George Bird was born in England in 1845 and arrived in Australia in 1856 as a child of assisted migrants. Soon afterwards he came out to Eltham to live with his uncle George Stebbing, working for him as bricklayer’s assistant in building, amongst others, Shillinglaw Cottage and the Anglican and Methodist Churches in Eltham. He later purchased 72 acres at the eastern end of Pitt Street (bounded by Eucalyptus Road, Mount Pleasant Road and present-day Rockliffe Street) and established the property “View Hill”, which was worked as a mixed farm and orchard.
In 1878 he married Janet Kilpatrick, who had emigrated from Scotland. They had ten children, three of whom died in infancy. The wedding in 1904 of their eldest surviving daughter Sarah (“Sis”) to Edward Pepper appears to have been quite a society event.
George was a staunch Methodist, a Church Steward and a Sunday School Superintendent in about 1890. Janet died in 1915 and George died in 1920 (though his gravestone says 1921). George’s will stated that his property was to be divided between all his children in equal shares. This necessitated subdivision of the ‘View Hill’ property, between 1922 and 1926. George, Janet and several descendants, are buried in a family plot in the cemetery.
One son, George Hugh Bird, operated a drapery store in Main Road (near Bridge Street) in around 1915.
Later, in the 1920s, he ran a greengrocer’s shop (also selling confectionery) in Main Road opposite Eltham Station. It was the first shop in Eltham to have plate glass windows. At the same time, his brother Reg had a grocery store on the station side of Main Road.
#ThrowbackThursday – As we now head gradually into warmer spring weather, leaving behind what many would call a colder than normal winter, can you think back to even colder winter seasons. Have you ever heard of it snowing in Eltham? We have often heard tale of this event but never actually seen any photographs of it. Well, today we are going to time travel back to the morning of Thursday, July 19th, 1951, to Nyora Road, Eltham at the corner with Eucalyptus Road and Pitt Street. But bring some warm, wet weather gear with you, and your camera, because right now the snow is falling.
Standing in Nyora Road just east of Eucalyptus Road, which itself is not much more than an unmade track, we look towards the southeast and the home built by Frank Stokes for his family just a few years earlier. Now the home of Nyora Studio Gallery @NyoraStudioGallery, it was originally built by Frank towards the end of the war over a two year period as he established his orchard to the north east bounded roughly by Nyora, Eucalyptus and Diosma Roads.
Turning to the opposite direction, as we look across Nyora through the wet falling snow, we see the orchard running down the hill and up the other side, a blanket of snow starting to cover the ground. Eucalyptus Road runs roughly along the line of trees to the west.
This event was reported in The Age the next day: –
“SNOW HEAVIEST FOR 20 YEARS: State Shivers in Antarctic Winds”
“Snow falls yesterday were the most widespread in the State’s history and the heaviest in Melbourne for 20 years. Many western, northern and eastern suburbs had snow.”
“Icy winds blowing in from the Antarctic gave Melbourne its coldest July day for 50 years and the second coldest on record.”
“At Eltham an inch had fallen by 11 a.m., and trees were festooned with snow.”
“At noon Melbourne’s temperature of 39.1 deg. was .9 deg. colder than the temperature recorded at Macquarie Island, in the Antarctic, 600 miles to the south. The minimum for the day, however, was 37.2 deg. at 12.50. Through most of the day the temperature was below 40 deg. and the maximum (at 9 a.m.) was only 44.5. Essendon had a record low midday temperature of 34 deg. — two deg. above freezing point.”
Do you remember snow ever falling in Eltham? Do you have photos that you would like to share/donate to our Society? We would love to hear your stories of this event. Perhaps we had better put another log on the fire. . . .
Frank Stokes first traveled to the district by train in 1944 to find land with the intention to establish an orchard. By chance he met Arthur Bird of Bird Orchard (bounded by Pitt Street, Eucalyptus Road and Wattle Grove) and they got talking over their common interest. Arthur put Frank up for the night and pointed out the land, part of Crown Allotment 15, Section 5, Parish of Nillumbik (CA15) somewhat diagonally opposite Bird Orchard. Frank bought the land and for the next two years would travel by train from Melbourne to Eltham every weekend establishing Stokes Orchard and building a home for his family, which they eventually moved into in 1946.
The Society is very fortunate to have recently received a donation of photographs and other items of interest pertaining to the Stokes family, Stokes Orchard and the Stokes Orchard Estate from Beryl Bradbury (nee Stokes), eldest daughter of Frank and Gladys (nee Bolduan) Stokes. Much of the Stokes family orchard history had been held and cared for by Beryl’s younger brother, David Stokes, and was lost during the terrible Black Saturday fires on 7 February 2009, which tragically took David as well.