I walked from Kensington through North Melbourne on a quiet, warm Sunday in March. Melbourne is basically a Victorian city and when you look around this part of town there are many reminders of its industrial history, including some fine buildings of the practical rather than ornate variety.
I picked up the trail on Elizabeth Street, outside the Allied Mills flour mill. Unlike Younghusbands, the woollen mill just down the road which is no longer in use, this is still very much a working industrial site.
Allied Mills is continuing a long tradition here – there’s been a flour mill on this site since 1887, though those silos are obviously a more recent addition. For many years, W.S. Kimpton’s produced flour here, for biscuit makers throughout Australia. The company was technologically advanced for its day and was around until 1980. After many complex mergers and takeovers, Kimptons ended up as part of the Allied Mills business.
The mill is strategically located beside the railway. Wheat deliveries used to arrive from the north, and flour would be despatched to the heavily populated suburbs nearby, and to the docks for export. Younghusbands, the woollen mill just up the road, no doubt used this bit of railway too. The noise and the bustle must have been tremendous – hooters, machines, trains, thousands of people filling the streets when the shifts changed.
There’s not much evidence of Kimptons now and some of the buildings in that picture have gone, but the tallest one survives. If you look closely you can still make out a ghostsign with the name of W.S. Kimpton on the south wall.
Below is the view from the other side, Elizabeth Street. The name of W.S. Kimpton & Sons has been painted out, but if you really strain your eyes you can just about discern it. Ithink I can see the word ‘stores’ in the second line.
That little white square is a small sign indicating the Self Raising Department.
Kensington has some very long bluestone laneways, laid down in the mid 19th century, which are great to walk along these days – but whose former purpose was to enable the ‘night soil men’ to bring their carts to collect and remove human shit from suburban dunnies.
I headed down Bruce Street, connecting up with Lloyd Street. On my right were the spaghetti-like cables and pylons of the West Melbourne electricity terminal station, which supplies electricity to the surrounding suburbs. In the background are the CityLink and the ‘Melbourne Star’ observation wheel.
At Moonee Ponds Creek, I turned off Arden Street and headed along the trail for a short distance. It’s not exactly a rural idyll – you’ve got cars and trucks zooming overhead along a more recent construction, the City Link, and beside you is the train line heading north from North Melbourne station, with sawtooth factory buildings beyond. All the same, you do get a sense of nature in the heart of the industrial zone, and the path is popular with joggers and cyclists.
I’m no birdwatcher but I did notice seagulls, ducks, and a couple of black swans that swam over to say g’day.
On Macaulay Street I passed a fine old Victorian building on the left, originally belonging to the Melbourne Gas Company, and now naturally enriched by the addition of an ill-matched excrescence named Pumphouse Apartments.
Next door is the former premises of Stokoe Motors, covered in ghostsigns. Stokoe Motors appears in my 1946 Sands and MacDougall directory; I don’t know how much further back the company goes but they must have been a significant business here for several decades. Perhaps some of the players from North Melbourne footy club, whose oval is just over the road, used to get their motors fixed or even worked here, in the days when footballers had real jobs.
Well before that, though, the Stokoe building, built in 1873, was the stables of the Melbourne Omnibus Company. The company – which was Melbourne’s first public transport organisation – kept its horses and vehicles here. The stables closed in 1890, when omnibuses were superseded by cable trams.
The transport theme continued when I doubled back down Arden Street a short distance and took a left into Laurens Street. On the right is a nondescript red brick building, now apparently some kind of training facility for somebody – doesn’t look as if it gets much use, though. Set into the bricks is a much older stone bearing the legend ‘G & MR 1857’. This might be something to do with the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company, a short-lived private railway company that was around in the 1850s and 1860s. Who knows how the stone ended up here? I know nothing about the history of Melbourne railways, but no doubt some rail enthusiast could explain.
The final stop on this walk was the Thomas Guest biscuit and cake factory between Laurens Street and Munster Terrace. I’ve long been an admirer of the many layers of ghostsigns on this building, which like so many others has been converted to apartments. For many years, Guests was one of the city’s most famed makers of cakes and biscuits, renowned – among other things – for teddy bear biscuits. Perhaps he used to get his flour from Kimptons.