Tag Archives: Shillinglaw Trees

A part of our history

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.

895 and 903-907 Main Road, Eltham as advertised for sale, September 2018
(Photo: Frank Knight Real Estate)

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.

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Advertised Sale of Former Shire Office Site and War Memorial Precinct

895 and 903-907 Main Road Eltham

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.

EDHS Position Statement download

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: Roadworks, Bridge Street and Main Road, Eltham, 1968

#ThrowbackThursday – Today we time travel back to 1968 and the intersection of Bridge Street and Main Road. Roadworks are well under way for the widening of Main Road from Pitt Street to Elsa Court. Extensive works were being undertaken to revise the intersection of Bridge Street. As a consequence, traffic delays were an everyday occurrence.

Excavating at the corner of Main Road and Bridge Street, Eltham, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
Reconstruction of the corner of Bridge Street and Main Road, Eltham, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
Excavating at the corner of Main Road and Bridge Street, Eltham, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
Reconstruction of the corner of Bridge Street and Main Road, Eltham, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
Traffic delays at the corner of Bridge Street and Main Road, Eltham whilst surveyors check the alignment, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
New embankment on southeast corner of Bridge Street and Main Road, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
New embankment on southeast corner of Bridge Street and Main Road, 1968; Roadworks for duplication of Main Road
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)
Main Road duplication at intersection with Bridge Street, Eltham, 1968. Shows the Eltham Shire Office, the construction of Panther Place and the new section of Main Road which was to become the northbound lanes.
(Photo: ©Fred Mithchell; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society “Fred Mitchell Collection”, donated by Fred Mitchell)

 

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: 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.

https://www.google.com.au/maps/@-37.7183777,145.1463332,3a,75y,3.96h,90.76t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sPQq3qiamGbMud_1EbcwA4g!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
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)