Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

The Golden Mile

Land Sales : St. Kilda and Queen's Road : A History

Given several of Control Data Australia's Melbourne offices lay within the "Golden Mile" strip between St. Kilda and Queen's Roads and we have mentioned standard block sizes of 100 by 200 feet, it might be of interest to detail with the assistance of contemporary reports the circumstances of the early sale of the "Mile".

The sale of what was generally referred to as "the Albert Park frontages" was not without controversy.

Before being put up for auction in 1875, the strip between St. Kilda Road and what was then known as Queen's Terrace was part of the Albert Park Reserve itself, the area temporarily reserved from sale on 1 August, 1862, described in the Government Gazette as “951 acres, more or less, of the Albert-park (formerly South-park) after deducting that section assigned to the Melbourne and Hobson's Bay Railway Company for the railway to St. Kilda”.

The key boundaries of the reserve area were established as the junction of the eastern fence of the railway with the three-chain road (Albert Road) - later the site of the South Melbourne Technical school - extending south to Fitzroy-street, hence easterly to the "west side of the St. Kilda and Brighton Road".

The strip in question was part of a comprehensive sale of Government land in 1875, the George Walstab mentioned in the report below appointed as the Government auctioneer.

Predictably, the sale of park land - the Lake itself had just been completed - drew a barrage of criticism, especially from the St. Kilda and to a lesser extent Emerald Hill Councils, but the auction proceeded as planned, although under the threat of a legal injunction to overturn the sale.

We'll let The Argus of 13 and 14 April, 1875 tell the story; of particular interest might be the conditions laid down at the sale for subsequent development of the allotments.

THE ALBERT PARK FRONTAGES.

"The intention of the Government to sell the above frontages has for some time excited a good deal of interest among the large number of persons to whom the existence of Albert park in its entirety is a matter of some consequence. The sale took place yesterday, and the attendance was so great that Mr Walstab's rooms in Queen street were quite unable to accommodate the intending purchasers. The company therefore adjourned to St Patrick's hall, and  before the proceedings commenced there could not have been less than 450 persons present.

Mr Walstab having read  the ordinary conditions of sale, stated that there were special conditions attached. These were-

1. That each allotment shall be the site for one villa residence, with its offices. 

2. That such residence and offices must be of  stone or brick, and be built in compliance with the provisions of the Melbourne Building Act, and of bye-law No 47 of the Corporation of Melbourne.

3. That the allotment shall not be used for any other purpose than the site of one such residence with its offices, and shall not at any time be sold or otherwise alienated in any smaller parcel. 

4. Provided that, notwithstanding the condition as to the land being only the site of one villa residence, the site may be used for the erection on it of a terrace of houses of not less than two stories in height: provided that no other buildings or residences save the offices requisite for the houses in such terrace be erected in rear of them, and that such terrace be according to a design to be previously submitted to and approved by the Board of Land and Works.

5. That the four preceding conditions be embodied in the Crown grant as conditions thereof and that it shall be a condition of the grant that the land shall be absolutely forfeited to the Crown in case of the failure in, or breach of, any of the aforesaid conditions.

The lots now to be sold fronted Queen's terrace (Albert park) and the St Kilda road and were situated north of the Warehousemen's Cricket  ground [1]. The land was submitted for competition at the upset price of £3 per foot and he would now put up Lot 1, consisting of 2 roods 11 8-10ths perches."

Mr S WILKS (of Messrs Bennett, Attenborough and Wilks, Solicitors).- "Mr Walstab, before this Sale is proceeded with it is my duty..."

Mr WALSTAB – " I cannot permit any interference with the proceedings on the part of anybody ...". ("Oh, oh," and cheers); "... and, moreover, I am astonished that a gentleman who, I believe, occupies the chair of a suburban council, should thus interrupt me. This place is at present my auction room, and I shall order any gentleman who persists in disturbing me in the discharge of my duty to be removed out of the room".

[Top]

After the uproar which succeeded this declaration had subsided–

Mr WILKS said that everybody who knew him would, he felt convinced, acquit him of any intention of wantonly disturbing the proceedings. He was there, however, to perform his duty as a solicitor to his client and not as a member of the St Kilda Council. As representing Mr Palmer, the plaintiff in the action of Palmer v The Board of Land and Works, be would read the following protest against the sale being now proceeded  with–    

"To the Board of Land and Works and the Hon. J. J Casey, president of the said board, and John Hall, Esq , the land officer, and Geo. Walstab, Esq, the auctioneer, severally appointed to conduct the sale of Crown lands hereinafter mentioned, and all others whom it may concern –

"This is to give you and each of you notice, that I protest against the sale of any portion of the lands now or heretofore known as 'Albert park', and formerly called the 'South park', but advertised by you for sale by public auction on the 13th and l4th days of April instant, and described as -'Town lots Emerald Hill, county of Bourke, parish of South Melbourne, fronting Queen's terrace (Albert park) and the St Kilda road, north of the Warehousemen's Cricket ground, being allotments 3, 4 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10, 11, 12,13 and 14 of section Q, allotments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 of section R, and allotments 1, 2, 3 and 4 of section S, and town lots Emerald hill, county of Bourke, parish of South Melbourne, fronting Queen's terrace, within Albert-park and St Kilda road, south of the Warehousemen's Cricket Ground, being allotments 1 2 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 10, 11 and 12 of section T, allotments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 of section U,  on the grounds that the said sale is illegal, and in breach of sections 7 and 9 of the Land Act 1869, inasmuch as the time fixed by proclamation of the 19th day of March, 1875, for revocation of the temporary reservation of such lands – namely, after the expiration of four weeks from that date, has not arrived, and the said lands are still subject to the temporary reservation by the Government Gazette of the 1st, 5th, 12th and 19th days of August, 1862, that the said sale is also illegal, as the said land has been permanently reserved and further take notice that I shall hold you and each of you, personally liable for all loss and damage that I may sustain in consequence of such sale, by reason of depreciation to my freehold property facing the said park or otherwise howsoever; and further take  notice that a bill in equity has been filed by me, and registered as a lis pendens , in the Supreme Court against you, the said Board of Land and Works, to restrain such sale, and the notice of motion for an injunction has been served in the said suit. Dated this 12th day of April, 1875".

(Signed) "HENRY P. PALMER"  

[Top]

Mr WALSTAB–I shall now proceed– (A Voice -" Now, will you give him in charge) – with the sale.  

Mr HUGH PECK wished to know whether his money would be returned with interest provided the Government lost the threatened suit.

Mr WALSTAB in having consulted the land officer who was present said that the money could not be so returned.

Mr S P LORD asked if the Government were prepared to guarantee that no other portion of the reserve should be sold at any future time.

Mr WALSTAB was not prepared to give such a guarantee, but he supposed that everybody knew that it was not the intention of the Government to dispose of any other portion of the reserve.

The sale then proceeded without interruption. The catalogue included 30 lots, all of which were offered at a uniform upset price of £3 per foot. The majority had frontages of 100ft, and as the competition was brisk, all the allotments were disposed of at an advance on the starting price. Some lots fetched as high as £7 17s 6d per foot, but the average price reached was about £4 10s per foot. The total proceeds of the sale amounted to £13,900. As evincing the interest  which the sale has excited, it may be mentioned that purchasers from Sandhurst and Queensland appended their signatures to the official sale book. The sale of the allotments lying to the south of the Warehousemen's   Cricket ground will be proceeded with today".                                     The Argus, 13 April, 1875  

“The sale of the Albert park frontages was proceeded with at St Patricks Hall yesterday.  The land offered for sale was situated to the south of the Warehousemen's Cricket Club grounds and like that disposed of on the previous day consisted almost entirely of allotments having frontages of 100ft. Before the commencement of the sale Mr S Wilks Solicitor again appeared on behalf of Mr H P Palmer and lodged a protest against the legality of the proceedings. This formality having been disposed of tlie sale commenced and as the attendance was almost as large as that of the preceding day there was a keen demand for almost every one of the lots offered for sale The upset price was £3 per foot but no lot fetched loss than £4 10s whilst several realised upwards of £9 per foot.  The average price at which the land was sold may be set down at about £6 per foot.  All the lots found purchasers and the total sum realised amounted to £17 10110s purchasers an the total sum realised amounted to £37.101.10s.   The Argus, 15 April 1875

[Top]

(If the "average" price can be extended, a smart investor could have bought what became 598 St. Kilda Road for just under £480 or $960 - possibly less as the frontage is now only 79 feet, but it is uncertain whether it was sold this way or a section subsequent resumed for the widening of Lorne Street)

There was further sale on 30 June of a small number of lots that were reserved from the original auction; details of prices, etc. were not disclosed.

Henry Palmer, through Mr Wilks later unsuccessfully brought his legal action, but there was still a considerable level of resentment within the Colonial government of the day over the sale, and late in June, Mr Murray Smith, M.L.A. moved a censure motion against the Government over the sale.

The debate appears to have continued on and off for nearly a week and some observers believed that when put to the vote, the censure motion would be passed (the legal ramifications in regard to the sale are unclear), but in a clever political move, the Premier, Mr. George Kerferd, generally regarded as an honest, but not particularly inspiring politician, called the bluff of the dissenters and declared that he would treat the motion as a vote of no confidence in his Government.

Faced with the political upheaval that would have resulted, many of those who privately opposed the sales backed down and Smith's motion was defeated 37-11.

Kerferd, the M.L.A. for Beechworth, served just one term as Premier - the western end of "the Three-Chain Road" from the St. Kilda railway to the beachfront was given his name when land along that stretch was subdivided into allotments in 1874.

The pre-sale condition of one residence plus outbuildings appears to have been strictly enforced with no exceptions sighted, and based on recollections from the 1960’s on, I don’t think any of the purchases took advantage of the “two-store terrace” option, although there may have been earlier joint occupancies demolished before then.

Whether it was believed at the time that this would restriction would remain is, of course, impossible to gauge, but there is some circumstantial evidence that purchasers may have thought this would be overturned and that subdivisions would later be allowed.

The Queen's Road stretch encompasses about 45 properties - of these, just six (including what became 3 Queen's Road and then owned by David Syme) were listed in the 1880 street directory. By 1890, some fifteen years after the auction, the number stood at 22.