Finding out which roundabout was the first to be built in Melbourne may be one of the most vexxed and complicated local history topics possible.
There are so many contradictory sources that it takes a long time to unwravel exactly what has happened in the past.
We’ll start by listing the roundabouts that have claimed this title (either through what I have personally heard or what I can find in historical resources):
- Union Road / Belmore Road, North Balwyn
- Haymarket Roundabout, Parkville
- Albert Road and Roy Street, South Melbourne
- Hughes Parade, Reservoir
Union Road / Belmore Road, North Balwyn
I heard about this one several times from local residents. It was a rare meeting in this area when someone didn’t mention to me in passing: “did you know that North Balwyn has Melbourne’s oldest roundabout?”
The claim is repeated in a few other places. In Boroondara Council’s Balwyn and North Balwyn Heritage Study (2017), it nominates this as the “first traffic roundabout in Melbourne” with a construction date of 1951. The Balwyn Historical Society (2009) repeats this claim.
It technically sits on the boundary between Balwyn and North Balwyn (and is located in an area which we locals often refer to as ‘East Balwyn’). But let’s just claim it for North Balwyn, shall we?
Probably Melbourne’s most (in)famous roundabout, this huge intersection is also the only one to contain a junction of tram tracks. Featuring the huge Australian flag in the centre, it’s pretty hard to miss.
This article from the Argus in 1951 reporting on its approval for construction also claims to be “Melbourne’s first traffic roundabout”.
Albert Road/Roy Street Roundabout
Two weeks after Melbourne City Council approved construction of the Haymarket Roundabout in 1951, South Melbourne Council was set to commence building its very own.
Under the headline “S. Melb. May Have First Roundabout”, this article from The Herald reports that the roundabout was trialled successfully in an effort to reduce traffic speeds.
I haven’t been able to find where exactly this roundabout was to be located. I have both an Albert Road and a Roy Street, but they don’t intersect. Any information on this from anyone who might know would be greatly appreciated.
Hughes Parade Roundabout, Reservoir
I can’t find anything about this claim online, but I have heard from people before. This area took several years to fully develop and I’m a bit sceptical of this claim – particularly as I can’t find any corroborating evidence or commentary.
So which is it?
As far as I can tell, the honour goes to the Union Road / Belmore Road roundabout in North Balwyn.
It is the only one where records and photos show that it was completed in 1951. The other roundabouts have construction a little bit later.
So for all you roundabout gunzels, head over to North Balwyn!