It sometimes strikes visitors to Melbourne as being a little strange that the Fitzroy Gardens – unlike the Carlton Gardens – are not located in the same suburb that they take their name from. Although they are near Fitzroy – less than 200 metres separates the closest borders of each – the Fitzroy Gardens are located in the westernmost portion of the gently sloping plain that is East Melbourne. To uncover the truth of this matter, it is necessary to examine the history not so much of the Gardens themselves as the area lying between them and Hoddle Street.
It was on this site that various important buildings were established in the 1860’s and 1870’s, among them the church of St Nicholas on Victoria Parade (now renamed in order to avoid mobbing by hordes of present-seeking children each Christmas) and the infamous Queen Bess Row, now an apartment block, but originally designed as a hotel-cum-asylum for deranged Shakespearian actors. But greater than both of these was the original site of the Carlton Brewery (now located in Abbotsford). Built by Edmund Carlton (who has Anglicised his real name of Carloscz from the original Polish) as the first factory styled brewery in Melbourne, it was frequently pointed to as a source of (at least some of) the city’s ills by temperance advocates and their allies. To combat this, Carlton cultivated a reputation for patriotism and good works: the Fitzroy Gardens, with its distinctive Union Jack pathway layout, was only the largest and most visible of these.
At that time, East Melbourne was not yet seen as a separate region; various portions of it were regarded primarily as extensions of the surrounding suburbs, hence the naming of the Gardens. It was only later, after all Carlton’s efforts had failed, that he petitioned the City of Melbourne to name the area East Melbourne and define its boundaries more carefully. That they did, annoying the surrounding municipalities by stealing chunks of land they had considered theirs. But neither Carlton nor the city councillors of Melbourne much minded. What they cared about was simple: in one stroke, they had claimed a large portion of valuable land, and also managed to steal back the name that critics of Carlton’s works had bestowed upon it: henceforth, it would forever be East Melbourne, and anyone using the nickname they so detested could easily be persuaded that they’d simply misheard it as “Yeast Melbourne”.
Suburbs near East Melbourne: