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History of Brunswick

1838 and Before

Brunswick was a small plateau tilting from a hill facing the Moonee Ponds Creek to the Merri Creek, timbered by stunted eucalypt trees, badly drained naturally and thus marshy. Aboriginals did not spend long in it and used it as hunting grounds for it had plenty of kangaroo and wallaby roaming over it. It was very windy which no doubt caused the aborigines to name it Boort Moornmount Bullarto - ‘’very windy country”. There are claims that there were Aboriginal camps oil the site of the present Town Hall and just behind the Brunswick Railway Station. These claims are on hearsay and even if correct, the camps were not permanent residences and the Aborigines seemingly regarding the area only as a happy hunting ground.


Acting on the instructions of Robert Hoddle, chief surveyor, an assistant Darke surveyed the future Brunswick area. He marked it out in big blocks 1-1/2 miles long by 1/4 mile wide. A road was marked down the centre of the survey, much too narrow. The size of the blocks ensured that they would go to the rich and the shape of the blocks spreading horizontally across the area would ensure traffic chaos of the future.


Land was sold at three separate auction sales. Most of it went to speculators/investments. One man only, settled on his, another established a workable estate but did not work it himself. Daniel Campbell’s land portions were sold on to Edward Stone Parker and Thomas Wilkinson in 1840. They named their property Brunswick, probably in honour of the royal wedding that had occurred ‘back home’ in England ¬ Brunswick was the name of the royal house of the bride, Princess Caroline. The two tracks to their property were for the same reason called Victoria and

Albert (Queen Victoria’s new husband) Streets. Wilkinson was very active in local affairs and came to be known as the ‘Father of Brunswick’.


James Simpson the only original purchaser to settle on his land, did so mainly to supervise its division into allotments and the sale of such lots. He began by marking out two streets Carmarthen (later Albert) and Llandillo (later Victoria) Streets and proceeded to sell. The marshiness of the land on his block hindered sales. He left Brunswick in 1852 with the greater part of his block unsold. Thomas Wilkinson and a friend, E.P. Stone bought the central block on the eastern side of the marked block from the original purchaser. Stone left for elsewhere and surrendered the block to Wilkinson who proceeded to divide it into allotments for sale or rental. He marked the two streets - Albert Street and Victoria Street - which served as a right of way to the allotments.


On December 27 the first church in Brunswick opened. It was a Wesleyan Chapel, a small brick building on land donated by Thomas Wilkinson.


First hotel in Brunswick opened in October, the Retreat Inn in Sydney Road. It had a weighbridge alongside. It served the stone-carrying bullock wagons which weighed in there while the drivers refreshed themselves at the inn. Miss Amelia Shaw was the first licensee. The inn was rebuilt in 1892 and became the Retreat Hotel. The weighbridge disappeared.

Beginning of the main road to Brunswick. The New Sydney Road had been projected in 1841 and work on it began. The route was marked out and the removal of the trees followed with the smoothing of the surface. This work reached as far as Albert Street, Brunswick.


William Lobb established a cattle farm on the hill on the north part of the projected main road from Melbourne. The hill became known as Lobb’s Hill and the lane that ran along the farm as Lobb’s Lane. In later days it would become Stewart Street.


Post office established on Wilkinson’s Estate. It was named after the name of Wilkinson’s Estate, Brunswick which had been named from Princess Caroline of Brunswick, wife of King George IV of England. A plaque celebrating the event was installed on the front of the Sortino shop on the site in 1986. He donated the land in Sydney Road where the Wesleyan Church was built (now Sydney Road Community School). Wilkinson built himself a small house on the corner of Sydney Road and Albert Street. Church services were held at his home until the church was built, and from 1846 his house served as a post office The road from Melbourne had by now hardened enough to be usable in Brunswick, except in wet weather. It became known as Brunswick Street in Brunswick.


The main road reached Pentridge. It was then named Pentridge Road. There were drainage problems caused by the construction of the road and the parts on the west side were turned into

marshes as the water was dammed up. The problem was met by constructing an open drain down Albert Street which gave some relief.


Thomas Manallack, a Cornishman arrived in Melbourne. He owned land in Little Collins Street, Melbourne and also in Brunswick. He opened a brickyard and pottery in Philipstown. He taught John Glew how to make bricks. He operated until 1851 when he went to the goldfields with his son, Thomas. Michael Dawson, who had acquired the whole of one of the original blocks 1843, now completed the construction of his English style ivy covered mansion. The estate was named Phoenix Park, after the famous park in Dublin and Dawson gave his postal address as Philipstown which was a place in Ireland where a Repeal riot had taken place three years before. The Methodists opened a school in 1849 that combined with a Presbyterian one to become Central Brunswick State School 1213 in 1877 John Glew opened his brickyard in Hodgson Street, Philipstown. Within six months he was employing two men, he is the first known employer of labour in the brick industry in Brunswick. He ran the yard until the pit was worked out in 1857 when he closed it and opened a new yard elsewhere.


Henry Search opened a retail butchers shop on the south-west corner of Albert Street and Sydney Road. It was the first retail shop in Brunswick. Search retired from the business in 1858 and it was taken over by Charles and Ebeneser Rosser and it remained in that family until the 1890s.


