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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

Lessons for today in Melbourne (Day 168)

A free tour in Melbourne where we had riveting history lessons for today in Melbourne

Today was definitely our last day in Seaford – we have got the date right! We said a fond farewell to Murphy and on our way with our luggage into Melbourne. We have subsequently heard from Amy, our trusted housesitter host who is thrilled that Murphy now sits and lays down on command – that’s our boy! As we didn’t manage to do the free walking tour on Monday, we decided to aim for the 2:30pm one today. Phew! Just made it. We met outside the State Library of Victoria and our guide, Karina informed us that it was the tallest building. What? It so wasn’t. I wondered if it was the tallest when it was built in 1856. No – she answered “it’s because it has the most stories” Groan! The free tour was for 2.5 hours and Karina gave us lots of information about the history of Melbourne. I won’t tell you everything, otherwise, it will take you 2.5 hours to read it and I am sure you have better things to do. Potted History: * 1803 group of settlers landed at Port Phillip Bay (what we overlooked yesterday), soil not great so within a year moved on to Tasmania. * 1835, group of Tasmanian businessmen returned. Acting on their behalf John Batman bought some 600,000 acres from the local Indigenous Australians, but they thought he was renting it from them. * Governor of New South Wales Richard Bourke declared Batman's treaty with the Indigenous Australians invalid. 1837 Bourke was forced to accept the new colony and sent a surveyor Robert Hoddle to plan a proper town laid out in a grid pattern. * Ideas for the name of this settlement was Bearbass and Batmania. However, it was named after British PM William Lamb, Lord Melbourne. (nearly the first Gotham City) * 1851 Victoria became a separate colony from NSW with Melbourne as the capital. * One month later gold was discovered in Victoria (mmm…funny that!) Huge gold rush began with 1.9 million kg of gold mined from 1851 to 1896 * At the beginning of the gold rush, there were 40 policemen, 38 resigned to find gold and the place was in chaos * A 69kg gold nugget was found in 1869, the largest in the world. This was broken into pieces as the scales weren’t big enough * In 1889 the property market collapsed and the bubble had burst.

Here endeth lesson one.

We walked around the corner to the back of the beautiful City courts building built in a French Romanesque style to the rather bland Old Gaol built from volcanic bluestone. It was here that Michael Crimmins was put in prison for 6 months in 1857 for being idle and disorderly. He was age three – yes, you read it right THREE! One of the most infamous residents here was Ned Kelly. Ned and the Kelly gang were notorious criminals and used to rob banks. They were known to burn the mortgage papers of farmers and so also had a reputation for being a symbol of the Australian spirit – an enduring underdog with the courage to challenge the authorities. Unfortunately, Ned and his gang killed some policemen and so were on the run for over a year. They constructed some armour made from thick pieces of metal and in 1880, they deliberately staged a confrontation hoping to stir up a rebellion against an unjust legal system. They took the guests at Glenrowan Inn hostage, many were his sympathisers so the night was more like a party while waiting for the police to turn up. Eventually, the police started a fire in the hotel and Ned Kelly was the only gang member to survive. He sneaked out the back, hiding in trees, and when they saw him in his armour, his appearance freaked the police somewhat. They shot his arms and legs that were unprotected by the armour. The police involved kept parts of this iron armour as souvenirs. He was arrested, put in the gaol for about 5 months and was executed in November 1880 where his last words were allegedly “Such is life” Here endeth the second lesson.

Back on the tour, we passed the monument commemorating the 8 Hours Movement, which was initiated in Victoria in 1856 by the Stonemasons. They organised a protest carrying banners with 888 representing 8 hours each of Work, Rest and Play. This was the start of a long battle that finally resulted in Australia having one of the most progressive labour environments in the world by the early 20th century. Lesson number three endeth.

We also walked to the Royal Exhibition Centre, completed in 1880 during the boom years. In 2004 it became the first building in Australia to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Next, the Parliament house onto the old red light district right nearby which now has some stunning beautiful graffiti, part of the Urban Green Spaces Project. We were now in the retail area, and walked through the delightful Royal Arcade, the first arcade in Melbourne and completed in 1870. Luckily in 2002-2004 the Arcade was given a big overhaul and restored to its former glory. Next, we walked through the Block Arcade. Built in 1892 the brief was to produce something similar to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan. It is stunning with a beautiful mosaic tiled floor, glass canopy, wrought iron and carved stone finishing. In the Arcade is the famous Hopetoun Tea Rooms. The shop window was beautifully laid with delicious scones, gateaux, Pavlovas, a cornucopia of cakes. Yum. As the tour was coming to an end, and the last part was visiting Hosier Lane, which we’ve already visited, we said thank you and goodbye to the Tour Guide and a lovely young lady (sadly didn’t catch her name) who we chatted with along the trip. She is originally from Basingstoke and is travelling on her own in Melbourne and going to New Zealand on Sunday for a month. She shared some tips about Queensland with us which are very useful and we are very grateful for. We popped into Brunetti, also famous for its cake and shared a delicious lemon Crème Brulee tart and a creamy cherry slice (It had a fancy name – can’t remember it) plus a nice cup of tea. We are now 10 minutes from Melbourne Airport, staying in an Airbnb ready for our 7am flight. Early start. And I hope you enjoyed your history lesson for today – test to follow.

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