#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Saturday, April 20, 1957. We are going to the Eltham Easter Gymkhana which is being held at Eltham Park. This is the ninth Eltham Show to be held in aid of the Eltham War Memorial Trust. The Trust has already built an Infant Welfare Centre which was opened five years ago in 1952 and more recently this year, a preschool centre which includes a children’s library in an annexe.
Today’s programme includes equestrian turnouts, dressage contests, and jumping events for which the newly formed Melbourne Show Jumping Club have assisted in laying out an Olympic-type course.
The Women’s Auxiliary of the trust are also running a market stall, with local produce and handcrafts.
Besides the horse show, there will be a pedigreed goat show and this year, a most thrilling soap box derby for us to see for which Mr Russell Lewis along with Mr J.M. Peter Bassett-Smith, secretary of the trust and a member of the show committee will assist in the running of.
The Soap Box Derby is being sponsored this year by Hoyt’s Skyline Theatres and is to be run over a 3/4 mile long course along the main Eltham Road commencing at the eastern corner of Panorama Road and racing down the hill to the finish line at the intersection with Bolton Street. There are two divisions in this Derby; Junior, 8-13 years and Senior, 14-95 years, so let’s go join in the fun.
Billy carts in the Senior division are permitted vehicles of any size or type provided they are fitted with four wheels, adequate braking, steering and have no motor. In the Junior division the vehicles must also be no more than five feet in length and the wheels no more than 12 inches in diameter. No pneumatic tyres and needle or roller bearings are allowed.
It is now 11:00 am and the elimination heats followed by the semi-finals are about to commence. The final of each division should be conducted around 1:20 pm. Apart from the local entries, 18 Melbourne Grammar School Students are in attendance to assist in the running of the Derby.
The Starter now places the competitors on the starting line. He takes a few steps forward in front of the line of billy carts, turns to face them, raises the flag in his arm, scans the line and each competitor one final time then drops the flag. And they’re racing!
In about four minutes they will cross the finish line at Bolton Street.
The 1957 Eltham Gymkhana made a profit of £309 19s 6d, which was paid in to the Eltham War Memorial Trust fund.
Did you attend or participate in the Billy Cart Derby? Do you have any pictures or stories you would like to share with us? We would love to hear your comments and memories.
1957, “Young Rider to Judge at Show”, The Age, Wednesday, April 17, 1957, p8
1957, Your Entry Form for the Skyline Drive-In “Soap-Box” Derby
1957, Minutes of Meeting of Eltham Show Committee held at La Ronde, 12 April 1957
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Saturday, May 3rd, 1941 and the property ‘Abington’ (now known as ‘Araluen’) on the Old Eltham Road, Lower Plenty; home of Mrs Annie Castledine. It is morning and the weather is fine with a slight northerly breeze; the sun is out warming the dew off the grass following a chilly and foggy start to the day of 43 degrees (6° C) at 7am. The sun will heat the day up to a pleasant 68 (20° C) at noon but that is the only warmth to be brought to the Castledine homestead that day.
Passing through the front gate and heading up the drive, a young lad in postal office uniform, cap on head, pedals his bike up the hill. The telegram delivery boy; an unfortunate scene, and a symbol of fear, stabbing directly to the hearts of every mother, wife, father, brother, sister or child unfortunate enough to witness it.
Annie has heard and seen him approaching; his bicycle bell rattling as he passes over the ruts and corrugations in the drive, small puffs of dust falling from behind his wheels. She comes to the front door to greet him, her heart pounding with fear.
The boy dismounts and places his bike on its stand with respect rather than just dropping it. He wipes a bead of sweat off his forehead, straightens his cap and dusts himself down slightly. He too advances towards her but tries not to catch her eye. For unlike the slightest glimmer of hope Annie may hold, he knows what he is delivering.
He asks Annie quietly, “Mrs Annie Castledine?” Annie reaches her hand out towards him and he gently hands the sealed telegram to her. Still trying to avoid eye contact, he backs away and says, “I’m very sorry”. He quietly gets back on his bike and rides away though Annie cannot see him anymore, her eyes are full of tears.
“It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that VX10044 Sapper G. E. Castledine has been killed in action April 18th & desire to convey to you the profound sympathy of the Minister for the Army and the Military Board.
– Minister for the Army”
George is the first soldier from the Shire of Eltham to be killed in the war. He was engaged to Miss Jean Simonson of Montmorency and was going to turn 27 in just two week’s time. He had much to live for. His older brother Sid, 28, enlisted only four week’s ago.
Annie’s world and those of her other children are changed forever.
Sapper George Ernest Castledine (1914-1941), son of Arthur Frederick (dec.) and Annie Castledine, enlisted 23 January 1940 at Lower Plenty and was assigned to the 2/2 Field Company. He is buried in the Phaleron War Cemetery, Athens, Greece and is remembered on the Roll of Honour located in the Eltham War Memorial Hall.
George’s brother Sid, upon his discharge from active duty was to keep that fateful telegram in his tool box, a personal place near and dear to him, for the remainder of his life.
It is in memory of George and all the other fallen soldiers of our district that the Eltham Women’s Auxiliary first banded together to raise funds for the establishment of the Eltham War Memorial as a living memorial to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died.’
LEST WE FORGET
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.”
ROLL OF HONOUR
Sgt. George Williams
Sgt. Reginald E. Sims
L/Cpl. George Moore
L/Cpl. Henry G. Philips
L/Cpl. John C. Bell
Pte. Geoffrey Grant
Pte. George Sommerville
Pte. George Brown
Pte. John Brown
Pte. William Bond
Pte. Thomas Cameron
Pte. Alfred Cassells
Pte. Robert Meadows
Pte. Walter Mosley
Pte. James Pryor
Pte. William Prior
Pte. Edward Barrett
Pte. William Crellin
Pte. Henry Norman
Pte. Edward Bird
Pte. Arthur Brown
Pte. Roslyn Stevens
Pte. Herbert Creed
Pte. Charles Bromfield
Pte. Kenneth Sharp
Pte. Henry McAlary
Capt. S.M. Gahan
Plt. Off. D. Rutter
Flt. Off. D.H. Rutter
Flt. Sgt. S.M. Mclean
Flt. Sgt. L. Ingram
Sgt. C.D. Dunlop
Cpl. T. Feldbauer
Cpl. A.C. Clerke
Spr. G.E. Castledine
Pte. J. Butherway
Pte. K.F. Field
Soldiers of the Shire of Eltham remembered on the Eltham Roll of Honour for their supreme sacrifice; located in the Eltham War Memorial Hall
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to Friday, 4th October 1946. The town is a buzz with excitement as the Women’s Auxiliary to the Eltham War Memorial Trust have arranged for a Springtime Fair to be held in the Eltham Hall this afternoon, which is expected to continue into the evening.
The Fair is a special effort undertaken by the Women’s Auxiliary to raise funds for the establishment of the memorial, which is to take the form of a Baby Health Centre, Children’s Creche and Library. A block of land in a splendid position was recently purchased as the site on which the community centre will be built.
Mrs Cairns Officer is president of the Trust and chairman of the Women’s Auxiliary. Mesdames Dagnall and Tlngate are the honorary secretaries.
The Eltham War Memorial building precinct is located at 903-907 Main Road, Eltham. The Memorial spans the area between Main Road and the railway line and is owned and managed by Nillumbik Shire Council (formerly Eltham Shire Council). It contains the Eltham Maternal and Infant Welfare Centre, Eltham Food Share, the former Children’s Library (now War Memorial Hall) and Eltham Pre-School. The precinct also contains the Senior Citizen’s Centre though this was never part of the original Eltham War Memorial Trust buildings. The complex was developed by the Eltham War Memorial Trust Inc., as a form of living memorial as a ‘constant reminder to us of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’.
By Jim Connor (Reproduced from EDHS Newsletter No. 242 October 2018)
In a world divided over so many issues it can be challenging at times to meet on common ground. Such is the situation we as a community are facing locally with the future of the World War Two War Memorial Complex of three buildings at 903-907 Main Road, Eltham. This complex is a very definite part of our history and once gone can never be replaced. A primary reason for the significance of the complex is for its construction as a memorial with a civic purpose and with a particular focus on the welfare of infants. It was intended to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’. The construction of such a war memorial complex is rare in Victoria.
While these older buildings may not conform with current architectural merits or styles these were designed and constructed to reflect the desires, passions and interests of the era when built, and to symbolise achievements, failures or losses of that time.
These are part of a total package offered for sale in September 2018 on behalf of the Nillumbik Shire Council. It includes the extensive site area between the Eltham Library and the former Eltham Fire Station, and extending west from Main Road to the railway line. This land contains World War One and the World War Two memorials, the Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, the former Eltham Shire Office site and the locally significant Shillinglaw trees.
Both memorials commemorate the sacrifice and commitment of those who left Australia to fight for what they believed in and to protect those loved ones left behind. Despite requests and clear statements by our Society there is no confirmation from Council, at this stage, that these memorials and the Shillinglaw trees will be protected in any future development proposals. Neither memorial should be sacrificed in order to raise funds for other purposes.
#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to February 1968 and the site of the Eltham War Memorial building precinct located at 903-907 Main Road, Eltham. The Memorial spans the area between Main Road and the railway line and is owned and managed by Nillumbik Shire Council (formerly Eltham Shire Council). It contains the former Eltham Infant Welfare Centre (now Eltham Food Share), the former Children’s Library (now War Memorial Hall) and Eltham Pre-School. The precinct also contains the Senior Citizens Centre though this was never part of the original Eltham War Memorial Trust buildings. The complex was developed by the Eltham War Memorial Trust Inc., as a form of living memorial as a ‘constant reminder to us of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’.
Eltham District Historical Society maintains an interest in this site as a living memorial, established from funds raised from within the community by public subscription, with a specific focus for the welfare of children of the district.
The Society also maintains an interest in the adjoining former Eltham Shire Office site at 895 Main Road for its historic connections with Shillinglaw Cottage and the Shillinglaw trees, which were originally part of the Shillinglaw Cottage garden on which all these buildings are located and which remain at the front of that site. Early Society meetings were usually held in the Eltham War Memorial Hall. From September 1983 they moved to the Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, contained within the Eltham War Memorial building precinct where they have remained to present day.
Nillumbik Shire Council will soon commence an extensive community engagement process to look at possible uses for the currently empty site at 895 Main Road, along with the adjacent parcel of land at 903-907 Main Road upon which resides the Eltham War Memorial building precinct, purchased by public subscription and donated to the Shire.
Eltham District Historical Society’s Position
Our Society is of the firm opinion that the original three Eltham War Memorial complex of buildings including the entrance gates should not be sold, nor demolished. The site should remain in community ownership and be retained as a form of living memorial with a specific focus directed towards the welfare of the children of the district to ‘be a constant reminder of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died’.
Further, Eltham District Historical Society also holds the position that the three Mediterranean Cypress trees (Shillinglaw trees), which are well over 100 years old, still standing proudly in front of the adjoining former Shire of Eltham Office site, are of local heritage significance. These trees represent a navigational beacon between the past, present and future landscape and history of the district and are covered by a heritage overlay. The Society is determined that they should be protected; they should not be disturbed by relocation and that the land they reside upon should also remain in community hands, not private ownership.
History of the War Memorial
Following the end of the First World War, communities across Victoria and Australia typically erected memorials which were predominantly statues, cenotaphs, avenues of honour and plaques. The Shire of Eltham established the Avenue of Honour at the gateway to the shire as well as an obelisk at the corner of Main Road and Bridge street and the Shire of Eltham War Memorial Tower at Kangaroo Ground.
After the Second World War communities once again desired to preserve the memories of those who served and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Resources were scarce so there was a transition away from the traditional style memorials that sprang up post 1918 to one of building facilities that would provide ongoing benefit to the community.
Even before the end of the Second World War, the citizens of Eltham began to consider an appropriate form of memorial for those from the area who fought and died in the First and Second World Wars. In 1943 the Eltham Women’s Auxiliary raised funds for the construction of buildings to be established on land to be purchased for the proposed War Memorial. On March 27th, 1945, the Eltham District Progress Association called a meeting of local people who in turn set up and registered the Eltham War Memorial Trust Inc. As a focus for the purpose of the memorial, the newspaper notice read:-
‘Those who have had a member of their family in the fighting services will want to see that the form of a memorial we are concerned with is the one which will be a constant reminder to us of those who fought for us and the little ones for whom they fought and died.’
At that meeting it was decided the Memorial should take the form of a baby health centre along with a creche and children’s library. In late 1945, the newly formed Eltham War Memorial Trust purchased the land at 903-907 Main Road Eltham from Miss Shillinglaw, which once formed part of the Shillinglaw farm on Lot 90 of Holloway’s 1851 “Little Eltham” subdivision.
