Melbourne CBD: also known as Central Business District
Robert Hoddle's 1836 plan of Melbourne didn’t contain lanes. We can thank Governor Bourke who insisted that "Little Streets" running east/west should be included.
Hoddle's original layout for Melbourne was bounded by Flinders, Spring, La Trobe and Spencer Streets.
The "Main Streets" within this block running east/west included Collins, Bourke and Lonsdale.
Running north from Flinders Street within this block are Exhibition, Russell, Swanston, Elizabeth, Queen, William and King Streets.
The vast majority of the lanes, alleys, places and arcades run off Flinders Lane, Little Collins, Little Bourke and Little Lonsdale Street.
Lanes began as private streets, giving access to the small subdivisions found within Melbourne's larger blocks.
Most of the early lanes were west of Elizabeth Street. This is because the factories and warehouses servicing the ships were closer to the docks found near Queen Street on the Yarra River.
During the 1850s gold rush, Melbourne boomed, pressure on accommodation led to increased subdivision within the CBD. Especially to the north-east where more lanes and alleys appeared off the "Little Streets".
By 1856 there were 80 named lanes and 112 unnamed rights of way in the CBD. Most were private and badly maintained.
During the 1890s many lanes had lighting and were paved with better drainage. The alleys were often too sleazy by day and too dark at night for nervous citizens to enter and they were littered with garbage,
In 1895, there were signposts on 158 lanes but many still remained unnamed. These lanes were havens for small manufacturers, builders and craftsmen.
Of the 235 recorded lanes in 1935, some had been roofed over to play host to boutiques and arcades especially in the block bounded by Collins, Swanston, Bourke and Elizabeth Streets, which was the retail heart of the city.
In the late 1960s Melbourne started to outgrow the design of lanes.
In fact large office blocks and one department store wiped out lanes that dated back to the 1830s.
Four lanes were lost to the Melbourne Central building, four to Collins Place and three to the Hyatt Hotel.
Now in the year 2012 Melbourne is still consuming lanes, so enjoy them while you can.