Colony by Colony: Nineteenth-century arcades of Victoria

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Block Arcade, Collins Street, Melbourne

Between 1853 and 1893 approximately 12 glass-roofed shopping arcades were built in the the colony of Victoria. Influenced by the numerous examples built in Europe from the late eighteenth century onwards, these buildings were hailed as symbols of the colony’s modernity and progress.

The majority were built in the central business district of Melbourne, but some also appeared in suburban Melbourne and regional cities. For many years Victoria was the only state to boast these forms of architecture, followed by Brisbane in the 1870s, then Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and various regional cities in the 1880s. The building of arcades in Victoria ceased after 1893, possibly due to the economic depression that affected Australia so greatly in this decade.

In the first half of the twentieth century, arcades were built all over Australia, from capital cities to small country towns; arguably they were an influence on the suburban shopping arcade and the large shopping centres of the second half of the century.

I say there were approximately 12 arcades, but I have glimpsed hints of some through newspaper reports and such for which I have little further information – and there may even have been more. If you have any further examples or know any information about the arcades listed I would love to hear from you!

Today I will just leave you with a short list of the nineteenth-century arcades of Victoria and will return to discuss them in further detail at a later stage.

Nineteenth-century Arcades in Victoria

1853    Queens Arcade, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

1854    Victoria Arcade, Bourke Street, Melbourne

c1869  Royal Arcade, Sturt Street, Ballarat

1870    Royal Arcade, Bourke Street, Melbourne

1874    Eastern Arcade, Bourke Street, Melbourne

1876    Victoria Arcade, Bourke Street, Melbourne

1889    Prahran Arcade, Chapel Street, Prahran, Melbourne

1889    Queens Walk Arcade, Collins & Swanston Streets, Melbourne

1890    Howey Place, Little Collins Street, Melbourne

1891    Metropole Arcade, Bourke Street, Melbourne

1892    Block Arcade, Collins Street, Melbourne

c1892  Bendigo Arcade, Hargreaves Street, Bendigo (on the site of an earlier arcade?)

1893    Kings Arcade, High Street, Armadale, Melbourne

EDIT: Sadly I’ve had to strike the Kings Arcade off the list! I’ve discovered that it was actually a single block of shops until the 1920s, when it was turned into an arcade. I was doubtful that it was all nineteenth century from visiting it but this was confirmed when I visited the National Trust (Victoria) and looked at some of their files. Such a shame that now I can only say that there was one nineteenth century suburban shopping arcade in Australia – the Prahran Arcade!

ANOTHER EDIT: Or was their only one … tantalising hints are surfacing!

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