Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham
Our meeting at 8.00pm on Wednesday 10th April 2018 is our Annual General Meeting, which includes the presentation of annual reports and the election of office bearers for the coming year.
At this meeting we are pleased to have a guest speaker from the Eltham Cemetery Trust to talk about their connections to our local history and how their current practices and projects continue to support artistic connections in the Eltham region.
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.
In place of our listed heritage excursion for Saturday, 1st September 2018, the Eltham District Historical Society will hold an Open Day at the Eltham Justice Precinct, on the corner of Main Road and Brougham Street, Eltham.
The intention of this event is to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of our Local History Centre, which was opened on 12th July 1998 and is located in the former Police Residence adjacent to the Eltham Court House. Our Centre was established through the dedicated work of some of our members.
As part of this celebration we will also be launching our use of the replica Police Station next to our Local History Centre. The intention is to have this small timber building reflect a 1920s era Police Station, that will be used as part of our regular heritage tours for schools and community based groups.
This Open Day will be between 1pm and 4pm and is free for the general public as well as Society members. Dogs are not permitted at this event.
By Russell Yeoman (reproduced from Newsletter No. 242, August 2018)
For more than 30 years following its establishment in 1967 our Society had no permanent “home”. Society meetings were held in various places, firstly in the Eltham Shire Hall, then the War Memorial Hall in the War Memorial complex of buildings and finally in the Eltham Senior Citizens; where we still meet today. There were other one-off meeting venues such as the Great Hall at Montsalvat, Metzner Hall at Judge Book Village and once in the Eltham Shire Offices. Committee meetings were originally held in these halls but later in the homes of committee members. A favourite place for a number or years was the home of Blanche and Jack Shallard in Montmorency. Supper here consisted of Blanche’s excellent cheese scones.
The Society was significantly involved with the Eltham Shire Council. The President was Cr. Charis Pelling, Shire Secretary Max Watson was Vice President and Secretary Russell Yeoman also worked for the Council. From 1967 the Society began accumulating historical records but was somewhat inhibited by lack of a place to store them. Many records were stored in the Shire Offices and there was little distinction as to what was owned by the Society and what was owned by the Council. The collection of historical records and photographs was significantly augmented in 1971 by the Council collecting material for the publication of “Pioneers and Painters”.
As the volume of Society acquisitions grew further storage locations were required. As well as records some artefacts were added to the collection including items collected by the Shillinglaw Cottage Preservation Committee. Although the cottage had been preserved the plan to use it as a museum did not eventuate. Some items that were to be donated remained with the donors pending a suitable place to keep them. An example was a large collection of farming and other artefacts donated by Bruce and Joy Ness of Kangaroo Ground that was kept in their barn. Storage of the Society’s paper based records fell in large part to Russell Yeoman as Secretary and these were kept at his house, generally in less than optimum conditions. There was a filing cabinet in the laundry and various boxes in other parts of the house and in the shed. Large plans were kept in a cardboard folder under a bed. Workshops to get these records into some sort of order were held at the Yeoman house.
Fast forward to 1998. Nillumbik Shire Council has succeeded the Eltham Council. Much of the Society’s collection of artefacts has been passed on to the fledgling Andrew Ross Museum. Society President Harry Gilham has successfully negotiated with the Commissioners in charge of the Council to secure the long term use of the former Eltham Police Residence by the Society. This State Government owned building had been used by Eltham Council as its Parks and Environment office. The long task of moving the Society’s collection from its various storage locations began. This historic building has become our Local History Centre and it has enabled the acquisition of far more historical material than had previously been possible and has helped secure the future of the Eltham District Historical Society.
As we celebrate the 20th year in our Local History Centre we acknowledge and are forever indebted to Harry Gilham and the other members who worked so hard to establish and maintain our “home”.
Eltham Police Station and Residence: A brief history
1860 Eltham Courthouse built in Main Road, together with an adjoining police residence, office, lock–up and stables.
1959 Police Department purchases a house in Pryor Street to be refurbished as Eltham Police Station
1961 Police in Eltham move into Pryor Street refurbished buildings and office.
c.1961-1981 Occupied by Vermin and Noxious Weeds Destruction Section of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey. Former Police Station dragged around to rear of Police Residence (prior to August 1967) to make way for the construction of a driveway and access from Main Road. The building was placed on the site of a former Scullery and modified for Lands Department use.
1981 Shire of Eltham take over management of old Police Residence in Eltham. It remains unoccupied for a period of time whilst its future is discussed in Council.
1981-1985 Used for community job creation scheme
1985 Shire of Eltham Parks and Environment occupy the residence. Council improve the driveway but later add a second rear access from Brougham Street due to the dangerous nature of the Main Road entrance. Also add a rear toilet facility between the Police Residence and former Police Station, which was doubling up as a lunch room. Council also commence discussions to re-establish a replica Police Station.
c.1986 November. Former Police Station demolished; believed to have been suffering termite damage.
c.1989 After some years of discussion a replica Police Station is built, based on photographs, to act as a lunch room and meeting room for Parks and Environment staff and volunteers doing community service.
1996 Eltham District Historical Society in discussions with Nillumbik Shire Council commisioners throughout the year regarding a home for the Society. A proposal put forward by the Society in October to occupy the former Police Residence.
1997 March. Eltham District Historical Society gains access to former Police Residence.
1998 July 12th. Eltham District Historical Society Inc moves into its Local History Centre, 728 Main Road Eltham (the former Police Residnce built in 1860).
2018 July. Eltham District Historical Society gains access to the replica Police Station for use as part of regular heritage tours for schools and community based groups.
The original Shire of Eltham was founded in 1871. Prior to its founding, the district was managed by the Eltham District Road Board, which was established in 1856. The first rate assessment commenced in 1857 for the year ending October 14, 1858.
The honour of being recorded with the first assessment went to a farm of 110 cultivated acres at Lower Plenty, owned by John Porter and occupied by Albert Baines. It was assessed at 6d/acre providing for a rate income of £2 15s.
In July 2017, officers at the Shire of Nillumbik discovered some early Eltham Road District Assessment books and donated them to the Eltham District Historical Society. We were very excited as we soon realised the seven volumes handed over to us were the district’s first six years of rate assessments. This was a unique and significant record of early settlers in the pre-Shire of Eltham. They immediately became one of the oldest and most valuable items in our collection.
An article on page 5 in the Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser, Friday, 21 November, 1941 titled: ‘District’s Early History‘ states: “The first rate book which is still in existence at the Shire Office is for the year ending October 14, 1858 and is probably the best record possible to indicate the development of the district. At the time properties were rated as follows: Cultivated land. 6d. per acre; pasture land, 1d. per acre: estimated annual value of buildings, etc., 6d in the (pound). The total amount of rate recorded for the year was £153/14/8. Properties were described as being situated at Lower Plenty, Yarra Yarra, Eltham, Lower Eltham, Kangaroo Ground, Yarra Flats, Diamond Creek and the Yarra.”
Given the precious nature of this collection, priority was given to digitise the rate books and place them in suitable archival storage to minimise further handling. Subsequent discussion amongst our Collections team arrived at the conclusion that the most appropriate home for this valuable record was the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV), the archive of the State Government of Victoria and who are charged with archiving and caring for all Government related records. An approach was made to PROV and the air of excitement was palpable, just as it had been for us. These records completed their collection of rate assessment books for Eltham.
At a small ceremony held Friday, April 20 at the Local History Centre, Eltham, members of the Society and our Collections team, along with Ms. Vicki Ward, MP for Eltham, presented the seven volumes for 1858-1863 along with the complete set of digital files to Mr. David Taylor, Community Archives Manager and Mr. Charlie Farrugia, Senior Collection Advisor, Public Record Office Victoria.
“Thank you to the Historical Society for providing us with Eltham’s earliest known rate records. The receipt of these records means that a complete set for the district is now available for researchers to access from the state archives alongside other districts across Victoria. Rate books are a valuable resource for family and property researchers and are amongst our most popular records for those who want to know more about the history of their home. It’s fantastic to be able to add these early books from 1858-1863 to our collection,” David Taylor, Community Archives Manager, Public Record Office Victoria (pictured far right).
Society Vice President, Peter Pidgeon said that whilst the Society was reluctant to see the rate assessment volumes go, it was the right thing to do as they are now re-united with their brothers and sisters and Public Record Office Victoria was best equipped to care for them in a climate controlled environment for perpetuity.
This is another example of the extended reach the Society has been able to achieve in being able to catalogue and share our collection via Victorian Collections.
The Society will continue to retain the digital version of these records in our catalogue on Victorian Collections, which are fully accessible as per the following links.
Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham
Our meeting at 8.00pm on Wednesday 11th April 2018 is our 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 Agenda are on page 9 of our April Newsletter. Copies will be available on the night at the meeting or can be requested via email to email@example.com.
At this meeting we are pleased to be able to show a film of the early activities of the Briar Hill Timber and Trading Co Pty Ltd, in Sherbourne Road, Briar Hill. This film details the various operations involved in this business during the 1950s/60s, from sourcing trees and machining the timber through to the manufacturing of various building materials and components.
Bob Manuel, who was an active part of this family owned business will attend our meeting to add his comments and insights about some of the scenes shown.
Frederick and Hazel Squire established this company in 1934 and their properties covered approximately 15 acres, on either side of Sherbourne Road. Their large timber mill that started in 1941 processed timber from Kinglake, Flowerdale and the Otways.
The company was noted for supplying timber to the Australian government for construction during World War Two, as well as joinery for the Heidelberg Olympic Village in the 1950s.
Everyone is welcome to attend this meeting.
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia