Carlton Community History Group

ABN 89 670 391 357

The Carlton Community History Group (CCHG) was established by a committed group of people interested in the history of Carlton, an inner suburb of Melbourne, Australia. CCHG was incorporated in 2007 and launched at the Carlton Library in 2008.

We invite you to explore this website, find out more about us, read our newsletter, share your recollections and participate in our meetings and activities.

Carlton Voices

Carlton Voices

Have you seen our latest publication? Carlton Voices is an edited and illustrated collection of stories which reflect the immense diversity of our local history. It consists of researched articles as well as reports of interviews with people from a wide range of ages and ethnic backgrounds. Each "voice" describes its own Carlton in colourful detail. A Chinese family whose patriarch arrived here in 1855 experienced decades of discrimination which continued into World War 2. A woman who lives next door to the house where she was born almost 95 years ago remembers tearing up newspaper to use in the lavatory in the days when toilet paper was a luxury. The heyday of Italian Carlton is recalled by the children of the charismatic founder of the Australian Festival of Italian song.

Available for $15 (plus postage if applicable) from the Carlton Library in Rathdowne Street, North Carlton, and by mail order from CCHG. Visit the publications page for more information.

Next Meeting

Date:Tuesday 3 March
Time:7.30 pm
Location: Carlton Library
667 Rathdowne Street
North Carlton Vic 3054

The full schedule of meetings is available on the meetings page.                                          

Lifting the Lid on the Milk Can

When Frank Davidson appeared in court in February 1899 to answer a charge of adulteration of milk, he blew the whistle on questionable practices in the retail dairy trade. Davidson denied adding water to the milk and claimed to be acting under the instructions of his employer, Frederick Morgan of Carlton, in supplying inferior quality "cold milk" to the poorer customers.

Frank Davidson, a carter in the employ of F. B. Morgan, a retail dairyman, of Faraday street, Carlton, was charged at the Fitzroy Court yesterday with selling adulterated milk. Mr. W.S. Fergie appeared for the defence. Evidence was given by detectives that they had seen Davidson pouring liquid into one of his cans.

Frederick Dunn, public analyst, stated that on January 9 he received four samples of milk obtained from Davidson and Morgan. One of the samples obtained from Davidson contained at least 11 per cent. of added water. The second sample obtained from Davidson was of standard quality. Both of the samples supplied by Morgan contained a large proportion of cream, and were consequently above the standard quality. In his opinion these samples had been specially prepared, either by mixing cream with ordinary fresh milk or skimming off the top of standing milk.

The defendant Frank Davidson deposed that he had been five years in the employ of Morgan. His employer had instructed him to supply what was called the cold milk, which was either stale or scalded watered milk or skim milk, to poor customers and those who wouldn't grumble, and the good milk, which was kept in a different can, to good customers, and those who were particular about the quality of the milk. The cold milk was frequently spoken about by the drivers at meal times.

To Inspector Eassie – When asked by the detectives about putting water into the can he said that he had put back milk into the can. He did not like to tell them that the can contained cold milk. All the drivers in Morgan's employ carried cold milk in the right-hand can. Robert Hunt, a carter in the employ of Morgan, deposed that cold milk was stale or skim milk. Morgan had instructed him to supply cold milk, which was always in the right-hand can, to customers who were not particular, and the fresh milk in the left-hand can to the best customers. Three other drivers in the employ of Morgan gave corroborative evidence.

Mr. Fergie asked the Bench to withhold their decision until the hearing of a similar case against Morgan. The Bench postponed the case for a week on the payment of £1/8/ costs.

Davidson was then fined £2 and £1/4/6 costs, and was granted a month's grace to enable him to recover the fine and costs from Morgan.

The Argus, 22 February 1899, p. 7

For more information on dairies and milk distribution in Carlton, read our latest newsletter.

Worth a Song

The civil case of Rae versus Corona was cause for mirth in the County Court in March 1920. It was, however, no laughing matter for the plaintiff, aspiring songwriter Edith Jane Rae. Miss Rae of Drummond Street, Carlton, had written two songs entitled "Loneliness" and "Devil May Care". She engaged musician William Henry Corona to publish and sell the songs and have them performed in public by a professional singer. In her opinion, Mr Corona had failed to fulfil his contractual obligations and she sued him for breach of contract, claiming £99 in damages. Judge Wasley ruled in her favour, but awarded only £25.


County Court proceedings were brightened today by the hearing of a case in which Edith Jane Rae, of Drummond street, Carlton, claimed £99 from William Henry Corona, musician, of Exhibition street, for alleged breach of two contracts in writing, in respect of two songs, entitled Loneliness and Devil May Care, dated January 28 and February 3, 1919, respectively. Judge Wasley allowed Rae £25. Mr T. G. Jones (instructed by Loughrey and Douglas) appeared for Rae. Corona conducted his own case. Rae declared that Corona agreed:—

(a) To print 1000 copies of a song entitled Loneliness;
(b) to secure the copyright of such song and hand over all drawing, blocks, cuts and engravings to the plaintiff, and cause the said song to be sung by a reputable professional singer in public;
(c) to sell 250 copies of the song within four months from the date of publication at 10/ a dozen copies, and, to pay the proceeds to the plaintiff;
(d) to pay to plaintiff eightpence a copy for each copy sold over and above 300 copies.

A similar agreement was made in respect of the other song. In her claim, Rae declared that Corona did not cause either of the two songs to be sung in public, and did not sell 250 copies of either within four months. Corona contended that he had fulfilled everything in the agreement, excepting that he did not sell 250 copies of each song within four months.

