Just when you thought I had finished………I visit 2 more! Well this little gem is the second last to visit in the Lighthouses in the Port Philip Bay area, and these are strictly speaking not really even lighthouses, so much as a Beacon. I touched on this area in a post the other day, under Fuzzy Concepts. I thought I would give it it’s own post.
Port Melbourne is a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, 5 km south-west from Melbourne’s Central Business District. Port Melbourne covers a large area, which includes the distinct localities of Fishermans Bend, Garden City and Beacon Cove. Historically it was known as Sandridge and developed as the City’s second port, linked to the nearby Melbourne CBD.The formerly industrial Port Melbourne has been subject to intense urban renewal over the past decade. As a result, Port Melbourne is a diverse and historic area, featuring industrial and port areas along the Yarra, to open parklands, bayside beaches, exclusive apartments and Bay Street’s restaurants and cafes.
The most prominent early resident of the area, now known as Port Melbourne, was Captain Wilbraham Frederick Evelyn Liardet, who arrived in 1839, and established a hotel, jetty, and mail service. Liardet later stated that before his arrival the surveyor William Wedge Darke and his family had camped on the beach in their two roomed, carpeted wooden caravan known as ‘Darke’s Ark’. Liardet credited Wedge with cutting the first track to the beach through the tea tree scrub and hoisting a barrel on a pole, on a high section of ground, to point the way back to the Melbourne settlement. From this signpost its first official name, ‘Sandridge’, was said to have originated. The area also became commonly known as ‘Liardet’s Beach’ but Liardet himself was said to have preferred ‘Brighton’. It became Port Melbourne in 1884.
The area came into prominence during the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s. With an increasing number of ships looking to berth, Sandridge became a thriving transport hub. To alleviate the high costs of shipping goods via small vessels up the Yarra River to Melbourne the Port Melbourne Line was built in 1854 to connect Sandridge to Melbourne. The disused Sandridge Bridge takes its name from this historic railway line. In 1860, Port Melbourne was an early area of Victoria to gain Municipal status, with the Sandridge Borough, which later became the City of Port Melbourne. In the early years of Port Melbourne, the suburb was separated from neighboring Albert Park by a large shallow lagoon. This was gradually filled in over the years, with the last of it completed in 1929. Today, the area is largely covered by the Lagoon Reserve, a public park to the east of the Esplanade, between Liardet Street and Graham Street, although the original extent of the lagoon was much greater. As a transport hub, Port Melbourne had numerous hotels. Early industries included a sugar refining, soap production, candle works, chemical works, rice and flour mills, gasworks, a distillery and a boot factory. Station and Princes Piers were major places of arrival to Australia for immigrants prior to the availability of affordable air travel.
For many years Port Melbourne was a focus of Melbourne’s criminal underworld, which operated smuggling syndicates on the docks. The old Ships Painters and Dockers Union was notorious for being controlled by gangsters. The Waterside Workers Federation, on the other hand, was a stronghold of the Communist Party of Australia. With the amalgamation of the local Council into the City of Port Phillip in 1994, many of Port Melbourne’s civic institutions were adaptively reused. As a result, the Port Melbourne Town Hall is now a public library.
As the importance of the Port has declined, and as manufacturing industries have moved out of the inner city area, Port Melbourne has increasingly become a residential suburb. The area where Port Melbourne originally developed, around Station Pier and Princes Pier, has been redeveloped with a mixture of apartment complexes and medium-density housing, the best known of which is the Beacon Cove development.
The Port Melbourne Lighthouses were built in 1924, and in conjunction guided ships by marking the centre of the Port Melbourne Channel from Port Phillip Bay.
Front Light – The Port Melbourne Front Light, just offshore between Princes Pier and Station Pier, is a round and tapered wooden-framed light built on piles. It used to be linked to the shore by a narrow wooden footbridge, which fell into disrepair and was removed. The tower used to show a fixed green light over a 26 degree sector, whilst a second green light occulted every six seconds in the four degree sector marking the centre of the Port Melbourne Channel. The light has not been exhibited for many years.
Rear Light – The Port Melbourne Rear Light is a 26 metre concrete tower, 500 metres north of the Front Light. Its main light is red, occulting every six seconds, and three metres below it is a 24 hour a day directional light, with green, white and red sectors, each showing over only a fraction of a degree, to mark the precise centre of the channel, in a particularly narrow arc of 1.5º. Originally surrounded by the large BP fuel distribution installation which was cleared in the early 1990s, the light is now the focal point of the Beacon Cove Project, a bayside housing development. The Rear Light is still operating and has become a feature of the new residential street Beacon Vista to the port, aligned with the Rear and Front Lights.
I Hope you join me next week for Williamstown Lighthouse, the last in the Port Phillip Bay area.