An historical timeline of the life and events of Wesley Place.

Evolving with the times

The site we now know as Wesley Place has evolved over many decades since Melbourne was officially founded in 1835. The site’s boundaries were originally smaller, and the eastern side developed in different stages to the church complex.

Pre-contact and Contact Period

Wesley Place is located on the lands of the Kulin Nation. Bun wurrung and Woi-wurrung language groups are associated with the Melbourne Metro area.

40,000 – 30,000 years ago

Aboriginal people occupied the Melbourne area. Numerous climatic changes have occurred over this time period.

30,000 – 185 years ago

Numerous swamps, creeks, rivers, lagoons and marshes supported a variety of flora and fauna species that were used for food, tools, shelter, canoes and other everyday base for Aboriginal People. The changing seasons influenced how people lived and occupied the land.

19th century and earlier

Important meeting grounds for the Kulin Nation were located south of the Yarra River. Camp grounds have been recorded at locations including the Botanic gardens, near Government House, Domain Gardens and Fawkner Park.

18th – 19th centuries and earlier

Artefact Scatters, Scarred Trees and Aboriginal Ancestral Remains have been recorded in the Melbourne CBD.

1830s - 1850s

The development of Melbourne altered the environment and lead to the loss of traditional lands and resources. And the impacts of European colonization brought disease, conflict, social breakdown and forced relocation. Combined this lead to a dramatic decrease in the indigenous population and a loss of knowledge about the pre-contact history of Melbourne and Victoria.

1830s - 1850s

Aboriginal Historical Places recorded in the Melbourne CBD incorporate a wide range of places, sites and events that are significant to Aboriginal Communities. These include camp sites, meeting places, corroboree sites, ceremonial places, missions, schools, churches, places where Aboriginal people were killed/assaulted/threatened by Europeans and places where Aboriginal people were killed/assaulted/threatened by other Aboriginal people.


Woi-wurrung and Bun wurrung people camped around Melbourne, in places such as the north bank of the Yarra River near Swanston Street, and along the south bank ofPrincess Bridge and Punt Road; and within the area that became the MCG and  Yarra Park.


Batman met with local Aboriginal clans and signed a treaty document to ‘purchase’ 600,000 acres of land north and west of Port Phillip Bay.


Yarra Mission located on the southern side of the Yarra River was established by George Langhorne, an Anglican minister. Aboriginal people were forced to relocate to this mission.


Between 400-500 people congregated at the area that is now the Royal Botanic Gardens to welcome the Chief Protector of Aborigines in the Port Phillip District, George Augustus Robinson.


‘Coranderrk’ established at a site chosen by two Woi-wurrung leaders, William Barak and Simon Wonga, between Watts River and Badgers Creek, near Healesville. The site became a model for other mission stations providing the opportunity for the Aboriginal people to manage their own self-sufficient and by 1871 there were  140 acres under cultivation and 400 head of stock. Produce from the farm won first prize at the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1872.


The passing of the Aborigines Act  (known as the ‘half caste act’) threatened the successful operation of Coranderrk. The removal of the ‘half caste’ under the age of 35 from the station tore families apart and reduced the workforce on the farm. Coranderrk closed in 1924.

  • 40,000 YEARS AGO
  • 30,000 YEARS AGO
  • 18TH – 19TH
  • 1830s - 1850s
  • 1830s - 1850s
  • 1830s
  • 1835
  • 1837
  • 1839
  • 1863
  • 1886

Wesley Church site

Pre 1850s

The land is covered by red gum trees, with a dip in the land across the north-west corner of the site.


Crown Land granted to the Wesleyans to build a new church.


A brick School House is constructed close to Lonsdale Street.

1854 -1857

Melbourne City Council raises the street levels in the area to address flooding.


A competition is held for the design of the new Wesleyan church and is won by Joseph Reed.


Tenders are called for the construction of the Wesley Church, Manse and new School House in September.


