Category Archives: People

Nillumbik Tales – Voices of our Elders

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

9th September 2015 at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Nillumbik Tales - Voices of our Elders
Nillumbik Tales – Voices of our Elders

On 4th October 2014 Nillumbik Shire Council launched a publication titled ‘Nillumbik Tales – Voices of our Elders’, which is a collection of colourful and personal snapshots of our local community.

The unique Nillumbik based stories have been written by a variety of authors, including some who are members of our Society. At our meeting on Wednesday 9th September 2015 we will be having some of our members reading their own ‘Nillumbik Tale.’

In collating and publishing this historically important collection Nillumbik Shire Council has documented many aspects of our area and of the people who contributed to our community. The original print run of ‘Nillumbik Tales’ was sold out and there has been a reprint. We hope to have some copies available for sale at the meeting.

As at all of our meetings, new members and visitors are most welcome.

Montmorency Railway Station

Photo: The train to Montmorency crossing the Sherbourne Road overpass, c.1970 – courtesy of Russell Yeoman.

When the railway came to Eltham in 1902 it traversed an extensive farm and bushland area between Greensborough and Eltham, known as the Montmorency Estate. This 925 acre property, Crown Portion 3, Parish of Nillumbik, was purchased from the Crown in 1840 by Stuart Alexander Donaldson. He soon sold the land but then it remained in the ownership of the Donnithorne family for very many years. A public road from Eltham to Greensborough was constructed through the land, (part of today’s Sherbourne Road and Karingal Drive). Apart from that the land remained intact until acquisition of land for the railway which ran through the middle of the estate.

In 1911 the whole of the estate was subdivided and sold as the Greensborough Railway Station Estate. It comprised two sections, one being 52 half-acre residential lots, taking in most of today’s Briar Hill. The balance of the land was subdivided into lots, generally
of about 10 acres each. New roads were created through the land including Sherbourne, Rattray and Mountain View Roads. The development was promoted as having access to the railway at Greensborough station but there was no station within this estate.

By 1923 a community had developed within the Montmorency Estate. It included a school and St Faiths Anglican Church. Local residents and the Eltham Shire Council became involved in moves to have a railway station opened at Montmorency. Many years later Shire Secretary Max Watson assembled a file of correspondence and newsletter articles on the station and this file forms part of our Society records.

The proposed station site had no road access and the Railways Department required that access be provided before it would open a station. The streets opened for this purpose are Mayona Road, Were Street and Binns Street.

The file indicates that there was widespread community agreement to the project which included provision of roads through private property and payment of construction costs by residents. This enabled the Council to provide a guarantee to the Railways Department to enable construction of the station to commence. It was noted that 40 people had agreed to buy train tickets.

As the project proceeded a level of disagreement between neighbours became apparent. Some were donating land for roads but others required payment. Those donating land did not think that they should be paying any costs. Some thought that the roads should only be available for use by those involved in the scheme. Dr. G Nicholson was only prepared to donate his land if the roads were available for public access.

The station opened on 5th September 1923. Children and the School Committee were granted a joy ride to Eltham and back.

It seems that the disagreements in the community were resolved and the Council constructed the access roads soon after the station opened.

The establishment of the station at Montmorency led to development of the area for residential purposes. By the end of the 1920s many of the large blocks of the Montmorency Estate had been subdivided into conventional suburban building blocks and soon the fledgling Montmorency shopping centre appeared in Were Street.

Eltham Bakehouse Secrets

The following newspaper article comes from the Diamond Valley Local, Tuesday, February 16th, 1954.

It relates to a site at the corner of York Street and Main Road, Eltham. It contained a weatherboard shop and dwelling fronting Main Road and a brick bakery at the rear fronting York Street. The shop was at various times a baker’s shop and a grocery shop. These buildings were demolished in 1979 and replaced by residential units named Bakehouse Court.

Murder Mystery-3-2

“WAS WOMAN FOUND IN WELL PUT IN IT? 

Eltham Bakehouse was the scene of a drama whose details have never been cleared. Was the woman whose body was found in the old well inside the back part of the home murdered by her husband? Eltham bakehouse and residence now occupied by Mr Jim Arnett and family is one of the very old residences of Eltham. Mr J. J. Burgoyne, father of J. N. Burgoyne, so long known in Eltham in connection
 with the P.O. and store took over the bakery in 1896. At that time mystery was at its height, for the baker’s wife had been found down the well.

Did she fall, or was she pushed? No one knows.

