Eltham, A Popular Holiday Spot

Image: Drapery Store

The following article and images were originally published in The Australasian newspaper on 2 May, 1903. We thought that it makes interesting reading and an insight into early Eltham.



By L.J.J.

The village of Eltham, with its 377 inhabitants, is prettily situated on the Diamond Creek, a tributary of the Yarra, 16 miles from Melbourne. Yet, in spite of it being so easily accessible from town, few people are aware of the beauties of this early settlement.

Prior to June last year one had to journey by coach from Heidelberg to Eltham, but now the railway conveys passengers through from Melbourne to Eltham, first-class return, for 1/9. The opening of this extension to Eltham was the last ceremony performed by Lord Hopetoun, on June 5, 1902, prior to his departure from Australia. Sauntering through the township one autumn morning recently I was constantly reminded of scenes characteristic of Surrey or Sussex villages.

There is the village pond (so essentially English), reflecting
in its clear water a quaint cottage, dwarfed by a huge gumtree, an old smithy, and a hostelry, built quite fifty years ago, the flooring-boards of which the landlord informed me with pride were of Singapore cedar, and quite fit for another fifty years’ wear. Then there are the village school, the shoemaker’s,
the drapery store, and the butcher’s shop, all seemingly as they were when first they were erected many years ago.

Poplars grow to a great height at Eltham, and just now they are to be seen in new autumnal tints. The already leafless
fruit trees on the slopes of the creek denote the near approach of winter. Orchardists were taking advantage of the recent rains, and were busy ploughing and harrowing between the trees, while the magpies and other birds were picking up worms and grubs on the newly-turned soil.

The busy time for Eltham is the holiday season, and then the inhabitants are put to their wits’ ends to provide for the rush of picnic parties, cyclists, and other excursionists. Outside almost every cottage is a notice stating that “summer drinks and hot water” are obtainable.

Reference: 1903 ‘ELTHAM.’, The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), 2 May, p. 25, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138684152


Hello world!

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.

To complement our new website and further extend our online presence, we have also established a new Facebook Community Organisation page, Eltham District Historical Society Inc, as well as a new presence on Twitter, @ElthamHistory – EDHS.

We hope you will feel free to share with us your own family stories of people, places and life in the Eltham district. History is not the stories told by others but the stories told by us.

Visitors and new members are always welcome to our meetings and events, so please come along and don’t forget to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Photographs from the Eltham Pioneers Collection

Unveiling of the Obelisk, corner of Main Road and Bridge Street, Eltham

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

11 February 2015 at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

In 2013 our Society was involved in a project for digitisation of the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection. This was joint project with the Yarra Plenty Regional Library and was funded by a State Government Local History grant. It involved the digitisation of the historic photo collection established by Eltham Shire Council in 1971 and held at the Eltham Library. This project involved some 400 items and concluded the digitisation of the complete collection started earlier by the library. The project was co-ordinated by Liz Pidgeon from YPRL.

The agenda item for our February 2014 meeting was a presentation comprising about 40 images from this collection. For our February meeting this year we will show a further 40 or so slides. Pictures will be selected for their visual interest or for the story that they tell. They will be a representative sample from the whole of the former Shire of Eltham, extending from Lower Plenty to Kinglake.

Introduction and commentary on the pictures will be provided by Maureen Jones, Russell Yeoman and other members. Russell has been involved with the collection since its inception and Maureen has assisted with the recent project. It is hoped that the presentation will inspire comment from members on the photographs or more broadly on their subject matter.

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

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.


Eltham South Preschool

35 Fordhams Road, Eltham South

This preschool building was designed by the architect Charles Duncan who was a proponent of the organic style inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, a renowned American architect. Charles Duncan was one of a number of young Melbourne architects who designed Wrightian style buildings in the 1960s. The building has a triangular floor plan with a bell-cast slate-clad roof with a large metal spire designed by Matcham Skipper. Duncan scaled the interior of this preschool to a child’s proportion.

Photograph from the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photo Collection

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!!

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