The original Shire of Eltham was founded in 1871. Prior to its founding, the district was managed by the Eltham District Road Board, which was established in 1856. The first rate assessment commenced in 1857 for the year ending October 14, 1858.
The honour of being recorded with the first assessment went to a farm of 110 cultivated acres at Lower Plenty, owned by John Porter and occupied by Albert Baines. It was assessed at 6d/acre providing for a rate income of £2 15s.
In July 2017, officers at the Shire of Nillumbik discovered some early Eltham Road District Assessment books and donated them to the Eltham District Historical Society. We were very excited as we soon realised the seven volumes handed over to us were the district’s first six years of rate assessments. This was a unique and significant record of early settlers in the pre-Shire of Eltham. They immediately became one of the oldest and most valuable items in our collection.
An article on page 5 in the Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser, Friday, 21 November, 1941 titled: ‘District’s Early History‘ states: “The first rate book which is still in existence at the Shire Office is for the year ending October 14, 1858 and is probably the best record possible to indicate the development of the district. At the time properties were rated as follows: Cultivated land. 6d. per acre; pasture land, 1d. per acre: estimated annual value of buildings, etc., 6d in the (pound). The total amount of rate recorded for the year was £153/14/8. Properties were described as being situated at Lower Plenty, Yarra Yarra, Eltham, Lower Eltham, Kangaroo Ground, Yarra Flats, Diamond Creek and the Yarra.”
Given the precious nature of this collection, priority was given to digitise the rate books and place them in suitable archival storage to minimise further handling. Subsequent discussion amongst our Collections team arrived at the conclusion that the most appropriate home for this valuable record was the Public Record Office Victoria (PROV), the archive of the State Government of Victoria and who are charged with archiving and caring for all Government related records. An approach was made to PROV and the air of excitement was palpable, just as it had been for us. These records completed their collection of rate assessment books for Eltham.
At a small ceremony held Friday, April 20 at the Local History Centre, Eltham, members of the Society and our Collections team, along with Ms. Vicki Ward, MP for Eltham, presented the seven volumes for 1858-1863 along with the complete set of digital files to Mr. David Taylor, Community Archives Manager and Mr. Charlie Farrugia, Senior Collection Advisor, Public Record Office Victoria.
“Thank you to the Historical Society for providing us with Eltham’s earliest known rate records. The receipt of these records means that a complete set for the district is now available for researchers to access from the state archives alongside other districts across Victoria. Rate books are a valuable resource for family and property researchers and are amongst our most popular records for those who want to know more about the history of their home. It’s fantastic to be able to add these early books from 1858-1863 to our collection,” David Taylor, Community Archives Manager, Public Record Office Victoria (pictured far right).
Society Vice President, Peter Pidgeon said that whilst the Society was reluctant to see the rate assessment volumes go, it was the right thing to do as they are now re-united with their brothers and sisters and Public Record Office Victoria was best equipped to care for them in a climate controlled environment for perpetuity.
This is another example of the extended reach the Society has been able to achieve in being able to catalogue and share our collection via Victorian Collections.
The Society will continue to retain the digital version of these records in our catalogue on Victorian Collections, which are fully accessible as per the following links.
While there have been many changes in the 50 years since 1967, the year our Historical Society was established, 50 years is not such a long time………in historical terms.
It is however a significant milestone for our small not-for-profit historical group, a milestone to be appropriately acknowledged and celebrated. We can remember our past and value our present, as we encompass our future.
Much has changed since 1967, the last year Harold Holt was Prime Minister, when Henry Bolte was the Victorian Premier, La Trobe University was officially opened, the Postcode system was introduced, Heidelberg Historical Society commenced and in June the Beatles released the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band album, considered by Rolling Stone magazine to be the most important rock and roll album ever made. June was also the month the first meeting was held to establish our Society.
Since that time our Society has been actively involved in many activities, excursions, meetings and initiatives to support recognition of our local history. We have been, and are part of the social and cultural fabric that makes up our community. We, and other like groups, value our history and we continue to encourage the broader appreciation of the historical elements within our district, that once gone can never be replaced.
During this year we will look back to consider those individuals who helped establish the then Shire of Eltham Historical Society, now known as the Eltham District Historical Society. They set a course that has led us to where we are today.
Along the way there have been many, many people who have contributed their time, skills, passion and commitment to support our Society and to ensure it has continued to present, value and express the importance of protecting our heritage and maintaining memories of the past, our significant local history.
Now an appropriate question is…where do we go from here? No doubt this will be one of the many discussion points during 2017, our 50th Anniversary year.
To catch up with what is happening during our 50th anniversary year, our 2017 Program is now available to download directly from here or via the menu links.
Eltham District Historical Society would like to wish all members a Happy New Year for 2016.
Our program for 2016 includes topics and speakers for Society meetings as well as dates for other activities, committee meetings, records workshops and heritage excursions. We look forward to members being involved in our various activities during 2016. Any changes during the year will be notified in the Newsletter. A copy of the program may be downloaded by clicking on the “2016 Program” link.
In accordance with a decision of the Committee the meeting schedule has been altered from what it has been in past years. Following the first Society meeting in February, meetings will be held every two months with the Annual General Meeting to be held in April. There will be five meetings rather than the six held in past years. The Christmas function in December will take the place of the sixth meeting. Excursions and Committee meetings will be held in alternate months to Society meetings. The net effect of these changes is that Society activities will be spread more evenly throughout the year.
As indicated above, the April meeting is the Annual General Meeting. Formal notice and the agenda for this meeting will be contained in the April Newsletter, which will be distributed in time to satisfy statutory notice requirements.
Members are encouraged to come along to our records workshops to assist with the on-going task of getting our records into systematic order. A growing number of members continues to make progress on this and other tasks associated with the operation of our Society. The first workshop for 2016 is scheduled for Tuesday 2nd February at 7.30 pm.
Contacts for the Eltham District Historical Society
• Jim Connor, President – Telephone 0418 379 497
• Russell Yeoman, Secretary – Telephone 9439 9717
• David Johns, Treasurer / Membership Secretary – Telephone 9434 3357
We appreciate the financial support provided by Nillumbik Shire Council and the Eltham Community Craft and Produce Market Committee of Management
We also appreciate the support of Vicki Ward MP, State Member for Eltham who assists with the printing of the Society’s Newsletter.
Eltham District Historical Society Inc is excited to announce the launch of our new online presence; spearheaded with a major upgrade to our website and a new domain name URL, www.elthamhistory.org.au.
We hope you will find it a refreshing modern update; easier to navigate and quickly locate newly added material and featured content. The site now also has the ability to easily share content with your friends via social media connectivity buttons as well as the capability for providing feedback and comments.