Tag Archives: Eltham Shire Council

OTD: Remembering the Shire of Eltham

Shire of Eltham 1871-1971. Marshall, A. (1971). Pioneers & Painters : one hundred years of Eltham and its Shire. Melbourne: Thomas Nelson (Aust.), pp 6-7

#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 


[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.

Fountain Hotel, Eltham located on the southwest corner of Maria (Main) and Pitt streets showing the early two storey section. Built in 1852 as the Fountain of Friendship Hotel, later named the Fountain Hotel in the 1880s then the Evelyn or Evelyn Arms Hotel. It was de-licensed in 1919 and destroyed by fire February 18, 1931 (Eltham District Historical Society collection)

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.

Eltham Courthouse (Photo: Jim Connor, Eltham District Historical Society)

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.

Wingrove Cottage 1950s (Photo: George W. Bell, Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

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.

Council Office, Kangaroo Ground; formerly printing office of the Evelyn Observer. The Shire Office was destroyed by fire 8th Feb., 1934 (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)
Shire of Eltham Office and Hall, cnr Main Road and Arthur Street, Eltham, c.1960 (Photo: Shire of Eltham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

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. 

Eltham Shire Office, at time of Main Road duplication, 1968 (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

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.

Procession of parade floats in Main Road, Eltham, part of the Shire of Eltham Centenary celebrations, 10 April 1971 (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)
This commemorative medallion was issued to all ratepayers in celebration of the Shire of Eltham’s Centenary in 1971 (Eltham District Historical Society collection)

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).

Book launch Pioneers & Painters; Mr. Alan Marshall, 13 Park Road, Eltham. Editor of Pioneers and Painters, 7 July 1971 (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection held jointly by Eltham District Historicxal Society and Yarra Plenty Regional 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.

Eltham Shire Office southern wing showing the Eltham Library, 1985-1986 (Eltham District Historical Society collection)

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.

Demolition of Eltham Sire Offices, 895 Main Road, Eltham, August 1996 ( Photo: Fred Mitchell; Fred Mitchell Collection,  Eltham District Historical Society)

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.

OTD: Farewell Eltham, Happy Birthday Nillumbik; 15 Dec 1994

#OnThisDay – 25 years ago #OTD Thursday, December 15, 1994 the Shire of Nillumbik was born and the Shire of Eltham was relegated to history after 123 years; the council sacked and three commissioners appointed as part of an overall municipal restructure by the State Government.

The new Shire of consisted of the Central and North Ridings of the former Shire of Eltham, as well as parts of the former Diamond Valley, Whittlesea and Healesville municipalities. The West Riding of Eltham was joined with the former City of Heidelberg to become the City of Banyule.

Shire of Montsalvat is born by Duska Sulichich, Diamond Valley News, October 26, 1994, p1

Originally the Local Government Board’s preferred name was the Shire of Montsalvat. Board member Paul Jerome said “Montsalvat” was a name very familiar to all Melburnians. “We used it for good reason” he said. “This is the arts and crafts colony, this is the conservation area, this is the Green Wedge.” It “will have stewardship of a very important conservation area all the way up to Kinglake National Park. We think that’s a very exciting proposal and certainly one with a lot of community support and interest in having a council with that focus on conservation values.” Ultimately however the name was found to be controversial throughout the community and the Board replaced it with Nillumbik, the locally preferred Aboriginal word for shallow soil (indeed it is).

Shire now Nillumbik by Natalie Town, Diamond Valley News, November 23, 1994, p3

The transition to the new shire was not an easy experience for some people in our community and especially for some staff of the former Shire of Eltham. An extensive staff restructure was undertaken, resulting in many local community aware and knowledgeable Eltham Shire staff being made redundant. Some actions initiated at that time by the government and commissioners have had longer term impacts. These included the sudden surprise demolition of the Eltham Shire Offices and approval, in controversial circumstances, of a combined petrol station and fast food development on the site; ultimately reversed but leaving the community with a visible reminder to this day of those events. Local elections were not held for three years until 1997 and even then controversy continued resulting in the sacking of that first Nillumbik Shire Council as well. But that is a story for another day.

New shire, city get underway, Diamond Valley News, December 21, 1994, p1



OTD: Dedication of the Shire of Eltham War Memorial, 16 Nov. 1951

#OnThisDay – In 1951 #OTD the Governor of Victoria, Sir Dallas Brooks dedicated the war memorial tower and caretaker’s cottage at Garden Hill, Kangaroo Ground.

The tower has been a landmark since 1926 and above the portal on one side are the names of men who fell in the 1914-18 war. On another tablet unveiled by the Governor were inscribed the names of men who gave their lives in the 1939-45 war:-
Archer R., Bates A. L., Butherway J. H., Castledine G. E., Cary A. E., Clark R. C., Clerke A. C., Davies N. A., Dunlop C. D., Feldbauer T., Field K. F., Gahan S. M., Galletiy L. W. A., Guy T., Handley R . H. W., Hanlon H., F. L., Hellens W., Ingram L. S., McDonald E. H., McKimmie G. J., McLean S. C. A., McMahon .J. F., Morris A., Moyes J. A., Mynott L. R., Nichols, M. J., Walters G. W., West P.

The tower rising 50 feet was built by the people and committed to the care of the Eltham Shire Council in 1926. The suggestion of a memorial park was credited to Mr. V. A, Wippell (of Ivanhoe) and of a tower to Mr. B. Hall (of Panton Hill) being a replica of the watchtowers of early England and Scotland. The stone was the gift of Professor Osborne and was quarried on his Kangaroo Ground property. From the same area came the stone for the caretaker’s cottage added in 1951 by the Shire Council and which had charge of the arrangements.

Let’s take a journey 68 years back in time to that moment and join in the ceremonies . . .

Meeting at Lower Plenty, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Sir Dallas Brooks, is attended by Capt. T. Kirwan Taylor. They are met at the Lower Plenty bridge (the line of demarcation between the municipalities of Eltham and Heidelberg) by the Shire President (Cr. F. .Griffith) and the Shire Secretary (Mr. R. J. Ham). Mr. G . Moir (as vice president) is representing the State branch of the R.S.L..

Lower Plenty School’s welcome, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Hearing that the Governor would be passing the Lower Plenty school on his way to open the Memorial at Kangaroo Ground an unrehearsed “reception” was quickly arranged. Obtaining permission from the headmaster, the school boys’ band got ready. As the Governor arrives at the school they strike up and play the National Anthem, of course! The Governor is pleasantly surprised,  thanks the children and grants them a holiday. He then returns to his car and the official party set off on the remainder of their journey to Kangaroo Ground.

The Tower . . Kangaroo Ground, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

At Garden Hill, 30 minutes later there is an air of excitement stirring among the gathered crowd as whispers start passing along the line that the official party have just arrived. In the company gathered around the edifice are numerous residents who remember the original unveiling by Lord Stonehaven on Armistice Day, a few days and 25 years ago.

The approach pathway is lined with children from many of the district schools and men who served in both wars are lining up to form a guard of honor section near the tower. There are veterans and young men and women, wearing on their breasts the colors, medals and other decorations won in battle. In charge is Mr. F. D. Stevens, the president of the R.S.L..

Introducing Guard of Honour, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

His Excellency finds time to amuse the children with some brief words and shakes hands with every member of the guard and with the next-of-kin of the honored dead.

Meeting R.S.S.A.I.L.A. Representative, Mr. G. Moir, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Shire President’s Address, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

R.S.S.A.I.L.A. Representative’s Address, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

His Excellency’s Address, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Portion of Guests, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Following the addresses by the President and Mr. Moir, the Governor in a moving ceremony of dedication releases the flag-covering of the memorial tablet. As the flag falls to the side revealing the new memorial tablet, a simple unforgettable tribute resonates from from tower-top with the stirring bugle note of “Last Post” and “Reveille.”

Presentation, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Mr R.J. Ham, the Shire Secretary then presents the Governor with a beautifully prepared brochure programme and for Lady Brooks, a gold bar brooch on which is mounted a small nugget.

Afternoon Tea, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

The official party and guests then make their way to the Kangaroo Ground hall where an excellent afternoon tea has been prepared by the wonderful ladies from the various branches of the Country Women’s Association led by the Diamond Valley Group president, Mrs. V. Middleton.

Afternoon Tea, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

It has been a day packed full of excitement, tears of sadness over our lost loved ones  and lots of good things to eat. But now it’s time to return to present day and hopefully reflect upon what those who came before us, wished for us to benefit from.

* Lest We Forget *


1951 ‘Dedication of Memorial Tower’, The News; The Newspaper of the City of Heidelberg and the Shire of Eltham (Heidelberg, Vic), 23 (?) November

Finding a home

By Russell Yeoman (reproduced from Newsletter No. 242, August 2018)

Eltham Police Station (on right) and Police Residence, c.1900.  Present day Local History Centre, home of Eltham District Historical Society (Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection #627 held in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library)

For more than 30 years following its establishment in 1967 our Society had no permanent “home”. Society meetings were held in various places, firstly in the Eltham Shire Hall, then the War Memorial Hall in the War Memorial complex of buildings and finally in the Eltham Senior Citizens; where we still meet today. There were other one-off meeting venues such as the Great Hall at Montsalvat, Metzner Hall at Judge Book Village and once in the Eltham Shire Offices. Committee meetings were originally held in these halls but later in the homes of committee members. A favourite place for a number or years was the home of Blanche and Jack Shallard in Montmorency. Supper here consisted of Blanche’s excellent cheese scones.

