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Brunswick

(3056, 5 km N, Moreland City)

Brunswick is one of Melbourne's most ethnically diverse suburbs with waves of immigrants arriving since World War II. In 1996, 42% of its residents were born overseas, the majority Italians and Greeks. Nine per cent of the population or twice the metropolitan average were born overseas and had arrived in the last five years. Its main street, Sydney Road, is lined with shops and caf├ęs offering food and goods from all over the world. Brunswick has traditionally been an industrial area, although its main postwar industries of clothing, textiles and footwear declined in the latter decades of the 20th century.

As an inner northern suburb, Brunswick features significant areas of residential, commercial and industrial land use. It extends from the northern edge of Royal Park to Moreland Road, bounded to the east by Merri Creek (where Brunswick East centres on the Lygon Street retail strip), and to the west by Moonee Ponds Creek. Before European settlement the district was thickly forested with a swampy central area, and was part of the parcel of land included in the Batman treaty of 1835. In 1839 Assistant Surveyor Darke surveyed the district, dividing it into 20 blocks that were auctioned in 1839 and 1840 and then rapidly resold. Brunswick took its name from the jointly owned estate of Thomas Wilkinson and Edward Stone Parker in the east of the suburb. The most likely association of the name was to commemorate Princess Caroline of Brunswick (d. 1821), the estranged wife of George IV, of whom Wilkinson had been a strong supporter.

Property-owners divided their land as they chose, with no overall scheme of streets or drainage. The main thoroughfare north, Sydney Road, remained notoriously potholed and muddy despite a tollgate being established to collect funds to improve and maintain the road when Brunswick became a stopping place on the way to the goldfields. Its narrowness (one chain or 20.11 m) is a legacy of the original survey.

Small farms were rapidly set up to provide dairy products or hay for the growing Melbourne market. Large estates were also established by wealthy families who were attracted to the leafy creeks. In 1842 Michael Dawson established the Phoenix Park estate on a block running west from Sydney Road to the Moonee Ponds Creek. He built a mansion and set up a village called 'Phillipstown'. Dawson and others hoped that after Separation, the governor might establish a residence in the district.

Some wealthy people chose to live in the area: in 1852 Edward de Carle erected a large timber house east of Sydney Road which was moved to Walhalla Street, Pascoe Vale, after he died. Theodotus Sumner built Stoney Park on the western side of Merri Creek. Subdivided after his death, it became the Sumner Estate in 1924.

In 1849, however, Brunswick's elitist pretensions were stifled with the introduction of brickmaking and bluestone-quarrying. John Glew's first brickworks were founded on rich clay deposits in Hodgson Street, Phillipstown, in the south-east. When this pit was worked out he set up another in Barkly Street East. The prefabricated iron houses from England he erected for his employees still stand in Brunswick Road. Clay and stone were found in many parts of the district and most of Brunswick's parks, apart from Brunswick Park and Warr Park, are filled-in quarry holes. New technology transformed the brick industry in the 1880s, with steam-powered brick presses and an imported kiln design. The largest brickyard was Hoffman's in West Brunswick which employed up to 800 workers. Brick-making spawned associated industries such as pottery and tile-making, and the production of earthenware and sanitary ware. Other industries developed, including iron and steel-working, sawmills and turning mills, furniture-making, bacon-curing, gas and coke manufacture, rope-making, and glass and bottle works. After World War I hosiery and textile factories such as Prestige and Holeproof opened and workers flocked to Brunswick. By 1930, 300 factories employed over 6000 people. Brunswick's cinemas, hotels and dance halls thrived, and its popular public baths, which had opened in 1914, were enlarged in 1927.

In the early 1880s a railway line was built through the municipality to Coburg. In 1924 North Brunswick station was opened; it was renamed Anstey in 1940 after local MP Frank Anstey. More popular were the cable trams that ran along Sydney Road from 1887. Electric trams came to Lygon Street in 1916, supplied by the Brunswick Electricity Supply, which started distributing electricity in 1914.

Subdivision of the municipality for residential purposes came in stages. The 1880s and 1890s saw the building of modest brick terraces, single-fronted weatherboards and grander two-storey houses, mainly in central and south Brunswick. Later subdivisions in outlying parts of Brunswick offered larger blocks. A closer settlement scheme to settle unemployed people on self-sufficient blocks of land was established in the early 1900s in an area of North West Brunswick which became known as Moonee Vale.

The depression of the 1930s hit the area very hard, leaving most long-term residents with memories of hardship and poverty. Roads such as Hope and Albion streets were constructed by unemployed men on sustenance labour.

Brunswick, as an area vulnerable to high unemployment and home to successive waves of new migrants, has always been associated with protests, campaigns and social projects. In the 1890s Brunswick's most famous hotel, the Sarah Sands, was the base for Orange Lodge Protestant marches culminating in a skirmish with Irish Catholics in 1896. In the 1930s the Brunswick Free Speech Defence Committee campaigned against police attempts to prevent public meetings protesting against unemployment, culminating in 1933 with a famous incident where the painter Noel Counihan made a speech from within a metal cage. The campaigns and diverse social and cultural projects that have characterised the suburb were often supported by Brunswick Council. Proclaimed a municipal district in 1857, a town in 1888, and a city in 1908, the municipality of Brunswick was merged with Coburg in 1995 to form Moreland City Council.

After World War II local industries recovered and Brunswick attracted new migrants, initially Italian and Greek, then Turkish, Lebanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and other nationalities. Since 1945 some parts of Brunswick have been rebuilt with flats, and the waves of newcomers have renovated Brunswick's housing stock in different styles according to their class, income and ethnic background. Since the 1970s, however, decline in local industry, especially textile and clothing manufacture, has been pronounced and unrelenting, and the traditional working-class and industrial image of the area transformed as new industries move in and parts of the suburb face gentrification.

The diverse and sometimes radical atmosphere of the area, together with relatively cheap housing, has attracted writers and artists. Brunswick has featured in several books including Death in Brunswick by Boyd Oxlade and Stiff by Shane Maloney.

Jenny Keating

References
Cooke, B., 'The beginnings of Brunswick', Victorian Historical Magazine, vol. VIII, May 1921, pp. 63-9. Details
Folk-Scolaro, Francesca (ed.), Brunswick: stories and histories: A collection of articles from Fusion, Brunswick Community History Group, Melbourne, 1999. Details
Penrose, H. (ed.), Brunswick: One history, many voices, Victoria Press, Melbourne, 1994. Details