2018 Community Group of the Year – Nillumbik Shire Council
The Eltham District Historical Society Incorporated is honoured to have received the 2018 Community Group of the Year Award from Nillumbik Shire Council, at the Australia Day Awards and Citizenship Ceremony in Eltham on 26th January 2018.
Eltham District Historical Society President Jim Connor said:
‘I am very pleased to accept this award on behalf of all members, past and present, who have contributed to our historical society, since it was established in 1967.’
‘Our society appreciates this recognition, especially as it follows the celebration of our 50th anniversary in 2017.’
‘Each of the significant milestones and achievements over the last 50 years have been the result of consistent efforts by dedicated and passionate believers in our local history, intent on encouraging the recognition and preservation of our valuable historical records representing activities and events that have occurred in the Eltham area. Receipt of this award is another page in the history of the Eltham District Historical Society.’
‘Stories of history we tell not only shape our past, they shape our future as well. We look forward to being an active part of Nillumbik’s future.’
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to 1985. The Victorian Local Government Commission has produced a report titled ‘The Restructure of Local Government in Victoria – Principles and Program’ (the Morris review). The recommendation was to amalgamate the Shires of Eltham and Diamond Valley, something that Eltham Council did not support as being appropriate for the shire or compatible with the ‘Spirit of Eltham’. In response, the Shire of Eltham produced a video showcasing the unique environmental lifestyle which embodies the ‘Spirit of Eltham’ and features Shire President, Cr. Mary Grant talking with the Hon. Pauline Toner MP and Max McDonald MP. Eltham Shire CEO Rodney Roschellor presents an alternate proposal for a shire merging more aligned to the values of the local residents. Also featured are Eltham icons such as the Eltham Railway Trestle Bridge, Montsalvat, Eltham Community Centre along with mudbrick making, artist Matcham Skipper, the Green Wedge and St Andrews Market. Other commentary is provided by locals, Judy Wadham and Lester Eaton.
#MysteryMonday – Today’s images are of the first two frames from a roll of negative film. They feature two separate properties up for sale and which had been sold by November 17, 1992. The other frames on the roll of film are not related but are probably the reason the film was originall donated to us. They concern an excursion undertaken by the Society to One Tree Hill Mine on November 20, 1992. However, these images do interest us but we have no other information other than the thousand words contained in each picture.
The first is of a deceased estate sold by Peter McDougall of The Professionals; 23 acres in size on 2 titles in a prime position, with a made road frontage and close to the Pony Club with an easy drive to Eltham, Greensborough and Melbourne – so perhaps Kangaroo Ground? Given it is a made road frontage, probably one of the main roads and the property is number 100.
The second property is number 82, sold by Peter Reid Real Estate of 126 Bolton Street, Eltham. Not giving away much at all; so you either know it or you don’t.
Can you identify these? We’d love to hear from you; your thoughts and suggestions as to where they are and help us catalogue these images.
#MysteryMonday – Have you ever wondered how the street you live on came by its name? People, places and events shape where we live and provide us with an insight into the past and what was important at the time. For instance, Lavender Park Road in Eltham was once known as New Street. Why would they change a perfectly good name for the street, when it did not need to be, or did it?
Maybe it was because on the 29th of May 1954, a local Eltham carpenter by the name of John Swallow, committed a double murder at his home on New Street. This happened on the same day as the federal election of that year.
John 48, his wife Mary 47, and step daughter Patricia 25, all went to the Eltham Courthouse on Main Road to cast their vote in the election that Saturday. After voting they returned home to their New Street house around midday.
Patricia would later recall to ambulance officers, that she was feeling unwell, and so went to lay down when she heard an argument erupt over voting between her mother Mary and step father John.
A concerned neighbour heard loud thudding noises and yelling coming from John and Mary’s house, he went to investigate. When he arrived at the house he was met by John at the front door. He would later describe John as “having a frantic look upon his face, and manic eyes”. John must have been a sight, bleeding and clutching a cut throat razor by his side. He then announced to the neighbour, “they voted commie!” before turning and going back inside. The distressed neighbour immediately raced home to call the Police.
When the police arrived, they found Mary dead on the kitchen floor from catastrophic head injuries; her daughter, Patricia, clinging to life, slumped on her bed. Both women had been attacked by the same weapon, a large hammer, or sledge hammer as reported by the newspapers. John was also discovered in the house, bleeding from self-inflicted wounds from the razor, and had attempted to ingest caustic soda.
Patricia was taken to St Vincent’s hospital, but died the following day, the 30th of May. John was also taken to St Vincent’s, where he remained under constant police guard for several months while he recovered from his injuries, at least the physical. He was eventually well enough to be taken to the City Watch House and then Pentridge Prison before his trial in October of the same year.
When it came time for John to face the courts, the Judge called a mistrial, the Crown would not prosecute on the grounds of insanity. John was led away from the dock of The Magistrates Court and taken directly to Willsmere, the Kew Mental Asylum.
On the 9th of August 1962, John Mervyn Swallow died of heart failure, he was 57. He had been a resident of Kew for four years. John’s body was returned to Eltham Cemetery and buried in the same grave as Mary. There is no mention of his name on the head stone. Patricia’s grave is next to Mary and John. A sad irony has an angel upon her grave, “its head missing”, possibly vandals or just an accident of time and events.
What became of the home where all of this took place on New Street shall remain a mystery but within six months of this horrific event, the street had been re-named to Lavender Park Road after the original property near the end of the road, Lavender Park.
Saturday, 7th July, 2018 at 2.00pm – Please note this excursion is CANCELLED due to bad weather. To be rescheduled at a later date.
The Diamond Creek is a major feature of the open space spine that runs through the centre of Eltham. From the time of the first European settlement of the area most of the land along the creek valley was private property extending to the centre of the creek. Over many years land has been purchased by the Council and the State Government to create a continuous open space system along at least one side of the creek, from central Eltham to the Yarra River. The area contains many places of historic interest.
Our July excursion will comprise a walk along the creek path from central Eltham to Fabbro fields finishing at Ely Street. This is about 2 km one way and should take about 2 hours including plenty of time to stop and talk. There will be a return walk without much commentary but those who wish to can catch a bus back from the corner of Main Road and Dalton Street. A particular point of discussion along the way will be the historic railway trestle bridge as to its history and its future given the proposal to duplicate this section of the railway.
This walk on Saturday 7th July will start at 2pm near the scout hall at the southern end of Youth Road (Melway ref 21 J 5).
This excursion is free and is open to the general public as well as Society members.
Please note that dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.
The phone number for contact on the day is 0409 021 063.
An ongoing challenge as members of a historical society is how do we balance the pressures of possible future development against our desires to protect and honour our valued past, our local history.
As a historical society representing the interests of our community we strive to remain steadfastly non political, yet at times get caught between individual political positions.
Three current local ‘hot’ topics of historical significance are the Eltham Trestle Bridge, the Eltham Avenue of Honour/Eltham Gateway and the former Eltham Shire offices site and adjacent
War Memorial buildings complex.
The Eltham District Historical Society has clearly stated that the valued trestle bridge is of local historical significance, should remain as is and should not be compromised, if and when the railway line is duplicated between Greensborough and Eltham. The sitting State member has indicated it can remain as is and there will be improved scheduling, with no advantage to be gained with duplicating the bridge. Despite claiming ‘the trestle bridge remains’ the political opponent has stated in a meeting with EDHS that, if elected, a new bridge will be constructed beside it and that his position is ‘not negotiable’.
Similarly, possible duplication of Main Road through the Eltham Gateway and World War 1 Avenue of Honour is being considered, which we believe would totally destroy the historical and cultural significance of this meandering, tree enhanced entrance to Eltham.
What are the options, what is the cost vs benefit? Should we need to compromise our heritage even further to possibly save a couple of minutes in travel?
The third topic is that Nillumbik Shire Council is currently considering redevelopment of the former Eltham Shire offices site in Main Road, Eltham, which includes the Shillinglaw trees, together with the adjacent War Memorial buildings complex.
What do we value of our past to preserve in the present for the ‘future’, do we restrict our creative options by honouring our heritage, where is the balance?
These are decisions we will all need to consider……sooner rather than later.
[Reproduced from Eltham District Historical Society Newsletter No. 240, June 2018]
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to November 3, 1967 to the intersection of Para Road and Sherbourne Road, Briar Hill; or is it? In fact, Sherbourne Road still ends at the railway overpass, in a T-intersection with Para Road and Simms Road is a T-intersection off Para Road a few yards down from the railway bridge. On the corner of Simms Road and Para Road is an older house, which belongs to Mrs Cameron. Her daughter married a man named Davey after whom Davey Street is named. But there is a bulldozer at work and a large section of land is being cleared and levelled. Work is under way to commence the realignment of Para Road and Sherbourne Road in preparation of a new railway overpass. The access to Simms Road will change significantly and Mrs Cameron’s house has its days numbered as it is about to become the site of the new Montmorency Secondary College, which will open in 1969. Where the two cars are parked is where the roundabout intersection is sited today.
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia