The Royal Historical Society of Victoria is much saddened at the death of long-serving member, His Honour Paul Mullaly QC. Paul contributed substantially to the RHSV over many years and in many ways however his greatest contribution has been his transcription and annotation of Judge Willis’ Port Phillip Casebooks, for which legal scholars will always be in his debt.

Paul’s work can be found on a mini-website within the RHSV website here: The Judge Willis Casebooks 

The RHSV extends sympathy to Paul’s family.



Inspired by a sketch of Batman’s Hill which was the western boundary of Melbourne during the 1830s, Ashley Smith has done a deep dive into the dubious history of duels fought on the hill. The hill was eventually levelled in the 1860s to make way for extensions to the Spencer Street Railway Station but its infamy lives on in the stories of duels when gentlemen put their lives on the line to defend their honour or the honour of a woman.


The Howitt family’s life in the inner city in pre-goldrush times

Cheryl Griffin’s latest article in CBD News has just been published – all about of a little ramshackle house that could have been found in Spring Street for over 50 after it was built in 1840.

When Godfrey Howitt, his brother Richard and other members of their family, decided to settle in Port Phillip in April 1840, Godfrey and Richard brought a home and that is what you see here.

His prefabricated wooden cottage fronted Spring St in the south-east corner of the CBD and his land,


The grandeur of Spring St, early autumn 1899

The wealth and extravagance of the 1880s, the era of Marvellous Melbourne, was long gone when this photograph was taken, but it is still evident in the two main buildings you see here – the Grand Hotel on the left and the Princess Theatre on the right.

The ornate Princess Theatre that dominates this streetscape gives no sense of the terrible fate that overtook Victorian society in the 1890s. The collapse of the banks and the suffering that followed overwhelmed almost every aspect of life.


It’s the 1920s and you’ve arrived at Spencer Street …

Imagine you’re an eager tourist arriving at Spencer Street Station in the late 1920s or early 1930s.

With your back to the acrid coal smoke and much-needed sea breeze of the docks, you take one of the numerous passageways to the front entrance of the station and there, across the street at the corner of Spencer and Little Collins, you find the Hotel Alexander, the swankiest hotel in an otherwise no-frills end of the city

Read more of Ashley Smith’s story here in Docklands News (scroll down to P18)



Statement on the John Curtin Hotel

Thursday, 24 March 2022

The Royal Historical Society of Victoria strongly supports the nomination of the John Curtin Hotel to the Victorian Heritage Register. Indeed, the RHSV has been providing historical information to assist the National Trust and Trades Hall with the nomination. On the basis of its historical associations alone, the hotel is clearly of state significance. We note, however, that it is also of some architectural significance.


The birth of Victoria Dock

In the early 1930s Victoria Dock was one of the biggest sites for trade and export in Melbourne. A constant queue of ships sailed in, unloaded their cargo, recharged and reloaded, then left for the
next port. The RHSV’s researcher, Ashley Smith, has just written a great article about the birth of Victoria Dock for Docklands News (March edition)

Read the article here: (scroll down to P18)


Remembering Stuart Macintyre: Historian, Mentor, Colleague. A two-day symposium

24th-25th February 2022
Arts West North Tower Room 253 The University of Melbourne

Professor Stuart Macintyre (1947-2021) was one of Australia’s most outstanding historians and public intellectuals. An extraordinarily prodigious scholar, his scholarship covered many fields including the history of social movements, Australian public policy, intellectual history and labour history. Stuart was an inspiring teacher and PhD supervisor and mentor; his generous support of the careers of others was a gift from which many have benefited over several decades.


All aboard for Spencer Street

Ashley Smith’s latest article for Docklands News (Feb 2022) has just been published.

“Whilst hauling goods and passengers to and from the nearby wharves and the city, a single steam engine stops at Spencer Street Station (now Southern Cross Station) to smile for the camera.

This photo was taken by photographer Charles Nettleton, who extensively recorded Melbourne and its people (including Ned Kelly) for over 30 years but the exact date of this image is unknown.


RHSV, on behalf of 340 historical societies in Victoria, makes submission on heritage protection

Monday 31 January 2022
The RHSV’s Heritage Committee, chaired by Emeritus Professor Charles Sowerwine has just made its submission to the Parliament of Victoria, Legislative Council Environment and Planning Committee Inquiry to examine Planning and Environment Act

The Royal Historical Society of Victoria (RHSV) is the peak body representing approximately 340 community historical societies throughout Victoria. Our members are concerned at the increasing loss of precious heritage and so we welcome this Inquiry. We believe there has been a calamitous decline in the protection afforded local heritage by the Heritage Overlay (HO) as well as a decline in support for Councils to ensure that sites are covered by the HO.


St James Old Cathedral – a link with Melbourne’s past

Cheryl Griffin’s wonderful article on St James Old Cathedral in King Street, facing Flagstaff Gardens, has just been published in the February edition of CBD News.

“There are so many reasons why you should visit St James Old Cathedral, located on the corner of King and Batman streets, just across the road from Flagstaff Gardens.

The oldest church in Melbourne, it is the only surviving work of colonial architect Robert Russell who had been employed in Melbourne’s earliest days as a surveyor.


RHSV seeks Project Officer to work on VCHA


The Royal Historical Society of Victoria is looking for a part-time project officer to work approx 1 day per week for about 7 months (April – October 2022) from our 1938 heritage-listed home on Flagstaff Gardens and a short stroll from Queen Victoria Market. The full position description can be read by clicking on the link below. 


We are looking for someone with strong administrative skills to work on the application and judging process of the Victorian Community History Awards (VCHA) which are run annually.



The RHSV is looking for a fabulous tech-savvy marketeer to join our team in the Drill Hall on Flagstaff Gardens. This is a part-time position which focuses about 90% of the time on social media but there is also more old-fashioned marketing involved too. And endless possibilities as we get into creating more digital content etc

The closing date for applications is 5pm Tue 1 February 2022 so get your skates on if you want to apply or want to alert the perfect person for this job.


Hoddle Grid heritage success

A wonderful victory for the City of Melbourne and future Melburnians with their huge heritage study covering the City of Melbourne’s Hoddle Grid being almost fully accepted. The independent Planning Panel’s report, recently handed down, supported the proposed new heritage overlays covering 137 sites plus five new precincts (only 9 sites were rejected).

The RHSV’s Heritage Committee made major submissions to Future Melbourne Committee and to the independent Planning Panel which was appointed by the Minister for Planning to consider the amendment and submissions to Melbourne Planning Scheme Amendment C387.