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.
Our July excursion will comprise a walk along the creek path from central Eltham to Fabbro fields finishing at Ely Street. 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 corner of Main Road and Dalton Street. 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.
This walk on Saturday 7th July will start at 2pm near the scout hall at the southern end of Youth Road (Melway ref 21 J 5).
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 – In our July 6th post on Ansell and Muir’s chicken shop, we stated that because the store stood within the 1934 flood zone, the property was unable to be redeveloped. Consequently the former Shire of Eltham acquired the land and the building was subsequently demolished. But why did 1934 become the benchmark for our modern day flood zone planning laws? Well today we time travel back to November/December 1934 where we can gain some appreciation of the devastation that flood brought to the district; to its infrastructure and the community.
In early November 1934 much damage was done around the Shire from recent rains, detailed at the Council meeting held Monday, 5th November 1934 (1).
However, worse was to come. On Thursday evening, November 29th, the rains came again, ceasing the following Saturday morning, December 1st. It was reported in the Advertiser on Friday November 30th, more than 8 inches of rain had been recorded at Eltham North that morning; 80% of the annual total and nearly five times that of the previous November (2).
The flooding was the highest level recorded in the district for over 40 years. Lower Eltham Park was under 5 feet of water which also covered Main Road for over a mile (3).
The Diamond Creek rose rapidly engulfing all before it; houses and shops were submerged, livestock and poultry swept away and drowned in the raging torrents, bridges severely damaged or destroyed, fences laid flat and trees uprooted. At 1pm on Friday December 1st, Main Road was under water and cut off. Early in the afternoon, Mr R. Monteith’s ‘bus became stranded near the concrete bridge. The driver and passengers escaped but the bus was stuck there till the floods receded the following Tuesday morning. By that afternoon it was back in service and people could start returning to their homes. What they found was a six inch layer of slime, which covered floors, furniture and bedding; crockery piled up against doors and window openings, bodies of dead pets which had failed to escape. And in some cases, snakes had sought refuge in the houses. Not since 1868 had floods caused so much damage. The levels recorded were now reported as the highest in 60 years (4).
At a Special Council meeting held Wednesday, December 12th, the Shire Engineer reported that damage was estimated to be £2,000 to roads and bridges; two large bridges being completely washed away. In today’s terms, based on economic project costs that would equate to almost $4 million. A detailed breakdown of damage throughout the Shire and private property was reported. Council applied for a grant towards the cost of repairs and opened a local relief fund through the Lord Mayor of Melbourne’s Flood Relief program for those whose homes had been inundated. It was noted that whilst other districts also suffered, Eltham Shire was particularly impacted not just through the loss of livestock but also because some of the cultivated land had been totally washed away rendering it unusable in the future for further cultivation (5).
Of course over the years Eltham has seen further regular flooding, the most recent significant event occurring Christmas day, 2011. Some of our members can remember the 1934 floods but they were only very small children then. What are your experiences and memories of floods in the area? Do you have any photos to share?
Photo of Belle Vue sourced from Morrison Kleeman Estate Agents Eltham advertisement, February 2013
Belle Vue farm comprised about 56 ha (140 acres) extending northerly from the northern boundary of Holloway’s 1851 Little Eltham subdivision. On the present day map the southern boundary was just north of Elsa Court and Grove Street. The western boundary was the Diamond Creek and extended northerly to Main Road where it turns easterly towards Research. It was traversed by the main road to Kangaroo Ground and beyond and from 1912 by the railway to Hurstbridge.
From 1895 the farm was owned by William Williams and his wife Mary Ann. In 1914-15 they built a new house now known as “Belle Vue”. They sold the land in 1920 and residential subdivision began soon after that.
“Belle Vue” today remains on a large residential lot in Livingstone Road. The house and many old trees on the site have been subject to a heritage overlay under the Nillumbik Planning Scheme. Despite that overlay most of the heritage trees have been removed.
For our excursion on 7th March we intend to walk through the former farm area that is now a residential neighbourhood. The route will include views of “Belle Vue” and a number of other interesting houses and features of historic interest.
This walk is about 3.5 km in length and will take 2 to 2.5 hours. It will start at 2pm at the northern end of the Eltham railway station carpark in Main Road opposite Luck Street. (Melway ref.21 K4).
This free walk is open to the general public as well as Society members. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions. The phone number for contact on the day is 0409 021 063.
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.
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