Royal Reels: Gambling


This cover as a single folded sheet has a Victorian 1d red ‘Postage’ stamp postmarked with St KILDA/ B/ JA 11/ 04/ VIC and a reception roller postmark of MELBOURNE / 11 JAN/ 3 15 PM/ 1904/ VICTORIA. It was addressed ‘To His Worship, The Mayor of St Kilda, Town Hall, St Kilda (Figure 1).

The full letter reads:

Beaconsfield Parade
St Kilda

To the, Mayor of St. Kilda, Dear Sir
I was much surprised on returning to my house after an absence of two years, to find the property materially reduced in value by the erection by the St. Kilda Council of a lavatory not one hundred feet from my front door in the ornamental square and exactly facing my front door, no screen of trees being put there, [word erased by sender] to hide the ugly and repellant structure. We can even read the notices on it from my verandah. If any of the councillors or yourself would kindly come to my house to see for themselves the injury to the rateable value & also to the letting value of my house, I should take it as a favour believe me.
Yours truly
Jane L Murphy

There are 3 additional markings at the head of the letter: a manuscript ’30’ in red crayon, a stamped black ink ‘4291’ and an acknowledgment as shown by a black ink 3-lined manuscript which reads: ack(nowledged)/ 13/1/04/ Council. Only the top three-quarters of the letter is shown in Figure 2.

St. Kilda was proclaimed a separate municipal district (of Melbourne) in February 1857 and an election was held at a polling booth at the Junction Hotel on 9 March 1857, when seven councillors were elected. In May 1859 council directed the town surveyor to draw up plans and specifications for a town hall and municipal offices next to the court house, and the council met for the first time in its handsome town hall on 4 January 1860.

Within a few years it was recognized that the building was too small and the present town hall was designed by William Pitt. On 23 June 1890 the St. Kilda council met for the first time in the new town hall, which had been completed minus the clock and the spire (Figure 3).

I received a reply about Jane Murphy from the Local History Librarian, Port Phillip Library Service, St. Kilda, from which I will quote: “I have looked through all our old records and cannot find a response to Jane Murphy’s letter. What I have found is Mrs Jane Murphy (was) listed as the owner-occupier of a 17 room brick house with stables, on 2 acres of land. Her address is 32 Beaconsfield Parade and the property is called ‘Marina’. She is next door to the Beaconsfield Hotel. The hotel must have been quite noisy as it had 45 rooms and a billiard saloon attached.”

“The above information comes from the old St Kilda rate books of 1904. The house ‘Marina’ is long gone, but the hotel only closed last year. The hotel will be renovated as an apartment block. Beaconsfield Parade runs along the beachfront at St Kilda and was then, and still is a prime piece of real estate with lovely sea views.”

“A book called Pots, Punks and Punters by Becky Aizen on page 12 (states): The Beaconsfield was deemed a very popular hostelry in the early twentieth century. It was a resort hotel, primarily for holiday accommodation. Advertisements and reviews of the period boasts of (its) first class accommodation and cuisine and highlight the proximity to the beach.”

The librarian identified that a James (John) Henry Andrews Pittard was a businessman with the largest premises in St Kilda, and in 1890 he was elected to a seat in the St Kilda City Council (later mayor?). What follows is my own conjecture: Mrs Jane Murphy was a feisty, rich woman living in a prosperous area, who was capable of taking on the mayor and councillors of St Kilda in regards to an eyesore of a public lavatory in sight of her front door. The Council saw the need for a lavatory, for the neighbouring Beaconsfield Hotel must have been very popular with its attached billiard saloon, and much beer would have been consumed on the premises. Need I say more?

I am extremely grateful to Kay Rowan who spent much research effort in giving us a view of St Kilda in the early 20th century. This paper could not have been completed without her assistance

Categories: Mining