434 Gore Street, Fitzroy (Mission House & Gym)

Reverend E.S. Hughes, B.A. was the curate for the parish of St Mark’s bounded by Johnston St, Nicholson St, Alexandra Pde and Wellington St. He along with Rev. Stretch (of St Mark’s Church, south of Johnston St) decided to build a mission centre to draw people from the growing north part of south Fitzroy. The Mission of the Holy Redeemer was opened in 18 July 1891.

Google image – July 2019

The land (the entire block from Smith St, Rose St, Gore St and Leicester St (approximately 2 acres)) was given to St.Mark’s Church in February 1855 by Councillor, John Matthew Smith for the exclusive benefit of paying off the debt of the Church. The land was separated into 16 allotments and leased out. The rent was payable to St Mark’s. (The Argus, 1 Feb 1855, P.6). On 31 December 1858, Smith developed the “J M Smith Trust” and formalised the allocation of the land. The leases were limited to 21 years and when St Mark’s debt had been paid, the funds were to be used to assist other churches (An Outline History of J M Smith Trust, manuscript, Melbourne Anglican Diocesan Archives.) The land is visible in the rate books in 1859-1861, noted as ‘church property’ and confirmed again in the book of 1864.

According to McColl, the Vicar at the time lived in one of the oldest houses in Carlton on the corner of Nicholson ST, and Carlton St (which continues into Moor St, though there is some debate whether this was the correct location), which was known as the ‘old vicarage of St. Mark’s’. She references ‘Baker’s book of 1868’ stating that “in October 1856 the trustees decided that steps should be taken to have the “present parsonage” built on land given by Mr. J. M. Smith. The comment was added that the trustees were ‘evidently convinced that a mistake had been made in erecting a vicarage so far from the church’. However, on 30 October 1856, the Hon. President of the Board of Land and Works, refused to sanction the sale of the existing vicarage, perhaps because the current site had been granted by the Crown for that purpose. Interestingly, the vicarage remained at Moor St until between 1885-1892 when it was sold for 7,000 pounds. But then then land boom broke and the Parish was without a vicarage. Different houses were rented, but due to financial pressure, the Clergy house in the Mission building was used as a vicarage from about 1892. (St. Luke’s Church of England, North Fitzroy, St. Mark’s Church of England, Fitzroy, by Deborah McColl, 1967, p.86-88).

The MMBW Map of 1900 clearly shows the buildings created with the Priest’s residence fronting Gore Street, the Mission Hall Gym on the corner of Gore and Leicester and the Mission Hall fronting Leicester Street.

MMBW Map 1900

In the photo below you can see 434 Gore Street on the far left of the image. This gives a better sense of what the Gym would have looked like at the time.

In this photo the view is looking south from Westgarth Street, with Gore St on the left and behind the crowd on the other side, you can see the houses of Rose Street and the MacRobertson’s chocolate factories in the background.
Junior Cricket in Melbourne – Fitzroy La Mascotte v. Cambridge on Smith’s Reserve, Fitzroy for the Melbourne Sports Depot Trophy – La Mascotte won by eight wickets and 4 runs. Photo by Allan and Co., Smith Street, (Weekly Times, 9 Mar 1901, p.9).

The Gym was described as a “well equipped gymnasium, a fine large residential settlement house, and a tastefully fitted chapel” (Golden Thousand pamphlet). Unfortunately though the Mission withered when Rev. Hughes left the St.Mark’s parish to take up at St. Peter’s parish. (St. Luke’s Church of England, North Fitzroy, St. Mark’s Church of England, Fitzroy, by Deborah McColl, 1967, p.80).

In about 1920, the Mission buildings were removed from parish control to form part of the Alice Lovell Clarke creche and Kindergarten. The remainder of the land, which for many years, was known as “St. Mark’s Reserve”, is now built on by MacRobertson’s Chocolate Factory (St. Luke’s Church of England, North Fitzroy, St. Mark’s Church of England, Fitzroy, by Deborah McColl, 1967, p.80).

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