Love letter to Melbourne

The years leading up to 1891 were very good ones for Melbourne. The gold rush of the 1850s had seen people flock to the city from all over the world. For a time, it was the second-largest city in the British Empire, after London, and one of the wealthiest. Even now, 120 years later, you can see gold in suburban streets such as this one above, a street in Clifton Hill.

Where’s the gold? It’s in the embarrassment of riches heaped on the craftwork of its houses, both grand and humble. It may look like the houses in this street are painted; they’re not. It’s all patterns made of different-coloured bricks. When I parked in this street the other day, I looked up and saw that stained glass window, and around it, the brickwork. It belongs to a comparatively modest family home, and look at the time and care that has been lavished on that window. Look at the blonde bricks and check out what the brickmason has done at the top edges of the window; how he’s split half the brick horizontally and then trimmed the top quadrant at an angle so he can start off that upward slanting line.

In 1891, it all changed. An economic depression occurred and Melbourne started a long period of relative decline. The year 2000 was another turning point for the city. I moved here, and a long-serving and hated government moved out. Since then the city has gone through another boom, and continues to do so.

Happily, the 19th-century outpouring of love and craft continues to charm everyone who sees the city’s picturesque buildings and streetscapes.

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 Images: By me (click on an image to enlarge it).

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8 thoughts on “Love letter to Melbourne

  1. Fabulous photos of the decorative brickwork and other embellishments on these houses, such as the ornate ironwork balcony. The brickwork is very well maintained, which is good to see. There are a lot of old brick buildings here in Victoria, BC. Some have been restored, but others are in poor condition–a scary thing in an earthquake zone.

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    • The wrought-iron lace balconies are a big feature in both Melb and Sydney. Your comment makes me realise that fences and perimeters are a big deal in these houses. Notice the more humble fence/gate next to the tiled path. I was looking closely at the wire it’s made of. It’s not straightforward, it has this decorative kink in it as if even wire can’t be plain. Now I see it’s intended as a poor man’s version of wrought-iron.

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