Shakspeare Terrace (an obvious if curious mispelling of the famous Shakespeare) is a row of eight double storey Victorian Italianate terraces positioned as one of the most visible in Melbourne commanding a prime position between the Punt Road Oval (and iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground) and Richmond railway station, it is also one of the most sadly neglected terraces in Melbourne.
Despite being one of Melbourne’s grandest boom style cast iron ladies, erected in 1889, it is currently unloved, the victim of its position on the intersection of some of Melbourne’s busiest roads, notorious Punt Road and Brunton Avenue. A story of neglect, these grand old homes have been adaptively reused as a combination of brothels and offices barely recognisable beneath huge advertising banners and layers of graffiti. The giant W shaped setback plan is interrupted by the fact that 343 in particular has been modified beyond almost all recognition, refaced in 1960s blonde brick. If not for a small slither of its parapet balustrade is visible on its southern wrap around facade, none would be the wiser to its continued existence. The grand loggia of the twin mid terraces at 335-337 is obscured behind a massive billboard for the benefit of those stuck in football traffic on Brunton Avenue.
Tenders were called for on 25 August 1888 for the construction of these homes and the architect was John Frederick Gibbons.1
This is a Victorian mannerist row of immense detail. The parapets emblazoned with the name “Shakespeare Terrace” have tall segmental arched pediments with detailed reliefs, mouldings and string courses, a deep frieze of link chain balustrade, highly visible chimneys and base columnade of keystoned arches. The end terraces follow this same style of triple arched loggia but with triangular pediments flanked by bold chimneys and balustrades, while the intermediate sets of terraces are recessed with more obvious filigree design. Behind them is a facade of detailed polychrome brick. The iron lace patterns feature a deep frieze and brackets on both levels and the original cast iron palisade remains at ground level. The rear brick facade remains substantially intact despite the modifications to the facade.
The row is protected by a Yarra City heritage overlay HO332A .2 One can only hope that its fortunes fare better in future, perhaps if a solution to the area’s notorious traffic, such as a tunnel, can be found.