Friday, 21 October 2016

"Settlers and Sawmills" and Bellbrakes, bullocks and bushmen" - the local timber industry

In this post we will look at two great local histories, both written by Mike McCarthy and published by the Light Railway Research Society of Australia  Settlers and Sawmills: a history of West Gippsland Tramways and the industries they served and Bellbrakes, bullocks and bushmen: a sawmilling and tramway history of Gembrook, 1885 - 1985.

I can't believe that I haven't spoken about these two books before because they are both fantastic local histories - meticulously  researched, great information, great photos, great maps and and they cover one of the very early primary industries in this region - the timber industry. Settlers and Sawmills looks at mills and tramlines at Beaconsfield, Officer, Pakenham, Nar Nar Goon, Tynong, Garfield and Bunyip and then continues down the road to Longwarry, Drouin, Warragul to Trafalgar. Bellbrakes, Bullocks and Bushmen covers Gembrook, Gembrook South and Beenak.

As I said before, apart from farming the timber industry was one of  first industries in this area and it was spurred on by the establishment of the Gippsland Railway line that was opened from Oakleigh to Bunyip in October 1877 and fully opened from Melbourne to Sale by 1879. This provided easy transport access to the Melbourne market which needed timber for houses, fences, fuel etc  Early mills that opened in the Gembrook area originally used this line until the Puffing Billy line or Gembrook line was officially opened on December 18, 1900.

Both Officer and Garfield began as railway sidings for the transport of locally harvested timber and then a settlement grew up around the sidings and the towns developed.

I do have a personal interest in this area of our history because my great grandfather, Horatio Weatherhead, and some of my great uncles, Fred, George, Arthur, Frank and Alf Weatherhead are mentioned in this book. Horatio was granted a 2000 acre (just over 800 hectares) sawmilling area at North Tynong in 1908 and the family moved their timber operations from the Wombat forest at Lyonville in 1909. His sons also operated their own mills and Arthur's sons Roy, Max and Cyril also operated a mill, which was worked solely by Roy until 1979.

The books extensively cover the tramways and the mills but also looks at some family history, railway history and the history of some of the local towns.
You can still buy these books from the  Light Railway Research Society of Australia  or you can borrow them from the library - click on the titles for availability  Settlers and Sawmills: a history of West Gippsland Tramways and the industries they served and Bellbrakes, bullocks and bushmen: a sawmilling and tramway history of Gembrook, 1885 - 1985. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

Mount Burnett or Gembrook West - the early days

Mount Burnett is a small town, north of Pakenham Upper and south of Cockatoo and Gembrook. It is known for its Observatory, which was opened by Monash University in the 1970s. When Monash University closed the observatory it was taken over by a small group of  astronomers and it is now a community astronomical observatory. You can read more about it on their website

What else do we know about Mt Burnett?  According to the book From Bullock Tracks to Bitumen: a brief history of the Shire of Berwick (Published by the Berwick Shire Historical Society in 1962) The original Gembrook (which by the way is the only settlement of that name in the world) was thus named on account of the precious gems to be found in the local streams and was mostly  settled from Berwick.....This original settlement is the area to the south and is what was later called West Gembrook and is now known as Mt Burnett.

The present town of Gembrook evolved around the Railway Station when the Puffing Billy or Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook Railway, as it was officially known, opened December 19, 1900. So we know that Mt Burnett was the original town of Gembrook, even though it seems that Upper Gembrook or Gembrook North  developed contemporaneously with West Gembrook. Having said that the term Gembrook West has been used in  newspapers from around 1884, so if it was the original town then it wasn't known as Gembrook for long, as clearly by 1884 it was already 'west' of what they considered to be Gembrook - which may have been around the intersection of Mountain Road and Ure Road as this was where the Gembrook Union Church was opened in 1879. The original Gembrook Post Office opened October 5, 1877.

