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The Flagstaff Gardens

Flagstaff Gardens are Melbourne's oldest gardens. They take their name from a flagstaff erected in 1840 at the settlement's highest point, in order to communicate between the harbour and town. This became known as "Flagstaff Hill". Before this, the area was used as a cemetary and was known as Burial Hill. (There is a memorial in the gardens that marks the graves of the first European settlers.) The hill was at such a high point that people going to Flagstaff Hill enjoyed panoramic views of the bay. However, as city buildings rose up around the gardens, the views were blocked out. Today, standing in the gardens, it is hard to imagine that this was such a high point and that it was once possible to see the bay.

Flagstaff Hill and the area surrounding the gardens is steeped in history. On 11th November, 1850, Queen Victoria declared Victoria a separate colony and a bonfire was lit that night on Flagstaff Hill to signal the news. Shortly after that event, gold was discovered in regional Victoria and the Royal Mint was built at the south-east corner of the gardens to mint gold from the goldfields of Ballarat and Bendigo.

The gardens were constructed in 1880 after residents of West Melbourne became concerned at the dereliction of Flagstaff Hill and petitioned the Governor to turn the area into public gardens or a recreational area.

They are laid out on 7.17 hectares of land at the northern edge of the CBD and are bounded by King, Latrobe, William and Dudley Streets. They comprise mature trees (including huge Morton Bay Figs) set in spacious lawns and garden beds with flowering shrubs, roses and annuals. There are monuments and sculptures set out across the gardens.

The Flagstaff Gardens are a popular lunch-time spot on a sunny day with city workers. That's not surprising as even in the early times of the settlement they were regarded as a fashionable place, with people going their to picnic and listen to the music of regimental bands, while taking in views of the bay. Interestingly, many more people visit the gardens each day than the more impressive Fitzroy gardens, on the other side of the CBD.

The Flagstaff Gardens have been classified by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and is listed by the Australian Heritage Commission.

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