FORMER ROYAL MINT
280-318 WILLIAM STREET AND 391-429 LATROBE STREET AND 388-426 LITTLE LONSDALE STREET MELBOURNE, MELBOURNE CITY
Statement of Significance
What is significant?
The Former Royal Mint was designed by John James Clark of the Public Works Office. Design work began in 1869 and it was built during 1871-72 by the contractors William Murray and Company of Emerald Hill, and Martin and Peacock of West Melbourne. The complex originally contained coin production facilities, administration and residential quarters and associated structures, but all that remains now are the two-storey office building and residence, two gate-houses, perimeter walling and palisading. The main two storey building is a rendered brick structure on a heavy rusticated base. Unlike the Palladian norm, the piano nobile is on the ground floor. The first floor features paired ionic columns, while an attic storey features oval windows. The perimeter wall is an imposing brick construction with large wrought iron gates and iron lamps.
How is it significant?
The Former Royal Mint is of historical and architectural significance to the State of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
The Former Royal Mint is of historical significance because of its important role in the economic, financial and political development of Victoria for nearly 100 years. Lobbying for a mint to be established in Australia began soon after the discovery of gold. Such an institution was considered by its proponents not only as an efficient way of providing currency for the colonies, but as an important sign of colonial independence and maturity. As such it reflects the growing wealth and confidence of gold-rush era Melbourne. As a branch of the Royal Mint, London, it initially bought gold and minted only gold sovereigns until 1916. The first Australian silver coins were minted in 1916, after the Federal Constitution gave the Commonwealth sole powers in the minting of coinage. The first Australian pennies and halfpennies were produced in 1927. When the Sydney Mint closed in 1926, the Melbourne Royal Mint became the only mint in Australia until it ceased operations in 1968.
The Former Royal Mint is of architectural significance as one of the most impressive 19th century government buildings in Victoria, and for its associations with John James Clark.
The administration building was styled after Raphael's Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli in Rome (1515). Its restrained ornamentation and dignified portico reflect the prestigious yet functional nature of the Mint. It is one of the finest examples of conservative classicism in Australia. Clark (1838-1915), who had a distinguished career in the office of the Colonial Architect (later Public Works Department) from 1852, when he was 14, until 1878, was responsible for designing a number of important colonial government buildings including the Government Printing Office (1856) and the Treasury (1857). He later went on to design major buildings in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.
FORMER ROYAL MINT - HistoryContextual History:History of Place:
Lobbying for a Victorian mint, to mint the gold discovered locally, began in1852. However, New South Wales' had made an earlier application to the Imperial Government, which decided to establish a branch of the Royal Mint in Sydney in 1853. The issue was not raised again in Victoria until the 1859 elections, after which the Home Government was again petitioned to construct a branch of the Royal Mint in Melbourne. It eventually acquiesced and the Melbourne establishment was commenced in 1869.
The extant building is not the original design for the Mint building. The original was deemed too large and expensive, and Clark was asked to produce a more modest and less ornamented structure. Because the machinery for the coin minting was already on the way, however, the floor plans of the operative departments could not be altered.
The site that was chosen for the new Mint was originally occupied by an Exhibition Building.
The mint operated from 1872 producing colonial and Australian coinage for 96 years. It was then occupied by the National Gallery of Victoria until a permanent gallery was completed. It has since served as a Teacher's Tribunal and a Marriage Registry Office.
Associated People: Owner VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT;
FORMER ROYAL MINT - Plaque Citation
This outstanding Renaissance Revival style complex was designed by Public Works Department architect J J Clark. It was built in 1869-70 to mint coins for the colony using Victorian gold and British dies, and operated from 1872 to 1968.
FORMER ROYAL MINT - Permit ExemptionsGeneral Exemptions:General exemptions apply to all places and objects included in the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR). General exemptions have been designed to allow everyday activities, maintenance and changes to your property, which don’t harm its cultural heritage significance, to proceed without the need to obtain approvals under the Heritage Act 2017.Specific exemptions may also apply to your registered place or object. If applicable, these are listed below. Specific exemptions are tailored to the conservation and management needs of an individual registered place or object and set out works and activities that are exempt from the requirements of a permit. Specific exemptions prevail if they conflict with general exemptions. Find out more about heritage permit exemptions here.
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