How's this for shopping "online" back in the old days? In the nineteenth-century portable iron buildings (including cottages, churches, theatres and shops) were bought from catalogues and arrived flat packed and ready to be assembled. Constructed in Britain, the houses were dismantled, every component labelled then packed into crates and shipped abroad to be reassembled in their new location. Even the crates the buildings arrived in were used to line the interior walls.
Anyone could assemble them by following the instructions and as people had been living in tents, paying five shillings per tent per week – being able to move into a two or even six roomed house was a luxury at the time.
I wonder if there were always a couple of spare pieces left over?
Take this opportunity to experience one of the National Trust's hidden gems – the three Portable Iron houses in South Melbourne. By 1855, South Melbourne comprised nearly 100 of these portable buildings.
The three corrugated iron and wood houses that remain are the result of significant preservation campaigns. Patterson House sits on its original site, whilst Abercrombie House was rescued from North Melbourne in 1981 and Bellhouse was saved from demolition in Fitzroy in 1971.
With gold discovered in Victoria in 1851 accommodation was needed for the many migrants flocking to the colony and these iron houses met that need. Get an insight into life during the Gold Rush era when you visit one of the few remaining pre-fabricated iron buildings in the world.