Mural to feature in treasure hunt on Belcher’s Corner

Local artist Vicki Clissold has painted a new mural showing a host of lively characters around Belcher’s Corner, on the corner of Ryrie and Moorabool Streets in Central Geelong.

Join in the fun by going on a treasure hunt to find things in the mural using the clues from Geelong’s past, and count the Murnong Daisies.

This site was a prominent feature in Geelong’s architectural façade until 2020 when the Belcher’s building was demolished due to structural issues.

Treasure Hunt!

Hidden in the mural are 10 things representing parts of Geelong’s history. Use the clues to find them all!

  1. Sheep farming started in Geelong in 1835 and for many years the city was known as “the wool centre of the world”.
  2. The Geelong automatic telephone exchange was the first in the Southern Hemisphere.
  3. Thomas Austin introduced rabbits into Australia in 1859 by releasing 24 onto his Winchelsea property for hunting.
  4. First published on 21 November 1840, the Geelong Advertiser is Victoria’s oldest newspaper title, and Australia’s second oldest.
  5. The Geelong Football Club was formed in 1859, making it the second oldest in Australia.
  6. Ford Australia was founded in Geelong in 1925 and designed the world’s first ute in 1934.
  7. The first commercial refrigerator was designed in Geelong by newspaper editor James Harrison in 1851.
  8. The first all-metal rotary clothesline was patented by Geelong blacksmith Gilbert Toyne in 1911.
  9. Geelong jewellery designer Stuart Devlin designed Australia’s decimal currency coins in 1964.

Counting Daisies

The Murnong/Yam Daisy was a staple food for the Wadawurrung People pre-European colonisation but was almost completely wiped out due to intensive sheep and cattle grazing. This important native plant is now being extensively re-established thanks to local conservation efforts.

How many of these yellow flowers can you count in the painting?

History of the site

This is the site of Belcher’s Corner, a landmark of Interwar Renaissance architecture designed by architect IG Anderson for Norman Belcher, member of a prominent Geelong business family.

As the Traditional Owners of these lands, the Wadawurrung People have lived in the Djilang/Geelong region for more than 45,000 years, including the area now known as Belcher’s Corner. According to the Hoddle Plan (circa 1838) Moorabool Street was originally spelled “Moorarbool” and refers to the call of the Stone Curlew in Wadawurrung Language. The site pre-European colonisation had extensive views overlooking Corio Bay towards Wurdi Youang/You Yangs.

Commissioned by Norman Belcher, auctioneer and estate agent, local builders JC Taylor & Sons commenced work on the new corner building late in 1926. Thirty-five years earlier, Taylors had built Hopetoun Chambers, next door on Ryrie St, for Norman’s father George F Belcher.

The first retail tenants were a draper, Francis Heritage, and a fruiterer, Felix Virgona.

Local architect Illiffe Gordon Anderson, after training at The Gordon and Melbourne University, designed buildings across Victoria with a number of major commissions in Geelong including the West Geelong City Hall, before his work on Belcher’s Corner.

The interwar Renaissance design was characterised by regularly arranged first floor window bays with a colonnade of square Corinthian pilasters, decorative floral sculptural motifs, multi-pane steel windows, an entablature adorned with roundels and engraved “Belcher’s Corner” on Ryrie Street and “MCMXXI” on Moorabool Street.

Construction was a mix of masonry and concrete, rendered in white Portland cement, and having a pressed metal roof. The use of a reinforced concrete structural frame was a significant innovation at the time, one of the earliest applications of such in Geelong. Unfortunately, this lack of familiarity with developing concrete frame systems would prove the building’s downfall. In many places the steel reinforcement was covered by only 6 millimetres of concrete, rather than the 30-50 millimetres needed, which led to the concrete cracking and flaking off the reinforcement and the reinforcement suffering serious corrosion — what we call ‘concrete cancer’. Testing of concrete strength revealed it to be extremely poor — 4MPa in lieu of the 28MPa standard of today.

By 2020 the structure was deforming, threatening to collapse itself and adjoining buildings, with the adjoining footpaths and roadway at risk of slumping into the basement. Without a practical means of repair, the basement was filled with sand and the building structure carefully demolished by hand to prevent damage to the adjoining historic structures.

Timeline

  • 1846: William Timms purchased lot 18 of Section 35 (Belcher’s Corner site) for £305.
  • 1851: First known building on the site (now known as Belcher’s Corner) built in 1851, including a basement.
  • 1852: George Myles removed his drapery establishment from Corio-street to those “newly-erected, first rate, and centrally situated premises, corner Moorabool and Ryrie streets”.

    Geelong Advertiser & Intelligencer 31 January 1852, page 2

  • 1853: While John Myles’ brother, George, was listed, the building was either solely or partly owned by John Myles. It was known as Myles’ Corner.
  • 1872: Myles’ Corner building sold to GF Belcher. Extension alterations carried out to a design by Davidson and Henderson architects.
  • 1926: The five properties occupied respectively by “The Shepparton Fruit Growers Agency”, Mr Turner, Mr Webb, Mr Heritage, and Mr Virgona are to be transformed into a modern block of buildings containing shops and offices with a large basement underneath the whole area…the demolition of the existing building is being considered in a manner which will inconvenience the present tenants as little as possible.

    Geelong Advertiser 26 March 1926, page 4

  • The building has been designed structurally to carry four stories, …and will be floodlit on the exterior. The design is in the modern Renaissance style, and the building will form one of Geelong’s most dignified architectural landmarks.

    Geelong Advertiser 21 August 1926, page 1

  • Foundations and basement of Belcher’s Buildings nearing completion.

    Geelong Advertiser 7 December 1926, page 5

Belcher Family

George Frederick Belcher (1823 to1909), a pioneer, was born in Dublin, and arrived in Melbourne in 1839. He settled in Geelong in 1854, having been made sub-treasurer of Geelong in May. He resigned from government service in 1869 and became a financial broker and land agent. He was elected Mayor of Geelong in 1873 and 1875, and was the effective founder of St Matthew’s Church, East Geelong.

(Edward) Norman Belcher (10 July 1879 to 31 January 1947), son of George Frederick Belcher, was an auctioneer and estate agent, a serviceman with the army and an Australian rules football player with Geelong and Essendon in the Victorian Football League. Norman served in the Boer War, as well as in Egypt and Gallipoli during World War I. He was also on the committees of the Geelong Racing Club and the Geelong Golf Club and became one of the richest men in Geelong at the time.

Artist Statement

Belcher and Beyond 2021 by Vicki Clissold

This playful mural explores the history of Geelong and this site, previously of the historic Belcher’s Building, through a friendly tug-o-war. The narrative of characters alludes to a push and pull between past and present, through the various eras; a timeline of sorts.

The rope is a central icon, binding the figures in the timeline where history guides our future, building upon the strength and creativity of the past. Clissold’s gestural application of the paint adds a drama to the narrative, infusing the work with lively character.

The work is warmly nostalgic, maintaining a connection with Geelong’s extraordinary history. The historic icons allow a glimpse into the past, whilst the personalities of the characters allow the viewer to see something of themselves or their loved ones in the narrative.

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.