The fledgling town of Melbourne was established in 1837. Imbued with the confidence that characterised the Victorian era, Melbourne’s colonists seem to have had no doubts the city was destined for greatness and it boomed from the start.
Even in those early years it was considered important that land be set aside for recreation. From 1839 the Port Phillip Gazette repeatedly drew attention to the need for formally proclaimed recreation space. After its inauguration in 1842 the Melbourne Town Council took up the call for the reservation of parkland. The Council expressed its view in a petition to Superintendent La Trobe:
it is of vital importance to the health of the inhabitants that there should be parks within a distance of the town where they could conveniently take recreation therein after their daily labour … experience in the mother country proves that where such public places of resort are in the vicinity of large towns, the effect produced on the minds of all classes is of the most gratifying character; in such places of public resort the kindliest feelings of human nature are cherished, there the employer sees his faithful servant discharging the higher duties of a Burgess, as a Husband, and as a Father.
Soon after he arrived in September 1839 to take up the position of Superintendent of the Port Phillip District, Charles Joseph La Trobe began setting aside from sale large areas of land near the city that he described as being for ‘the public advantage and recreation’. La Trobe’s vision of a society was one not wholly dominated by commercial interests, but which encouraged and provided for social, educational and religious concerns.
The eight major gardens in Melbourne’s inner city are the Royal Botanic, Fitzroy, Carlton, Flagstaff, Treasury, Alexandra and Queen Victoria, as well as Birrarung Marr. Each garden has its own unique history and story to tell.