Category Archives: Buildings

ThrowbackThursday: Billy Cart Derby, Easter Saturday 1957

Promotional window label, Eltham Gymkhana, Easter Saturday, 20 April 1957 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Saturday, April 20, 1957. We are going to the Eltham Easter Gymkhana which is being held at Eltham Park. This is the ninth Eltham Show to be held in aid of the Eltham War Memorial Trust. The Trust has already built an Infant Welfare Centre which was opened five years ago in 1952 and more recently this year, a preschool centre which includes a children’s library in an annexe.

Today’s programme includes equestrian turnouts, dressage contests, and jumping events for which the newly formed Melbourne Show Jumping Club have assisted in laying out an Olympic-type course.

The Women’s Auxiliary of the trust are also running a market stall, with local produce and handcrafts.

Besides the horse show, there will be a pedigreed goat show and this year, a most thrilling soap box derby for us to see for which Mr Russell Lewis along with Mr J.M. Peter Bassett-Smith, secretary of the trust and a member of the show committee will assist in the running of.

Entry form for the Skyline Drive-In “Soap-Box” Derby, to be held along Main Road between Panorama Avenue and Bolton Street, Easter Saturday, 20 April 1957 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
[Note: entry form quotes incorrect date as 19 April, which was a Friday]
The Soap Box Derby is being sponsored this year by Hoyt’s Skyline Theatres and is to be run over a 3/4 mile long course along the main Eltham Road commencing at the eastern corner of Panorama Road and racing down the hill to the finish line at the intersection with Bolton Street. There are two divisions in this Derby; Junior, 8-13 years and Senior, 14-95 years, so let’s go join in the fun.

Billy carts in the Senior division are permitted vehicles of any size or type provided they are fitted with four wheels, adequate braking, steering and have no motor. In the Junior division the vehicles must also be no more than five feet in length and the wheels no more than 12 inches in diameter. No pneumatic tyres and needle or roller bearings are allowed.

It is now 11:00 am and the elimination heats followed by the semi-finals are about to commence. The final of each division should be conducted around 1:20 pm. Apart from the local entries, 18 Melbourne Grammar School Students are in attendance to assist in the running of the Derby.

The Starter now places the competitors on the starting line. He takes a few steps forward in front of the line of billy carts, turns to face them, raises the flag in his arm, scans the line and each competitor one final time then drops the flag. And they’re racing!

In about four minutes they will cross the finish line at Bolton Street.

The 1957 Eltham Gymkhana made a profit of £309 19s 6d, which was paid in to the Eltham War Memorial Trust fund.

Did you attend or participate in the Billy Cart Derby? Do you have any pictures or stories you would like to share with us? We would love to hear your comments and memories.

Entry form for the Skyline Drive-In “Soap-Box” Derby, to be held along Main Road between Panorama Avenue and Bolton Street, Easter Saturday, 20 April 1957 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
[Note: entry form quotes incorrect date as 19 April, which was a Friday]

References:

  • 1957, “Young Rider to Judge at Show”, The Age, Wednesday, April 17, 1957, p8
  • 1957, Your Entry Form for the Skyline Drive-In “Soap-Box” Derby
  • 1957, Minutes of Meeting of Eltham Show Committee held at La Ronde, 12 April 1957
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ThrowbackThursday: It is with deep regret . . . , Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty, May 3rd, 1941

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Saturday, May 3rd, 1941 and the property ‘Abington’ (now known as ‘Araluen’) on the Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty; home of Mrs Annie Castledine. It is morning and the weather is fine with a slight northerly breeze; the sun is out warming the dew off the grass following a chilly and foggy start to the day of 43 degrees (6° C) at 7am. The sun will heat the day up to a pleasant 68 (20° C) at noon but that is the only warmth to be brought to the Castledine homestead that day.

Passing through the front gate and heading up the drive, a young lad in postal office uniform, cap on head, pedals his bike up the hill. The telegram delivery boy; an unfortunate scene, and a symbol of fear, stabbing directly to the hearts of every mother, wife, father, brother, sister or child unfortunate enough to witness it.

