Queen Victoria Market
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The Queen Victoria Market (also known as the Queen Vic Markets or the Queen Vic, and locally as Vic Market) is a major landmark in Melbourne, Australia, and at around seven hectares (17 acres) is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. The Market is significant to Melbourne's culture and heritage and has been listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. The Market is not named after Queen Victoria, but instead gets its name from its location on the corner of Queen and Victoria Streets, Melbourne.
The Queen Victoria Market is the only surviving 19th century market in the Melbourne central business district. There were once three major markets in the Melbourne CBD, but two of them, the Eastern Market and Western Market, both opened before the Queen Victoria, closed in the 1960s. It also forms part of an important collection of surviving Victorian markets which includes the inner suburban Prahran Market and South Melbourne Market.
Since its conception in 1878, Queen Victoria Market has had a colourful and varied history. The site has been a cemetery, a livestock market and a wholesale fruit and vegetable market. Each of these operations has its own vibrant history.
Before the Market
The Western Market was Melbourne’s first official fruit and vegetable market, established a mere 6 years after settlement began. Ultimately a wholesale cased fruit market, it lasted for ninety years taking up the entire block bounded by Market, Collins and Williams Streets and Flinders Lane in the middle of Melbourne’s central business district.
The further development and expansion of Melbourne to the east led to the establishment of the Eastern Market. Much more popular than the Western Market, the Eastern Market was heavily frequented by the general public. Its growth over time and public popularity led to the decline of the Western Market.
The land on which the Market now exists was once part of the Old Melbourne Cemetery. Between 1837 and 1854, a large portion of the land, an estimated 10,000 early settlers (including explorer John Batman) were buried on the site. When the Market was expanded upon the site of the original cemetery in 1917, 914 bodies were exhumed and re-buried in other cemeteries around Melbourne. Around 9,000 bodies still remain buried below the car park of the Market.
Creation of the Lower Market
The Lower Market (Deli Hall, Meat & Fish Hall and H & I Sheds) was originally set aside in 1857 for a fruit and vegetable market due to over-crowding and congestion at the Eastern Market. However the location was contested due to its proximity to the Old Melbourne Cemetery. It was unpopular with market gardeners who refused to use the space. This resulted in the space becoming a livestock and hay market (the Meat Market Reserve) until 1867 when a substantial brick building (the Meat Hall) was erected on the corner of Elizabeth and Victoria Street. Despite spending a short time as a Wholesale Meat Market, this building eventually became a retail Meat and Fish Market and slaughterhouse.
In the year of its official founding, the Market expanded into wholesale and retail fruit and vegetable trading which prompted the construction of G, H, I & J Sheds. H & I Sheds still stand in their original positions however G Shed was removed to construct the loading bay for the Meat Hall and J Shed later burnt down only to be replaced with a public plaza.
The Elizabeth Street shops were constructed in 1880 following the realignment of Elizabeth Street which also allowed the well-known Meat & Fish Hall façade to be constructed in 1884.
Creation of the Upper Market
The Upper Market - unlike the Lower Market - was not originally reserved as a marketplace. The site had undergone a number of uses including a school and a drill hall but was most famously the site of Melbourne’s first cemetery. Construction of A-F Sheds began in 1877 at the Victoria Street end of the Market since this area contained the least used section of the cemetery. By 1930, the entire Upper Market site (including K and L Sheds) had been constructed and extended all the way up to Peel Street.
Between 1929 and 1930 the City of Melbourne constructed 60 brick stores, which were located on the current site of the car park, to house the wholesale agents and merchants. However this was short lived after allegations of corruption and racketeering caused a Royal Commission (1960) which led to the decision to relocate the Wholesale Market to Footscray in 1969. All that remains today is a single row of these stores along Franklin Street.
Protecting the Market
A 1964 City of Melbourne report advocated for redevelopment of the site as a 1200 space car park, which would have become the largest in the city centre.
The separation of the Wholesale Market from the Retail Market lead to a plan to redevelop the Queen Victoria Market site into a trade centre, office and hotel complex in the 1970s. However, public outcry prevented this and resulted in the Market being classified by the National Trust. Later[when?], the Market site and its buildings were listed on the Historic Buildings Register. The Queen Victoria Market survives today as the largest and most intact of Melbourne’s great nineteenth century markets.
Today, the Market is a major Melbourne tourist destination, offering a variety of fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood, gourmet and delicatessen foods as well as specialty delicacies. It also has a large non-food related market, selling a diverse range of clothing, shoes, jewellery and handmade arts and crafts.
The Market is open every day of the week except Mondays and Wednesdays. On Wednesday evenings in the summer months, there is a night market which offers dining, bars, live entertainment and a variety of other stalls.
In 2003 the market was equipped with solar panels that harness enough energy to power all the market's clients, and provide a surplus.
In January 2010, the Herald Sun reported that city planners wanted to transform the market into a "gourmet hub" by introducing upmarket food stalls. Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said he brought up the idea after visiting London's Borough Market, which has a "boutique" feel that could work in Melbourne.
In May 2015 the City of Melbourne draft 2015-2016 budget allocated $80.64 million for investment in the Queen Victoria Market.
The Queen Victoria Market's Twitter account is under the handle of @VicMarket, and it is used to primarily promote events that occur there such as the Melbourne BBQ Festival and Night Markets.
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- Cooper, Mex (11 March 2011). "Bodies under Queen Vic haunt market revamp". The Age. Archived from the original on 2017-02-07. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
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- 'Report on a planning scheme for the Central Business Area of the City of Melbourne'. E.F.Borrie Town Planner. City of Melbourne. 1st October, 1964
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- "Queen Vic Market (@VicMarket) | Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
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