Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Mechanics' Institutes

This is Narre Warren North in 1895. The old store and the Mechanics' Institute is in the background and Raduchel's blacksmith shop on the right (click on photograph to enlarge it).
In the nineteenth century the term ‘mechanic’ meant artisan or working man. The Mechanics’ Institute movement began in 1800 when Dr George Birkbeck of the Andersonian Institute in Scotland gave a series of lectures to local mechanics. The lectures were free and popular. They led to the formation of the Edinburgh School of Arts (1821) and the London Mechanics’ Institute (1823). The movement spread quickly throughout the British Empire.The first Victorian Mechanics’ Institute was the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institute established in 1839 and renamed The Melbourne Athenaeum in 1873, which continues to operate in its original building in Collins Street. Over a thousand were built in Victoria and 562 remain today. The Berwick Mechanics' Institute and Free Library is one of only six which still operate as Lending Libraries.The Berwick Mechanics' Institute commenced in 1864. More information can be found on their website at www.berwickmilibrary.org.au  Richard Myers has written a book called Berwick Mechanics' Institute & Free Library.

Towns in Casey Cardinia in which a Mechanics' Institute was established are Bayles, Beaconsfield, Bunyip, Clematis, Clyde, Clyde North, Cockatoo, Cora Lynn, Emerald, Garfield, Lang Lang, Koo-Wee-Rup, Koo-Wee-Rup East, Nar Nar Goon, Nar Nar Goon North, Narre Warren, Narre Warren North, Officer, Pakenham, Pakenham Upper, Tooradin and Tynong.

For more information on Mechanics' Institutes you can borrow If the walls could speak : a social history of the Mechanics' Institutes of Victoria by Pam Baragwanath from the Cranbourne Library, or visit the Mechanics' Institutes of Victoria website at http://home.vicnet.net.au/~mivic/

The photograph above is of the Berwick Mechanics' Institute, taken before the 1982 renovations.These renovations extended the building width ways and also added a mezzanine level. This extension was made possible by a $50,000 donation by Lady Casey and City of Berwick funding.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Scouts in Casey Cardinia

2008 is the Centenary of the Scouting movement in Australia. The Scouting movement was established in England, in 1907, by Robert Baden Powell, who was created Lord Baden Powell of Gilwell in 1929. By 1908 the movement had spread to Australia, Belgium, Gibraltar, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand and South Africa. Casey Cardinia has a number of Scout camps. Gilwell Park, at Gembrook, was established in the 1920s, though Scouts had been camping at Gembrook since 1910. The land for Gilwell Park was donated by the Russell family of Swallowfield , Gembrook. Cecil and Alice Russell had arrived in Gembrook in 1907. They had three sons, Bill, Tom and Jack. Tom Russell became a Scout Commissioner. The G.W S Anderson Park at Officer was purchased in 1928. It was named after George William Strachan Anderson, who held various positions in the Scouting Movement and was Chief Commissioner of the Scouts from 1937 until 1951. There is also the Dallas Brooks Scout Park in Beaconsfield Upper. Sir Dallas Brooks was the Governor of Victoria from 1949-1963 and Chief Scout from 1948 until 1963. Many small towns in the area had their own Scout, Cubs and Guides troop. The photograph, above, is of the Cora Lynn Scouts, taken about 1947. The photograph, below, is of the Narre Warren North Cubs from1957. The Leader is Mrs Nell Schneider.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Soldier Settlers in Narre Warren North

On Saturday March 1st, 2008 the Soldier Settler Memorial Garden in Fox Road, Narre Warren North will be officially opened. This is a memorial to the seven Soldier Settler families who farmed in Narre Warren North from 1934. They are Thomas & Annie Edwards, Edward & May Ivens, Leslie & Mary Lowry (pictured above), John & Kathleen Rogers, Alfred & Sarah Sherriff, Francis & Jessie Stephenson and Arthur & Lila Street. The farmers, all Soldiers from World War One, were allocated blocks, on a 99 year lease, averaging 6 hectares (15 acres) which were mainly used for dairying and poultry production. The farms were in the vicinity of Fox Road and the Street farm (pictured below) is now the site of the Mary MacKillop Catholic Primary School. Some families, such as the Edwards and the Streets had been on Soldier Settler blocks in the Mallee, before being allocted land at Narre Warren North. Life could be hard for the Soldier Settler but by all accounts the Narre Warren North settlers formed a close group and contributed much to the community life of the area.
Photo credits : Thank you to Gordon Lowry for the photograph of Leslie & Mary Lowry and to Bob Street for the photograph of the Street farm.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


