Bearbrass: Imagining early Melbourne by Robyn Annear

by
May 1995, no. 170

Bearbrass: Imagining early Melbourne by Robyn Annear

Mandarin, $18.95 pb, 272 pp

Bearbrass: Imagining early Melbourne by Robyn Annear

by
May 1995, no. 170

Some time ago, I was curious about steam cars and found an advertisement, dating from the 1920s, for the sole Victorian distributor of the Stanley Steamer. The address was Flinders Lane, the street in Melbourne which exudes more personality than most of the others combined. I discovered that the building in question had been turned into a printshop. But its origins as a motor garage were obvious. Such unprepossessing buildings as service stations survive more by good luck and stubbornness than by design. So I was strangely impressed. All the more so because Flinders Lane now boasts a boutique hotel with a swimming pool that overhangs the street. You can paddle out and look down on the traffic swimming below you like the lost city of Atlantis.

Robyn Annear is a tourist in a city of which virtually none of the physical fabric survives. Bearbrass is a recreation of Melbourne between 1834 and 1851. It was evidently a bibulous settlement. By 1847, there were a hundred licensed premises and many intersections had a hotel on each corner, a fact described by Annear as ‘an impressive Monopoly score’. Grog was responsible for many tragedies and a number of humorous incidents. But no matter how much they drank, there is no early Melbournian who is quoted as saying the place was ‘marvellous’.

Michael McGirr reviews 'Bearbrass: Imagining early Melbourne' by Robyn Annear

Bearbrass: Imagining early Melbourne

by Robyn Annear

Mandarin, $18.95 pb, 272 pp

Leave a comment

If you are an ABR subscriber, you will need to sign in to post a comment.

If you have forgotten your sign in details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to ABR Comments. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.