Footscray Wharf

Port Heritage Trail - Site 7

The original confluence of the Yarra River and Maribyrnong River (formerly Saltwater River) was slightly downstream from Footscray Wharf. 

Before the 1880s, the Yarra River was relatively shallow and difficult for big ships to navigate. 

In 1879 the Melbourne Harbor Trust engaged English engineer Sir John Coode to review Melbourne’s waterways. He came up with a plan to create a shorter, straighter canal directly to Melbourne’s docks by altering the natural course of the Yarra River by cutting across the sweeping arc which curved away to the east. 

Coode’s recommendations resulted in the building of the Coode Canal. It was 12,000 feet (800 metres) long, 300 feet (100 metres) wide and 25 feet (8 metres) deep. It brought the confluence of the Maribyrnong and Yarra rivers further south but kept the scouring action of both rivers which reduced silt deposits at the river mouth. 

Coode Canal opened in 1886 and resulted in the creation of ‘Coode Island’, bounded by the Canal on the south side and the former course of the Yarra River to the north. The island was used as a quarantine station for stock and in the early 1900s buildings were erected in case isolation for Bubonic Plague victims was required. 

Eventually the original Yarra River course began to dry up and by 1909 reclamation works had begun. While still known as Coode Island, it is no longer an island and the land is now part of Swanson Dock, the largest international container facility in Australia. 

Individual factories built their own wharves along the riverbank at Footscray in the 1860s. They used the wharves for transporting materials and finished goods, and dumped their waste in the river. 

The factories maintained their own wharves until the 1880s when the Melbourne Harbor Trust became responsible for all port berthing facilities.  

The Trust replaced the existing wharves with a continuous wharf structure, stretching the entire length of the existing Maribyrnong Street, with equal lengths on either side of Footscray Road. The factories used the wharf but it was also used for unloading general cargo for other businesses. 

In 1917, a railway line was installed parallel to the river and the tracks remain alongside the road. 

Factories and boat builders continued to use the wharf until the gradual closure of local factories in the 1960s and 70s.

Port Heritage Trail - Site 7

The original confluence of the Yarra River and Maribyrnong River (formerly Saltwater River) was slightly downstream from Footscray Wharf. 

Before the 1880s, the Yarra River was relatively shallow and difficult for big ships to navigate. 

In 1879 the Melbourne Harbor Trust engaged English engineer Sir John Coode to review Melbourne’s waterways. He came up with a plan to create a shorter, straighter canal directly to Melbourne’s docks by altering the natural course of the Yarra River by cutting across the sweeping arc which curved away to the east. 

Coode’s recommendations resulted in the building of the Coode Canal. It was 12,000 feet (800 metres) long, 300 feet (100 metres) wide and 25 feet (8 metres) deep. It brought the confluence of the Maribyrnong and Yarra rivers further south but kept the scouring action of both rivers which reduced silt deposits at the river mouth. 

Coode Canal opened in 1886 and resulted in the creation of ‘Coode Island’, bounded by the Canal on the south side and the former course of the Yarra River to the north. The island was used as a quarantine station for stock and in the early 1900s buildings were erected in case isolation for Bubonic Plague victims was required. 

Eventually the original Yarra River course began to dry up and by 1909 reclamation works had begun. While still known as Coode Island, it is no longer an island and the land is now part of Swanson Dock, the largest international container facility in Australia. 

Individual factories built their own wharves along the riverbank at Footscray in the 1860s. They used the wharves for transporting materials and finished goods, and dumped their waste in the river. 

The factories maintained their own wharves until the 1880s when the Melbourne Harbor Trust became responsible for all port berthing facilities.  

The Trust replaced the existing wharves with a continuous wharf structure, stretching the entire length of the existing Maribyrnong Street, with equal lengths on either side of Footscray Road. The factories used the wharf but it was also used for unloading general cargo for other businesses. 

In 1917, a railway line was installed parallel to the river and the tracks remain alongside the road. 

Factories and boat builders continued to use the wharf until the gradual closure of local factories in the 1960s and 70s.