Category Archives: People

ThrowbackThursday: Snow Falls, Stokes Orchard, Nyora Road, Eltham, 1951

#ThrowbackThursday – As we now head gradually into warmer spring weather, leaving behind what many would call a colder than normal winter, can you think back to even colder winter seasons. Have you ever heard of it snowing in Eltham? We have often heard tale of this event but never actually seen any photographs of it. Well, today we are going to time travel back to the morning of Thursday, July 19th, 1951, to Nyora Road, Eltham at the corner with Eucalyptus Road and Pitt Street. But bring some warm, wet weather gear with you, and your camera, because right now the snow is falling.

The Stokes family home blanketed with snow, Nyora Road, Eltham, winter 1951 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory; donated by Beryl Bradbury (nee Stokes), daughter of Frank Stokes)

Standing in Nyora Road just east of Eucalyptus Road, which itself is not much more than an unmade track, we look towards the southeast and the home built by Frank Stokes for his family just a few years earlier. Now the home of Nyora Studio Gallery @NyoraStudioGallery, it was originally built by Frank towards the end of the war over a two year period as he established his orchard  to the north east bounded roughly by Nyora, Eucalyptus and Diosma Roads.

Stokes Orchard blanketed with snow, Nyora Road, Eltham, winter 1951 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory; donated by Beryl Bradbury (nee Stokes), daughter of Frank Stokes)

Turning to the opposite direction, as we look across Nyora through the wet falling snow, we see the orchard running down the hill and up the other side, a blanket of snow starting to cover the ground. Eucalyptus Road runs roughly along the line of trees to the west.

This event was reported in The Age the next day: –

“SNOW HEAVIEST FOR 20 YEARS: State Shivers in Antarctic Winds”

“Snow falls yesterday were the most widespread in the State’s history and the heaviest in Melbourne for 20 years. Many western, northern and eastern suburbs had snow.”

“Icy winds blowing in from the Antarctic gave Melbourne its coldest July day for 50 years and the second coldest on record.”

“At Eltham an inch had fallen by 11 a.m., and trees were festooned with snow.”

“At noon Melbourne’s temperature of 39.1 deg. was .9 deg. colder than the temperature recorded at Macquarie Island, in the Antarctic, 600 miles to the south. The minimum for the day, however, was 37.2 deg. at 12.50. Through most of the day the temperature was below 40 deg. and the maximum (at 9 a.m.) was only 44.5. Essendon had a record low midday temperature of 34 deg. — two deg. above freezing point.”

Do you remember snow ever falling in Eltham? Do you have photos that you would like to share/donate to our Society? We would love to hear your stories of this event. Perhaps we had better put another log on the fire. . . .


Frank Stokes first traveled to the district by train in 1944 to find land with the intention to establish an orchard. By chance he met Arthur Bird of Bird Orchard (bounded by Pitt Street, Eucalyptus Road and Wattle Grove) and they got talking over their common interest. Arthur put Frank up for the night and pointed out the land, part of Crown Allotment 15, Section 5, Parish of Nillumbik (CA15) somewhat diagonally opposite Bird Orchard. Frank bought the land and for the next two years would travel by train from Melbourne to Eltham every weekend establishing Stokes Orchard and building a home for his family, which they eventually moved into in 1946.

The Society is very fortunate to have recently received a donation of photographs and other items of interest pertaining to the Stokes family, Stokes Orchard and the Stokes Orchard Estate from Beryl Bradbury (nee Stokes), eldest daughter of Frank and Gladys (nee Bolduan) Stokes. Much of the Stokes family orchard history had been held and cared for by Beryl’s younger brother, David Stokes, and was lost during the terrible Black Saturday fires on 7 February 2009, which tragically took David as well.


Stokes Orchard – An Incomplete History

1951 ‘SNOW HEAVIEST FOR 20 YEARS’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 20 July, p. 1. , viewed 13 Sep 2018,



Advertised Sale of Former Shire Office Site and War Memorial Precinct

895 and 903-907 Main Road Eltham

The Eltham District Historical Society notes the recent advertising by Nillumbik Shire Council for the sale of properties at 895 and 903-907 Main Road Eltham.

Our Society has previously stated our position on these properties on our website and Facebook page and directly to all Nillumbik Shire Councillors.

We repeat this statement:

Our Society is of the firm opinion that the original Eltham War Memorial complex of buildings including the entrance gates should not be sold, nor demolished. The site should remain in community ownership and be retained as a form of living memorial with a specific focus directed towards the welfare of the children of the district to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’.

Further, Eltham District Historical Society also holds the position that the three Mediterranean Cypress trees (Shillinglaw trees), which are well over 100 years old, still standing proudly in front of the adjoining former Shire of Eltham Office site, are of local heritage significance. These trees represent a navigational beacon between the past, present and future landscape and history of the district and are covered by a heritage overlay. The Society is determined that they should be protected; they should not be disturbed by relocation and that the land they reside upon should also remain in community hands, not private ownership.

The Eltham District Historical Society is disappointed there has not been full disclosure to prospective investors and developers of the historical value of the Eltham War Memorial complex and the Shillinglaw trees in this advertising information.

There are few historically related properties remaining in public ownership within our Shire. The property at 903-907 Main Road contains both First and Second World War memorials in commemoration of the members of our community who paid the ultimate sacrifice to benefit our future legacy. These memorials should be protected as sacred sites in perpetuity, held in community ownership and honouring the purpose for which they were intended and for which the land was donated by the community. They should not be sacrificed for short term gain nor placed in private ownership.

EDHS Position Statement download

ThrowbackThursday: Class Photos, Eltham State School No. 209, c.1891

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to school, Eltham State School No. 209 on Dalton Street, more commonly known today as Eltham Primary. It is 1891 and the children of Grades 3 & 4  and Grade 5 are lined up on this special occasion to have their photographs taken. It is a clunky affair taking a photograph back then. The photographer has to set up his big polished wooden box on to a tripod usually made of wood and brass. He has a large black cape which he covers the rear of the box. He pops his head under the cape to peer through the lens at the front of the box. Everything he sees is upside down. He fusses around to get the children lined up in the right spots, checks his composition once more, places the lens cover back on and then inserts a cassette containing the glass plate negative into the rear of the box. Upon commanding everyone’s attention one more time, reminding them to remain perfectly still till he says they can move again, he removes the lens cap and counts; 1, 2, 3, 4, …….

No one knows how it will turn out until he has processed it that night, but he knows; it is perfect.

And the children will be able to share something very special with their fathers by the weekend. But shush now, that’s a surprise.

3rd and 4th Grade, Eltham State School No. 209, Headmaster David Clark and assistant teachers, c.1891. Bottom seated row, right side end, Alex and Alfred (Tommy) Smart.
(Digital restoration, from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
5th Grade, Eltham State School No. 209, Headmaster David Clark and assistant teachers, c.1891.
(From the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection No. 642, donated by Miss E. McColl, held in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory and Yarra Plenty Regional Library (Eltham Library) @YarraPlentyRegionalLibrary @the realelthamlibrary)

The children of Grades 3, 4 and 5 in 1891 want to wish all their father’s a very special day this weekend but also all of the fathers that have come after them a very special Happy Father’s Day this weekend also.

Side Note:

Father’s Day did not actually exist in 1891. It was initially founded in the United States in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910. Her father, a Civil War veteran, William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. We wonder if William Jackson Smart was in any way connected to the Smart family children attending Eltham State School in 1891.

3rd and 4th Grade, Eltham State School No. 209, c.1891. The original postcard photograph was donated to the Society by May Smart, who was a student at Eltham State School 1915-1923. May was the daughter of Alex Smart, 2nd from the right in the seated row. His brother Alfred (Tommy) Smart seated at the end of the row on his immediate left.
Photo used on the cover of “We did open a school in Little Eltham”, Eltham Primary School (2006)


MysteryMonday: A Centre of Creativity or Simply Shabby Chic, Eltham, 1989?

#MysteryMonday – Today’s images are from a roll of colour negative film, taken by a staff member from the Shire of Eltham in 1989. Other pictures on the film include staff undertaking daily duties; building inspectors on site, health inspector at Safeway and maternal health care nurse attending to vaccinations. It is suspected that these images are in Eltham; possibly even associated with the Living and Learning Centre.

Roll of 35mm colour negative film, 6 strips
Fuji 100
Roll of 35mm colour negative film, 6 strips
Fuji 100
Roll of 35mm colour negative film, 6 strips
Fuji 100

Is the fellow featured an artist? Do you recognise him or do any of the buildings look familiar?  As an aside; the tin sign lying flat on the brick structure behind him says “Atlantic Ethyl”. Atlantic Ethyl was a new motor spirit introduced in August 1934 by the Atlantic Union Oil Company claiming to give better performance and cold starts. The fuel was replaced with a new leaded variety in 1940. So it would seem that the sign is dated 1934-1940.

Can you identify these? We’d love to hear from you; your thoughts and suggestions as to where they are and help us catalogue these images.

Over to you . . .

1934 ‘NEW MOTOR SPIRIT.’, Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), 2 August, p. 2. (EVENING.), viewed 06 Aug 2018,

1940 ‘Leaded Petrol To Be Available’, Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), 23 March, p. 62. , viewed 06 Aug 2018,

Finding a home

By Russell Yeoman (reproduced from Newsletter No. 242, August 2018)

Eltham Police Station (on right) and Police Residence, c.1900.  Present day Local History Centre, home of Eltham District Historical Society (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection #627 held in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

For more than 30 years following its establishment in 1967 our Society had no permanent “home”. Society meetings were held in various places, firstly in the Eltham Shire Hall, then the War Memorial Hall in the War Memorial complex of buildings and finally in the Eltham Senior Citizens; where we still meet today. There were other one-off meeting venues such as the Great Hall at Montsalvat, Metzner Hall at Judge Book Village and once in the Eltham Shire Offices. Committee meetings were originally held in these halls but later in the homes of committee members. A favourite place for a number or years was the home of Blanche and Jack Shallard in Montmorency. Supper here consisted of Blanche’s excellent cheese scones.

The Society was significantly involved with the Eltham Shire Council. The President was Cr. Charis Pelling, Shire Secretary Max Watson was Vice President and Secretary Russell Yeoman also worked for the Council. From 1967 the Society began accumulating historical records but was somewhat inhibited by lack of a place to store them. Many records were stored in the Shire Offices and there was little distinction as to what was owned by the Society and what was owned by the Council. The collection of historical records and photographs was significantly augmented in 1971 by the Council collecting material for the publication of “Pioneers and Painters”.

As the volume of Society acquisitions grew further storage locations were required. As well as records some artefacts were added to the collection including items collected by the Shillinglaw Cottage Preservation Committee. Although the cottage had been preserved the plan to use it as a museum did not eventuate. Some items that were to be donated remained with the donors pending a suitable place to keep them. An example was a large collection of farming and other artefacts donated by Bruce and Joy Ness of Kangaroo Ground that was kept in their barn. Storage of the Society’s paper based records fell in large part to Russell Yeoman as Secretary and these were kept at his house, generally in less than optimum conditions. There was a filing cabinet in the laundry and various boxes in other parts of the house and in the shed. Large plans were kept in a cardboard folder under a bed. Workshops to get these records into some sort of order were held at the Yeoman house.

Fast forward to 1998. Nillumbik Shire Council has succeeded the Eltham Council. Much of the Society’s collection of artefacts has been passed on to the fledgling Andrew Ross Museum. Society President Harry Gilham has successfully negotiated with the Commissioners in charge of the Council to secure the long term use of the former Eltham Police Residence by the Society. This State Government owned building had been used by Eltham Council as its Parks and Environment office. The long task of moving the Society’s collection from its various storage locations began. This historic building has become our Local History Centre and it has enabled the acquisition of far more historical material than had previously been possible and has helped secure the future of the Eltham District Historical Society.

Moving items into the new Local History Centre, July 1998 L-R: Mark Gilham, Margaret Ball, Sue Law, Harry Gilham.

As we celebrate the 20th year in our Local History Centre we acknowledge and are forever indebted to Harry Gilham and the other members who worked so hard to establish and maintain our “home”.


Harry Gilham, President, Eltham District Historical Society, Opening Ceremony of Local History Centre, 728 Main Road, Eltham, 12 July 1998


Eltham Police Station and Residence: A brief history

1860 Eltham Courthouse built in Main Road, together with an adjoining police residence, office, lock–up and stables.

1959 Police Department purchases a house in Pryor Street to be refurbished as Eltham Police Station

1961 Police in Eltham move into Pryor Street refurbished buildings and office.

c.1961-1981 Occupied by Vermin and Noxious Weeds Destruction Section of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey. Former Police Station dragged around to rear of Police Residence (prior to August 1967) to make way for the construction of a driveway and access from Main Road. The building was placed on the site of a former Scullery and modified for Lands Department use.

1981 Shire of Eltham take over management of old Police Residence in Eltham. It remains unoccupied for a period of time whilst its future is discussed in Council.

1981-1985 Used for community job creation scheme

The former Police Residence under renovation prior to occupation by the Shire of Eltham Parks and Environment department, 1985

1985 Shire of Eltham Parks and Environment occupy the residence. Council improve the driveway but later add a second rear access from Brougham Street due to the dangerous nature of the Main Road entrance. Also add a rear toilet facility between the Police Residence and former Police Station, which was doubling up as a lunch room. Council also commence discussions to re-establish a replica Police Station.

The original Eltham Police Station was demolished c.Nov. 1986.

c.1986 November.  Former Police Station demolished; believed to have been suffering termite damage.

The former Police Residence when occupied by the Shire of Eltham Parks and Environment, 1988

c.1989 After some years of discussion a replica Police Station is built, based on photographs, to act as a lunch room and meeting room for Parks and Environment staff and volunteers doing community service.

1996 Eltham District Historical Society in discussions with Nillumbik Shire Council commisioners throughout the year regarding a home for the Society. A proposal put forward by the Society in October to occupy the former Police Residence.

1997 March.  Eltham District Historical Society gains access to former Police Residence.


Former Police Residence, 728 Main Road, Eltham, c. April 1998.

1998 July 12th.  Eltham District Historical Society Inc moves into its Local History Centre, 728 Main Road Eltham (the former Police Residnce built in 1860).

Eltham Local History Centre; the former Eltham Courthouse, Police Residence and replica Police Station, December 2000.

2018 July. Eltham District Historical Society gains access to the replica Police Station for use as part of regular heritage tours for schools and community based groups.

ThrowbackThursday: The Spirit of Eltham, c.1985

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to 1985. The Victorian Local Government Commission has produced a report titled ‘The Restructure of Local Government in Victoria – Principles and Program’ (the Morris review). The recommendation was to amalgamate the Shires of Eltham and Diamond Valley, something that Eltham Council did not support as being appropriate for the shire or compatible with the ‘Spirit of Eltham’. In response, the Shire of Eltham produced a video showcasing the unique environmental lifestyle which embodies the ‘Spirit of Eltham’ and features Shire President, Cr. Mary Grant talking with the Hon. Pauline Toner MP and Max McDonald MP. Eltham Shire CEO Rodney Roschellor presents an alternate proposal for a shire merging more aligned to the values of the local residents. Also featured are Eltham icons such as the Eltham Railway Trestle Bridge, Montsalvat, Eltham Community Centre along with mudbrick making, artist Matcham Skipper, the Green Wedge and St Andrews Market. Other commentary is provided by locals, Judy Wadham and Lester Eaton.

ThrowbackThursday: Pryor Street, Eltham, c.1960

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to 1960 and Pryor Street, Eltham near the intersection with Main Road.

Looking west along Pryor Street, Eltham near intersection with Main Road, c.1960 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

Standing about halfway on the southern side of Pryor Street looking towards Main Road, we see on the northeastern corner, the new branch of the State Savings Bank of Victoria under construction. A brickie’s cement mixer stands on the footpath beside the building and the roofing is yet to be completed. In 1980 the State Savings Bank of Victoria name was revised to the State Bank of Victoria, which was eventually sold and absorbed into the Commonwealth Bank in 1990. Given the Commonwealth Bank already had a branch in Eltham, the building was acquired by the Bank of Melbourne which itself was acquired by the Westapc Bank in 1997. Despite some modifications and extensions, the current @Westpac Eltham branch building remains very recognisable especially when viewed from Pryor Street, even 58 years later.

Next door up the hill is a white timber building, Eltham Plumbing Supplies operated by Leonard and Jeannette Patricia Whiteway. Unlike the bank, this site has seen many changes. In 1963 a  Petition for Bankruptcy was issued re Jeanette Patricia Whiteway of 88 Napoleon Street, Eltham, house duties, and carrying on a business at Pryor Street, Eltham in partnership with another as a plumber under the names Eltham Plumbing Supplies and L. & J.P. Whiteway. The Whiteways kept trading and four years later sought a notice for discharge. Eventually the building became the Eltham Bookshop including bric-a-brac items for sale.

With the development of the Eltham shopping district and Commercial Place, the building was demolished and a new cafe, the Eira Cafe and Lounge Bar replaced it and which more recently came under new ownership as the Jock and Eddie Cafe.

Looking west along Pryor Street, Eltham near intersection with Main Road, c.1986. Showing the State Bank of Victoria and former Eltham Plumbing Supplies, by then the Eltham Bookshop on the right (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory).
Looking northwest along Pryor Street, Eltham near intersection with Main Road, c.1986. Showing the State Bank of Victoria and former Eltham Plumbing Supplies, by then the Eltham Bookshop. (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Looking west along Pryor Street, Eltham near intersection with Main Road, Oct 2017 (Google Street View)
Looking west along Pryor Street, Eltham near intersection with Main Road, c.1960 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)

In this view, the house immediately to the left was the first house built in Pryor Street. By 1964 the property was in the ownership of the Shire of Eltham and was relocated c.1965 near to the area of the currrent Barak Bushlands.

Looking west along Pryor Street, Eltham near intersection with Main Road, c.1960 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory)
Looking west along Pryor Street, Eltham, Oct 2017 (Google Street View)



1963 ‘SEQUESTRATION ORDERS AND FIRST MEETINGS’, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette (National : 1901 – 1973), 12 September, p. 3259. , viewed 10 Jul 2018,

1967 ‘NOTICE OF ORDERS OF DISCHARGE’, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette (National : 1901 – 1973), 11 May, p. 2427. , viewed 10 Jul 2018,