Queen Victoria Market considered for national heritage listing

It seems almost counterintuitive that a venue slated for inclusion on Australia’s National Heritage List is due for a mass redevelopment. That's the case though with last week's announcement that Queen Victoria Market (QVM) is to be nominated by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt for the prestigious inclusion.

The announcement was music to the ears of Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, who has become the public face of QVM's forthcoming redevelopment. On the potential National Heritage Listing Lord Mayor Robert Doyle stated:

Today’s announcement is a major milestone for the QVM renewal project on the path that will protect and preserve the market for future generations. If QVM qualifies, there is scope to then add it to the ‘Tentative List’ to be considered for UNESCO World Heritage listing.

QVM has traded continually as a market since 1878 and predates Melbourne’s only current UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. In the last 30 years alone, half the city has been rebuilt or redeveloped, but for 143 years QVM has been a constant in the story of our society and economy, a story which will continue well into the future.

We’re planning an appropriate and respectful acknowledgement of the market’s history as our city’s first cemetery and as a site that is significant to Melbourne’s Indigenous people, including the Wurundjeri.

​Lord Mayor Robert Doyle

And it's QVM's long and varied history that will make its redevelopment all the more interesting. How will "Appropriate and respectful acknowledgement" translate into a modern facility catering for the immediate area's booming population and the needs of Melburnians at large?

QVM has in days gone by served as a cemetery, where as many as 10,000 people were buried onsite from 1837 to 1917. A small section of the cemetery was approved for the purposes of a market during 1859 and has flourished ever since to become the last surviving market in the municipality.

According to City of Melbourne, QVM provides significant architectural attributes worthy of recognition via the following structures:

  • The two storey and single level shops on Victoria Street and Elizabeth Street have intact timber shopfronts. The Dairy Produce Hall arch between the two groups of shops on Elizabeth Street is unusual, and the facade of the Meat Market is a design by noted architect William Salway.
  • The Dairy Produce Hall is in a restrained stripped classical style, with an interior that is notable for the intact stall fronts timber surrounds and marble counters. F Shed and the cemetery wall demonstrate an innovative approach to the division of market and cemetery functions.
  • The market buildings comprise the Meat Market (1869), Sheds A-F (1878), Sheds H and I (1878), Sheds K and L (1923), Elizabeth Street Stores, Victoria Street Shops (1887, 1891, and 1923), Dairy Produce Hall (1928), Franklin Street Stores (1929-1930), M Shed (1936), John Batman Memorial (1881) and the site of the Old Melbourne Cemetery (1837-1917) (Source: Victorian Heritage Register).

QVM's social character

QVM was a place apart from the city proper, separate from the business and commercial activity of the growing city. It was removed from the ornate facades of city buildings in the main thoroughfares, where buildings were on show and at times were ostentatious, especially during the boom years of the 1880s.

The market, by contrast, represented the back door of the city, characterised by its mess and smell and noise.

QVM also served as an interface of society; a meeting ground; an unstructured social place, unlike other places in the city where rules and codes of conduct applied; like parks and gardens the market was a liminal space between order and disorder in the city, a place of encounter. Situated on a marginal site at the edge of the city, the market attracted the marginalised of society: the poor, the homeless, the hungry.

City of Melbourne

Still a popular meeting place (albeit under different circumstances) and gaining additional popularity by way of expanded night market activities, QVM's pending redevelopment master plan is at a final draft stage, with said master plan due to be reviewed for approval by the Future Melbourne Committee on July 28th.

According to the master plan all land designated to QVM has been divided into four quarters, interlinked by a market cross that will act as the precinct's main thoroughfare. The differing quarters will reflect the unique characteristics and purpose of each area within the new QVM, while still respecting the grand history of the institution.

Further details on QVM's redevelopment that will flow in coming months will be dissected on Urban Melbourne as they are made public.

Lead image courtesy Museum Victoria.

1 comment

Bilby's picture

The mayor is hilarious. Council buys the last totally intact, undeveloped low-rise block in the CBD adjacent to the market, with the proposal to demolish most of it for an above ground carpark ... and then proposes UNESCO listing for what remains of the site.

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