Judge Wasley said that if he were to know what the songs were like he would have to have a performance. To Mr Jones: Can you sing? I suppose if you sang them, however, no one would buy them. (Laughter.) Corona said that the trouble was that since the end of the war patriotic songs were not in favor. Loneliness was not patriotic. Judge Wasley: Is it a comic or sentimental? (Laughter.) Judge Wasley said that the songs might be of the "kill me dead" kind – once they had been sung people would want no more. (Laughter.)

Corona agreed to hand over all copies of the songs and not to sell or cause to be sold any copies himself.

The Herald, 8 March 1920, p. 8

Almost two decades later, in January 1939, at least one copy of Miss Rae's song "Loneliness" was still in circulation. A reader, identified only as "Curious", wrote to The Age seeking information on the origins of the song.


Could any of your readers inform me whether Edith J. Rae is an Australian song writer? I have an old copy of a song composed by her, which was published by a Collins-street publishing company. It is entitled Loneliness, has simple words and melody, and to my mind compares with many other overseas compositions with similar themes. Would be interested and obliged to know something of its history. – CURIOUS (Richmond).

The Age , 24 January 1939, p. 10

Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child

John Sergeant, head teacher of the Rathdowne Street (now Carlton Gardens) primary school, addressed the Education Commission in September 1882 and commented on disciplinary practices at his school: "Flogging ought to be the last, not the only resort." His words would come back to haunt him in March 1890, when he appeared in the Carlton Police Court, charged with unlawfully assaulting a seven year old boy. The Court's decision to dismiss the case reflects community attitudes towards child discipline at the time. It was not until 1985 that corporal punishment was abolished in Victorian state schools and 2006 in non-government schools.1


At the Carlton police court on Monday John Sergeant, head teacher of the Rathdown-street State school, was charged with unlawfully assaulting a lad named O'Connor. The boy's father, who instituted the proceedings, stated that on the 20th ult. his son came home and complained of having been beaten by Mr. Sergeant. He had a mark across his temple, whilst his body was black and blue across the loins. He saw Mr. Sergeant in reference to the matter, who admitted that he had chastised the boy, but said that it was nothing.

For the defence, a monitor named Annie White gave evidence. She stated that Mrs. O'Connor called at the school and complained that the boy, who was but 7 years of age, had been playing truant. He had been sent to school for seven days, and had only attended half a day. She had great difficulty in getting him to school on that occasion, as he had been biting and kicking her all the way, and she wished him to be handed over to the head master to be punished. Mr. Sergeant made a statement to the bench in which he admitted having beaten the lad, but he had not used any unnecessary violence.

The bench decided to dismiss the case.

The Age, 8 March 1890, p. 10

1 Australian Institute of Family Studies

Nicholson Street Tram Track Upgrade

Image: CCHG
Tram Track removal in Nicholson Street, North Carlton, January 2020

The Nicholson Street tram route, which services both Carlton and North Carlton, had a major upgrade in January 2020, with the installation of accessible tram stops for the entire length of the street. The final stage of the project involved removing and replacing the tram tracks between Princes Street and Brunswick Road, to join up with the previously upgraded Carlton and Brunswick sections. Nicholson Street residents had to endure noise, dust and inconvenience during the project, but they have been promised an improved tram service, with better and safer access to tram stops.

The Nicholson Street tram route was originally opened as a cable tram service in August 1887. The cable winding house, which still exists, was located on the corner of Nicholson and Gertrude Streets, opposite the Carlton Gardens. The tram sheds, now home to the bus company Transdev, were located in Nicholson street, North Fitzroy, near Park Street. Melbourne's cable tram service was gradually run down from the 1920s and the Nicholson Street route was replaced by buses in October 1940. Electric powered tram services were re-instated in Nicholson street in April 1956 and have continued to serve local residents and businesses for over six decades.

For more information on trams, go to the Travelling in Carlton page.

Enoteca Sileno
Gastronomia Dal 1953

The recent auction of the Enoteca Sileno at the southern end of Amess Street, North Carlton, breaks one more link with the heyday of Italian Carlton in the 1950s and 1960s, but at the same time highlights the way in which so many different aspects of Italian culture have been adapted to, and merged with, the Australian mainstream. Amess Street has always been mostly residential but this double-fronted building at nos. 21-3 is an exception.

As early as 1897 it appears in Sands & McDougall's business directory as Condon's woodyard, conveniently situated with lanes beside and behind it. Within a few years it had become Condon's dairy and remained so for almost fifty years. No cardboard cartons or glass bottles then. Milk was bought as required and carried home, often by children, in a billy. Jack Ward, who as a child in the 1940s lived just round the corner in Fenwick Street, helped out at Condon's after school by rolling the milk cans up the bluestone lane. He was paid in milk. After 1947 the dairy changed its name several times. For a while it was called the Princes Park Dairy, which was where local cows were sent to graze, returning down Amess Street and entering no. 21 through its big front doors. They were milked at the back of the building where the two last rooms have a concrete floor and a slope to facilitate washing down.

By the late 1950s the dairy had closed and the front room was rented by Italian migrant Luigi "Gino" Di Santo who arrived in Australia in 1952. With an extensive background in business and a long family history in wine and food he quickly saw the potential in Australia for Italian products. In 1953 he was the first Italian immigrant to have a stand at the Home Show in the Melbourne Exhibition Building displaying a Borletti portable sewing machine, Venetian glass from Murano and Italian cigars and cigarettes. The importing business quickly diversified into baby food, mineral water, preserved vegetables, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, wines and liqueurs, featuring goods in demand with the booming Italian population and previously unknown to Australians but soon to become popular.

As the business grew, Gino rented more and more of the space. It became a large-scale operation. His daughter Rosemary remembers that:

"We used to unload shipping containers, with our imports, which were diagonally parked on the road occupying more than half of the street with rollers sending down cartons into the building. These cartons were unloaded using conveyor rollers and ferried throughout the building on trolleys racing up and down the corridors into the appropriate storage spot. The containers were hand unloaded there for about 20 years. Before containers many shipments were brought to Australia in wooden crates."

21 Amess Street served other purposes as well. At one point newly-arrived Italian men were renting sleeping space at the back of the building and the dairy cool store was converted into a shower room. There was also a jam factory at the back of the building run by a Mrs Hoult. No. 23 was gradually incorporated into the main space, housing offices and providing additional storage. The facade had been renovated by the then owners, who also owned number no. 19, and who probably also added the concrete slab outside the front door; Ferdinando Busatta was a concreter by trade. The bluestone foundations of the original cast-iron fence can still be seen beneath the slab.

By the early 1980s the business was gradually changing its focus to more traditional artisan products and in 1982 Gino was able, as he had always wanted, to open a retail store, an enoteca or wine bar. His is thought to have been the first place in Australia to specialise in Italian wines and the first business to use the word enoteca in its name. Customers came from far and wide and many still remember the cluttered treasure house of goods it offered.

Gino had owned the building since 1986 but by 2004 Enoteca Sileno was ready for another major change, moving to a two storey corner building in Lygon Street, previously the Rising Sun Hotel, where today, under the proud banner Gastronomia dal 1953, it conducts wholesale and retail businesses with a wide range of Italian products as well as a cooking school. No. 21-3 Amess Street reverted to its original function as storage space until it was sold in October 2019. Many will be pleased that this historic building appears to have dodged the developer's bulldozer. The new owner intends to live there.

Information for this story has been sourced from the Enoteca Sileno website, with additional research by CCHG. The assistance of Rosemary Di Santo-Portelli is gratefully acknowledged.

Every Picture Tells A Story

R.A.O.B. Hall
Photographer: Ernest Benson
R.A.O.B. Hall
95-97 Neill Street, Carlton

Recently CCHG received an historic photo, kindly donated by the Daylesford & District Historical Society. The location is easily identified as the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (R.A.O.B.) Hall in Neill Street, Carlton. But when was the photo taken and what was the occasion? The photographer, Ernest Benson, advertised his business from 1941 to 1948 inclusive, and he specialised in weddings, social groups and soldiers' portraits. The military theme indicates the war years and, with some additional research, a similar photo was found published in The Age of 14 March 1944. Benson's photo features the whole building, with the rooftops of Carlton in the background, while The Age's photo shows a young boy standing in front of the tent, which is pitched on the median strip in Neill Street.1

R.A.O.B. Hall
Image: The Age, 14 March 1944, p. 3

The photo caption reads:

Members of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes and their friends present at the ceremony at Carlton, when the dental units on the left and the X-ray equipment (centre) were presented from the Victorian lodges of the order to the Army and the R.A.N. respectively. Brigadier J. E. Down received the gift for the Army and Surgeon-Captain W. J. Carr for the Navy.

The hall building was designed by J.F. Gibbons & Son and constructed by W.J. Holden for the United Ancient Order of Druids (Olive Leaf Lodge) in 1917. The original name of the building was "Druids' Hall" and it is clear from the photo that the wording "R.A.O.B." is a more recent addition. In Benson's photo, on the right, there is a solitary pram standing outside the adjoining building. This was Carlton Crèche, built two years after the hall in 1919. The two buildings have had similar lifespans. Carlton Crèche closed in 1998 and was converted to residential apartments in 2000. In the same year, 2000, the R.A.O.B. Hall was sold and converted to two large apartments in 2002.2,3,4,5

The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, originally known as "The Buffaloes", was founded in England in 1822 as a fraternal organisation, raising funds to support members and charities. The unusual name was taken from the song "We'll Chase the Buffalo", which was popular at the time.6

1 The Age, 14 March 1944, p. 3
2 Building Application no. 852, 28 July 1917 (VPRS 11201/P1/10/852)
3 Building Application Plan no. 852 (VPRS 11200/P1/98)
4 Victorian Heritage Database No. H1864
5 Melbourne Planning Register

Digitised Image: State Library of Victoria
The cover of a booklet from the 1930s features chronological images of the four Pelaco factories and "Pelaco Bill", the face of Pelaco's advertising.1

Shirtmaking in Carlton

For over a century the brand name Pelaco has been synonymous with the shirt, a basic item of apparel that does much to define the wearer's social, economic and even criminal status. The terms "white collar" and "blue collar" are still in use today and shirts, fashionable or functional, are now worn by both men and women. In the early decades, Pelaco's advertisements featured images of Australian aborigines ("Mine tinkit they fit") and women ("It is indeed a lovely shirt sir") to sell men's shirts. While these advertising themes would be considered politically incorrect by today's standards, they have endured as part of Australia's popular culture.

The Pelaco brand name was created from the first two letters of its founders' surnames, James Kerr Pearson and James Lindsay Law, and the abbreviation for the word "company", hence "Pe-la-co". In 1906, Messrs Pearson and Law formed a business partnership (Pearson Law) and began making shirts at the Derry Shirt Factory, 285 Drummond Street, Carlton. At the time, that area of Drummond Street, between University and Faraday streets, was a hive of manufactures. The shirtmakers' immediate neighbours were cap manufacturers, box makers, brush manufacturers and carpenters, with the Court House Hotel on the Faraday Street corner.2,3

The business was initally a small operation, with 12 machines and 18 employees, then it moved to larger premises in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, in 1908 and Gipps Street, Richmond, in 1911, when the partnership became Pearson Law & Co Limited. The company went into voluntary liquidation in 1917 to enable formation of the public company Pelaco Limited. Shirts, collars and pyjamas were made at both factories until 1921, when Pelaco Limited moved to newly-built premises in Goodwood Street, Richmond. The distinctive Pelaco sign was installed in 1939 and has dominated Richmond's skyline for decades.4

