The site of this estate was once the Richmond Racecourse, operated by the notorious entrepreneur John Wren from 1907. Located at the eastern end of Bridge Road, it was Melbourne's principal trotting track for many years before it closed in 1932. (93)
The inner suburban slum abolition campaign of The Herald newspaper and social reformer, F Oswald Barnett (94), had inspired the formation of a new State Government committee (Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board) to seek out inner city housing development sites for local government slum reclamation. One such site arose in 1935 when John Wren's Victorian Trotting and Racing Association informed Richmond Council that its lease on the Richmond Racecourse was due to expire the following February. Council was unable to raise the ú200,000 required to build the new housing estate so the area of the proposed estate was reduced by 10 percent and 15 of the 157 acres was sold to British Australasian Tobacco as a factory site, as a form of subsidy.
The result was an estate in the English cottage style as inspired by public housing in England and seen elsewhere at the Garden City development and early Housing Commission of Victoria estates at Newport and Sunshine. There was consistent use of materials and detailing in both two storey and single storey house formats; including clinker bricks, terracotta tiles, timber framed double-hung sash windows and low brick front fences, with a communal landscape approach that united front gardens along the streets. The cul-de-sac planning was also distinctive and had been used in only a small number of estates at that time (see the AV Jennings' estate at Ivanhoe).
The estate was completed in 1941. The streets were named after the trade unionist and MHR for Yarra, Frank Tudor, and Richmond Councillors O'Connell, Lightfoot, Vesper, Longfield and Jackson. (95) The properties have gradually moved from Housing Commission tenure into private ownership with approximately only half the residents being public tenants by the end of the 20th century.
Main development period
The main development period in the Racecourse Heritage Overlay Area is that of the early 1940s.
Contributory elements include (but not exclusively) houses built by the 1940s, with typically:
. Pitched gabled or hipped roofs;
. One storey wall heights (but with some two storey);
. Chimneys of face red brickwork with capping course;
. Entrance porch elements facing the street or set on the side;
. Less than 40% of the street wall face comprised with openings such as windows and doors, with timber joinery; and
. Front gardens, originally bordered by low brick pier and panel front fences of around 450mm panel height, with 900mm high piers at gateways;
Contributory elements also include:
. Stone kerbs and concrete footpaths;
. Street and allotment layout, particularly the cul-de-sac configuration; and
. Privet hedges at fence lines.
How is it significant?
HO331 Racecourse Heritage Overlay Area, Richmond is historically significant to the City of Yarra (National Estate Register [NER] Criteria E1, A4)
Why is it significant?
The Racecourse Heritage Overlay Area is significant:
. As the first public housing estate to be built in Richmond and as an estate developed by Richmond Council rather than the State Government or the Housing Commission of Victoria (1938-);
. For its symbolism of the site of John Wren's popular trotting track, Richmond Racecourse;
. As a remarkable visually homogenous collection of dwellings, in a simplified English cottage style inspired by public housing in England, with consistent use of materials and detailing, including clinker bricks, terracotta tiles, timber-framed double hung sash windows and low brick front fences;
. For the innovative cul-de-sac planning, used previously in only a small number of estates at that time, and the communal landscape approach that saw use of low fences and consistent use of boundary hedges.
93 City of Richmond. Copping It Sweet: Shared Memories of Richmond. Richmond. 1988. pp167.
94 See ADB online: Barnett, Frederick Oswald (1883 - 1972) http://www.adb.online.anu.edu.au/biogs