The Governor of Victoria, General Sir Dallas Brooks, laid the foundation stone on November 24th, 1950, in memory of those who fell in the Second World War. The Eltham Infant Welfare Centre was opened November 15th, 1952, the Pre-school on December 1st, 1956, and the Children’s Library in 1961. In late 1966 the children’s library service was integrated into the Heideberg Regional Library Service and the building was officially renamed the Eltham War Memorial Hall.
Following the opening of the Eltham Infant Welfare Centre, work began in 1953 planning for the entrance to the grounds, which is signaled by a wrought iron arch entitled “Eltham War Memorial” . In 1954 the Eltham War Memorial Trust decided that a legacy provided by the late Councillor Ernest James Andrew (d. 29 March 1950) in memory of his wife, Mrs. Ellen Andrew (d. 13 July 1946) and who are both buried at Eltham Cemetery, should be used to fund the construction of the entrance. A metal plate inscribed to this effect was attached to the gates.
Work on the Memorial Gardens was undertaken throughout the following decade, with a Memorial Forecourt included in the final 1956 plans for the Pre-School Centre. A quote was accepted by the Trust in 1963 for the implementation of a memorial garden, which included grading of a sixty-five foot strip at the rear of the Trust buildings and construction of concrete paths. The stone retaining walls at the front of the site were installed in 1968 when Main Road was widened and it is believed that the Memorial Gates were relocated at that time also.
Eltham Senior Citizens Centre
In 1964, Eltham Shire Council purchased a section of land from the Trust at the northern end of the site, as a provision for Country Fire Authority buildings. At the same time the Elderly Citizens Club proposed a Senior Citizens Centre on the south western section of the Trust’s property. This was approved by the Trust with the provision that the building was constructed in ‘accord’ with those already existing. In 1965 Council took on board the plans for the Senior Citizens Centre and applied for a government grant. These could only be awarded if Council owned the site.
In 1962 the Trust had resolved to hand over the assets to Council once the Memorial Gardens were completed. This was in line with Health Department requirements that grants for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the three facilities would only be made once the the facilities were completed and handed over to Council. In 1965 the Department of Health further demanded substantial alterations to the Pre-School playground as a result of the pending impact of the planned Senior Citizens Centre and Main Road duplication. As a consequence, handover of the Trust’s assets to Council was initiated with a formal ceremony held in the Children’s Library on August 28th, 1965. The Trust continued on as a committee of management for another twelve months.
Plans and specifications for the Senior Citizens Centre were prepared by March 1966. Council obtained a grant from the Government which covered one third of the cost and the building was completed by April 1967.
Whilst the Senior Citizens Centre is contained within the original Eltham War Memorial building precinct, it was not part of the original Memorial and was not funded by the Eltham War Memorial Trust.
Eltham Major Activity Centre 2004
In the Society’s Newsletter No. 157, July 2004, we reported that as part of the State Government’s Melbourne 2030 strategy, Eltham (along with many other business centres) was identified as a major activity centre. The Council was required to produce a structure plan to guide future development of the centre. The activity centre was defined to include the Eltham shopping centre and adjacent residential areas, the industrial area based on Bridge Street, parkland and the library precinct linking the two business areas, and the railway station area.
Nillumbik Council’s consultants prepared a draft report containing wide ranging recommendations on land use, urban design, community facilities and transport within this area. As a Society most of the recommendations did not impact upon our interests. However, some of the recommendations related to heritage aspects and comment was provided to the Council at the time where these were considered to be detrimental to heritage interests.
The report recommended the sale of the Eltham War Memorial site and seemed to not fully recognise the significance of the site and its publicly funded memorial buildings. It was put to the Council by the Society that the site should be retained in its current role although some alterations to the buildings and their use may be warranted.
Similarly, with the adjoining site of the former Eltham Shire Offices, we opposed the recommended sale and, in particular, we supported protection for the three Shillinglaw trees remaining on the site.
In the Society’s Newsletter No. 159, November 2004, we reported as part of its adoption of a structure plan for the Eltham “Activity Centre”, Nillumbik Council decided not to adopt the recommendation to offer the Eltham War Memorial site for sale. Many submissions including one from our Society suggested that this was the correct course of action. However, it was also noted that Council still proposed to sell the adjoining former Shire Office site.
Eltham RSL and War Memorial
The Eltham War Memorial, which takes the form of an obelisk is inscribed with the names of Eltham serviceman who died in the First World War. The obelisk is one of several local war memorials. It was first erected at the north west comer of Bridge Street and Main Road. The memorial was unveiled on 3rd August 1919 by Sir William Irvine, then Lieutenant Governor of Victoria and Eltham resident. Photographs of the ceremony show a large crowd of people occupying the whole of the intersection. Later the names of those who died in the Second World War were added.
Its location was on a high bank above the road but with the duplication of Main Road in 1968 that bank disappeared and the location lies now within the road carriageway. It was moved to the Eltham RSL site in the 1950s well before the 1968 road widening.
The Eltham RSL had its origin in 1927 when it was formed as a branch of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. Following the financial collapse of the Eltham RSL sub-branch and subsequent amalgamation with Montmorency RSL and sale of the Eltham RSL site, Council resolved to relocate the War Memorial obelisk to the Eltham War Memorial building precinct.
The obelisk was covered by a heritage overlay under the Nillumbik Planning Scheme and a planning permit was required for its removal. The Society wrote to both the state office of the RSL and Nillumbik Shire Council expressing our interest in the future of the memorial. We suggested a new location near the comer of Panther Place and Library Place adjacent to Eltham Library. This recommendation was not accepted.
The obelisk was ultimately relocated to the Eltham War Memorial building precinct in April 2012 and works to install a street level terraced area to accommodate the obelisk were completed at that time. In the citation for the Eltham War Memorial, comprising of the granite obelisk, plinths and bollards, it is identified as historical, aesthetic and of social significance to the Shire of Nillumbik. In 2013, a permanent heritage overlay over the obelisk was enacted.
The decision by Nillumbik Shire Council to allow relocation of the obelisk to the Eltham War Memorial building precinct was contrary to the view of this Society. In particular, it is considered that the site works required to install the monument significantly compromised the heritage integrity of the total War Memorial site.
Our society was concerned that we were being placed in a situation where we could be seen to be critical of ANZAC Day services and a revered organisation such as the RSL, because we strive to support retention and care of heritage places of significance in our local area. Members of our Society have been involved over many years with various related projects, including the Eltham Avenue of Honour, the War Memorial Tower and the replacement of the First World War Honour Board at Research Primary School, as well as detailed research regarding service personnel involved during both world wars from the Eltham Shire region.
Cultural Heritage Significance Assessment
In November 2011, a Cultural Heritage Significance assessment was undertaken on the Eltham War Memorial building precinct for Nillumbik Shire Council. The result of the study was that it was identified as being of local significance, worthy of being included in the heritage overlay. A primary reason for the significance of the Eltham War Memorial building precinct is its construction as a “memorial with a civic purpose and with a particular focus on the welfare of infants”. The report also states that the “construction of a
complex of war memorial buildings, all with infant related purposes, does appear to be rare, with no other known examples found during this assessment”. In summary, the heritage advice was that the open views to the War Memorial Buildings should be retained as should the relationship between the three buildings. Council considered this advice when it decided to relocate the Eltham War Memorial obelisk to this site in 2011 and resolved that any future works or planting should not limit visibility of the War Memorial Buildings from Main Road.
As the owner of the land and adjacent buildings, Council has a responsibility under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) to ensure, as far as practicable, that compliance with the DDA is achieved. In February 2014, Council conducted an audit of the Eltham War Memorial precinct to identify non-compliances under the DDA and the relevant Australian Standards. This audit included an assessment of access from Main Road through to Eltham Pre-school and the War Memorial Hall. The pathway was determined to be non-compliant due to the steepness of the gradient as a result of modifications to the entrance to install the obelisk. Subsequent to this, an extended ramp system was installed, which is not sympathetic to the original design of the War Memorial entrance and gardens.
Eltham District Historical Society was concerned when it was originally suggested to relocate the obelisk to this site as we considered it would inappropriately detract from the heritage significance of the Eltham War Memorial building precinct. We feel our concerns have been confirmed by the subsequent actions taken.
War Memorial Building Complex, 903-907 Main Road, Eltham: Cultural Heritage Significance assessment, November 2011; Prepared for Nillumbik Shire Council by Samantha Westbrooke Pty Ltd in association with Peter Mills PhD, Architectural Historian
Agenda, 14 October 2014, Policy and Services Committee, Nillumbik Shire Council
Various Newsletters, Eltham District Historical Society
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia