Development of Victoria Market brings mixed reaction.

The Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, is on record as saying the redevelopment of the Victoria Market site is the most exciting project he has seen in his time as Mayor.


“When you look at some of the improvements we are making, they’re so fundamental; hot and cold water, cold storage, power, things that councils have been talking about since the 1900s and bemoaning in 1953 that there should be chill facilities there, but there are not. Now there will be.” Lord Mayor Doyle said.


However he didn’t mention the 125m tower, the loss of income and massive inconvenience to stall holders or the approximately 9,000 deceased souls buried beneath sections of the market. Doyle used the market as a key election plank at last year’s Council elections.

Munro Urban Concext Page 81

Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, reduced the height of the tower from 200m to 125m, also putting planning controls around the controversial nearby Munro site, restricting heights there to 40m. Mr Wynne commented that strict heritage controls over the rest of the market would ensure it was protected for future generations.

“The historic sheds, the delicatessen area, the food hall and the meat and fish areas will be retained” he said.

The market has traded continually since 1878 and over 10 million visitors attend it each year.


A temporary pavilion is currently being built to house traders whilst the redevelopment takes place. It will open in March 2018. According to Doyle all market licenses will be locked in until 2022. As well he claims a fund is to be set up to compensate traders whose businesses are affected during the transfer and construction period.


Mayor Doyle again paints the optimistic and positive picture “ There will be a temporary pavilion – a very beautiful pavilion – that’s like a greenhouse in the sky. I think that will generate interest and attraction to the market in and of itself” he said.

Source: ABC News

For all the grand posturing it should be recognised that Victoria Market is a weekly destination for thousands of Melbourne’s citizens looking to purchase their weekly supplies of fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry and dairy products. And it has been that way for well over 130 years. Students, people from the housing projects in Carlton, Fitzroy, North Melbourne and Flemington make up a high proportion of the weekly throng. As do those people from the other end of the spectrum, high income empty nesters from Carlton, North Melbourne, Parkville, Brunswick, Flemington, Kensington, Fitzroy, Clifton Hill and East Melbourne, looking for and finding those specialist goats cheeses, quince jellies, choice cuts of aged beef, smallgoods and the odd goose or duck prepared and ready to roast.


It is an eclectic, living place where struggle city rubs shoulders with the elite. Not surprising when you actually realise who else may well be inhabiting the same space.

Between 1837 and 1854, a major proportion of the current site of the Victoria Market was Melbourne’s first cemetery. It is estimated that until 1917 over 10,000 people were interred there, with some estimates being as high as 19,000. In 1920 a mere 914 bodies were exhumed and removed to the Melbourne General Cemetery in Carlton and other cemeteries at St Kilda, Fawkner and Cheltenham. These were the graves with stone tombstones and formal stone graves. John Batman, Melbourne’s original founder was amongst those moved. Some were buried at Fawkner Cemetery in the ‘resting place’ known as ‘Old pioneers’. There are many, many graves still there at the market under the existing car park. No record of these denizens exist. Their headstones, often of redgum were removed, stolen for firewood. A fire at the Melbourne Town Hall saw the original cemetery records destroyed.


The Victoria Market was created with a Crown Land grant on March the 4th, 1867. With the expansion of the market in 1878, land in the cemetery assigned to Quakers (not many of them) and Aboriginals (sad) was usurped and acquired first. Two further grants of land were made in 1878 and 1880. In 1880 legislation requiring all bodies in the old cemetery be exhumed and removed to the new Melbourne General Cemetery.

The Wholesale market, with all its intrigues and corruption moved to Footscray Road in the 1960s. In 1979, the Sunday Market began trading with the addition of clothing, footwear, jewellery, etc and a further expansion on the already prolific food vans occurred.

In 1998, the famous Night Market opened during the summer months.

It was in 2010 when Mayor Robert Doyle first indicated he wanted to transform the ‘people’s’ market by introducing ‘upmarket’ stalls.

In 2015, the City of Melbourne allocated $80 million towards the revamp of the market in keeping with Robert Doyle’s future vision. This was further increased by $250 million for a total redevelopment of the market which as described previously included major transformations of some sections and the addition of at least two highrise towers.


The Victorian Heritage Register has issued and regularly updates a ‘Statement of Significance’ on the market and its environs.


You can read it here

In summary it says…

“The Queen Victoria Market is of historical significance as the site of Melbourne’s first official cemetery which was in use between 1837 and 1854, and intermittently from 1854 until its final closure in 1917.

The former cemetery site is of archeological significance because it contains an estimated 6500-9000 burials. The site has the potential to yield information about the early population of Melbourne including the Aboriginal and European communities, and their burial practices and customs.

The Queen Victoria Market is of social significance for its ongoing role and continued popularity as a fresh meat and vegetable market, shopping and meeting place for Victorians and visitors alike.

The Queen Victoria Market is of architectural significance for its remarkably intact collection of purpose built nineteenth and early twentieth century market buildings, which demonstrate the largely utilitarian style adopted for historic market places.


The Elizabeth Street and Victoria Street terraces are of aesthetic significance for their distinctive demonstration of an attempt to create a more appealing ‘public image’ street frontage and increase revenue by enclosing the market and concealing the stalls behind a row of nineteenth century shops.”

Through the ‘middle’ of the market with the sheds to either side runs a roadway, now disused. This used to be called ‘Fulton Street’ and marked the northern boundary of the cemetery.


Mayor Robert Doyle is facing significant difficulty in gaining trader and public support for his signature final ‘major project’. Opponents such as actress Sigrid Thornton who has publicly stated her opposition in the following terms.

“Under the guise of renewal is it (the market) about to be stolen, with diversity diminished, stallholders sidelined and prices set to skyrocket?” she said in a statement promoting ‘Save Victoria Market’ rally held in May this year.

“How did improved facilities, extra parking and open space for the market become a skyscraper deal?” she asked.


According to Council the remaining Graveyard space of the original cemetery beneath the car park will become open space. But the space under the sheds south of the old Fulton Street Roadway, still holding indigenous remains (along with the odd Quaker) won’t be included. Oh Robert, I fear you may have had ‘the bone’ pointed at you and your project.

For this, Robert, is sanctified ground and unless some real respect is shown for both the dead buried here, and the living, now trading, buying and selling, I fear your grand plan may well be doomed.

The Victoria Market is an icon Melbourne can ill afford to lose. So get on a tram, head to Victoria Street, Peel Street or Elizabeth Street and experience the buzz that is a genuine people’s market. It’s an enjoyable, sensuous, flavoursome experience, and may it be there for our children and their children, for many years to come into the future. The Victoria Market – Melbourne’s first, largest and most spectacular market – long may it reign.

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Balance Architecture recognises the importance of the preservation of Historical Architecture. We specialise in the renovation and restoration of Heritage Buildings.

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