Category Archives: District

Stokes Orchard – An Incomplete History

The history of the land has not been fully researched.  This article is based partly on Society records and partly on the recollections of Doug Orford and Russell Yeoman.

The land in question is Crown Allotment 15, Section 5, Parish of Nillumbik (CA15).  It is a square allotment of 158 acres or approximately a quarter of a square mile.  It lies just beyond the eastern end of Pitt Street and extends from Eucalyptus Road to Reynolds Road.

Eucalyptus Road is a straight north-south road with its northern end at the north west corner of CA15.  Until the end of the 1970s this road was an un-named Government road and was largely not open to traffic.  With residential development in the 1970s the road was constructed and the council allocated the name obviously in recognition of the predominant species of the local bushland.

CA15 was purchased from the Crown by George D’Arley Boursinquot, a prominent Melbourne printer, on 28th October 1852.  The history of subsequent ownership has not been researched but it seems that the land remained as unused bushland for very many years. The topography of CA15 is generally steep, sloping up to a hill near the centre of the land.

In the 1920s CA15 was subdivided into 48 lots that could be described as small rural properties or large residential lots.  A typical lot size was one hectare or 2.5 acres.  The subdivision created two roads, Nyora Road and Diosma Road, each following an irregular alignment between Eucalyptus and Reynolds Roads.  However the lots were not sold off separately nor were the roads constructed.  The land effectively remained as one parcel for many further years.

In the 1940s CA15 was owned by a Frank Stokes who built a house at the corner of Nyora Road and Eucalyptus Road and established an orchard on the western part of the land.  Aerial photographs from 1958 clearly show the orchard with most of the site remaining as bushland.

In the early 1950s the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works acquired land on the hilltop for a high level service reservoir to augment Eltham’s water supply.  The project also included pipe tracks for the necessary water mains.  The reservoir has now been superseded by higher level water tanks east of Reynolds Road and its former site is now a public reserve.

In the early 1960s an easement was acquired through the eastern part of the land for a major electricity transmission line that augmented supply from the La Trobe Valley to Melbourne.  Later the easement was widened and a second transmission line was constructed.

In 1971 Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme amendments adopted Nyora Road as the boundary between a residential zone to the north and a rural zone to the south.  This determined the future development of the land.

Development of "Stokes Orchard", Eltham
Development of “Stokes Orchard”, Eltham

In the 1970s land between Nyora and Diosma Roads and west of the electricity easement was sold and subdivided into residential lots and known as the Stokes Orchard Estate.  New streets were created and most were named after trees, although one, Stokes Place, commemorates the former owners.  There were difficulties with sewerage for the land immediately south of Diosma Road and so the conventional residential lots were abandoned in favour of larger lots.  These included a low density group housing development by the Graves family.

The Stokes family were associated with the Eltham Christian Church.  In the 1970s this church had met in temporary premises in Eltham.  Lots of the original 1920s subdivision remained south of Nyora Road and a number of these lots were utilized for the Eltham Christian School, which was established by the Eltham Christian Church in 1981.  The school operated on this site until 2000.  The premises are now used by the Nillumbik Community Church.

Eltham Copper Butterfly Photo: Andrea Canzano
Eltham Copper Butterfly
Photo: Andrea Canzano

By the mid 1980s the whole of CA15 had been developed for residential and school purposes, except for the sections north of Diosma Road and between the transmission lines and Reynolds Road.  Sewerage issues had been resolved for the section north of Diosma Road and in 1987 it was in the process of being subdivided into residential lots.  The development coincided with the discovery of colonies of the rare and endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly on the site.  This resulted in a community and political campaign to save the butterfly habitat.  With the co-operation of the land developer the subdivision was altered to create two bushland reserves in the critical butterfly habitat areas.

In the late 1980s the State Government was investigating options for establishing a metropolitan ring road link between Diamond Creek and Ringwood. The chosen route was adjacent to Reynolds Road and so this created a freeze on development of CA15 between Reynolds Road and the electricity easement.  The ring road proposal was eventually abandoned and this part of the land was subdivided into low density residential lots.  Diosma Road has been discontinued at the electricity easement and the eastern part incorporated into View Mount Court with access from Reynolds Road.

