Recently we were approached by Emily Rawle, a Journalism student at Deakin University interested in doing a small piece on ghost stories in Eltham, in support of one of her course assessments. This approach was made in response to a story we ran in 2018 about the Swallow murders in New Street, now Lavender Park Road, Eltham.
Emily was curious whether there were any events in Eltham’s past that could explain ghostly presences and whether these sorts of stories generate interest in the community’s history.
You can listen to Emily’s podcast on her site about an incident in Lavender Park Road her friend experienced and also hear what comments our President, Jim Connor has to offer about other occurences at Edendale Farm.
Have you ever experienced any similar activity? If so, what do you think about Eltham’s ghost stories? Please feel free to share your experiences.
#OnThisDay ( #OTD ) – 88 years ago, Good Friday, March 25th, 1932, a terrible and frightening railway accident occurred for a family on holidays from Cobram whilst passing through Wattle Glen.
As reported on page 1 of the Advertiser, Friday 1 April 1932 and many other newspapers throughout Melbourne and the country.
Railway Accident at Wattle Glen
TRAIN DERAILED IN LEVEL CROSSING ACCIDENT MOTOR CAR TORN TO PIECES OCCUPANTS HAVE MARVELLOUS ESCAPES
A sensation went through the district when it became known that there had been a railway accident at Wattle Glen on Good Friday morning. All sorts of alarming rumors were current, and it was a relieved community which learned that, although the train had been derailed and a motor car almost torn to pieces, all the persons who were in the train and car escaped with comparatively minor injuries.
Traffic on the line was completely disorganised for some time as a section of the line had been torn up by the train when it left the rails, and until the line was repaired and the necessary repairs made, a fleet of taxis and a railway bus were used to carry on.
The accident occurred about 11.40 a.m. when the 11.10 a.m. “up’ train was travelling from Hurstbridge to Melbourne. The train was almost entering the Wattle Glen station when the mishap occurred.
Mr. Donald F. Paterson, manager of the Bank of Australasia at Cob-ram, with his wife and two children, had arrived from Cobram on the day before, and had spent the night with Mrs. Paterson’s mother (Mrs. Herbert), whose home is near the station.
Set Out for the Beach
They had decided to visit the beach, and were on their way to reach the Hurstbridge-Melbourne road.
Waited for Another Car
At the railway crossing Mr. Paterson, waited a while to allow another car travelling in the opposite direct-ion, to negotiate the crossing first, and then proceeded. When his car was on the crossing it was struck broadside on by the train.
Hurled Over Culvert
The car was dragged broadside on for some distance, and was then hurled over into a culvert on the west side of the line.
The train, the two leading carriages of which had left the line, continued on, lurching sickeningly as the derailed wheels ploughed up the permanent way.
Post Snapped Like a Reed
The head of the train wobbled from side to side, carrying before it an 18-inch post used to support the over-head electrical equipment. This pole was, snapped like a reed, and did not decrease the speed of the runaway train to any appreciable extent.
All this time the air brakes had been applied, and when the train eventually came to a standstill the leading carriages were canted over at a dangerous angle.
The injured were:
Donald Fary Paterson, aged 36 years, manager of the Bank of Australasia, Cobram. Bruises and shock.
Mary Winifred Paterson, his wife, aged 32 years. Broken bone in right foot and shock.
Richard Paterson, aged 6 years, and Betty Paterson, aged 2 years, their children. Slight abrasions and shock.
J. Howse, driver of train. Shock.
Mrs M. Barnes, Hurstbridge, passenger on the train. Shock.
After the Accident
An inspection of the site revealed a mass of torn up line, whilst the car was literally a mass of twisted scrap iron: -The culvert over which the car had been hurled, and where there is a drop of about 12 feet, was badly splintered, and it is a wonder that the train did not follow the car when it went over the culvert.
To the Rescue
Mr. James McCannon, who was working In his garden, nearby, heard the crash and rushed over to give what assistance he could. There were others also in the neighborhood who hurried to the scene.
Mrs .Paterson was limping about, searching frantically for her two children, completely ignoring the terrible pain from her injured foot. Searchers found Mr. Paterson pinned beneath the wreckage of the car, and across his knees was his son, Richard. The daughter Beatrice was found on the road at the crossing, she apparently having been thrown clear of the car at the time of the impact.
In the train were only the driver (Motorman Howse), the guard, and one passenger (Mrs. Barnes, of Hurstbridge).
The driver had a marvelous escape, his cabin being splintered when It struck the pole carrying the overhead gear, but he escaped with bruises and a few lacerations caused by glass from the broken windscreen of his cabin. The roof of the driver’s compartment had been splintered, and the front crushed.
Mrs. Barnes had a nerve-wracking experience. She was tossed from side to side as the train lurched on its way after leaving the track, sustaining shock and considerable bruising. She was taken to a nearby residence, and after resting awhile recovered sufficiently to return home.
Motorists took Mr. and Mrs. Paterson to the Eltham Hospital, where they were admitted for treatment, and their two children were taken to the home of Mr. Paterson’s mother at Greensborough.
Passengers to Eltham, Diamond Creek on the trains following hear all sorts of sensational rumors of what had happened. At Heidelberg passengers were told that the train was not going any further, but after some time all got aboard again, and the train proceeded to Eltham, where all passengers were again told to get out. They finally re-embarked and were taken to Diamond Creek, from which station they continued their interrupted journeys by taxis and a railways motor bus, which continued the interrupted service. Passengers, who left Melbourne for Hurstbridge at about 11 a.m. finally reached their destination at about 3 p.m.
Restoring the Damage
The railways officials were soon on the spot, and immediately work was started to rebuild the tracks and re store the overhead gear. Work continued throughout the day and all Friday night, normal running being resumed about midday on Saturday.
The derailed carriages were not re placed on the rails until a quarter to 6 o’clock on Friday evening. During this operation one of the large hooks of the steam crane pierced the wood work of a carriage, causing consider able damage.
Mr. Paterson said he did not see the train until it was almost on his car, his attention having been occupied in seeing that another car got clear of the crossing before he negotiated it. Had he not waited for that car he would have cleared the crossing in ample time.
Motorman House said that at this spot the line curved. He was emphatic that he sounded his siren as he approached the spot. His view of the crossing was obscured by sap lings at the curve and he saw the first car get clear, but did not see Paterson’s car as it was on the “blind” side of his cabin.
Mrs. Barnes; who is staying at Cr. J. Ryan’s house, is still suffering very much from shock. Mr. and Mrs. Ryan were in Sale at the time of the accident, but returned as soon as they heard of it.
Mr. J. Howse has been off duty since the accident.
The sub-station at Greensborough was also damaged on account of the heavy surge of current which blew the fuses and damaged the switches. It is expected that the damage to the railways will amount to over £1,000.
It is understood that the insurance on the motor car that was smashed expired the previous week.
Meet at 2.00 pm (Melway ref 21 H6) at the parking area below the Eltham Community and Reception Centre at the western end of Pitt Street.
The watercourse now known as Karingal Yalloc was once called the Eltham West Drain. It enters the Diamond Creek near Brougham Street, Eltham and drains an area extending to St Helena and part of Greensborough. The creek has been undergrounded through part of the Eltham industrial area.
In 2013 we explored this creek upstream from Meruka Drive. For our March excursion we will follow the creek as closely as possible from the Diamond Creek to where it crosses under the railway line near Sherbourne Road. This is mainly through the industrial area and we will discuss Eltham’s industrial history along the way. A particular feature is the former hat factory (Fort Knox Self Storage) at the end of the walk.
The distance is less than 2 km one way and should take about two hours, including plenty of time to stop and talk. There will be an informal return walk but those who wish to can catch a bus back.
The walk is open to Society members and the general public. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.
Are you familiar with the little yellow and orange brick Op-shop building at 810 Main Road, Eltham, just in front of the Uniting Church (formerly Methodist Church) on the corner of John Street? Nowadays, not many people may realise that this was once the Eltham agency of the Commercial Bank of Australia. Measuring just 3.6 x 4.5 m inside, it was built in 1878 by George Stebbing and is said to have stored gold in the early Eltham-Research mining days.
Well . . .
#OnThisDay – 70 years ago #OTD Thursday, December 15, 1949, the quiet little bank was embroiled in an infamous wild shoot-out between a daring thief and two bank officers. Today, the building still carries the scars ; a bullet hole remains visible in a cedar bench testifying to the events that played out that day.
But let us first time travel back to a few days prior to this incident. It is 3.30 a.m., Friday, December 9. The manager of the Commercial Bank branch at Greensborough, Mr Harry Wallace and his wife are asleep in their bedroom of the little house behind the branch. Harry is awakened by a noise and sees an intruder in a corner of the bedroom. He calls out but the intruder who has switched off the power in anticipation flees through a side door and scarpers down Main Street. Harry summons the police but a search by First Constable Thomas of the Greensborough Police assisted by a wireless patrol car is unsuccessful. A report is filed noting the theft of a .25 calibre pistol from the wardrobe.
Fast forward six days to Thursday, December 15th. It is 1pm and the Commercial Bank has just opened. The branch is only open Mondays and Thursdays from 1-3pm. The morning started off a little cool with some scattered showers but it has fined up and the temperature is now around 61 degrees (16 C). A new grey Singer sports car with soft-top pulls up on the opposite side of the road and a young man, neatly dressed in a dark blue suit, wearing a grey hat and carrying a brief case exits the vehicle. He looks around then crosses the road and walks up the steps and through the door into the bank. There are three people inside; Mr. Jack Burgoyne whose grocery store is situated just 50 yards up the road, Mr. Lindsay A. Spears, the Eltham Agency Receiving Officer and by chance, Mr Harry Wallace, manager of the Greensborough branch.
Jack Burgoyne takes note of the young stranger; thinking to himself he appears nervous.
The man approaches the counter and introduces himself as John Henderson of Greensborough and explains that he wishes to open a new account. He places his hat and £3 on the counter. Mr Spears attends to the paperwork. He asks the young man to sign two forms, which he does but then he withdraws from the counter and starts walking towards the door. Suddenly he spins around pulling an automatic pistol from his right-hand pocket. He exclaims forcefully;
“The game’s on! I’ll take the lot!”
Spears appears to comply by pretending to open a drawer. The man shouts loudly,
“Keep your hand away from that drawer.”
Spears instead reaches for a pistol in his pocket and challenges the man,
“Here it is. Come and get it!”
At the same time, Harry Wallace pulls a pistol from his pocket as well.
The bandit fires a shot but misses, the bullet striking the counter. Both Spears and Wallace open fire and Jack Burgoyne ducks for cover.
As the bandit turns and runs for the door leaving his £3 behind, he fires another shot, which strikes the ceiling. Spears fires back, and thinks he may have hit him in the foot. The bandit flees the bank and heads for the grey Singer car, registration NO-106, parked opposite. Wallace and Spears pursue him to the door and open fire again, striking the car three times around the driver’s door. Spears lets off eight shots and Wallace, seven before his gun jams.
The getaway car initially heads slowly down Main Road towards Bridge Street. About 100 yards down the road, Dave Adams, a PMG employee, who has heard the shots, throws a steel manhole step at the driver. It hits the roof of the car nine inches above the driver’s head and tears the hood. Another witness claims to have seen the door blow open and the driver raise his hand.
The car gathers speed and swings left into Bridge Street racing along at about 60 miles an hour careering recklessly past council employee, Mr. Percy Williams, who is driving a dray along Smarts Road [believed to be Bridge Street].
At the end of the road the Singer fails to get round the sharp turn and crashes into an embankment skidding to a stop outside the home of Mr John Clifford. One side of the car is wrecked. Mr Clifford, an aircraft engineer hears the fast travelling car bump heavily into the road bank at about 1.25 p.m. Hearing the whine of an engine he goes outside to find the grey Singer parked at the side of the road.
Jack George also lives at the corner and hears the car crash.
“The bandit opened the car door, ran 50 yards, and suddenly turned back,” exclaims Jack. “He took something from the car. It might have been a gun.”
In his haste, the bandit drops his grey felt hat, size 6 7/8, on the road and dashes up Sherbourne Road for about 200 yards then disappears into the scrub carrying a brief case and a bundle in which a sailor’s cap can be seen.
About 3 p.m., Mr H.D. Pettie of Mountain View Road, Montmorency is looking through his field glasses and notices a young man walking through thick scrub on private property some distance from his house. The man is wearing a sailor’s cap and disappears along the railway track toward Montmorency.
As the day progresses, ten police cars, one motor cycle, and about 40 police led by Det. Sgt. McMennemin of Malvern CIB are searching for him. They believe he is hiding in thick scrub along the bank of the creek about half-a-mile outside Eltham township. Wireless patrol cars, four mobile traffic cars and the CIB area cars from Malvern and Kew are taking part.
Police check the thief’s car and discover it was stolen from Helen Baxter, of Doncaster Road, North Balwyn from outside Victoria Barracks.
Harry Wallace informs the police that he believes he recognised the bandit as the man who took his pistol from his bedroom the previous Friday morning.
As night falls, armed police are posted at strategic points in the Eltham-Greensborough district. Police in cars are watching the roads. Others are searching the bush and checking passengers on trains. Little do they realise the young man has already slipped out of the net.
YOUTH OF 19 CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED ARMED ROBBERY OF BANK AT ELTHAM
Weekly Times, Wednesday 15 February 1950, page 6
Detectives who raided a house in Bell St., Coburg, Melbourne, charged a 19-year-old youth, of South Yarra, with attempted armed robbery at the Commercial Bank’s Eltham (Vic.) receiving depot on Dec. 15. Police say they recovered a loaded automatic pistol, diamond and signet rings worth more than £200, a complete set of house-breaking instruments, a sailor’s uniform, and chloroform gauze in the raid.
The youth was charged that while armed with an offensive weapon, he attempted to rob Lindsay George Spears of a sum of money.
He was further charged on six counts of breaking, entering and stealing.
Police allege that the person who tried to hold up Mr Spears in the Commercial Bank receiving depot at Eltham on December 15. escaped in a stolen car, after Mr Spears and Mr Henry Wallace, manager of the bank’s Greensborough branch, had fired at him.
After the car crashed, he escaped into thick scrub and is alleged to have changed into a sailor’s uniform.
On December 9 an automatic pistol was stolen from Mr Wallace’s bedroom at the Greensborough bank. The chloroform pad recovered is alleged to have been stolen from the Dental Supply Company, Plenty Road, Preston.
The rings are alleged to have been taken in a £513 burglary from the shop of James Paton. Sydney Road, Coburg.
Det. Sgt. H. McMennemin conducted the investigations with Senior Dets. R. Newton and M Downie, Detectives l. Dent, R. Rayner, P. Pedersen and M. Handley and First Constable A. Thomas. The youth will appear at Eltham Court on February 22.
Manager’s Gun Used in Holdup at Bank
The Age, Thursday 23 February 1950, page 4
It was stated in Eltham court yesterday that a youth who robbed a bank manager of his pistol, later used it in an attempt to hold-up the bank.
Kay Arthur Morgan, 19, draftsman, of Castle-street, South Yarra, was committed for trial on charges of breaking and entering, and stealing a pistol and attempted robbery while armed with an offensive weapon. He pleaded guilty.
The manager of Eltham branch of the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd., Henry Clifton Cabot Wallace, said he disturbed someone in the bedroom, in which he and his wife were sleeping, at 3 a.m. on December. 9, 1949. Later he found that his automatic- pistol was missing.
On December 15 a youth, who said his name was John Henderson, entered the bank and opened a new account. As the youth was leaving the bank he turned round with a pistol in his hand and said: — “I want the lot.” Spear indicated a drawer under the counter; and said.— “Here it is. Come and get it.” The youth said:— “Keep your hand away from that drawer.”
Witness said Spear then drew his pistol from his hip pocket. The youth fired at them, and Spear returned the fire. “I pulled my pistol and fired, too” said witness. The youth fired again, ran out to a car and drove off. Witness and Spear fired several shots at the car.
The youth was the accused Morgan, sitting in court, witness said.
Evidence was given that one bullet was found in the celling and the other in the bank.
Morgan was allowed £100 bail on each charge.
But wait, there’s more; another twist
Morgan ended up serving three years for the failed armed robbery and became a notorious criminal. He had twin sons, Peter and Doug and even though only ten years old, Morgan would get his sons to act as lookouts whilst he committed burglaries. The lads became building contractors but when the industry suffered a downturn in 1977 and they were short on cash, they returned to the family business. Over the following 23 months they undertook 24 raids on country and outer-suburban TABs and banks. Whilst robbing one country bank for the third time, just like their father, it all went wrong ending up with a police officer shot. They were nick-named the “After-dark” bandits and are considered to be Australia’s last bushrangers. They were convicted and served 17 years in prison.
#OnThisDay – 25 years ago #OTD Thursday, December 15, 1994 the Shire of Nillumbik was born and the Shire of Eltham was relegated to history after 123 years; the council sacked and three commissioners appointed as part of an overall municipal restructure by the State Government.
The new Shire of consisted of the Central and North Ridings of the former Shire of Eltham, as well as parts of the former Diamond Valley, Whittlesea and Healesville municipalities. The West Riding of Eltham was joined with the former City of Heidelberg to become the City of Banyule.
Originally the Local Government Board’s preferred name was the Shire of Montsalvat. Board member Paul Jerome said “Montsalvat” was a name very familiar to all Melburnians. “We used it for good reason” he said. “This is the arts and crafts colony, this is the conservation area, this is the Green Wedge.” It “will have stewardship of a very important conservation area all the way up to Kinglake National Park. We think that’s a very exciting proposal and certainly one with a lot of community support and interest in having a council with that focus on conservation values.” Ultimately however the name was found to be controversial throughout the community and the Board replaced it with Nillumbik, the locally preferred Aboriginal word for shallow soil (indeed it is).
The transition to the new shire was not an easy experience for some people in our community and especially for some staff of the former Shire of Eltham. An extensive staff restructure was undertaken, resulting in many local community aware and knowledgeable Eltham Shire staff being made redundant. Some actions initiated at that time by the government and commissioners have had longer term impacts. These included the sudden surprise demolition of the Eltham Shire Offices and approval, in controversial circumstances, of a combined petrol station and fast food development on the site; ultimately reversed but leaving the community with a visible reminder to this day of those events. Local elections were not held for three years until 1997 and even then controversy continued resulting in the sacking of that first Nillumbik Shire Council as well. But that is a story for another day.
Our excursion is a walk of about 3 km between Montmorency and Briar Hill. When we did a similar walk in 2013, we started with a train trip from Eltham to Montmorency Station. This time we will not include the train trip as an official part of the excursion however some of us will be catching the 2.01 pm train from Eltham on Saturday 2nd November. To allow for this we will meet at Montmorency Station at 2.05 pm to commence the walk.
We will start by viewing the famous Were Street mosaics that depict anecdotes about early residents and traders in this village shopping strip. We will also consider the history of Montmorency station, which is soon to be re-modelled as part of the Hurstbridge line upgrade. On the walk to Briar Hill we will talk about the residential subdivisions of the 1910s/20s that established Montmorency as a suburb. Featured locations on the walk will include the site of the Briar Hill timber mill, Briar Hill overpass where there was once a tiny timber bridge over the railway and St Faith’s Church.
The walk is open to Society members and the general public. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.
Meet at 2.00 pm (Melway ref 21 K9) in the cemetery car park entered from Metery Road.
The Eltham Cemetery is the custodian of more than 150 years of Eltham’s history.
As part of Local History Week activities, this special walking tour will visit the historical sections of the cemetery where we will share information about selected pioneers who contributed to the establishment of early Eltham. We will also talk about interesting and important local people buried in more recent times.
The walk is open to Society members and the general public. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.
Meet at 2.00 pm (Melway ref 22 A9) at the corner of Kent Hughes and Lavender Park roads, Eltham.
Pioneer Eltham farmer Thomas Sweeney (1803-1867) named his house, ‘Culla Hill’ after the area in Ireland that he came from. His house, now called ‘Sweeneys’, remains on a ridge line overlooking the Yarra River. It is recorded that Thomas Sweeney did well out of carting potatoes and other supplies to the various gold fields such as Bendigo, McIvor (Heathcote), Mount Alexander and Beechworth.
Culla Hill is now the name of the road providing access to subdivided lots of the former Sweeney property.
The Culla Hill walk will start at the corner of Kent Hughes and Lavender Park roads, Eltham (Melway ref. 22 A9) at 2.00pm on Saturday 7th September. Street parking is available in Kent Hughes Road. The distance is about 3km., and will take 2 to 2.5 hours. The walk will include Culla Hill with its views over the Yarra Valley, views of ‘Sweeneys’ and a visit to the Sweeneys Flats section of the Yarra Valley Metropolitan Park.
The walk is open to Society members and the general public. Please note this walk does not include internal inspection of any houses. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions. The phone number for contact on the day is 0409 021 063.
Meet at 2.00 pm (Melway ref 33 B1) at the corner of Bonds and Stawell Roads, Lower Plenty. (Street parking is available in Montpelier Drive)
The predominant feature of this walk in the Bonds Road area, Lower Plenty is the large number of magnificent old River Red Gums that line the route. These trees are of the spreading woodland form of this species indicating that they must have been originally growing in a reasonably open setting. The walk also includes parts of the historic Cleveland Estate and the homestead “Rosehill” established by pioneer farmer Henry Stooke. The walk distance is about 3km and will take 2 to 2.5 hours.
This area was the site of the first recorded European settlement in what was to become the Shire of Eltham when the Willis brothers arrived in the late 1830s. From the southern part of Cleveland Avenue there are extensive views across and along the Yarra Valley.
The walk is open to Society members and the general public. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions. The phone number for contact on the day is 0409 021 063.
All are welcome…..but numbers are limited
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia