Fitzroy Heritage Walk

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Fitzroy was founded when Melbourne was a lonely outpost of the British Empire. Many of its earliest buildings were short term solutions, but Melbourne was a frontier settlement intent on becoming something grander.

It had an active architectural profession almost from its beginning. Almost all of the prominent architects of the 1850s worked in Fitzroy, trying to find practical housing solutions within an aesthetic framework.

Practical housing solutions

The practical problems faced by the builders of Fitzroy were often very different to those faced today. Because there was no gas for cooking, the kitchen was a hot and unpleasant place. Early kitchens were outbuildings, detached from the house.

Even when kitchens were later attached to the house, a typical two storey house had a single storey wing along one side of the backyard for the kitchen and laundry. There was no water supply for drinking or firefighting until the later 1850s, and no sewerage until the late 1890s.


Backyards provided a buffer between the living quarters and the outside toilets. Builders had to deal with government regulation. After 1850, houses had to be of fireproof construction, but the quality of bricks deteriorated during the gold rush as brickmakers and labourers headed for the goldfields. This meant rendering was essential to protect houses from the elements.

Quality streetscapes

One acute problem was how to best develop small sites to provide comfortable homes and quality streetscapes. Housing density was required because of the limited supply of land within walking distance of facilities.

South Fitzroy streetscapes

South Fitzroy has small single storey houses, two storey houses, large warehouse conversions, and even a four storey house.

Many front doors open directly to the street, however most front doors are set back from the street by a few metres, and some are behind good sized front gardens. Styles vary from simple elegance to flamboyantly decorative. Put together, the houses make some of the best streetscapes in Melbourne.