Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham
As this meeting is close to the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of the Shire of Eltham Historical Society, on 24th October 1967, we will appropriately look back on our own history. This will include a panel of members who will highlight some of our experiences and achievements along the way.
As a special 50th anniversary treat we will have the opportunity to view, for the first time, a video reflecting on the first 50 years of our Society. This video, produced by Gerald Ashcroft from www.storiestobetold.com.au, is based around interviews with Russell Yeoman and Doug Orford about their recollections. Gerald has generously donated his expertise and time to provide this video as a valued gift to EDHS on the occasion of our 50th Anniversary.
As at all of our meetings, new members and visitors are most welcome.
#ThrowbackThursday – It’s school holidays and the traffic has eased somewhat but do you remember a time when it was pretty good all the time? Today we time travel back almost 50 years to revisit Main Road between Henry and York streets. Progress had arrived at little Eltham and the planners had put in place plans to ease traffic concerns with the duplication of Main Road from Bridge Street to Elsa Court commencing in 1968.
This small selection captures some of the scenes after duplication (c.1972) between York and Henry Streets. On the east side is A.R. Warren Fuel Merchant and the Grain and Feed store on the corner with York Street, now @LePineFunerals and on the southeast corner of York Street is the old Bakery. Looking north on the west side in the distance we can see the former Shire of Eltham offices and that too underwent significant change in this period with the addition of a southern wing that housed Eltham Library and the Shire Engineers in 1971. And in the foreground is what would become Alistair Knox Park.
What else can you see in this time-capsule? What memories do they stir up within you?
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Sunday evening, June 4, 1989. It’s just after 7.30 pm and tea is all but wrapped up when the call goes out to Bernie Murray, a member and one time Captain of the Research Fire Brigade; “Kitchen fire at The Barrel.” Bernie and his fellow crew members race to the scene. Around 60 firemen from 13 units battled the blaze for over six hours but the battle was lost and Eltham and Research lost an iconic building forever.
Eltham District Historical Society was recently honoured to receive a donation from Bernie of some of his personal photos of the Barrel from that fateful night including it’s subsequent demolition.
The Diamond Valley News ran the following story about the fire on its front page, Tuesday, June 13, 1989
Barrel fire was arson by Catherine Magree
Police believe the fire that destroyed the Eltham Barrel restaurant last week may have been the work of a professional arsonist.
About 60 firemen from 13 units battled for six hours to quell the blaze which broke out at 7.30pm on Sunday, June 4.
Arson Squad detectives have confirmed that the fire was deliberately lit. One detective said a fire accelerant had been found on the premises.
The coroner, Mr. Hal Hallenstein, is investigating the fire. His office has refused to comment on the course of the investigation.
A waitress at The Barrel told the News that fire may be connected to recent burglaries and threatening phone calls. Police confirmed that there had been burglaries at the restaurant.
The waitress, who did not want to be named, said the restaurant had a “lot of trouble” ever since it reopened in March following renovations.
“We were broken into four times, and received threatening phone call,” she said.
Tills smashed The most recent burglary occurred last month. Intruders jemmied open the office door and smashed tills, she said.
The woman was the last to leave the restaurant before it was consumed by flames. She said she locked up on Sunday night at about 5.30pm.
She denied rumours that business at the restaurant had been poor.
“It was only just getting a new name. Business was going well.”
The Barrel was purchased by former Sydney Swans footballer Mr Paul Morwood and his wife Linda last December.
Detectives are keen to talk to a man who was seen near the restaurant at the time of the fire.
Man sought He is aged between 35 and 40 years and has a receding hair-line. At the time of the fire he was wearing glasses, a V-necked jumper and a light colored shirt and was seen driving a dark blue VN Commodore.
Police believe the man can help them with investigations. Anyone with relevant information should ring the Arson Squad on 265 2487.
The Insurance Council of Australia has offered a reward up to $25,000 for any information leading to the conviction of the offender or offenders.
The Barrel was originally built in the late 1960s using timbers recycled from the old Cliveden Mansion in Melbourne, site of the present day Hilton Hotel. And like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, some of these historic old beams were saved and re-purposed again for a further life of storytelling. One such example is in a private home in Eltham, which incorporates two massive timber beams previously used at the restaurant, including the one that spanned the entry portico carved with the Eltham Barrel name. The owners also used about 15,000 old hand made bricks from the building in the construction of their home.
And from the collection of the State Library of Victoria are two images of the newly built Eltham Barrel in 1968 in its original glory.
#ThrowbackThursday – In our July 6th post on Ansell and Muir’s chicken shop, we stated that because the store stood within the 1934 flood zone, the property was unable to be redeveloped. Consequently the former Shire of Eltham acquired the land and the building was subsequently demolished. But why did 1934 become the benchmark for our modern day flood zone planning laws? Well today we time travel back to November/December 1934 where we can gain some appreciation of the devastation that flood brought to the district; to its infrastructure and the community.
In early November 1934 much damage was done around the Shire from recent rains, detailed at the Council meeting held Monday, 5th November 1934 (1).
However, worse was to come. On Thursday evening, November 29th, the rains came again, ceasing the following Saturday morning, December 1st. It was reported in the Advertiser on Friday November 30th, more than 8 inches of rain had been recorded at Eltham North that morning; 80% of the annual total and nearly five times that of the previous November (2).
The flooding was the highest level recorded in the district for over 40 years. Lower Eltham Park was under 5 feet of water which also covered Main Road for over a mile (3).
The Diamond Creek rose rapidly engulfing all before it; houses and shops were submerged, livestock and poultry swept away and drowned in the raging torrents, bridges severely damaged or destroyed, fences laid flat and trees uprooted. At 1pm on Friday December 1st, Main Road was under water and cut off. Early in the afternoon, Mr R. Monteith’s ‘bus became stranded near the concrete bridge. The driver and passengers escaped but the bus was stuck there till the floods receded the following Tuesday morning. By that afternoon it was back in service and people could start returning to their homes. What they found was a six inch layer of slime, which covered floors, furniture and bedding; crockery piled up against doors and window openings, bodies of dead pets which had failed to escape. And in some cases, snakes had sought refuge in the houses. Not since 1868 had floods caused so much damage. The levels recorded were now reported as the highest in 60 years (4).
At a Special Council meeting held Wednesday, December 12th, the Shire Engineer reported that damage was estimated to be £2,000 to roads and bridges; two large bridges being completely washed away. In today’s terms, based on economic project costs that would equate to almost $4 million. A detailed breakdown of damage throughout the Shire and private property was reported. Council applied for a grant towards the cost of repairs and opened a local relief fund through the Lord Mayor of Melbourne’s Flood Relief program for those whose homes had been inundated. It was noted that whilst other districts also suffered, Eltham Shire was particularly impacted not just through the loss of livestock but also because some of the cultivated land had been totally washed away rendering it unusable in the future for further cultivation (5).
Of course over the years Eltham has seen further regular flooding, the most recent significant event occurring Christmas day, 2011. Some of our members can remember the 1934 floods but they were only very small children then. What are your experiences and memories of floods in the area? Do you have any photos to share?
#ThrowbackThursday – At last night’s Society talk, “The Shallards of Montmorency,” we heard from Margaret Deighton, daughter of Blanche and Jack Shallard, about growing up in Montmorency in the 1940s and 1950s. So in keeping with that theme; today we time travel back to Were Street in the 1940s where we shall meet a dog named Jack.
Jack, an Alsatian was owned by Mr. and Mrs Musselwhite who ran the local post office from around the mid 1930s to circa 1950. The Musselwhites had trained Jack to go down to the railway station each day about 3pm and collect the daily parcel of evening newspapers delivered by train. Jack would then carry the bundle of newspapers up Were Street to the newsagency where they would then be placed on sale for the locals.
In those days (as we also heard from Margaret), Were Street was a one shop stop; very different from today’s thriving little shopping precinct.
Did you grow up in the same time period as Margaret? Do you recall Jack? Being an Alsatian, he would have been a very distinctive dog in those days. Or do you have more recent memories of Were Street and its growing number of shops from the 1960s on?
Photo: Old Main Road Bridge over Diamond Creek, Eltham; a timber trestle bridge which was damaged in the 1924 floods and subsequently replaced in 1926 with a concrete structure. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society) – Turnaround point for this heritage excursion.
Saturday, 2nd September, 2017 at 2.00pm
This walk was originally scheduled for May but for several reasons including inclement weather it had to be postponed. We hope for better luck this time.
In the early days of our Society our excursions were usually bus trips to places of historic interest away from Eltham. For nearly 20 years our excursions have been far more local, mainly comprising walks around many parts of the Eltham district. The first such walk was a leisurely stroll through the Eltham South area.
Although that walk has been repeated several times with some variations it is considered appropriate in this our 50th year to again take a ramble visiting historic sites in Eltham South. On the way we will pass artist Percy Leason’s house “Landscape” where we will read from Margot Tasca’s recent book on Leason’s life about the construction of the house and studio. Other sites will include White Cloud Cottage, the old buildings of Eltham Primary School and teacher David Clark’s cottage, “Shoestring”. We will walk through the historic Eltham Cemetery and Wingrove Park, a site of Aboriginal significance.
This walk on Saturday 2nd September 2017 is about 3.5 km in length and will take 2 to 2.5 hours. It will start at 2pm at the Eltham Local History Centre 728 Main Road (Melway ref 21J7). Our early walks finished with a cuppa and biscuit and we will reinstate that feature for this walk.
This free walk is open to the general public as well as Society members. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions. The phone number for contact on the day is 0409 021 063.
Photos of Percy Leason’s Residence Studio “Landscape” by David Bick from the Shire of Eltham Heritage Study 1992.
Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham
Blanche and Jack Shallard were involved in many activities in the Montmorency community throughout their lives. They observed Were Street grow from a one shop street to a bustling shopping village. Jack was a local solicitor and on the Board of the Diamond Valley Community Hospital, while Blanche was a member of the Hospital Auxiliary and the Eltham District Historical Society. They were also connected with Montmorency State School and St Faith’s Church in Montmorency.
At this meeting we are pleased to have their daughter, Professor Margaret Deighton, speak about her family and her recollections of growing up in Montmorency.
As at all of our meetings, new members and visitors are most welcome.
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia