The PMI at 165

The PMI at 165

Today the PMI turns 165.

On the first of May 1854 a meeting was held in Prahran,  the rules for the new Prahran Mechanics’ Institute were gazetted and the PMI declared itself into existence. William Moss (local congregational minister) moved that the institute should be established at once.

Chapel in Prahran. Pencil sketch. 1851 - Copy

The original objectives of the institute were: the Mental and Moral Improvement and Rational Recreation of its Members, by means of Lectures, Discussions, Library, Reading Rooms, Classes, Museum, Philosophical Apparatus &c

The PMI is the second oldest library in Victoria and was founded when Prahran was effectively a swamp, before the Prahran Council even existed.



The founders of the PMI were very passionate about their endeavours and George Rusden (see above, he was one of the first trustees) sent the introductory address from the meeting on the 1st of May to be printed in the Argus. It outlines the motivations behind the foundation of the PMI perfectly, if a little verbosely. The following was published in the Argus on the 30th of May 1854. We wanted to print it here in full because it so well encapsulates the beginnings of the PMI and the very different world it began in.

In commencing the lecture Mr. Orlebar said:— ” I have much pleasure in attempting to fulfill the desire of the committee that I should explain and urge the claims of this institution for the support and co-operation of the inhabitants of Prahran. The Institution has for its primary objects, first, the rational recreation, and, secondly, the intellectual improvement of artisans. Continual peace and the onward progress of civilisation have made the artisans to be a class increasing in numbers and rising in importance throughout the world, especially in our native land. And the very peculiar circumstances of this colony have made the artisan so wealthy and thriving, and give him so reasonable an expectation of continued prosperity, that he feels an independence and an elevation in his social condition which he has never enjoyed in any former period of history. In this position, he feels his dignity as a man ; he demands some higher enjoyment than those pleasures which are common to the brute animal ; he desires to elevate and polish his mind ; he is willing to open his purse to obtain the means of gratifying his instinct for the acquisition of knowledge which is common to the whole human race. A year ago it was generally said in England, that the best workmen had emigrated to these lands. We see the correctness of that opinion in some degree corroborated tonight. For no mean spirit could have originated a Mechanics’ Institution in a village in such a condition as ours. The mechanics of Prahran, though labouring under the disadvantages of recent colonisation, have commenced by a strong internal impulse — a Mechanics’ Institution.

They have done more. They have become the missionaries of civilisation. They say to their fellow citizens of every class, ‘ Why have you no reading-rooms, no museum, no lecture, no class-rooms. Join with us. We can help one another.’ Many of us have already responded to the invitation. We have been astonished at the energy set to us as an example. We have been anxious not to be outstripped, or to allow it to be said that the mechanic is the only advocate which the intellect can find in the streets of our populous village. As one of this number, I desire now to impart to you some of my own feelings on the subject.

It is possible that there may be some individual here present who has never been sensible of a purely intellectual enjoyment, who has never felt any charm in poetry, who has never perceived the beauty of a well-told tale, never been influenced by an eloquent lip, never been carried into the realities of the past by historic description ; never entered into the inmost sanctuary of his spirit in the contemplation of the works of his adorable Creator. We know that such men do exist. We know that whole classes, and whole nations have existed in so lamentable condition. Want and distress have disbarred some from the knowledge of such happiness. The tyrant, the slave master, the oppressor of his brother man in his thousand forms has forbidden the free exercise of man’s natural powers. Nevertheless the history of our race proves that the love of knowledge in various intensity naturally exists in every nation, and every individual man, and requires only to be called forth and cherished to be (perhaps too) dominant.

The institution proposes to meet this innate love of knowledge, now called forth in Prahran, by a reading-room well supplied with the best magazines and reviews, and by a circulating library, and lectures. The circulating library may be supplied at small expense with every English poet and prose writer, by means of the numerous cheap republications which have recently been made of almost every popular work. The circulating library will be supplied, also at a small expense, with the best of those numerous works which have been written of late years to make science as amusing as it always has been instructive.

The acquirement of knowledge is indeed of itself a recreation to many. To strong minds it always affords pleasure. To most minds the acquisition of its elements is a dull and painful task, which is willingly endured only for the sake of the results. All, however, find delight in it when the rudiments are passed. How many have reason to regret the want of early opportunities of education,— many have reason to regret opportunities lost. The institution proposes to grown up men the means of supplying defects in early education. As soon as the building is erected on the ground so liberally given, there will be class-rooms ; and if there be no other teachers, the scholars can do much in instructing one another.

But for those who do not require to go through a schoolboy’s tasks, other and abundant means of instruction will be found. Does an individual require information on any special subject? There is a library of standard works—some the property of the institution— some lent to it. In this he finds the book which contains the required facts. Or is he ignorant where those facts should be sought? At the institution he finds someone better informed on the subject than himself, and by him he is guided to the proper authority. A public library thus becomes a help in study, which no private collection can ever be. Then there are the reviews to give him, in a concise form, all new light in literature and science. There will be class rooms, in which members may unite for study, and perhaps for experiment. There will be lectures, which will supply the outlines of study. Lectures are of two kinds: they are adapted either to initiate the student or to perfect him,—the former are of a popular kind, giving a general idea of the subject, and furnishing inducements for study. The latter suppose previous study, a knowledge of technical terms, and intention to prosecute that branch of learning. The lectures of a Mechanics’ Institute must generally be of the former class, and they will be equally instructive and recreative to all. Already several gentlemen have offered their gratuitous labours. There is no reason, however, why lectures of the latter kind should be excluded. Mechanics often do pursue other difficult and abstruse branches of knowledge besides industriously following their proper occupation. Lord Carlisle mentions a blacksmith who had become able to understand fifty languages, although he worked from eight to twelve hours daily at his forge. That blacksmith was Elihu Burritt. None will labour better or more successfully than those who feel both the sweat of the brow and the tension of the brain.

There is another useful object which the Institution has specially in view. A good mechanic wishes to do all his work in the best possible manner. It is a special object of the institution to supply both books and lectures which will help him in his art. Such works at the Mechanics’ Magazine and the Builder will be on its list of periodicals. It hopes also to have a museum, where specimens and medals will supply to the eye that which descriptions and drawings can but imperfectly or inadequately convey.

All classes will find assistance in its libraries. It will not, indeed, be a place where the student of history will find scarce and expensive works, records scarcely known, or original documents, where he can check the errors of transcribers, translators, and abbreviators, or the mistakes of ignorance and prejudice. It will not be a place where the student of nature will expect to find in detail one single course of experiments, and much less be able to hunt through the annals of learned societies. It will not be a place where a statesman will find statistical information to determine the expediency of a tax or a duty. There are other places where such wants will be met. But all classes who subscribe to this institution, will demand that they may be helped by us in faithfully doing the duties of heads of families, of neighbours, and of citizens ; and all books which will help us to do this should be gathered into our library as a treasure house.

After his daily work, a man returns to his house, and in a winter evening, while each takes some work which requires little thought and makes no noise, one member of the family may read a book from the circulating library. And how much amusement, how much instruction, how much profitable conversation, may arise from some systematic source of reading in this way. Be the book but a novel ; a wise father may gather from it the sweetest instruction for his children. Much more from a well chosen course of history, or biography, or from easy and elementary scientific works.

Now, on such occasions, words from the dead or foreign languages may occur and puzzle ; the Mechanics’ Institutions standard library should contain dictionaries and grammars. Technical works may occur : the best elementary works on every subject should be in the library. Questions will arise which none of the family can answer : the answer will be found at the Mechanics’ Institute from the living lips of a more learned member, or from the written words of some good author. Will this make us philosophers, learned, scientific. Will it make our wives and daughters blue stockings, orators, stateswomen? No: but it will make us all more rational.

Prahran will be indirectly benefited in many ways. The gum and the wattle are rapidly disappearing, and we shall soon be no longer in a pretty wilderness but in a waste desert. Men have some time to give to cultivation. Nay, it is a duty to the public for a proprietor to bring his land into a healthy condition. How are we to learn the proper plants suited to our wants in a climate so different from our native land, except by becoming acquainted with the general principles of horticulture, and with the special productions of climates more nearly allied to that of Victoria than that of England. When are we to know what has been done in southern Europe, in Asia Minor or Algeria?

