Art & Design

   

The Queen Vic Market – A Brief History

Posted by Chris Summerfield

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Most of us associate the Queen Victoria Market with boreks, bustling crowds and bargains. But what about the building and the grounds itself? There’s plenty of history in those walls and stalls.

The present day market started as a much smaller food market in the 1850′s, before expanded into the 17 acres it now occupies today, making it the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. How’d it get all that space in central Melbourne? It was built over the old Melbourne Cemetery, and while nearly 1000 bodies were exhumed and re-interred elsewhere, 9000 souls are still said to lie beneath the market today. And, like any self-respecting former cemetery, it’s supposedly haunted. The ghosts of three bushrangers who were hanged are said to haunt the southern end of the market in the wee hours.

Ghosts aside, the market officially opened in 1878, and it remains the only 19th century market in the CBD today, after the Eastern and Western markets closed in the 1960′s. The 1960′s was a colourful time in the market’s history, with a Royal Commission established to investigate price fixing that resulted in five separate shooting incidents. When the Footscray Wholesale Market opened later that decade, plans were afoot to turn the Queen Vic into a hotel and office complex, plans that resulted in community outcry and eventually led to the market being classified by the National Trust, ensuring the future of our cheap fruit and vegies.

Finally, did you know the Queen Vic Market is also the largest renewable energy site in Melbourne? Its massive shed roofs are covered in over 1000 solar panels, generating almost all of the energy the market needs to operate. I guess being built on a cemetery does have its advantages.


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