Wesley Church’s foundation stone is laid by  the Governor Sir Henry Barkly on 2 December.


The new Wesley Church is formally opened on 26 August.


The new School House and Manse are constructed.


Original 1850s Wesleyan School House demolished.


A large drainage channel is laid around the north end of the church to help with flooding.


The brick wall with attached stable building is constructed along Little Lonsdale Street.


An iron fence is constructed along Lonsdale Street and the City Council paves the unsealed footpath in front of the church.


The Olive Tree is planted in the garden at back of the Manse.


The Conference Hall is constructed.


The two lamps on the main entry gate are installed.


Central Wesley Mission established at Wesley Church in response to economic crisis


The Wesley Pleasant Sunday Afternoon (PSA) speakers and music program begins.


The unification of the five branches of Australian Methodism occurs at the Wesley Church on 22 February.


The Caretaker’s Cottage is constructed in a style sympathetic to Reed’s original designs.


A statue of John Wesley by Paul Montford is commissioned to commemorate a centenary of Methodism in Victoria.


A bequest from the Nicholas family enables the construction of Nicholas Hall.


The Conference Hall is demolished.


Wesley House office block constructed on the site of the Conference Hall.


The Olive Tree is relocated from the rear of the Manse to its present location.


The Big Issue magazine moves into the Manse.


The Uniting Church and Charter Hall embark on the redevelopment of the site including works to the inside of the church, repairs to the stonework on the spire and conservation works to the heritage buildings.


Wesley Place opens it’s doors to the Melbourne community.

  • Pre 1850s
  • 1850
  • 1850
  • 1854 -1857
  • 1857
  • 1857
  • 1857
  • 1858
  • 1859
  • 1860s
  • 1861
  • 1869
  • 1873
  • 1875
  • 1888
  • 1889
  • 1893
  • 1893
  • 1902
  • 1914
  • 1935
  • 1938
  • 1970
  • 1971
  • 1988
  • 1996
  • 2016
  • 2020

Jones Lane precinct


Land allotment for Foundry/Jones Lane purchased by J. W. Cowel.

Late 1840s

Land is subdivided and arrange of small businesses and homes occupy Foundry (Jones) Lane and Little Lonsdale Street.

1854 - 1855

Melbourne City Council raises the street levels in the area to address flooding.

1854 - 1855

Jones Lane, Little Lonsdale Street businesses and residences destroyed, and properties filled  with clay to match raised street levels.

1855 - 1866

Foundry/Jones Lane properties subdivided and a row of six tiny terraced houses are built.


Crime and prostitution and other illicit activities in Foundry/Jones Lane and Little Lonsdale Street.

1880s - 1890s

Foundry (Jones) Lane has a notorious reputation for crime and poverty; red-light district.


Foundry Lane name changed to Jones Lane.


Jones Lane terrace houses in poor state of repair, slums.

1890s - 1910

Jones Lane slum houses demolished and new brick factories built.


Land along Lonsdale Street is acquired for the construction of a hostel to accommodate girls and young women working in the inner city by the Wesley Mission.


The Princess Mary Club is officially opened.


Land immediately to the north of the Princess Mary Club is acquired by the Church.


Wesleyan Mission purchases properties along Jones Lane and demolishes the factories to create a ground level car park for Wesley Church.


The Princess Mary Club officially closes operations.


Dr Vincent Clark & Associates commence archaeological dig, uncovering over 100,000 artefacts, including evidence of Aboriginal history and previous Jones Lane dwellings.


Wesley Place opens it’s doors to the Melbourne community.

  • 1847
  • Late 1840s
  • 1854 - 1855
  • 1854 - 1855
  • 1855 - 1866
  • 1860s
  • 1880s - 1890s
  • 1882
  • 1883
  • 1890s - 1910
  • 1923
  • 1926
  • 1963
  • 1980s
  • 1990
  • 2017
  • 2020