50-68 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy (Royal Terrace)

An early example of a continuous, bluestone terrace, with a continuous veranda broken only by projecting dividing walls. Constructed in stages Nos. 62-68 in 1854 and 50-60 in 1856.

A late-1850s or early-1860s view of Royal Terrace, Nicholson Street, and Carlton Gardens (from right to left). Sourced from Radical Terrace

“Royal Terrace” was built in 1854 for John Moon Bryant. The actual builders were John and Charles Barwell and the bluestone was quarried in Brunswick, though practically all of the fittings were imported from England. On completion, Bryant took up residence in the northern-most home with his family. At the time this was known as No.10, Royal Terrace, Nicholson Street but when the houses were renumbered it became 68 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy. He died there on 6 October 1891 but his children continued to live there until the last surviving child, also known as John Moon Bryant, died there on 22 February 1955. Sourced from Port Philip Pioneers Group. The research on this site provides a great history of John Bryant, who was born in England and transported to Tasmania as a convict in 1935 when he was 25 years of age. He had been charged with stealing oak and elm boards from his employer and sentenced to 7 years transportation.

In 1842 John travelled to Sydney, but moved to Melbourne in 1846 and set up as a general storekeeper and timber merchant. He was very successful and “in 1853 he retired from business the possessor of considerable wealth. Being thoroughly impressed with the belief that Victoria was destined to become a great and prosperous colony he invested nearly the whole of his capital in the purchase of land in and around Fitzroy, and for many years past he has been the largest property owner in that locality. In 1862 he was elected a councillor for Fitzroy, a position which he subsequently resigned, (and) retired into private life.” (Source: The Argus, 8 October 1981, p6)

“In 1853, two years after the discovery of gold in Victoria, timber merchant and builder John Bryant commissioned an architect (likely John Gill) to design a row of 10 terraces unified by a simple, but imposing rusticated bluestone edifice in the Victorian Regency style. Royal Terrace was owned wholly by the Bryant family who rented the prestigious residences to Melburnians newly minted from the Gold Rush. In 1853, Fitzroy had only recently seen its streets surveyed. Residential precincts were firmly established in both East Melbourne and the present-day CBD, but Fitzroy was effectively untouched. Bryant, no doubt, was attracted to the city fringe location and the barren land that was situated across the street. This chunk of land had been reserved for a park as early as the 1830s, but it wasn’t until the City of Melbourne formally acquired the land in 1856 – the same year Royal Terrace finished construction – that it engaged Edward La Trobe Batman for its design and named it Carlton Gardens. This new park, albeit in quite rough shape for some 25 years, no doubt helped establish Royal Terrace as the domain of the professional class.” Sourced from: Radical Terrace

Gill had the skill in working with finely axed bluestone on the front of the Clarence Hotel in Collins Street and also in December 1854 called for tenders for two houses in Nicholson Street. As such it was likely this advert called for the first stages of the Royal Terrace. The South Fitzroy Conservation Study of 1979, p.14 also calls out that the “building is much more refined than the Gertrude Street terrace of Gill’s former pupil, and of three storeys rather than two, but it would appear to have been both begun and completed later and it would seem that the Gertrude Street row is the more pioneering and influential work” as contributing to the terrace house form in Fitzroy.

The columns at Royal Terrace date to 1856. According to Miles Lewis (8.07 Ornamental Cast Iron), the columns “look quite impressive, with polygonal bases, fluted shafts, turned heads and attached brackets – however, only certain components are of iron, and the bulk is timber”. He notes that they have been rebuilt, but are accurate in appearance.

Photo of Royal Terrace pre 1880’s

A rear view of Royal Terrace, from the University Library. C.1958
Image held by Fitzroy Library. c.1975
Image held by Fitzroy Library. Constructed in stages, Nos. 62-68 in 1854 and 50-60 in 1856 probably to the design of John Gill, architect. A fine bluestone terrace sequence and one of the oldest terrace sequences in Melbourne. Photo by Mario Cotela Oct 1988

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