#ThrowbackThursday – Grace Mitchell, a talented artist in later life and baker, managed a pastry shop business near the corner of Mount Pleasant and Main roads, Eltham in the 1950s.
Shortly after her marriage to Arthur Mitchell in 1948, Arthur incurred a head injury from an an accident and was unable to work. Grace realised she needed to be home to care for her husband as well as earn an income. She managed the bureaucracy of council permits, and made modifications to her home with savings to get the business off the ground without having to borrow money.
Grace and Arthur were avid gardeners and would grow, wash and mince vegetables for pasties while Grace hand made and rolled the pastry. They cooked and minced their own meat for the pies and the fruit for the sweet pies came from their orchard at the rear of the property. She also baked scones and cakes.
With weekend visitors travelling to Eltham on the train for days trips, her reputation grew as the spot for afternoon tea. Grace’s daughter Jenni mentions the visit of dancer, Robert Helpmann and U.S. actress Katherine Hepburn in her Grace Mitchell: a short history .
Reminiscences in We did open a school in Little Eltham: Eltham Primary School 209, 1856-2006 a history  include a mention of Grace’s famous pastry shop and the Sunday afternoon visit by Helpmann and Hepburn.
In Anne Edwards 2019 biography of Katherine Hepburn: A Remarkable Woman, she is described as a “grande dame of American actresses, fierce individualist, and Hollywood legend.” A bonafide star she was nominated for twelve Academy Awards and won four. Robert Helpman became world famous as Britain’s most outstanding ballet dancer and subsequently turned his attentions to stage and screen. The two first met in London in 1952 when they appeared together in the play “The Millionairess” on the West End. He subsequently invited her to be part of an Australian tour presenting three Shakespearean plays. In May 1955 Helpmann and Hepburn arrived in Sydney, Helpmann was returning to his native land after being away for 25 years. They were accorded a reception by the Mayor of Melbourne. In NSW Hepburn visited St Matthews Church and Rectory at Windsor and donated £50 to the church restoration fund. She later wrote of her fascination with the blue lakes area near Adelaide and the “extraordinary” lyrebird.
Grace operated her pastry shop for over 16 years. She supported the Shillinglaw Cottage Preservation Campaign to preserve the cottage through its Flavour of Eltham community cookbook published in 1964 and hosted cooking classes in the new Living and Learning Centre
Katherine Hepburn passed way in 2003 aged 96 years. Her trademark was playing strong independent women with minds of their own. Grace Mitchell passed away aged 95 years in 2011.
Recently we promoted some work via our Website and Facebook page that the collections team had done digitising some old audio tapes in the collection. Now we need to listen to them and provide improved information and keywords. If anyone would like to help out with this project, please get in touch, and we can arrange for you to access a recording.
A favourite resource for local and family historians and just the curious, Trove brings together a vast range of collections from almost 1,000 cultural, community and research organisations all over Australia. It includes specific content that cannot be easily found via a typical search engine. Trove has re-launched with a refreshed logo, colour, overall design and new features.
Eltham Library (and six other YPRL branches) is open from 30 June with restrictions in place.
Local historian and former EDHS member Bruce Draper passed away recently. His daughter has curated Up The Creek, a collection of his articles about the pioneers, people and local history of Arthurs Creek and surrounding districts.
Australia Post wants to mark this moment in our nation’ s history. They are inviting Australians to write a letter to share our experience of the COVID-19 pandemic with their Dear Australia Project. Record your impressions of this remarkable time. Please send EDHS a copy too!
A picture tells A thousand words is the inspiration for this new online exhibition from NSW State Archives and Sydney Living Museums.
The Royal Historical Society of Victoria has responded to recent events with official statements:
Our Little Eltham Street Library remains open and proving to be very popular, with a broad selection of titles on offer. So if you are out walking, please drop in at the Local History Centre at 728 Main Road, Eltham. . . . Take a book – leave a book – share a book !
on behalf of the committee of the Eltham District Historical Society
In this short video you will be given a brief look at the Eltham Justice precinct on Main Road and how it came about in Little Eltham as well as some background history leading to the establishment of the Shire of Eltham Historical Society (now Eltham District Historical Society) arising from the relocation of Shillinglaw Cottage.
A permant link to the video and others is accessible from the right hand sidebar of our website.
Greetings to all from Eltham District Historical Society; from our homes to your homes.
As an initiative to keep in touch with our members during the COVID-19 State of Emergency Stage 3 lock-down, our committee initiated a one-page information sheet to be sent approximately every two weeks to our members.
As part of documenting our own history and in the interests of sharing with all in the community, we are now going to make these Touchstone newsletters accessible via our web site, along with our regular Newsletter.
