Just after 1852 ships doing business in Southern China spread news of the discovery of gold in Victoria. At the time, population density in Kwantung province had put a strain on food supplies and so many men set out in hope of a foreign fortune. By 1861, 24,724 men and 8 woman had come to Victoria. By 1861, the Chinese community was already thriving, making up nearly 7% of the Victorian population. After the gold rush many Chinese shifted to metropolitan areas where they settled as market gardeners or farm hands, they set up small grocery stores or fruit and vegetable-hawking businesses in country towns. Others worked around Melbourne in a variety of pursuits, including import-export businesses, laundry operations, cabinet making, medicine and here in all areas of the Market.
Franklin Street, that borders the Market use to be single frontage terrace houses, where a strong Chinese Community once lived. This community traded here at the Market from the later part of the nineteenth century and have been trading here ever since. We have traders here who are 3rd and 4th generation Market traders. This rich history is what makes our Market and many more Markets part of the community, and it is this connection to the past that our customers have become a part of as grandparents walk with great grandchildren through the aisles.
The influence of cultures in our market and markets the world over is great. Over the years these various cultural groups have extended the diversity of produce on sale at the Market. Immigrants from Southern Europe introduced demand for zucchinis, capsicums, eggplants, olive, chillies, artichokes to name but a few and the many Chinese vegetables that are found in our vegetable isle, Bok Choy, Chinese cabbage, long beans, Chinese broccoli and Choy Sum, which our very first Chinese stallholders brought to the Market and inspired a whole new way of cooking.
Written from the account of Mr Chinn, who recalls this history with fondness. He is one of the only remaining 3rd and 4th generation Chinese traders at the market.