A recent sales history of Royal Terrace with today’s listing occupying the far right end-terrace (above); an 1868 image from a similar vantage point reveals only minor changes occurred over the past 150 years, save for the c1880s addition of urns and rosettes to the parapet in an attempt to “modernise” the simple Regency facade during extravagant Boom Time Melbourne (below).
Royal Terrace, the largest pre-Boom Time row of terraces found in Melbourne, has seen one of its 10 addresses listed for sale this week. Number 50, an end terrace fronting both Nicholson and Gertrude Streets, is listed through Greg Hocking agent Tony Robins with $3m+ hopes. The vendors are likely riding a tide of recent $3m+ sales in Fitzroy, a suburb long associated with working class that’s seen recent shifts and an influx of money. That said, the historical significance of a residence in Royal Terrace has consistently driven $1m+ figures in the past 10 years, long before neigbhouring residences in Fitzroy saw the 7-digits. The unique double exposure of #50 (to the south and west), places the terrace at a premium; however it’s bland and fatigued interiors reveal much work needs to be done.
An 1854 map shows the recently planned streets of Fitzroy and the more established CBD, East Melbourne, and Carlton. Royal Terrace is situated north of Gertrude Street across from Carlton Gardens.
Despite Fitzroy’s long-held reputation for working class housing, at the time of Royal Terrace’s construction there was no indication of such a future. In 1853, two years after the discovery of gold in Victoria, timber merchant and builder John Bryant commissioned an architect (likely John Gill) to design a row of 10 terraces unified by a simple, but imposing rusticated bluestone edifice in the Victorian Regency style. Royal Terrace was owned wholly by the Bryant family who rented the prestigious residences to Melburnians newly minted from the Gold Rush. In 1853, Fitzroy had only recently seen its streets surveyed. Residential precincts were firmly established in both East Melbourne and the present-day CBD, but Fitzroy was effectively untouched. Bryant, no doubt, was attracted to the city fringe location and the barren land that was situated across the street. This chunk of land had been reserved for a park as early as the 1830s, but it wasn’t until the City of Melbourne formally acquired the land in 1856 - the same year Royal Terrace finished construction - that it engaged Edward La Trobe Batman for its design and named it Carlton Gardens. This new park, albeit in quite rough shape for some 25 years, no doubt helped establish Royal Terrace as the domain of the professional class.
A late-1850s or early-1860s view of Royal Terrace, Nicholson Street, and Carlton Gardens (from right to left).
However, by 1880, at the dawn of Melbourne’s famous boom decade, the northern suburbs of Fitzroy and Collingwood were established as the industrial - and accordingly working class - belt of Melbourne. But one major building addition to Melbourne constructed that year allowed Royal Terrace to remain a landmark streetscape henceforth: The Royal Exhibition Building. Such a prominent neigbhour ensured the value of Royal Terrace buoyed above the rest of its suburb for the following century; and now that Fitzroy is beginning to stake claim to an upwardly-mobile demographic, Royal Terrace and its 10 residences are once again highly-prized Melbourne real estate.
50 Nicholson Street will be counting on its size and exterior bones for a big ticket sale. The interiors, if in vaguely original condition, are depressing at best. However, the 6.2m frontage, unusually large 55m depth, rear lane access for 2 cars, three storeys, and corner position make it a tempting offer for a piece of Melbourne real estate history.
Click below for listing images, floor plan, and sources.
Image sources: State Library of Victoria, Wikipedia
The listing: 50 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy