60 Macaulay Road

60 Macaulay Road
North Melbourne VIC 3051
Heritage Council of Victoria
Also known as 60-96 Macaulay Road, Gas Regulating House
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Architectural Features


  • Building Ornamentation
    Brick

Heritage Significance and Listings

Heritage Listings and Explanatory Notes

What is significant?

The Gas Regulating House at North Melbourne is a remnant component of a once larger town gas distributing site. The Melbourne Gas Company became the monopoly gas manufacturer in Melbourne from 1 January 1878. Town gas was manufactured from coal at the Melbourne Gas Company’s large plant in West Melbourne directly adjacent to the Yarra River where the coal was easily delivered by ship. The North Melbourne Outstation was established in 1887 as part of the distribution network from the West Melbourne plant via the (now demolished) 3 million cubic foot gasometer and the governing and pressure raising plant in the adjacent brick building. From North Melbourne gas was supplied to the Fitzroy and Essendon outstations as well as the north and north west regions. The Gas Regulating House was constructed of finely modelled brickwork. The window arches are in rubbed cream brick, cornice lines are in brick specials with pressed and shaped brick clay bracket work, and recessed parapet panels are in bi-chrome brickwork. The interiors are of hard plaster walls in panels with an acanthus capital to the intermediate engaged pilasters, lath and plaster ceilings with deep cornices and ceiling roses, as well as other features which give a domestic decorative appearance unusual in an industrial building.

How is it significant?

The Gas Regulating House at North Melbourne is of historical, scientific (technological) and architectural significance to the State of Victoria.

Why is it significant?

The Gas Regulating House is of historical significance as a rare surviving component of a once large metropolitan gas supply infrastructure which is today almost completely obliterated, with only the supply pipelines remaining in use for natural gas distribution. The town gas industry, which was developed during the second half of the 19th century, improved living and working conditions and drastically changed the way of life of many Victorians.

The Gas Regulating House at North Melbourne is of scientific (technological) significance as a rare surviving example of a 19th century gas regulator, its importance compounded by the survival of some of its early regulating valves. Only one other metropolitan regulating house is known to survive, in St Kilda Road, but it has no equipment and is much smaller.

The Gas Regulating House at North Melbourne is of architectural significance as a fine example of a 19th century industrial building. The substantial character of the building, especially its unusually decorative interiors, reflects the importance of the new gas industry in the 19th century city.

https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/5420

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Social History

  • The North Melbourne Gas Works outstation and is a state heritage listed building of historical and scientific (technological) and architectural significance to North Melbourne, Melbourne city and Victoria

 

  • It was the distribution point for town and natural gas for more than 100 years.

 

  • The former gas regulating house, is a rare surviving component of a 19th Century large town gas distributing site which included the iconic 3 million cubic foot gasometer.

 

  • The town gas industry was developed during the second half of the 19th century and it drastically changed the way of life for many Victorians by improving living and working conditions. The first use of gas for illumination was in 1849. Up until gas lighting was introduced, the residents of Melbourne relied on candles and oil lamps for illumination.

 

  • Due to a high demand, three gas companies were formed between 1850 and 1873. These were amalgamated in 1878 to form the Metropolitan Gas Company which became the monopoly gas manufacturer in Melbourne

 

  • Gasworks was built in 1887 as part of the distribution network for the West Melbourne Gas Plant which is where the town gas was manufactured from coal

 

  • Housing pipework and equipment, it was established to capture incoming gas from the West Melbourne mains, store the gas in a gas holder and deliver it under pressure to local consumers as well as the Fitzroy and Essendon outstations

 

  • The gas holders helped keep the gas lines pressured and provided a reserve of gas to even out the supply flows from West Melbourne.

 

  • Gas was initially supplied for lighting but by the early 1870s demand had increased due to the popularity and availability of appliances including gas stoves and irons.

 

  • Few changes were made to the site until the 1940s when the original boiler room was converted into a fittings display room and plant equipment was upgraded. A much larger store, known as the North Melbourne Outstation Appliance Store was constructed in 1951 for the company’s expanding range of appliances.

 

  • In 1951 the coordination and supply of gas in Victoria was taken over by the Gas and Fuel Company. By 1970 all gas regulating houses had been altered to allow for the use of natural gas. As there was no longer a need to convert coal into gas, all of Melbourne’s gasworks closed shortly after.

 

  • The gas holder was decommissioned in 1957 and dismantled in 1986. New equipment installed in the regulating house ensured the continued use of the site as a distribution point for natural gas until the late 1990s when the site was decommissioned.

 

MARVELLOUS MELBOURNE & THE BOOM

  • During the 1880s “marvellous Melbourne” was booming, the gold rush brought a lot of money and people in and the city continued to grow up until the crash of the 1890s

 

  • The “marvellous Melbourne” term was coined by a London journalist who visited in 1885 to describe the perceived dominance of Melbourne at that time

 

  • People had money to spend and were able to do buildings properly therefore a lot of large and important Melbourne buildings were produced.

 

  • Buildings were grand and ornate as a way of highlighting and celebrating the achievements of industrialisation. Gasworks is an example of this – even industrial buildings were decorative, this reflected the importance of the new gas industry to the city

 

THE 1890s DEPRESSION & ELECTRICITY

  • The 1890s economic depression, which followed the land boom, hit Melbourne hard, companies and governments stopped building housing, roads and railways and the economy contracted quickly and severely

 

  • The depression cut short any further expansion of the gas industry. As a result it also suffered financial loss on top of being greatly affected by the introduction of electric lighting

 

  • By the time the depression was over, the heyday of gas as an illuminating medium had passed (although has remained in many Victorian homes until the 1930s and 1940s)

 

  • It was 1888 before the threat was first realised when the Melbourne City Council replaced two gas lamps at a city intersection with electricity… the change to electric street lighting was inevitable.


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