Melbourne takes its name from British statesman Lord Melbourne. William Lamb, also known as Lord Melbourne, was a confidant and mentor to Queen Victoria in her younger years. Melbourne is the capital of Australia’s State of Victoria, and it was Queen Victoria herself who decided to name the city after Lord Melbourne.
The First Settlers
Europeans first arrived at the Melbourne area in 1803, but settlement didn’t begin in earnest until 1835. Europeans bought land from the native Dutigalla clan and settled on the Yarra River. Another group of settlers soon followed, and settlement soon became steady in the area. In 1845, Melbourne became home to Saint James Old Cathedral. It’s the oldest Catholic church in the State of Victoria. In 1842, the history of Melbourne became official with the city’s formal incorporation and its own mayor.
Statehood and a Gold Rush
In 1851 the State of Victoria officially split from neighboring state New South Wales. Melbourne became the capital city of Victoria. The administrative shift was timely, since eager fortune seekers found gold in the state, sparking a gold rush. Settlement and economy activity in the region boomed. Along with the economic boom came quick development in the city. The Princes Bridge, Melbourne University and the Royal Melbourne Hospital were all welcome additions during the gold rush era. A railroad soon followed and the famed Flinders Street Station arrived in 1854.
A Bit of Darkness In Its Past
Justice in the new city was swift and punishing in the 1800s, with 133 hangings in the Old Melbourne Jail. Bushranger Ned Kelly was one of those hanged. The jail didn’t discriminate between serious offenders, small crimes and the mentally ill, and instead housed them all together in close quarters.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Melbourne saw its way through both continued economic development and a real estate crash that sparked a significant depression. Electric trams came to the city and monuments and buildings continued to dot the city landscape, such as the Manchester Unity Building and the Shrine of Remembrance.
Melbourne proudly hosted the summer Olympics in 1956. Melbourne Airport began international service in 1970. With a surge of tourism in the 20th century and beyond, Melbourne is now a diverse and thriving city with a population of more than three million.