In 1872 Senior Constable Myles Lyons replaced Peter Lawlor at Eltham Police Station. Earlier in his career, he had taken part in a search (one of many) for missing explorers Burke and Wills. At Eltham, his arrests ranged from minor instances of theft, vandalism and larrikinism to serious cases of manslaughter, murder and attempted suicide. He even tracked down and arrested two Norwegian seamen charged with desertion from their vessel. While conveying a prisoner from Eltham to Melbourne in 1886, he was attacked by the prisoner en route.
It seems that much of the local news in the Evelyn Observer was provided by Eltham Shire Secretary C.S. Wingrove. In 1878, Eltham residents held an “Indignation Meeting” at the Evelyn Hotel, complaining that the reporting had denigrated Lyons’ conduct and had stigmatised the character of Eltham’s inhabitants. They passed a resolution castigating Wingrove and supporting Lyons. Wingrove claimed to have been misconstrued. But in 1887 the Evelyn Observer carried a long ranting vitriolic editorial. It complained about inadequate policing generally, then attacked Lyons personally, saying that (although efficient in the past) he had now become incompetent and needed to be replaced by a younger more energetic man.
Myles Lyons retired due to ill health in 1889 but remained in Eltham until his death in 1899. He is buried in Eltham Cemetery with his wife Flora and five of their children. Four sons moved to Western Australia where two were killed in unconnected railway accidents.
The Victorian gold rush came to Eltham in the early 1850s and with it came a crime wave. Local traders called for police protection. This led to the appointment in 1857 of Irish-born Peter Lawlor as Senior Constable at Eltham. In 1859 Peter and his wife Kate were able to move into an official police residence at the corner of Maria Street (now Main Road) and Brougham Street, with stables out the back and a large paddock for grazing across the road. Some of their children went to Eltham Primary School. That 1859 police residence is now the home of the Eltham District Historical Society. The small wooden building on the very corner is a modern replica of the separate police station/office built around 1885-1900.
Cases investigated by Constable Lawlor included murders, stealing (horses, cattle, fowls, watches, linen, clothing), a search for a missing person, and two separate instances of abandoned children seeking help. He was officially commended in 1866 for bringing to justice a man who had indecently assaulted an 11-year old girl. Sadly, there was a similar but unconnected case only a few months later. But events had a lighter side; in 1871 Kate lent her piano to the Snowflakes Christy Minstrels for a Catholic Church fund-raising concert.
Peter was transferred to Prahran in 1872. He died in 1876 and is buried in Eltham Cemetery with four of his children. His headstone was stolen some time after May 1990 but was returned anonymously (broken into three pieces) in August 2013. It is resting on his grave but has not been re-erected.
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.
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
Marshall, Marguerite; Nillumbik now and then : Eltham and beyond; with photographs by Ron Grant, Eltham 2002
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
#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.
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.
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.
#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.
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.
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 …
Newsletter No 236 October 2017 contained a report on the unveiling of a significant new art project at the Eltham Cemetery. Titled “Our Eltham – Artistic Recollections” it features 31 ceramic panels containing artwork with a local history theme. The work is the joint creation of artist Nerina Lascelles and ceramicist Linda Detoma, supported with stonework by Leigh Wykes and steelwork by Neil Carter, all skilled local Nillumbik artisans.
The main purpose of our excursion on Saturday 3rd March 2018 at 2.00pm will be to view the panels and will include readings from the interpretive booklet published by the Cemetery Trust. There will also be the opportunity to inspect other artworks within the cemetery.
Enter the cemetery from Metery Road (Melway Ref. 21 K9) and proceed to the adjacent car park.
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.
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia