The Port Melbourne Naval Drill Hall was built in 1912 to the design of Commonwealth Department of Works architect JS Murdoch, and is one of the first major buildings constructed for the newly formed Royal Australian Navy. The drill hall adjoins the former Sandridge Post Office which was built in 1862 to the design of Victorian Public Works Department architect JJ Clark by builders Griffiths and Co. The design, apart from being executed in brick rather than bluestone, is identical to the Kilmore Post Office (HR1190) usually attributed to Henry Williams but possibly also by Clark. The former post and telegraph office was transferred to the Commonwealth on Federation. The building was adapted for use as naval offices in 1911on the completion of a new post office further along Bay Street. The former post office is a distinguished Italianate design in tri-chrome brickwork and has had several reasonably sympathetic additions and alterations to adapt it for office use. The naval drill hall is a fine example of Edwardian Free Classical architecture distinguished by an assured handling of massing and materials using rough stone plinths, shaped and plain red bricks, and dressed sandstone in the English Arts and Crafts tradition.
The building is unusual in the context of other militia drill halls of the period which were typically constructed of timber and corrugated iron. It is more like Murdoch's other naval buildings at HMAS Cerberus at Crib Point and the former Royal Australian Field Artillery Barracks at Maribyrnong (HR1098). The naval drill hall was used as a recruiting centre in both World Wars and since the demolition of the nearby HMAS Lonsdale and the Victualling Stores is the last remaining place in Port Melbourne with naval links.
The Naval Drill Hall and Former Post Office Port Melbourne are historically and architecturally important to the State of Victoria.
The Naval Drill Hall and Former Post Office are historically important for their long associations with naval training in Victoria. Port Melbourne, along with Williamstown, is historically important in the development of the Royal Australian Navy. Victoria had the most powerful and best organised of the colonial naval forces at Federation, and Port Melbourne was the home of naval militia training. After Federation the continuing naval importance of Port Melbourne was recognised by the construction of the drill hall. The significance of the drill hall is accentuated by the high quality of its design and materials which were unusual in the militia context of the period. The Naval Drill Hall and Former Post Office are historically important as the last remaining tangible link with naval history in Port Melbourne.
The Naval Drill Hall is architecturally significant as an important Victorian design of Commonwealth architect John Smith Murdoch whose nationally important works include Old Parliament House and Yarralumla Canberra, HMAS Cerberus Crib Point, RAAF Point Cook and the former High Court 450 Little Bourke Street and the former Mail Exchange Spencer Street Melbourne. Former Post Office is architecturally significant as a design of noted Victorian Public Works architect John James Clark whose most famous work in a long and distinguished career was the Old Treasury building.
NAVAL DRILL HALL AND FORMER POST OFFICE - Permit Exemptions
EXEMPTIONS FROM PERMITS:
(Classes of works or activities which may be undertaken without a permit under
Part 4 of the Heritage Act 1995)
All exempted alterations are to be planned and carried out in a manner which
prevents damage to the fabric of the registered place or object.
Should it become apparent during further inspection or the carrying out of
alterations that original or previously hidden or inaccessible details of the
place or object are revealed which relate to the significance of the place or
object, then the exemption covering such alteration shall cease and the
Executive Director shall be notified as soon as possible.
If there is a conservation policy and plan approved by the Executive Director,
all works shall be in accordance with it (see below).
Nothing in this declaration prevents the Executive Director from amending or
rescinding all or any of the permit exemptions.
Nothing in this declaration exempts owners or their agents from the
responsibility to seek relevant planning or building permits from the
responsible authority where applicable.
No permits are required for works which are in accordance with the
conservation recommendations stipulated in pages 110-123 of Former Post Office
and Naval Drill Hall, Port Melbourne, Victoria: Charge of Annuity Report
prepared for the Department of Administrative Services Property Group by
Australian Construction Services, Department of Administrative Services
Heritage and Environment Section, Vic/Tas Region, 1988. (Authors: Ivar Nelsen,
Patrick Miller and Terry Sawyer)