#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to circa 1966-1967 and Main Road, Eltham, just north of Bridge Street where we cast our eyes northwest across the fields that in a few years time will be developed into the Eltham Town Park and later Alistair Knox Park. In the distance, to the right, we see the recently relocated Shillinglaw Cottage and further on, the new Eltham Shire Offices, which were opened in 1965. In front of Shillinglaw Cottage is what will be developed into Eltham Common, later the site for the new Eltham Library in 1994 but presently still dominated by the Eltham Tip. To the left and behind the tip we see the iconic Eltham Railway Trestle Bridge and beyond that, Eltham Central Park and what appears to be part of the Football Club pavillion or is it part of the former Eltham Swimming Pool?
Everything we see is on what was once part of the original Shillinglaw farm which covered some 30 acres bordered by Main Road, Bridge Street, the Diamond Creek and Diamond Street.
An ongoing challenge as members of a historical society is how do we balance the pressures of possible future development against our desires to protect and honour our valued past, our local history.
As a historical society representing the interests of our community we strive to remain steadfastly non political, yet at times get caught between individual political positions.
Three current local ‘hot’ topics of historical significance are the Eltham Trestle Bridge, the Eltham Avenue of Honour/Eltham Gateway and the former Eltham Shire offices site and adjacent
War Memorial buildings complex.
The Eltham District Historical Society has clearly stated that the valued trestle bridge is of local historical significance, should remain as is and should not be compromised, if and when the railway line is duplicated between Greensborough and Eltham. The sitting State member has indicated it can remain as is and there will be improved scheduling, with no advantage to be gained with duplicating the bridge. Despite claiming ‘the trestle bridge remains’ the political opponent has stated in a meeting with EDHS that, if elected, a new bridge will be constructed beside it and that his position is ‘not negotiable’.
Similarly, possible duplication of Main Road through the Eltham Gateway and World War 1 Avenue of Honour is being considered, which we believe would totally destroy the historical and cultural significance of this meandering, tree enhanced entrance to Eltham.
What are the options, what is the cost vs benefit? Should we need to compromise our heritage even further to possibly save a couple of minutes in travel?
The third topic is that Nillumbik Shire Council is currently considering redevelopment of the former Eltham Shire offices site in Main Road, Eltham, which includes the Shillinglaw trees, together with the adjacent War Memorial buildings complex.
What do we value of our past to preserve in the present for the ‘future’, do we restrict our creative options by honouring our heritage, where is the balance?
These are decisions we will all need to consider……sooner rather than later.
[Reproduced from Eltham District Historical Society Newsletter No. 240, June 2018]
Our Society encourages interest in and the sharing of stories about the local history of the Eltham district in Victoria, Australia