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Navigating the roads of Melbourne past

November 30, 2016

By Richard Wakelin


Despite every street address now available on my smartphone, I admit I am still attached to my physical copy of the Melways. The street directory is my bible in my day-to-day travels through the suburbs of Melbourne. For my past birthday, the office gifted me a special Melways – the 1966 First Edition. My colleague Liz McMahon also has a 1923-1924 edition of the Collins Street Directory and Public Guide. With an ever-growing city, it is interesting to not only see what has changed but what has stayed the same.

1923-1924          

The Collins Street Directory and Public Guide packs a remarkable amount of information. In it, you can find stamp duty rates, where to find justices of the peace, weight and measures conversions, rules/laws for fishing and hunting and even directions for writing a will. My treasured Melways on the other hand is just a street directory!

It also ran a misspelt words competition with a £10 prize. Throughout the directory, ten advertisements were published with intentional spelling and grammatical errors. 

Of particular interest to me is how the suburbs that I have always been drawn to have not changed.  The majority of the streets around Kew, South Yarra, Prahran and St Kilda are more or less how they are today.

1966 Melways First Edition

The ’66 Melways may not have included an extensive public guide like Collins but it is still a great milestone in assessing how much our city has grown. To visualise this growth compare the number of maps included in the 1966 edition – just 106 –  to the 2016 version, which features around 500.

It is also interesting to see what isn’t there. The Tullamarine airport, having been built in 1970, does not feature in this edition of Melways. The areas now occupied by apartment-heavy suburbs – South Bank and Docklands – appear empty and underdeveloped. What we now consider well-established suburbs such as Sydenham are included but with little to no development while Cranbourne does not feature in the edition. Today’s fringe suburbs must have been so sparsely populated that they do not appear in the 106 maps included.  

With my appreciation for older established houses and apartments, these editions show all the places that I like to invest in. If they wouldn’t get me very lost on our newer roads, I'd consider swapping out my latest edition to travel back in time with these two guides!