What is significant?
The Queen Victoria Market comprises two separate blocks: a western rectangular block bound by Franklin, Peel, Victoria and Queen Streets, known as the Upper Market; and the eastern triangular block bound by Queen, Victoria, Elizabeth and Therry Streets, known as the Lower Market. The market began operating in 1859, and progressively acquired the Old Melbourne Cemetery site to allow for its expansion.
The Market comprises the Meat Market (1869), Sheds A-F (1878), Sheds H and I (1878), Sheds K and L (1923), Elizabeth Street Stores, Victoria Street Shops (1887, 1891, and 1923), Dairy Produce Hall (1928), Franklin Street Stores (1929-1930), M Shed (1936), John Batman Memorial (1881), and the site of the Old Melbourne Cemetery (1837-1917).
In 1837, ten acres of land bound by Peel, Fulton, Queen and Franklin Streets were set aside for the purposes of establishing a cemetery for the growing township of Melbourne; the Melbourne Cemetery was officially gazetted in 1839. The cemetery site was surveyed by Robert Hoddle, and divided into seven sections: Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan, Jewish, Independent, and the Society of Friends. The Society of Friends' (Quaker) section was soon divided in half, to accommodate a section for Aboriginal burials. Concerns about the cemetery's proximity to the increasingly populated areas of the city, led to its closure in 1854, following the opening in the previous year of the Melbourne General Cemetery in Carlton. Despite the closure those who had claims on family plots continued to be interred in the Cemetery until 1917. An estimated 8,000 to 10,000 people were buried at the site from 1837 to 1917.
In March 1859, the Melbourne Town Council was granted the eastern triangular block for use as a market. The earliest surviving building is the wholesale Meat Market building. In 1874 it also began operating as a meat and produce retail market, and Sheds H and I were built for use by fruit and vegetable growers. The market was granted permission to take over some of the cemetery land under legislation in 1877, and following the exhumation of 45 burials, Sheds A-F were constructed in 1878. The market was officially opened as the 'Queen Victoria Market' in March of that same year. Sheds A-E were open on all sides with each divided by a service roadway, and Shed F was constructed with a brick wall on its southern side which divided the market from the remainder of the cemetery.
Two-storey terrace shop buildings constructed along Elizabeth and Victoria Streets in 1884 and 1887 respectively, provided a 'public' face to the market. Additional shops were also constructed on Victoria Street between 1890 and 1905.
Legislation in 1917 provided for the remainder of the cemetery land to be acquired for market purposes. The final burial took place in 1917, and as part of the transition from cemetery to market, 914 bodies are known to have been exhumed and relocated from 1920 to 1922.
Developments from this time included the construction of Sheds K and L in the Upper Market in 1923 and in the Lower Market the Dairy Produce Hall in 1928 which provided dairy producers with dedicated accommodation. On the Upper Market site, the Market Square development of 1929-1930 provided storage for market traders and merchants in two rows of sixty brick stores. This development, of which only the Franklin Street Stores survive, enclosed the market site along Franklin Street, and resulted in the market taking over the last of the former cemetery land. Shed M was constructed in 1936 on the Upper Market site.
The John Batman Memorial, in the north-east of the carpark, was erected by public subscription in 1881. While no longer in its original location, the memorial recognises John Batman who was buried in the cemetery in 1839, with his remains relocated to Fawkner Cemetery in 1922.
In more recent years some of the buildings have been renovated to accommodate the changing needs of market stall holders and shoppers.
The Queen Victoria Market is on the traditional land of the Kulin Nation.
How is it significant?
The Queen Victoria Market is of historical, archaeological, social, architectural and aesthetic significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Queen Victoria Market is of historical significance as one of the great nineteenth century markets of Victoria and the only one surviving from a group of important central markets built by the corporation of the City of Melbourne. It is also of historical significance for remaining in operation from the 1870s.
The Queen Victoria Market is of historical significance as the site of Melbourne's first official cemetery, which was in use between 1837 and 1854, and intermittently from 1854 until its final closure in 1917.
The former cemetery site is of archaeological significance because it contains an estimated 6,500 to 9,000 burials. The site has the potential to yield information about the early population of Melbourne, including the Aboriginal and European communities, and their burial practices and customs.
The Queen Victoria Market is of social significance for its ongoing role and continued popularity as a fresh meat and vegetable market, shopping and meeting place for Victorians and visitors alike.
The Queen Victoria Market is of architectural significance for its remarkably intact collection of purpose built nineteenth and early twentieth century market buildings, which demonstrate the largely utilitarian style adopted for historic market places.
The Elizabeth Street and Victoria Street terraces are of aesthetic significance for their distinctive demonstration of an attempt to create a more appealing 'public' street frontage and increase revenue by enclosing the market and concealing the stalls behind a row of nineteenth century shops.'