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Many visitors are surprised to learn that the Australian city of Melbourne takes its name indirectly from Melbourne, Derbyshire. Melbourne, Australia was named after Lord Melbourne in 1837, while he was Prime Minister under King William IV; it was previously known as Bearbrass. Another settlement on Hobson Bay was named Williamstown after the King. King William, had he lived long enough, might have been disgruntled to observe that the town named after his Prime Minister flourished eventually swallowing Williamstown and reducing it to a suburb!


Curiosity has brought Australian tourists to Melbourne, Derbyshire, since at least 1786. That travel across the world is so easy today is due partly to another man with Melbourne connections – Thomas Cook the travel agent. Cook was born in a humble one-up one-down cottage in Melbourne in 1808 and lived in Melbourne until 1828.


Cook’s early life in Melbourne was one of hard toil, and he was alarmed to observe that drink not only incapacitated his employers from time to time, but also wasted a good deal of their time and money, preventing their betterment. Cook therefore became an advocate of “temperance” i.e. abstinence from alcohol; his first excursion, on 5th July 1841, was to transport supporters of temperance rally from Leicester to Loughborough and back.


Cook always maintained an affection for Melbourne. His birthplace was sadly demolished in 1967, but one of the most significant actions of his last years was the provision of a handsome mission hall and memorial cottages in Melbourne. These, set around a sunken quadrangle on High Street, are still owned and administered by the Trust that Cook set up.



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History of Melbourne Hall

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