A perfectly designed grid in the centre of town was only possible in a newly created city that was being planned from the ground up. It would not be possible in a city that has developed, willy nilly over the centuries eg Jerusalem. Even a medieval city like Paris could only be straightened up somewhat by Baron Haussman, but it could not be made geometric.
What Hoddle had not initially understood were the demands of trading. The planner either had to design in proper accessways himself or they would have developed on their own in an ad hoc way. Apparently practicality won over planning purity, and the lanes evolved as accessways between the major streets. Shops, hotels, pubs and offices needed access for their goods, services and customers – and got them. Furthermore, as well as providing access, the lanes enabled these rather densely packed buildings to feel lighter and airier.
Hoddle Grid, 1837
Lane names were never royal; rather their names reflected something of normal city life. A few examples will suffice. Named after Hardware House in the 1920s, Hardware Lane was built on land formerly occupied by Kirk's Horse Bazaar, a horse and livery trading centre built in 1840. The cobbled bluestone alley called Degraves St was named after Charles and William Degraves, pioneer merchants who settled in Melbourne from Hobart in 1849. William Degraves needed access for his sheep grazier business. Albert Coates Lane, named after a surgeon, was once the site of Melbourne's first hospital, and the current lane leads to a preserved pavilion of the former Queen Victoria Hospital.
The History of Melbourne confirmed that small workshops, tobacco and cigarette makers, printers, engravers, plumbers and boot-makers did indeed inhabit the city’s lanes. And they were indeed filled with rubbish bins from the adjoining businesses. No-one took responsibility for the lanes’ lighting, cleanliness or general amenities. It was only when planning for the Olympic Games led to new legislation in 1956 that the lanes were modernised, cleaned up and filled with coffee shops and wine bars.
The Hidden Secrets: Lanes and Arcades Tour was warmly recommended by Mitch's Blog, SheSaid Blog, and Bloesem World Tour blog. Intelliblog savours the delicious smells of the many cafés and bakeries that are open in the lanes for the breakfast trade at 7:00 am. I personally may be sound asleep at 7 am, but the heart of this large city is stirring.
Melbourne also features many covered arcades. Some began their life as lanes and were rather ordinary to look at; others began as elegant shopping malls and have remained so till today. But I have already discussed our lovely arcades in this blog before eg Royal Arcade.