#OnThisDay ( #OTD ) – 150 years ago, April 6th, 1871, the Shire of Eltham was proclaimed.
The ELTHAM ROAD DISTRICT, which was created by a proclamation bearing date the twenty-fouth day of September 1856, and was altered by another proclamation bearing date the twenty-seventh day of May 1861, and was divided into electoral subdivisions by an Order of the twenty-eighth day of Decem,ber, shall be and is herby consituted and shall be named the
SHIRE OF ELTHAM
[Source: Victorian Government Gazette No. 23, Thursday, April 6th 1871]
When the Shire of Eltham was created in 1871 the population of Eltham township was 165 people and the municipality contained 2,550 residents. One hundred years later in 1971 over 7,000 people lived in Eltham and the shire had over 23,000 residents. Across the 123 years the shire existed there were many changes, including the extension of train services from Heidelberg to Eltham in 1902, which helped influence the location of the expanded Eltham town centre. The number of residential and commercial buildings continued to increase, particularly in the main growth centres, resulting in the reduction of open space across the municipality. Unfortunately many locally important historical buildings were lost during this time.
Throughout the early orcharding and grazing districts of the shire smaller settlements and local communities continued to evolve, including at Kangaroo Ground, Hurstbridge, Panton Hill, Smiths Gully and St Andrews.
From pioneer beginnings the shire developed into a thriving peri-urban municipality containing a mix of rural and metropolitan areas supporting nearly 50,000 residents in 1994.
The origins of the Eltham Shire Council can be traced back to a volunteer road maintenance committee formed in 1853. In 1856 its functions were taken over by the Eltham District Road Board. In 1871 the Eltham Shire Council was formed. Its boundaries extended from Lower Plenty to beyond Healesville and it included a small area north of the Great Dividing Range at Kinglake. Over the years there were a number of significant reductions in its size. In 1912 part was transferred to the Shire of Healesville, then in 1958 an eastern section comprising Yarra Glen and parts of Christmas Hills, as well as Dixons Creek, also joined that shire. An area near Kinglake was transferred to the Shire of Yea in 1972.
The Road Board first met at the Fountain of Friendship Hotel, Eltham and after 1860 at the Eltham Courthouse where the
Board office was also located.
From 1867 the office was located at the home of Board Secretary Charles Wingrove (Wingrove Cottage). He was Secretary for the Board and Council for nearly 50 years.
Later the Council bought the former office of the Evelyn Observer at Kangaroo Ground. This building burnt down in 1934 and the Council operated from temporary premises for some years.
In 1941 a new office and hall was opened at the corner of Main Road and Arthur Street Eltham. This served until 1965 when a much larger office was built on the former Shillinglaw land in Main Road.
In celebration of the shire’s centenary in 1971, a number events were held including a Centenary Parade. In addition to these celebrations, all rate payers were issued with a commemorative medallion.
Eltham Shire Council in conjunction with the Shire of Eltham Historical Society published Pioneers & Painters: one hundred years of Eltham and its shire, edited by Alan Marshall; a story of the people who were involved in the European settlement of the district. The Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection was established from the material that was gathered by the Shire of Eltham Historical Society, Eltham Shire Council and Alan Marshall, largely donated by local citizens. This collection is now managed by the Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library (reproduction prints held at Eltham Library).
In that same year, the shire offices were expanded adding a southern wing housing the Engineering and Planninmg departments as well as a new Eltham Library.
On December 14, 1994 the Victorian Government brought most of its municipal restructuring program into effect. The result for our local area was that the Shire of Eltham as a geographical area and the Eltham Shire Council both ceased to exist.
At the same time the Shire of Nillumbik was created effective December 15, 1994, incorporating most of the former Shire of Eltham, but with some significant changes. Areas from the Shires of Diamond Valley and Healesville and the City of Whittlesea were added at Eltham North, Diamond Creek, Greensborough, Hurstbridge, Plenty Yarrambat, Arthurs Creek, Strathewen and Christmas Hills. Notably Montmorency, Lower Plenty and Briar Hill were included in the City of Banyule. (The Kinglake area had earlier been transferred to the Shire of Murrundindi.)
Nillumbik Council moved to the former Diamond Valley office in Greensborough and the Eltham office was subsequently demolished in 1996.
The 1994 changes had implications for our Society. We changed from the Shire of Eltham Historical Society to the Eltham District Historical Society. This reflected the fact that there were a number of other historical societies within Nillumbik. However we retain a significant collection of Eltham Shire Council memorabilia as well as jointly manage the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph collection with Yarra Plenty Regional Library.
As we commemorate the establishment of the Shire of Eltham 150 years ago, we remember and acknowledge those many people who have gone before us to develop the community we have today and in doing so they created and contributed significantly to our local history.