The whole of CA15 has now been developed for residential or associated purposes, ranging from conventional density to quite low density south of Nyora Road.  The butterfly reserves comprise significant areas of remnant bushland.  Linear reserves through the estate link with central Eltham via the Woodridge linear reserve and with Research along the electricity easement.  CA15 as it exists today has a complicated history of rural use, Government acquisition, urban development and community action.

Stokes Orchard, 1945
Stokes Orchard, 1945
Stokes Orchard 1945-current
Stokes Orchard 1945-current
Stokes Orchard Estate today
Stokes Orchard Estate today

Sequence of aerial images of the Stokes Orchard Estate (centre of immage), 1945 to current created using Melbourne 1945

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Melbourne as it was 70 years ago

For those who love before and after photos, and who doesn’t, a fascinating new site has been launched called Melbourne 1945.

Based on aerial photographs commissioned by the Department of Crown Lands and Survey, and conducted by Adastra Airways, a slider enables the viewer to change the view from 1945 to current day.

The 1945 survey covers the Eltham district extending east to Research and north to St Helena.

Fascinating!

Heritage Walk: Belle Vue Farm – 7 March, 2pm

Photo of Belle Vue sourced from Morrison Kleeman Estate Agents Eltham advertisement, February 2013

Belle Vue farm comprised about 56 ha (140 acres) extending northerly from the northern boundary of Holloway’s 1851 Little Eltham subdivision. On the present day map the southern boundary was just north of Elsa Court and Grove Street. The western boundary was the Diamond Creek and extended northerly to Main Road where it turns easterly towards Research. It was traversed by the main road to Kangaroo Ground and beyond and from 1912 by the railway to Hurstbridge.

From 1895 the farm was owned by William Williams and his wife Mary Ann. In 1914-15 they built a new house now known as “Belle Vue”. They sold the land in 1920 and residential subdivision began soon after that.

A recent image of Belle Vue
A recent image of Belle; February 2015

“Belle Vue” today remains on a large residential lot in Livingstone Road. The house and many old trees on the site have been subject to a heritage overlay under the Nillumbik Planning Scheme. Despite that overlay most of the heritage trees have been removed.

For our excursion on 7th March we intend to walk through the former farm area that is now a residential neighbourhood. The route will include views of “Belle Vue” and a number of other interesting houses and features of historic interest.

This walk is about 3.5 km in length and will take 2 to 2.5 hours. It will start at 2pm at the northern end of the Eltham railway station carpark in Main Road opposite Luck Street. (Melway ref.21 K4).

This free walk is open to the general public as well as Society members. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions. The phone number for contact on the day is 0409 021 063.

Eltham’s Henry Dendy

Photo: St Margaret’s Church of England, Eltham

The Premier, the Hon R. J. Hamer, opened the building now known as the Eltham Community and Reception Centre on 22nd April 1978 but what is the history of the area?

Henry Dendy (of Brighton fame) once owned part of the site of the current building. It occupies lots 275 and 276 of Holloway’s 1851 subdivision, which he called “Little Eltham”.  Dendy purchased Lot 275 in 1856 from Charles Wingrove and Alfred Armstrong, who probably purchased the land from Holloway. Wingrove in 1858 became Secretary of the Eltham District Road Board, a position he held for many years, whilst Dendy became a member of the Board and served one term as its President.

Dendy also purchased lots 277 to 281 on the opposite side of Maria Street (now Main Road) and extending between Pitt and John Streets. The whole of his purchase was about 5 acres.  Lot 275 contained a steam flourmill near the Diamond Creek whilst Dendy lived in a house at the front of the land.

Dendy’s wife, Sarah, died at Eltham in 1860, aged 57 years. Also in that year Dendy was appointed Chairman of a committee to establish a Church of England in Eltham and he generously donated half of one of his Pitt Street lots for this purpose. St Margaret’s Church was opened on this site and has recently been extended, which included removing the rear ‘temporary’ wall. The old vicarage is now named Dendy House.

In 1867 Dendy sold his land and business to William F. Ford of Malmsbury for £600 and shifted to Walhalla where he had an interest in a copper mine. He is buried in the Walhalla Cemetery.

No trace of Dendy’s mill or house exists on the site today, but trees on the land could well have been planted in Dendy’s time. An avenue of trees leading towards the creek may have bordered the track to the mill.

Eltham Community and Reception Centre
Eltham Community and Reception Centre

Eltham South Preschool

35 Fordhams Road, Eltham South

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

Photograph from the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photo Collection