The History Of Williamstown
A history of Williamstown, since 1835
In the beginning
Williamstown is one of Melbourne’s oldest suburbs, located at the mouth of the Yarra River where it enters Hobsons Bay and Port Phillip, south-west of the Melbourne city centre.
Originally Melbourne’s first seaport, Williamstown has developed from what was a neglected industrialised centre into a popular and fashionable maritime village (www.travelvictoria.com.au).
The first occupants of Williamstown were two Aboriginal clans. The first was the Marin-balluk who was responsible for the area between Kororoit Creek and the Maribyrnong River, the second was the Yalukit-Willam who were responsible for the 5km strip at the top of Port Phillip Bay (www.visitwilliamstown.com.au). Both clans formed part of the Kulin nation.
Originally named Port Harwood by John Batman in 1835 the town was renamed Williamstown, after the reigning monarch King William IV. Williamstown was proclaimed a town in 1886 and a city in 1919. Initially, Williamstown was the major port for Melbourne, it wasn’t until the 1850s that activity around the port began in earnest, as prospectors passed through the area on their way to the goldfields. By 1856, hotels, shops, residences, banks and churches had been built. The Naval Dock Yards were also established in the 1850s and Fort Gellibrand was developed between 1860 and 1890.
In 1994 Williamstown, Altona and sections of Laverton and South Kingsville were combined into the City of Hobsons Bay (www.heritageaustralia.com.au). Williamstown is one of three major activity centres in the Hobsons Bay municipal area; its primary commercial precinct extends along Nelson Place, Ferguson Street and Douglas Parade. The precinct offers a fabulous mix of cafes, restaurants, retail stores (including a major supermarket), five banks, together with a range of fresh food shops, cafes, homewares, clothing and speciality stores.
Williamstown has elegant Victorian-era buildings and beautifully preserved streetscapes that link the past and future. Combined with the rich maritime history and historic links to the development of rail transport, you still get a sense of the early days of Melbourne and its commercial and settler development. Outside the precincts, the neighbourhood is predominantly residential, with some small pockets of light industrial areas. Some streets are wide with bluestone kerbing and large, established street trees while others are much narrower and the housing is set close to the footpath (www.hobsonsbay.vic.gov.au).