Melbourne is Australia's second largest city. Like Sydney, it was once considered as a possible capital for the nation.
While the commercial and retail centre of the city seems at first to consist only of modern glass and concrete towers, older buildings abound. The area around the university has rows of beautifully restored Victorian terrace houses, each with its upstairs balcony of cast-iron lace. Iron lace is among several things of which Melbourne has more than any other city in the world. During the fifties builders and developers were possessed by a madness for "modernising" and many beautiful Victorian buildings were destroyed. Fortunately resistance to this trend, spearheaded by the National Trust and some building unions, arose and called a halt, allowing the survival of many gracious symbols of Melbourne's past.
Many civic buildings and places of worship look as they did when built in the nineteenth century, although internal modifications may have been made in the interests of convenience and safety.
Footpaths are shaded by sturdy old elm and plane trees, and these are often found as a central planting on divided roadways as well. Ten minutes from the city centre one can walk streets that have an atmosphere of green tranquility.
Parks and gardens surround the city. The Royal Botanic Gardens were established in 1846 and display trees and shrubs from all over the world. Sloping lawns surround a wide artificial lake, and this is a favourite place for Melbournians to eat lunchtime sandwiches while watching ducks and swans glide over the water or dive for fish. Spring brings added delight when small flotillas of cygnets and ducklings appear, paddling enthusiastically behind their parents.
Art galleries, both public and private, cover a wide range of styles and media, and small museums, each devoted to a particular time or culture, show carefully chosen collections.
The city is well served by public transport. Trams give access to all inner suburbs, while electric trains bring daily commuters from towns spread around both arms of the bay.
A summary of places of interest in Melbourne, including a small map of the Central Business District and links to the weather forecast and favourite things to do is found here.
John Batman, son of a convict, was born in Sydney and as a young man was granted land in Tasmania. With Elizabeth Callaghan, his convict wife, he soon amassed sufficient wealth to consider making a new settlement on the mainland.
Read the contract here
The New South Wales government denied permission for Batman to take up land in the Port Philip area. Nevertheless, in 1835 he formed a company to look for land, centering his investigations in that area which Charles Grimes, the government surveyor, had in 1803 declared the best for settlement.
Having found what he felt to be a suitable site, Batman made a leasing agreement with the Wurundjeri people, whose land it was on, and sailed back to Tasmania for further supplies. While he was absent, John Pascoe Fawkner, a Launceston hotel owner and Batman's arch business rival, set up camp very close to Batman's chosen area.
Whether Batman or Fawkner was more responsible for the foundation of Melbourne is hard to say. That a settlement did exist became quickly obvious, and in 1837 the New South Wales government (states had not yet been established or defined) sent the senior surveyor, Robert Hoddle, to lay out a plan for the city. This acceptance of the new settlement's existence was soon followed by the installation of troops to maintain "law and order".
The original owners were forbidden to carry out rituals or conduct ceremonies within the area of the settlement, and in 1840 a large number of people, including children, were captured and imprisoned simply for gathering there. The NSW government made it clear that Wurundjeri land was, as far as they were concerned, land that belonged to the British Crown, and not to the people who'd lived there for unknown thousands of years. On a memorial to Batman, the land was described as having been "uninhabited".
On balance it seems that Batman himself behaved honourably and fully meant and understood the agreement into which he'd entered, and that he cannot be blamed for the behaviour of the NSW government.
In July 1851 Victoria was declared a state in its own right—and gold was discovered. Quiet Melbourne became the port of entry for thousands of hopeful miners from overseas. In a year and a half 90,000 people had come to Victoria. At the same time many of Melbourne's own people left their regular occupations and headed for the goldfields. Those who did make a fortune returned to the city to spend conspicuously. The population leapt.
The next ten years transformed Melbourne into a thriving metropolis with busy streets, impressive public buildings and a population of 125,000. Sewage disappeared from open gutters into underground drains, clean water was piped to residences and night-time streets were bright with gas lighting.
The city and its people continued to prosper until the end of the 1880s, by which time the population had reached half a million and Melbourne was among the world's leading cities. Then came the depression, beggaring members of the new rich and bringing many ordinary working people down to subsistence level.
In percentage terms, the first world war took a far heavier toll of young Australian lives than it did of countries closer to the front. Peace lasted for too short a time and our young men were again called to lose their lives in Europe and the Pacific.
With the end of the second war, Australia appealed for immigrants and they came in thousands. They came from Britain, from southern Europe, from countries ravaged by war and countries whose economies had ground almost to a halt. Some came just with a spirit of adventure. This great influx helped to shape modern Melbourne, where the cultural influence of many nations and peoples combine to make a city that is vibrant, exciting, rich in all aspects of the arts and a gourmet's paradise.
More detailed accounts of the different periods of Melbourn's developement are provided by the Museum of Victoria under the heading Marvellous Melbourne.
This brief history of Melbourne was written by Fay.
Don't forget to visit her website at http://fay.iniminimo.com/