Watswool Wool Brokers


    In 1835, John Batman arrived in Port Phillip, hungering for pastures to conquer with his army of sheep. Batman, the rogue pioneer, built his home where Southern Cross Station now sits, his fluffy flock left grazing along what would become Collins Street. By the 1870s, Australia was crowned the #1 wool producer in the world, leaving the colony flush with cash.

    A century later, this towering warehouse in West Footscray, with its decayed WATSWOOL WOO(L) (B)ROKERS sign, was constructed for Australian Estates wool brokers, a looming legacy of this pastoral fever dream.

    In 1947, brimming with fluffy gold, the warehouse was described as the most modern in Australia. Fleeces were flung onto nearby trains, bound for the distant shores of England and America.

    The 1990s saw the consolidation of numerous wool firms, leaving this beast and its brethren, like the hulking structure next door, hollowed husks. Though abandoned, these grand monuments to Melbourne’s fleece-wrapped saga remain standing, as wild and woolly as the stout sheep that built this state’s fortunes. 

    A column by Sean Reynolds. If you’d like to read more stories about Melbourne’s past, follow me on Instagram @melbourne_ghostsigns.

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