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PROVguide 64: City of Melbourne

Land, Places and Local History – City of Melbourne

Melbourne was founded in 1835 and was incorporated as a town in the Colony of New South Wales in 1842. It was created a Cathedral City by Letters Patent of Queen Victoria in 1847 and began referring to itself as the City of Melbourne about this time. The New South Wales Act conferring Melbourne with the status of City was not passed until 1849. On separation of Victoria from New South Wales in 1851 Melbourne became the capital of the Colony.

The beginnings of the City of Melbourne can be traced to the establishments of markets. In 1839 the New South Wales government passed an act authorising the establishment of markets in towns in the Colony and the appointment of commissioners to manage them. Market Commissioners were to be elected from proprietors of land and householders within the town limits. The voters were householders or occupiers of dwellings valued at more than £20 and proprietors of land or buildings to the value of £200.

In Melbourne markets were not established until 22 October 1841 at which time Melbourne was divided into four wards for the purpose of electing the Commissioners. When Melbourne was created a town in 1842 the powers of the Market commissioners were transferred to the newly elected Council. The four wards of Bourke, Gipps, LaTrobe and Lonsdale remained.

Between 1850 and 1860 the structure and boundaries of the City changed markedly. New wards were created and the boundaries of the city altered as some districts became separate municipalities. Collingwood and Fitzroy wards were created in 1850, Collingwood becoming a municipality in 1855, Fitzroy following in 1858. In 1856 Smith Ward and MacArthur Ward were created. In 1860 MacArthur Ward became the Municipality of Sandridge, later to be renamed Port Melbourne.  The municipalities of Emerald Hill (later South Melbourne), Richmond and St Kilda were established in 1855, while Brunswick was created in 1857. The Victoria and Albert Wards were added in 1869. At the turn of the century there were seven wards.

In 1905 the City of Melbourne was united with the Borough of Flemington Kensington and the Town of North Melbourne. Hopetoun Ward was created to accommodate the new citizens within the City. In more recent years the number of wards has changed frequently and on two occasions elected councillors have been replaced by commissioners.

Public Record Office Victoria has an extensive collection of records from the City of Melbourne. The records document the activities of the City Council from the 1840s to the present. They reflect the wide range of matters for which the Council had responsibility and are a rich source of information about the City.

The powers and responsibilities of local authorities concern such matters as building control, land ownership, health, town planning, land valuation and transport regulation. Councils are empowered to make and enforce by-laws on a wide range of matters including road and traffic regulation, building construction, health, drainage, sanitation, environmental protection and planning. Local authorities have traditionally been responsible for road construction and maintenance, public health matters such as the inspection of premises, food and drug sampling and immunisation. They provide a wide range of social services including child day care, infant welfare, social welfare and domiciliary care services such as home help and meals to the elderly and others requiring assistance.

The Acts incorporating the Town of Melbourne in 1842 and 1849 provided for lighting, street construction and maintenance, drainage and sewers, construction of waterworks and water supply. An Act of 1863 gave local government districts responsibility for roads, streets, wharves, cemeteries, public health, water supply, drainage, charitable institutions, recreation facilities, libraries, pounds, licensed premises, markets, slaughter houses, weights and measures.

Major record series transferred to Public Record Office Victoria by the City of Melbourne include:

Council Records

VPRS 8910

Minute Books of Council Meetings

1842 – 1989


Notice Papers and Proceedings of the Council

1842 – 1887

VPRS 8911

Proceedings of Council Meetings

1869 – 1990

VPRS 8945

Committee Meetings

1851 – 1990

VPRS 17019

Corporate Service Correspondence Files

1983 – 1989

Search PROV’s Online Catalogue for Committee minutes registered as separate series.

Correspondence Records

VPRS 3181

Town Clerk’s Correspondence Files

1842 – 1909

VPRS 3183

Town Clerk’s Correspondence Files

1910 – 1982

VPRS 8904

Subject Index to Town Clerk’s Correspondence Files

(online digitised index)

1913 – 1983

VPRS 8907

Town Clerk’s Register of Inward Correspondence

1910 – 1983

Melbourne Olympic Bid Committee

VPRS 16623

General Correspondence Files 

1988 – 1990

VPRS 17294

Photographs, Melbourne Olympic Bid Committee

1989 – 1990

VPRS 17295

Promotional and Ephemeral Material

1989 – 1990

VPRS 17296

Olympics for Melbourne Committee, Minutes and Related Papers


Rate and Valuation Records

VPRS 5708

Rate Books

1845 – 1975

Available on microfiche (1845-1900) and microfilm (1901-1975) in the Victorian Archives Centre Reading Room.

VPRS 3102

Valuation Books

1843 – 1860

VPRS 5709

Valuation Books

1853 – 1861

VPRS 8915

Valuation Field Books

1864 – 1980

Citizen Records

VPRS 4029

Citizen Lists and/or Citizen Rolls

1843 – 1994

Available on microfiche (1877-1891) in the Victorian Archives Centre Reading Room.

Building Records

VPRS 9289

Building Notices Register and Index

1850 – 1916

VPRS 17285

Register of Building Permit Applications

1916 – 1958

VPRS 17286

Building Applications – original applications

1959 – 1985

VPRS 17287

Building Register Index

1958 – 1983

VPRS 17288

Address Index to Building Permits

1922 – 1983

VPRS 17289

Building Applications – Register and Progress Book

1922 – 1985

VPRS 17290

Factory Building Application Book, F prefix

1965 – 1979

VPRS 17291

Verandah Building Application Register

1938 – 1985

VPRS 17292

Register and Index of Demolitions

1945 – 1975

VPRS 17293

Register of Petrol Building Permit

1959 – 1987

VPRS 17299

Building Application Card Index

1916 – 1998

The Index is also available on microfiche in the Victorian Archives Centre Reading Room

(ie. VPRS 9463 Burchett Index).

VPRS 9288

Notices of Intention to Build

1850 – 1916

VPRS 11202

Building Application Index

1916 – 1993

Available on microfiche in the Victorian Archives Centre Reading Room.

VPRS 11200

Building Application Plans

1916 – 1961

VPRS 11201

Building Application Files

1916 – 1960

Cemetery Records

VPRS 9583

Alphabetical Records of Burials – Old Melbourne Cemetery

1866 – 1917

Available on microfiche in the Victorian Archives Centre Reading Room.

VPRS 9585

Chronological Record of Permissions to Bury – Old Melbourne Cemetery

1877 – 1917

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