40 Interesting Facts About Melbourne

February 8, 2016

Do you know how long the famous nude painting, Chloe, has hung on a Melbourne pub wall or which hotel hosted five members The Beatles, (yes five!)? Are you old enough to remember when the ‘Six O’clock Swill’ came to an end? Have you any idea why Melbourne’s Chinatown has world significance? Did you know Melbourne used to be the capital of Australia? Read on for the answers to these questions and for what is but a small offering of Melbourne’s rich and vibrant history.

1.       In January of 2015 a beach bathing box at the Dendy Street Beach in Brighton was auctioned for a record $285,000. The box measures only 12 square metres.

Brighton Beach Boxes (Photo by Leonard Koh CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

2.       The famous nude painting, Chloe, has hung on the wall of the Young and Jackson Hotel since 1909. The hotel, which was previously called the Princes Bridge Hotel, opened in 1861.

3.       The first Parliament of Australia was opened in Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building on 9th May 1901 and                     Melbourne remained the capital city of Australia until 1927.

4.         The 2011 Census revealed that Melbourne had the largest Greek population of any city outside of Greece at 151,785 persons of Greek ethnicity. Financial troubles in Greece in recent years have seen a renewed interest in emigration from Greece to Australia.

5.       Infamous bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged on 11th November 1880 and by the following day his death mask was           on display in Bourke Street.

6.    Luna Park, a family amusement park, opened for business in 1912. Mr. Moon, the giant face that is the entrance to the park has now been smiling for more than a century.

Luna Park (Photo by Adam.J.W.C.CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)

7.       The first tram in Melbourne, a horse tram in Fairfield in 1884 was the beginning of the world’s largest urban tramway network.

8.      The CSIRO began in 1916 as the Advisory Council of Science and Industry at 314 Albert Street in East Melbourne. Its first research project cost £250 and was to explore how to control the prickly pear cactus.

9.         Before being called Melbourne the city had a number of names including Barebrass, Batmania, Dutergalla, and Bareheep.

10.     The Melbourne Cup, the race that stops a nation, was first run in 1861. Seventeen horses raced and Archer was the first Cup winner and also the second, when it won again the following year.

11.     At 297.3 metres high, Eureka Tower is Melbourne’s tallest building, a record it will lose in 2020 when Australia 108, rising 317 metres, is due to be finished.

12.     The original Flinders Street Station opened in 1854 and the present building was opened in 1910. The Flinders Street Clocks have long been a meeting place for Melburnians.

Flinders Street Station (Photo by  Douglas Paul Perkins CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

13.     In 1906, ‘The Story of the Kelly Gang’, the first feature length movie in the world, was produced in Australia. It ran for over an hour and was shown in the Athenaeum Hall in Collins Street in Melbourne on 26th December, 1906. The Athenaeum still operates today.

14.     Pubs in Melbourne were required to close at 6pm until 1966. This gave rise to ‘The Six O’Clock Swill’ where men rushed to buy drinks before closing time. Many would buy multiple pots of beer and scull them before having to leave the pub at 6.15.

15.   Vegemite was invented in Melbourne and first appeared on Australian grocery shelves in 1923. It was invented by Dr. Cyril P Callister, a leading food technologist of the time, as an Aussie alternative to Marmite.

16.     Melbourne’s Chinatown in Little Bourke Street was founded in 1851 and is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western world.

Chinatown in Little Bourke Street was Founed in 1881. (Photo by Alex Proimos CC BY 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons)

17.    The Werribee Sewerage Farm was developed in 1898 to divert sewerage from Melbourne which was at the time colloquially referred to as Smellbourne

18.    The Queen Victoria Market has been operating since 1878 and at seven hectares is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere.

19.     Melbourne’s worst industrial accident was the collapse of the West Gate Bridge in 1970. The bridge was under construction when a section fell resulting in the death of 35 workers.

20.     The city’s first newspaper, The Melbourne Advertiser, was published on January 1838. It’s first nine editions were handwritten.

21.     Australia’s first pizza restaurant, Toto, opened in Lygon Street in 1961, where it still operates today.

22.     In 2004 the City of Melbourne renamed Corporation Lane to ACDC Lane in honour of the rock band.

ACDC Lane (Photo by By Commander Keane CC BY-SA 3.0  via Wikimedia Commons)

23.   World famous opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba (1861 – 1931) whose real name was Helen Porter Mitchell took her stage name from her home town of Melbourne.

24.     There are only three legal nude beaches in Victoria.  Melbourne’s clothing optional beach is Sunnyside North Beach at Mount Eliza on the Mornington Peninsula. Campbell’s Cove Beach in Werribee lost its clothing-optional status in September of 2015.

25.     On Sunday 5th April 1970, the first ever AFL (then VFL game) to be played on a Sunday was attended by the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess.

26.     Currently the second largest city in Australia with a population of 4.4 million (in 2014), Melbourne is set to steal the title from Sydney by 2056.

27.     The Royal Melbourne Show, an agricultural show has been held every year since 1848. Until 1994 a public holiday was observed in Melbourne for Showday


Royal Melbourne Show (Photo by Chris Phutully from Australia CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons) 

28.     Melbourne has not one, but six sister cities the first of which was Osaka in Japan. The other five are Boston in the US, Milan in Italy, St Petersburg in Russia, Thessaloniki in Greece and Tianjin in China.

29.     In 1882 The Doll Hospitalwhere dolls and teddies are taken for repair, opened for business in the Royal Arcade in Melbourne. It still exists today but has moved to Claremont Ave in Malvern.

30.     The Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria is home to the world’s largest stained glass ceiling. Designed by Leonard French it sits 13.72 metres above the floor and measures 60.9 x 15.24 metres.

The Glass Ceiling at the National Gallery of Victoria (Photo by I, Sailko CC-BY-SA-3.0  via Wikimedia C ommons)

31.     In 1891 Melbourne brothels were the first to use a telephone system for ordering prostitutes and it was from this that the term ‘call girl’ was coined.

32.     Developed as a winter sport for cricketers an experimental match of Aussie Rules Football was played at Richmond Paddock (Yarra Park) in 1858 and the Melbourne Football Club was formed.

33.     The National Gallery of Victoria is the oldest art museum in Australia. Founded in 1861 it now holds more than 70,000 works in its collection.

34.     The Athenaeum Theatre in Collins Street was built in 1842. The Melbourne City Council met at the Athenaeum until the Town Hall was built in 1952.

35.     The Yarra River which flows through Melbourne from the Yarra Ranges to Hobsons Bay is 242kms long.

36.     The Birdman Rally, where people fling themselves off the Swan Street Bridge in homemade (hopefully) flying apparatus, has been part of Melbourne’s Moomba Festival since 1976.

 An entrant in the Moomba Birdman Rally (Photo by Chris Phutully CC BY 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons)

37.    Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games in 1956.  Television was introduced to Australia in time for the games, the first broadcast taking place on September 16th, barely two months before the November games.


38.    Captain Cook’s Cottage in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens was deconstructed brick by brick in 1933 and transported from North Yorshire to Australia. Built in 1755, it was not the home of Captain Cook but of his parents. It is not known if Captain Cook ever lived in the cottage.

39.     Pentridge Gaol commenced in 1850, at which time it was only a stockade. The structure with its bluestone walls and towers was built between 1857 and 1864. The prison which closed in 1997 was colloquially known as ‘Bluestone College’.

40.     In June of 1964 the Beatles arrived in Melbourne and were greeted by an estimated 300,000 people. Ringo Starr was ill and the group arrived in Australia with his replacement, Jimmie Nichol. Ringo later joined them at the Southern Cross Hotel which is the only hotel to have ever hosted five Beatles.


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