Stokes Orchard – An Incomplete History

The history of the land has not been fully researched.  This article is based partly on Society records and partly on the recollections of Doug Orford and Russell Yeoman.

The land in question is Crown Allotment 15, Section 5, Parish of Nillumbik (CA15).  It is a square allotment of 158 acres or approximately a quarter of a square mile.  It lies just beyond the eastern end of Pitt Street and extends from Eucalyptus Road to Reynolds Road.

Eucalyptus Road is a straight north-south road with its northern end at the north west corner of CA15.  Until the end of the 1970s this road was an un-named Government road and was largely not open to traffic.  With residential development in the 1970s the road was constructed and the council allocated the name obviously in recognition of the predominant species of the local bushland.

CA15 was purchased from the Crown by George D’Arley Boursinquot, a prominent Melbourne printer, on 28th October 1852.  The history of subsequent ownership has not been researched but it seems that the land remained as unused bushland for very many years. The topography of CA15 is generally steep, sloping up to a hill near the centre of the land.

In the 1920s CA15 was subdivided into 48 lots that could be described as small rural properties or large residential lots.  A typical lot size was one hectare or 2.5 acres.  The subdivision created two roads, Nyora Road and Diosma Road, each following an irregular alignment between Eucalyptus and Reynolds Roads.  However the lots were not sold off separately nor were the roads constructed.  The land effectively remained as one parcel for many further years.

In the 1940s CA15 was owned by a Frank Stokes who built a house at the corner of Nyora Road and Eucalyptus Road and established an orchard on the western part of the land.  Aerial photographs from 1958 clearly show the orchard with most of the site remaining as bushland.

In the early 1950s the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works acquired land on the hilltop for a high level service reservoir to augment Eltham’s water supply.  The project also included pipe tracks for the necessary water mains.  The reservoir has now been superseded by higher level water tanks east of Reynolds Road and its former site is now a public reserve.

In the early 1960s an easement was acquired through the eastern part of the land for a major electricity transmission line that augmented supply from the La Trobe Valley to Melbourne.  Later the easement was widened and a second transmission line was constructed.

In 1971 Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme amendments adopted Nyora Road as the boundary between a residential zone to the north and a rural zone to the south.  This determined the future development of the land.

Development of "Stokes Orchard", Eltham
Development of “Stokes Orchard”, Eltham

In the 1970s land between Nyora and Diosma Roads and west of the electricity easement was sold and subdivided into residential lots and known as the Stokes Orchard Estate.  New streets were created and most were named after trees, although one, Stokes Place, commemorates the former owners.  There were difficulties with sewerage for the land immediately south of Diosma Road and so the conventional residential lots were abandoned in favour of larger lots.  These included a low density group housing development by the Graves family.

The Stokes family were associated with the Eltham Christian Church.  In the 1970s this church had met in temporary premises in Eltham.  Lots of the original 1920s subdivision remained south of Nyora Road and a number of these lots were utilized for the Eltham Christian School, which was established by the Eltham Christian Church in 1981.  The school operated on this site until 2000.  The premises are now used by the Nillumbik Community Church.

Eltham Copper Butterfly Photo: Andrea Canzano
Eltham Copper Butterfly
Photo: Andrea Canzano

By the mid 1980s the whole of CA15 had been developed for residential and school purposes, except for the sections north of Diosma Road and between the transmission lines and Reynolds Road.  Sewerage issues had been resolved for the section north of Diosma Road and in 1987 it was in the process of being subdivided into residential lots.  The development coincided with the discovery of colonies of the rare and endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly on the site.  This resulted in a community and political campaign to save the butterfly habitat.  With the co-operation of the land developer the subdivision was altered to create two bushland reserves in the critical butterfly habitat areas.

In the late 1980s the State Government was investigating options for establishing a metropolitan ring road link between Diamond Creek and Ringwood. The chosen route was adjacent to Reynolds Road and so this created a freeze on development of CA15 between Reynolds Road and the electricity easement.  The ring road proposal was eventually abandoned and this part of the land was subdivided into low density residential lots.  Diosma Road has been discontinued at the electricity easement and the eastern part incorporated into View Mount Court with access from Reynolds Road.

The whole of CA15 has now been developed for residential or associated purposes, ranging from conventional density to quite low density south of Nyora Road.  The butterfly reserves comprise significant areas of remnant bushland.  Linear reserves through the estate link with central Eltham via the Woodridge linear reserve and with Research along the electricity easement.  CA15 as it exists today has a complicated history of rural use, Government acquisition, urban development and community action.

Stokes Orchard, 1945
Stokes Orchard, 1945
Stokes Orchard 1945-current
Stokes Orchard 1945-current
Stokes Orchard Estate today
Stokes Orchard Estate today

Sequence of aerial images of the Stokes Orchard Estate (centre of immage), 1945 to current created using Melbourne 1945

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Melbourne as it was 70 years ago

For those who love before and after photos, and who doesn’t, a fascinating new site has been launched called Melbourne 1945.

Based on aerial photographs commissioned by the Department of Crown Lands and Survey, and conducted by Adastra Airways, a slider enables the viewer to change the view from 1945 to current day.

The 1945 survey covers the Eltham district extending east to Research and north to St Helena.

Fascinating!

What is in a name?

We are all connected in some way to an address, be it a street, road, court, crescent, lane or perhaps it is known by another name. Have you ever thought about how that name came about?

The origin of road or street names is not always clear-cut. Generally in Victoria the first roads were established through the survey and sale of Crown land.  Many of these were simply identified as Government roads, which is not an actual name.

In the 1850s the need for practical and legal access became apparent in the Eltham area and the Government acquired roads through privately owned land. By doing this they created new roads that were often more direct or had more practical alignments. Later, local councils were also able to acquire roads.

Names for these roads often came about by popular usage, like Main Road for instance.  Sometimes the name was formalised by Council declaration, or in other cases the common name just came to be accepted as the official name.

As privately owned land was subdivided the streets that were created eventually became public roads. Now, new plans of subdivision show the names of streets, although on many of the older subdivision plans you will see them simply identified as “road”. Often the names of streets are selected by the subdivider, perhaps named after families, local plants and local identities or are descriptive, such as Hillcrest Road or Skyline Road. A council could also decide new names, possibly in consultation with the local community or historical group.

In later articles we will look at the origin of the names of some particular roads and local streets, perhaps even the one where you live or that you regularly use.

Prepared by Russell Yeoman and Jim Connor from the Eltham District Historical Society

The Blacksmith and the Wheelwright

In November 1985 a monument was installed near the corner of Main Road and Pitt Street in Eltham, within the gardens at the front of what is now the Eltham Community and Reception Centre. This monument commemorates Victoria’s 150th anniversary and the former location of the Eltham Town Centre, which existed along this section of Main Road, then known as Maria Street. Beneath the site is a time capsule to be opened in the year 2035. A plaque was also erected at this site in October 1987 to commemorate the Shire of Eltham Historical Society’s 20th anniversary.

The main feature of this monument is a ‘tyring disc’, a blacksmith’s implement that was found on this site. This consists of a large iron disc that was used as a platform for fitting iron tyres (like the one shown on top of the platform) to wooden spoked cart wheels. The local blacksmith and wheelwright worked together to assemble the wheel, which was clamped to the platform placed close to the fire. The red hot iron hoop, previously forged to the correct size was lifted with tongs by the blacksmith over the outside of the rim, then hammered down amid flames from the scorching timber. The wheelwright drenched the tyre with cold water as soon as it was in position.

 A clamp placed on the naff (hub) and screwed down tightly kept the spokes at a constant angle as the tyre cooled. An even pressure from the contracting tyre tightened the joints at each end of the spokes and formed a vice-like grip, which would last for the life of the wheel.

 The Shire of Eltham Historical Society was originally established in 1967 to cover what was then the Shire of Eltham and its early activities extended over the whole Shire from Lower Plenty to Kinglake. The establishment of other local historical societies as well as municipal restructuring in 1994 has meant that the Society’s activities are now more confined to the Eltham district, which includes Eltham, Research, Kangaroo Ground, Montmorency, Briar Hill, and Lower Plenty. While this is reflected in the later change of name to the Eltham District Historical Society our collection of local records extends to cover the whole of the former Eltham Shire.

Blacksmith's shop, Main road, opposite Pitt street. Left Bill Baker, Right, Sid Brown.
Blacksmith’s shop, Main road, opposite Pitt street. Left Bill Baker, Right, Sid Brown.

Benjamin Wallis and the Eltham Hotel

by Russell Yeoman

In our Newsletter No. 217 July 2014 there was an article about Benjamin Oliver Wallis who was a prominent Eltham resident, publican and Councillor during the second half of the nineteenth century. He owned the house that is now the Nillumbik Living and Learning Centre at 739 Main Road Eltham. The article concluded by indicating that further research was required on Wallis’ ownership of the Eltham Hotel.

That previous article followed an enquiry from Christopher Wallis, a resident in Germany and it transpired that Benjamin Wallis was a member of the same family that came from the Cornish village of Newlyn. Christopher Wallis has now provided the results of his research complete with reference sources and it includes significant additional information on Benjamin Wallis and his connection with the Eltham Hotel.

What follows here is summarised from Christopher Wallis’ article, which starts with the background of the Wallis family in Cornwall where Benjamin trained as a mason and built a number of houses. He migrated to Melbourne in 1853 but his wife and children remained in Cornwall for a further 10 years. Later in 1853 Richard Warren engaged Wallis to build the Eltham Hotel and it opened in 1854 or 1855. The Fountain of Friendship Hotel on the opposite side of Maria Street (Main Road) opened at about the same time.

In 1858 Warren fell into financial difficulties and had to sell the hotel. Wallis bought the hotel and obtained a publican’s licence in 1861. In the 1850s the Fountain had been the more popular hotel but after that the Eltham Hotel became more popular.

The article argues that in about 1857 Wallis probably built the “Living and Learning house” for tanner John Pearson. In 1868 Pearson became bankrupt and Wallis acquired the house and he lived there until his death in 1896. For some of this time the house was in the name of Benjamin’s son Richard but he died in 1888 and ownership reverted to his father.

Much information is provided about Wallis and his family and especially his standing in the Eltham community. He was a member of the Eltham Jockey Club and in 1867 his wife Anna rode her horse Charlotte in the Annual Races. Anna was also an angler and is reported to have caught a large perch in the Yarra River. She died in 1887.

On 16th September 1886 Wallis sold the hotel to Christopher Watson (Snr). Watson died in 1887 and the hotel passed to his son Christopher Watson (Jr) who owned it for many years. It eventually passed to his son Herbert. Our Society records have to date not recorded the fate of the original Eltham Hotel although diligent research of the local press would have answered this question.

Assumptions have been made that the hotel gradually evolved from that building to the present day complex. However Christopher Wallis’ article and other recent research by Alan Sheehan shows that the hotel was demolished in 1925 when Herbert Watson was still the owner. A new hotel was built that included the façade currently standing at the corner of Main Road and Pitt Street. Many subsequent extensions have completely changed this hotel from its beginnings in the earliest years of Eltham’s development.

World War 1 – Eltham Connections

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

11 March 2015 at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Our March meeting each year is the Annual General Meeting, which includes the presentation of annual reports and the election of office bearers for the coming year. The official notification of the Annual General Meeting and the agenda is contained on pages 6 and 7 of the March Newsletter, Issue #221. Copies are available by request from edhs1@bigpond.com.

At this meeting Jim Connor will speak about ‘World War 1 – Eltham Connections’. He will look at the lives of some people with connections to the former Shire of Eltham who contributed to this war effort, either as soldiers, nurses or in other roles.

As many young men from our area lost their lives during this conflict it is considered to be a relevant topic given the increasing interest in this war and being close to ANZAC Day, 25th April 2015; one hundred years from the landing of Australian forces at Gallipoli.

As at all of our meetings, new members and visitors are most welcome.

Heritage Walk: Belle Vue Farm – 7 March, 2pm

Photo of Belle Vue sourced from Morrison Kleeman Estate Agents Eltham advertisement, February 2013

Belle Vue farm comprised about 56 ha (140 acres) extending northerly from the northern boundary of Holloway’s 1851 Little Eltham subdivision. On the present day map the southern boundary was just north of Elsa Court and Grove Street. The western boundary was the Diamond Creek and extended northerly to Main Road where it turns easterly towards Research. It was traversed by the main road to Kangaroo Ground and beyond and from 1912 by the railway to Hurstbridge.

From 1895 the farm was owned by William Williams and his wife Mary Ann. In 1914-15 they built a new house now known as “Belle Vue”. They sold the land in 1920 and residential subdivision began soon after that.

A recent image of Belle Vue
A recent image of Belle; February 2015

“Belle Vue” today remains on a large residential lot in Livingstone Road. The house and many old trees on the site have been subject to a heritage overlay under the Nillumbik Planning Scheme. Despite that overlay most of the heritage trees have been removed.

For our excursion on 7th March we intend to walk through the former farm area that is now a residential neighbourhood. The route will include views of “Belle Vue” and a number of other interesting houses and features of historic interest.

This walk is about 3.5 km in length and will take 2 to 2.5 hours. It will start at 2pm at the northern end of the Eltham railway station carpark in Main Road opposite Luck Street. (Melway ref.21 K4).

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.