Land Purchase, 1840
A section of a title plan indicating land owned by the Mechanics' Institution in Collins Street
Held in the Archives of the Melbourne Athenaeum
Thomas Osborne purchased two allotments of land on behalf of the newly formed Mechanics' Institution in 1840, at an auction, for a low £142/10/- per allotment, the upset price being pre-arranged with the auctioneers. The land fronted Collins Street and extended to Little Collins Street. When knowledge of the transaction was revealed at a meeting of the Legislative Council in Sydney, the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Charles Gipps, regarded the transaction as similar to a 'celebrated land conspiracy case' to defraud the land fund. At the next meeting, on 2 September 1840, this serious matter was discussed resulting in Gipps (grudgingly?) approving the transaction. Click here to see the transcript from the Sydney Herald report.
Gipps considered doubling the upset price for future sales, to prevent a similar situation.
Thomas Osborne transferred ownership of the land to the Mechanics' Institution in a Document of Trust.
A copy of the document is held in the archives
With the land secure, the new, yet still small, group of interested citizens of Melbourne set about raising money to erect a building. One of the allotments, half of the land, was sold at auction at a generous profit and, together with donations from groups such as the Debating Society and the Masonic Lodge, it funded a two-storey rendered brick building, which graced the town to the delight of its culturally-starved citizens.
Photograph of the auction plan, dated 1840, held in the Archives of the Melbourne Athenaeum