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Collingwood

(3066, 3 km NE, Yarra City)

Collingwood and Fitzroy were first known as Newtown, Melbourne's earliest suburb, and 25-acre (10 ha) blocks were offered for sale there in 1838. Only a handful of blocks along the Yarra River were settled by the early 1840s. In 1842, Newtown was renamed Collingwood by Robert Hoddle on instructions from Superintendent La Trobe, possibly after the Collingwood Hotel which bore the name of the British admiral who succeeded Nelson at Trafalgar. East Collingwood stretched from the sloping ground of Smith Street in the west and Heidelberg Road in the north, dropping sharply to boggy, low-lying ground that extended to the Yarra River in the east and present-day Victoria Street in the south. Some of the higher ground was subdivided in the 1840s, but the real rush to fill the Collingwood Flat occurred in the 1850s.

In 1855 East Collingwood became a municipality in its own right, the third in Victoria after Melbourne and Geelong. By 1861 it had 12 653 residents and the beginnings of the noxious trades for which it was to become infamous. By the 1880s Collingwood had Melbourne's highest death rate. Collingwood dropped the 'East' and was proclaimed a town in 1873 and a city in 1876. The suburb offered local employment in the boot trade, brewing, quarrying and brickmaking for the many unskilled and semi-skilled workers who lived in cheap accommodation there. Local employees were active in the formation of the Victorian Boot Operatives Union in 1879. Victoria's first consciously working-class Member of Parliament, Charles Jardine Don, was elected from Collingwood in 1859.

From the 1860s, residents could unite in support of the local Collingwood Football Club. The team's most famous benefactor in the 20th century was John Wren, a larger-than-life local figure whose controversial career began with the illegal Collingwood Tote which he operated at the rear of a teashop in Johnston Street from 1893 to 1907.

A city mission was established to minister to the poor in 1854. In 1869 Dr John Singleton founded a free Medical Mission Dispensary and later a Night Shelter for Women and a Home for Fallen Women. The work of the Medical Mission Dispensary continued until it was replaced by the Collingwood Community Health Centre in 1977. One of Australia's first creches was set up in the 1880s to assist working mothers.

The elaborate Collingwood Town Hall on Hoddle Street was erected in 1886 to support Collingwood Council's claim as the 'premier suburban city in Melbourne'. Some of Collingwood's most dilapidated houses were removed after the 1890s depression to make way for the expanding empire of Foy & Gibson's department store. By the early 20th century, Smith Street was regarded as the most important retail street outside of the city centre, and G.J. Coles opened their first variety store there in 1914. Three cable tram lines carried passengers through Collingwood to the city along Smith Street, Johnston Street and Victoria Street.

Local sources of employment dried up in the 1930s, and with widespread unemployment Collingwood once again became a refuge for those seeking cheap accommodation. The pervading memory that many Collingwood residents had of the 1930s was the smell of 'Collingwood Coke', burning leather offcuts collected from the dustbins of boot factories and used instead of wood in domestic stoves.

In the decades after World War II Collingwood remained a centre of the footwear, clothing and brewing industries, though many traditional Collingwood residents followed jobs out to relocated factories on Melbourne's outer fringes. Collingwood's population fell in the 1960s to its lowest point in 100 years. By 1971 overseas-born migrants comprised approximately 41% of the population, and the suburb has been characterised by successive generations of Irish, Greek, Italian and Indochinese residents.

In the 1960s the Housing Commission of Victoria replaced whole blocks with medium and high-rise flats. Widening of Hoddle Street and construction in the 1970s of the F19 freeway from Doncaster to North Carlton, running along Alexandra Parade, effectively divided Clifton Hill from Collingwood. Collingwood's historic buildings include the Grace Darling Hotel (c. 1854), the former Yorkshire Brewery (1858-76), the Doll's House, part of Foy & Gibson's complex (1887-1925), and Singleton's Medical Welfare Centre (1887-99). From the 1970s middle-class professionals and university students began to move into Collingwood, valuing its proximity to the city. They renovated cottages, transformed hotels into bistros and warehouses into studios and apartments.

Jill Barnard