Heritage Walk: Back-track walk to Fitzsimons Lane – 2 July, 2pm

Saturday 2nd July 2016 at 2.00pm

Part of an early map of the southern end of Bolton Street, Eltham showing a proposed subdivision - this is now the site of Fitzsimons Lane
Part of an early map of the southern end of Bolton Street, Eltham showing a proposed subdivision – this is now the site of Fitzsimons Lane

Our July heritage excursion will be a walk to Yarra Hill Close and Fitzsimons Lane Bridge, based on the story on pages 3 and 4.

Although the route is close to Fitzsimons Lane it will follow streets and paths that may not be familiar to many local residents. It will include commentary on the history of this corner of the Town of Eltham.

This walk on Saturday 2nd July will follow a “there and back” route, that is returning over much the same course. It is about 2.5 km in length and will take 2 to 2.5 hours. It includes some hills.

It will start at 2pm at the corner of Bolton Street and Old Eltham Road (Melway ref.21 F10).

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

Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.

Phone number of contact on the day is 0409 021 063

June Meeting – … about Thompsons Pharmacy, Eltham

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

8th June at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Thompsons Pharmacy
1928 ‘Advertising’, Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 – 1939), 20 July, p. 3. (AFTERNOON.), via Trove http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article57757783

Shortly after the First World War Ivan Thompson, a pharmacist in Fairfield, expanded into the Diamond Valley by opening pharmacies at Eltham, Greensborough and Watsonia.

In the early 1950’s, Norm Williams considered he was fortunate to be able to serve an apprenticeship with Ivan Thompson at his Eltham pharmacy. He was with the business when it moved in 1952 to the present site at 964 Main Road, Eltham, which was the first brick shop built in the Eltham Town Centre. When in 1958 Ivan Thompson decided to sell his pharmacies Harry Brown and Norm Williams were able to purchase the Eltham business and expanded with pharmacies in Fairfield and Lower Plenty.

At this meeting Norm Williams will speak about how Thompsons Pharmacy has developed, while continuing to supply a range of services for generations of Eltham families. His stories, supported by a collection of personal photographs and recollections, will entertain as well as give an insight into how pharmacy practices and the Eltham shopping centre has changed.

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

Heritage Walk: Eltham War Memorials – 7 May 2016

Eltham Avenue of Honour plaque

Saturday 7th May 2016 at 2.00pm

Over the past two years our Society along with other similar organizations has participated in the commemoration of the centenary of the First World War. This heritage excursion is a further event in that commemoration.

Within our local area many memorials, honour boards and the like were installed after that war. New memorials and additions to the earlier ones were established after the Second World War and there have been subsequent conflicts that are also commemorated. Within Eltham there are a number of memorials dedicated to locals who served Australia in times of war.

This walk on Saturday 7th May will visit a number of memorials along Main Road starting with the heritage listed Avenue of Honour. Along the way we will hear the stories of some of those who are honoured on the memorials. It will include a visit to our Local History Centre where there will be a display featuring memorials beyond the area of the walk.

The walk is about 2 km in length and will take 2 to 2.5 hours. It will start at 2pm at the car park in Wingrove Park near the intersection of Main and Mount Pleasant Roads. (Melway ref.21 J8). This is a one way walk finishing at the Eltham shopping centre. Private arrangements are required to return to the start such as bus or a return walk.

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

Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.

Phone number of contact on the day is 0409 021 063

Laughing Waters Road – Jane Woollard

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

13 April 2016 at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Our Annual General Meeting was held April 13, which included the presentation of annual reports and the election of office bearers for the coming year. Jim Connor who was re-elected as President announced at the meeting that our membership base now stands at 79.

At this meeting Jane Woollard spoke about her recently released book titled “Laughing Waters Road: Art, Landscape and Memory in Eltham.”

Jane, who was the local history officer at the Shire of Nillumbik has a detailed knowledge of the history of our area, as well as an extensive background as a writer, theatre director and teacher. She has woven together the experiences and art making of more than eighty artists, who since 2001 have been in residence at Laughing Waters in Birrarung House and Riverbend, together with Wurundjeri, European and family histories to create an evocative account of a very special place in Eltham.

A large number of members and guests attended the meeting to hear Jane talk about her experiences over the four years it took to write the book. Jane sprinkled excerpts from notable sections within the book throughout her talk. Following on from this, Jane took a number of questions from the audience some of whom also shared their own experiences of Laughing Waters Road and the people who have lived there.

