170 Leicester Street, Fitzroy

A red-brick church-like building in Leicester Street, Fitzroy gives no clues as to its fascinating, though short-lived, moment of glory. This edited extract from Laurie O'Brien's article in Fitzroy: Melbourne's First Suburb brings to life a forgotten piece of Fitzroy's history

‘In 1888 a new curate, Ernest Selwyn Hughes was appointed to St Mark's [Anglican Church]. Fresh from personal experience of mission settlement work in the East End dockland of London, Hughes was fired with enthusiasm to launch a similar project in Fitzroy, one that would bridge the gulf between class and class. With support from the vicar (who aspired to his church assuming its traditional role of moral leadership in the community) and money donated from supporters, a large building was erected on the corner of Gore and Leicester streets.

University students from Trinity College and lady visitors from Toorak were recruited to assist. Local children came surging through the doors, eager for buns and entertainment. Hughes set up an orchestra. But the university students left for summer holidays and never returned. Drunken men started hanging about. No sooner had the Governor opened the mission in August 1891 than the economic depression began to take its toll.

A new vicar thought that the mission was divisive and spelled economic ruin for the parish, dismissed Hughes and the mission collapsed.

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