The Church Street Heritage Overlay Area includes parts of the first suburban Crown Allotments sold in the City, being Crown Portions 20, 21, 26 and 27, each 25 acres in area. Allotments 21 and 22 were purchased in 1839 by Rev. Joseph Docker (squatter), Allotment 20 by Charles Williams (auctioneer), and Allotment 26 by W H Yaldwyn (squatter, banker).
The Waltham Street and Darlington Parade areas were subdivided in 1853 and further subdivided in the 1880s. Docker had subdivided his two allotments by 1853, with plans for a model village set out on the flat below his townhouse at 370 Church Street.
By the turn of the century, most of the Heritage Overlay Area was developed. The topography of the Heritage Overlay Area, the highest point in Richmond, attracted both the churches and the wealthier colonists with the result that the majority of the earliest residences were of a more substantial nature compared with other sections of Richmond.
This area has remained one of the most prestigious parts of Richmond for residential development. As an example, Howard Lawson's Elmhurst Flat block of 1934 aimed to tap into this prestigious residential location, paralleling with his significant Hollywood style Beverley Hills and Stratton Heights Flats, sited across the Yarra River at South Yarra.
By 1855, villas with large gardens and orchards had been established in Church Street between Brougham and Elm Streets. Early houses which survive include Doery House (353 Church Street) and Messenger House (333 Church Street, formerly Stonehenge), the latter being built prior to 1843 for Captain John Roach (28) and remodelled in the Edwardian period.
Major church complexes
Three major church complexes were established in the Heritage Overlay Area in the mid-1800s. St Stephen's Anglican Church (1850-1876) at 360 Church Street was designed by Blackburn and Newson on land donated to the church by the Rev. Joseph Docker and is one of the earliest bluestone churches built in Victoria. The Wesleyans began the construction of a temporary timber chapel (later the schoolhouse) in 1853, bluestone chapel in 1858, and added a schoolhouse (1871) and a parsonage (1876). St Ignatius' Roman Catholic Church (326) was built in stages between 1867 and 1928, to a design by prominent architect William Wardell, with the bluestone Presbytery added in 1872.
Other non-residential developments in the Heritage Overlay Area included the former Richmond United Friendly Society Dispensary (1884; 294 Church Street), and the Hibernian Hall (1872; 316 Church Street), which was built as a temperance hall. The Richmond RSL was built in 1922, as an expression of the continuing premier civic status of this part of Church Street in the 20thcentury. The Richmond Library is the most recent civic development in the area.
Commercial development extended north from the major thoroughfares of Swan St and south from Bridge Road in the late Victorian and Edwardian-eras.
Main development era
The main development period evident in the heritage overlay is that of the Victorian and Edwardian-period, with a contribution from some well preserved inter-war buildings and individually significant places of all eras. Large houses, religious and public buildings from this period are the key elements in the heritage overlay.
The Church Street Heritage Overlay contributory elements include (but not exclusively) large detached Victorian-era and Edwardian-era and small attached Victorian-era, one and two storey houses having typically:
. pitched gabled or hipped roofs, with some facade parapets,
. face brick (red, bichrome and polychrome) or stucco walls;
. Pitched roofs, some towers and spires positioned to be visible from a distance;
. Fenced yards, with potential use of timber or iron pickets and a stone base for the frontage fence;
. Two storey and greater wall heights;
. Stone, masonry or stuccoed masonry facades, slate or tiled roofs; and
. Less than 40% of the street wall face comprised with openings such as windows and doors.
Contributory elements also include:
Public infrastructure, expressive of the Victorian and Edwardian-eras such as stone pitched road paving, kerbs and channels, and asphalt paved footpaths - mainly in side streets.
Many significant buildings within the Heritage Overlay Area have their own heritage overlay (HO241, HO242, and the St Ignatius complex) but nevertheless are contributory to the Church St Heritage Overlay Area.
How is it significant?
HO315 Church Street Heritage Overlay Area, Richmond is aesthetically and historically significant to the City of Yarra (National Estate Register [NER]Criteria E1, A4)
Why is it significant?
The Church Street Heritage Overlay Area is significant:
. As one of the first parts of Richmond to be subdivided and developed, as expressed by early buildings like Messenger House 333 Church Street, from the 1840s;
. As the chosen site for a high number of individually significant 19th and early 20th century buildings set in grounds and including early ecclesiastical and civic buildings, and some Melbourne landmarks, as well as substantial residential buildings that were attracted to the area by its elevated topography, high amenity and proximity to churches;
. As the site of key civic or institutional buildings in Richmond from the 19th century through to the 1920s (i.e. The Richmond RSL Hall); and
. For its significant architecture such as the William Wardell designed St.Ignatius Roman Catholic Church as a well known and prominent landmark across the metropolitan area.
The heritage character of the precinct is also supported by the commercial development extending up Church St from the Swan St and Bridge Road shopping areas with shops dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as part of the cultural context of Victorian and Edwardian-era life on the hill.
28 J U White.Early Residents and Property Owners in Richmond. 1979. p 13.