Victorian Melbourne

The real and the fake in Abbotsford

Something that strikes me often about the Melbourne suburbs is their quietness. Walk through most suburbs on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and you won’t hear much at all, except traffic (on the busier roads), the occasional lawn mower or leaf blower, perhaps the remote sound of a TV, or the bark of a dog behind a gate. More than once I’ve asked myself: where is everybody? I encounter few other walkers as I make my way around, and occasionally feel oddly conspicuous as a solo pedestrian. Sometimes parks are busy, and certain shopping/cafe strips, but many places seem eerily deserted.

The suburbs are not totally silent, though. On the wall of the Collingwood Neighbourhood House in Perry Street I came across evidence of an intriguing psychogeography project: a list of sounds heard by Lauren Brown, ‘listener in residence’. Continue reading

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

Footy, moustaches and electric girdles: it’s The Sportsman!

Reaching Smith Street, the boundary between Fitzroy and Collingwood, I noticed an intriguing ghostsign on the corner of Argyle Street. The words I could decipher from the faded lettering were: ‘The Sportsman – Sporting paper sold here – Advertisements received.’ There was a word or two I couldn’t be certain of, just below ‘The Sportsman’: I guessed that they might read ‘The Best’ but it’s a shot in the dark. (A sporting chance.) Of the faded purple sign to the right of The Sportsman, it is hard to make out anything at all. Until recently there was something over the top, indicated by the remnants of a metal frame. But the only legible sign on this wall belongs to a paper I’d never heard of – The Sportsman. Continue reading

Wandering North Carlton: modernism and Victoriana

Deciding to spend a little longer in North Carlton, I walked in a mini circle – a circle within the Circle, if you like – in a clockwise direction, roughly around the Melbourne General Cemetery. This part of town is rich in suburban iconography.

Walking north up Royal Parade you pass the sports pavilions of Princes Park. These two pavilions, designed by council architect R. N Belby and built in 1938, are stylish examples of suburban Melbourne modernism, with their clean lines, strong horizontals, the zig-zag wrought-iron gates, the plain but elegant lettering (I like the speed lines on the capital ‘P’) and the stylised heroic athlete over the door. 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