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History of Port Melbourne






The following synopsis was kindly provided by the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society.  

On the lands of the Yalukit Willam clan (Kulin nation, Boon Wurrung language people), at a place of deepest water beside the beach closest to the four-year-old settlement of Melbourne, a family of eleven came ashore and put up their tents in November of 1839. Although two men were sleeping in a barrel on the beach at the time, we look to Captain Wilbraham Frederick Evelyn-Liardet, his wife and cousin Caroline and their nine children, as our first settlers.

The adventurous Liardets, London nobility of French/English lineage, helped to shape the settlement of Sandridge. Before it even existed they created a resort on the beach, built a road, established carriage rides and mail deliveries to Melbourne and a ferry service to William’s Town, and offered a colourful range of sports and entertainments here at their Pier Hotel.

The Pier Hotel, Port Melbourne .Watercolour by W F E Liardet 187, Latrobe Picture Collection, State Library Victoria

 Following gold discoveries in 1851, by 1854 the mere handful of settlers on the beach had increased a hundredfold, and shops, hotels, two major piers and Australia’s first steam passenger railway had been built. The Liardets joined with other Sandridge pioneers to achieve independence from Melbourne in 1860. In 1863 Sandridge became a Borough, with all the crown land of Fishermen’s Bend included within its boundary.

Sandridge from Sugar Mill, 1872 by W A Paterson, City of Port Phillip Collection

Well before 1884 when its name changed to Port Melbourne, the Borough – squeezed between the railway and the Sandridge Lagoon – had been desperate for land for new homes. Yet for half a century the government refused to allow expansion onto ‘the Bend’, reserving the land for port facilities. It wasn’t until 1920 that it relented, but development was delayed until 1927 when the first Bank Houses were constructed.

The innovative Garden City Bank House scheme, built and financed by the State Savings Bank, provided affordable homes for sale to workers who could raise the £50 deposit. These were constructed between 1927 and 1948.

Dunstan Estate 1936, Public Records Office Victoria


In the meantime new manufacturing industries were establishing on the Bend. Following construction of the Dunstan Estate cottages in 1936, the Victorian Government founded a Housing Commission and built the bayside Fishermen’s Bend Estate to house people rendered homeless by slum clearances in inner Melbourne suburbs. By the 1980s, Port Melbourne boasted twelve Housing Commission estates.

But wider attention was drawn toward the end of the ‘80s to this hitherto undesirable suburb, as urban developers began to realise the advantages of the bayside location and close proximity to Melbourne. Local industries were moving to outer suburbs, leaving attractive factories to be converted to luxury apartments. Rezoning created development opportunities. Beacon Cove estate replaced the railway yards and industrial wasteland. Suddenly Port was trendy and desirable. Within a little over two decades the face of Port had transformed and population had doubled.

In 1994 Port and South Melbourne were merged with St Kilda to become the new City of Port Phillip.


The synopsis was kindly provided by the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society.  To find out more information on the history of Port Melbourne, and the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society please go to www.phmps.org.au  


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