What is significant?
The former Denton Hat Mills factory complex is a large and important 19th century factory complex, comparable to similar establishments in England and America. By the 1880s the Denton Hat Mills company was a leading exporter of hats to the other Australian colonies. The existing polychrome brick factory was built c1888, replacing the factory which was established on the site by James Hobson Turner, a local tanner and Collingwood Town Councillor, in 1874. It is an example of a very early extant factory complex, its chimney stack dating from c1890. Portions of the Nicholson Street section may date from as
early as 1888.
How is it significant?
The former Denton Hat Mills factory complex is of historical, architectural and scientific significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it Significant?
The Denton Hat Mills complex has historical significance for its associations with the hat making industry and clothing trade in Melbourne since 1874. The factory rapidly grew to be one of the suburb’s largest, reflecting the prosperity of the Denton Hat Mills company. Three early prominent hat manufacturers, James Hobson Turner, Thomas Shelmerdine and Thomas Davison were associated with the Mills, as well as the important merchants, importers and warehousemen, George and Leader Stevenson and, from the 1890s, the brothers John and George Bruce, principal partners in Victoria's leading softgoods house, Paterson, Laing and Bruce.
The Denton Hat Mills complex has architectural significance for its associations with the important Melbourne architect, William Pitt (1855-1918), who designed some of Melbourne's most notable buildings, including the Princess Theatre and the Rialto and Olderfleet Buildings in Collins Street. The Denton Hat Mills is one of a number of significant large factory complexes designed by Pitt. It is thought to represent some of his earliest extant factory designs, predating his 1890s work at Foy and Gibson and the Victoria Brewery and his 1909 work at Bryant and May.
The Denton Hat Mills complex is of scientific significance because it was Australia's first steam-powered hat factory and one of only ten percent of all Victorian clothing factories of the 1880s which boasted powered/mechanized plant.