The following is a reproduction of Touchstone No. 1 and this issue and an archive of subsequent issues may be accessed from the Main Menu at the top of each page.
No.1 – 9th April 2020
We send our best wishes to all our members.
Until we are able to see you again for our Society Meetings and Heritage Excursions, we hope all our members are well and staying safe, during these times of enforced isolation.
EDHS will continue to connect with you, distribute our newsletters and email any other information of interest. There are also other ways you can still stay connected with our local history.
Here you can see an extensive range of local history stories about the northern suburbs.
During this down time perhaps consider writing your memories and stories of living and working in Eltham and District for our archives. See the attached as a guide.
You could go through your photos and share your memories with family members. Consider donating archives, including photos relating to Eltham and District to EDHS. We can also arrange to digitise these.
So, while we cannot be with you in person, at this time, you are in our thoughts.
Please take care, we hope you are able to stay safe.
President, on behalf of the committee of the Eltham District Historical Society
Meet at 2.00 pm (Melway ref 21 H6) at the parking area below the Eltham Community and Reception Centre at the western end of Pitt Street.
The watercourse now known as Karingal Yalloc was once called the Eltham West Drain. It enters the Diamond Creek near Brougham Street, Eltham and drains an area extending to St Helena and part of Greensborough. The creek has been undergrounded through part of the Eltham industrial area.
In 2013 we explored this creek upstream from Meruka Drive. For our March excursion we will follow the creek as closely as possible from the Diamond Creek to where it crosses under the railway line near Sherbourne Road. This is mainly through the industrial area and we will discuss Eltham’s industrial history along the way. A particular feature is the former hat factory (Fort Knox Self Storage) at the end of the walk.
The distance is less than 2 km one way and should take about two hours, including plenty of time to stop and talk. There will be an informal return walk but those who wish to can catch a bus back.
The walk is open to Society members and the general public. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.
Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham
In previous years for our first meeting of the year, we have investigated some treasured pictures from our archives. This meeting we will showcase some of the highlights from new acquisitions and donations throughout 2019, as well as some of our other collections digitised during the year.
These are available due to the consistent efforts of our collections team, who over recent years has been active in scanning and cataloguing a range of images, including to our extensive catalogue on the Victorian Collections website.
Many of images to be shown at this meeting are still awaiting cataloguing online on Victorian Collections and so this will present
their first public viewing.
Our meeting will be held at our usual venue, the Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre in Library Place Eltham. Members and guests are
welcome to attend. Please note our meetings now start at 7.30pm.
#OnThisDay – 25 years ago #OTD Thursday, December 15, 1994 the Shire of Nillumbik was born and the Shire of Eltham was relegated to history after 123 years; the council sacked and three commissioners appointed as part of an overall municipal restructure by the State Government.
The new Shire of consisted of the Central and North Ridings of the former Shire of Eltham, as well as parts of the former Diamond Valley, Whittlesea and Healesville municipalities. The West Riding of Eltham was joined with the former City of Heidelberg to become the City of Banyule.
Originally the Local Government Board’s preferred name was the Shire of Montsalvat. Board member Paul Jerome said “Montsalvat” was a name very familiar to all Melburnians. “We used it for good reason” he said. “This is the arts and crafts colony, this is the conservation area, this is the Green Wedge.” It “will have stewardship of a very important conservation area all the way up to Kinglake National Park. We think that’s a very exciting proposal and certainly one with a lot of community support and interest in having a council with that focus on conservation values.” Ultimately however the name was found to be controversial throughout the community and the Board replaced it with Nillumbik, the locally preferred Aboriginal word for shallow soil (indeed it is).
The transition to the new shire was not an easy experience for some people in our community and especially for some staff of the former Shire of Eltham. An extensive staff restructure was undertaken, resulting in many local community aware and knowledgeable Eltham Shire staff being made redundant. Some actions initiated at that time by the government and commissioners have had longer term impacts. These included the sudden surprise demolition of the Eltham Shire Offices and approval, in controversial circumstances, of a combined petrol station and fast food development on the site; ultimately reversed but leaving the community with a visible reminder to this day of those events. Local elections were not held for three years until 1997 and even then controversy continued resulting in the sacking of that first Nillumbik Shire Council as well. But that is a story for another day.
#OnThisDay – In 1951 #OTD the Governor of Victoria, Sir Dallas Brooks dedicated the war memorial tower and caretaker’s cottage at Garden Hill, Kangaroo Ground.
