Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham
It was intended that Dr. Andrew Lemon AM would be our guest speaker at our last meeting on Wednesday 14th August 2019, to talk about Heritage Advocacy – the role of historical research and historical societies. Unfortunately, due to a clash of commitments Andrew apologised for not being able to attend and we are delighted he will now be our speaker at our next meeting on Wednesday 9th October. As mentioned in our last newsletter, this presentation was very well received when Andrew was the keynote speaker at the recent Regional Conference of the Association of Eastern Historical Societies.
Andrew is an independent professional historian who has published many commissioned local and institutional histories since his first book, Box Hill, forty years ago. He has now written sixteen books, four of which have won prizes, on subjects ranging from local history, sport, education and biography.
Andrew received his doctorate of letters from the University of Melbourne in 2004 because of the excellence of a body of work, not one single piece, as in a thesis. He has been a consistent supporter of our Society and a long term member, who has spoken at a number of our meetings, over many years.
Members and visitors are welcome to attend this meeting, on Wednesday 9th October 2018, at 8:00 pm at the Eltham Senior Citizen’s Centre. We look forward to seeing you then.
#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.
The Eltham District Historical Society notes the recent advertising by Nillumbik Shire Council for the sale of properties at 895 and 903-907 Main Road Eltham.
Our Society has previously stated our position on these properties on our website and Facebook page and directly to all Nillumbik Shire Councillors.
We repeat this statement:
Our Society is of the firm opinion that the original 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.
The Eltham District Historical Society is disappointed there has not been full disclosure to prospective investors and developers of the historical value of the Eltham War Memorial complex and the Shillinglaw trees in this advertising information.
There are few historically related properties remaining in public ownership within our Shire. The property at 903-907 Main Road contains both First and Second World War memorials in commemoration of the members of our community who paid the ultimate sacrifice to benefit our future legacy. These memorials should be protected as sacred sites in perpetuity, held in community ownership and honouring the purpose for which they were intended and for which the land was donated by the community. They should not be sacrificed for short term gain nor placed in private ownership.
Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham
Prior to Shillinglaw Cottage (c.1878-80) being relocated to where it is now operated as a popular cafe near the Eltham Library, it was within Josiah Holloway’s 1850s subdivision known as Little Eltham, which later became the centre of the first Eltham township. Originally a farmer’s cottage it is historically significant because it is one of the Shire’s oldest dwellings and a fine example of the work of the well-known pioneer builder George Stebbing.
In 1964 the then Shire of Eltham purchased the Shillinglaw property with the intention of demolishing the cottage and constructing new Shire offices on the site. However extensive community action resulted in funds being raised to have the building saved and relocated further south to the Eltham Common, where it was joined by the Eltham Library in 1994.
The new Shire offices opened in 1965, but following municipal restructure in 1994 these were demolished in 1996 and the land sold to a developer, which precipitated a dramatic trail of community angst, threats of legal action, the sacking of a newly elected council and several unsuccessful development proposals, by subsequent councils.
After all these years the vacant site there is still guarded by the three trees that were outside the front of the Shillinglaw Cottage.
At our Society meeting on Wednesday, 13th June, 2018, Jim Connor will speak about the dramatic tale encompassing the history of the former Eltham Shire office site and the adjoining War Memorial Buildings complex, which are now being considered for sale or redevelopment by the current Nillumbik Shire Council.
As always, Society members and visitors are most welcome to attend this meeting at 8.00pm on Wednesday 13th June, in the Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham.
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