Get an insight into life during the Gold Rush era when you visit one of the few remaining pre-fabricated iron buildings in the world.
The three houses in South Melbourne are among the last nineteenth-century prefabricated iron buildings. With gold discovered in Victoria in 1851 accommodation was needed for the many migrants flocking to the colony. Iron houses met that need.
Ordered from a catalogue, the buildings offered ranged from modest cottages to theatres and even churches that could hold over 700 people. Constructed in Britain, the houses were dismantled, every component labelled then packed into crates and shipped abroad to be reassembled in their new location.
Specialist labour was not required and anyone could assemble them by following the instructions. As people had been living in Canvas Town – a small village of tents, paying five shillings per tent per week – being able to move into a two or even six roomed house was a luxury at the time.
By 1855 South Melbourne comprised nearly 100 portable buildings, of which Patterson House is on its original site. Abercrombie House and Bellhouse were relocated to the current sites from North Melbourne and Fitzroy.
2021 Open Days
Visit on Sunday 25 April & Sunday 2 May from 1pm to 4pm as part of the Australian Heritage Festival program.
Visitors will be able to step back in time to when the gold rush was exerting enormous strains on the limited accommodation of the pastoral township of early Melbourne. Imported portable iron houses were seen as a novel way to meet the high housing demand. Number 399 Coventry St is a rare survivor and along with two other Houses on the site provides glimpses of what it was like to live in the late 1800s in these very rustic and simple Portable Iron Houses. A short guide led local walking tour also offers an opportunity to explore part of the surrounding historic area.