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Portable Iron Houses

South | S04

The three houses in South Melbourne are among the last 19th 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 on offer ranged from modest cottages to theatres and even churches, which could hold over 700 people. Constructed in Britain, the houses were dismantled, every component labelled then packed into crates and shipped abroad to be re-assembled 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.

Need to Know

  • Open: Thursday 3 & Thursday 1 January 10am - 4pm

  • Photography Restricted: Yes

  • What's Open: All three buildings on the site

  • Special Note: No food or drink inside

  • Tour Type: S04

  • Access: Pram accessible, Limited mobility access

  • Building Type: Cultural

  • Year Built: 1850s

  • Transport: Stop 127: South Melbourne on route 96.

  • Photo Credit: Jessica Hood


399 Coventry St, South Melbourne, VIC


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