Industrial history

Boots and all in Clifton Hill

Back in the early 90s, I worked as a teacher of English to people who had lost their jobs because of the restructuring of the economy. The idea was to retrain former workers from the TCF (textile, clothing and footwear) industries, who came from very diverse cultural backgrounds. Even then, manufacturing was in drastic decline. Back then, I didn’t have much idea how important footwear used to be in Melbourne’s economy. If you want the evidence of that history, suburbs like Clifton Hill are a good place to look. Continue reading

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A walk along Victoria Street (part two)

Elizabeth Street marks the point on Victoria Street where you cross from North Melbourne into Carlton. As with the western section of Victoria Street, there’s a great diversity of things to see along here. I finished the last post with a reference to uncontrolled apartment construction. In contrast, on the other side of Elizabeth Street is the elegant former HQ of the Rechabites, a Victorian temperance society devoted to preventing the evils of strong drink. Continue reading

Industrial reminders: Kensington to North Melbourne

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. Continue reading

From cattle to candles, Kensington

When was the last time you dodged a bull on your way home from a night out? Or had your way blocked by a flock of sheep? For most city dwellers the answer would be: Years ago, or never. The closest many of us come to farm animals is the meat counter at the supermarket. And yet it’s not that long since thousands of animals were driven through the Melbourne suburbs on a regular basis.  Some of the busiest stock routes were here in Kensington, and you can see plenty of evidence around the suburb of how important they were to the local economy. Continue reading

Explosives on the Maribyrnong

Pushing across eastwards from the residential areas of Avondale Heights, I came to a small reserve, Canning Reserve, which leads to Steele Creek Reserve, revegetated with native species by the local friends of the creek. I walked through it on a hot day in November, with few other people around. At one point the reserve is quite elevated, and you have a good view across the Maribyrnong river to an area of abandoned, fenced off land, dotted with deserted brick buildings. To the east there’s a view of the city, some 10km distant. Nothing’s going on in the fenced off area, which is bordered by the Maribyrnong (formerly known as the Saltwater) to the north, east and west, and Cordite Street to the south.

That area of fenced-off land has been owned by the Department of Defence since 1908. Prior to that, it was known for horses – the Maribyrnong racecourse was there, and Fisher’s famous racing stables. Before that, for thousands of years it was the Wurrung country of the Woi Wurrung people. But within more recent memory it’s known as the location of an explosives factory. Continue reading