Category Archives: District

OTD: Remembering the Shire of Eltham

Shire of Eltham 1871-1971. Marshall, A. (1971). Pioneers & Painters : one hundred years of Eltham and its Shire. Melbourne: Thomas Nelson (Aust.), pp 6-7

#OnThisDay ( #OTD ) – 150 years ago, April 6th, 1871, the Shire of Eltham was proclaimed.

The ELTHAM ROAD DISTRICT, which was created by a proclamation bearing date the twenty-fouth day of September 1856, and was altered by another proclamation bearing date the twenty-seventh day of May 1861, and was divided into electoral subdivisions by an Order of the twenty-eighth day of Decem,ber, shall be and is herby consituted and shall be named the 


[Source: Victorian Government Gazette No. 23, Thursday, April 6th 1871]


When the Shire of Eltham was created in 1871 the population of Eltham township was 165 people and the municipality contained 2,550 residents. One hundred years later in 1971 over 7,000 people lived in Eltham and the shire had over 23,000 residents. Across the 123 years the shire existed there were many changes, including the extension of train services from Heidelberg to Eltham in 1902, which helped influence the location of the expanded Eltham town centre. The number of residential and commercial buildings continued to increase, particularly in the main growth centres, resulting in the reduction of open space across the municipality. Unfortunately many locally important historical buildings were lost during this time.

Throughout the early orcharding and grazing districts of the shire smaller settlements and local communities continued to evolve, including at Kangaroo Ground, Hurstbridge, Panton Hill, Smiths Gully and St Andrews.

From pioneer beginnings the shire developed into a thriving peri-urban municipality containing a mix of rural and metropolitan areas supporting nearly 50,000 residents in 1994.

The origins of the Eltham Shire Council can be traced back to a volunteer road maintenance committee formed in 1853. In 1856 its functions were taken over by the Eltham District Road Board. In 1871 the Eltham Shire Council was formed. Its boundaries extended from Lower Plenty to beyond Healesville and it included a small area north of the Great Dividing Range at Kinglake. Over the years there were a number of significant reductions in its size. In 1912 part was transferred to the Shire of Healesville, then in 1958 an eastern section comprising Yarra Glen and parts of Christmas Hills, as well as Dixons Creek, also joined that shire. An area near Kinglake was transferred to the Shire of Yea in 1972.

Fountain Hotel, Eltham located on the southwest corner of Maria (Main) and Pitt streets showing the early two storey section. Built in 1852 as the Fountain of Friendship Hotel, later named the Fountain Hotel in the 1880s then the Evelyn or Evelyn Arms Hotel. It was de-licensed in 1919 and destroyed by fire February 18, 1931 (Eltham District Historical Society collection)

The Road Board first met at the Fountain of Friendship Hotel, Eltham and after 1860 at the Eltham Courthouse where the
Board office was also located.

Eltham Courthouse (Photo: Jim Connor, Eltham District Historical Society)

From 1867 the office was located at the home of Board Secretary Charles Wingrove (Wingrove Cottage). He was Secretary for the Board and Council for nearly 50 years.

Wingrove Cottage 1950s (Photo: George W. Bell, Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

Later the Council bought the former office of the Evelyn Observer at Kangaroo Ground. This building burnt down in 1934 and the Council operated from temporary premises for some years.

Council Office, Kangaroo Ground; formerly printing office of the Evelyn Observer. The Shire Office was destroyed by fire 8th Feb., 1934 (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)
Shire of Eltham Office and Hall, cnr Main Road and Arthur Street, Eltham, c.1960 (Photo: Shire of Eltham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

In 1941 a new office and hall was opened at the corner of Main Road and Arthur Street Eltham. This served until 1965 when a much larger office was built on the former Shillinglaw land in Main Road. 

Eltham Shire Office, at time of Main Road duplication, 1968 (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

In celebration of the shire’s centenary in 1971, a number events were held including a Centenary Parade. In addition to these celebrations, all rate payers were issued with a commemorative medallion.

Procession of parade floats in Main Road, Eltham, part of the Shire of Eltham Centenary celebrations, 10 April 1971 (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)
This commemorative medallion was issued to all ratepayers in celebration of the Shire of Eltham’s Centenary in 1971 (Eltham District Historical Society collection)

Eltham Shire Council in conjunction with the Shire of Eltham Historical Society published Pioneers & Painters: one hundred years of Eltham and its shire, edited by Alan Marshall; a story of the people who were involved in the European settlement of the district. The Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection was established from the material that was gathered by the Shire of Eltham Historical Society, Eltham Shire Council and Alan Marshall, largely donated by local citizens. This collection is now managed by the Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library (reproduction prints held at Eltham Library).

Book launch Pioneers & Painters; Mr. Alan Marshall, 13 Park Road, Eltham. Editor of Pioneers and Painters, 7 July 1971 (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection held jointly by Eltham District Historicxal Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

In that same year, the shire offices were expanded adding a southern wing housing the Engineering and Planninmg departments as well as a new Eltham Library.

Eltham Shire Office southern wing showing the Eltham Library, 1985-1986 (Eltham District Historical Society collection)

On December 14, 1994 the Victorian Government brought most of its municipal restructuring program into effect. The result for our local area was that the Shire of Eltham as a geographical area and the Eltham Shire Council both ceased to exist.

At the same time the Shire of Nillumbik was created effective December 15, 1994, incorporating most of the former Shire of Eltham, but with some significant changes. Areas from the Shires of Diamond Valley and Healesville and the City of Whittlesea were added at Eltham North, Diamond Creek, Greensborough, Hurstbridge, Plenty Yarrambat, Arthurs Creek, Strathewen and Christmas Hills. Notably Montmorency, Lower Plenty and Briar Hill were included in the City of Banyule. (The Kinglake area had earlier been transferred to the Shire of Murrundindi.)

Nillumbik Council moved to the former Diamond Valley office in Greensborough and the Eltham office was subsequently demolished in 1996.

Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Fred Mitchell; Fred Mitchell Collection,  Eltham District Historical Society)

The 1994 changes had implications for our Society. We changed from the Shire of Eltham Historical Society to the Eltham District Historical Society. This reflected the fact that there were a number of other historical societies within Nillumbik. However we retain a significant collection of Eltham Shire Council memorabilia as well as jointly manage the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph collection with Yarra Plenty Regional Library.

As we commemorate the establishment of the Shire of Eltham 150 years ago, we remember and acknowledge those many people who have gone before us to develop the community we have today and in doing so they created and contributed significantly to our local history.

Heritage Walk: Eltham Cemetery – 2.00 pm Saturday, 10 April, 2021

Meet at 2.00 pm (Melway ref 21 K9) in the cemetery car park entered from Metery Road.

Gate, Eltham Cemetery c.1960 (Photo: George Bell, from the collection of EDHS)

The Eltham Cemetery is the custodian of more than 150 years of Eltham’s history.

Our heritage walk on 6th March through the Woodridge Estate was very popular with Russell Yeoman, our intrepid tour leader, taking us down pathways many had never travelled before. A highlight was the opportunity to visit the former Jelbart barn property, which is the residence of Michael and Wendy Wilson who generously welcomed and encouraged us to explore their grounds. We also appreciated they had arranged for us to visit the adjacent former Jelbart manor house, where the owners allowed our group to walk around their extensive property. Both were pleasant surprises to add to a most enjoyable walk.

Our next heritage excursion is scheduled for Saturday 10th April. It will be around the historically significant Eltham Cemetery. This is always a popular tour and again we will visit various locations, while discussing some of the notable people who are part of our local history. While there we will be able to see recent improvements undertaken by the Eltham Cemetery Trust.

This excursion on Saturday 10th April will start at 2pm in the carpark accessed from Metery Road and will take about 2 hours.

This free excursion 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.

At the time of writing COVID restrictions do not require the wearing of masks in the open. However masks should be carried and any changed restrictions must be complied with.

Each attendee is asked to do a symptom self-assessment prior to leaving home and not attend if they are unwell or have been instructed to isolate or quarantine.
Attendees must maintain at least 1.5m physical distance between those from other groups at all times.
Requirements for face covering, observe cough etiquette and personal hygiene measures.
We will need to record names and phone numbers of all attendees and maintain a record of these for 28 days

OTD: Research Hotel Destroyed, 15 Mar 1931

Research Hotel, probably Election Day 1907 (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection managed by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

#OnThisDay ( #OTD ) – 90 years ago, Sunday, March 15th, 1931, William West’s Research Hotel was destroyed by fire.

As reported on page 1 of the Advertiser, Friday  20 March 1931.



Another old hotel in the Eltham district has been destroyed by fire – the hotel at Research.

The outbreak occurred on Sunday afternoon last at 3 o’clock, the fire originating in the kitchen through a piece of wood falling from the stove.

The Eltham fire brigade was soon on the scene, but as there was no water they could not save the building which soon disappeared.

Miss Jane Seaton was licensee and the  property was owned by Mrs Pretty, of the Recreation Hotel, Clifton Hill. It was insured for £200 in the Commercial Insurance Company, and the stock and furniture were insured for £300 in the Guardian Company.

The hotel was built by Mr. W. West (who now resides in Eltham) between 40 and 50 years ago, and he occupied it until a few years back.


FIRE AT RESEARCH (1931, March 20). Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), p. 1. Retrieved March 12, 2021, from

HOTEL DESTROYED AT RESEARCH. (1931, March 16). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved March 12, 2021, from

Miss Jane Seaton desprately tries to call the fire brigade, unfortunately she could not get through as the communications tower had yet to be erected (Photo: Eltham Hysterical Society)

Heritage Walk: Woodridge Wander – Saturday, 6 March 2021

We are back and ready to explore our great outdoors!

The Woodridge Estate was a major residential subdivision that was developed in many stages in the 1970s and 80s. It extended easterly from the older residential area of Eltham into what had previously been largely privately owned bushland. The subdivision design took into account the steep topography and resulted in large blocks that enabled preservation of much of the tree cover. It included a number of small parks and walkways and the one kilometre long Woodridge Linear Park. A bushland area left as a proposed school site later became the Pauline Toner Butterfly Reserve for preservation of the rare Eltham Copper Butterfly.

For this walk we will explore some Woodridge streets as well as the linear park and butterfly reserve. It will be a hilly walk of about 3 km and include some moderately rough tracks. We have permission to visit private property to view heritage listed houses not visible from the street.

We will meet and commence at 2pm at the access to Woodridge Linear Park in Grove Street just east of the Eltham East Primary School (Melway ref 22 B4). It will take about 2 hours.

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.

At the time of writing COVID restrictions do not require the wearing of masks in the open. However, masks need to be carried and any changed restrictions must be complied with.

Each attendee is asked to do a symptom self-assessment prior to leaving home and not attend if they are unwell or have been instructed to isolate or quarantine.
Attendees must maintain at least 1.5m physical distance between those from other groups at all times.
Requirements for face covering, observe cough etiquette and personal hygiene measures.
We will need to record names and phone numbers of all attendees and maintain a record of these for 28 days

Remembrance Day 2020

The attached Tribute has been written by Colonel Terry Beaton (Retired), who is a member of the Eltham District Historical Society.

This Tribute is given to commemorate the 75th Anniversary Year of the end of the Second World WarWorld War and to remember all those who served and fought for their country.

Terry and Sheila Beaton have contributed significantly to researching and recognising veterans of various conflicts interred in local Nillumbik cemeteries.

We thank them for their work, which has added to our valued local history.

Remembrance Day 2020 Tribute

◊         ◊        ◊


“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.”

  • 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
  • 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

Pondering the Paranormal

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.

OTD: Railway Accident at Wattle Glen, 25 Mar 1932

#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


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

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).

Driver’s Escape

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.

Passenger’s Experience

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.

Traffic Interruption

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 aftermath of the railway accident at Wattle Glen, 25 March 1932 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

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.

1932 ‘THE SCENE AFTER THE WATTLE GLEN SMASH’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 1 April, p. 1. , viewed 15 Feb 2020,


1932 ‘Railway Accident at Wattle Glen’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 1 April, p. 1. , viewed 15 Feb 2020,


Heritage Walk: Eltham’s Hidden Creek – Saturday, 7 March 2020

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.

N. J. Tillings Timber Factory, 15 June, 1975 (Photo: Dick Crichton; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

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.

All are welcome…..but numbers are limited

OTD: “The game’s on!” Wild Gunfight at Commercial Bank, Eltham, 15 Dec 1949

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 . . .

The Commercial Bank at Eltham, The Age, 16 December 1949, p1

#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.

Scene of the gun battle at Eltham (Vic.), The Daily Telegraph, 16 december, p1

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.

Mr. Lindsay Spears ,Receiving Officer, Commercial Bank of Australia, Eltham, The Age, 17 December 1949, p3

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.

Senior-Constable N. Forbes examining -bullet holes (indicated) in the body of a stolen car in which the bandit escaped, The Age, 16 December 1949, p1

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].

BANK HOLD-UP: SHOTS ECHOED IN QUIET STREET, The Argus, Friday, December 16, 1949, p3

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.

ELTHAM HOLD-UP. — (Left) — Shire employe Percy Williams narrowly escaped a collision as the bandit fled in a stolen car. (Right) A police constable searching in the scrub where the fugitive disappeared after abandoning the car, The Age, 16 December, 1949, p3

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.


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.


1949 ‘Took Pistol From Bank’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 9 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019,

1949 ‘GUNFIGHT IN BANK NEAR MELBOURNE’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 15 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019,

1949 ‘Hunt for bandit switches to city’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019,

1949 ‘POLICE HUNT FOR ELTHAM BANDIT’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019,

1949 ‘-Police Search for Bank Intruder’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019,

1949 ‘BANK OFFICIALS FOIL BANDIT’, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 – 1954), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 13 Dec 2019,

1949 ‘Search of Scrub Proves Fruitless’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 17 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019,

1950 ‘Eltham Bank Arrest Leads to Other Charges’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 14 February, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019,

1950 ‘YOUTH OF 19 CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED ARMED ROBBERY OF BANK AT ELTHAM’, Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), 15 February, p. 6. , viewed 12 Dec 2019,

1950 ‘Manager’s Gun Used in Holdup at Bank’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 23 February, p. 4. , viewed 12 Dec 2019,

1950 ‘”Guilty” plea to pistol theft COURT TOLD OF LAD’S HOLD-UP BID’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 23 February, p. 7. , viewed 12 Dec 2019,

‘Australia’s last bushrangers were twins’ by John Sylvester, The Age, April 27, 2019,

‘Australia’s last bushrangers: How twin brothers robbed banks across Victoria while bamboozling police by escaping in taxis, bikes and even a canoe – and the one mistake that lead to their capture’ by Sahar Mourad, 9 May 2019 (also includes video of an interview with Peter and Doug Morgan aired on A Current Affair



OTD: Farewell Eltham, Happy Birthday Nillumbik; 15 Dec 1994

#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.

Shire of Montsalvat is born by Duska Sulichich, Diamond Valley News, October 26, 1994, p1

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).

Shire now Nillumbik by Natalie Town, Diamond Valley News, November 23, 1994, p3

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.

New shire, city get underway, Diamond Valley News, December 21, 1994, p1