Sunday, August 29, 2010

Video Footage of Melbourne in 1931

This incredible footage showcases Melbourne as it was back in 1931! 

 This captivating video only runs for around 8 minutes, however if you are short on time, you can skip to the following times within the clip:
  • Panoramic view over what is now Federation Square (and beyond) 0:15
  • St Kilda Road - virtually unrecognisable without its modern office-blocks and soaring apartment buildings! 0:28 
  • Princes Bridge with a view now blocked by Federation Square: 0:57
  • Collins Street including the Regent Theatre and Town Hall: 1:10
  • Parliament House which somehow appears even more impressive and beautiful back then. Also includes a glimpse of The Windsor: 1:37 
  • Royal Exhibition Buildings: 2:11
  • State Library of Victoria: 2:30
  • University of Melbourne: 2:55 
  • Fitzroy Gardens and a glimpse of 1930s fashion: 3:17
  • View from the banks of the Yarra (towards what is now the Riverland bar & beyond): 4:27
  • Botanical Gardens: 5:11
  • Originally a horse track, The Tan's horse riders have since been replaced by joggers and power-walkers: 7.35

Interestingly, the video features the Director of the Botanical Gardens pointing at the Separation Tree (7:00.) This 400 year-old tree marks the spot where Victorians celebrated their independence from NSW in 1850. Last week (Aug 2010) somebody brutally attacked this historic tree with an axe and it is now likely to die: read The Age's article here. I cannot imagine what motivated this attack!  

I am also curious as to why the video did not include Flinders Street Station. In 1931 the Station was as much of a Melbourne landmark as it is now, featuring prominently on postcards of this time (such as the one below from 1927.) I am unsure of the provenance of the video - which could shed some light on this matter - but if anyone has any ideas or information please let me know! 

I hope you all enjoy this video as much as I did! While much of Melbourne has remained the same, the clip provides a fascinating insight into how it would have felt to be in Melbourne almost 80 years ago. How times have changed!


Tony said...

Hi Gillian.
What remarkable footage!
I was interested in the St Kilda Rd vision and in particular, the narrator's reference to the Shrine of Remembrance being a national war memorial. I was under the impression that the Shrine was built as a memorial to those Victorians who lost their lives in WWI. The cost of construction was met largely through public donations by Victorian citizens. I wonder if the original concept was to have the building serve as a national memorial and if so, why it was decided to keep it just for Victorians??
Keep up the good work!

Gillian said...

Hi Tony,

I have just called the Shrine of Remembrance with regard to your query.

A national war memorial was indeed proposed to be built in Melbourne as soon as World War I ended in November 1918. However, controversy surrounding the design of the building meant that construction commenced much later in 1927.

In the interim, Federal Parliament moved from Melbourne to Canberra. Therefore by the time the Victorian Shrine was completed in 1934, it seemed more appropriate for it to commemorate the service of Victorians only - as Melbourne was no longer the capital of the country.

The current national war memorial was built in Canberra in 1941.

Thanks for the question!

rob (moderne melbourne) said...

Hi Gillian Enjoyed your blog. agree with Tony about the Victorian focus of the War memorial. I recently wrote a comparison of Melbourne Sydney & Canberra memorials and found no reference to Melbourne being devoted to anything but Victorians. The competition for the Canberra memorial was first conducted in 1925/6, when Parliament was sitting in Melbourne. The real fight over war memorials was whether they should be pure memorials, with little practical purpose, or should they be utilitarian, halls, clubrooms, pools, parks, hospitals, etc.
Robin, President, Art Deco & Modernism Society

Gillian said...

Hi Rob,

Thank you for the comment and information about the Shrine. I am going to visit the Shrine this week and ask them about this point in light of your comment. Is your comparison available online or published in print - I am planning to write a separate post on the history of the Shrine and would love to read it/provide a link to it.


rob (moderne melbourne) said...

Hi Gillian

If you email your postal address to me at, will be glad to send you a vopy of the journal of the Art Deco & Modernism Society, the Spirit of Progress, that contains my article on war memorials. Or yuopu can call me on 03 98134365.

regards Rob

Anonymous said...

I'm really Glad i came across this site.Added to my bookmark!

Gillian said...

Great to hear. Feel free to join the Facebook fan page too.

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