The Melbourne Centre is a community space which provides learning, leisure, well-being and personal development opportunities to people in York. It is a dual purpose facility, providing specialist training and learning opportunities in the daytime and room space for community, sports and leisure groups in the evening and weekends. As the main learning hub of Blueberry Academy by day it is a historic space housing learning since it was built in 1905. Blueberry Academy wanted to know more about its home. When building improvements led to a discovery of an antique notice board with the names of a key band of original funders, hidden away in a store and dating from 1908 the original roots of this story were found. Who were these people who shared a vision to build a community building that would offer learning to those it was built to serve? What were their lives like? Could we work in partnership with York's Archives (York Explore) to see the past ? What would Blueberry Academy trainees think of life in their community back in 1905, and would they have made similar choices to the questions that the original funders may have asked themselves about funding the development of the Melbourne Centre.
Who where the people who built the Melbourne Centre? Why did they do it? What was life like for them and how different was it to the lives of the trainees of the Blueberry Academy?
The horse-drawn tram here is travelling up Micklegate, just past the junction with George Hudson Street. The photograph dates from about 1905 to 1909. The large trace horse, called Dobbin, used to stand outside Micklegate Post Office with his nose bag until required to lend his assistance in pulling the trams up the steepest hill in York. At the top he would go no further, and on being released he would trot back down the hill to his nosebag and water. Backhouse Nurseries can be seen behind the passenger's head.
York Explore searched in Borthwick Institute for Archives at York University for information about the Melbourne Centre and found a starting point for its starting point
What is now known as the Melbourne Centre was built in response to the Men’s Class (educational class) attached to the local Methodist Chapel. They had been using the previous hall and facilities, but they were no longer big enough. A sub-committee was formed from the Chapel Trustees to look into the new hall in March 1904.
The hall was built by local builder William Usher, whose quote came to £1066.6.11.
There isn't a specific date for the hall opening – it’s not in the minutes (the opening itself was handled by another subcommittee and the minutes for that don’t survive!).
From November 1906 onwards the building is referred to as the Men’s Institute.