Velvet, Iron, Ashes

A research guide providing options for further research into the themes and personalities featured in our Velvet, Iron, Ashes exhibition.


In Melbourne there were some early experiments with electric lights in the late 1870s, including two football matches in August 1879. The first, a game between the East Melbourne Artillery and the Collingwood Rifles ended somewhat farcically when the game was stopped for a player count. The large crowd thought the game was over and invaded the ground.

A second night game was held a week later on 13 August 1879. League heavyweights Carlton and Melbourne were the combatants and the game again attracted a very large crowd. The Navy Blues won the game easily.

The adoption of electricity over gas lighting took a big step forward with the lighting of the Eastern Market in 1881 that led to a contract between the Victorian Electricity Company and the Melbourne City Council. 

By 1894 the Council was looking to generate its' own electricity and built a power station at Spencer Street to provide effective lighting of the city streets.

Various other small electricity companies sprung up and in 1896 the government passed the Electric Light & Power Act to regulate the industry.

In 1917 the State Government appointed an advisory committee to report on the potential for Gippsland brown coal to be used for electricity generation.

Electricity commissioners were appointed in 1919, and reported to Parliament on the utilization of brown coal and water power for the production of electrical energy.

The State Electricity Commission of Victoria was established in 1921, replacing the electricity commissioners. John Monash was appointed as Chairman.

At Yallourn the SEC developed an open cut mine, power station and briquette factory. They also built the new Yallourn township for the workers. The first electricity was generated in 1924.

At the Pageant of Nations, held as part of the celebrations of the centenary of the European arrival in Victoria, Jessie Clarke wore a spectacular outfit with a  headdress that represented the Yallourn Power Station.

In 1961 the SEC announced that it intended to exploit the coal reserves under the township. This was the beginning of the end for Yallourn and by the early 1980s, the township had been completely removed.

Further research

Yallourn power

'A' P/S power station showing screen in foreground, and construction 'B' boiler house Yallourn

'A' P/S power station showing screen in foreground, and construction 'B' boiler house H2009.18/591

Early powerhouse 1894

Early powerhouse 1894 IAN02/04/94/12c

Yallourn Horse drawn scoops early cut excavation

Yallourn. Horse drawn scoops early cut excavation  H2009.18/122

Erection of 'A' turbine house, Yallourn

Erection of 'A' turbine house, Yallourn H2009.18/447

Football Match by electric light August 1879

Football Match by electric light August 1879   IAN30/08/79/137

Yallourn town

Brown coal township (Yallourn) 1926 H2009.18/343

Yallourn 19 Southway H2009.18/324

Yallourn 19 Southway H2009.18/324

Yallourn township

Yallourn township H2009.18/316

Yallourn state school 4085 H2009.18/207

Yallourn State School 4085 H2009.18/207

Velvert Iron Ashes

Victoria Gallery

State Library Victoria
10am to 6pm
24 October 2019 - 12 July 2020