ThrowbackThursday: Billy Cart Derby, Easter Saturday 1957

Promotional window label, Eltham Gymkhana, Easter Saturday, 20 April 1957 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Saturday, April 20, 1957. We are going to the Eltham Easter Gymkhana which is being held at Eltham Park. This is the ninth Eltham Show to be held in aid of the Eltham War Memorial Trust. The Trust has already built an Infant Welfare Centre which was opened five years ago in 1952 and more recently this year, a preschool centre which includes a children’s library in an annexe.

Today’s programme includes equestrian turnouts, dressage contests, and jumping events for which the newly formed Melbourne Show Jumping Club have assisted in laying out an Olympic-type course.

The Women’s Auxiliary of the trust are also running a market stall, with local produce and handcrafts.

Besides the horse show, there will be a pedigreed goat show and this year, a most thrilling soap box derby for us to see for which Mr Russell Lewis along with Mr J.M. Peter Bassett-Smith, secretary of the trust and a member of the show committee will assist in the running of.

Entry form for the Skyline Drive-In “Soap-Box” Derby, to be held along Main Road between Panorama Avenue and Bolton Street, Easter Saturday, 20 April 1957 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
[Note: entry form quotes incorrect date as 19 April, which was a Friday]
The Soap Box Derby is being sponsored this year by Hoyt’s Skyline Theatres and is to be run over a 3/4 mile long course along the main Eltham Road commencing at the eastern corner of Panorama Road and racing down the hill to the finish line at the intersection with Bolton Street. There are two divisions in this Derby; Junior, 8-13 years and Senior, 14-95 years, so let’s go join in the fun.

Billy carts in the Senior division are permitted vehicles of any size or type provided they are fitted with four wheels, adequate braking, steering and have no motor. In the Junior division the vehicles must also be no more than five feet in length and the wheels no more than 12 inches in diameter. No pneumatic tyres and needle or roller bearings are allowed.

It is now 11:00 am and the elimination heats followed by the semi-finals are about to commence. The final of each division should be conducted around 1:20 pm. Apart from the local entries, 18 Melbourne Grammar School Students are in attendance to assist in the running of the Derby.

The Starter now places the competitors on the starting line. He takes a few steps forward in front of the line of billy carts, turns to face them, raises the flag in his arm, scans the line and each competitor one final time then drops the flag. And they’re racing!

In about four minutes they will cross the finish line at Bolton Street.

The 1957 Eltham Gymkhana made a profit of £309 19s 6d, which was paid in to the Eltham War Memorial Trust fund.

Did you attend or participate in the Billy Cart Derby? Do you have any pictures or stories you would like to share with us? We would love to hear your comments and memories.

Entry form for the Skyline Drive-In “Soap-Box” Derby, to be held along Main Road between Panorama Avenue and Bolton Street, Easter Saturday, 20 April 1957 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
[Note: entry form quotes incorrect date as 19 April, which was a Friday]

References:

  • 1957, “Young Rider to Judge at Show”, The Age, Wednesday, April 17, 1957, p8
  • 1957, Your Entry Form for the Skyline Drive-In “Soap-Box” Derby
  • 1957, Minutes of Meeting of Eltham Show Committee held at La Ronde, 12 April 1957
Advertisements

ThrowbackThursday: It is with deep regret . . . , Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty, May 3rd, 1941

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Saturday, May 3rd, 1941 and the property ‘Abington’ (now known as ‘Araluen’) on the Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty; home of Mrs Annie Castledine. It is morning and the weather is fine with a slight northerly breeze; the sun is out warming the dew off the grass following a chilly and foggy start to the day of 43 degrees (6° C) at 7am. The sun will heat the day up to a pleasant 68 (20° C) at noon but that is the only warmth to be brought to the Castledine homestead that day.

Passing through the front gate and heading up the drive, a young lad in postal office uniform, cap on head, pedals his bike up the hill. The telegram delivery boy; an unfortunate scene, and a symbol of fear, stabbing directly to the hearts of every mother, wife, father, brother, sister or child unfortunate enough to witness it.

The Castledine family home at 226 Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Annie has heard and seen him approaching; his bicycle bell rattling as he passes over the ruts and corrugations in the drive, small puffs of dust falling from behind his wheels. She comes to the front door to greet him, her heart pounding with fear.

The boy dismounts and places his bike on its stand with respect rather than just dropping it. He wipes a bead of sweat off his forehead, straightens his cap and dusts himself down slightly. He too advances towards her but tries not to catch her eye. For unlike the slightest glimmer of hope Annie may hold, he knows what he is delivering.

He asks Annie quietly, “Mrs Annie Castledine?” Annie reaches her hand out towards him and he gently hands the sealed telegram to her. Still trying to avoid eye contact, he backs away and says, “I’m very sorry”. He quietly gets back on his bike and rides away though Annie cannot see him anymore, her eyes are full of tears.

Telegram, Victoria Barracks, Melbourne to Mrs Annie Castledine, Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty, 3 May 1941.The telegram is oil stained as it was kept by George’s brother Sid, in his toolbox.  ( Digital scan of original held in private collection; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

“It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that VX10044 Sapper G. E. Castledine has been killed in action April 18th & desire to convey to you the profound sympathy of the Minister for the Army and the Military Board.
– Minister for the Army”

George Ernest Castledine with friend, Emily Beckett (on his left) and another unidentified friend, c.1939 ( Photo donated by Joan Castledine; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

George is the first soldier from the Shire of Eltham to be killed in the war. He was engaged to Miss Jean Simonson of Montmorency and was going to turn 27 in just two week’s time. He had much to live for. His older brother Sid, 28, enlisted only four week’s ago.

Annie’s world and those of her other children are changed forever.

Sapper George Ernest Castledine (1914-1941), son of Arthur Frederick (dec.) and Annie Castledine, enlisted 23 January 1940 at Lower Plenty and was assigned to the 2/2 Field Company. He is buried in the Phaleron War Cemetery, Athens, Greece and is remembered on the Roll of Honour located in the Eltham War Memorial Hall.

Grave of Sapper George Ernest Castledine, Phaleron War Cemetery, Athens, Greece ( Photo donated by Joan Castledine; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Grave of Sapper George Ernest Castledine, Phaleron War Cemetery, Athens, Greece ( Photo donated by Joan Castledine; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

George’s brother Sid, upon his discharge from active duty was to keep that fateful telegram in his tool box, a personal place near and dear to him, for the remainder of his life.

It is in memory of George and all the other fallen soldiers of our district that the Eltham Women’s Auxiliary first banded together to raise funds for the establishment of the Eltham War Memorial as a living memorial to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died.’

LEST WE FORGET

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

ROLL OF HONOUR
1914-1918
  • Sgt. George Williams
  • Sgt. Reginald E. Sims
  • L/Cpl. George Moore
  • L/Cpl. Henry G. Philips
  • L/Cpl. John C. Bell
  • Pte. Geoffrey Grant
  • Pte. George Sommerville
  • Pte. George Brown
  • Pte. John Brown
  • Pte. William Bond
  • Pte. Thomas Cameron
  • Pte. Alfred Cassells
  • Pte. Robert Meadows
  • Pte. Walter Mosley
  • Pte. James Pryor
  • Pte. William Prior
  • Pte. Edward Barrett
  • Pte. William Crellin
  • Pte. Henry Norman
  • Pte. Edward Bird
  • Pte. Arthur Brown
  • Pte. Roslyn Stevens
  • Pte. Herbert Creed
  • Pte. Charles Bromfield
  • Pte. Kenneth Sharp
  • Pte. Henry McAlary
1939-1945
  • Capt. S.M. Gahan
  • Plt. Off. D. Rutter
  • Flt. Off. D.H. Rutter
  • Flt. Sgt. S.M. Mclean
  • Flt. Sgt. L. Ingram
  • Sgt. C.D. Dunlop
  • Cpl. T. Feldbauer
  • Cpl. A.C. Clerke
  • Spr. G.E. Castledine
  • Pte. J. Butherway
  • Pte. K.F. Field

Soldiers of the Shire of Eltham remembered on the Eltham Roll of Honour for their supreme sacrifice; located in the Eltham War Memorial Hall

Reference:

1941 ‘OBITUARY’, Eltham and Whittlesea Shires Advertiser (Vic. : 1940 – 1942), 9 May, p. 2. , viewed 24 Oct 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57494302

ThrowbackThursday: ArtStreams Magazine, 1996-2005

A sample of ArtStreams magazines from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back October 1996. The former Shire of Eltham Municipal Offices building has recently been bulldozed and razed from existence. A planning permit has been issued to build a shop, petrol station and community facility on the site and the Eltham Community Action Group has just been formed as a consequence.

Peter Dougherty who has been involved in the local art scene for many years has just established a new arts magazine, ArtStreams, for which he acts as publisher and editor. Volume 1, No. 1, November 1996 edition has just gone on sale. Peter’s comments on the various branches of the arts are widely respected. His “The Arts” column in the Diamond Valley Leader presents a brief summary for a much wider cross section of the local community. Peter also operates his own gallery and the Artstreams Cafe at the St Andrews market. Peter has a wealth of knowledge about present day and historical aspects of local art and artists.

Unfortunately the recent events were too close to publication to reference in the inaugural issue but his editorial comment published in the second issue is reproduced below.

Scrapbook album created 1997 by a member of the Eltham Community Action Group in participation with various artists, writers, local business people and other local citizens, which was sent to Planning Minister Maclellan in protest of proposed plans to sell the former Eltham Shire Office site at 895 Main Road Eltham to develop a Shell Service Station and Hungry Jacks fast food outlet. The purpose was to express what is unique about the character of Eltham, why people live and work there and why such a development would be out of character and inappropriate for the Eltham Gateway along with alternative development proposals. This protest was the catalyst for the formation of the Eltham Community Action Group. (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

ArtStreams magazine was published for ten years. In all there were ten volumes commencing with Vol. 1, No. 1, November 1996 and finishing with Vol 10. No. 5, Summer Edition 2005-06.

Eltham District Historical Society is very fortunate to hold a complete set of Volumes 1-9 and recently they have been digitised in their entirety and will prove to be an extremely valuable resource for researching our local art and cultural scene. However, we are missing all five issues from Volume 10, the final volume published.

Do you have, or know of someone who may have issues from Volume 10 who would be willing to donate them to us to complete our collection, or at least loan them to us for digitisation? We would be most appreciative of the opportunity to complete this wonderful collection and build upon the resource it will offer to our community.

Notice of Applications for Planning Permit, 895 Main Road, Eltham, September 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Scrapbook album created 1997 by a member of the Eltham Community Action Group in participation with various artists, writers, local business people and other local citizens, which was sent to Planning Minister Maclellan in protest of proposed plans to sell the former Eltham Shire Office site at 895 Main Road Eltham to develop a Shell Service Station and Hungry Jacks fast food outlet. The purpose was to express what is unique about the character of Eltham, why people live and work there and why such a development would be out of character and inappropriate for the Eltham Gateway along with alternative development proposals. This protest was the catalyst for the formation of the Eltham Community Action Group. (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

 

“my word”, Peter Dougherty, ArtStreams, Dec 1996-Jan 1997, p2
The vacating of the former Eltham shire office building presented an opportunity for the Shire of Nillumbik to use it to serve the needs of the community. The loss of the building presents the opportunity to replace it with one which will serve those needs and provide a visual welcome to the township of Eltham.

Whatever is built on that site will become the new face of Eltham and form part of the library-Shillinglaw Cottage mini environment. The commissioners have apparently decided that a hamburger joint, petrol station and video store will do the job.

Looked at from a needs perspective these uses are hard to justify. Eltham has a petrol station on the corner of Mt Pleasant Road, another in Bridge Street and two on the main road heading north. There can’t be too many cars on the road that couldn’t make it from any of these to another without refuelling.

The community is already well served in the area of fast food services, and if another hamburger outlet is really needed it could probably be accommodated within the existing shopping centre. With the arrival of cable TV, it would appear that video rental is not likely to be a spectacular growth industry and the community is already well served.

So what does Eltham need?

The Shire Council is launching a strategy to attract more tourism into the region with hopes of generating $27 million annually. Currently the tourism dollar is earned from such sources as St Andrews Market, Montsalvat, Sugarloaf Reservoir, the Diamond Valley Railway and a growing wine industry.

With careful marketing more income may be obtainable from these areas, but shouldn’t we also be looking closely at our other already recognised regional assets. Now could be the time to utilise the depth of creative talent and expertise which resides in the shire.

Nillumbik has many performing artists who, due to lack of facilities, always work outside the area, and visual artists in all fields who exhibit elsewhere because there are not enough suitable venues at home. With the best will in the world those working in the Shire’s arts areas cannot stretch the present facilities to meet the demand.

Political will to explore other possibilities was lacking when the decision was made to hand part of Montsalvat’s grounds over to the cemetery. This action severely diminished Montsalvat’s viability as a venue and led inevitably to the loss of the Jazz Festival and the prestige and income that it brought to Nillumbik.

A bold decision now could redress some of this loss and add to Nillumbik’s potential in the cultural tourism area without putting too much pressure on the environmental and ecological treasures which at present constitute so much of our major tourism assets.

 

References:
  • Eltham District Historical Society Newsletter No. 161, March 2005
  • “my word”, Peter Dougherty, ArtStreams, Dec 1996-Jan 1997, p2

ThrowbackThursday: Demolition of Eltham Shire Offices, August 1996

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to August 2nd, 1996 and 895 Main Road, Eltham, to the former Municipal Offices of the Shire of Eltham.

Eltham – Shire Office, at time of Main Road widening (formerly site of Shillinglaw Cottage), 1968. (Source: Shire of Eltham; from the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection No. 657 held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library.)

The Shire offices were opened in 1965 and extended in 1971 to establish the Eltham Library. The final meeting of the Eltham Shire Council was held in December 1994 before the forced amalgamations of municipal councils by the Kennett Government resulted in the cessation of the Shire’s existence after 125 years.  In July 1996 the State Government appointed Commissioners (1994-1996) made the decision to demolish the former Eltham Shire offices without any community consultation.

Eltham Shire Offices southern wing showing the Eltham Library, 1985-1986 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Eltham Shire Offices, 1985-1986 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Shillinglaw trees from the safety compound: Demolition of the Shire of Eltham Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Shillinglaw trees from the safety compound: Demolition of the Shire of Eltham Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

The demolition works started within 24 hours of that decision being made. It is claimed the building contains asbestos. However none of the workers or numerous other onlookers are wearing any protective gear as the heavy machinery batters our once proud building into submission. The rubble is simply dumped into open bins and dump trucks.

Dump trucks shuttle in to collect rubble; Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Dump trucks shuttle in to collect rubble; Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Ultimately our land is sold to a developer, which precipitates a dramatic trail of community angst, threats of legal action, rescinding of the sale and the sacking of a newly elected council and several unsuccessful development proposals, by subsequent councils.

Back to the future and after all these years the vacant site is still there, still under threat (along with the Eltham War Memorial complex of buildings), still part of the soul of our community, still guarded by the three trees once outside the front of the Shillinglaw Cottage, providing a navigational beacon from past to present and onward we entrust, integral to the soul and heartbeat of Eltham; a treasured part our children’s future when they in turn look back to where their roots sprung from.

Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, 2 August 1996 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Fred Mitchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Beryl Martin; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Fred Mitchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Harry Gilham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

 

 

 

 

Heritage Walk: Along the Diamond Creek – 3 November, 2018

We are pleased to advise that our Heritage Walk along the Diamond Creek, originally scheduled for July but cancelled due to inclement weather will now be held on Saturday, November 3rd.

The Diamond Creek is a major feature of the open space spine that runs through the centre of Eltham. From the time of the first European settlement of the area most of the land along the creek valley was private property extending to the centre of the creek. Over many years land has been purchased by the Council and the State Government to create a continuous open space system along at least one side of the creek, from central Eltham to the Yarra River. The area contains many places of historic interest.

Eltham Tennis Court, Bremner’s Flat (now Wingrove Park), c.1909 ( Sire of Eltham Pioneer’s Photograph Collection No. 720 held in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory and Yarra Plenty Regional Library @YarraPlentyRegionalLibrary )

Our November excursion, similar to the originally planed July outing, will comprise a walk along the creek path starting at Wingrove Park, formerly Bremner’s Flats, and finishing at Central Park.

Eltham Central Park, c.1929 ( Sire of Eltham Pioneer’s Photograph Collection No. 684 held in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory and Yarra Plenty Regional Library @YarraPlentyRegionalLibrary )

This is about 2 km one way and should take about 2 hours including plenty of time to stop and talk. There will be a return walk without much commentary but those who wish to can catch a bus back from the Eltham railway station. A particular point of discussion along the way will be the historic railway trestle bridge as to its history and its future given the proposal to duplicate this section of the railway.

Trestle Bridge, Eltham, c.1912; note the Catholic Church in Henry Street and Shillinglaw Cottage visible in background (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

This walk on Saturday 3rd November will start at 2pm at the Wingrove Park parking area near the corner of Main and Mount Pleasant roads (Melway ref 21 J 8).

This excursion is free and is open to the general public as well as Society members.

Please note that dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.

The phone number for contact on the day is 0409 021 063.

ThrowbackThursday: Springtime Fair, Eltham Hall, 4 Oct 1946

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Friday, 4th October 1946. The town is a buzz with excitement as the Women’s Auxiliary to the Eltham War Memorial Trust have arranged for a Springtime Fair to be held in the Eltham Hall this afternoon, which is expected to continue into the evening.

The Fair is a special effort undertaken by the Women’s Auxiliary to raise funds for the establishment of the memorial, which is to take the form of a Baby Health Centre, Children’s Creche and Library. A block of land in a splendid position was recently purchased as the site on which the community centre will be built.

Mrs Cairns Officer is president of the Trust and chairman of the Women’s Auxiliary. Mesdames Dagnall and Tlngate are the honorary secretaries.

Cake Stall at the Eltham Fair c. 1940s. L-R: Mesdames Nation, Squire, Boyd, Edwards, Carroll, Battye and Brown
( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

 

Note:

The Eltham War Memorial building precinct is located at 903-907 Main Road, Eltham. The Memorial spans the area between Main Road and the railway line and is owned and managed by Nillumbik Shire Council (formerly Eltham Shire Council). It contains the  Eltham Maternal and Infant Welfare Centre, Eltham Food Share, the former Children’s Library (now War Memorial Hall) and Eltham Pre-School. The precinct also contains the Senior Citizen’s Centre though this was never part of the original Eltham War Memorial Trust buildings. The complex was developed by the Eltham War Memorial Trust Inc., as a form of living memorial as a ‘constant reminder to us of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’.

Reference:

1946 ‘FAIR FOR ELTHAM’ MEMORIAL’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 4 October, p. 14. , viewed 17 Oct 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article245527598

ThrowbackThursday: Birch Cottage, Christmas Hills, 1969

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to circa 1969, to Birch Cottage on Watson’s Creek where we hope to join the occupant, Mrs Honor Williams (nee Birch) for a nice hot cuppa.

Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, Aug. 1969. ( Photo: George W. Bell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Detail, front wall, Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, Aug. 1969. ( Photo: George W. Bell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Detail, shed wall, Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, Aug. 1969. ( Photo: George W. Bell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Tea’s on the boil – Detail, kitchen, Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, Aug. 1969. ( Photo: George W. Bell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

Originally built by John Hill, a shoemaker at Kangaroo Ground around 1878.

In the late 1970s when our Society was the Shire of Eltham Historical Society, an offer was made to the Society regarding use of an old cottage at Christmas Hills. The cottage sat beside Watsons Creek just outside the then Shire of Eltham but following municipal restructuring it now lies within the Shire of Nillumbik. For various reasons the offer ultimately lapsed.

At that time some research on the cottage was carried out for the Society by Keith Chappel as part of a larger research project that he was doing. Keith’s notes were taken from Lands Department records and showed that the property was the subject of a permissive occupancy of Crown land comprising the creek reserve.

In 1903 a Miner’s Right of one acre in area was granted to Edwin Samuel Birch. In 1907 Birch applied to purchase this land but was unable to because it was part of the creek reserve. The documents show that the cottage existed at that time. Upon Birch’s death in 1932, his daughter, Honor Mary Birch was granted a permit to occupy the residence.

Honor Mary Birch, known as Nora, was born 1900, the daughter of Edwin Samuel Birch and Honor (nee Young). In 1939 she married George Henry Williams (aka Henry). Honor died 8 July 1976. Her siblings were Margaret Martin (dec), Bert Birch and Brigidene Brinkotter. In her will she gave and bequeathed “all the improvements on the land held by me at Christmas Hills under Permissive Occupancy from the Department of Land and Survey consisting of the house property thereon and all the contents of the said house to my nephew Brian Joseph Martin of Christmas Hills aforesaid farmer”.

The will described the property as a four room, five square house, about 100 years old with enclosed verandah, including kitchen, combined lounge dining room, bedroom and store room; built of ‘bush slabs’ with a corrugated iron roof. A dairy had been erected in 1935. After her death, the property was acquired by the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works in 1978.

The property is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database HO200-Hill, later Birch farm complex, 945 Eltham-Yarra Glen Road, Watsons Creek and described as:

The house has a steep but simply gabled roof form clad with corrugated iron, vertical adzed hardwood slab front wall construction, split palings to the gable ends; rubble freestone chimney at one end (with added gsi flue), pole-framed Graeme Butler & Associates, 2006: 101 Shire of Nillurnbik Planning Scheme Amendment C13 Heritage Assessments verandah (rebuilt?); six-pane double-hung sash windows; T&G bead-edge boarded ledged & braced door; and paling clad rooms added at verandah ends. A slab-clad large fireplace is at the north corner of the house, with a gsi upper cladding added and an internal lining of rubble stone.

The rear facade is different construction, being drop-slab, and sits beneath a rear skillion addition to the main gabled form: this may be more recent construction. The house appears to have been once set up for public display and may have been recreated in part for that purpose.

Outbuildings are reached by a track along the east side of the house, including what may have been a creamery (typical standard inter-war design clad with corrugated iron and lined with 1938 Lysaght Queens Head Australia galvanised sheet iron) and a paling clad gabled out-house. Timber outbuildings of differing eras are to the north-west of the house, with pole framing and paling infill construction and Redcliffe brand corrugated iron. Post and rail (front) and split paling (rear) fence remnants line the front boundary. Pepper trees part of house yard landscape.

Now, why not sit back and enjoy that hot cuppa Honor has poured for us as we cast our eyes back to the the future.

Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )
Birch Cottage (c.1878), Yarra Glen Road, Christmas Hills, 27 September 2018 ( from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society @elthamhistory )

 

The cottage now comes under the auspices of Parks Victoria. A notice out front states:

Historic sites form part of our nation’s cultural heritage.

The surrounding landscape and remaining features and artefacts help us to understand how people once lived and worked here.

Please help protect this heritage for present and future generation by leaving the site as you found it.

It is an offence to:

  • damage or remove artefacts and historic features
  • disturb archehaeological values by digging

References:

Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia