A very early image of the Yarra from 1858, looking over the Falls, through the Turning Basin, and to the west out to Hobson's Bay. (Click here to see an image of work being done in 1883 to remove the Falls.)
The Falls were an ancient basalt ridge (roughly located where Queens Bridge is today) that created a low barrier across the river, that usually stopped the seawater from mixing with the freshwater coming down the Yarra. This was important to the founding of the Settlement in 1835 as it provided the people with fresh water, except when there were extremely high tides or floods. There were a number of attempts to raise the height of the ridge in order to contain the fresh water, but floods and strong surges eventually broke the artificial walls away.
The original inhabitants of the area, the indigenous people, used the Falls as a way of crossing from one side of the river to the other, and also as a natural fishing spot.
The Falls prevented vessels from proceeding up and down the river, and once the Yan Yean supply of fresh water began to reach Melbourne in 1857 the Falls no longer served any purpose for the city. There was a wooden bridge built across the Falls in 1860, but it proved inadequate as the city grew, and the bridge (see photo below) was removed along with the Falls themselves in 1883, and the current Queens Bridge - which replaced it - was completed in 1889.
The Falls were surveyed in 1841 to determine the depth of the pools on either side of the ridge and an image of the survey is shown in the slideshow.
John Batman's only son - 8yo John Charles - drowned after slipping into the water while crossing the Falls in 1845.
There is a landing or jetty visible and this was used by the two ferry services that carried passengers and goods across the river.
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Photograph by Richard Daintree 1832-1878; Antoine Fauchery 1823-1861.
Notes from the State Library of Victoria tell us that the image is "Reproduced in: Sun Pictures of Victoria : the Fauchery-Daintree collection, 1858".
Below is a photo from 1864, showing the bridge that was erected over the Falls. At that time it was officially called Queen's Bridge, but locally known as the Falls Bridge.
This is a digitally retouched reproduction of the original held by the State Library of Victoria. All prints are reproduced without the HOTPRESS watermarks.
Our team of conservators have worked on a high resolution digital image in order to remove blemishes and artifacts such as stains, mould, scratches and damage caused by the handling of the original. We strive to provide authentic representations of the original work that are suitable for enlargements that retain the tones and character of the original.