Tag Archives: Eltham Cemetery Stories

George Bird (1845-1920)

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.

Bird family orchard, Pitt Street, Eltham, c.1980s. View looking northeast from near the junction of Wattle Grove and Mount Pleasant Road across to Eucalyptus Road on right and Pitt Street at top.

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.

Wedding of Sarah Ann Bird (b.1881) to Edward Ernest Pepper (b.1874) held at the Bird family home of “View Hill’, Eltham, 1904. Sarah Bird 4th from left (seated) and Edward Pepper on her left (standing). George Bird, 2nd from right (seated).
Digitised from original held in private collection

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.

George Hugh Bird’s Cash Drapery Mart on right, looking south along Maria Street (Main Road), Eltham near Bridge Street, c.1909. Post Office on left

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.


Private Research, Bird family; copy held by EDHS


1904 ‘ORANGE BLOSSOM.’, Evelyn Observer and Bourke East Record (Vic. : 1902 – 1917), 18 November, p. 3. (MORNING.), viewed 14 Mar 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60628991






William MacMahon Ball (1901-1986)

William MacMahon Ball; Photo: Australian War Memorial Accession No. 003532

William MacMahon Ball (“Mac” Ball) was Professor of Political Science at Melbourne University from 1949 to 1968, having lectured there since 1923. He became known as an ABC commentator on international affairs from the early 1930s to the early 1960s. Between 1940 and 1944 he was Controller of Overseas Broadcasting (which later became Radio Australia). In 1945, he was political consultant to the Australian Delegation at the conference leading to the establishment of the United Nations, and in 1946 was the British Commonwealth Representative on the Allied Council during the post-war occupation of Japan.

Mac and his wife Katrine (plus daughter Jenny) came to Eltham in 1942, and in 1945 moved into an old timber cottage at the eastern end of York Street. With help from Alistair Knox, Sonia Skipper, Gordon Ford and John Harcourt, the house was totally renovated to become an early example of Eltham mud-brick.

Mac died in 1986 and is buried in Eltham Cemetery with Katrine. Part of their land backing onto Bridge Street was donated to Eltham Shire Council and is now a reserve called MacMahon Ball Paddock.

MacMahon Ball Paddock

Grave of William MacMahon Ball (1901-1986) and his wife, Katrine (1899-1991), Eltham Cemetery, c.2002

Marshall, Marguerite; Nillumbik now and then : Eltham and beyond; with photographs by Ron Grant, Eltham 2002



William Bravery Andrew (1842-1907)

William Bravery Andrew, born in England, came to Melbourne in 1842 and settled in Brighton, where he became acquainted with Henry Dendy. He moved to Eltham in the 1850s and opened a produce store on “Policeman’s Hill”, at the corner of Maria Street (now Main Road) and Franklin Street. He took a lively interest in the public affairs of the town and district, and with his wife Ellen continued to run the store for some fifty years. He died in 1907 and is buried with his wife in Eltham Cemetery.

W.B. Andrew’s Corn Store, cnr Maria (Main Road) and Franklin streets. The site is now occupied by Cafe Zen Den.

His son Ernest James Andrew took over the business, which became a general store and news agency. Later, it shifted to the main Eltham shopping centre as a combined news agency and haberdashery/clothing shop. Ernie too was married to an Ellen and they lived in Arthur Street at so-called “Cook’s Cottage” (due to its resemblance to Captain Cook’s Cottage in the Fitzroy Gardens). He was an Eltham Shire Councillor between 1920 and 1950 and was Shire President for a time. Andrew House at Eltham High School and Andrew Oval in Diamond Street, Eltham are named after him. Ernie died in 1950 and is buried with Ellen in the Eltham Cemetery.

The original weatherboard building at the corner of Franklin Street is long gone and was replaced by a brick structure, which is now a cafe called Zen Den.

Grave of William Bravery Andrew (1842-1907) and his wife, Ellen (d.1906), Eltham Cemetery, c.2002

Alfred Patrick Armstrong (1825-1893)

Alfred Patrick Armstrong was born in England in 1825 and was employed under the renowned Isambard Kingdom Brunel as a civil engineer during the construction of the Great Western Railway and the South Wales Railway. He came to Melbourne in 1852 and purchased property in Eltham. He became a mining surveyor and was Inspector of Mines and the Mining Registrar for the St Andrews Division of the Castlemaine Mining District.

In 1855, he chaired a meeting calling for a bridge to be erected across the Yarra River between Eltham and Temple Stow. He was registered as an innkeeper in 1858, was involved in raising money for the establishment of Eltham Primary School, and was on the Eltham Cemetery Trust in 1860. He was elected to the Eltham District Road Board (forerunner of Eltham Shire Council) from 1867 to 1871 and then served as an Eltham Shire Councillor from 1871 to 1878 (including Shire President in 1873).

Alfred died in 1893, having been in ill health for some time, and is buried in the Eltham Cemetery with his wife Margaret. The monument features a tall pillar capped with a draped urn: a symbol of death.

Grave of Alfred Patrick Armstrong (1825-1893), Eltham Cemetery, c.2002


April Meeting: Eltham Cemetery

Annual General Meeting

10th April 2018 at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Our meeting at 8.00pm on Wednesday 10th April 2018 is our Annual General Meeting, which includes the presentation of annual reports and the election of office bearers for the coming year.

Eltham Cemetery
Our Eltham, Artistic Recollections, Eltham Cemetery (Photo: Jim Connor)

At this meeting we are pleased to have a guest speaker from the Eltham Cemetery Trust to talk about their connections to our local history and how their current practices and projects continue to support artistic connections in the Eltham region.

We look forward to seeing you then.

Everyone is welcome to attend this meeting.


MysteryMonday: Lavender Park Road; what’s in a name?

#MysteryMonday – Have you ever wondered how the street you live on came by its name? People, places and events shape where we live and provide us with an insight into the past and what was important at the time. For instance, Lavender Park Road in Eltham was once known as New Street. Why would they change a perfectly good name for the street, when it did not need to be, or did it?

Maybe it was because on the 29th of May 1954, a local Eltham carpenter by the name of John Swallow, committed a double murder at his home on New Street. This happened on the same day as the federal election of that year.

John 48, his wife Mary 47, and step daughter Patricia 25, all went to the Eltham Courthouse on Main Road to cast their vote in the election that Saturday. After voting they returned home to their New Street house around midday.

Patricia would later recall to ambulance officers, that she was feeling unwell, and so went to lay down when she heard an argument erupt over voting between her mother Mary and step father John.

A concerned neighbour heard loud thudding noises and yelling coming from John and Mary’s house, he went to investigate. When he arrived at the house he was met by John at the front door. He would later describe John as “having a frantic look upon his face, and manic eyes”. John must have been a sight, bleeding and clutching a cut throat razor by his side. He then announced to the neighbour, “they voted commie!” before turning and going back inside. The distressed neighbour immediately raced home to call the Police.

When the police arrived, they found Mary dead on the kitchen floor from catastrophic head injuries; her daughter, Patricia, clinging to life, slumped on her bed. Both women had been attacked by the same weapon, a large hammer, or sledge hammer as reported by the newspapers. John was also discovered in the house, bleeding from self-inflicted wounds from the razor, and had attempted to ingest caustic soda.

Patricia was taken to St Vincent’s hospital, but died the following day, the 30th of May. John was also taken to St Vincent’s, where he remained under constant police guard for several months while he recovered from his injuries, at least the physical. He was eventually well enough to be taken to the City Watch House and then Pentridge Prison before his trial in October of the same year.

When it came time for John to face the courts, the Judge called a mistrial, the Crown would not prosecute on the grounds of insanity. John was led away from the dock of The Magistrates Court and taken directly to Willsmere, the Kew Mental Asylum.

Kew Mental Assylum (from the collection of Public Record Office Victoria)

On the 9th of August 1962, John Mervyn Swallow died of heart failure, he was 57. He had been a resident of Kew for four years. John’s body was returned to Eltham Cemetery and buried in the same grave as Mary. There is no mention of his name on the head stone. Patricia’s grave is next to Mary and John. A sad irony has an angel upon her grave, “its head missing”, possibly vandals or just an accident of time and events.

Eltham Cemetery

What became of the home where all of this took place on New Street shall remain a mystery but within six months of this horrific event, the street had been re-named to Lavender Park Road after the original property near the end of the road, Lavender Park.


Contributed by by Heather Eastman

MysteryMonday: A Boot in Time [UPDATED]

#MysteryMonday – Today we present a MysteryMonday of a somewhat different ilk; rather than solving the identity of a forgotten image, what we have is a tale of a mysterious event that occurred recently within our midst. It is a story of a woman’s boot, set in Eltham Cemetery, as told by Heather Eastman.

Victorian Ladies Side Lace-up Dainty Boots, c.1860. (Image Source: 1860-1960: one hundred years of fashion and accessories)

While out walking the dog one day past Eltham Cemetery on Mount Pleasant Road, I came across a very old looking boot. It was freshly dug up, most likely by a hungry and inquisitive fox looking for something to eat. It was sitting beside a sizable hole right next to the old green caretaker’s hut.

The boot appeared to be a genuine relic of the past. All leather, including the sole; laces long since gone. It had certainly seen better days with a few holes here and there and it was full of dirt.

I had seen boots like this before in pictures from the past. At a guess, it was a hundred years old, possibly more, and its owner, female with dainty feet.

I considered it may have come from the little Bootmaker’s cottage on Main Road. The cottage is still there, but of course has not witnessed boots made for years. I imagined when it did, they probably looked like this one.

I understand, around the time boots like this were worn, people were also quite superstitious. Often burying or concealing a single boot or shoe in a wall cavity or the like, to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune.

I failed to take a photo of the boot that day, so I went back a few days later to do so. However, the boot was gone, and in its place, appeared a fresh pile of mulch. The boot provided a brief glimpse into our past, now a mystery as to how it got there and who once owned it. The above image is a good match for the boot.

Bootmaker’s cottage adjacent to Whitecloud Cottage, opposite the intersection of Dalton Street at Main Road, Eltham, 5 Jun 1990 (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Do you have any tales of mysterious happenings or events in the district you would like to share? If so, we’d love to hear from you

UPDATE – 7 August 2018

It turns out that the Eltham Cemetery staff rescued the boot and have stored it in a safe place. The following are photos of the actual boot! Now . . .  wonder whose boot it was? Stay tuned as this mystery may still have some life in it to boot around …

The actual boot (Photo courtesy of Eltham Cemetery Trust)
The actual boot (Photo courtesy of Eltham Cemetery Trust)