#ThrowbackThursday – Who knows what that large circular monument is in front of the Eltham Community Centre across Main Road from the Eltham Hotel? Well, today we time travel back to the future, 2035 in fact, or more precisely, 1985 when the foundations were cast by the Shire of Eltham Historical Society to celebrate the Eltham of 1985 with that of 2035.
It is November 10th, 1985 and the Eltham Festival is in full swing; the Parade has finished and Eltham Town Park (or Alistair Knox Park) is full of people and displays. Included on the official program at 2.00 pm is a Time Capsule Ceremony where a time capsule is to be lowered into a monument established by the Shire of Eltham Historical Society to commemorate 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.
The monument was constructed with a concrete base and the main feature is an old tyring plate or disc. The Time Capsule Ceremony involved lowering the sealed time capsule into place, bolting down its container lid and then concreting over the lid.
The capsule contains items relating to present day (1985) Eltham and its people including a video film made by Joh Ebeli and also details of families and organizations who have contributed to construction of the monument. It is to be opened in the year 2035.
The Society received an excellent response from local people, firms and organizations by way of assistance with this project. Graham Beyer, who originated the project, arranged many of the donations. He and his firm, Package Handling Equipment, donated the time capsule itself and carried out fabrication of sections of the monument. The design of the monument was adapted by Graham Beyer from drawings by Joh Ebeli. Charmac Industries donated the container for the time capsule and a cast gun metal name plate for the monument. BMG Concrete donated concrete for the base which was constructed by Caridi Construction Company. Northbourne Garden Supplies donated materials for the paving around the monument.
Robert Becker from Eltham Apex directed construction of the paving by Society members. Terry Hutchinson donated the use of his crane to lift the tyring disc into place.
Financial contributions were also made by the Eltham Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Eltham.
Leaping forward two years to 1987 and the Society is now celebrating its 20th Anniversary. In commemoration of that event, the Society commissioned a plaque which explains the functions of the various items used in the Society’s Victorian 150th Anniversary Monument with an unveiling by its designer, Joh Ebeli, on October 10, 1987. The plaque was Joh’s idea and he provided the impetus for its completion. Joh’s dedication address is repeated below.
“We are here to finalise this monument by unveiling a plaque which explains the functions of the items for the adjacent monument.
I have brought six different people here and have asked them “What do you think of this monument” No one could tell me – some thought it was a sort of modern decoration, so I felt there and then that we still had to do more to make this monument understood and most of all, appreciated.
Therefore, we need to know a bit of the history of the wheel, the subject cart wheel has certainly a magnificent history for us all! Where should we be without the invention of the wheel!
Making a spoked wheel calls for a sort of genius for its structure is a great deal more complex than might be imagined.
There is a scribe in Iraq nearly 6,000 years ago which showed a wheeled cart. This was the earliest surviving evidence – the transport breakthrough that helped man to advance into civilisation. The wheels of this cart ·were not the crude unevenly rounded slices of tree trunk that might be imagined. They were made from three planks joined by cross struts to form a circle. The middle piece being bored centrally to hold the axle end. A wheelwright had been at work and a new craft was born!
Then came the time that allowed the wheel to turn freely instead of the former method of fixing the wheels to an axle that revolved through two hoops slung under the wagon.
In Egypt around 1,750 B.C. a light battle-chariot was used for hunting lions and other animals. In Tutankhamen’s tomb a casket was found from the 15th or 14th century B.C. bears a marvellous painting of several chariots. interestingly, the wheels have only 6 spokes.
Since the Middle Ages at least, it has been customary to fit 12 spokes – to heavier wheels 14 and sometimes 16. Around 1500 B.C. the rims of wheels began to be fitted with metal bands of tyres. This was a great improvement upon the earlier practice of binding them with leather which must have had a very short life on the uneven tracks and roads of the time. I myself, got a buggy and fitted on the 2 wheels are solid rubber tyres.
Well, I can carry-on a long time on my hobby subject but to come back to our monument …
The large iron disc was a platform used for fitting iron tyres to wooden spoked cart wheels (like the one on top of the platform). The local blacksmith and wheelwright used to work side by side. The wheel was clamped to this platform, this held the naff (or hub) tightly and the spokes at a constant angle.
A fire was next to it. An iron hoop or tyre previously forged to the correct size was dropped in the fire – when this tyre was red-hot the blacksmith lifted this with tongs over the outside of the wooden rim. The men hammered the hoop down amid flames from the scorching timber. Then the wheelwright drenched the tyre with cold water as soon as it was in position.
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. As you can see, it calls for a sort of genius and, talking about geniuses, we have two here in the gathering. Firstly, the Society wants to thank Bob Mclellan and his sons of Charmac here in Bridge Street for their donation of a beautiful plaque. He made it exactly as my design was including the illustration and logo. Next the second genius, Mr. Graham Beyer of Package Handling. He also made and donated this solid super special construction for us and we also are very grateful to him for doing this.
All I want to say is may this monument be helpful to students of the High School for making their essays about the history of the wheel and also to keep our monument alive.
Thanks for listening to me – it was only a “blast from the past!”
Herewith I then unveil this plaque and may this be here shining in the sun in the year 2037!”