Sailing ships at Sandridge (Port Melbourne) Railway Pier, c1880.
Image: C Nettleton Studio
Source: Museum Victoria
Question: Where did ships coming into Melbourne land before Station Pier was built?
Answer: Before Station Pier and the railway line into the centre of Melbourne were completed in 1854, immigrant ships simply anchored in Hobson’s Bay. Passengers from the ship, along with their luggage, were then ferried in small boats from the ship to the nearby shore. Some were able to take the steam ferry, up the Yarra to the centre of Melbourne, while others may have been towed or rowed up the river. The unluckier ones simply had to make their way overland to the settlement. Many ships carrying assisted migrants did not anchor in Hobson’s Bay at all but landed in at Geelong, Warrnambool, Port Fairy and other coastal locations west of Melbourne. From here, these migrants often gained employment on properties in the local area.
There had been smaller jetties at a nearby site at Port Melbourne for over a decade. In 1839, Wilbraham Liardet built a small jetty on the beach of his property. This spot became a ‘fashionable resort’ to which Melbourne residents came to enjoy the sea breeze and refreshments (Barnard p10). In 1849 the New South Wales Government called for tenders for materials to build a better pier in this location and, by 1852, the Sandridge Town Pier was operating. But these earlier jetties were not designed to take the ships and large amounts of immigrants that were flooding into Melbourne at the start of the Gold Rush. Neither did the current practices of ferrying passengers or sending them overland work with these numbers arriving and the idea of a new pier with a railway line to town was conceived.
Barnard, Jill, Welcome & farewell: the story of Station Pier (Melbourne, 2004).
Museum Victoria, Station Pier: gateway to a new life (Melbourne, 2004)
Ruhen, Olaf, Port of Melbourne: 1835 – 1976 (Stanmore & North Melbourne, 1976)