Monday, January 12, 2009

Monday Melbourne Medievalism Blogging (2)

... and here are the ruins of the old city walls ...

I hadn't been down this part of Royal Park for years, but we rode past these little ruins a week or so on our way to dinner with Heikki and Katerina in Parkville. Riding back at night they looked even more mysterious and gothic, and I wasn't even sure what they were, but I've just ridden over in the early evening sunlight to photograph them; and of course, they are crenellated gatehouses.

Or perhaps guard boxes.

With extra piles for flagpoles.
On the outside they are beautifully pointed with lead.
And here is how you make crenellations when you have cut big blocks: just tip them up on their sides.
Further up the road the mystery is revealed: this was the entrance to Anzac Hall.
From the www.australia.coop website.

Anzac Hall is part of the Urban Camp. It was built between 1940 and 1941 for the RSL as a cinema and recreation hall for troops at Royal Park.

In 1942 a large part of Royal Park was used as a staging camp for US troops on route to the Pacific. The Americans called their area Camp Pell.

After the war Royal Park was the principal demobilisation centre for all Victorian service personnel and the area known as Camp Pell was used by the Housing Commission for emergency public housing until its demolition during a clean up campaign for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.

Why Camp Pell? Does anyone know what this refers to?* The Urban Camp is used for country kids to give them a means of exploring the city. There was a group having a meal, so I didn't go too close, but here's a taste of its current architectural style.

Anyway, I'm struck by the survival of the gate houses in the modernisation of the 1950s — even though they weren't very old, someone must have thought them distinctive enough, or invested with enough heritage value to preserve — and also the choice of medieval crenellations for the 1940s. When we think of medievalist architecture, we often think of ecclesiastical, education or commercial applications, but military ones are probably just as common.**

And now I know why Gatehouse St has its name. It's not particularly near these gates, but I wonder if there were, or are, others, closer to that street.

It was a beautiful time to be out riding. The day is pleasantly warm; and because it's still school holidays, there's very little traffic. I rode over almost entirely on bike tracks and parks, and rode back through the empty car park outside the zoo. A large roaring could be heard. Bear? Lion?

* answer. Ahem. Should have looked this up in Brown-May and Swain's Encyclopedia of Melbourne. Major Floyd J. Pell was a US airman killed in 1942, defending Darwin against a Japanese air attack.

** correction: seems that Royal Park was used as a barracks in the First World War, too, so the gatehouses may well be much older than the 1940s. Will have to do some more work on this one. Here's a history of the Park. Brown-May comments that in 1946, 3000 people were temporarily housed at the camp, which became known as "Camp Hell", and was "popularly represented in slum stereotypes as a hotbed of immorality and disease, while its residents struggled with the vagaries of rotting wooden and rusting metal huts, inadequate amenities and streets turned to mud whenever it rained" (Encyclopedia of Melbourne, p. 109). Lovely!

3 comments:

David Thornby said...

Re: military medievalist architecture; I was at Port Arthur a couple of years ago and was struck with the medievalist-ness of the old military part of the site; barring the church remains I think (in my untrained way) it's the most medievalist bit. (Port Arthur's not too old, is it, to be caught up in medievalism?)

frog said...

The things you find out! I knew Royal Park had been used during WWII and afterwards but I wasn't aware of the gates and other structures. Must go for a bit of an explore myself.

Stephanie Trigg said...

Port Arthur? Most definitely (must upload my Hobart snaps from last month), with the round tower and all. And the ruined church is part of the medievalist effect, too. And no: never too old!

Frog, yes I think I'm going to learn a lot about my city with this project.