1874 Bourke Street looking east from GPO


A photograph from 1874 of Bourke Street, looking east from Elizabeth Street. The GPO stands proudly on the left. Another storey and a taller clocktower would be added to the GPO in 1887. At the end of Bourke Street is Parliament House with St. Patrick's Cathedral behind it, under construction.

The clock shows 6:19am, with a policeman standing guard outside the GPO. A number of carts are on the street, serving tea and coffee. The nearest cart has freshly baked bread on its roof and waits for early risers and workers. We can see a row of cups and saucers. A milk cart is alongside the cart, perhaps collecting the empty milk churns. 

When the city shops closed for the day, the coffee carts would come out and operate from 8pm to 8am. Unfortunately they were also a meeting place for criminals during those hours, so from October 1874 Melbourne Council restricted them from trading between midnight and 4am. This photo was captured early 1874 along with a series of amazing photos, taken around the same time by Charles Bayliss, so this coffee cart trader has probably been there since 8pm the night before.  

For 6 pence, customers received a cup of coffee or tea, a saveloy, a potato and a buttered bread roll. For a few more pence, one can invest in a sheep's tongue or a slab of ham. Further up Bourke Street, on the corner of Swanston Street is another coffee cart. In 1886 a number of coffee stall holders were charged with "obstructing the public thoroughfare", and this lead to the gradual demise of this institution.

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Photographer was Charles Bayliss.

This is a digitally retouched reproduction of the original held by the State Library of New South Wales. 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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