David Langdon, President of the Richmond and Burnley Historical Society discussed the first land subdivisions in Richmond and early residents.
In 1839, two years after the first land sales in the Port Phillip District, Crown Allotments were auctioned in Richmond. The sales were organised by the Colonial Secretary's Office in Sydney and advertised as 'Land Sales in the Town of Melbourne, Port Phillip.'
The name Richmond became official in 1842. Prior to that date, the names Clifton, Newtown, Clayton Hill or New Richmond appeared on land sales documents.
Robert Hoddle's first subdivision created blocks of 120 acres for farming. However the area, two miles from Melbourne, was ideal for wealthy merchants and gentry as country estates, with just a carriage drive away from their businesses in Melbourne.
The land options comprised four areas. The first was bound by Hoddle Street, Bridge Road, Church Street and Victoria Street (originally called Simpson's Street). The other three were bounded by Punt Road (the continuation of Hoddle Street south of Bridge Road, Bridge Road, Burnley Park and Swan Street, divided into three by Church and Burnley Streets.
The total of 566 acres was divided into 22 Crown portions, each containing approximately 25 acres and selling from £11 - £37 per acre. The most expensive properties fronted Bridge Road, Church Street, and Swan Street as far as Mary Street.
Auctioneer Charles Williams purchased the two most valuable Sections and named them Clayton Hill. Later inhabitants renamed the area Richmond Hill. The Reverend Joseph Docker purchased a couple of 25 acre allotments on the north-west corner of Swan Street and Church Street and used part of the land as an orchard. In 1842, he subdivided most of his land and attempted unsuccessfully to create a separate village called Clifton. Docker Street and Clifton Street indicate where his property was.
Many purchases of land were made for speculative reasons and subdivisions into smaller blocks occurred within a few weeks. Some were advertised for sale immediately whilst others came on the market over a period of time.
William Wilson's Crown Allotment Number 46, of 27 acres, was subdivided into lots as small as one acre. Wilson who was from Sydney used an agent to buy land on his behalf. The house built by Patricius William Welsh on his allotment in Section 46 was valued at £4,000 in 1844 when he was declared insolvent.
A second subdivision was made to resurvey the area into 25 acre allotments. In the sale on 2nd November 1839, Allotment Number 16 which was bounded by Swan Street, Burnley Park and Stawell Street was sold mainly for market gardens whilst Allotment 39 which fronted Lennox Street and Highett Street was sold for private residences and grazing purposes. The properties near the Yarra River and subject to flooding were much cheaper than those on higher ground. Farquhar McCrae bought land in Section 24 in December 1839. His 25 acre property named 'Sherwood' was on high ground fronting Punt Road and Bridge Street. It was subdivided into half acre blocks and put up for sale on 6th January 1840. Thirty blocks which earlier went for £24 an acre sold for more than £200 an acre.
In 1845, Dr. Farquhar McCrae sold a portion of his land to his brother Captain Andrew McCrae ("Melbourne Courier", Wednesday, 6 August 1845, page 3) who lived there on the corner of Rotherwood and Sherwood Streets. Beekeeper Joseph Kimber also lived in Rotherwood Street.
Charles Wilson's residence 'Jasmin Cottage' on 2 acres of land he had bought from Farquhar McCrae was on Punt Road, near Rowena Parade. George Arden of the "Port Phillip Gazette" paid Wilson £1,900 for the property and in June 1841 sold it to his partner Thomas Strode. It was described in the "Port Philliop Patriot" in December 1841 as being 'a trifling distance beyond the Superintendent's Domain.' When Thomas Strode moved out it became the Melbourne Retreat and Tea Gardens.
Daniel Bunce, renowned botanist and member of Leichhardt's expedition in 1846, established Denmark Hill Nursery in Lennox Street in 1841. He sold seeds and plants at the Tea Gardens.
Other land owners were, John Gardiner, George Cavanagh, John Hodgson (responsible for the reservation of all the land from Princes Bridge to Punt Road as public land), and banker William Highett. James Henty lived in Waltham Street from 1850 until he died in 1882. It was on his property that the Pelaco Factory was built much later. Others were Henry Miller, Chairman of the Bank of Victoria, chemist, Joseph Bosisto who distilled eucalyptus, and William Westgarth.
Dr. James Palmer, Mayor of Melbourne in 1845 erected a row of prefabricated iron cottages in Westbank Terrace. The suburb Burwood was named after his villa of that name.
Near the Yarra River, Dame Nellie Melba's father David Mitchell had clay pits. Later, thirty-one quarry sites were set aside on Crown Allotments 9 - 15 where they abutted the river. John Jones Peers, bricklayer, advertised the arrival of a machine for making bricks which were superior to the best hand-made bricks.
Subdivisions along the Richmond flats advertised in 1842 caught the attention of the working class and Richmond's population rose to 402 in 1846. By 1851 reserves were set aside for churches, schools, etc. and when Richmond separated from Melbourne, developers were free to plan streets, and reduce frontages. Major subdivisions occurred in the north and west. By 1857, the population reached 9,029 and today it is 27,000.
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