James Whitby a Flinders Lane merchant erected a property which he named Whitby House. He named the estate Whitbyfield and the street that led to it became Whitby Street. Whitby had first come to Brunswick when he settled on a property at the corner of Pentridge Road and later Merri Street. This was in 1848. Gold Rush. Brunswick lay on the track to the goldfields. Would be diggers on their way to the fields coming from the populated suburb of Collingwood and other eastern villages, working their way to pick up the main roads to the fields at Essendon, found a lunch time stopping place at Pentridge Road. A set of shops sprung up to cater for their needs, a camp formed on the later site of the Cumberland Arms Hotel. It was accompanied by a bazaar like tent market where diggers were sold things required by them on the goldfields and supplies to take with them.


Brunswick Hotel opened. Situated at the corner of Weston Street it caught the traffic coming from Collingwood en route to Essendon as well as that coming up from Melbourne. Licensed in 1854. John Heller opened his slaughteryards in Union Street, Phillipstown. That village had grown rapidly as the demand for bricks was facilitated by the rapid growth of Melbourne. The stone quarries of East Brunswick were worked to a point of exhaustion.


Edinburgh Castle and the Sarah Sands both opened.


Wilkinson built shops for sale or lease along Sydney Road. He was elected first chairman of the Council when it was formed in 1857 (the first Council meeting was held in the Cornish Arms Hotel and there were seven councillors).


Former Brunswick Street, then Pentridge Road was renamed Sydney Road


A Catholic school began in a back room at the Brunswick Hotel. This became St Ambrose Primary School.


The Mechanics Institute opened. It provided library books, but a fee had to be paid. A free service for residents did not start until 1926


In 1884 the railway line came to Brunswick.

1884 Presbyterian Church and Brunswick College


The first cable tram was introduced


In April Brunswick was proclaimed a Town with a population of 14,792.


By 1891 there were as well as the brickworks, nail and rope factories, two banks, three schools, two newspapers, five railway stations, a Mechanics Institute and three fire brigades


In 1896, some 40,000 Catholics assembled at the corner of Brunswick Road and Sydney Road to protest against the 1500 Orange men and women assembled to commemorate the annual Protestant Battle of the Boyne. What ensued was mayhem with the hurling of abuse, violence and arrests

1906 Railway Station. Brunswick

1907 Brunswick Court house

1910 Brunswick Town Hall


Electricity supply began.


In 1916 electric trams began in Lygon Street and replaced horse drawn buses


In the 1920s the clothing and textile industries grew; evidence of their presence in the area can still be seen in the existence of tailors shops, fabric shops and an abundance of wedding gown shops.

1925 Brunswick Street, road construction and maintence


The population had reached 55,799. Between the interwar years, the devastating impact of the Great Depression was observed on Sydney Road. Shops and businesses closed as profit margins plummeted, the Town Hall became a depot for the unemployed and impoverished and the road became a stage where people voiced their frustrations. Yet it was also the place where schemes were devised to better people’s

lives and that of the community, from a ‘Made in Australia’ festival to the establishment of a local branch of the Communist Party.

1928 Rose St. Brunswick


During the 1930s the Unemployed Workers Movement held street meetings on the corner of Sydney Road and Phoenix Street. These meetings were harassed and suppressed by the police, under the direct orders of Police Commissioner, General Thomas Blamey. Young Australian artist Noel Counihan played a significant part in this campaign. The State Government, concerned about the public sympathy being generated, eventually changed the law in regard to obstruction, with no requirement of permits to speak. A Free Speech memorial was built outside the Mechanics Institute on the corner of Sydney and Glenlyon Roads to commemorate the success of the free speech fights. Counihan’s work as an artist and local resident is also commemorated by the Counihan Gallery on Sydney Road run by the City of Moreland Council.

The 1930s saw the decline of the brick and clay industries as much of the clay and bluestone had been used up. Many of the quarries were filled in and became parks and reserves.


The controversial free speech campaign culminated in Noel Counihan chaining himself inside a cage and delivering an illegal speech in front of a crowd of thousands on Sydney Road.


Mechanics’ Institute, Sydney Road, Brunswick, Vic


During the second world war and in the 1950s, Sydney Road came alive with late night shopping. This included late night shopping parades with floats. Migration from European countries after the Second World War saw thousands of people come first from Italy, then Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and other countries.


The library moved to the town hall facing Sydney Road.


The construction of the Barkly Square shopping complex immediately to the east of Sydney Road in the 1980s coincided with a decline in the success of the strip.

1980 Brunswick City Baths


The Campbell Turnbull library in Melville Road opened.

1983 a row of terrace houses in Moreland Rd, Brunswick


The library then moved to its present location in the large hall in Dawson Street.


In the early 2000s, several hotels (pubs) were renovated and have become very popular live music venues. Property prices in Brunswick and Coburg (south of Bell St) rose sharply in the 1990s and early 2000s.


In his first speech in December 2006, newly elected Moreland Mayor Mark O’Brien proposed turning the entire 4.5km commercial strip between Brunswick Road and Bell Street into a promenade, which would transform the usually congested Sydney Road into one of the longest pedestrian streets in the world.


History of Brunswick  

a rundown of major events in Brunswicks History

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