State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 65 Autumn 2000


2. A Key to Walter Woodbury's Panorama

The panorama reproduced here is probably a twentieth-century copy, by an unknown photographer, of Walter Woodbury's original formerly held by the Yorick Club. It consists of four overlapping gelatin silver photographs, laid down on card.

The Gas Works

The panorama is a 180-degree view taken from the scaffolding platform on top of the completed Gas Works chimney and looking towards the east across the town. The Gas Works were situated on the flat land to the west of Spencer Street on the triangle of land later bounded by North Wharf Road, Piggott Street and Blythe Street (or Footscray Road).

The foreground

The foreground of the panorama is the open ground to the west of the line of Spencer Street. This area was referred to as the Swamp or the Flat, and was not settled because it was prone to flooding. Much of the land visible in the centre and right foreground was taken over by the railway yards, whilst the land to the north-west was excavated for the Victoria Dock.
The major landmarks in the foreground of the panorama are:
The powder magazine: a structure designed by Henry Ginn, Assistant Colonial architect, which later became the standard design in Victoria. The square wall and interior buildings can be seen very clearly.
The keeper's cottage: a Gothic-style house on the corner of Spencer and Collins Streets.
Batman's house complex: can be seen to the right of the powder magazine and behind a picket fence. Batman's house and its outbuildings were now in use as government offices. Batman's house is at the right hand end of the fenced complex. Batman's Hill, although quite small, was prominent enough to appear as a landmark in most early topographical views of Melbourne. It is behind the Powder Magazine. The gas main was taken through Batman's Hill half by tunnelling and half by open cut in 1855. Later, Batman's Hill was almost entirely demolished for the railways in 1862. What little remained was finally removed when Flinders Street was extended in 1892.
The picket-fenced enclosure of the Gas Works: this can be seen in the extreme foreground at centre left.

The skyline

At the right hand side of the panorama the mountain visible is probably Arthur's Seat at Dromana as the view is down the bay to the south east. At the left hand side of the

George William Perry fl.1854-1897, photographer. River Barracks from Batman's Hill, [c. Dec. 1863]. Albumen silver photograph H6262/1 LTA 359. Batman's house is behind the picket fence to the right with the outbuildings at the left. Victoria Barracks, St Kilda Road can be seen in the background (building started in 1856).

Detail: The fourth section of George Rowe 1796–1864 lithographer. Melbourne, 1858. Lithograph with hand colouring. A panoramic view of Melbourne taken from the Observatory (later Flagstaff) Hill, showing Emerald Hill, Batman's Hill, Sandridge, Gas Works, Railway Works, Barracks, Williams Town. H2544.


Unknown photographer after Walter Woodbury (1834-1885) photographer. [Panorama from the top of the Melbourne Gas Works] October 1855 H2544.

Panorama beyond North Melbourne we can see the unmistakable hump of Mt. Macedon and the mountains at the centre of the panorama above the Immigration Depot (no. 14) are the Dandenong Ranges.

The Middle Ground

The central business district of Melbourne is spread out across the middle ground of the panorama and although the sections of the panorama are faded and the buildings are at a considerable distance it is possible to make out many of the more prominent and better known of them. Prior to the photograph coming to the Picture Collection the previous owner had placed numbers in circles near many buildings and landmarks which leads us to suppose that there must have been an accompanying key. However that key, if it did exist, was not presented to the Library.

THE KEY — From left to right

Left-hand section
  • 1. At the extreme left we can see the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum, a substantial building by the architect Charles Laing, built in 1850 across the axis of Victoria Street.
  • 2. Mount Macedon on the skyline above the Benevolent Asylum.
  • 3. The line of Victoria Street can be seen because of the many buildings on its north side (i.e. in North Melbourne) put up cheaply because it was outside the control of the Melbourne Building Act, 1849.
  • 4. The picket fence enclosure of the Gas Works.
  • 5. Military Barracks at the end of La Trobe Street and west of Spencer Street. (See Kearney.)
  • 6. Melbourne University, very faint.
  • 7. The octagonal Observatory building and the surrounding outbuildings in the centre of the Flagstaff Gardens.
Second left section
  • 8. The first Exhibition Building on the corner of William and La Trobe Streets.
  • 9. The bellcote of the Welsh Church in Lonsdale Street.
  • 10. Tower of St Andrew's Gaelic Church in Rathdowne Street Carlton.
Third section
  • 11. The Government Offices with one of its two porticoes facing west to William Street (the other faced Lonsdale Street).
  • 12. On the Corner of Spencer and Bourke is the Powder Magazine Keeper's house, Gothic in style and facing west.
  • 13. The pepper pot tower of St James Old Cathedral can be seen on its original site to the west of William Street. The tower was altered when the church was moved to its present site, in west Melbourne.
Fourth Section
  • 14. The Immigration Depot on the corner of Collins and Spencer Streets.
  • 15. The Dandenong Ranges.
  • 16. The spire of St. Patrick's Church, architects George & Schneider. This church followed a smaller one by Samuel Jackson and preceded the present St Patrick's Cathedral.
  • 17. The Powder Magazine.
  • 18. The tower of St Paul's Church at the Swanston Street end. It is on the site of the present St. Paul's Cathedral.
  • 19. The Yarra Family Hotel is the three story building, on the north east corner of Flinders and Market Streets. Below is the tall chimney of Allison & Knight's flour mill.
  • 20. The single arch of the first Princes Bridge can be seen very faintly.
  • 21. Sir Charles Hotham Hotel, on the corner of Spencer Street and Flinders Streets.
  • 22. The fenced complex of buildings which includes John Batman's house at the right hand end. (See vignette illustration).
  • 23. Queen's Wharf, with ships’ masts visible.
  • 24. Arthur's Seat.
  • 25. The Military Barracks, on the east side of St. Kilda Road. The Victoria Barracks were not started until 1856.
  • 26. The abbatoirs. The ships’ masts indicate the Australian Wharf.
Mary Lewis
Mary Lewis is a librarian in the La Trobe Picture Collection.