280-318 William Street (south east-corner of William and Latrobe Streets)
1871-1872 John James Clarke
Commenced in 1871 and completed in 1872, on the site of the first Melbourne Exhibition Building, the former Royal Mint is considered one of the finest renaissance revival buildings in Australia. Design work by JJ Clarke of the administration building, which remains today, began in 1869 when Victoria was given permission by the Royal British Mint to establish a Melbourne branch office. The design was based on Raphael’s Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli in Rome (1515) and before cost cutting took place, a much grander structure was designed that was three storeys and 55 metres wide, contrasting somewhat from the two storeys, 31 metres wide building that was finally built.
The Mint complex with the main freestanding administration building, residence, two corner guardhouses, palisading and tall perimeter wall, originally also contained additional buildings. These were a coining hall, a melting department and an assay department that were demolished in 1968.
The Royal Melbourne Mint was authorized from the start to strike full British gold sovereign and half sovereign denominations, with the mintmark M to designate their Melbourne mintage. The first gold coins were struck in Melbourne in 1872 and were minted until 1931.
Australian coins were minted from 1916 with the first coins being the silver threepences, sixpences, shillings and florins. This was followed in 1919 by bronze pennies, bronze halfpennies in 1923, silver crowns in 1937, and finally copper one and two cent pieces in 1966. Production of coins ceased in 1967.
It is important to note that the architect JJ Clarke also designed, or had a hand in designing other noteworthy buildings such as the old Treasury Building, the original Richmond Town Hall, the City Baths and Government House.
The Former Royal Melbourne Mint is now home to a number of private enterprises. These include Melbourne Mint Pty Ltd who deal in gold and silver bullion. It also houses the cultural institution the Hellenic Museum, founded in 2007 and established with the aim to promote understanding and appreciation for the rich cultural traditions of ancient and contemporary Greece.
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