Commonwealth Reserve located at the foreshore adjacent to Gem Pier in Williamstown has historical and social significance dating back to the first European settlements in Melbourne. The Reserve is also studded with many heritage attractions like the Tide Gauge House, band rotunda and the Nelson Anchor and Swivel. The Wilkinson Memorial Drinking fountain is situated just in front of the Information Centre.
The area used to be a mud flat where the sea tides ebbed and flowed and came right upto the Nelson Pl. Melbourne Harbour Trust reclaimed the land by installing sheet piling and a training wall in alignment with the curving shoreline and filling the area with soil dredged from the bed of Yarra. When the reserve was handed over to the Municipal Council, they beautified the spot by planting elm trees and lawn space from the 1880’s. More elm trees were planted in 1898.
By the turn of the century the reserve featured a fine timber band rotunda, thriving elms and a large eucalyptus near the Wilson Memorial Fountain and the cross pattern of paths. The reserve was originally named Nelson Place Reserve but renamed in 1901 to mark the foundation of Commonwealth of Australia.
Weighing nearly 5Tonn, the anchor of HMVS Nelson and a swivel which originally belonged to HMS Bellerophon, a battleship Nelson seized from the French and later conveyed Napoleon Bonaparte as a Prisoner to the island of Elba are installed at the reserve. HMVS Nelson, the three-decker battleship was laid down in December 1809 and launched on 4th July 1814 in the presence of the Emperor Alexander of Russia. HMVS Nelson was given to the colony of Victoria as a training ship in 1865.
The Wilkinson Fountain which is unique for its rarity in Australia is at the Nelson Place end of the Reserve. The cast-iron drinking fountain constructed in 1876 by Walter Macfarlane & Co in Glasgow stands on a bluestone plinth made by mason Harry Bliss
The Tide Gaugue house was constructed at Breakwater Pier in 1856 and was used to record tides until 1943. It was relocated to Commonwealth Reserve in 1955.
Address: 132 – 142 Nelson Place, corner Syme Street, Williamstown
Areas of Commonwealth Reserve are available for booking by contacting the Council. Refer website for details
Facilities: Children’s playground, Rotunda, Drinking water taps, seating, Toilets, Information Centre
A craft market is held here on the third Sunday of Every month.
There is a ferry Service from Southbank and St Kilda that berth at Gem Pier near the Commonwealth Reserve.
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