The Former Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company (MT & O Co) Stables at North Fitzroy, a corrugated iron-clad timber structure built in 1879-1880.
Horse omnibuses, or horse buses, were a form of public transport which transported people along regular road routes by means of horse-drawn carriages. Horse omnibuses are said to have operated in Melbourne from the 1840s, and by 1860 Melbourne had 28 horse bus lines. The Melbourne Omnibus Company (which became the MT & O Co in 1877) was established in 1869, operating a fleet of eleven horse-drawn buses from the city to Fitzroy, and soon was also servicing the suburbs of Richmond, Carlton and North Melbourne. By 1881 its fleet consisted of 158 horse buses, each seating 12-14 passengers, and services extended as far as Moonee Ponds, Prahran and Brunswick. Stables were built by the company throughout the inner suburbs, including North Fitzroy, Fitzroy, North Melbourne, Richmond, Clifton Hill, South Melbourne, St Kilda, Moonee Ponds, Prahran and Port Melbourne. The stables at North Fitzroy were built by the company in 1879-80 and sold by them in 1888. The MT & O Co began to open cable and horse tram lines from 1885, though horse trams continued to be used on less frequented routes until the 1920s.The building continued in use as a livery stable (where privately-owned horses could be kept for a fee) at least until the 1920s. During the following decades it was used successively by the Melbourne fish and rabbit market as a place to scale and skin their produce, as a cabinet-maker's workshop, as an army truck depot during World War II, as a car repair shop and as an art studio for students from the local school. In 1972 the building was converted into a residence and studio by the artist Murray Walker.
The Former Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Stables comprise three parallel adjoining gable-roofed shed-like structures, almost entirely covering the title holding and bounded by bluestone laneways. On the east side is a narrow two-storeyed structure clad with unpainted corrugated iron, which retains a projecting loft beam at the ridge and timber loft doors at first floor, features typical of stables where fodder was stored above ground level. The two adjacent structures are of one storey, clad in painted corrugated iron, with timber-framed windows in the gable apex at both ends. There is a modern metal roller door in the centre of the north side, and another diagonally-placed on the north-west corner, with the roof line projecting over the truncated corner. All the roofs are clad with corrugated iron. The central and west sheds have shallow roof ventilators along the ridges. The original open interior has been converted for residential use.
This site is part of the traditional land of the Wurundjeri people.
How is it significant?
The Former Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Stables at North Fitzroy are of architectural and historical significance to the State of Victoria and satisfy the following criterion for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion B Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
Why is it significant?
The Former Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Stables are significant at the State level for the following reasons:
The Former Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Stables are historically significant for their association with the Melbourne Omnibus Company, subsequently the MT & O Co, which established the first large-scale street public transport system in Victoria. The company's horse omnibus service was essential to the development of Melbourne's inner suburbs in the 1870s and 1880s and was the basis on which Melbourne's extensive cable tram network was developed. The Fitzroy North stables are evidence of an early and thriving public transport system that once operated in the inner suburbs. The building was still used as a livery stable, where privately-owned horses could be kept for a fee, in c1920 and is therefore significant for its continuing association with horse transport from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century. [Criterion A]
The Former Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Stables are a rare surviving example of a structure associated with the first stage of street public transport in Melbourne, before horse-drawn transport began to be replaced by cable trams in the late nineteenth century. It is a rare surviving example of a large timber and iron stable building. While several large masonry nineteenth century stable buildings survive in Victoria, many substantial stables at the time were built of timber and iron, and few of these have survived. The North Fitzroy stable is the only known surviving example of a horse omnibus stable which continued to be used in the cable tram era. It is also significant as a rare surviving example of a former livery stable. [Criterion B]
The Former Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Stables are architecturally significant as a fine example of a large-scale nineteenth century timber and iron stable building. The building demonstrates the form and scale of the substantial stables constructed in the nineteenth century to accommodate the large numbers of horses essential for public transport. [Criterion D]
The Former Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Stables at North Fitzroy are also significant for the following reasons, but not at the State level:
The Former Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Stables are historically significant for their association with the development of the suburb of Fitzroy North.
The Former Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company Stables are significant for their association with the three founders of the company, Francis B Clapp, Henry Hoyt and William McCulloch, who were foremost in the development of stagecoach and carrying services throughout Victoria after the gold rush. The stables are also significant as the home and studio for forty years of the eminent artist Murray Walker.