Seaworks has built up an impressive maritime collection since it opened the Seaworks Maritime Discovery Centre in early 2011. Included in the collection is a large display of ship models, ships bells, books, prints and navigation equipment. The Port of Melbourne has donated a collection of plaques, marine equipment and its world war honour board. The Seaworks site was once run by the Melbourne Harbour Trust, building tugs and other vessels for use in Australia and overseas. When Asian nations commissioned a vessel from the MHT, they often donated a gift to the trust once the ship was completed and delivered to her buyer. Many of these gifts are now on display at Seaworks. Seaworks is also very excited about its new Victorian navy display by the Friends of the Cerberus. Included in the display is the main wheel of the HMVS Nelson, a Victorian Colonial Naval training vessel. The SMDC also houses the Richard Linton art collection. The detail in this art is so immaculate, Seaworks provides magnifying glasses for a closer look!
The Seaworks Maritime Discovery Centre is open every Wednesday and Sunday 11am-3pm.
Entry is a gold coin donation. All proceeds are for the redevelopment of the Seaworks site.
Group Tours are available at other times. Please phone 0417 292 021 for enquiries.
The centre is staffed by Seaworks/WMA volunteers.
Developing the Maritime Discovery Centre
The Seaworks Maritime Discovery Centre was officially opened in January 2011 to become a unique and significant collection of maritime artefacts. In November 2010 the National Trust announced an auction of many of the objects which had been placed in storage following the demolition of the Melbourne Maritime Museum to make way for the extensions to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre next to the Polly Woodside.
Following a publicity and fund raising campaign, the original Seaworks collection was purchased at the National Trust auction. Prior to the auction, many other items were donated including seven exquisite shipbuilders models from Svitzer Australia. Port of Melbourne Corporation donated items including the Melbourne Harbour Trust Honour Board and many gifts received from visiting ships over many years. The collection continues to expand with new and improved displays being developed to tell many of the amazing stories surrounding the Seaworks site, Williamstown and the Port of Melbourne.
There is more to see than just the Maritime Discovery Centre at Seaworks. Following separation from NSW in 1851, the site was the base for new Victorian Colonial Navy and Melbourne Harbour Trust shipyards leaving a legacy of heritage listed piers, slipways and buildings including:
Built in 1859, the original morgue was relocated in 1873.
Originally built on North Wharf in 1887-88 and relocated and reconstructed at Melbourne Harbour Trust in Williamstown in 1922 (now Seaworks).
Includes Workshops Jetty which was built in 1942 in place of the original Wright’s Patent Slip. Boyd Pier was built in 1920’s.
The original 1850’s Wrights Slip was replaced with Slipway No.2 in 1942.
Seaworks Maritime Museum is a member of the Maritime Museums of Victoria.
The Maritime Museum of Victoria (MMV) is a grouping of individual museums each with their own identity and autonomy. Through membership to the MMV they combine to collect, display, conserve and interpret our maritime heritage in an exciting and integrated way.
The Williamstown morgue was built in 1859. Prior to its construction, bodies were stored in hotel cellars. The Deputy Coroner, Dr Wilkins, demanded for a morgue to be constructed and in 1859 Williamstown Council accepted the tender.
The Williamstown morgue was designed by James Balmain and built by HR Thomas and HR Hunt. Reputedly convict and prison labour cut the bluestone at Point Gellibrand. The morgue originally stood on the water’s edge which the Commonwealth Reserve occupies today.
Lime was used to bind the mortar and the roof was made of slate. The morgue has two doors. Originally, the front door opened onto the water. At high tide, the morgue would be naturally cleaned by seawater. The only ventilation was the open windows you see today. The building contained a basic wooden autopsy table, a kerosene lantern and a small hand basin.
Due to its prominent location, the Public Works Department requested the morgue to be moved and reconstructed on its present site in Ann Street, Williamstown, in 1874.
Some reports state that the morgue was relocated twice before being reconstructed in Ann Street.
The morgue is the oldest surviving in Melbourne and the first morgue erected in Victoria. It is also one of the oldest buildings in Williamstown.
Statement of Significance
The Morgue is registered with The National Trust (B1628) http://www.nationaltrust.org.au/vic/Home
Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) H1512 http://www.dpcd.vic.gov.au/heritage and Hobson’s Bay City Council.
The former Williamstown Morgue is a bluestone structure first erected in 1859 near the Gem Pier and removed twice subsequently, in 1873 to its present site. Single-storied, the morgue is constructed of random coursed masonry and has a hipped corrugated iron roof, originally clad in slate. The arched entrance has rusticated voussoirs, prominent key-stone and a stone lintel.
The former Morgue is an early structure important architecturally but more especially for its role in the history of the historic port of Williamstown. This structure is believed to be the first morgue erected in Victoria. The former morgue is an unique reminder of the era when Williamstown was a thriving port town, from almost the earliest years of settlement in Victoria. Architecturally the simple Georgian style structure is an unique example of a morgue.
Former Morgue is located in the depot of the Ports and Harbours Department and has been variously used, mostly as a store.