A part of our history

By Jim Connor
(Reproduced from EDHS Newsletter No. 242 October 2018)

In a world divided over so many issues it can be challenging at times to meet on common ground. Such is the situation we as a community are facing locally with the future of the World War Two War Memorial Complex of three buildings at 903-907 Main Road, Eltham. This complex is a very definite part of our history and once gone can never be replaced. A primary reason for the significance of the complex is for its construction as a memorial with a civic purpose and with a particular focus on the welfare of infants. It was intended to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’. The construction of such a war memorial complex is rare in Victoria.

While these older buildings may not conform with current architectural merits or styles these were designed and constructed to reflect the desires, passions and interests of the era when built, and to symbolise achievements, failures or losses of that time.

895 and 903-907 Main Road, Eltham as advertised for sale, September 2018
(Photo: Frank Knight Real Estate)

These are part of a total package offered for sale in September 2018 on behalf of the Nillumbik Shire Council. It includes the extensive site area between the Eltham Library and the former Eltham Fire Station, and extending west from Main Road to the railway line. This land contains World War One and the World War Two memorials, the Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, the former Eltham Shire Office site and the locally significant Shillinglaw trees.

Both memorials commemorate the sacrifice and commitment of those who left Australia to fight for what they believed in and to protect those loved ones left behind. Despite requests and clear statements by our Society there is no confirmation from Council, at this stage, that these memorials and the Shillinglaw trees will be protected in any future development proposals. Neither memorial should be sacrificed in order to raise funds for other purposes.

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Advertised Sale of Former Shire Office Site and War Memorial Precinct

895 and 903-907 Main Road Eltham

The Eltham District Historical Society notes the recent advertising by Nillumbik Shire Council for the sale of properties at 895 and 903-907 Main Road Eltham.

Our Society has previously stated our position on these properties on our website and Facebook page and directly to all Nillumbik Shire Councillors.

We repeat this statement:

Our Society is of the firm opinion that the original Eltham War Memorial complex of buildings including the entrance gates should not be sold, nor demolished. The site should remain in community ownership and be retained as a form of living memorial with a specific focus directed towards the welfare of the children of the district to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’.

Further, Eltham District Historical Society also holds the position that the three Mediterranean Cypress trees (Shillinglaw trees), which are well over 100 years old, still standing proudly in front of the adjoining former Shire of Eltham Office site, are of local heritage significance. These trees represent a navigational beacon between the past, present and future landscape and history of the district and are covered by a heritage overlay. The Society is determined that they should be protected; they should not be disturbed by relocation and that the land they reside upon should also remain in community hands, not private ownership.

The Eltham District Historical Society is disappointed there has not been full disclosure to prospective investors and developers of the historical value of the Eltham War Memorial complex and the Shillinglaw trees in this advertising information.

There are few historically related properties remaining in public ownership within our Shire. The property at 903-907 Main Road contains both First and Second World War memorials in commemoration of the members of our community who paid the ultimate sacrifice to benefit our future legacy. These memorials should be protected as sacred sites in perpetuity, held in community ownership and honouring the purpose for which they were intended and for which the land was donated by the community. They should not be sacrificed for short term gain nor placed in private ownership.

EDHS Position Statement download

ThrowbackThursday: Eltham War Memorial Building Precinct, 1968

War Memorial building precinct, Main Road, Eltham, February 1968. At far left can be see the Eltham Shire Offices with the Shillinglaw trees in front, then the Childcare Centre and War Memorial Hall

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to February 1968 and the site of the Eltham War Memorial building precinct located at 903-907 Main Road, Eltham. The Memorial spans the area between Main Road and the railway line and is owned and managed by Nillumbik Shire Council (formerly Eltham Shire Council). It contains the former Eltham Infant Welfare Centre (now Eltham Food Share), the former Children’s Library (now War Memorial Hall) and Eltham Pre-School. The precinct also contains the Senior Citizens Centre though this was never part of the original Eltham War Memorial Trust buildings. The complex was developed by the Eltham War Memorial Trust Inc., as a form of living memorial as a ‘constant reminder to us of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’.