 The following information about the local schools comes from Vision and Realisation:  a centenary history of State Education in Victoria      The first application for a school at Gembrook West was in 1879, and as you can see by the letter below from The Age, the  parents applied many times for  a school, but State School  No. 3211 did not open until August 9, 1894, with Joseph Morgan as the Head Teacher. The School worked half time with Gembrook South  No. 2155, until it closed just over  a year after it opened on October 31, 1895. This probably indicates that there wasn't much of  a population in the area. Gembrook North State School No. 2506 had started in January 1879 and also worked part time with Gembrook South, No 2155, with the school teacher, Alex Gough riding the 12 miles between the schools on alternate days. Gembrook No. 2506 was made full time in 1883 and is still going so obviously had a larger population base that Gembrook West to sustain a full time school.

The Age January 3, 1890

Gembrook West had another try at obtaining a school, this time in 1920 when the residents sent a petition to the Minister of Education. Vision and Realisation says that four acres were purchased from J.A and W.F Crichton, and the community built the school which opened on October 6,  1921. Once again there were very low numbers and the school officially closed on October 5, 1923 however kept working until the end of the year. The students could attend Gembrook No. 2506 or Cockatoo No. 3535. The land was retained.

The parents of Gembrook West made another attempt to get a school for their children and on July 2 1932 the Mount Burnett School, No 4506,  opened, it worked part time with Army Road No. 3847 but only had six children enrolled and closed January 1933. The school was housed  in 'a large room in Mrs Creighton's house' Three years later in January 1936, another school opened, also at Mrs Creighton's  house. The average attendance reached 22 and a new school was built on a block of land owned by the Education Department, presumably the site of the old Gembrook West School and this new building opened February 15, 1937. There is a very grainy photo of the school and the pupils in the report below, from the Weekly Times. As was the fate of the previous three schools in the area, enrolments dropped and by 1946 only 11 children attended the school and the school finally closed on October 24, 1949,according to Vision and Realisation, although an article in the Dandenong Journal says it closed in April 1949,  and the children went to Pakenham Consolidated School.

 Opening of the Mt Burnett  School in February 1937 - Weekly Times March 13 1937

Dandenong Journal April 6, 1949

Some of the teachers were Thomas Francis Lee who was there in 1938, when he was listed in an article as the President of the newly formed Affiliated Labour Teachers' Union, Norman Teychenne McMahon who was there from at least November  1943 until he passed away at the age of  51 in November 1946. 

So what else was there at Mt Burnett? There was a Post Office, then called Gembrook West,  which opened in January 1885. A source in Wikipedia says that the name changed to Mt Burnett in 1921 and it closed in 1978. I don't have any other sources that confirm this, however the school that opened in October 1921 wasn't called Mt Burnett and the first reference I can find to the name in the local newspapers on Trove was in 1924

Gembrook West Post Office
Victorian Government Gazette January 23 1885

There was a Mt Burnett Progress Association. I can find reports in various newspapers about this organization  from 1937 and from 1954. This reflects reportage on other local Progress Associations when there seemed to be very little activity during the War Years as communities were focused less on local matters and more on 'the War effort'.  

There were some reports in the Dandenong Journal from 1940 to 1944  about the activities of the  Mt Burnett sub-branch of the Dandenong Red Cross  - amongst  the reports it was said that Mt Burnett and other sub-branches still continue to do their part well with donations of cash and knitted goods and only have a small group of workers.

The Weekly Times April 4, 1945

There was a Young Farmers Club which was established in late 1944 - they were indeed young farmers as you can see from the article above  Geoffrey and Graham McMahon who rotary hoed a paddock at the school were only 10 and 8 years old.

What else was at Mt Burnett? I don't know - I presume there may have been a shop, but I can't find any reference to it and given the size of the school enrolments it was only ever  a small town, so perhaps that was it. I'd love to hear from you if you know of any other establishments in the town. 

I have created a  list of newspaper articles about the early days of Mt Burnett from Trove, click here to access the list.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Melbourne Hunt Club at Cranbourne by Claire Turner Sandall

This account of the history of the Melbourne Hunt Club was written and researched by the Local History Officer, Claire Sandall (nee Turner) for the Cranbourne Hands on History project, Cranbourne: a town with a history published in 2001. You can access the entire history on-line on the City of Casey website, here.

In 1996, the headquarters of the long established Melbourne Hunt Club along Cameron Street [Narre Warren-Cranbourne Road] were demolished*. The end of these charismatic buildings was the end of an era when Cranbourne and its surrounding districts were at the centre of this traditional sport. Today when you travel along Cameron Street, you will see the construction of a new housing estate called The Hunt Club Estate. This is yet another symbol of the passing of time and the rapidly changing land around Cranbourne. Its rural foundations are gradually disappearing and are being replaced by the trademarks of progress. The Hunt Club name survives and with it a fascinating history that saw the intermingling of ‘elite’ Melbourne society with a farming community.

A long-time member who had enjoyed close associations with the Hunt Club since being a teenager in the 1940s, Mr. Derry Francis remarked that: ‘to see the club house, stables and houses removed recently was a very sad loss of a great lot of memories!’

The English tradition of fox hunting on horseback was established in Australia during the 1830s and the Melbourne Hunt Club dates back to the 1840s. By the 1870s, Melbourne’s wealthy families like the Chirnsides and the Clarkes, indulged in the hunt as a prestigious leisure activity for special occasions. Kangaroo hunts, as well as traditional foxhunts, were also popular. The club needed headquarters to stable members’ horses and to breed the hounds. The hounds were pivotal to the club. A club would become well known for the pedigree of its hounds and for how well the chief huntsmen could train them. Well-trained hounds would ensure a good chase of the fox for the hunters on horseback.

Cranbourne was selected as a new site for the Hunt Club when urban development was squeezing them out of their existing site in Oakleigh during the 1920s**   Fox hunting relies on the availability of space and cooperation with neighbouring farms: land was the key to the survival of the club. Oakleigh’s farms were beginning to disappear, signalling a problem for the club. The Cranbourne site, on the corner of Thompsons and Narre Warren Cranbourne Roads was chosen by a special ‘Country Committee’ of the Melbourne Hunt Club in the late 1920s. The committee included Pakenham identity J.J. Ahern, S.A. Greaves and the owner of the ‘Mayfield’ property in Cranbourne, R.G.Hope. These men provided an important link between the Melbourne gentry society and the Cranbourne and Berwick Shire areas. As influential landowners, they could persuade the Club that Cranbourne would sustain the Club’s endeavours, providing them with plenty of space for their activities and township support.

Alec Creswick, George Missen and Rupert Richardson outside the Berwick Inn. The Melbourne Hunt Club used to gather at the Berwick Inn before setting off for the days hunting.

When the club moved to Cranbourne, there had already been a long association with the Casey-Cardinia region. The first Master of the hounds was George Watson, from the I.Y.U property in Pakenham. Permission was required from landowners to hunt across their property and the committee had to work very hard to achieve and maintain this. There was eventually a network of properties that would participate in the hunt, making their land available and allowing the club to install special points in their fences where horses could safely jump. Watson became a stoic figure in the club over the years and enjoyed the benefits of his sons owning land in Narre Warren and Hallam during the 1890s. His son Godfrey Watson owned ‘The Pines’ and kennelled the hounds there during the 1897 season. The Greaves family in the Berwick and Cranbourne district also featured in the history of the Hunt Club. Again they were a useful connection because they owned large properties and allowed the hunts to operate there. Greaves family properties included ‘Fernside’ at Cranbourne and ‘Strathard’ at Narre Warren.

The Hunt Club adopted parts of Cranbourne culture as its own. The sustaining industry during the 1920s and 30s in Cranbourne was dairying and the town was an industry leader in providing the first bottled milk. The Hunt Club picked up on the local culture and the following club poem describing local sites highlights this:
The Lyndhurst, Clyde and Cranbourne chaps
There must be easy seven
And other men from Nar Nar Goon, 
We’d make up to eleven, 
The Huntsmen coves, the General said,
 Put sugar in their tea, 
And Cranbourne milk is pretty strong
 You take the tip from me…. 

The 1920s clubhouse at Cranbourne was the scene of many social engagements, especially refreshments after a hunt, and was a notoriously beautiful building. It was located near the railway line on Narre Warren Cranbourne Road, where the Hunt Club housing estate is now being developed. The buildings could not be seen from the road. They were at the end of a long and winding driveway. The clubhouse was on the left, followed by the Bregazzi house. There was an orchard, dog kennels, exercise yards and a room where all the meat was boiled up for dog food. At the end on the right hand side were the enormous stables. A car could be driven through the centre and there was a chute along which the chaff was shovelled.

A curious and compatible relationship developed between the local Cranbourne community and the patrons of hunting who travelled up from Melbourne. They shared a love of the country and of sport. Horse people and other locals from surrounding properties joined in the club activities, rubbing shoulders with prominent politicians, visiting dignitaries and wealthy business people from the city.
One of Cranbourne’s pioneering families, the Bregazzies, had a special association with the Hunt Club. Keith Bregazzi worked for the club between the early 1930s and 1975 when he retired. Keith was highly respected as ‘the backbone of the Melbourne Hunt Club’. He and his wife Phyllis lived in a cottage on the Hunt Club grounds and were well-known personalities, both locally and among the many and varied club members that came to Cranbourne to enjoy the high-quality organization that Keith quietly and efficiently maintained. He was in charge of the training and breeding of the hounds, the welfare of the horses and the overall property. Club member Derry Francis remembers: We became very friendly with Keith and I often went up to help him with the hounds and horses. On my 15th birthday, I was given a pony ‘Bidgee’ then I could go and help work the hounds pre-season, with Keith and Ted McCoy. Late teens I got a hunter and hunted with the hounds for years. In that period there were 4 different Masters – Sir Alex Creswick, Peter Ronald, Owen Moore and Jeff Spencer – great years!!

This is the Hunt Club at Cranbourne - it's part of the Casey Cardinia Library Corporation Archive collection, but I don't know the date or the source of the photo.

The Club was a very established part of Cranbourne’s identity. There are many memories held by locals who had various involvements with the club, either as members of the Hunt, workers at the hunt complex or as children. Children from nearby properties loved to play at the grounds. Pam Ridgway recalls: We spent a lot of time at the Hunt Club visiting the Bregazzi family. We used to play in the stables and around the kennels. During the hunting season the hunting party looked magnificent in their red coats and black hats. There were hurdles along farmers paddock fences so that there were safe places to jump. 

Locals would follow the hunt by road in cars, on horseback and in jinkers, making a real occasion. The Hunt Club was a prestigious part of Cranbourne for many decades. Its headquarters are now located at Pakenham.

A 1980 aerial photograph of the Melbourne Hunt Club at Cranbourne. It was located on the east side of  Narre Warren-Cranbourne Road and the north side Berwick -Cranbourne Road (Sladen Street extension). The railway line bi-sects the photo.

*I  believe that some of the buildings were removed and that two buildings are now in Modella and being used as a private house [Heather Arnold]

** According to Niel Gunson, The Good Country: Cranboure Shire the Hunt club moved from Oakleigh to Cranbourne in 1925, but according to several reports in local newspapers on Trove, it was actually 1929 that they moved.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Accounts presented for payment July 16, 1974 - City of Berwick

 Step back in time to July 1974 and see how much things cost! This is a list of Accounts presented for payment at a City of Berwick Council meeting held July 16, 1974.

As you might expect wages were the largest expense -$69, 177.52. (Cheque number 1598) A puncture repair at Beaurepaire Tyre Service was $3.30 (cheque 1615)   I paid $30.00  about  a month ago for the same thing. Cr Barry Simon's travel expenses were a very modest $9.54 (cheque 1636)

The Temporary Crossing Deposit was $12.00 - the current Cardinia  Shire deposit for the same thing is now $1,000!. Overall there was $231,000 total expenditure.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Cr Jan Bateman

Jan Bateman, who was the first female Mayor for the City of Berwick passed away on August 26, 2016 at the age of 81. Mrs Bateman  was a Shire of Berwick Councillor from 1971 until 1973 and then recontested in the first City of Berwick Election held in 1973 and won so she was an inaugural City of Berwick Councillor. She was Mayor 1980/81  - as we said, the  first female Mayor for the City of Berwick. She  resigned from the Council in 1984. Mrs Bateman was re-elected to Council in 1992 and stood down when the Council amalgamations took place in 1994. She then took up the role of one of the Commissioners for the newly created City of Maroondah and served as a Commissioner from January 1995 until March 1997. Mrs Bateman was awarded an OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) in recognition of her service to the community in June 1985.

This photograph was taken after the first meeting of the City of Berwick, on October 1 1973 at the Berwick Inn. The newly elected Mayor, Barry Simon, is at the front, behind the bar. Left to right are David Lee, Jack Thomas, Keith Wishart, Sid Pargeter, Jan Bateman, Jim Alexander, Joan Phillips, Ron Irwin, George Chudleigh, John Byron and Bill Hudson. 

Janice Gwendoline Bateman (nee Harrop) and her husband John had moved to Doveton in 1957, according to  a report in a local paper when she was elected Mayor in 1980.  Mrs Bateman was the last of  a trio of pioneering female Councillors who all had the distinction of being the first female Mayor for local Councils. Mrs Jeune Matthews, who passed away in 2012, was the first female Shire President (they are now called Mayors) for the Shire of Pakenham in 1979 and Mrs Judy Elso, who passed away in December 2015 was the first female Shire President of the Shire of Cranbourne in 1988. It's hard to believe now, given that Local Government commenced in this area with the formation of the Cranbourne Road Board in 1860 and the Berwick Road Board in 1862, the precursors of Shires of Cranbourne and Berwick, both of which were established in 1868, that it actually took around 120 years for a female to be given the top job.

Cr Bateman was interviewed in 1994 about the early days of the City of Berwick, you can listen to this here.

 Cr Bateman, the photo isn't dated, but presumably taken during her Mayoral year in 1980.

Interestingly, 1980, the year after Cr Jeune Matthews' stint as Shire President, Jan Bateman was Mayor of Berwick and Cr Lenore Gullquist was Shire President of Pakenham, so Pakenham Shire had the distinction of having two females in the top job in a row. Also of note, while we are talking about pioneering women in local government, the Shire of Berwick had a female Shire Secretary from 1951 until 1966, Miss Beatrice (Trixie) Thomas. This was a rare position for a woman to hold. Miss Thomas was the daughter of Albert Thomas, who founded  the Pakenham Gazette in 1909.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Timbarra Housing Estate, Berwick

The Timbarra Housing Estate was established in November 1989. It was an Urban Land Authority development. The brochure (cover reproduced left) said that the chief objective , in planning this large residential sub-division, is to provide a mix of housing styles and prices on lots of varying size. In this way we will be able to make housing more affordable to more people who have  a variety of lifestyle requirements....It is clear that the traditional three bedroom house on a quarter acre block of land is no longer relevant to a significant proportion of households, many of which are just one or two people....A great deal of planning has gone into ensuring that Timbarra offers all the facilities a growing community will need. A complete range of community facilities, meeting places, walkways, parks and school sites will be provided...

One of these facilities, the Timbarra Community Centre opened July 10, 1993.

Timbarra covered an area of 200 hectares of gently undulating pasture, scattered with shelter belts of trees was the brochure's bucolic description of the land.  An estimated 300 homes will be under construction early in 1990 and by 1994 it was estimated that there would be around 3,000 houses.

Location of Timbarra from the 1989 sales brochure.

We have a brochure (see below) from the Urban Land Authority advertising a ballot to buy land in the Timbarra Estate - The Gateway. The ballot took place May 9, 1992. The brochure includes a number of street plans (or Housing Siting Policy Plans) for Gumnut Court, Magdalene Place, Sunnyside Drive,Coowarra Way, Emma Court, Leonard Avenue, Adelaide Court, Oscar Court, Theodore Terrace and some of The Gateway, so if you live in any of these streets then it is likely that your block of land was purchased on May 9, 1992. You can see one of these plans, below.

The Gateway Ballot May 9, 1992 brochure. Timbarra Housing Estate  was originally in Narre Warren, until a boundary change 'moved' it into Berwick, see more about this, below.
The Gateway Lot Plan from the May 9, 1992 brochure

The is the House Siting Policy Plan for Sunnyside Drive and Magdalena Place from the May 9, 1992 brochure

The land was originally farm land owned partially by the Sweeney Family. The Sweeney Brothers, John and Daniel, arrived in Narre Warren around 1854. They had extensive land holdings in Narre Warren on both sides of the Princes Highway including where the Timbarra Estate is now. Daniel remained a bachelor and John married Alice Reedy and they had ten children.  The Sweeney’s have played a major role in the development of Narre Warren. Descendants of John and Alice donated land for the old Narre Warren Oval and for Our Ladies Help of Christians Catholic Church and Don Bosco School. Pat Sweeney sold the land where Timbarra is partially located  to the Housing Commission of Victoria in 1971, but it was later developed by the Urban Land Authority as a private estate not a housing commission estate.

Timbarra is an Aboriginal word meaning Grass Tree, the botanical name of which is Xanthorrhoea Australia. 

As you can see on the 1992 brochure, the Timbarra Estate was originally part of Narre Warren but  is now part of Berwick. The Melway Street Directory Edition 21, 1991 to 1992 has the Timbarra Estate in Narre Warren, with the boundary of Berwick and Narre Warren being Hessel Road. The Melway Street Directory Edition 23, 1995 has Timbarra Estate in Berwick, as the boundary has changed to Narre Warren North Road.  An article in the Berwick City News of January 13, 1994 says that the Office of Place Names has officially assigned boundaries to 10 suburbs in the City of Berwick and the Narre Warrren/Berwick boundary is listed as Hessel Road.

So we can establish that in December 1993 the boundary of Berwick/Narre Warren was Hessel Road and that sometime in 1995 it had changed to Narre Warren North Road.  Thus the Timbarra Estate had ‘moved’ from being in Narre Warren to being in Berwick sometime in 1994 or 1995 but I cannot be more specific than that.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Mobile Library at Cockatoo by Marcia Holdsworth

A few years ago, Marcia wrote a short history of  Library Services at Cockatoo, and so they don't get lost from our history I thought we would share them in this blog.

Before 1983, the Dandenong Valley Regional Library Service (DVRLS) Mobile library, a Bedford Bus, used to visit Cockatoo once a fortnight for a few hours. It parked in the car park at the top of McBride Street, above the shops.  The staff used a Telxon device to record loans and the data was then downloaded via the telephone back at the Pakenham library.

The Bedford Bus Mobile Library

After the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 DVRLS set up a joint-use Community Library in an area of the Cockatoo Primary School library. It opened around May of that year and Marcia Holdsworth was appointed Officer in Charge in the October. The Library initially opened to the general public Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning. The cost effectiveness of the Community Library was re-assessed in 1992 and after negotiations with the School it was decided to phase out the service and re-introduce a Mobile Library Service.

Thus in January 1993 the Mobile timetable was expanded to include a stop at Cockatoo. The mobile had been recently upgraded to a brand new semi-trailer mobile provided by the then Pakenham Shire. It now parked at the Cockatoo Kindergarten/Bowling green car park in McBride Street. The new vehicle visited every Thursday afternoon until 7.30pm and with the extended hours the circulation increased. The Mobile Library still visits Cockatoo every Thursday from 1.30pm until 7.30pm.

This is the only photo we have of the Cockatoo Library, sadly, it's fairly ordinary quality. It was taken by the Shire of Pakenham in the 1980s.