236-252 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy (Beswick Building)

“This row of eight three storey shops was constructed in 1888 for the Australian Proprietors & Investors Company Ltd, to the design of architect John Beswicke and built by Ralph Besant, builder.  Beswick was an architect of some merit designing numerous Town Halls (Brighton, Malvern, Hawthorn and Essendon), various churches, large commercial premises (including the Australia Building cnr. Flinders Lane and Elizabeth Street in conjunction with Oakden, Addison & Kemp) and substantial residences.  Besant was also a notable contractor who ‘…erected a number of shops in Collingwood and Fitzroy, eleven large shops in Burwood Road, Hawthorn, and villas and residences in almost every part of the city and suburbs..’  (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.112-113).

An early photo survives of the building, showing the original verandah (now removed) and continuous balustraded parapet with intercepting pedimental motifs.  Apart from these changes, and replacement of shop fronts to numbers 236, 248 and 252 the building is intact and provides an excellent and unique example of a flamboyant polychrome brick commercial development.  The building has an unusual asymmetrical composition, with unusual central tower and corner turret, topped with a lantern.  The fine polychrome brick façade is highlighted by unpainted cement render detailing, arches, impost string courses, pilasters and bracketed cornice.  The pedimental motif originally repeated twice on the west elevation, is unusual with a scalloped motif in the tympanum.  The façade does not receive monotonous treatment – the upper floor utilizes the stilted arches above the windows, seen elsewhere in Fitzroy on the Sister’s of Charity Building, 116-118 Nicholson Street and in 5-7 Collins Street.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.112-113).

“The central entrance topped by an elegant fanlight on the west elevation, leads through an unimposing passage to the rear of the building.  Access to the upper floors was not possible; there appeared to be little of note internally to the ground floor shops.  This building is of considerable significance locally, and on a state wide basis.  It provides an excellent example of boom polychrome brick commercial premises that is substantially intact and is a good example of a prominent Melbourne architect’s work.  It is an extremely important streetscape element to the Brunswick Street commercial precinct and can be seen as a landmark from the surrounding areas.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.112-113).

“Viewed from Carlton, down Faraday Street, it provides an important element to the skyline.  It is strongly recommended that the verandah be restored, and the parapet reinstated.  This would result in an intact building of considerable merit.” (South Fitzroy Conservation Study, 1979, p.112-113).

In the 1950’s most of the occupants were clothing manufacturers. Today the tenants above the shops are from the ‘creative industries’.” (Mike Moore, FHS Newsletter – Nov 2021)

The Beswick Building showing each numbered shop.

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