Eltham District Historical Society maintains an interest in this site as a living memorial, established from funds raised from within the community by public subscription, with a specific focus for the welfare of children of the district.

The Society also maintains an interest in the adjoining former Eltham Shire Office site at 895 Main Road for its historic connections with Shillinglaw Cottage and the Shillinglaw trees, which were originally part of the Shillinglaw Cottage garden on which all these buildings are located and which remain at the front of that site. Early Society meetings were usually held in the Eltham War Memorial Hall. From September 1983 they moved to the Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, contained within the Eltham War Memorial building precinct where they have remained to present day.

Nillumbik Shire Council will soon commence an extensive community engagement process to look at possible uses for the currently empty site at 895 Main Road, along with the adjacent parcel of land at 903-907 Main Road upon which resides the Eltham War Memorial building precinct, purchased by public subscription and donated to the Shire.

Eltham District Historical Society’s Position

Our Society is of the firm opinion that the original three Eltham War Memorial complex of buildings including the entrance gates should not be sold, nor demolished. The site should remain in community ownership and be retained as a form of living memorial with a specific focus directed towards the welfare of the children of the district to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’.

Further, Eltham District Historical Society also holds the position that the three Mediterranean Cypress trees (Shillinglaw trees), which are well over 100 years old, still standing proudly in front of the adjoining former Shire of Eltham Office site, are of local heritage significance. These trees represent a navigational beacon between the past, present and future landscape and history of the district and are covered by a heritage overlay. The Society is determined that they should be protected; they should not be disturbed by relocation and that the land they reside upon should also remain in community hands, not private ownership.

Eltham War Memorial Hall, c.August 1996 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
History of the War Memorial

Following the end of the First World War, communities across Victoria and Australia typically erected memorials which were predominantly statues, cenotaphs, avenues of honour and plaques. The Shire of Eltham established the Avenue of Honour at the gateway to the shire as well as an obelisk at the corner of Main Road and Bridge street and the Shire of Eltham War Memorial Tower at Kangaroo Ground.

After the Second World War communities once again desired to preserve the memories of those who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Resources were scarce so there was a transition away from the traditional style memorials that sprang up post 1918 to one of building facilities that would provide ongoing benefit to the community.

Even before the end of the Second World War, the citizens of Eltham began to consider an appropriate form of memorial for those from the area who fought and died in the First and Second World Wars. In 1943 the Eltham Women’s Auxiliary raised funds for the construction of buildings to be established on land to be purchased for the proposed War Memorial. On March 27th, 1945, the Eltham District Progress Association called a meeting of local people who in turn set up and registered the Eltham War Memorial Trust Inc. As a focus for the purpose of the memorial, the newspaper notice read:-

‘Those who have had a member of their family in the fighting services will want to see that the form of a memorial we are concerned with is the one which will be a constant reminder to us of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died.’

At that meeting it was decided the Memorial should take the form of a baby health centre along with a creche and children’s library. In late 1945, the newly formed Eltham War Memorial Trust purchased the land at 903-907 Main Road Eltham from Miss Shillinglaw, which  once formed part of the Shillinglaw farm on Lot 90 of Holloway’s 1851 “Little Eltham” subdivision.

Major Frank Stevens, RSL President and a young school boy (Albert Feldbauer, youngest child of the children of soldier fathers attending a school in the district) at the ceremony of turning the first sod for the Eltham War Memorial Building, 15 July 1950

 

Eltham War Memorial Hall and Gates, c.1996 (Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

The Governor of Victoria, General Sir Dallas Brooks, laid the foundation stone on November 24th, 1950, in memory of those who fell in the Second World War. The Eltham Infant Welfare Centre was opened November 15th, 1952, the Pre-school on December 1st, 1956, and the Children’s Library in 1961. In late 1966 the children’s library service was integrated into the Heideberg Regional Library Service and the building was officially renamed the Eltham War Memorial Hall.

Eltham War Memorial Gates Plaque, 4 November 2017 – “These Memorial Gates were donated by the Late Cr. & Mrs. E. J. Andrew” ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Following the opening of the Eltham Infant Welfare Centre, work began in 1953 planning for the entrance to the grounds, which is signaled by a wrought iron arch entitled “Eltham War Memorial” . In 1954 the Eltham War Memorial Trust decided  that a legacy provided by the late Councillor Ernest James Andrew (d. 29 March 1950) in memory of his wife, Mrs. Ellen Andrew (d. 13 July 1946) and who are both buried at Eltham Cemetery, should be used to fund the construction of the entrance. A metal plate inscribed to this effect was attached to the gates.

Work on the Memorial Gardens was undertaken throughout the following decade, with a Memorial Forecourt included in the final 1956 plans for the Pre-School Centre. A quote was accepted by the Trust in 1963 for the implementation of a memorial garden, which included grading of a sixty-five foot strip at the rear of the Trust buildings and construction of concrete paths. The stone retaining walls at the front of the site were installed in 1968 when Main Road was widened and it is believed that the Memorial Gates were relocated at that time also.

War Memorial Garden, Main Road, Eltham, February 1968 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
War Memorial Garden, Main Road, Eltham, February 1968 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
War Memorial Garden, Main Road, Eltham, February 1968 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Eltham Senior Citizens Centre

In 1964, Eltham Shire Council purchased a section of land from the Trust at the northern end of the site, as a provision for Country Fire Authority buildings. At the same time the Elderly Citizens Club proposed a Senior Citizens Centre on the south western section of the Trust’s property. This was approved by the Trust with the provision that the building was constructed in ‘accord’ with those already existing. In 1965 Council took on board the plans for the Senior Citizens Centre and applied for a government grant. These could only be awarded if Council owned the site.

In 1962 the Trust had resolved to hand over the assets to Council once the Memorial Gardens were completed. This was in line with Health Department requirements that grants for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the three facilities would only be made once the the facilities were completed and handed over to Council.  In 1965 the Department of Health further demanded substantial alterations to the Pre-School playground as a result of the pending impact of the planned Senior Citizens Centre and Main Road duplication. As a consequence, handover of the Trust’s assets to Council was initiated with a formal ceremony held in the Children’s Library on August 28th, 1965. The Trust continued on as a committee of management for another twelve months.

Plans and specifications for the Senior Citizens Centre were prepared by March 1966. Council obtained a grant from the Government which covered one third of the cost and the building was completed by April 1967.

Whilst the Senior Citizens Centre is contained within the original Eltham War Memorial building precinct, it was not part of the original Memorial and was not funded by the Eltham War Memorial Trust.

Eltham Major Activity Centre 2004

In the Society’s Newsletter No. 157, July 2004, we reported that as part of the State Government’s Melbourne 2030 strategy, Eltham (along with many other business centres) was identified as a major activity centre. The Council was required to produce a structure plan to guide future development of the centre. The activity centre was defined to include the Eltham shopping centre and adjacent residential areas, the industrial area based on Bridge Street, parkland and the library precinct linking the two business areas, and the railway station area.

Nillumbik Council’s consultants prepared a draft report containing wide ranging recommendations on land use, urban design, community facilities and transport within this area. As a Society most of the recommendations did not impact upon our interests. However, some of the recommendations related to heritage aspects and comment was provided to the Council at the time where these were considered to be detrimental to heritage interests.

The report recommended the sale of the Eltham War Memorial site and seemed to not fully recognise the significance of the site and its publicly funded memorial buildings. It was put to the Council by the Society that the site should be retained in its current role although some alterations to the buildings and their use may be warranted.

Similarly, with the adjoining site of the former Eltham Shire Offices, we opposed the recommended sale and, in particular, we supported protection for the three Shillinglaw trees remaining on the site.

In the Society’s Newsletter No. 159, November 2004, we reported as part of its adoption of a structure plan for the Eltham “Activity Centre”, Nillumbik Council decided not to adopt the recommendation to offer the Eltham War Memorial site for sale. Many submissions including one from our Society suggested that this was the correct course of action. However, it was also noted that Council still proposed to sell the adjoining former Shire Office site.

Eltham RSL and War Memorial
Unveiling of the War Memorial 1914-1918 at the corner of Bridge Street and Main Road, Eltham, 3 August 1919 (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection No. SEPP_0621 held in conjunction by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library).

The Eltham War Memorial, which takes the form of an obelisk is inscribed with the names of Eltham serviceman who died in the First World War. The obelisk is one of several local war memorials. It was first erected at the north west comer of Bridge Street and Main Road. The memorial was unveiled on 3rd August 1919 by Sir William Irvine, then Lieutenant Governor of Victoria and Eltham resident. Photographs of the ceremony show a large crowd of people occupying the whole of the intersection. Later the names of those who died in the Second World War were added.

Eltham – War Memorial 1914-1918. Cnr. Main Road and Bridge Street, 1919 (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection No. SEPP_0622 held in conjunction by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library).

Its location was on a high bank above the road but with the duplication of Main Road in 1968 that bank disappeared and the location lies now within the road carriageway. It was moved to the Eltham RSL site in the 1950s well before the 1968 road widening.

The Eltham War Memorial situated in front of the former Eltham RSL sub-branch on Main Road, Eltham, c.1979 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

The Eltham RSL had its origin in 1927 when it was formed as a branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. Following the financial collapse of the Eltham RSL sub-branch and subsequent amalgamation with Montmorency RSL and sale of the Eltham RSL site, Council resolved to relocate the War Memorial obelisk to the Eltham War Memorial building precinct.

The obelisk was covered by a heritage overlay under the Nillumbik Planning Scheme and a planning permit was required for its removal. The Society wrote to both the state office of the RSL and Nillumbik Shire Council expressing our interest in the future of the memorial. We suggested a new location near the comer of Panther Place and Library Place adjacent to Eltham Library. This recommendation was not accepted.

Eltham War Memorial Obelisk situated in front of the Eltham War memorial building precinct, Main Road, Eltham, 4 March 2018 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

The obelisk was ultimately relocated to the Eltham War Memorial building precinct in April 2012 and works to install a street level terraced area to accommodate the obelisk were completed at that time. In the citation for the Eltham War Memorial, comprising of the granite obelisk, plinths and bollards, it is identified as historical, aesthetic and of social significance to the Shire of Nillumbik. In 2013, a permanent heritage overlay over the obelisk was enacted.

The decision by Nillumbik Shire Council to allow relocation of the obelisk to the Eltham War Memorial building precinct was contrary to the view of this Society. In particular, it is considered that the site works required to install the monument significantly compromised the heritage integrity of the total War Memorial site.

Our society was concerned that we were being placed in a situation where we could be seen to be critical of ANZAC Day services and a revered organisation such as the RSL, because we strive to support retention and care of heritage places of significance in our local area. Members of our Society have been involved over many years with various related projects, including the Eltham Avenue of Honour, the War Memorial Tower and the replacement of the First World War Honour Board at Research Primary School, as well as detailed research regarding service personnel involved during both world wars from the Eltham Shire region.

Cultural Heritage Significance Assessment

In November 2011, a Cultural Heritage Significance assessment was undertaken on the Eltham War Memorial building precinct for Nillumbik Shire Council. The result of the study was that it was identified as being of local significance, worthy of being included in the heritage overlay. A primary reason for the significance of the Eltham War Memorial building precinct is its construction as a “memorial with a civic purpose and with a particular focus on the welfare of infants”.  The report also states that the “construction of a
complex of war memorial buildings, all with infant related purposes, does appear to be rare, with no other known examples found during this assessment”. In summary, the heritage advice was that the open views to the War Memorial Buildings should be retained as should the relationship between the three buildings. Council considered this advice when it decided to relocate the Eltham War Memorial obelisk to this site in 2011 and resolved that any future works or planting should not limit visibility of the War Memorial Buildings from Main Road.

Recent Modifications

As the owner of the land and adjacent buildings, Council has a responsibility under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) to ensure, as far as practicable, that compliance with the DDA is achieved. In February 2014, Council conducted an audit of the Eltham War Memorial precinct to identify non-compliances under the DDA and the relevant Australian Standards. This audit included an assessment of access from Main Road through to Eltham Pre-school and the War Memorial Hall. The pathway was determined to be non-compliant due to the steepness of the gradient as a result of modifications to the entrance to install the obelisk. Subsequent to this, an extended ramp system was installed, which is not sympathetic to the original design of the War Memorial entrance and gardens.

Eltham District Historical Society was concerned when it was originally suggested to relocate the obelisk to this site as we considered it would inappropriately detract from the heritage significance of the Eltham War Memorial building precinct. We feel our concerns have been confirmed by the subsequent actions taken.

The revised entrance to the Eltham War Memorial following relocation of the Eltham War Memorial obelisk; 4 November 2017 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Eltham War Memorial Obelisk during a recent Eltham District Historical Society Heritage Excursion, 4 November 2017 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
References
  • War Memorial Building Complex, 903-907 Main Road, Eltham: Cultural Heritage Significance assessment, November 2011; Prepared for Nillumbik Shire Council by Samantha Westbrooke Pty Ltd in association with Peter Mills PhD, Architectural Historian
  • Agenda, 14 October 2014, Policy and Services Committee, Nillumbik Shire Council
  • Various Newsletters, Eltham District Historical Society

Nillumbik 2018 Community Group of the Year

2018 Community Group of the Year – Nillumbik Shire Council

Members of Eltham District Historical Society with Nillumbik Shire’s Mayor, Cr. Peter Clarke at the Nillumbik Shire Council Australia Day Awards held at Eltham Community Reception Centre, Australia Day, 26 January 2018.

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: Birch Cottage, Christmas Hills, 1969

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to circa 1969, to Birch Cottage on Watson’s Creek where we hope to join the occupant, Mrs Honor Williams (nee Birch) for a nice hot cuppa.

Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, Aug. 1969. ( Photo: George W. Bell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Detail, front wall, Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, Aug. 1969. ( Photo: George W. Bell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Detail, shed wall, Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, Aug. 1969. ( Photo: George W. Bell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Tea’s on the boil – Detail, kitchen, Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, Aug. 1969. ( Photo: George W. Bell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Originally built by John Hill, a shoemaker at Kangaroo Ground around 1878.

In the late 1970s when our Society was the Shire of Eltham Historical Society, an offer was made to the Society regarding use of an old cottage at Christmas Hills. The cottage sat beside Watsons Creek just outside the then Shire of Eltham but following municipal restructuring it now lies within the Shire of Nillumbik. For various reasons the offer ultimately lapsed.

At that time some research on the cottage was carried out for the Society by Keith Chappel as part of a larger research project that he was doing. Keith’s notes were taken from Lands Department records and showed that the property was the subject of a permissive occupancy of Crown land comprising the creek reserve.

In 1903 a Miner’s Right of one acre in area was granted to Edwin Samuel Birch. In 1907 Birch applied to purchase this land but was unable to because it was part of the creek reserve. The documents show that the cottage existed at that time. Upon Birch’s death in 1932, his daughter, Honor Mary Birch was granted a permit to occupy the residence.

Honor Mary Birch, known as Nora, was born 1900, the daughter of Edwin Samuel Birch and Honor (nee Young). In 1939 she married George Henry Williams (aka Henry). Honor died 8 July 1976. Her siblings were Margaret Martin (dec), Bert Birch and Brigidene Brinkotter. In her will she gave and bequeathed “all the improvements on the land held by me at Christmas Hills under Permissive Occupancy from the Department of Land and Survey consisting of the house property thereon and all the contents of the said house to my nephew Brian Joseph Martin of Christmas Hills aforesaid farmer”.

The will described the property as a four room, five square house, about 100 years old with enclosed verandah, including kitchen, combined lounge dining room, bedroom and store room; built of ‘bush slabs’ with a corrugated iron roof. A dairy had been erected in 1935. After her death, the property was acquired by the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works in 1978.

The property is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database HO200-Hill, later Birch farm complex, 945 Eltham-Yarra Glen Road, Watsons Creek and described as:

The house has a steep but simply gabled roof form clad with corrugated iron, vertical adzed hardwood slab front wall construction, split palings to the gable ends; rubble freestone chimney at one end (with added gsi flue), pole-framed Graeme Butler & Associates, 2006: 101 Shire of Nillurnbik Planning Scheme Amendment C13 Heritage Assessments verandah (rebuilt?); six-pane double-hung sash windows; T&G bead-edge boarded ledged & braced door; and paling clad rooms added at verandah ends. A slab-clad large fireplace is at the north corner of the house, with a gsi upper cladding added and an internal lining of rubble stone.

The rear facade is different construction, being drop-slab, and sits beneath a rear skillion addition to the main gabled form: this may be more recent construction. The house appears to have been once set up for public display and may have been recreated in part for that purpose.

Outbuildings are reached by a track along the east side of the house, including what may have been a creamery (typical standard inter-war design clad with corrugated iron and lined with 1938 Lysaght Queens Head Australia galvanised sheet iron) and a paling clad gabled out-house. Timber outbuildings of differing eras are to the north-west of the house, with pole framing and paling infill construction and Redcliffe brand corrugated iron. Post and rail (front) and split paling (rear) fence remnants line the front boundary. Pepper trees part of house yard landscape.

Now, why not sit back and enjoy that hot cuppa Honor has poured for us as we cast our eyes back to the the future.

Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

 

The cottage now comes under the auspices of Parks Victoria. A notice out front states:

Historic sites form part of our nation’s cultural heritage.

The surrounding landscape and remaining features and artefacts help us to understand how people once lived and worked here.

Please help protect this heritage for present and future generation by leaving the site as you found it.

It is an offence to:

  • damage or remove artefacts and historic features
  • disturb archehaeological values by digging

References:

October Meeting – The Spirit of Eltham

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

Wednesday, 10th October 2018 at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Aerial view showing the Senior Citizen’s building on left, Shire of Eltham office, new Eltham Library and relocated Shillinglaw Cottage on right, 1994 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

At this Society meeting we will explore ideas about what is considered to be the ‘Spirit of Eltham’.

We will view a video produced for the Shire of Eltham in response to the 1985 Victorian Local Government Commission 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’.

We will also be fortunate to have a presentation on this theme by Lynnsay Prunotto, a local architect, who is also involved in community planning activities, as well as some insights from Hamish Knox on his experience of growing up and working for many years in the region.

As always, Society members and visitors are most welcome to attend this meeting.

ThrowbackThursday: Eltham Police Station Shooting, 1975

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Sunday, March 16, 1975. It is the early hours of the morning, around 3.30 a.m.. The air is still, the temperature a cool 14 degrees and damp from the recent showers. Senior Constable Lew Howard of Eltham and Constable Adrian Bennetts of Greensborough are finishing up on overtime duty in the Eltham police station at 23 Pryor Street. Unbeknownst to them, five youths from Diamond Creek who have spent a night of drinking are now in the process of a shooting escapade throughout the district with a shotgun. There have already been several incidents. An unoccupied police car, parked at the Diamond Creek police station, was fired at from the street, 30 metres away. The front passenger side of the car received the full force of the blast. Hurstbridge and Greensborough police stations have also been shot at along with a public telephone box and a private citizen’s car. And now they have turned their attention towards Eltham.

Eltham Police Station, 23 Pryor Street, June 1999. In 1959 the Victoria Police purchased this house to be refurbished as the Eltham Police Station. In 1961 the Police moved out of 728 Main Road and into the Pryor Street building following required modifications to bring it in line with the standards used for police stations throughout the State. ( Photo: Margaret Ball, from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory @victoriapolice @eyewatchnillumbik )

The five youths turn into Pryor Street from Bible Street; the driver puts the car into neutral and they roll down the hill. Two police are visible through the window. Their police car is locked and parked out back and they have just locked up their weapons and shut everything else down after a night of working overtime. Usually they would have knocked off at 2 a.m. but tonight has been busy helping out Greensborough Police with traffic when a car knocked down a street pole and then attending another incident concerning a stolen car. The youths observe the lights are on in the police station. Out of all the other stations they have attacked tonight, Eltham is the only one with lights on. One of the youths leans out of the car window, raises the shotgun and pulls the trigger. Nothing happens; the gun’s safety is on. The youths decide to proceed around the block and return to the top of Pryor Street where again they put car in neutral, cut the lights, and roll down the hill for a second pass. As they slowly coast past the police station the two constables are standing beside each other near the window. They hear and see nothing. The youth leaning out the window takes aim and fires. The quiet of the night is shattered by the blast and sound of breaking glass. They flee the scene.

Senior Constable Lew Howard is hit in the right arm and Constable Adrian Bennetts has suffered facial cuts from flying glass and wood splinters. Unable to respond, they call D24 for help and the full might of the Victoria Police leaps into action to assist them and hunt the men down.

Both Lew Howard and Adrian Bennetts are treated that night at the Austin Hospital and then released to go home. Lew later states that if they had been standing just a few inches to the side, he or Adrian may well have been killed; the wooden window frame between two panes of glass having taken the brunt of the shotgun force, saving him from far greater injuries.

It is the second time this year that the Eltham police station has been hit by gunfire. In January (1975), bullets were fired into three windows at the station. Fortunately that time, nobody was hurt.

Following inquiries, five Diamond Creek youths, from 18 to 21 years are arrested two weeks later by Det. Sen. Const. Bob Traeger and Sgt. Ian Wright. Four are charged on two counts of grievous bodily harm by negligence and on four counts of malicious damage to police stations; scheduled to appear in Eltham Court on May 6, 1975.

At court, three young men, two aged 18 and one 21, admitted shooting at four police stations and injuring two Eltham policemen. Each was fined $1,000. A fourth man, 19, who fired the shots which injured the policemen was sentenced to 12 months in a youth training centre and given 18 months probation.

Judge Wright said the men were seriously affected by alcohol and that Eltham police station was the only one with lights on. The evidence showed that the youth who fired knew someone was inside the police station. All pleaded guilty to having discharged a shotgun at Eltham police station and causing grievous bodily injury to Senior Constable Howard and Constable Bennetts. They also pleaded guilty to having maliciously damaged the windows, flywire screen and woodwork of the Eltham police station and damaged the woodwork at the Hurstbridge police station. Three of the youths also pleaded guilty to having maliciously damaged louvre windows and a police car at Greensborough police station; maliciously damaging a car, porch and wooden fence at Diamond Creek, and damaging a police car at Diamond Creek.

The new Eltham Police Station, 23 Pryor Street, Eltham, September 2016. Project contract issued to Cordell Connect for $4.2 million, commenced 5 November 2001 and completed 6 November 2002. (Google Street View) @victoriapolice @eyewatchnillumbik
Notes:
  1. Whilst the offending youths names are a matter of public record, we, in consultation with Lew Howard, have chosen not to reproduce them here. This incident, whilst it has had a lasting impact upon Lew, was over 43 years ago. The men would all now be in their early to mid 60s, most likely grandfathers.
  2. Senior Constable Lew Howard served at Eltham police station from 9 August 1972 until his promotion to Sergeant and reassignment to Preston police station, 7 June 1976.
  3. D24, the Victoria Police Emergency Communications Centre was located on the sixth floor of the Russell Street Headquarters, in Corridor D, Room 24, behind a door marked ‘D24’.
References:
  • “Policeman hit in shotgun rampage”, Diamond Valley News, 17 March 1975
  • “Police station shooting”, Diamond Valley News, 1 April 1975
  • “$1000 fine for 3 on gun rampage”, Diamond Valley News, 7 May 1975
  • Sgt. Lew Howard, (Retired), Victoria Police

Eltham District Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the generous loan by Lew Howard of many items for digitising and inclusion in our collection. These include; letters, postcards and photographs of First World War Servicemen of the District sent to Lily Howard; photographs of Howard family members; photograph of the Panton Hill Cricket Club Premiers 1934-35 and 1935-36 Premiers banner; Panton Hill Football League Football Records from the 1970s and a signed photograph of the 1934 Premiers team; various press clippings pertaining to Lew’s police career at Eltham. These items are currently in the process of being digitised and catalogued and will be known as the “Lew Howard Collection”.

 

ThrowbackThursday: Ashton’s Circus the world’s greatest! c.1958

#ThrowbackThursday – Roll up! Roll up! Come on down to Bremner’s Flat and Ashton’s Circus, the world’s greatest!

Ashton’s Circus set up in Bremner’s Flat (Wingrove Park), Main Road, Eltham, c.1958. Viewed from Grace Mitchell’s shop in Mount Pleasant Road. ( Photo: Grace Mitchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Today we time travel back to Bremner’s Flat, circa 1958 where Ashton’s Circus and Zoo have set up their Big Top. A wonderful cast of peerless performers await to entertain us with daring Trapeze Artists, Aerialists and High Wire Acts that will hold you spellbound! We will have the opportunity to see Ashton’s herd of elephants from the jungles of Malaya; a thrilling rodeo of trained horses and riders; Ashton’s Clowns, clearly the world’s funniest and Ashton’s famous circus – the most popular on the road today! Look out for Captain Shultz (late of Barnum and Bailey, the greatest show in America) and The Cage of Death – he works 10 lions and lionesses all in one cage; 3 Nacchines, Continental Clowns; the famous Flying Ashtons; Top-of-the-Tent marvels – Miss Lorraine, Leo St. Leon, brilliant equestrian – Phillis & Douglas Ashton, Miss Marie Sanderson, Mervyn Ashton and more. It’s a show not to be missed.

Ashton’s Circus set up in Bremner’s Flat (Wingrove Park), Main Road, Eltham, c.1958. Viewed from Grace Mitchell’s shop in Mount Pleasant Road. ( Photo: Grace Mitchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

 

Notes:

  • Bremner’s Flat was the original name given to the reserve located opposite the intersection of Mount Pleasant Road and Main Road, Eltham. It was renamed to Wingrove Park circa 1970.
  • According to the National Library of Australia; Ashton’s Circus was founded in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1847 by Thomas Mollor, and acquired in February 1850 by James Henry Ashton, a man schooled in the tradition of English circus and who had experienced the hard times of the nineteenth century. The circus operated as the Royal Amphitheatre or Royal Circus. When founder James Henry Ashton died in 1889, his son Fred, then aged 22, inherited the circus. The circus continued to be handed down throughout the family, and today it is run by the 6th generation of Ashtons, Michelle and Joseph and their sons, Jordan and Merrik. As Joseph had founded ‘Circus Joseph Ashton’ in 1998 prior to his grandfather’s retirement in 2000, it was decided to apply this name to the family’s main circus reflecting the current state of ownership and operations. The prior name of “Ashton’s Circus” was retired.
  • Circus acts referenced from various newspaper advertisements of the time accessed through the National Library of Australia’s website, Trove

 

MysteryMonday: Yvonne’s Dressmaking and Alteration Service, 1987

#MysteryMonday – Today’s image is a Main Road somewhere in the former Shire of Eltham. It was taken in 1987 and displayed along with a number of other panels at the 1987 Eltham Community Festival as part of the Eltham Shire Council display of infrastructure and services. Only problem is, we can not work out where this particular photo was taken. The only real identifying feature is the shop sign for Yvonne’s Dressmaking and Alteration Service. And no, it is not 23 Paris Street, Alliston, Ontario, Canada.

Main road street scene showing Yvonne’s Dressmaking and Alteration Service, c. October 1987 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Can you identify this location? We’d love to hear from you; your thoughts and suggestions as to where it might be and help us catalogue this images.

Over to you . . .

. . . and remember, if this proves to easy for you, there is always last week’s MysteryMonday, which remains unsolved.

ThrowbackThursday: Main Road Bridge, Lower Plenty, 1966

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to September 1966 to the boundary of the Shire of Eltham and the City of Heidelberg on the Plenty River and the construction site of the new Lower Plenty Bridge. Work is well under way preparing for the provision of utility services and the roadway; the concrete piers and prefabricated steel and concrete girders having been put in place the month before. The bridge was completed and open for use by November 1966. It was subsequently duplicated along with Main Road in 1970.

Construction of the new Main Road Bridge, Lower Plenty, c.August 1966. The new Lower Plenty Hotel in background. ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Construction of new Main Road Bridge, Lower Plenty, c.August 1966 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Construction of new Main Road Bridge, Lower Plenty, c.August 1966 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
New Main Road Bridge, Lower Plenty, November 1966 ( from the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection, No. 802, held in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory and Yarra Plenty Regional Library (Eltham Library) @YarraPlentyRegionalLibrary @threalelthamlibrary )

Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia