Category Archives: Buildings

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.
Advertisements

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.

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.

Eltham South Preschool

35 Fordhams Road, Eltham South

This preschool building was designed by the architect Charles Duncan who was a proponent of the organic style inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, a renowned American architect. Charles Duncan was one of a number of young Melbourne architects who designed Wrightian style buildings in the 1960s. The building has a triangular floor plan with a bell-cast slate-clad roof with a large metal spire designed by Matcham Skipper. Duncan scaled the interior of this preschool to a child’s proportion.

Photograph from the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photo Collection