Date of Submission



Those who experienced Melbourne Sundays prior to the 1960s will recall a city remarkably devoid of commercial activity and public entertainment. The genesis of this situation lay in legislation in force during the 19th century. This was informed by the British protestant heritage reaching back to the 17th century and strongly supported by the puritanical stance of influential Melbournians. Yet for a brief time between 1892 and 1896 vast numbers of Melbourne's citizens enjoyed entertainments on Sundays held in theatres (hitherto closed by law on Sundays) and concert halls that embraced sacred and secular music. Emerging when the colony was in the throes of severe economic depression, these affordable entertainments provided relief from every-day uncertainties. For theatre managements financially strapped by the depression and operating in a colony where commercial public entertainment was banned on Sundays, such entertainments both offered a new opportunity as well as something of a challenge. This study reveals the nature of Sunday entertainments and reasons for their strong appeal. In so doing it reveals in particular the part played by the Wesley Pleasant Sunday Afternoon in legitimising and perpetuating these entertainments. Legal and other challenges faced by theatre managements in staging the entertainments are explored, along with their creative efforts to circumvent the current restrictive legislation. The study also investigates legal disputes arising from Sunday entertainments and the action of government, fuelled by the dogged persistence of Sabbatarian protagonists, in bringing about their demise thus restoring the traditional Sabbath.


School of Arts and Sciences

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


223 pages

Degree Name

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)


Faculty of Arts and Sciences