After the departure of the shirtmaking business, the two-storey shopfront at 285 Drummond Street was home to the Carlton Club from 1910 to 1912. The building and adjoining properties (nos. 287 and 289) were owned by the department store, Ball & Welch, and used for warehousing and storage. The site has since been redeveloped and is now a commercial property. The Court House Hotel was delicensed in 1920.5,6

Notes and References:
1 It was widely thought that the aboriginal horseman Mulga Fred was the model for "Pelaco Bill" in advertising artwork created by Tom Mockeridge. An alternative explanation is that the character was inspired by the image of an aboriginal head on a postcard, purchased at Royal Arcade in Melbourne.
2 The tale of a shirt. Pelaco Limited, circa. 1930s
3 Building location and occupancy information has been sourced from Sands & McDougall directories.
4 Pelaco : a visual history of the Pelaco Company and brand a century down the track. Bounce Books, 2006
5 Building ownership information for the Drummond Street properties has been sourced from Melbourne City Council rate books and land title records.
6 Index to defunct hotel licences (VPRS 8159). The Court House Hotel was first licensed as the Faraday Hotel in June 1871.

Carlton Crèche

Image: CCHG
Former Carlton Crèche
101-111 Neill Street Carlton

Child care centres are now run along business lines but when the Carlton Crèche opened in October 1919, benevolent concerns for the children of less fortunate parents were the main drivers. The crèche at 101-111 Neill Street was not the first in Carlton. A small crèche operated from a private residence as early as 1900 and, in 1914, larger premises were found at a two-storey house at 558 Lygon Street, Carlton. The new crèche was different in that it was purpose-built and believed to be the first of its kind in Victoria. The two-storey, red brick building has an austere institutional look, reflecting community attitudes at the time when respectable mothers stayed at home and looked after their children.

Carlton Crèche was officially opened by the Lady Mayoress, Mrs. Cabena, on 28 October 1919.

More information

The Girl in Silk Pyjamas

September 2019 marks the 85th anniversary of one of the most sensational cases in 20th century Australian criminal history. The story of the so-called "Pyjama Girl" has been told many times over - in newspapers, books, television, film and on stage - and the romantic notion of a young woman in silk pyjamas has, to some extent, overtaken the harsh reality of her brutal death. Her public story began on the morning of 1 September 1934, when a woman's partly burnt body was found stuffed into a culvert on the Howlong Road, near Albury in New South Wales. Her body was dressed in the tattered remains of oriental-style pyjamas, hence the name "Pyjama Girl". She had suffered extensive head injuries, from multiple blows, and a post-mortem examination revealed a bullet wound in her neck. The mystery of the Pyjama Girl took ten years to solve. She was identified as Linda Agostini of Carlton and her husband Antonio was found guilty of her manslaughter in 1944. The case was solved but, to this day, a lingering doubt about the true identity of the Pyjama Girl and the circumstances of her death still remains. Was she the victim of an accidental death or of extreme domestic violence?

Read the Pyjama Girl's story on the Crime in Carlton page.

An Echo From the Past

Digitised Image: CCHG

This postcard-sized advertisement for Echo Publishing Company Limited of North Fitzroy was discovered amongst some notebooks, meticulously handwritten by William Wilson of Drummond Street, Carlton. Mr Wilson was a student at the Education Department Training College in Grattan Street, Carlton, in the early 1900s. The advertisement served a dual purpose in promoting a book by American author Ellen G. White, and the verso could also be used as a blotter – a smart way of advertising in the days of pen and ink. Ellen G. White was one of the founders of the Seventh Day Adventist movement and her book was first published by the Pacific Press Publishing Association in 1903. This places the date of the advertisement between 1903 and October 1905, when the business name of the Echo Publishing Company Limited was changed to the Signs of the Times Publishing Association Limited. 1,2

The Echo Publishing Company Limited began as a small-scale religious publisher and printer on the corner of Rae and Scotchmer Streets, North Fitzroy, in 1886. The business expanded its operations to include commercial work, and moved to larger premises at 14-16 Best Street, North Fitzroy in 1889. The Company, run by the Seventh Day Adventists, reviewed its operations in the early 1900s and made the decision, based on its religious principles, to discontinue commercial work and leave the city. This was an early example of decentralisation and involved building a new state-of-the-art factory and housing for workers and their families in Warburton, then a small village east of Melbourne. The North Fitzroy factory was vacated in February 1907.3,4,5,6,7

William Wilson's notebooks and other documents were kindly donated to CCHG by the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum. The advertising blotter is now in the local history collection of the Fitzroy Library.

Notes and References:
1 Ellen G. White Writings Website
2 Victoria Government Gazette, 4 October 1905, p. 3
3 Business address information has been sourced from Sands & McDougall directories and newspaper advertisements.
4 The Age, 30 April 1889, p. 3
5 The Age, 13 May 1905, p. 15
6 Reporter (Box Hill), 20 April 1906, p. 5
7 Table Talk, 10 January 1907, p. 24

No Parking Sign in Canning Street, North Carlton

Iron Lacework, Cnr. Canning and Macpherson Streets, North Carlton

Keep off the Grass

This sign on the median strip in Canning Street, North Carlton, states quite clearly:


But are parking officers from Melbourne City Council likely to cross the municipal boundary of Princes Street to issue an infringement notice? The sign, bearing the Melbourne City Council's name and coat of arms, is a relic of times past, when Carlton, North Carlton and Princes Hill were all part of the same municipality. North Carlton and Princes Hill were hived off from Melbourne City Council and joined the newly-created City of Yarra in the 1990s.

There are plenty of other reminders of Melbourne City Council to be found in North Carlton and Princes Hill. The coat of arms appears on the green street bollards and in the iron lacework of many shopfront verandahs. The images of fleece, bull, whale and sailing ship date back to 1843, when wool, tallow and oil were the chief exports of the colony (then part of New South Wales).

Next time you go for a walk along Canning Street, have a look the bollards and compare the coat of arms images with those on the "no parking" sign. The whale and sailing ship images have been relocated to the lower half, while the bull has been moved up to join the fleece on the upper half. The change was made in 1970 in order to have the land-based and water-based images placed, logically, on their respective levels. Why didn't someone think of that back in 1843?1

1 Melbourne Coat of Arms

Turning on the Waterworks at Carlton Gardens

Image: Punch, 31 December 1857, p. 6

Notes and References:
1 Melbourne Water website
2 Yan Yean : A history of Melbourne's early water supply, Tony Dingle and Helen Doyle, PROV, 2003
3 The Age, 24 December 1857, p. 4
4 The Argus, 1 January 1858, p. 5
5 The Age, 1 January 1858, p. 4
6 The Age, 5 January 1858, p. 4
7 Plan of Allotments at Carlton, North Melbourne, Parish of Jika Jika, Public Lands Office, 1859
8 The Argus, 26 November 1858, p. 5
9 City West Water website

Water security is a global issue and in Melbourne we are fortunate to have good quality drinking water available on tap. In the early days, the city's water supply was precarious, particularly during the summer months. Rainwater had to be collected, bores were sunk and water was pumped and carted from the Yarra River and other water courses. As the town's population grew, so did the demand for water and the only long term solution was to construct a reservoir to hold water and convey it via a system of pipes to the city. Yan Yean, north east of Melbourne, was chosen as a suitable site, with water drawn from the Plenty River. Construction took place over four years, commencing in December 1853, and it was a major engineering project for its time. The cast iron water pipes from the reservoir were laid through bushland to the outskirts of Melbourne, then followed the course of what later became St Georges Road to join Nicholson Street near Yorke (later Lee) Street and thence to the Carlton Gardens. 1,2

In December 1857, when the suburb of Carlton was just a few years old and North Carlton was yet to be created, the main valve was installed at the Carlton Gardens in readiness for the official opening of the Yan Yean Waterworks. As the hot days of summer arrived, the citizens of Melbourne eagerly awaited their new water supply, as announced by The Age on Christmas Eve:

It is understood that Melbourne is to be treated to something like a miniature deluge on the occasion of the opening of the Yan Yean waterworks, on the 31st of December. Jets d'eau are to be placed at every corner of every principal street ; but the great torrent is to issue in the vicinity of Carlton Gardens, under the auspices of His Excellency The Governor. The Melbourne Total Abstinence Society are to celebrate the event by a grand procession through the city.

In the same edition of the newspaper, The Age made a "glass half empty" comment that the stand pipes, which had previously supplied water to parts of the city, were to be removed "to induce the owners of property to lay the water on to their houses". This, as claimed by the The Age, had led to water carriers doubling their price from three to six shillings a load, and the burden of cost would fall on tenants. The Age concluded: "As it is, the completion of the Yan Yean water works instead of being a boon will prove a very great source of annoyance to most of the inhabitants of Melbourne." 3

The last day of 1857 dawned and by noon an estimated crowd of 7,000 had gathered at the Carlton Gardens. The Governor of Victoria, Henry Barkly, was unable to attend due to disposition, and the honour of opening the main valve went to Major-General Macarthur, the Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's Forces in Australia. Other dignitaries included Dr. Greeves, President of the Water and Sewerage Commission, Bishop James Palmer, Premier William Haines, Mayor Thomas Smith, Justice Redmond Barry and engineer Matthew Bullock Jackson, who superintended the whole scheme. 4

The Argus reported the occasion in matter-of-fact detail, while The Age, one again, took a "glass half empty" approach. The reporter complained about the lack of accommodation for the press, and the poor organisation of the event and crowd control of the procession that followed through the city:

Immediately on the arrival of the head of the procession at the crossing of Elizabeth street and Flinders street, a desperate attempt was made to get the congregating masses into some kind of order. Sweltering policemen pushed and shoved about until they became almost apoplectic, and the choleric Dr Greeves fought desperately for room to work the lever with which he set the jet d'eau in play. The worthy Doctor kicked and spluttered, and snapped, and at last, with the aid of a herculean policeman, encouraged by the bland smile of his Worship the Mayor, elbow room was procured, and the jet d'eau was squirted into a carriage filled with ladies, who in their innocent confidence had driven up to get a sight of the first jet d'eau to be set in motion in the capital city of the Southern Hemisphere. In a moment they were drenched from head to foot. Their coachman was so nearly drowned that he was some minutes before he could move out of the range of the first jet of the Yan Yean. 5

A few days later, The Age acknowledged one positive outcome of the improved water pressure and reported that: "The Superintendent of the Melbourne Fire Brigade informs us that the nozzles of the delivery pipes have already been enlarged, so as to meet the great pressure of the Yan Yean waters." 6

A little-known consequence of the waterworks project was that the land bounded by Station, Nicholson, Elgin and Reilly (Princes) streets in Carlton was reserved from sale for use as a tramway terminus. Matthew Bullock Jackson proposed that the wooden tramway, built to aid pipe-laying from Yan Yean to the Carlton Gardens, could be converted into a locomotive railway line for carrying goods and passengers. This would open up Yan Yean and locations along the way to settlement and sightseeing traffic. It was a bold idea and no doubt Jackson had the engineering skill and ability to make it happen, but funding was lacking and the project never went ahead. The land was released for sale in 1863 and, as a result, the buildings on the east side of Station Street between Elgin and Reilly (Princes) streets were of later construction than those on the west side. 7,8

Fast forward to mid-2019 and the time has come to renew the water main servicing both Carlton and North Carlton. The existing water main running beneath Nicholson Street is 140 years old – not quite as old as the Yan Yean pipes – and is nearing the end of its operational life. The new – and larger diameter – water main is to be installed beneath Canning Street, from Faraday Street through to Park Street, and will involve tunnelling under the major intersections at Elgin and Princes streets. Apart from renewing the pipes, the water main has to be re-located as the new tram superstops in Nicholson Street will make it difficult to access the existing pipes for essential maintenance. Life was much simpler in the 1850s, when public utilities did not have to compete with each other for space. However, we do enjoy the health and benefits of modern living and clean water. 9

Congratulations Judith

Photo: CCHG
Judith Biddington (left) receiving her Award of Merit from Richard Broome

On Tuesday 21 May 2019 Dr Judith Biddington, founder and inaugural president of the Carlton Community History Group (CCHG), was presented with of an Award of Merit by the Royal Historical Society of Victoria for "meritorious service" to a historical society. Thirteen years ago, Judith identified the need for a local community history group in Carlton and set about to achieve this goal. She placed a notice in the Carlton Library and this lead to the established a pattern of monthly meetings with presentations by people with some light to shed on the experience of growing up and living and working in Carlton. Within a year the Carlton Community History Group was meeting regularly, became incorporated, and achieved affiliation to the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

From the start her approach has been to engage with local people directly, including shopkeepers, teachers, potential speakers for meetings, long term residents, representatives of organisations like churches and our local mosque, gathering history on the ground, and most importantly, involving and enthusing people. Along with several other hard working and dedicated members, Judith began recording a series of interviews with present and former Carlton residents. These oral histories are now to be digitised and made more accessible. She also began a series of special events and regular publications produced by the CCHG, commencing with her own booklet "Some Women of Davis Street : 1891 and 2008". Judith edited Des Norman's book "Through the eyes of a child : A street in Carlton 1939-45 and contributed a chapter to CCHG's latest publication "Carlton Voices", launched in October 2018.

Judith has also written several articles and book reviews for the CCHG website and these reflect her eclectic range of interests.

The Bassos of North Carlton : A Love Story and a Full Life

Betty Burstall 1926-2013

Carlton Footballers Who Fought and Died in the Wars

A Russian Visitor : Aleksandr Leonidovich Yashchenko

The Trades Hall : Part of our History

Vale Des Norman 1930-2015

Women and War : Two Case Studies

Book reviews

Image source: The Argus, 19 January 1916, p. 11

The Coulthard Boys

The family name "Coulthard" is of special significance in Carlton. George Coulthard was a tobacconist, with a business in Lygon Street, and he was also a well-known cricket and football player. He played over 100 games for Carlton from the 1870s until his untimely death on 22 October 1883, aged 27 years. George Coulthard was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame in 1996.

George Coulthard's nephews William George (known as "George") and Vincent John Coulthard enlisted in World War 1. In January 1916, George Coulthard became the poster boy in an advertising campaign for Zam-Buk ointment. The product had been on the market for some years and, with the outbreak of World War 1, the manufacturer saw an opportunity to promote its healing powers to Australian soldiers at the front. The newspaper advertisements featured the image of a fresh-faced soldier in uniform and comments from a letter, supposedly written by George Coulthard from Mex Camp in Egypt to his father William in O'Grady Street, North Carlton.

The advertisement claimed that Zam-Buk ointment could treat all manner of ailments, including: –

"Cuts, abrasions, eczema, bad legs, sores, boils, breakings-out, piles, stiffness, chafings, ringworms, strained muscles, poisoned wounds, bruises, scalds, abscesses, scratches, back pains, festering sores, blood poison, sprains, pimples, stiff neck, ulcers, running sores, swellings, &c."

But there was one shameful disease that Zam-Buk ointment could not cure, as Vincent Coulthard discovered on his way to war in Europe in August 1916.

Read the story of the Coulthard brothers, who served in both World Wars, and George's son William, who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War 2

Nurse Basser's Hospital

Ellen Forehan sat, pen poised, and contemplated the document placed before her. Her husband Jeremiah had died a few weeks ago, on 29 November 1890, and in his will he appointed her executrix of his estate. She was now to sign an affidavit that would grant her probate of her husband's estate, valued at �1,231, 16 shillings and one penny. An official of the Supreme Court of Victoria had read and explained the document to her, and he believed that she had fully understood the content. In his presence, Ellen made her "X" mark on the affidavit. Ellen Forehan, the woman who could not sign her own name, later went on to become matron of Rosedale House private hospital in Carlton

Read Nurse Basser's story.

Gas Lighting in Carlton

Image: CCHG
Corner of Amess and Richardson Streets, North Carlton

Note: MMBW detail plans are available online at the State Library of Victoria's website.

In the days before the advent of electricity, the streets of Carlton were illuminated with gas lighting. There were gas lamps on many street corners and several examples still remain, as truncated lamp post bases. The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) detail plans, drawn up in the late 19th and early 20th century, include codes showing the location of gas lamps (G.L.) and electric light posts (E.L.P.). The two methods of illumination co-existed for a time, but electric lighting eventually took over and the gas lamps were decommissioned. The upper portions of the lamp posts were removed, leaving the decorative bases.

There are gas lamp bases at the following locations:

  • Corner of Amess and Pigdon Streets, North Carlton ;
  • Corner of Amess and Richardson Streets, North Carlton ;
  • Corner of Canning and Fenwick Streets, North Carlton ;
  • Corner of Canning and O'Grady Streets, North Carlton ;
  • Corner of Nicholson and Pigdon Streets, North Carlton (Removed in October 2019) ;
  • Corner of Lygon Street and Argyle Place, Carlton ;
  • Corner of Rathdowne and Barkly Streets, Carlton ;
  • Corner of Swanston and Pelham Streets, Carlton.

Image: CCHG
Corner of Nicholson and Pigdon Streets, North Carlton
The lamp post was made by "D. Niven and Co., Iron Founders, Collingwood".
The base was removed from the street corner in October 2019.

Little but Fierce

Photo: CCHG
Shakespeare Street Mural
North Carlton

Have you see the new mural facing the mini park in Shakespeare Street, North Carlton? The text "Little but Fierce" is taken from William Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream and was suggested by a local resident. The full wording is: "And though she be but little, she is fierce". That Shakespeare Street is "little" there is no doubt. The street is narrow and runs for one block only, between Drummond and Lygon Streets. For the "fierce" side of Shakespeare Street, we need to look back in history.

Shakespeare Street was the scene of at least two shooting incidents, one fatal, in 1922 and 1944. The street was identified as a "slum pocket" by the Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board in 1936-37. The people of Shakespeare Street had a battle on their hands in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Housing Commission of Victoria condemned five cottages on the south side (nos. 7 to 15 inclusive) as unfit for human habitation. The cottages were demolished in January 1970, leaving a vacant space ready for development. Without doubt, the fiercest battle fought in Shakespeare Street was in the 1970s, against the inappropriate building of a block of cluster flats on the south side of the street. Residents and other concerned citizens took action, at their own expense, by cleaning up the vacant site and creating a mini park for the benefit and enjoyment of the community. They bravely put their money where their mouth was, so to speak, and entered into an agreement with the City of Melbourne to buy the land. Decades later, the mini park and its new mural remain a tribute to the power of community action.

More information on Shakespeare Street
Related items:
Shooting in Shakespeare Street
The Penny Dreadful

The Munster Arms

Princes Street is the dividing line between Carlton and North Carlton, and a major thoroughfare for east-west traffic. When the lights turn red at the Canning Street intersection, few travellers could fail to notice the distinctive Edwardian building on the south west corner. The Dan O'Connell Hotel is a Carlton institution and perhaps best known for its St Patrick's Day celebrations. The present hotel building is over 100 years old and was designed by Smith & Ogg and built by C.F. Pittard in 1912. It was named after Irish political leader Daniel O'Connell (1775�1847), but the Irish connection goes back even further, to a earlier hotel on the same site.1

The Munster Arms Hotel, named after the province of Munster in the south of Ireland, was first licensed to Margaret McCrohan in 1875. Her application of 8 June was initially opposed, and the close proximity of two other hotels - the Pioneer hotel and United States Hotel - may have been a contributory factor. The application was postponed for 14 days and the licence was granted on 22 June 1875. The original building was described as a small brick hotel, with nine rooms, a bar and a cellar. Mrs McCrohan and her husband Eugene ran the hotel until 1881, when the licence was transferred to George Henry (Harry) Wallace.2,3,4

Wallace held the licence for about a year only, and ran into trouble when removing an unruly patron from his hotel in October 1881. He took legal action against Daniel Dorian (Dorien) for assault, but this case was dismissed by the City Bench. A few months later on 27 February 1882, Dorian, a bricklayer, sought the sum of £300, as damages for an assault and battery, and malicious prosecution. The civil case was heard in the Supreme Court before a judge and jury. The presentation of evidence from both parties took the greater part of the day and the judge commented that the case could have been dealt with in a lower court. After a short deliberation by the jury, Dorian, the plaintiff, was awarded £5, considerably less then the desired amount.5

By the end of the month, George Henry Wallace had transferred his licence to Annie McCanny. Mrs McCanny, former licensee of the Kensington Hotel, did not have the capital to finance her new hotel business and she entered into an arrangement, to the value of £396, with the Melbourne Brewing and Malting Company Limited. Such financial arrangements were common in the nineteenth century and enabled persons of limited financial means to go into business. The brewing company acted as a de facto bank and the hotel was "tied" to the company and required to sell its beer. The bill of sale between Annie McCanny and the Melbourne Brewing and Malting Company Limited, dated 30 March 1882, includes a detailed room-by-room inventory of the hotel contents, and this gives a fascinating snapshot of the hotel in the 1880s.6

On 24 September 1882, Annie McCanny, her niece Mary Ann Cunningham and her friend Elizabeth Vernor had a frightening experience, when four drunken men forced their way into the hotel after closing time. The men went on a rampage, chasing young Mary Ann, throwing a decanter at Elizabeth, breaking a window, smashing glasses and damaging fittings. When Thomas Henderson (alias Pangburn), James Gawthorn, Thomas Whelan and John Robinson appeared in the City Court to answer the charges, they pleaded drunkenness as an excuse, and offered to make good the damage. The magistrate, Mr Panton, took a hard line and denied drunkenness as an excuse for ruffian behaviour, and he fined the men accordingly.7

Annie McCanny died intestate on 17 June 1883, aged 33 years, and she left two young sons, James and Henry. Their father, Thomas McCanny, could not be located and there was an outstanding protection order against him for domestic violence. (Ironically, the protection order enabled Annie to obtain the hotel licence because, at the time, there were restrictions on granting licences to married women.) The Melbourne Brewing and Malting Company Limited took possession of the hotel, as was their right, and the "two intelligent looking" boys appeared in the City Court charged with being neglected children. The magistrate, Mr Panton, was sympathetic to their plight, but Annie's estate, valued at £405, 8 shillings and 6 pence, was tied to the Melbourne Brewing and Malting Company Limited and there was no financial provision for her children. The boys were sent to St Augustine's orphanage in Geelong, and the Victoria Police Gazette later reported that the younger brother, Henry, had absconded in 1891.8,9,10

It could be said that the Munster Arms Hotel died with Annie McCanny. Once the administrative arrangements of Annie's estate were sorted out, the hotel was taken over in August 1883 by Mary Buggy, who paid £100 for the licence. It was during her time as licensee that the Munster Arms became the Dan O'Connell, with the new name first appearing in the Licensing Register in December 1883. The Dan O'Connell continues to trade in the 21st century and remains the only surviving licensed hotel south of Princes Street, between Nicholson Street and Rathdowne Street. This area of Carlton was once populated with a number of hotels, all of which have been delicensed, though some former hotel buildings still remain. The Dan O'Connell's immediate neighbours, the Pioneer Hotel and the United States Hotel, were delicensed in 1907 and 1925 respectively.11

Notes and References:
1 Building information has been sourced from the Australian Architectural Index and Melbourne City Council Rate Books
2 Hotel licensing information has been sourced from the Licensing Register (VPRS 7601) and Index to Defunct Hotel Licences (VPRS 8159)
3 The United States Hotel was on the corner of Canning and Neill Streets, Carlton. It is now the Princes Hill Gallery.
4 The Pioneer Hotel was on the corner of Station and Neill Streets, Carlton. The building no longer exists.
5 The Argus, 2 March 1882, p. 5
6 Conditional Bill of Sale 60205, Mrs McCanny to the Melbourne Brewing and Malting Company Limited, 30th March 1882 (VPRS 8350)
7 The Argus, 30 September 1882, p. 12
8 Probate File of Annie McCanny, 25-885 (VPRS 28)
9 The Argus, 7 August 1883, p. 10
10 Victoria Police Gazette, 23 September 1891, p. 270
11 The Argus, 15 August 1883, p. 11.

For more stories of Carlton pubs, read our August 2017 newsletter.

A Girl in Trouble

In her recent book For a girl : a true story of secrets, motherhood and hope, writer Mary-Rose MacColl gives an account of the time she spent at a home for unmarried pregnant women in Carlton in the 1970s. Mary-Rose became pregnant at 18 and she travelled interstate, from her home city of Brisbane, to have her baby and give it up for adoption. While community attitudes towards single mothers were changing at the time, there was still a social stigma attached to being "a girl in trouble". In the case of Mary-Rose, she had left home and lied about the married man who had made her pregnant, in order to protect his identity and reputation. She kept her secret for years and it was only after the birth of her second child, a son, that the long-suppressed memories surfaced and she was able to embark on her painful journey of reconciliation and recovery.1

Mary-Rose's home during her pregnancy was the St Joseph's Receiving Home at 101 Grattan Street, conveniently near the Royal Women's Hospital, and run by the Sisters of St Joseph. The Receiving Home was first established in Barkly Street, Carlton, in 1902 by Margaret Goldspink, a well known charity and welfare worker. Within a few years, the home moved to the larger premises in Grattan Street, an opulent two-storey house designed by W.S. Law and built for Louisa Langley in 1890. Mrs Langley, who also owned the adjacent aerated waters factory, was declared insolvent in 1905, forcing the sale of the house and factory site to pay her creditors. The Catholic Church purchased the property, measuring 56 feet by 132 feet, for £2,000 in late 1905 and Archbishop Carr invited the Sisters of St Joseph to take over management of the Receiving Home in 1906. During World War 1 the building was extended, at a cost of £4,000 (twice the original purchase price), with a new wing and chapel that was officially opened by Coadjuter-Archbishop Daniel Mannix in February 1915. The land on the eastern side, towards Lygon Street, was later acquired and the houses of Grattan Terrace (nos. 81 to 99) were demolished in 1960 to make way for a new accommodation wing. 2,3,4,5,6,7,8

For nearly 80 years, St Joseph's Receiving Home offered shelter to thousands of pregnant women and also provided short term residential care to children considered by the courts to be neglected or "at risk". The supporting mother's benefit was introduced by the Whitlam Government in 1973, when it was acknowledged that single mothers needed support, not condemnation, to keep their babies. Rates of adoption, which was once seen as a convenient solution to a social problem, have dropped off dramatically since the 1970s, while the birth rate of ex-nuptual babies has risen steadily during the same period. These babies are now more likely to be born and raised in the community than in institutions. The Receiving Home closed in 1985, when it was merged with St Joseph's Babies Home to form the new St Joseph's Babies' & Family Service in Glenroy. The 1960s accommodation wing was demolished in the 1990s and redeveloped as a retail and residential complex. The Royal Women's Hospital, where many of the Receiving Home residents had their babies, relocated to new premises in Flemington Road, Parkville, in 2008. 9,10,11,12

Architect's drawing of St Joseph's Receiving Home
Image Source: The Advocate, 27 February 1915, p. 27
Architect A.A. Fritsch's drawing of St Joseph's Receiving Home extension, officially opened in February 1915.
The original 1890 building facade was replicated in the new wing, and a chapel was added on the western boundary.
The houses of the former Receiving Home are now numbered 103 and 105 Grattan Street, Carlton.

1 The Age Good Weekend, 22 April 2017, p. 22-24
2 Mackillop Family Services
3 Land ownership and occupancy information sourced from land title records and Melbourne City Council rate books
4 Australian Architectural Index
5 The Age, 13 May 1905, p. 12
6 The Advocate, 6 January 1906, p. 16
7 The Advocate, 27 February 1915, p. 27
8 Register of Demolitions, 1945-1975 (VPRS 17292)
9 Find & Connect : History & information about Australian orphanages, children's homes & other institutions
10 Births Australia (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3301.0)
11 Australian Social Trends (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4102.0)
12 Building Application Index (VPRS 11202)

Have you seen our latest publications?

Carlton Voices
The Stockade
Walking along Rathdowne Street

Visit the publications page for more information.

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