Cool, cluttered and collected, Hosier Lane is one of Melbourne’s most obvious attractions. But unlike many of the city’s hidden or long-reaching laneways, Hosier provides an easily accessible example of how the council allows Melbourne’s minds to wander
Hosier Lane is located between Swanston and Russell streets, extending from Flinders Street through to Flinders Lane. Rutledge Lane connects in a C shape to the west of Hosier Lane.
Businesses located in Hosier lane in 1920 were quite diverse. These included an organ manufacturer, a warehouse for a men's clothing company, and a costume manufacturer. Hosier Lane was located in the clothing manufacturing district at this time. The nearby Higson and Oliver Lanes also had warehouses that were predominantly used by businesses involved in the manufacturing of clothes.
Two properties on Hosier Lane, used for commercial and domestic purposes, are listed on the Victorian Heritage Inventory. These are the buildings located at numbers 3-5 and 7-9.
Hosier Lane today is a brightly lit lane well known for its quirky bars and the stencil graffiti art which adorns the lane's brick walls. The artwork decorating the walls near number 1 Hosier Lane and near Misty Place at number 3-5 Hosier Lane have been approved by the City of Melbourne as registered street artwork.
Regarded as both street art and vandalism, incidences of graffiti are recorded as early as 1859 when obscene words were added to notice boards in the Carlton Gardens. Public toilets were a favorite venue for such obscenities from the 1860s.
Political messages, especially socialist, were a prominent theme after World War II. The slogan 'Menzies must go' became so prevalent during the period 1952-56 that the Herald newspaper called for the 'scrawls of this dirty work' to be prosecuted and the graffiti to be obliterated. A favorite site for such 'red slogans' was the walls of University High School on Royal Parade in Parkville. In preparation for the royal visit of 1954 this wall (dubbed the 'red slate') was demolished and the 'offensive Communist slogans' were removed from metropolitan railway buildings.
Graffiti addressed many of the major social and political issues that impacted on Melbourne life. One prominent message in 1955 read 'No troops for Malaya' while 'Ban H-tests' was daubed 3-feet high across the bases of the columns of the State Parliament House façade. Nor were more prosaic spaces spared. The message 'Out Bolte' appeared on the scoreboard of the Richmond Football Ground in 1958.
Politics was not the only theme for graffiti artists. The Herald newspaper (20 June 1930) recalled a Melbourne eccentric who traveled the suburbs 'adorning all the walls he could find with the one word, "Eternity"', predating Sydney's celebrated 'eternity man', Arthur Stace.
From 1979 BUGA-UP's (Billboard Utilizing Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions) graffiti worked against sexist and tobacco advertising and marked graffiti's new power against large corporations. By contrast, the 'tagging' which appeared on trains was a territorial act which added nothing to public debates and instead aroused the public's ire. Attempts to incorporate graffiti into the mainstream by providing special 'graffiti walls' were always doomed to failure, as an ill-fated graffiti wall in the City Square proved. If graffiti had any power, it was in its ability to subvert.
While many of Melbourne's historic buildings inadvertently preserve historical graffiti in their fabric (such as in cells at the Old Melbourne Gaol), the 'Keon traitor to the ALP' graffiti was the first to be considered for classification by the National Trust as being of local heritage significance. Painted on a wall in Richmond in the 1950s, it referred to the role played by Stan Keon, then federal Australian Labor Party member and devout Catholic and anti-communist, in the split of the Democratic Labor Party from the ALP. Only weeks after its heritage value was publicised in 1999, the graffiti was itself graffitied
Lanes and Alleys
Governor Bourke suggested Melbourne's little streets as access routes to service properties fronting the major east-west thoroughfares, but Surveyor Hoddle's 1837 street grid made no provision for the lanes or alleys which by the 1850s had quickly proliferated within the city's large blocks. By the mid-1850s there were 80 named lanes and 112 rights-of-way, many private, in Central Melbourne. Lanes were used for deliveries, as workshops and extensions of warehouses and factories, for night-soil collection and as tips for rubbish. Often poorly lit, they were frequently used as makeshift public toilets, the stench of urine from the back lanes being one of the ubiquitous 19th-century city smells, particularly in the theatre and entertainment precincts.
Many of Melbourne's city councillors, functional zones, businesses, builders, immigrant ships, and hotels, are immortalized in the names of its lanes. In Fergus Hume's 1886 novel The mystery of a hansom cab, Calton and Kilsip turn off Bourke into the back streets as if descending into an inferno, keeping to the middle of the alley to avoid attack from the shadowy figures surrounding them. Throughout the city's history the politics of changing street names in reaction to offensive social connotations highlighted the social and moral geography of the city. Melbourne's lanes were popularly decried as Melbourne's 'infant St Giles', filthy backdrops to the main streets, the resort of the criminal and the deviant. Lanes were occasionally renamed under pressure from local residents concerned for their property values and the respectability of their neighborhoods. In 1868 the name of Synagogue Lane was changed to Little Queen Street because the former name 'has unfortunately acquired a notoriety'. The name was changed again in 1909, this time to Bourke Lane. Condell's Lane was renamed Vallance Alley in 1874, though the old name was restored after a complaint from a resident who claimed the change would interfere with his business, having already printed up his business cards, letter papers and bill-heads with the old address. In 1876 Romeo Lane, with its 'disorderly' and 'immoral' associations, was changed to Crossley Street, residents claiming they were having trouble letting properties to respectable tenants, despite having replaced former 'dilapidated hovels' with 'superior stabling'. Blossom Alley off Little Bourke Street was changed to Barkly Place in 1913 'as more dignified and in keeping with its developed importance'.
In the latter decades of the 20th century, while Melbourne's lanes and alleys were recognised for their heritage character and as providing an important inner network of public space, many had been subsumed by developments such as Melbourne Central, Collins Place, and the Hyatt Hotel. Back lanes, once the target of slum clearance advocates, also added to the character of inner-city neighborhoods. In 2004 Corporation Lane off Flinders Lane was renamed AC/DC Lane to commemorate the rock band whose 1975 It's a Long Way to the Top film clip featured the band performing on the back of a truck travelling down Swanston Street.
(Source - eMelbourne the city past and present)