The Victorian gold rush came to Eltham in the early 1850s and with it came a crime wave. Local traders called for police protection. This led to the appointment in 1857 of Irish-born Peter Lawlor as Senior Constable at Eltham. In 1859 Peter and his wife Kate were able to move into an official police residence at the corner of Maria Street (now Main Road) and Brougham Street, with stables out the back and a large paddock for grazing across the road. Some of their children went to Eltham Primary School. That 1859 police residence is now the home of the Eltham District Historical Society. The small wooden building on the very corner is a modern replica of the separate police station/office built around 1885-1900.
Cases investigated by Constable Lawlor included murders, stealing (horses, cattle, fowls, watches, linen, clothing), a search for a missing person, and two separate instances of abandoned children seeking help. He was officially commended in 1866 for bringing to justice a man who had indecently assaulted an 11-year old girl. Sadly, there was a similar but unconnected case only a few months later. But events had a lighter side; in 1871 Kate lent her piano to the Snowflakes Christy Minstrels for a Catholic Church fund-raising concert.
Peter was transferred to Prahran in 1872. He died in 1876 and is buried in Eltham Cemetery with four of his children. His headstone was stolen some time after May 1990 but was returned anonymously (broken into three pieces) in August 2013. It is resting on his grave but has not been re-erected.