Tag Archives: Shillinglaw Cottage

George Bird (1845-1920)

George Bird was born in England in 1845 and arrived in Australia in 1856 as a child of assisted migrants. Soon afterwards he came out to Eltham to live with his uncle George Stebbing, working for him as bricklayer’s assistant in building, amongst others, Shillinglaw Cottage and the Anglican and Methodist Churches in Eltham. He later purchased 72 acres at the eastern end of Pitt Street (bounded by Eucalyptus Road, Mount Pleasant Road and present-day Rockliffe Street) and established the property “View Hill”, which was worked as a mixed farm and orchard.

Bird family orchard, Pitt Street, Eltham, c.1980s. View looking northeast from near the junction of Wattle Grove and Mount Pleasant Road across to Eucalyptus Road on right and Pitt Street at top.

In 1878 he married Janet Kilpatrick, who had emigrated from Scotland. They had ten children, three of whom died in infancy. The wedding in 1904 of their eldest surviving daughter Sarah (“Sis”) to Edward Pepper appears to have been quite a society event.

Wedding of Sarah Ann Bird (b.1881) to Edward Ernest Pepper (b.1874) held at the Bird family home of “View Hill’, Eltham, 1904. Sarah Bird 4th from left (seated) and Edward Pepper on her left (standing). George Bird, 2nd from right (seated).
Digitised from original held in private collection

George was a staunch Methodist, a Church Steward and a Sunday School Superintendent in about 1890. Janet died in 1915 and George died in 1920 (though his gravestone says 1921). George’s will stated that his property was to be divided between all his children in equal shares. This necessitated subdivision of the ‘View Hill’ property, between 1922 and 1926. George, Janet and several descendants, are buried in a family plot in the cemetery.

One son, George Hugh Bird, operated a drapery store in Main Road (near Bridge Street) in around 1915.

George Hugh Bird’s Cash Drapery Mart on right, looking south along Maria Street (Main Road), Eltham near Bridge Street, c.1909. Post Office on left

Later, in the 1920s, he ran a greengrocer’s shop (also selling confectionery) in Main Road opposite Eltham Station. It was the first shop in Eltham to have plate glass windows. At the same time, his brother Reg had a grocery store on the station side of Main Road.


Private Research, Bird family; copy held by EDHS


1904 ‘ORANGE BLOSSOM.’, Evelyn Observer and Bourke East Record (Vic. : 1902 – 1917), 18 November, p. 3. (MORNING.), viewed 14 Mar 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60628991





ThrowbackThursday: Icons of Eltham, Main Road, Eltham, c.1967

A view of part of the original Shillinglaw farm acreage, c.1967. Shows the trestle bridge to the left, Eltham Tip in centre and the Eltham Shire Office prior to extensions and Shillinglaw Cottage (from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

#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.

June Meeting – History of the former Shire of Eltham Office site

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

Wednesday, 13th June 2018 at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Eltham – Shire Office, at time of Main Road widening (formerly site of Shillinglaw Cottage), 1968. (Source: Shire of Eltham; from the Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection No. 657 held jointly by Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library.)

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.

ThrowbackThursday: Timber Railway Trestle Bridge, Eltham, c.1913

Trestle Bridge, Eltham, c.1912; note the Catholic Church in Henry Street and Shillinglaw Cottage visible in background

(from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

#ThrowbackThursday – Eltham today is just getting busier and busier; more housing and unit developments, more people and lots more traffic. And a stroll along the Diamond Creek Trail during footy season weekends near Central Park will encounter plenty of people watching the latest game; you would be lucky to even find a car park. Next time you wander along the trail or head down to watch a game, cast your mind back a hundred years or so and ponder what it was like. To set the scene, today we time travel back to circa 1913 to a point just beside the Diamond Creek, south of Central Park. As we cast our eyes to the east we immediately see two of the iconic sights of Eltham; the timber railway trestle bridge built just over ten years earlier and Shillinglaw Cottage in its original location and the Shillinglaw trees standing proudly in front. If you look carefully beyond the trestle bridge, past where the current Eltham Library now stands, you will also see a weatherboard building standing in isolation. This is the new St Mary’s Catholic Church on Henry Street near Main Road (or Maria Street). The church site had been relocated from further south along Main Road (near Wingrove Cottage) in order to be more central to the congregation following the shifting of the township away from Little Eltham and closer to the railway station. It was subsequently destroyed by fire in 1961.

Postcard of St Mary’s Catholic Church, cnr Main Road and Henry Street, Eltham which was opened 13 October 1912 and subsequently destroyed by fire.
(Donated by: Garnet Burges; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

ThrowbackThursday: Henry Street, west of Main Road, Eltham, 1967

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to July 1967. Eltham Shire officers from the Engineering and Planning department are about to set off from their new Shire offices at 895 Main Road to photo document Alma Road and Kett Street in Lower Plenty. Armed with a fresh roll of film they shoot off two images on the roll on to ensure all of of the exposed film leader is wound on. At the time these two images were just innocuous and possibly irrelevant to the task but today they capture a perfect time capsule of memories that are now decades gone.