The tower has been a landmark since 1926 and above the portal on one side are the names of men who fell in the 1914-18 war. On another tablet unveiled by the Governor were inscribed the names of men who gave their lives in the 1939-45 war:-
Archer R., Bates A. L., Butherway J. H., Castledine G. E., Cary A. E., Clark R. C., Clerke A. C., Davies N. A., Dunlop C. D., Feldbauer T., Field K. F., Gahan S. M., Galletiy L. W. A., Guy T., Handley R . H. W., Hanlon H., F. L., Hellens W., Ingram L. S., McDonald E. H., McKimmie G. J., McLean S. C. A., McMahon .J. F., Morris A., Moyes J. A., Mynott L. R., Nichols, M. J., Walters G. W., West P.
The tower rising 50 feet was built by the people and committed to the care of the Eltham Shire Council in 1926. The suggestion of a memorial park was credited to Mr. V. A, Wippell (of Ivanhoe) and of a tower to Mr. B. Hall (of Panton Hill) being a replica of the watchtowers of early England and Scotland. The stone was the gift of Professor Osborne and was quarried on his Kangaroo Ground property. From the same area came the stone for the caretaker’s cottage added in 1951 by the Shire Council and which had charge of the arrangements.
Let’s take a journey 68 years back in time to that moment and join in the ceremonies . . .
Sir Dallas Brooks, is attended by Capt. T. Kirwan Taylor. They are met at the Lower Plenty bridge (the line of demarcation between the municipalities of Eltham and Heidelberg) by the Shire President (Cr. F. .Griffith) and the Shire Secretary (Mr. R. J. Ham). Mr. G . Moir (as vice president) is representing the State branch of the R.S.L..
Hearing that the Governor would be passing the Lower Plenty school on his way to open the Memorial at Kangaroo Ground an unrehearsed “reception” was quickly arranged. Obtaining permission from the headmaster, the school boys’ band got ready. As the Governor arrives at the school they strike up and play the National Anthem, of course! The Governor is pleasantly surprised, thanks the children and grants them a holiday. He then returns to his car and the official party set off on the remainder of their journey to Kangaroo Ground.
At Garden Hill, 30 minutes later there is an air of excitement stirring among the gathered crowd as whispers start passing along the line that the official party have just arrived. In the company gathered around the edifice are numerous residents who remember the original unveiling by Lord Stonehaven on Armistice Day, a few days and 25 years ago.
The approach pathway is lined with children from many of the district schools and men who served in both wars are lining up to form a guard of honor section near the tower. There are veterans and young men and women, wearing on their breasts the colors, medals and other decorations won in battle. In charge is Mr. F. D. Stevens, the president of the R.S.L..
His Excellency finds time to amuse the children with some brief words and shakes hands with every member of the guard and with the next-of-kin of the honored dead.
Following the addresses by the President and Mr. Moir, the Governor in a moving ceremony of dedication releases the flag-covering of the memorial tablet. As the flag falls to the side revealing the new memorial tablet, a simple unforgettable tribute resonates from from tower-top with the stirring bugle note of “Last Post” and “Reveille.”
Mr R.J. Ham, the Shire Secretary then presents the Governor with a beautifully prepared brochure programme and for Lady Brooks, a gold bar brooch on which is mounted a small nugget.
The official party and guests then make their way to the Kangaroo Ground hall where an excellent afternoon tea has been prepared by the wonderful ladies from the various branches of the Country Women’s Association led by the Diamond Valley Group president, Mrs. V. Middleton.
It has been a day packed full of excitement, tears of sadness over our lost loved ones and lots of good things to eat. But now it’s time to return to present day and hopefully reflect upon what those who came before us, wished for us to benefit from.
* Lest We Forget *
1951 ‘Dedication of Memorial Tower’, The News; The Newspaper of the City of Heidelberg and the Shire of Eltham (Heidelberg, Vic), 23 (?) November
Our excursion is a walk of about 3 km between Montmorency and Briar Hill. When we did a similar walk in 2013, we started with a train trip from Eltham to Montmorency Station. This time we will not include the train trip as an official part of the excursion however some of us will be catching the 2.01 pm train from Eltham on Saturday 2nd November. To allow for this we will meet at Montmorency Station at 2.05 pm to commence the walk.
We will start by viewing the famous Were Street mosaics that depict anecdotes about early residents and traders in this village shopping strip. We will also consider the history of Montmorency station, which is soon to be re-modelled as part of the Hurstbridge line upgrade. On the walk to Briar Hill we will talk about the residential subdivisions of the 1910s/20s that established Montmorency as a suburb. Featured locations on the walk will include the site of the Briar Hill timber mill, Briar Hill overpass where there was once a tiny timber bridge over the railway and St Faith’s Church.
The walk is open to Society members and the general public. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.
All are welcome…..but numbers are limited
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia