Old Melbourne in summer time – Prince’s Court 1904

Foy's Arcade Events, Info

Sitting in the Café zone at Foy’s Arcade, reading through one of our books ‘Lost Melbourne’ and it took us down a thrilling ride through some of the amazing history of our city going back all the way to 1904.

We read this wonderful excerpt about “Prince’s Court” (article here) and wanted to share because we loved it so much and it draws so many parallels to our own pasts in our lives, our buildings and our city of Melbourne.

Enjoy the read below:




Prince’s Court, the new pleasure resort on the south bank of the Yarra, was officially opened last evening by the Premier Mr Bent, in the presence of about 2,000 invited guests.

The grounds comprising about five acres have been laid out and improved in a picturesque manner.

All that paint and Japanese lanterns and geishas in kimonos can accomplish to make the place attractive has been carried out. Only 11 weeks have elapsed since the management obtained a lease of the area from the Government, and in that time a spot previously an eyesore to all beholders has been converted into a resort that needs only time for the growth of plants to stand on the same plane as similar pleasure-grounds of the old world. Princes Court is entered through a picturesque highly coloured Japanese gateway, situated at the end of the path opening on Princes-bridge, and at night is picturesqueness is heightened by electric lights that are clustered upon it.

Once inside, there is a wide, open space, with the immense chute rising before the spectator, and its myriad of lights reflected on the lake into which the boats of the chute make their plunge. This lake is one of the most effective features of Princes Court. Surrounded by a rockery, it extends for about 100 feet from the foot of the chute, and, owing to the porous nature of the soil, it has been lined throughout with malthoid roofing, with satisfactory results. The first boat sent down the steep slope of the chute last evening contained the Premier (Mr Bent), the Minister of Lands (Mr Murray), the Minister of Education (Mr Sachse), Mr Pitt, M.L.C and several ladies.

The starting of the boat was watched with interest and, perhaps, a little anxiety, and, as it swept downwards and shot out on the lake in a mighty mass of spray loud cheers were raised, and acknowledged by the Premier waving his hand. Other boats followed, and throughout the evening there were crowds of people awaiting the cars in which passengers are dragged to the top platform. To the east of the chute stands a shooting gallery and novel effects, and a little further on is the Cafe Chantant, where a variety programme is presented. To the west of the chute is the Japanese tea-house, one of the prettiest features of the whole resort, a building carried out completely on the Japanese model and decorated in excellent taste. Behind it is the toboggan slide, where everybody has the exhilarating experience of steering himself down a steep slope, and the thought that a deviation of a hair’s breadth will mean a horrible death. Not that this occurs; the toboggan is arranged that it goes on just the same, in spite of the blunders of the driver. Still, it gives a certain amount of satisfaction to people to think they have been snatched from the grave by their own efforts. In addition, there is a tug-of-war, in which two parties mount cars, and haul one another along on rails; an immense Japanese dragon, which carries a score of people on its back on a tour round the grounds; a wine kiosk, a band-stand, from which the strains of popular music rise. Prince’s Court needs only the consolidation of the surface under foot to complete it. Splendid progress has been made in every other respect.

The Premier, in declaring Prince’s Court open, congratulated the promoters upon having transformed an area devoted to broken bottles and kerosene tins, into such a magnificent place. He wished them the financial success they deserve. He understood that the chute was 79 ft high and one of the largest in the world. He had been down the chute, and enjoyed it. He had faced the toboggan, and he had taken part in the tug-of-war. Somebody had arranged that so that his side should win, and he thanked them for doing so (laughter). The Chief Commissioner of Railways (Mr Tait) told him that these entertainments were very popular in Canada, and his own opinion was that this place would be a great good for the people of Victoria.

A vote of thanks was accorded to the Premier for opening the grounds.

Prince’s Court will be open to the public to-day and daily here-after from half-past 2 o’clock each afternoon to half-past 10 o’clock at night.