Point Gellibrand

Port Heritage Trail - Site 1

Changes in transport technology, bigger ships and the changing use of the river since the mid-19th century mean Melbourne’s waterways have changed considerably and continuously.

River access to Melbourne in the mid-19th century was difficult. The sand bar at the mouth of the Yarra River stopped big ships entering, so they had to anchor in Hobsons Bay and ferry goods and passengers upstream.

In 1843, the Melbourne Town Council surveyed the Yarra River because everything for the growing population (nearly 20,000 people) had to be brought up the river. Building the Point Gellibrand Railway Pier in 1859 meant ships could dock there and transport their goods to Melbourne by rail. But direct access was still needed.

Established in 1877, the Melbourne Harbor Trust immediately assessed the needs of the waterways and the harbour. This led to the building of the Coode Canal, now part of the Yarra River.

Over the years, the harbours and rivers have changed continuously in response to developments in shipping technology and bigger ships. Altering the course of the river and dredging the channels has given ships easier access.

The port, and the industries along the river’s banks, changed their use of the river over the years. This led to building wharves, improving and sometimes removing them.

Deep water access

Gellibrand Pier, October 1864Piers and jetties here have been important to Victoria’s shipping and industrial infrastructure since the 1830s.

Gellibrand and Breakwater piers are two of the earliest and most enduring. Wheat, wool and sheep were among the primary cargoes processed there in the 19th century.

Originally, the two piers branched from a point near the Time Ball Tower in Williamstown. Since then, large areas of land have been reclaimed, including the former small boat harbour in the ‘V’ between the piers.

In 1859, when Point Gellibrand Railway Pier opened, it was an important link between the deep water of Hobsons Bay and the growing city of Melbourne.

The original bluestone embankment led to a timber pier with four rail lines and weight cranes. Two wings on either side accommodated multiple ships at any time.

Today, much altered, Gellibrand Pier is part of a large oil handling facility.

Breakwater Pier was originally a barrier, protecting Gellibrand Pier and the Williamstown shoreline from currents and storms in Hobsons Bay.

Prisoners from the hulks moored in the bay built the first section in 1853 - a bluestone jetty. It is marked by the Breakwater Memorial Stone.

Later encased in an embankment at the landward end, it had rail lines incorporated into its timber-decked seaward end and staggered berths along its north side.

A Tide Gauge House recorded the depth of water at the mouth of the Yarra River until 1955. This is now at Commonwealth Reserve in Nelson Place, Williamstown.

Image above right: Gellibrand Pier, October 1864 (Source: Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria)

Port Heritage Trail - Site 1

Changes in transport technology, bigger ships and the changing use of the river since the mid-19th century mean Melbourne’s waterways have changed considerably and continuously.

River access to Melbourne in the mid-19th century was difficult. The sand bar at the mouth of the Yarra River stopped big ships entering, so they had to anchor in Hobsons Bay and ferry goods and passengers upstream.

In 1843, the Melbourne Town Council surveyed the Yarra River because everything for the growing population (nearly 20,000 people) had to be brought up the river. Building the Point Gellibrand Railway Pier in 1859 meant ships could dock there and transport their goods to Melbourne by rail. But direct access was still needed.

Established in 1877, the Melbourne Harbor Trust immediately assessed the needs of the waterways and the harbour. This led to the building of the Coode Canal, now part of the Yarra River.

Over the years, the harbours and rivers have changed continuously in response to developments in shipping technology and bigger ships. Altering the course of the river and dredging the channels has given ships easier access.

The port, and the industries along the river’s banks, changed their use of the river over the years. This led to building wharves, improving and sometimes removing them.

Deep water access

Gellibrand Pier, October 1864Piers and jetties here have been important to Victoria’s shipping and industrial infrastructure since the 1830s.

Gellibrand and Breakwater piers are two of the earliest and most enduring. Wheat, wool and sheep were among the primary cargoes processed there in the 19th century.

Originally, the two piers branched from a point near the Time Ball Tower in Williamstown. Since then, large areas of land have been reclaimed, including the former small boat harbour in the ‘V’ between the piers.

In 1859, when Point Gellibrand Railway Pier opened, it was an important link between the deep water of Hobsons Bay and the growing city of Melbourne.

The original bluestone embankment led to a timber pier with four rail lines and weight cranes. Two wings on either side accommodated multiple ships at any time.

Today, much altered, Gellibrand Pier is part of a large oil handling facility.

Breakwater Pier was originally a barrier, protecting Gellibrand Pier and the Williamstown shoreline from currents and storms in Hobsons Bay.

Prisoners from the hulks moored in the bay built the first section in 1853 - a bluestone jetty. It is marked by the Breakwater Memorial Stone.

Later encased in an embankment at the landward end, it had rail lines incorporated into its timber-decked seaward end and staggered berths along its north side.

A Tide Gauge House recorded the depth of water at the mouth of the Yarra River until 1955. This is now at Commonwealth Reserve in Nelson Place, Williamstown.

Image above right: Gellibrand Pier, October 1864 (Source: Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria)