FORMER ROYAL MELBOURNE MINT
The Former Royal Melbourne Mint was built between 1869 and 1872 by the contractors William Murray & Company of Emerald Hill, and Martin and Peacock of West Melbourne. The Mint was designed by architect John James Clark from the Public Works Office who had also designed the Old Treasury Building, Customs House (now the Immigration Museum) and Melbourne City Baths.
Since the first surveying of Melbourne in 1836, the location has held a public cricket match, housed balls, dances and bazaars; served as police barracks and was the site of Melbourne's first Exhibition Building - a structure made entirely of wood and iron and torn down in the late 1860s once it had "outlived its usefulness".
THE GOLD RUSH
The discovery of gold in Victoria resulted in the lobbying of a Mint to be built - both as a way of efficiently providing currency to the colonies and signifying the colony's independence and growth.
Currency was an important issue in the early 1800s and different methods of payment, from barter to various types of coinage, was used. In 1829, British coins replaced foreign coins when the sterling standard was enforced. The amount of coin available in the colony quickly became inadequate following the discovery of gold because of the quick population growth and the subsequent increase in and complexity of transactions.
In 1851, the first colonial Mint opened in New South Wales and began minting coins in 1855. Petitions were put forward to the Victorian Parliament to set up a local branch of the Royal Mint in Melbourne; they were rejected twice before an Act was passed in 1867 by the Victorian Parliament allowing for the expense of £20,000 a year to operate a Mint.
A BRITISH INSTITUTION
As the new colonial Mint was a British institution, it had to be under British control. This meant that its employees had to be British civil servants and the coins minted had to conform to the strict regulations of the Royal Mint in London. The expenses relating to the management and operation of a Mint, however, fell to the colonial governments because their establishment was at their behest.
The Victorian Government was required to also pay for the construction fo the Melbourne Mint, although the design had to be in accordance with plans from the London Mint. A request was made, however, to have the plans altered in order to save money; this was not possible for the production building as the machinery was already on its way to Melbourne, and, instead, the administration building was modified by J.J Clark to roughly half of its initial size.
The Mint opened its doors in 1872 and consisted of a 3-storey production building, a 2-storey administrative and residential building, two gatehouses and perimeter walls.
The production building, a horseshoe-shaped structure that sat behind the administrative building, was divided into operating departments that included a coining hall with the main furnace, engine house, boilers, smith shop, an assaying department and the melting house and refinery.
THE MINT IN THE 20TH AND 21ST CENTURIES
The new Commonwealth of Australia decided to have its own coinage in 1909, eight years after Federation. In 1915, the Melbourne Mint was asked to coin silver, and in 1916, the first silver coin was issued in Australia. The first copper pence was issued in 1919. The Melbourne Mint struck the majority fo Australian coinage until the establishment of the Commonwealth Mint in Canberra in 1967, which remains the sole producer of Australian coinage.
In 1968, the Melbourne Mint was closed following the transfer of its functions to the Commonwealth Mint. The equipment was sold and the entire production building was demolished in 1972. Only the administrative building and the guardhouses have survived.
In 1971, the administrative building housed the Registry of Civil Marriages and in 1988 the Royal Historical Society of Victoria. TEAC, a digital media company, had its headquarters located in the administrative building in the early 2000s and were responsible for much of the restoration of the building.