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

Former Williamstown Morgue

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

What's On

The former Williamstown Morgue, located in Williamstown, is a historic building with a rich yet sombre past. Built in the late 19th century, it served as a crucial facility for the local community. Over the years, it became a symbol of the city's history and was eventually repurposed into a valuable heritage asset. Despite its transformation, the morgue's architectural charm and historical significance are still evident, offering visitors a glimpse into the area's past and a reminder of the importance of honouring the departed.

Images: (1-3) Ann St Morgue. Photos: courtesy of Seaworks Maritime Museum.

Important Details

Time & Date

Sunday 28 July
Tours running every half hour starting at 11.15am. Last tour departs at 2.45pm
Running for 15 minutes in groups of 20

No bookings required. Tour group capacity is limited and operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

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


Fully wheelchair accessible, Accessible bathroom


82 Nelson Pl, Williamstown VIC 3016

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