How are we to know the various modes of economising our manures? The Mechanics’ Library must inform us. Perhaps we may find our neighbouring agriculturalists on our subscription lists. Some gold-diggers have their wives and families in Prahran. Their number will probably increase. When here, they may be glad to learn the nature of some stones they have thought worthwhile to bring down with them : the institution should have a cabinet, where he may compare his specimen : and mineralogical works, which he may consult. He may have observed some remarkable phenomena, for which he desired explanation, and there should be standard works in the library for him. Then he would probably gather fresh ideas, and with them return to his work, apply them, and thus qualify himself in his turn to contribute to science. William Smith, the father of English geology, gained his knowledge as a plough-boy, treading his father’s fields. Hugh Millar, the author of one of the best written books in the English language, and making one of the most valuable contributions to modern geology, made his researches whilst employed as a labourer in quarrying stone.

I have endeavoured to sketch some of the purposes to which Mechanics’ Institutes have been applied, and some for which the Prahran Mechanics’ Institute seems available. I am aware that I have omitted much that might be urged in its advocacy on higher and more important grounds than I have taken. I have thought, however, that a subject less interesting to some of you was more pressing on the present occasion. For although many of you are well acquainted, and better acquainted doubtless than I am, with the general claims of a Mechanics’ Institute upon public attention, yet I suppose that very many are unacquainted both with their objects and their working. It can hardly be otherwise; for the Mechanics’ Institute is one which had its birth with the present generation. The attempt indeed to extend the education of grown-up men below the professional classes was conceived in the last century. Instruction for mechanics was provided for in the first year of our own century in a class at Glasgow. But this class did not bring to its birth a Mechanics’ Institute until July, 1823. And after that the extension was so very rapid, and there were some years ago very important manufacturing towns where the promoters of them were much disappointed in their hopes. I cannot help thinking, therefore, that many who have not had leisure or opportunities to study the onward progress of education, may yet be ill-acquainted with the usefulness, and the present success, and universally acknowledged importance of those institutions. The men of England and Scotland, at least, are fully alive to their importance, and their adaptation to modern necessities. They have indeed arrived but slowly, to their present extent. But which of the forest’s trees is rapid to its growth ; and of the forest’s trees which is the most valuable? Is it not that which is longest in coming to perfection. And of all animals, who is so helpless for so long a time of infancy, as the lord of all creation? Mechanics’ Institutions had a long infancy. They now walk, and make themselves known in the power and dignity of a noble maturity. And I doubt not, but that our Institution will preserve the place which she has taken next to her elder sister, at Melbourne, among many younger sisters, who must soon arise, for the civilisation and blessing of the cities, towns, and villages of Victoria.

While the above speech is very much of its time (especially notice the focus entirely on ‘men’) many of the principles it espouses are still to be strived for. The PMI certainly holds true to many of these principles today, but we have evolved over the last 165 years and you can see that evolution in our buildings, as the PMI has adapted to thrive in each new era and hopefully well into the future.

There will be a small celebration for the 165th anniversary at the PMI AGM and we are researching options to restore our original silk invitation (it was handed out at the opening of our original building in 1857), you can see it in the photo below.


If you’d like to know more about the history of the PMI, our Collections Librarian will be giving a talk on the subject as part of the heritage festival on the 16th of May at 2pm

You can book here:








Meet The Committee: Dr Michelle Negus Cleary

Meet The Committee: Dr Michelle Negus Cleary

As part of an ongoing series,  we will be introducing our committee members.  This month we have Dr Michelle Negus Cleary, archaeologist and the PMI’s newest committee member

Michelle Negus Cleary Mernda 2017

Dr Michelle Negus Cleary is an archaeologist and architect with more than fifteen years experience working with archaeological projects in Australia, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the Republic of Georgia. She has specialist expertise in ancient and historical archaeological survey and excavation, remote sensing, photogrammetry and spatial analyses, and the assessment and recording and management of heritage sites. Michelle has published more than 25 articles and book chapters on settlement archaeology in both ancient and historical contexts, landscape archaeological studies, and site-based archaeological excavations and investigations. She is a co-director of the Landscape in Archaeology in Georgia project, a research associate at the University of Melbourne and is a senior archaeologist and general manager at Dr Vincent Clark & Associates.

Michelle began coming to the PMI for their amazing Victoria History library for background research on heritage sites and became engaged with the PMI’s resources, aims and events. She volunteered as a member of the PMI board in 2018 and is a passionate supporter of the institute and library and its amazing team.


You can find out more about the research that Michelle has done at the PMI by reading her Plotting History post from 2018

Meet the Volunteers: Aaron

Meet the Volunteers: Aaron


My name is Aaron. When I first heard about the Prahran Mechanics’ Institute, it was 2017 and I was studying a Certificate IV in Library and Information Services at Box Hill Institute. It was one of the examples that a teacher of one of my units had found, as an example of a library and possible services they might offer.

What first piqued my interest was in fact the colour of the PMI website, that distinct orange colour. After that, I noticed under one of the drop down menus was an option for volunteering and the associated form. I sat on it for a few days before deciding to submit my name and contact information using this form, feeling that it would be good to have some hands on experience in a library.

I was promptly contacted by one of the staff members of the library and decided to meet on a Friday afternoon for a chat on what I could do as a volunteer there. Since then I have been helping around the library when I can, initially on Fridays, but now on both Thursday and Friday.

One of the first things I was asked to do was to assist with shelving library resources. At the time, I was learning how to properly file resources according to the Dewey Decimal Classification system as part of my studies, and this task really helped me to reinforce these filing rules into memory, which I am quite thankful for.

A few weeks later, I was doing shelf-reading, or making sure that the resources are in order so they can be found by members. This took a couple weeks, as it was from 0 all the way up to the 990s. I continued shelving/shelf-reading for a bit, until I was asked to start indexing back issues of Australian Geographic, from when Aus. Geo. was first founded in 1984. There were a few interesting articles, and some very dated advertisements.

After this, I was taught how to cover new books to the library collection, and what I have to attach to the books so that they’re shelf-ready, which for PMI includes attaching a spine label, a due date slip (PMI is one of the few libraries that still makes use of these slips) and a security strip.

Lately, I have been helping the library to catalogue new resources. From changing the holdings record of a resource on Libraries Australia to indicate that PMI has a copy available for loan if you search for an item on Trove, to assigning a call number using the collection policy document and the Dewey books, it is very satisfying to complete the “word picture” of a resource so that it can be found by patrons using the catalogue. Occasionally, the library software has conniptions, most often showing lines of text in the wrong order, but otherwise cataloguing is a worthwhile and very enjoyable task.

Most of the time I am cataloguing at the front desk, where I also loan out resources to members and help them to find them where necessary.

Volunteering at PMI has been worthwhile and enjoyable, and has given me useful experience for when I manage to get a job in a library.


Plotting History: Researching My Ancestors: Pioneers of Prahran with Vicki Salkin

Plotting History: Researching My Ancestors: Pioneers of Prahran with Vicki Salkin


Chapel in Prahran. Pencil sketch. 1851

From the moment I stepped into the Prahran Mechanics’ Institute (PMI) in about April last year (2018) I have felt welcomed and encouraged in my family research.  It is a lovely environment to carry out research, and this is how it unfolded …

I was determined to find out the story of my great-great-great grandmother, Catherine Ellis.  I had some facts about her, but I wanted to know the big picture about her life in Prahran.  I was not disappointed.  What awaited me was more than I could have imagined.

Not only did I learn about the early history of Prahran, but I learnt that Catherine Ellis, a widow when she moved to Prahran with her young children in 1849, was a vital part of the early development of European settlement in Prahran.  Her name is specifically mentioned in several of the early history books held at the PMI.  I was amazed!

Catherine’s  hut was the setting for many firsts in Prahran – first school house, the first public meeting and the first church services and Sunday school.

Through a manuscript that is kept on the PMI database, I found that Joseph Crook, another Prahran pioneer (a so-called ‘49er’), wrote in 1860 that ‘it was in her house [Catherine Ellis’s] that the first sound of Public Prayer and Praise was heard in Prahran’.

Interesting fact – the church which Catherine was involved in establishing was the Congregational Church, first built on the corner of Chapel St and Malvern Rd (no longer standing).  This church gave Chapel Street its name!

To read more about the life of Catherine Ellis in Prahran, please feel free to read this article I produced for the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, largely from PMI resources, but also with help from Stonnington History Centre, scroll down to ‘Catherine Ellis: Pioneer of Prahran’ on page 10:

Malvern Historical Society, inspired by this article, have also produced a version, with my collaboration, in their recent newsletter, ‘Local History News’, March 2019:

The resources of PMI are excellent.  It is a top class collection, not only containing material on the history of Prahran, but other suburbs of Melbourne, and Australia-wide history.

I did the bulk of my research on my Prahran ancestors at PMI, and am continuing now on another branch of my family.  I enjoy my time there.  I have been given expert advice, and  encouragement in the research.  I enjoy the gentle hum of volunteer activity in the library, as well as other researchers quietly proceeding in their tasks.  It’s a place where people feel they belong.

I’m sure that William Moss, one of the founders of the PMI, would have been pleased at the productive use to which PMI is now put.

Chapel in Prahran. Pencil sketch. 1851 - Copy

He would also no doubt have been pleased at what I discovered about my family’s history in Prahran, as he began his ministry in Prahran in the Ellis household, and continued for many years as the pastor of the Congregational Church to which she belonged, among the many other charitable works which he undertook.

Vicki Salkin

29 March 2019


Images from  page 15: Jill McDougall, Church, Community and Change: Religion in Prahran 1836-1984: Imprint: Prahran, Vic.: Prahran Historical and Arts Society and Prahran Mechanics’ Institute, 1985


Book Review: Strangers in a Foreign Land: The Journal on Niel Black and other voices from the Western District by Maggie MacKellar

Book Review: Strangers in a Foreign Land: The Journal on Niel Black and other voices from the Western District by Maggie MacKellar

Review by Jennifer McCoy



This book is an annotated and transcribed copy of significant sections of Niel Black’s journal, that covers his journey here and the first 5 months of his life in Australia, between October 1839 to May 1840; and a shorter section consisting of commentaries by women immigrants.  Few settlers left records of this nature, females least of all. Letters went home to England, possibly the hardships they faced left little time for journal writing; perhaps too many may have been illiterate as were my family. Those that have survived offer rare and personal commentaries on their lives in this remote and masculine colony.

The editor has annotated groups of journal entries, introducing us to the social and economic context of the entries to follow. She draws on Margaret Kiddle’s Men of Yesterday, as well as numerous other research sources, to inform her commentaries, explaining certain entries and drawing our attention to particular comments. The book then becomes a valuable social record in itself, as she has made available to us, general readers, the personal experiences of these early settlers, allowing us to understand a little of the people who ventured down here so early in our history and of the challenges they faced. Let me give you some examples:

Take Black’s experiences with and attitude to the Aborigines. She draws attention to his decision to purchase Strathdownie, as his journal entry for Jan 4, 1840 reads : ‘The run is one of the most wonderful in the colony ….The blacks have been very troublesome on it and I believe they have been very cruelly dealt with. The late superintendent ran off from a fear that he would be apprehended and tried for murdering the natives. The poor creatures are now terror stricken and will be easily managed. This was my principal reason for fighting so hard for it’.

Black on women: ‘there prevails here a very general preference for Wives from the Mother Country. Colonial ladies are much more expensive in their habits, pay less attention to their household affairs and are less Stringent in their Ideas of Virtuous Conduct; at least such are the Opinions I have been in the habit of hearing…(Nov 1, 1839)’; and ‘I really believe this is not a place for Girls (generally speaking) making what is called good matches. There are just two things that occupy every young man’s head here, that is Money and Home’ (Nov 6, 1839).

Black’s scant commentaries about women in this masculine world, make the final section of this book particularly valuable. How did women survive here, travelling up country by drays, managing homes that were often primitive by our standards, bearing children without medical help.  Mackellar has selected a small range of writings by women describing their experiences.

Apart from perspectives all these writers bring to help understand our early history, I couldn’t help but wonder what personal records will be left for our descendants. Facebook and Instagram have probably replaced journals; how many of us in busy lives overwhelmed with information and technology, ever put pen to paper?  Emails have replaced letters today. I’ve come across a great-grandfather’s letter to his wife; a postcard from France to my grandmother from a soldier during WW1; letters of sympathy to my mother when she lost her first child, and I’ve been moved by the words. These family letters lead me to wonder how many of these kinds of records are discarded when we move on? Are there any others lying around in the proverbial attic? And what genuine, personal records are we leaving behind, to give our own perspectives on life today?

Please browse this book, but I strongly recommend checking those attics – and writing the occasional letter.




Book Review: The Outer Circle: A history of the Oakleigh to Fairfield Railway

Book Review: The Outer Circle: A history of the Oakleigh to Fairfield Railway

the outer circle


The Outer Circle: a history of the Oakleigh to Fairfield Railway

by David Beardsell and Bruce H. Herbert

Review by Michael Canavan

In the day, the Dasher dashed, carriages had swing doors and trains travelled to Deepdene.

The Outer Circle Railway seemed like a good idea at the time. Conceived by Victorian Railways to bring the Gippsland Line into Melbourne by bypassing a pesky private line, the need was negated when the private line, realizing discretion was the better part of a financial bollocking, sold out to VR, thus providing the desired direct line from Oakleigh.

It should have ended the matter: but no, work proceeded. It was, after all, the Era of Marvelous Melbourne where money grew on trees, especially trees growing on vacant land. Land speculators speculated, Her Majesty’s Victorian Parliament housed an impressive array of colourful characters, the Rosstown Railway was built and the Octopus Act enfolded the Colony: too many railways weren’t enough. It was mere coincidence that the new railways passed through vacant land needing development.

The OCR was front and centre: a substantial portion of the proposed right of way passed through land held by Honourable Members. Fulham Grove estate, about half a mile from Fairfield Park, had its own station with two platforms and a passing loop-it was to be appreciated by APM. Willsmere had a similar arrangement under an impressive bridge. A fleet of locos and carriages was on-hand to carry the expected throngs.

The OCR proceeded on its circuitous route from Oakleigh to Fairfield Park [today’s Fairfield]. Passing through the sparsely settled then outskirts of Melbourne [photos of the day beg you to play “spot the dwelling”] there wasn’t much in the way of prospective revenue. No matter: it was built to the highest standards [one John Monash was engineer], in equal parts an attempt to make a statement and to encourage usage. Double platforms and passing loops were laid out, crossings safeguarded, cuttings cut, embankments banked. All for nought.

Opened, with no ceremony, around 1893, about half the line was “suspended” by 1895, the whole line closing soon after. Reprieved around 1897, the line staggered on, serviced until 1927 by the Dasher between Deepdene and Ashburton [cut back to Riversdale after electrification]. A goods service to East Kew lingered until 1943.

Despite the indifference, there were attempts to revive the Line until World War 2, mainly to woo prospective land buyers: a photo shows a train full of clients at Deepdene Station in the 1920s.

As well as assisting speculators, the railway developed suburban golf: 2 courses, at East Kew and near Riversdale, arose. Riversdale members were miffed at having to walk some distance from the nearest station; strings were pulled, and the adjacent Golf Links station [today’s Willison] provided.

This book is a valuable reference: it is the only readily available and comprehensive history of the Railway. It provides an overview of its operations plus the small details that make a satisfying railway history-it is a reminder that so much has disappeared yet remains discernible. It describes the sad fate of the Railway in affectionate detail and provides several interesting annexes– a photo of various tickets is quite nostalgic and a scathing account of a trip using the OCR a joy to read.

Apart from the impressive engineering, the other highlight was the array of locomotives that graced the line, mostly tanks and early railmotors. Naturally, the book provides excellent action shots as well as the staple “look at me” platform shots: the Dasher steaming uphill from Deepdene on a misty morning is a highlight.

The OCR never had a chance: it was a poorly managed embarrassment that Officialdom tried to ignore. It always operated in sections, never in its entirety, seemingly going out of its way to be as inconvenient for patrons as possible. Despite that, a walk along the Centenary Trail [Chandler Bridge to the Malvern Golf Course] and from East Malvern to Oakleigh leaves you asking “What if”, especially as plans are mooted for a new circular link line.

If the OCR had survived, the Packenham, Cranbourne and Gippsland lines would have connected at Oakleigh: the Junction Hotel’s name would make sense. Heading north, it would have crossed the Glen Waverley and Lilydale/Belgrave lines before joining the Hurstbridge line at Fairfield; as well, it would have connected with several tram lines [e.g. at East Kew and Riversdale]. In the 1930s it was proposed to extend the Kew line to Doncaster via a junction at East Kew.

What if?

The Outer Circle is available for viewing at the library but is not for loan.



Book Review: Discovering CBD places of worship

Book Review: Discovering CBD places of worship

This is a book review with a difference. PMI member Geoffrey Paterson takes you through the books he used to research his Eastern Hill places of worship tour for the Uniting Church Historical Society. You can view the text of his tour in PMI’s periodical collection.

Thanks for your hard work Geoffrey

booklet scan 2018 (2)

I am not a regular PMI Library user and visit the Library when a particular task arises. I outline here how and why I recently used the Library, my approach to this particular task, and some PMI resources I used.


In the last two years, I have helped organise a Melbourne CBD Places of Worship Tour for the Uniting Church Historical Society. Each is a free guided tour of three places of worship.[i] Tour participants receive an eight-page A5 booklet which backgrounds Melbourne’s CBD and provides specific details for each place of worship.

The following notes outline some PMI resources I used to write the 2018 tour notes. This tour in Eastern Hill visited East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, St Peter’s Anglican Church, and the German Evangelical Trinity Lutheran Church.

My approach to research

How do I approach my reading? I first consider the chronology including when the place of worship was built. The second is its location and how it has changed. A third aspect is the architecture including stained glass windows and musical instruments.

Useful PMI resources

The following paragraphs outline PMI resources I have used.


A very useful publication for early Melbourne places of worship is J.M. Freeland, Melbourne churches 1836–1851: an architectural record. Parkville: Melbourne University Press, 1963.

Part I of this book covers building materials, builders and architects, and financing of these early churches. Two chapters also examine the Pioneer Period (1836–1842) and the Primitive Period (1842–1851). Each chapter in Part II considers churches from seven denominations. The book includes photographs, maps and appendices. The section on St Peter’s succinctly outlines its history, architecture, and development of the buildings on this site.


Winston Burchett, East Melbourne, 1837–1977: people, places, problems. Hawthorn: Craftsman Press, 1978 usefully describes the main and subsidiary parts to the Hoddle Grid, the land grants and reservations, and Crown land sales. Although St Peter’s establishment predates these events, the Lutheran Church and other Eastern Hill denominations received a land grant. Burchett also devotes some 30 pages to churches and schools including each of the places we visited.


I consulted two resources from the PMI in the preparation of the tour notes.

A. Willingham, St Peter’s Church, Albert Street, Eastern Hill Melbourne: a cultural history and conservation analysis for the trustees of St Peter’s Church. Allan Willingham Architectural Historian, 1992. This large volume has three parts. Part A Understanding the Place uses a range of photographs, plans and documents to detail the history of the church and associated buildings. Part B Architectural Analysis and Assessment of Cultural Significance uses text and photographs to survey the church’s physical fabric. Part C provides guidelines for conservation. The Appendices provide, in one place, a range of maps and original documents many handwritten relating to the church complex.

H.D. Mees, Editor, A German church in the garden of God: Melbourne’s Trinity Lutheran Church 1853–2003. East Melbourne: Trinity Church Historical Society for Trinity German Lutheran Church, 2004. This 700-page volume starts with the arrival of Lutherans in the late 1840s, the building of the Eastern Hill church, to the present day. It also devotes a chapter to Lutheran congregations in other Victorian locations. I particularly used Chapter 10 which traces the succession of buildings and supplies details of the exterior (pp. 451–456) and interior (pp. 456–463). The book contains many photographs and maps.

In the preparation of the tour booklets, I have used a range of sources including the State Library. However, I value the PMI Library because it is close to public transport, resources are accessible, and the Library staff is always helpful. I will be using the PMI to prepare my 2019 tour notes.

Geoffrey Paterson

[i] 2017 and 2018 tour reports have been published in the Proceedings of the Uniting Church Historical Society Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. The 2017 report is in volume 24 No 2 December 2017, pp. 109–111. The 2018 report is in volume 25 no 2, December 2018, pp. 143–152.