Looking southwest from Eltham Shire Offices towards Shillinglaw Cottage, Henry Street and the Eltham Tip site, c.July 1967 (Photo: Shire of Eltham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Standing at the south western corner of the Shire Offices they shot an image looking across to the south west at what would become known as Eltham Common. But in July 1967 what we see running down the hill is the western end of Henry Street, which used to run across Main Road and down to the Eltham Tip on the right of the image. At the left just beyond Henry Street is the newly relocated Shillinglaw Cottage, which was relocated from the site we are looking from to make way for the new Shire Offices. If we were to stand there today on what is now a vacant site it would be impossible to even see this view today as directly in front of us would be the new Eltham Library opened in 1994. But back then in 1967, even the old Eltham Library did not exist. That did not come till August 1971 when the southern wing extension to the Shire Offices was built.

The new Shire of Eltham Offices, opened 1965, c.July 1967 (Photo: Shire of Eltham; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Our photographer then turned to his left to shoot his second image, capturing the southern end of the new Shire Offices. You can just see Main Road, which was duplicated a year later. This view was lost when the southern wing was added in 1971 to provide a home for the Planning Department and the new/old Eltham Library.

Completing the south wing of Eltham Shire Offices for Library and Planning Departments, 1971. (From the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Prior to 1971, the Shire operated a library initially from November 1965, serviced by the newly formed Heidelberg Regional Library Service, with a mobile library stop near the Shillinglaw trees and then from 1966 out of the converted ‘Brinkotter’ Cottage in Dudley Street staffed by the City of Heidelberg Library. A Children’s Toy Library operated from the Eltham War Memorial Building from 1952.

ThrowbackThursday: Main Road, Eltham; A Century From York to Henry Streets

#ThrowbackThursday – We last featured Main Road between York and Henry streets at a point in time just after the road had been duplicated in 1968. Today we are traveling back in time to that same section but to shortly before duplication, circa 1965, and then another leap further back of about the same duration in time to the turn of the century.

Main Road, Eltham, c.1965. Looking north from near Bridge Street. York Street on right.
(Photo: ©Michael Aitken; from the ‘Michael Aitken Collection’, Eltham District Historical Society)

In the first image, circa 1965, we see the old Bakery standing on the the nearest side of the intersection of York Street and on the opposite side, the Eltham Feed Store, also previously featured in another ThrowbackThursday post. Just beyond the Feed store is A.R. Warren’s yard. Looking to the distance, on the crest where Henry Street still crosses Main Road, we see the newly constructed Shire of Eltham Offices, which were opened in 1965 at 895 Main Road. Standing proudly in front of the Shire Office are the three Shillinglaw trees (Mediterranean Cypress trees) which were originally part of the Shillinglaw Cottage garden. They remain in place today and are well over 100 years old and of local heritage significance. These trees represent a navigational beacon in time for those interested in old images and the early landscape and history of this district.

Main Road, Eltham, c.1910. Looking north from near Bridge Street. York Street on right. (Postcard from the ‘Michael Aitken Collection, Eltham District Historical Society. See also Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection #SEPP_0707 held jointly between Yarra Plenty Regional Library (Eltham Library) and the Eltham District Historical Society)

Travelling back another 55 years to circa 1910 we see the old Bakery again, though back then it was just the Bakery and not so old. And in the distance we see our navigation reference point, the Shillinglaw Trees though now they stand proudly within the garden of the Shillinglaw Cottage. On the middle left of the photo is the Gahan House and it is to the left of this house that the Shillinglaw Cottage was relocated in 1964 when the Shire acquired the Shillinglaw site to build the new Shire Offices.

‘Nearing the Station, Eltham’, Main Road, Eltham, c.1910. Looking north from near Bridge Street. York Street on right. (Postcard from the ‘Michael Aitken Collection, Eltham District Historical Society. See also Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection #SEPP_0618 held jointly between Yarra Plenty Regional Library (Eltham Library) and the Eltham District Historical Society)

This photo, titled ‘Nearing the Station, Eltham’ is also about 1910; the landscape appearing much the same as the other. It most likely features a group of Sunday excursion visitors to Eltham out for a day of sightseeing who have traveled from Melbourne via train on the recently constructed railway line and station which was opened in 1902.

Looking north along Main Road from near York Street, Eltham, Oct 2017. (Google Street View Oct 2017)

Today, much has changed; the old Bakery is gone as has the Feed store. The Gahan House is gone, demolished shortly after Shillinglaw Cottage was relocated. Main Road has been duplicated and the newly constructed Shire Offices that took pride of place in the original Shillinglaw site have also gone, demolished by the Government appointed Commissioners in August 1996 following the re-amalgamation of councils in December 1994. Even the original Shire of Eltham is gone. But the Shillinglaw Trees remain as a living connection to our shared history.

Shillinglaw Trees watching over a community rally, Save Community Reserves, 4 March 2018 (Photo: © Peter Pidgeon, with permission)


Heritage Excursion: Saturday 4th Nov. – The Shillinglaw Farm

Come join Eltham District Historical Society on a walk to follow the boundaries of the original Shillinglaw Farm in central Eltham.

Saturday, 4th November, 2017.

Meet at 2.00 pm in Panther Place Eltham, outside the Eltham Library (Melway Map 21 J5).

The Shillinglaw Farm comprised Lot 90 of Holloway’s 1851 Little Eltham subdivision. It was originally 30 acres in area and situated east of the Diamond Creek and north of Henry Street.

This short walk will include a number of stops to look at early photographs and maps to illustrate the gradual reduction of the Shillinglaw Farm, as well as the early history of the adjacent railway. It will also include many photos of the Eltham Town Centre.

Shillinglaw Cottage Cafe will be open before the excursion for those
who might like a coffee or something else.

This free walk is open to the general public as well as Society members. Phone number for contact on the day is 0409 021 063.

Please note that dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.