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Tarver Street

Tarver St is a short street – only 500m long – between Prohasky and Salmon Sts in Port Melbourne.

William Richardson Tarver was born in Daventry, Northamptonshire and came to Australia on the steamship Great Britain in 1857 aged 12. His brother, Thomas, had preceded him, arriving the year before on the Royal Charter. Their father, James ,established the Vulcan Foundry in 1858 and was subsequently joined by both sons. Prior to working in the foundry, William worked as a cashier in Buckley & Nunn’s for three years. After their father’s death the brothers continued to run the foundry.[1]

William Tarver was elected to Port Melbourne Council in August 1884 heading the poll of six candidates who put themselves forward for the three vacancies.[2] A poem published in the Standard on 26 Jul 1884 in the lead-up to the election puts some of the characteristics of the candidates to verse.[3]

Tarver is an honest man

And strong among the lodges,

If he gets in he won’t put up

With any artful dodges

Standard, 26 July 1884, p3

During the final year of his first term, 1886-87, Tarver served as Port Melbourne Mayor.[4]

Nominating for re-election in 1887, Tarver, along with other candidates, addressed ratepayers at Port Melbourne Town Hall on the evening of Monday, 8 August. He outlined his success in getting the Market Reserve leased and spoke of a promise he had made at the 1884 election to try to get something done with the lagoon. ‘He is still of the opinion that it should be properly cleaned out clean out and a dock made of it. He believed the day would come when they would see large ships up at Bridge Street‘. This was met with applause. He was working with Melbourne merchants to persuade the Melbourne Harbor Trust to hand the lagoon over to the Council. He also criticised the Trust for taking large amounts of money off of the Borough each year but providing very little assistance with the approaches to the piers. Tarver concluded his address by taking questions from the gathering.[5]

Tarver again topped the poll and was successfully re-elected.[6]

When the Melbourne Harbor Trust was set up in 1877 to guide and plan for the future development of the Port, it was governed by 15 (later 17) commissioners with various interests in the Port. Councils adjoining the Port (Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, Williamstown and Footscray) elected one commissioner each to represent their interests.

By 1890 the Harbor Trust was, because of an actual or perceived bias towards the Yarra, known in some quarters as the River Trust.[7] Tarver, no doubt, felt he could do something to redress the balance and stood against the retiring Port Melbourne Council Harbor Trust Commissioner, Cr Henry Norval Edwards, who had renominated for the position. Tarver put a wide ranging platform to electors at the Ship Inn in Bay St in 1890. He spoke of the neglect of the bay by the Trust, advocated for a new pier at Ross St, opposed depositing silt in the bay, and advocated for reform of the Trust to include representation from Trade Hall Council.[8]

The vote was close. Edwards with 619 defeated Tarver on 605 with a third candidate, Captain Harry Hall, receiving just 28 votes.[9]

Tarver remained popular among the ratepayers though and again topped the poll in the Council elections held on Thursday, 14 August 1890.[10]

Three years later the tables were turned with Tarver (732) defeating Edwards (604) to claim his place as a Harbor Trust Commissioner. A third candidate, Mr Grut, probably Port Melbourne Councillor Peter Gallienne Grut, receiving 298 votes.[11]

William Richardson Tarver. Melbourne Harbor Trust Commissioners Jubilee Report 1877 – 1927, illus. opp. p. 209.

The appearance of Tarver St on a Harbor Trust General Plan dating to 1891 (below) suggests a recognition of his role as Councillor as it predates his appointment as a Trust Commissioner. Tarver St was formally proclaimed a Public Highway on the 18 July 1898.[12]

Tarver remained a Commissioner and a Councillor until his death on the afternoon of Wednesday, 9 Aug 1899.[13]

Melbourne Harbor Trust General Plan 1891 (detail). Melbourne Harbor Trust Commissioners Jubilee Report, 1877 – 1927, illus. opp. p. 145.

The regard in which Tarver was held is revealed in an account of his funeral, “one of the biggest funeral processions that has ever left Port Melbourne“. Nott St between Liardet and Graham streets was blocked with “vehicles and persons on foot” and when the funeral procession departed for the Melbourne General Cemetery even more people came out to pay their respects.[14]

The funeral drew mourners from the Port Melbourne Council, commissioners and officers of the Harbor Trust, as well as the Druids. Among those offering flowers were people we have met before including Mr and Mrs A T Bellion, Miss Bertha Falkenreich, Mr and Mrs Falkenreich and Miss Adams.

William’s brother, Thomas, succeeded him as a Commissioner but only after an election in which he campaigned “assiduously” and canvased “incessantly”.[15] He then represented Port Melbourne on the Trust until his own death on 22 Oct 1907.[16]

Tarver St is about to become more familiar as the P.M. development in the Wirraway precinct of Fishermans Bend takes shape. The entry to the carpark will be on Tarver St.

Let’s take a glimpse of Tarver St as it is in May 2019, knowing that this streetscape will soon disappear.

Tarver St, May 2019


1 1899 ‘OBITUARY.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 12 August, p. 2. , viewed 22 Jun 2023,

2 1884 ‘PORT MELBOURNE ELECTION.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 16 August, p. 2. , viewed 22 Jun 2023,

3 1884 ‘PORT MELBOURNE ELECTION.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 26 July, p. 3. , viewed 22 Jun 2023,

4 1886 ‘PORT MELBOURNE BOROUGH COUNCIL.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 21 August, p. 3. , viewed 22 Jun 2023,

5 1887 ‘THE ELECTIONS.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 11 August, p. 2. , viewed 22 Jun 2023,

6 1887 ‘THE ELECTIONS.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 13 August, p. 2. , viewed 22 Jun 2023,

7 1890 ‘THE RIVER TRUST AGAIN.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 8 March, p. 2. , viewed 22 Jun 2023,

8 1890 ‘HARBOUR TRUST ELECTION.’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 19 March, p. 7. , viewed 23 May 2019,

9 1890 ‘HARBOR TRUST ELECTIONS.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 2 April, p. 5. , viewed 21 Jun 2023,

10 1890 ‘BOROUGH ELECTION.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 16 August, p. 3. , viewed 22 Jun 2023,

11 1893 ‘NEWS OF THE DAY.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 29 March, p. 5. , viewed 21 Jun 2023,

12 1898 ‘PUBLIC HIGHWAYS IN THE TOWN OF PORT MELBOURNE’, Victorian Government Gazette, No. 71, 22 July, p. 2849.

13 1899 ‘OBITUARY.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 12 August, p. 2. , viewed 22 Jun 2023,

14 1899 ‘Late W. R. Tarver.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 19 August, p. 3. , viewed 22 Jun 2023,

15 1899 ‘HARBOUR TRUST ELECTION.’, Standard (Port Melbourne, Vic. : 1884 – 1914), 9 September, p. 3. , viewed 22 May 2019,

16 Hoare, B. Melbourne Harbor Trust Commissioners Jubilee Report, 1877 – 1927, p. 230.

Tarver Street is named for William Richardson Tarver, Port Melbourne Councillor 1884 to 1899, Mayor in 1886-87 and Commissioner of the Melbourne Harbor Trust 1893 to 1899.

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Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

We respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet and work, the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation and pay respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.