First White Settlement

10 Timeball Tower 1880 Williamstown History

Williamstown, or William’s Town to use its original spelling of the 1830s and 1840s, was named for the British sovereign, King William the fourth, on Native Settlement April 10 1837. Melbourne, on the other hand, was named after the British Prime Minister Lord Melbourne. The settlement at the top of Hobsons Bay was founded by John Batman in 1835. 


With the Yarra River proving too narrow and overgrown with tree snags to allow the navigation of anything but the smallest vessels, Williamstown was considered as a potential site for the establishment of Government facilities. However, a lack of adequate fresh water at William’s Town determined that Melbourne be the government centre.


When the Coode Canal was completed in 1887, Melbourne became the main dock for shipping as well, and Williamstown slowly subsided into a largely forgotten, almost rural, village backwater, where an unparalleled collection of lovely old buildings and houses was able to survive the short-sighted cultural devastation of the 1950s and 1960s.