But her ghost didn’t trouble the Burgoyne family, who had plenty of work on hand. The bakehouse supplied 20 large loaves of bread a day to far-scattered pioneers. Mr Burgoyne recalls his breadcarting days, and says that roads were rough. But they had metal on them. At least that puts them a few points ahead of how they stand today. When the bakehouse was sold six years later it baked 200 loaves a day. All of this is early history stuff, now being collected by the LOCAL. It has some wonderful stories, too.

Right, or Else 

Today, the quaint old house is still giving shelter and the bakehouse is equipped with an automatic “no-hands-touch-anything” machine which forms 2,000 large loaves an hour. What happens inside that bakehouse is worth telling. Strong and weak flours are blended to make dough. Strong flour alone would provide a loaf burst everywhere and misshapen. Weak flour bakes into a hard, miniature loaf. Just the right mix has yeast food added, then a malt improver, then vitamised powdered milk, then yeast, and finally water. The temperature of the dough is carefully regulated. If it goes over 82F. there is trouble. Ice water keeps it back in very hot weather. Acid calcium phosphate is added to prevent sourness during hot spells.  A lot of trouble isn’t it? But if the dough is one degree over 82F the oven will require 15 degrees more heat. The huge 18ft. by 15ft. Scotch oven is fired to 550F. Its firebricks glow all over. When the dough is ready a very wet cloth is scuffled over the floor of the oven. This produces steam and temporarily cools the sole of the oven to 500F. The burn on the sole of the oven is just taken out long enough to save burning the bottoms of the loaves.

Endless Care 

Loaves stay 35 to 40 minutes in the oven. Then they are turned out on to movable wire-mesh trolleys. Old J. J. Burgoyne would indeed be astonished if he could see what has been put inside his old bakehouse without changing the outside appearance. There are some thousands of pounds’ worth of the most modern machinery very much in use inside. Master baker Jim Arnett is obviously a man who takes a pride in the quality of the bread he bakes. The trouble and care taken is a revelation to anyone who hasn’t thought previously of what goes to make a loaf of bread. Formulas are exact. Records are kept of each bake. On big master sheets every detail of dough temperature, outside temperature, and oven temperature are kept. After so much care has been taken to produce good bread, it seems a pity that bread-eaters don’t keep it as carefully as they keep milk, for example.”

Fayrefield Hat Factory

A former hat factory in Sherbourne Road Eltham has in the past been used for various purposes and a self storage business currently operates from these premises.

The Karingal Yallock Creek passes through the front of the land and the creek environs are the subject of significant and unusual landscaping works, including some cascading water channels. Some of the landscaping was damaged by the Christmas Day floods of 2011, but the main elements remain intact.

The landscaped area (as distinct from the factory itself) is the subject of a Heritage Overlay under the Nillumbik Planning Scheme. The basis of this overlay is a Heritage Report by Graeme Butler and Associates in 2006. As well as an assessment of the landscaped area, it includes one background information on the history of the site (although a complete history would require more research).

The site was part of Crown Portion 3 of the Parish of Nillumbik that remained as the Montmorency Farm until early in the twentieth century. The 1911 subdivision of this farm created Lot 7 of some seven acres, which is the site of this factory. The Heritage Report lists the various owners of the site. From the rate records and aerial photos it is concluded that the site was used as an orchard and farmland until the 1940s. William F Crellin, orchardist, owned the site from 1912 to 1923. Then Edmund Williams owned it until 1951.

In 1955 the site was owned by Rupert V. Kirsch and this is the name anecdotally associated with the hat factory, where the well-known brand of Fayrefield Hats were manufactured. There is some belief that this was built about the time of the Second World War and that hats for the armed forces were made there.

The featured aerial photo from the early 1950s held by the Society shows that part of the factory complex had been built then.

Other reference items of interest include:

The Hat Factory – a personal recollection of the hat factory and followup feature on the gardens, Hat Factory Revisited

The fish pond which was part of the landscaped gardens emerged into the Victorian skateboarding scene in 1977.

Fort Knox Self Storage Tips It’s Hat To A Historical Past

A series of eight photos showing various internal views of the hat factory and staff members at Christmas 1959, held by the State Library of Victoria, can be accessed via Trove

What is in a name? Part 2

While travelling along our local streets do you ever wonder why or how these were named? Let us have a look at some.

Josiah Holloway was responsible for the 1851 Little Eltham sub division that now comprises the Town Centre. His wife’s maiden name was Susan Maria Bible and his brother-in-law was Arthur Bible, so this explains the origin of Susan, Bible and Arthur streets in central Eltham. Part of Main Road was also originally known as Maria Street.

Brougham Street in Eltham was named after Henry Brougham, a British statesman who became Lord Chancellor of the United Kingdom. Among other things he actively worked to promote the abolition of slavery, helped establish the French resort of Cannes and was also responsible for designing the four-wheeled horse drawn carriage that bears his name. The western section of Brougham Street was named Wellington Street in Holloway’s subdivision, presumably after the Duke of Wellington, but was later changed so that Brougham Street was continuous.

The name of Shalbury Avenue off Beard Street in Eltham is the result of the combination of the names of Jack Shallard and a Mr. Bradbury who subdivided the land in that area. Mr. Bradbury’s family came to Eltham in 1913 and one of his sons (Ron) had a medical practice for many years at the corner of Main Road and Brougham Street, where there is now a restaurant.

 When Mrs. Theo Handfield subdivided land in 1924 to the west of the Diamond Creek in Eltham she named Peter Street and John Street after her two sons. However, the name of John Street was later changed due to possible confusion with the other John Street off Main Road. It then became Fay Street, after Fay Harcourt the wife of the well-known local builder John Harcourt.

 Bells Hill Road at the eastern end of Main Road, Research was once part of Mt Pleasant Road.  It was re-named in the 1990s because it was separated from the main part of that road. Bells Hill is the hill in Main Road rising up from Research to Kangaroo Ground. John Bell of the pioneer Bell family of Kangaroo Ground and Yarra Glen lived at “Violet Bank”, the first of the Kangaroo Ground properties at the top of the hill.

Prepared by Russell Yeoman and Jim Connor from the Eltham District Historical Society

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

Benjamin Wallis and the Eltham Hotel

by Russell Yeoman

In our Newsletter No. 217 July 2014 there was an article about Benjamin Oliver Wallis who was a prominent Eltham resident, publican and Councillor during the second half of the nineteenth century. He owned the house that is now the Nillumbik Living and Learning Centre at 739 Main Road Eltham. The article concluded by indicating that further research was required on Wallis’ ownership of the Eltham Hotel.

That previous article followed an enquiry from Christopher Wallis, a resident in Germany and it transpired that Benjamin Wallis was a member of the same family that came from the Cornish village of Newlyn. Christopher Wallis has now provided the results of his research complete with reference sources and it includes significant additional information on Benjamin Wallis and his connection with the Eltham Hotel.

What follows here is summarised from Christopher Wallis’ article, which starts with the background of the Wallis family in Cornwall where Benjamin trained as a mason and built a number of houses. He migrated to Melbourne in 1853 but his wife and children remained in Cornwall for a further 10 years. Later in 1853 Richard Warren engaged Wallis to build the Eltham Hotel and it opened in 1854 or 1855. The Fountain of Friendship Hotel on the opposite side of Maria Street (Main Road) opened at about the same time.

In 1858 Warren fell into financial difficulties and had to sell the hotel. Wallis bought the hotel and obtained a publican’s licence in 1861. In the 1850s the Fountain had been the more popular hotel but after that the Eltham Hotel became more popular.

The article argues that in about 1857 Wallis probably built the “Living and Learning house” for tanner John Pearson. In 1868 Pearson became bankrupt and Wallis acquired the house and he lived there until his death in 1896. For some of this time the house was in the name of Benjamin’s son Richard but he died in 1888 and ownership reverted to his father.

Much information is provided about Wallis and his family and especially his standing in the Eltham community. He was a member of the Eltham Jockey Club and in 1867 his wife Anna rode her horse Charlotte in the Annual Races. Anna was also an angler and is reported to have caught a large perch in the Yarra River. She died in 1887.

On 16th September 1886 Wallis sold the hotel to Christopher Watson (Snr). Watson died in 1887 and the hotel passed to his son Christopher Watson (Jr) who owned it for many years. It eventually passed to his son Herbert. Our Society records have to date not recorded the fate of the original Eltham Hotel although diligent research of the local press would have answered this question.

Assumptions have been made that the hotel gradually evolved from that building to the present day complex. However Christopher Wallis’ article and other recent research by Alan Sheehan shows that the hotel was demolished in 1925 when Herbert Watson was still the owner. A new hotel was built that included the façade currently standing at the corner of Main Road and Pitt Street. Many subsequent extensions have completely changed this hotel from its beginnings in the earliest years of Eltham’s development.