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

February Meeting – Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photo Collection

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

10th February at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Our Society is fortunate to have access to digitised images in the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection, through a joint project with the Yarra Plenty Regional Library, funded by a State Government Local History grant. The historic photograph collection was established by the Eltham Shire Council in 1971 and is held at the Eltham Library.

At our first Society meetings in 2014 and 2015 we received positive feedback when we presented and discussed selected images from this collection.

Hon. W.H. Everard, MLA, speaking at the opening of the Eltham Swimming Pool. Late Crs Braid and Kirkland cut the ribbon at opening ceremony of swimming pool. (1936)
Hon. W.H. Everard, MLA, speaking at the opening of the Eltham Swimming Pool. Late Crs Braid and Kirkland cut the ribbon at opening ceremony of swimming pool. (1936) – Image source YPRL

Accordingly this year for our meeting on Wednesday 10th February 2016, at 8.00pm at the Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, we will again choose a number of photographs of local interest. This time we will consider some images that are unusual or not often viewed so as to encourage comments and contributions from members and visitors.

Introduction and commentary on the pictures will be provided by Russell Yeoman and some other members. Russell has been involved with the collection since its inception when some were used in the 1971 Shire publication: Pioneers and Painters. As at all of our meetings, new members and visitors are most welcome.

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

Heritage Walk: Eltham Cemetery – 5 March, 2pm

Saturday 5th March 2016 at 2.00pm

Our records contain details of many well known and early pioneers from the Eltham district who are buried in the historic Eltham Cemetery, that was established in 1858 in Mt Pleasant Road on high ground overlooking the then the village of Eltham.

On Saturday 5th March Harry Gilham will again lead members and visitors on a heritage excursion through parts of the cemetery, while
providing background information on selected individuals buried there.

As Harry’s cemetery walks have been popular in the past we encourage you to come along to experience the tranquil surroundings of this picturesque cemetery.

‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ - Sculpture by Michael Wilson
‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ – Sculpture by Michael Wilson

We may even be able to view the recently installed sculpture titled ‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ by Michael Wilson, as described in our newsletter Number 224 of September 2015. This is located at the highest point of the fence-lined border between Montsalvat and
the cemetery. It is close to the last bronze sculpture by Matcham Skipper, titled ‘Young Man Awakening’, commissioned by the Eltham Cemetery Trust to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the cemetery in 2008.

The excursion will start at 2.00pm from the car park entered from Metery Road.

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

Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.

Phone number of contact on the day is 0409 021 063

2016 Program

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.

Mystery Headstone – Peter Lawlor, 1821-1876 [UPDATED]

A Plea from Harry Gilham
‘I have an unfinished tale to tell……..’

To start…where were you on the Friday evening or Saturday morning of August 3rd – 4th 2013?

Why this question? Well, read on through this account to find out….and then, hopefully, you can help to fill in the blanks.

A weathered headstone, broken into three parts, was discvered that August night in a soggy cardboard box leant against the main entry to Eltham Cemetery in Mount Pleasant Road, Eltham. The headstone belonged to the 1876 burial of Peter Lawlor – no – not the Eureka Peter Lalor and possibly not even the Peter Lawlor who was the first Police Officer at the Eltham Police Station from 1857 to 1872, but maybe even another Peter Lawlor of, at the moment, an unknown background………or does the headstone belong to the policeman?

From the headstone we do know that his children were Michael, Margaret, Maud and Edith.

Lawlor Headstone-2

The Inscription reads:

Peter Lawlor
Who died February 12th 1876
Aged 55 years
Also his children
and Edith

The maintenance staff at the cemetery carefully removed the dark green fungus to show those details. As you now walk past Site 22 in the cemetery you will notice that a bluestone base remains with a centre grooved indent, retaining most of the bottom edge of the headstone. The three recovered parts have been attached to a heavy wooden board and lie on the grave at site 22.

During the 1960’s to early 1980’s a list of all the headstone inscriptions in the Eltham Cemetery was compiled by ‘someone’. This Peter Lawlor headstone was not included in this list. From this omission we can assume that it had been taken/borrowed prior to compilation of the list.

Research by the Cemetery Trust Secretary, Rita Wooley using their records found the following information about this Peter Lawlor family:

  1. Peter Lawlor purchased the Catholic Church site Number 22 for £1 on March 2nd 1862. (This site is beside the Sweeney and Murray family graves).
  2. Margaret was the first of his children buried in Eltham on 2nd March 1862, aged one year.
  3. The second child buried was Maud Kate who was buried on 26th June 1869, aged 11 days.
  4. There is no record of the burial of his other children, Michael and Edith nor his wife (name unknown).

However, from the free offerings from Ancestory.com the following information was recently obtained, but needs further confirmation and consideration.

  • The Peter Lawlor who died aged 55 in 1876 has a middle name of Paul and his parents were Daniel Lawlor and Bridget Mulhall.
  • The son Michael Lawlor was Jeremiah Michael Lawlor who died in 1860 and whose parents were Peter and Kate (no surnames given)
  • Margaret Sarah Lawlor who died in 1862, has parents listed as Peter Lawlor and Catherine Ledwedge.
  • Maude Kate Lawlor who died in 1869, has parents listed as Peter Lawlor and Catherine Ledwedge. Edith Beatrice Lawlor who died in 1873 age 1, has parents listed as Peter and Kate.

The final bit of the confusion or is it the confirmation that the headstone is of the policeman and his family, is that the Eltham Primary School records list two children of Peter Lawlor (the policeman). The oldest is Albert Ledwedge Lawlor who joined the school aged 4 years in July 1866 and Peter Vincent de Paul Lawlor who joined the school aged 5 years 1 month in February 1869. Both left in March 1872.

The mystery is why or how did the headstone leave the cemetery and why or how or even by whom, did it return? Someone must know something! Any clues to the mystery are better than nothing.

The Eltham District Historical Society keeps records of early Eltham people and any additions are welcome. If you know anything about this Peter Lawlor and his family please contact anyone below. If needed, the sources of information can be anonymous by using the Post Office Box.


Eltham District Historical Society Post Office Box 137, Eltham 3095 or edhs1@bigpond.com
President – Jim Connor 9439 5916
Past President – Harry Gilham 9439 1175

Eltham Cemetery Trust
Secretary – Rita Wooley 9432 1963
Murray_Sweeney graves
The gravestone for Peter Lawlor and family lies adjacent to the Murray Sweeney graves

This article appeared in our January 2014 newsletter

UPDATE 11 August 2018

Additional evidence has surfaced with the recent digitisation of a number of old slides within the Society’s collection. On 27 May 1990 the Society undertook a Cemetery Excursion of a number of local cemeteries including Eltham. Among the 23 slides of that excursion is one of the grave of Peter Lawlor; the stone still standing though on a significant lean, quite blackened  but in one piece. This means that the stone did not disappear from the cemetery till after this date, narrowing down the time period of its sabbatical from May 1990 to August 2013.

The grave of Peter Lawlor, Eltham Cemetery, 27 May 1990

A Virtual Eltham Literary Tour

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

11th November 2015 at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Alan Marshall by Alan Martin; Nillumbik Shire Council Art Collection
Alan Marshall by Alan Martin; Nillumbik Shire Council Art Collection

The topic for our November meeting is inspired by a literary tour of Eltham organised by the Eltham Library a few years ago. Of course at a meeting we cannot actually visit sites associated with local writers but we will discuss their lives, writings and Eltham connections.

The starting point for this presentation was a long list of local writers, including many present day authors, with quite a few being members of our Society. To keep the presentation to a manageable length we will deal only with writers and literary figures who have passed away. The presentation by a panel of members will include a number of readings relevant to each of the subjects.

A particular feature will be the life and work of Alan Marshall who had a long association with Eltham and is our most famous and well known author. In 1971 he wrote Pioneers & Painters: One Hundred Years of Eltham and its Shire. In the chapter ‘Educationalists and Writers’ he notes that “Writers came to Eltham for the same reason as did the painters: their neighbours had similar interests and the surroundings attracted them.”

His stories about local writers have informed the preparation for this meeting.

This meeting will take place at 8.00 pm on Wednesday 11th November in the Eltham Senior Citizen’s Centre, Library Place Eltham.

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

New EDHS Banner


The Royal Historical Society Victoria (RHSV) invited affiliated historical societies and heritage groups to apply for the design of a rollup banner as a way to acknowledge and celebrate their History Week 2015 program. The Eltham District Historical Society was fortunate to be successful with an application, which meant we could proceed with submitting a layout to their graphic designers.

Our committee agreed with the draft design prepared by Jim Connor, which was then sent for final artwork and production. We are pleased with the banner we have received through the generous support of the RHSV.

This has already been displayed at a talk about Early Eltham Pioneers at the Eltham Library on 20 October 2015 as part of the RHSV Local History Week and also the Yarra Plenty Regional Library Local History Month. The banner will also be used at our meetings, future events and presentations as a means of promoting our Society and our interests in local history.

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