and traffic, but much remains to admire and appreciate. Pictures to follow.

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Filed under Modern History, Travel, Uncategorized

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