I was just checking up about Chinese New Year celebrations in the city at the Melbourne City Council website when I noticed that there are free tours of Melbourne Town Hall twice daily. Bookings were essential, so I booked for today by email.
I was an interesting tour with a knowledgeable guide, although I did stump him when I asked about Lord Mayor Woodruff having a turntable installed in the small car park to turn his car around. The guide was interested and said he would follow it up. The fellow tour members were a couple from Denmark and a couple from Germany.
We were shown a couple of works of art hanging on the walls. One was a lithograph of a model made for the Great Exhibition in Melbourne. It showed the city shortly after the grid of streets were laid out (1830s?). It featured lots of farm land, trees and a few buildings. Typical of governments, no trains or trams. I noted the turning basin in the Yarra, the depression where Elizabeth Street lay that turned into a river with heavy rain, and still is inclined to do so and Flagstaff Hill before it had the top chopped off it. The other work was some twenty to thirty years later and Melbourne was by then a well populated city with grand buildings already constructed. Gold is a city's best friend.
After seeing some other bits and pieces, we sat in council chambers. It is smaller than I imagined and the elevated public galleries are not very big either. The seating, all facing the mayoral chair, was old leather and they place had a bit of a musty smell. The ceiling was stunning, the woodwork beautiful and the lead light window impressive. What I could not get over was how poor the lighting was, even with daylight coming in. At night it must be very gloomy. If you have issues with City of Melbourne councillors, maybe it is because they could not read properly during council meetings.
Then onto the auditorium. This would be where Jayne recently attended an orchestral performance where the organ was cranked up.
Upward to examine the workings of the organ. It has 10,000 pipes and is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. After its last renovation around ten years ago, it is now computer controlled with fail safe air reserves should it run short puff with some extravagant playing by maestro. Some of the pipes are monstrous, metres tall and some are tiny, just a centimetre tall. The pipes sit in an airconditioned and dust free environment. Around 1925 an accumulation of dust in the organ pipes and a sparking solenoid set the auditorium ablaze. It had to be completely rebuilt. The organist has four keyboards and one footboard to play. Sounds challenging.
Still on the same level I think, is the old council chambers and then the reception room where VIPS are greeted and entertained.
Out onto the portico. In 1964 The Beatles greeted the crowds below and in the eighties Abba followed suit. Evidently there is a scene in Abba The Movie where they are shown on the balcony.
Trivia learnt: Kangaroos can't go backwards and almost one million tons of gold dug in Bendigo. At around $1200 per ton, the present price, roughly $1,000,000,000. Only £700,000,000 for you Brian. No argument re my maths will be entered into, but no wonder we have some very grand buildings.
Clearly Getty Images own the copyright for this photo of the Beatles on the balcony of the Melbourne Town Hall. Getty are becoming the Microsoft of the world. Don't the Beatles have such cute and fresh faces.
Abba on the same balcony from the website www.raffem.com
Melbourne Town Hall by Tramwalker.
The door to the portico.
This photo doesn't really capture it so well, but I never realised how beautiful the Century building is.
I full well know how stunning Manchester House is. Pity about the ugly air con units jutting out. An ex workmate was murdered within MH a decade or so ago.
Later edit: It may not have been Flagstaff Hill that had its top chopped off. I could be thinking of Batman Hill. Nevertheless, Flagstaff Hill looks very high in the lithograph.
with ordinary traffic outside the Town Hall.