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Colour photograph of the bluestone arched entrance to a single-storey, Georgian-style building.
Colour photograph of stone lintels as part of a bluestone arched entrance to a Georgian-style building.

Former Williamstown Morgue

James Balmain 1859


The Former Morgue in Williamstown is a coursed bluestone structure built in 1859 near Gem Pier, where the overflow from the autopsies could be swept into the sea. Bodies were encased in hessian bags and hung out of reach of rats.

It features a hipped corrugated galvanised iron roof (although originally clad in slate) and galvanised iron downpipes and gutters. It is a single-storey, Georgian-style, one-room building with an arched entrance, rusticated voussoirs, prominent keystone, quoins and stone lintels. Rectangular in plan, the internal bluestone walls have been white-washed but all panelled doors, hasp, stables, hinges and timber roof framework are original and of architectural significance.

Its original use is reflected in the location of window openings, set high above ground level, that conceal the processes of the morgue from the external public.

The former morgue moved twice prior to its position on its present site in 1873 and this year marks its 150th year of being on the Seaworks site. It is currently located in the depot of the Ports and Harbour (also cited as the Melbourne Harbour) Trust Yard in Ann Street. It was closed in 1925 due to poor sanitary facilities and occupational health concerns.

The design is attributed to the Public Works Department Chief Architect, James Balmain. The building was erected by HR Thomas and HR Hunt in May 1859.

What's On

The Seaworks Maritime museum will take guided tours on the former Williamstown Morgue. In 2023 the morgue will celebrate its 150th anniversary in its current location.

Images: (1) Ann St Morgue. Photo: courtesy of Seaworks Maritime Museum.; (2) Ann St Morgue. Photo: courtesy of Seaworks Maritime Museum.

Important Details

Time & Date

Sunday 30 July
Guided tours from 11am-3pm
Tours running every half hour starting at 11.15am. Last tour departs at 2.15pm
Running every 30 minutes for 15 minutes in groups of 20
Bookings required
First release tickets: Thursday 6 July, 12pm
Second release tickets: Saturday 8 July, 10am

Meet at the Seaworks Maritime Museum, 82 Nelson Place, Williamstown, 3016


Partially wheelchair accessible, Accessible bathroom, Accessible parking nearby


82 Nelson Place, Williamstown VIC 3016

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