The Society was significantly involved with the Eltham Shire Council. The President was Cr. Charis Pelling, Shire Secretary Max Watson was Vice President and Secretary Russell Yeoman also worked for the Council. From 1967 the Society began accumulating historical records but was somewhat inhibited by lack of a place to store them. Many records were stored in the Shire Offices and there was little distinction as to what was owned by the Society and what was owned by the Council. The collection of historical records and photographs was significantly augmented in 1971 by the Council collecting material for the publication of “Pioneers and Painters”.

As the volume of Society acquisitions grew further storage locations were required. As well as records some artefacts were added to the collection including items collected by the Shillinglaw Cottage Preservation Committee. Although the cottage had been preserved the plan to use it as a museum did not eventuate. Some items that were to be donated remained with the donors pending a suitable place to keep them. An example was a large collection of farming and other artefacts donated by Bruce and Joy Ness of Kangaroo Ground that was kept in their barn. Storage of the Society’s paper based records fell in large part to Russell Yeoman as Secretary and these were kept at his house, generally in less than optimum conditions. There was a filing cabinet in the laundry and various boxes in other parts of the house and in the shed. Large plans were kept in a cardboard folder under a bed. Workshops to get these records into some sort of order were held at the Yeoman house.

Fast forward to 1998. Nillumbik Shire Council has succeeded the Eltham Council. Much of the Society’s collection of artefacts has been passed on to the fledgling Andrew Ross Museum. Society President Harry Gilham has successfully negotiated with the Commissioners in charge of the Council to secure the long term use of the former Eltham Police Residence by the Society. This State Government owned building had been used by Eltham Council as its Parks and Environment office. The long task of moving the Society’s collection from its various storage locations began. This historic building has become our Local History Centre and it has enabled the acquisition of far more historical material than had previously been possible and has helped secure the future of the Eltham District Historical Society.

Moving items into the new Local History Centre, July 1998 L-R: Mark Gilham, Margaret Ball, Sue Law, Harry Gilham.

As we celebrate the 20th year in our Local History Centre we acknowledge and are forever indebted to Harry Gilham and the other members who worked so hard to establish and maintain our “home”.


Harry Gilham, President, Eltham District Historical Society, Opening Ceremony of Local History Centre, 728 Main Road, Eltham, 12 July 1998


Eltham Police Station and Residence: A brief history

1860 Eltham Courthouse built in Main Road, together with an adjoining police residence, office, lock–up and stables.

1959 Police Department purchases a house in Pryor Street to be refurbished as Eltham Police Station

1961 Police in Eltham move into Pryor Street refurbished buildings and office.

c.1961-1981 Occupied by Vermin and Noxious Weeds Destruction Section of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey. Former Police Station dragged around to rear of Police Residence (prior to August 1967) to make way for the construction of a driveway and access from Main Road. The building was placed on the site of a former Scullery and modified for Lands Department use.

1981 Shire of Eltham take over management of old Police Residence in Eltham. It remains unoccupied for a period of time whilst its future is discussed in Council.

1981-1985 Used for community job creation scheme

The former Police Residence under renovation prior to occupation by the Shire of Eltham Parks and Environment department, 1985

1985 Shire of Eltham Parks and Environment occupy the residence. Council improve the driveway but later add a second rear access from Brougham Street due to the dangerous nature of the Main Road entrance. Also add a rear toilet facility between the Police Residence and former Police Station, which was doubling up as a lunch room. Council also commence discussions to re-establish a replica Police Station.

The original Eltham Police Station was demolished c.Nov. 1986.

c.1986 November.  Former Police Station demolished; believed to have been suffering termite damage.

The former Police Residence when occupied by the Shire of Eltham Parks and Environment, 1988

c.1989 After some years of discussion a replica Police Station is built, based on photographs, to act as a lunch room and meeting room for Parks and Environment staff and volunteers doing community service.

1996 Eltham District Historical Society in discussions with Nillumbik Shire Council commisioners throughout the year regarding a home for the Society. A proposal put forward by the Society in October to occupy the former Police Residence.

1997 March.  Eltham District Historical Society gains access to former Police Residence.


Former Police Residence, 728 Main Road, Eltham, c. April 1998.

1998 July 12th.  Eltham District Historical Society Inc moves into its Local History Centre, 728 Main Road Eltham (the former Police Residnce built in 1860).

Eltham Local History Centre; the former Eltham Courthouse, Police Residence and replica Police Station, December 2000.

2018 July. Eltham District Historical Society gains access to the replica Police Station for use as part of regular heritage tours for schools and community based groups.