The iconic Queen Victoria Market has been a central part of Melbourne life for 150 years.

The area it occupies had originally been the location of Melbourne’s first official cemetery established in 1837 on the land bounded by Victoria, Peel, Franklin and Queen streets. In 1852 planning for the new Melbourne General Cemetery in Carlton began and in 1854 the old cemetery ceased official operation. In March 1859, the Melbourne Town Council was granted the eastern triangular block for use as a market. 1

The earliest surviving market building is the wholesale Meat Market, constructed in 1869. In 1874 the site began operating as a meat and produce retail market, and sheds H and I were built for use by fruit and vegetable growers.

The New Meat Market, Melbourne. (1869) IAN22/05/69/117

Permission was granted to take over another portion of the cemetery land under legislation in 1877, and the “Queen Victoria Market” was officially opened in March of 1878

In response to the growing population of Melbourne, the market quickly expanded. G, H, I, & J sheds were built, followed in the mid-1880s by the Meat & Fish Market.

The Queen Victoria Market, North Melbourne. (1878) IAN15/04/78/6
Saturday Morning in the Queen Victoria Market (1879) IAN05/07/79/105
Queen Victoria Market (c. 1904) H92.290/31

The population of Melbourne exploded during the gold rushes of the 1850s and has continued to grow. People from all parts of the world have made Melbourne their home, bringing with them new cultural influences and new cuisines. The range of fruits and vegetables being grown across Victoria and Australia continues to expand to meet changing tastes.

This is most widely evident in the broad array of foodstuffs available at the Queen Victoria Market which reflects the influence of the wide range of cultures in our city.

Image depicting chinese vegetable stall
Victoria Market, Melbourne, 1984. Photo by Ruth Maddison. This work is in copyright; H2000.173/15
Victoria market, Melbourne, 1980. Photo by Ruth Maddison. This work is in copyright; H2000.173/16

Over the years, in addition to its historic role as a food market, further development at Queen Victoria led to the establishment of a large non-food market selling a range of different goods including, clothing, shoes, arts & crafts. 

Clothing stall at the Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne, 198-. Photo by Rennie Ellis. This work is in copyright; H2011.150/2139

All these changes reflect the social significance of the Queen Victoria Market as a record of change and continuity in market activity over a long period so that in addition to being an important shopping venue the Market has also become a place for both leisure and connectivity, for generations of Victorians   

Further reading

The following books which are also held by the State Library clearly reflect the major significance of the Queen Victoria Market in the life and history of Melbourne and Victorians. 

The Victoria Market / Ellen McCaughey, Mary Hoban ; photographs by Ruth Maddison. 

Queen Victoria Market : history, recipes, stories / Siu Ling Hui ; photographs by Simon Griffiths.

Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market / Tim Webster.

Melbourne markets, 1841-1979 : the story of the fruit and vegetable markets in the City of Melbourne / edited by Colin E. Cole

This detailed conservation study, commissioned by Melbourne City Council, is available on the Council’s website.

  1. For location see map -. Part of Township of Melbourne. Melbourne : Dept. of Lands and Survey, 1875

This article has 6 comments

  1. I was at the National Trust when we published a report on the Market.
    It was during the seventies and was Compiled by George Tibbits.
    Maybe of limited relevance today but maybe very important then….

  2. Mrs Elizabeth Walpole

    Reading that makes me want to visit Melbourne again and visit the Market. I am old now and don’t travel to Melbourne./

    • Hi, thanks for your comment. I hope this blog enables a “visit” without having to travel all the way to Melbourne.Berta

  3. Although Vic Market is ‘protected’ by its status of significance – a National and Victorian Heritage listed site, it’s social significance which is as important as its built heritage, is under threat. The City of Melbourne is appropriating its car park for public open space, reducing the market considerably and converting it into an event and hospitality site which the council erroneously believes will be more profitable.
    For more information:

  4. When dad and his family came to Australia, they had no qualifications. But they sold fruit at Vic Market for years, making enough money to send their children to university. Dad was the first person in his family to graduate.

    • Many people coming to Australia had to take what jobs they could get to take care of their families. Given the long existence of the Vic Market back in time, as I see it, without vendors like your grandparents the farmers would’ve been struggling to sell their products and city dwellers/ purchasers would’ve had a hard time trying to track down fresh products.

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