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Dunlops in Montague

The usual experience of the intersection of Montague Street and Normanby Road is waiting impatiently for the traffic lights to change to get somewhere else.

The area between this intersection and the M1 freeway is becoming the epicentre for development proposals in the Montague precinct.  The most recent is the scheme for six new towers and 1580 apartments revealed in The Age on Tuesday.


former Dunlops Pneumatic Tyre Co at 66 Montague Street

This familiar building, on the south west corner of the intersection, is just a small remnant of Dunlops’ extensive factory which stretched across Normanby Rd and south to Boundary St.

Dunlops started when John Boyd Dunlop created the world’s first pneumatic bicycle tyre in a Belfast workshop in 1888.

An Australian branch of the English Dunlop tyre company set up in Tattersalls Lane in Melbourne. Cycling was growing and there was a great demand for bicycle tyres.

In 1899, Canadians Garland and Proctor bought the Dunlop business in Australia. The Australian directors of of the firm decided that in order to grow, they needed to move from assembling and stitching tyres to manufacturing them.

They needed a large area for the factory as well as a place where the smoke and smells emitted would be tolerated.

No better place than Montague with its low lying industrial land, close to Montague Station, the river wharves and bay piers for the delivery of raw materials rubber and coal.

The directors recruited John Kearns who had the skills and experience in making rubber goods from the raw material to run the factory.

He was acutely attuned to the quality of the rubber produced in the factory.

One of his employees said that ‘every morning John Kearns would bite off small chunks of the previous day’s output of bicycle tyres. If his teeth left too great an impression on the rubber there was trouble for someone.’

Biosis recommends the building for further investigation with a view to inclusion on the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR)


Blainey, Geoffrey Jumping Over The Wheel. St. Leonards, NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 1993 p47

Dow, Aisha Six new towers proposed for Melbourne’s Fishermans Bend The Age 6 July 2015

Biosis Fishermans Bend Heritage Study prepared for Places Victoria 11  June 2013




  • Raymond French

    I served my apprenticeship as a fitter & turner in the Dunlop machine shop on he corner of Johnston Street & Montague street Montague in which manufacture of tyre moulds ,tyre building drums along with the maintenance of machinery related to the manufacture of tyre industry between 1965 - 1974 when left to work in south eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

    • JanetBolitho

      That's so interesting Raymond. Would that be the part of Dunlops that was demolished to make way for those single storey showroom type buildings on Normanby/Johnston? Do you have any photographs of the buildings in which you worked to show or share?

  • Raymond French

    No I have no photographs Janet , but the workshop has been demolished and if you headed down Montague street toward Johnston street it was on the right hand side on the corner . I should have brought a camera in those days I did not think of it. Some lunchtimes we would down to South wharf before the Johnston street bridge was built and we saw a old coal hulk moored to the wharf with name of Roma written on front of side of the boat, now I have learned that this was the original Poly Woodside which later refurbished back to its original splendour.

    • JanetBolitho

      Hard to believe that the coal hulk Rona is now the impressive Polly Woodside - all brought about by the hard work of volunteers.

  • Raymond French

    The Johnston street bridge is no longer there as it was replaced by the Grimes Bridge to connect north & south sides of the Yarra river.

  • Raymond French

    Whilst working for a labour hire firm in the 1970's I also worked at Henri Berrys in Port Melbourne & Commonwealth Aircraft Factory

    • JanetBolitho

      Hi Raymond, I've not heard of Henri Berrys. What did they make? What kind of work did you do at the CAC?

  • Raymond French

    Janet My Mistake I spelt Henry Berry ' s wrong, they where in Port Melbourne they proceesed cake & bread mixture ingredients for bakers , when we were there we had a job of dismantling a coffee elevator machine which was to be sent to New Guinea . at Morning tea time we could have a fruit bun which was made to taste for there quality control then the next day we had something different

    • JanetBolitho

      Thanks Raymond, for telling about Henry Berry, a firm I had not heard of before. Glad you were able to taste what was made.

  • Carmie Boyd

    My Dad, Maxwell Richards worked at the Dunlop factory. I can't remember the years. I was only young and recall Dad, who was not very well was offered a lift to work by the same cab driver, a lovely gesture. The cabbie would pick Dad up from the corner of Bank Street and Eastern Road every morning.

    • JanetBolitho

      Thanks for sharing that memory Carmie. It sounds like the working conditions were very difficult.

  • I worked in the Montague plant between 1969 and the plants closure in 198? when I transferred to the Somerton plant I finished my time in the tyre industry moving from Somerton plant to the Dunlop Olympic plant at Cross st West Footscray. Great memories

    • JanetBolitho

      Hi John, what kind of work did you do at Dunlops in Montauge? I'd love to hear more detail both about your work and the workplace.

    • Julian Caesar

      My Dad also worked at Dunlops during the 50’s till the 80’s when they moved to Somerton. He was an electrician

  • Helen Robertson

    I have just moved into one of the apartments above the old Dunlop factory on Montague and Normanby and would relish any information that people would like to share about the building, its history and the people who lived and worked there.

  • Hi My Mums father worked at the Dunlop plant from the 1930s to the 1960s. He worked 1 week morning shift 1 week afternoon shift 1 week night shift. He would come home from night shift with staff from the Herald. Mum and her brothers had to keep quiet during the day so they didnt wake him after night shift. He had trained as a butcher in Scotland but ended up at Dunlop as the Australian butchery trade was a "closed shop".

    • JanetBolitho

      Thanks for your contribution Alan - interesting about not being able to work in his chosen trade as a butcher.

  • Tim Russell

    Good Morning All. I am currently the Environmental Auditor for a few of the properties along Normanby Road that were previously part of the Dunlop Factory. I would be very interested to talk to anyone who has a knowledge of the historical layout of the site. As you can all imagine the layout has changed many time over the years but is largely still present beneath the multiple concrete surfaces.

    • JanetBolitho

      Hi Tim, Have you had a look at the Mahlstedt maps in the Emerald Hill Library and Heritage centre? (Bank St, South Melbourne) Have an idea they might help. Also the Southbank Heritage Study in the PMI local history library in Prahran.

      • Tim Russell

        Hi Janet, I have a copy of the Mahlstedt maps from the 50s which are helpful to a degree. I will look into the Southbank Heritage Study. Thank you for the suggestions. Any additional information is helpful.

  • Chris McGrath

    Hi I did my Electrical Apprenticeship at Dunlop Montague starting in 1966 and worked there until its closure around 1980's.All the comments of the site being reported bring back wonderful memories.It was a huge site with factory on both Northern and Sourhern side of Normandy road nearly all the way down to Ingles Street.Great memories.

    • JanetBolitho

      Hi Chris, great to hear from you. Do you have any photos of that period? Surprisingly little is around on the latter years of Dunlops. Easier to find material about the early 1900s than the late 1900s.

      • Cedric Newbond

        Hi, I did my apprenticeship as a fitter & turner from 1970 - 1974 at Dunlop’s in Montague, as we migrated from Calcutta India we were only allowed to bring $8. Each so I had to walk from Grey St Kilda to work everyday. Had a great time working there and am now in contact with 6 other apprentices from my group. Cedric

        • JanetBolitho

          Fantastic to hear from you Cedric. I'd love to learn more from you about the work you did, and the conditions. May I contact you via email?

  • Chris McGrath

    Sorry Janet I don't think I have any photos just wonderful memories of working there.

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