Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
Published May 22nd 2012
Relaxing at Pipemaker's Park. Photo by Lisa Wardle.
Residents from Melbourne's western suburbs can tell you a thing or two about history - like the story behind Melbourne's mansions.
They were mostly built in Melbourne's Eastern suburbs, but only because of the money generated by the industries in the west. And while we all know about Gallipoli, where do you think they made the bullets? All done on the Western front - in Melbourne's industrial heartland.
Many industries such as ammunition factories, blue stone quarries and foundries flanked the banks of the Maribyrnong River. Smoke filled the fiery sky, sulphurous fumes rose from furnaces and animal and industrial waste spewed into the Maribyrnong River.
Today the river is clean. No one misses the pollution, but some older locals hark back to the days of manufacturing greatness. Some wanted the whole of the Maribyrnong River Valley preserved like Ironbridge in England - an industrial valley with a worldwide heritage listing.
Instead preservation has mostly been limited to Pipemakers Park. The 19.3 historical park, run by Parks Victoria, celebrates one of the oldest industrial sites in Australia.
Between 1847-1852, the area housed a boiling down work one of the earliest industries in the Port Phillip District. Huge vats of candle making tallow (boiled animal fat) were floated by barge down the Maribyrnong.
Between 1868 to the 1880s, the park housed the largest meat cannery in Australia. The Melbourne Meat Preserving Company employed 231 men and boys. A huge 1874 bluestone building still stands as testament to this massive meatworks.
Hume Pipeworks, manufactured Walter Hume's 1911 invention, steel-reinforced concrete piping. This new technology took the world by storm drain. Hume's pipes in Melbourne's sewerage and draining systems helped gain Melbourne's reputation as one of the most liveable cities in the world.
Pipemakers Park is named after the workers who once toiled on this site. Sculpture and picnic tables created from the leftover pipes remind visitors of the past. There are also free electric barbecues.
Since 1989, Hume's old fitters' and turners' workshop has housed the Living Museum of the West.
This museum breaks with tradition by focussing on oral storytelling and photographs rather than collecting objects. Here you will find information on the West's history from the days when the Wurundjeri people watched over the land through to industrial times.
Outside the Living Museum, the gardens replicate history within a series of garden beds. There are plants like kangaroo grass and yam daisy, once a staple diet of the Wurundjeri people, mosaic hoof prints representing the coming of European livestock, then a colonial garden with cottage plants and stone walls. Further stepping stones lead to the Mediterranean garden reflecting the migrant workers who toiled for Hume's Pipeworks during the 1950s.
There is even a jetty for those wishing to arrive by boat. The Blackbird tourist ferry (c.1926) cruises in as a regular visitor. Her captain, Peter Somerville, claims the Maribyrnong once considered the Cinderella river, is wider and cleaner than its step-sister the Yarra.
Recreational facilities abound in Pipemakers Park. People canoe downstream and cycle along the bluestone banks now lining the river. There are even people fishing as the Maribyrnong regains its title as Bream Stream.
A triumphant return for this once abused and polluted industrial wasteland.