In 1880, Melbourne’s Meat Market was a hustle and a bustle of wholesale meat traders. Butchers, buyers and clerks all barking and yelling prices over pipe smoke and that all too pungent scent of fresh-cut meats. Horse-drawn carriages smacked against the cobblestones, wheels spun and screeched in the great pavilions, and Melbourne was very much a different place.
‘The rattle and clatter of the lorries on the cobbled floor, the cries of the lumpers calling the weights to the booking clerks, the bargaining between salesmen and customers and not infrequently a violent argument ending in a fight.’1982 Interview with Director recalling the chaos of the market in its hayday.
Only a few short years before that, Melbourne’s meat wholesaling took place at the City Meat Market, where Queen Victoria Market stands today. Soon enough though, demand grew. With the rapid increase in trade, George Johnson, an architect, was commissioned to draw out plans for a new wholesale avenue, and in 1880, the Meat Market was born.
And for almost 100 years, traders, butchers and the like haggled, fought and smoked and traded back and forth, hail, rain or shine.
But as with all things, so too the innovations of civilisation had caught up to the trading hub. The place was not created with cars in mind or the smoke which they exuded. There was also a severe lack of space for any refrigeration equipment, and so, by 1973, one by one the butchers packed up and left. When the smoke cleared there were only six stallholders remaining in the old pavilions.
The halls were silent. The butchers were all but gone, and eventually, the Meat Market was purchased by Victoria’s former Arts Victoria body, which recognized its historic value and its potential.
What lay ahead for the Meat Market?
In 1979 the building reopened its doors as a craft centre and in 1998 began being used as a performing arts space. With renovations soon coming along when the City of Melbourne’s Arts Department took over management the Meat Market started paving its new life into Melbourne history. One of art, and culture.
Today, the Meat Market is a vital part of Melbourne’s thriving art scene. Housing over 50 arts businesses within its complexes and showcasing some of the most iconic performances in arts and music and a range of events across its Flat Floor Pavilion, Cobblestone Pavilion, Meeting Room, Old Cafe and Stables.
A tourism hot spot, a North Melbourne staple, a page in Victoria’s history, a place of old and new and everything in between.
*All Images from Meat Market Website.
MEAT MARKET PAVILIONS
3 Blackwood St, North Melbourne VIC 3051
(03) 9329 9966
MEAT MARKET STABLES
2 Wreckyn St (corner of Wreckyn St and Courtney St), North Melbourne 3051
(03) 9329 9966