311 Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy

I understand that this house on the corner of Greeves and Fitzroy Streets was established as a home for men in 1887. There is a record in the 1860s of a grocer seeking work, using this as his address, but there may have been a change in the numbering along Fitzroy Street.

The home for men commenced on 17 October 1887 by the Society of St Vincent de Paul, as a shelter for the ‘casual poor’. The Committee were tasked with the objective to “provide poor men, who are deserving and for the time being thoroughly destitute, with temporary shelter for a few nights, breakfast and the use of the bath in the morning. Employment is occasionally found by some of the inmates, medical assistance is afforded to others and numbers are supplied with clothes and books.” The site over its first three years provided 22,738 free beds and breakfasts. (The Herald, 12 Dec 1890, p.2), however this may not have been at 311 Fitzroy Street, but at the corner of St. David and Young Streets, Fitzroy (The Argus, 22 Dec 1887, p.8). The Home remained at this location till at least 1891. By 1894 it was at 311 Fitzroy Street.

Google Maps – July 2019

In October 1893, the shelter for men afforded 992 beds and 1189 breakfasts to destitute poor men, most of them being old or ill from exposure. The site provided clothes and shoes (The Age, 4 Nov 1893, p.9).

It appears that the site was also used for Society business, with representatives gathering in there in the ‘council room’ (The Age, 11 Jun 1895, p.3) and Francis Healy, President used the address to invite subscriptions for a library (Advocate, 17 Sep 1898, p.7). From at least 1891 to 1904, Jas. Campbell was the Secretary (The Age, 22 Feb 1904, p.5)

In 1899, three of the residents were William Walbran, Charles Ahlman and Richard Stevenson were resident. Mr Walbran had left the other inmates after afternoon tea and had gone to the bathroom. At about half-past 6 Charles and Richard heard a noise in the bathroom and found Walbran unconscious and bleeding from a neck wound. Walbran (54) was admitted to the Melbourne Hospital, and while the article confirms that he was in a critical condition, it does not advise if he survived (The Argus, 9 Feb 1899, p.7)

A two storied building at number 311 Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne, on the corner of Greeves Street. Photo taken by: John Lockyer O’Brien (1905–1965), c1958 and held by the University of Melbourne

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