The Castledine family home at 226 Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Annie has heard and seen him approaching; his bicycle bell rattling as he passes over the ruts and corrugations in the drive, small puffs of dust falling from behind his wheels. She comes to the front door to greet him, her heart pounding with fear.

The boy dismounts and places his bike on its stand with respect rather than just dropping it. He wipes a bead of sweat off his forehead, straightens his cap and dusts himself down slightly. He too advances towards her but tries not to catch her eye. For unlike the slightest glimmer of hope Annie may hold, he knows what he is delivering.

He asks Annie quietly, “Mrs Annie Castledine?” Annie reaches her hand out towards him and he gently hands the sealed telegram to her. Still trying to avoid eye contact, he backs away and says, “I’m very sorry”. He quietly gets back on his bike and rides away though Annie cannot see him anymore, her eyes are full of tears.

Telegram, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne to Mrs Annie Castledine, Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty, 3 May 1941.The telegram is oil stained as it was kept by George’s brother Sid, in his toolbox.  ( Digital scan of original held in private collection; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

“It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that VX10044 Sapper G. E. Castledine has been killed in action April 18th & desire to convey to you the profound sympathy of the Minister for the Army and the Military Board.
– Minister for the Army”

George Ernest Castledine with friend, Emily Beckett (on his left) and another unidentified friend, c.1939 ( Photo donated by Joan Castledine; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

George is the first soldier from the Shire of Eltham to be killed in the war. He was engaged to Miss Jean Simonson of Montmorency and was going to turn 27 in just two week’s time. He had much to live for. His older brother Sid, 28, enlisted only four week’s ago.

Annie’s world and those of her other children are changed forever.

Sapper George Ernest Castledine (1914-1941), son of Arthur Frederick (dec.) and Annie Castledine, enlisted 23 January 1940 at Lower Plenty and was assigned to the 2/2 Field Company. He is buried in the Phaleron War Cemetery, Athens, Greece and is remembered on the Roll of Honour located in the Eltham War Memorial Hall.

Grave of Sapper George Ernest Castledine, Phaleron War Cemetery, Athens, Greece ( Photo donated by Joan Castledine; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Grave of Sapper George Ernest Castledine, Phaleron War Cemetery, Athens, Greece ( Photo donated by Joan Castledine; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

George’s brother Sid, upon his discharge from active duty was to keep that fateful telegram in his tool box, a personal place near and dear to him, for the remainder of his life.

It is in memory of George and all the other fallen soldiers of our district that the Eltham Women’s Auxiliary first banded together to raise funds for the establishment of the Eltham War Memorial as a living memorial to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died.’

LEST WE FORGET

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

ROLL OF HONOUR
1914-1918
  • Sgt. George Williams
  • Sgt. Reginald E. Sims
  • L/Cpl. George Moore
  • L/Cpl. Henry G. Philips
  • L/Cpl. John C. Bell
  • Pte. Geoffrey Grant
  • Pte. George Sommerville
  • Pte. George Brown
  • Pte. John Brown
  • Pte. William Bond
  • Pte. Thomas Cameron
  • Pte. Alfred Cassells
  • Pte. Robert Meadows
  • Pte. Walter Mosley
  • Pte. James Pryor
  • Pte. William Prior
  • Pte. Edward Barrett
  • Pte. William Crellin
  • Pte. Henry Norman
  • Pte. Edward Bird
  • Pte. Arthur Brown
  • Pte. Roslyn Stevens
  • Pte. Herbert Creed
  • Pte. Charles Bromfield
  • Pte. Kenneth Sharp
  • Pte. Henry McAlary
1939-1945
  • Capt. S.M. Gahan
  • Plt. Off. D. Rutter
  • Flt. Off. D.H. Rutter
  • Flt. Sgt. S.M. Mclean
  • Flt. Sgt. L. Ingram
  • Sgt. C.D. Dunlop
  • Cpl. T. Feldbauer
  • Cpl. A.C. Clerke
  • Spr. G.E. Castledine
  • Pte. J. Butherway
  • Pte. K.F. Field

Soldiers of the Shire of Eltham remembered on the Eltham Roll of Honour for their supreme sacrifice; located in the Eltham War Memorial Hall

Reference:

1941 ‘OBITUARY’, Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser (Vic. : 1940 – 1942), 9 May, p. 2. , viewed 24 Oct 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57494302

ThrowbackThursday: Demolition of Eltham Shire Offices, August 1996

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to August 2nd, 1996 and 895 Main Road, Eltham, to the former Municipal Offices of the Shire of Eltham.

Eltham – Shire Office, at time of Main Road widening (formerly site of Shillinglaw Cottage), 1968. (Source: Shire of Eltham; from the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection No. 657 held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library.)

The Shire offices were opened in 1965 and extended in 1971 to establish the Eltham Library. The final meeting of the Eltham Shire Council was held in December 1994 before the forced amalgamations of municipal councils by the Kennett Government resulted in the cessation of the Shire’s existence after 125 years.  In July 1996 the State Government appointed Commissioners (1994-1996) made the decision to demolish the former Eltham Shire offices without any community consultation.

Eltham Shire Offices southern wing showing the Eltham Library, 1985-1986 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Eltham Shire Offices, 1985-1986 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Shillinglaw trees from the safety compound: Demolition of the Shire of Eltham Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Shillinglaw trees from the safety compound: Demolition of the Shire of Eltham Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

The demolition works started within 24 hours of that decision being made. It is claimed the building contains asbestos. However none of the workers or numerous other onlookers are wearing any protective gear as the heavy machinery batters our once proud building into submission. The rubble is simply dumped into open bins and dump trucks.

Dump trucks shuttle in to collect rubble; Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Dump trucks shuttle in to collect rubble; Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Ultimately our land is sold to a developer, which precipitates a dramatic trail of community angst, threats of legal action, rescinding of the sale and the sacking of a newly elected council and several unsuccessful development proposals, by subsequent councils.

Back to the future and after all these years the vacant site is still there, still under threat (along with the Eltham War Memorial complex of buildings), still part of the soul of our community, still guarded by the three trees once outside the front of the Shillinglaw Cottage, providing a navigational beacon from past to present and onward we entrust, integral to the soul and heartbeat of Eltham; a treasured part our children’s future when they in turn look back to where their roots sprung from.

Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Fred Mitchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Fred Mitchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

 

 

 

 

ThrowbackThursday: Springtime Fair, Eltham Hall, 4 Oct 1946

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Friday, 4th October 1946. The town is a buzz with excitement as the Women’s Auxiliary to the Eltham War Memorial Trust have arranged for a Springtime Fair to be held in the Eltham Hall this afternoon, which is expected to continue into the evening.

The Fair is a special effort undertaken by the Women’s Auxiliary to raise funds for the establishment of the memorial, which is to take the form of a Baby Health Centre, Children’s Creche and Library. A block of land in a splendid position was recently purchased as the site on which the community centre will be built.

Mrs Cairns Officer is president of the Trust and chairman of the Women’s Auxiliary. Mesdames Dagnall and Tlngate are the honorary secretaries.

Cake Stall at the Eltham Fair c. 1940s. L-R: Mesdames Nation, Squire, Boyd, Edwards, Carroll, Battye and Brown
( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

 

Note:

The Eltham War Memorial building precinct is 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  Eltham Maternal and Infant Welfare Centre, Eltham Food Share, the former Children’s Library (now War Memorial Hall) and Eltham Pre-School. The precinct also contains the Senior Citizen’s 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’.

Reference:

1946 ‘FAIR FOR ELTHAM’ MEMORIAL’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 4 October, p. 14. , viewed 17 Oct 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245527598

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:

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.

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”.