1. Themes
  2. A to Z

Crossley Street

Crossley Street, formerly Romeo Lane, leads south from Little Bourke to Bourke streets between Exhibition and Spring streets. The two-storey brick building at the Little Bourke Street entrance to Crossley Street, called Jobs Warehouse or the Crossley Building, was first inhabited in 1849. The western end of the building, which borders Crossley Street, was built by butcher William Crossley as a shop, slaughter yard and residence. Jobs Warehouse is architecturally significant as a rare intact example of the simple Georgian style of design, which was common in Melbourne during early settlement. This building and others in Crossley Street, including retail, commercial, and government administration buildings from the nineteenth-century, are now heritage listed.

Crossley Street was earlier Romeo Lane, the den of prostitutes and thieves, where in February 1869 Constable Flannery reported that only three among twenty householders in Romeo Lane were respectable people. Apart from two male thieves, the rest, mostly women, ran brothels, some as proprietors others in groups. Two operated 'bilking houses' open to all prostitutes 'for putting men out after losing their money'. One, working solo, was partnered by her 'fancy man'. Juliette Terrace, now Liverpool Street, was the same. [Weston Bate, Essential but unplanned, p.46]

In 1871, thirty-four people in Romeo Lane were arrested for vagrancy in a single day, and the name was changed to Crossley Street in 1876. Later, following the slum clearances of the 1880s and 1890s, the lane became part of the Chinese quarter. In 1895, Crossley Street was partly residential and partly occupied by cabinetmakers and other wood craftsmen.

Crossley Street later became a largely Chinese quarter, strong in cabinet-making. By the 1930s there was a large range of manufacturers, mainly in the automobile and clothing trades. The latter became dominant later through firms like Christine Creations. There was also an Italian flavour through the Viggiano Social Club, the side entrance to Pellegrini's Espresso Bar and storage for the Florentino Restaurant. [Weston Bate, Essential but unplanned, p.47 ]

In 2008, Crossley Street's western side was still dominated by Pellegrinis and two other restaurants, while hotels occupy the northern end. Two art galleries also occupy the street.

Edwina Byrne

The Argus, 9 January 1871, p. 5. Details
Sands & McDougall’s commercial and general Melbourne directory, Sands & McDougall, Melbourne, 1895. Details
'Jobs Warehouse, 54-62 Bourke Street Melbourne, H0435, File 603521', in Victorian Heritage Register On-Line, 2000, http://www.doi.vic.gov.au/doi/hvolr.nsf. Details
Bate, Weston, Essential but unplanned: The story of Melbourne's lanes, State Library of Victoria and the City of Melbourne, Melbourne, 1994. Details