By Russell Yeoman (reproduced from Newsletter No. 242, August 2018)
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.
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”.
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
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.
c.1986 November. Former Police Station demolished; believed to have been suffering termite damage.
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.
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).
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.