Category Archives: People

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  The reservoir has now been superseded by higher level water tanks east of Reynolds Road and its former site is now a public reserve.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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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.

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

Wedding Bells

In the 1902 and 1904 Evelyn Observer, the local newspaper of the Shire of Eltham, there was a column named ‘Wedding Bells’. Along with the names of the couples, their parents, the Church, the names of people connected to the Bride and Groom, the report of the presents at the after service gatherings, were listed as to who gave what from their side of the families.

The following items have been listed in the two weddings of Miss Florence Maud Knapman (1902) and Miss Catherine Emma Gilsenan (1904):

A kitchen stove, piano, set of jugs, pair of primrose vases, ruby vases, canary in a cage, teapot, crumb tray and brush, apron, supper cloth, marble clock, fruit dishes, picture frames, pair of mats, hanging brush rack, serviettes, pair of d’oyleys, cheques, pair of hall curtains, candle sticks, cow in full milk, pair of pickle jars, set of afternoon tea spoons, dinner set, cheese cover, drawing room lamp, silver marmalade dish, jardinere, glass cream jug and basin, water jug and glasses, silver mounted biscuit barrel, glass fruit stand and tray cloth, picture of local scenery, silver bread fork and butter knife, serviette rings, cedar table, along with household linen and items of ‘handsome and costly’ presents of a personal nature.

 

Photo: Eltham – R.C. Priest

Mystery surrounding a historical photograph collection sparked fervent debate among members keen to identify the baffling images during a Society meeting in 2014.

The digitised Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photo Collection generated lively discussion as members speculated about various places and people captured in the old black and white photographs.

None more so baffling than a turn-of-the century blurred image captioned “Eltham – R.C. Priest” depicting a cleric posing next to an early-model car sporting a top hat with another two unknown figures.

Furious email exchanges ensued in the following days between members who eventually identified the motorcar as a Unic Taxi built in the United Kingdom purportedly about 1908 – although the actual manufacturing date too fueled yet more speculation.

Attention soon turned to the priest wearing the top hat, long coat and a clerical collar (a good clue) while members surmised the man wearing the bowler hat near in the foreground was the taxi driver, expected to sit exposed to the elements while passengers remain protected inside the cabin.

Our resident super sleuth Maureen Jones soon identified the priest as the Reverend John P. Carney born c1880 in Ballaghaderreen, County Mayo, Ireland. He was ordained at All Hallows College, Dublin, Ireland before arriving in Melbourne in 1902 where he would go on to serve as a priest in the Melbourne Archdiocese.

He started as assistant priest at St. Francis, Melbourne followed by Castlemaine and Gordon before establishing the new mission at Diamond Creek where he would spend the next five years doing “fine pioneering work and put the parish on a good working basis”. He spent his later years serving congregations in Footscray and later Yarraville.

Who said there is no mystery in local history!!