1866 View from Flagstaff Gardens (1)


Late one summer's afternoon in 1866, Charles Nettleton carried his photographic equipment to the Old Observatory on the highest point of Flagstaff Gardens, in the north of the city of Melbourne. With his camera pointing to the south he captured an atmospheric photo of the vista. The main road heading south, away from the photographer, is King Street. Crossing from left to right at the southern end of Flagstaff Gardens is La Trobe Street.  

Right in the middle of the picture is a quaint white two-storey shop and dwelling, known as the Russell House, constructed by James Heffernan before the Gold Rush years, around 1850/51. That house was in the possession of and occupied by the one family, the Russell family, since 1899 until around 2022. 

Whist most of the buildings in the photo were also built prior to 1850, another building that was also built before the Gold Rush that still survives, is St James' Cathedral, completed in 1842. It stands prominently on the left of the photo, with its domed steeple. It was moved from that location to one that, if shown, would be just out of the photo on the right, in King St.

The hill that the gardens are sited on was originally known as Burial Hill and was the location of Melbourne's first cemetery, with its first internment of a child in 1836. 

The name of the Gardens is derived from a Flagstaff that was erected on the highest point in 1840 and extended to 15 metres in height the following year. This acted as a signalling device between the township and ships entering the Port of Melbourne, until the telegraph line was completed between Williamstown and Melbourne in 1855.

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Photograph is attributed to Charles Nettleton. 

Notes from the State Library tell us that this image is of an "Elevated view of Melbourne looking south down King Street with Flagstaff Gardens in foreground. Garden path lined with classical style statues and various shrubbery. Golden Cross Family Hotel on the south-west corner of intersection with P. Conway Grocer on the south-east. Tower of St. James Cathedral in background on left with ship masts along Yarra River on right.".

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.

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