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The link between Bury St Edmunds and Melbourne – concerning Henry De Carle and a series of town streets – explained by Dr Nicole Davis, of the University of Melbourne





Five streets, 10,400 miles apart, same names (almost), one man.

SuffolkNews reported last month of the extraordinary connection between Bury St Edmunds and Melbourne.

A series of streets in the same areas and sharing the exact same name, despite being continents and a 21-hour flight apart.

Abbeygate Street, in Bury St Edmunds, which leads onto Angel Hill and the Abbey Gardens is home to several restaurants and shops. Picture: Mecha Morton
Abbeygate Street, in Bury St Edmunds, which leads onto Angel Hill and the Abbey Gardens is home to several restaurants and shops. Picture: Mecha Morton
Abbeygate Street, in the City of Monash, Melbourne. Pictures: Google Maps
Abbeygate Street, in the City of Monash, Melbourne. Pictures: Google Maps

Westgate Street, Abbeygate Street, Hatter Street, Eastgate Street, and Schoolhall Street/Lane all exist in both Melbourne and Bury St Edmunds.

Ever since, SuffolkNews has been trying to discover how this happened.

This is where Dr Nicole Davis, a historian at University of Melbourne and part of the research collective Melbourne History Workshop, led by Professor Andrew May, comes in.

Nicole Davis, a historian at University of Melbourne and part of the research collective Melbourne History Workshop, led by Professor Andrew May, has lifted the lid on the story behind the shared street names of Bury St Edmunds and Melbourne. Picture: Nicole Davis
Nicole Davis, a historian at University of Melbourne and part of the research collective Melbourne History Workshop, led by Professor Andrew May, has lifted the lid on the story behind the shared street names of Bury St Edmunds and Melbourne. Picture: Nicole Davis

In our previous report, a Henry de Carte and James Watson were mentioned as founding ‘The Magnificent Township of Bury St Edmunds’ in Oakleigh, 17 kilometres from the centre of Melbourne.

It turns out this is not entirely true.

“I first started looking around and doing searches for this De Carte but couldn’t find him anywhere, so I wondered if the name on the Monash website was a misspelling,” said Dr Davis.

Hatter Street, in Bury St Edmunds, which is off of Abbeygate Street. Picture: Richard Marsham
Hatter Street, in Bury St Edmunds, which is off of Abbeygate Street. Picture: Richard Marsham
Hatter Street, in the City of Monash, Melbourne. Pictures: Google Maps
Hatter Street, in the City of Monash, Melbourne. Pictures: Google Maps

“It had the reference to this flyer for the sale of land of ‘The Magnificent Township of Bury St Edmunds’ and in tiny writing it said the owners were selling it for these two men called Henry De Carle and James Watson.

“So it was just a misspelling, but then I realised I know De Carle.”

Dr Davis had previously researched into De Carle’s brother Edward, who founded the first arcade in Melbourne, called the Queen’s Arcade, which at the time was compared to the Burlington in London.

Westgate Street, in Bury St Edmunds, which is home to the town's Theatre Royal and the Greene King brewery. Picture: Ross Waldron
Westgate Street, in Bury St Edmunds, which is home to the town's Theatre Royal and the Greene King brewery. Picture: Ross Waldron
Westgate Street, in the City of Monash, Melbourne. Pictures: Google Maps
Westgate Street, in the City of Monash, Melbourne. Pictures: Google Maps

The De Carles arrived in Melbourne in 1850 with Henry’s wife Elizabeth – and it turns out they are all from Bury.

Gold was discovered in regional Victoria in 1850, with a rush beginning in 1851,`thus the De Carles were not among the only settlers.

Between 1851 and 1861, the period during which the De Carle’s arrived in the city, Melbourne grew more than four times in size from around 77,000 to 540,000.

Eastgate Street, in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton
Eastgate Street, in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton
Eastgate Street, in the City of Monash, Melbourne. Pictures: Google Maps
Eastgate Street, in the City of Monash, Melbourne. Pictures: Google Maps

Dr Davis continued: “There was a massive influx of people in ships with dreams of great futures in the new colony. Because of the population boom Melbourne was rushing to keep up construction-wise.

“Henry De Carle was born in Ballingdon (part of Sudbury), possibly the third child of nine of a man who was a stonemason born in Norwich, and his wife Sophie, who was from Bungay.

“When they arrived in Melbourne they set up almost straight away as both merchants and land agents. There’s this boom at the time in land prices and subdividing these plots.

Schoolhall Lane, in Bury St Edmunds, between Garland Street and Northgate Street. Picture: Ross Waldron
Schoolhall Lane, in Bury St Edmunds, between Garland Street and Northgate Street. Picture: Ross Waldron
Schoolhall Street, in the City of Monash, Melbourne. Pictures: Google Maps
Schoolhall Street, in the City of Monash, Melbourne. Pictures: Google Maps

“It appears De Carle bought up one of these newly-available plots sold by the Crown and subdivided the area, so they’re all caught up in the amazing growth of Melbourne.”

Dr Davis said, of the street naming, there was a sentiment among settlers of wanting to feel a connection to home and bringing a sign of what they considered to be civilisation, which played into the naming.

Other symbols similar to this included larger buildings such as the parliament house, but trickled down to signs as simple as building post offices and houses – making a landscape that seemed so different in their eyes to something more reminiscent of what they were used to.

Edward set up as a wine and spirit merchant during his time in Melbourne, which he operated out of his arcade, later returning to England to marry before returning to Australia and then moving on to New Zealand, dying in 1872, aged 47.

Henry remained in Australia throughout. One of his daughters moved to Canada and he eventually moved to Sydney by 1865 after his wife, with whom he had five children, died in 1860.

Things took a turn at this time, as Henry was convicted of forgery in 1866 and sentenced to two years of hard labour.

In later life he spent time in two asylums and eventually died in 1903.

“He lived to a good age but he had a lot of hardship by the sounds of things,” Dr Davis said.

“Two years hard labour in jail, I can’t imagine it was a picnic. But I suppose that solves the whole mystery of why these streets are called what they are.”

Dr Davis did speculate, however, whether the De Carles could have been further involved in a street in a different part of the city, or maybe there were other Bury settlers.

There is another Hatter Street in the north of Melbourne, so there could be a separate mystery to be uncovered there.

And so, while in one part of the world we may put Marmite on our toast and the other Vegemite (or perhaps not at all if that’s not your cup of tea) the connections set in stone twinning these two wildly different places are there for all to see.