Lyndhurst was part of the Shire of Cranbourne, but with the 1994 boundary changes it is now predominately in the City of Greater Dandenong. However, the early history of Lyndhurst is so closely associated with Cranbourne, that it deserves a place in our blog. The first Europeans in the area were either the Wedge Brothers, Charles, Henry and John, who leased "Banyan waterholes" which covered the area from around Dandenong to Frankston or the Ruffy Brothers. They squatted on the Tomaque run, after having arrived from Tasmania in 1836 (though some sources say they left Tasmania in March 1837). Tomaque was situated between Dandenong and Cranbourne. The brothers had Tomaque until 1850, however in the 1840s they also took up the Mayune Run of 32,000 acres. Mayune was situated around what is now the town of Cranbourne. Later settlers in Lyndhurst included Alexander Norquay, Alexander Dunlop, George Bird, George and Frederick Hall (Hall Road was named after Frederick) , John Close, Donald and Alexander McClelland, George Howard, James Sime, John Donnelly and Richard Taylor. Richard Taylor arrived in Lyndhurst in 1869 and opened his hotel, Taylor’s Half Way House (pictured below), in 1871. It was demolished in 1966.

Alexander Norquay (1813-1890) migrated in 1852 from the Orkney Islands in Scotland. His son, William, was a member of the Cranbourne Road Board. The Norquay family have left behind a wonderful reminder of their presence in the form of the Morteon Bay fig tree (fiscus macrocarpa) which is located in Figtree Walk at Lyndhurst. This tree was thought to have been planted by John Norquay, another son of Alexander, in the 188os or 1890s. It is on the City of Casey Heritage Scheme. The photograph, immediately below, is of the original Norqauy house and was taken in 1966. The bottom photograph shows the Moreton Bay fig and a later farm house which was demolished in 2003.

A few interesting facts about Lyndhurst - Lyndhurst was originally known as Bald Hill ; Lyndhurst was named after Lord Lyndhurst (1772-1863), Lord Chancellor Of England ; Skye was known as Lyndhurst South from 1903 until 1964. A murder in the area in 1903 had brought unwelcome attention to Skye and local residents had the name changed. The victim was William Ford who was about 70 years old ; Lynbrook was developed on land which was originally part of Lyndhurst.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Nar Nar Goon

The first European settlers in the Nar Nar Goon area were John Dore and Michael Hennessy, who leased Mt Ararat, No.1 run, from 1844. When the partnership broke up in 1855, Dore continued on with the lease in his own right. John, and his son Tom, purchased 526 hectares (1300 acres) at the first Crown Land sales in the 1860s. The railway line to Sale, cut through the Dore property. The line was opened in 1877, but the Nar Nar Goon Railway station wasn't built until 1881. Other early settlers were John Startup (who was a foundation member of the Berwick Road Board) and a Mr Kettle, who took up the Mt Ararat Station run in 1854 and Phillip and Michael Mulcare. Michael Mulcare's land was the site of the the subdivision for the township of Nar Nar Goon. Mulcare Street is named after him. Other early settlers include Alexander Ritchie, Jane Forturne, John Browning and the Bourke family.

In the 1990s the Progress Association undertook the painting of a number of murals representing different aspects of the history of the town. The murals provide a delightful and fascinating glimpse into Nar Nar Goon's past and include the Nar Nar Goon race course, which operated until the 1940, Tom Snell's General Store, Arthur Thorne's Butcher Shop,  W.H Foulsham's bakery, the Nar Nar Goon churches,  the Public Hall and a tribute to the timber industry and the dairy industry. A booklet, from which these images were taken, is available for sale at the Milk Bar (previously Grover's Railway Store).

I have done some research into the Great War Soldiers listed on the Nar Nar Goon Honour Board and the  Nar Nar Goon North State School Honour Board. There are fifty five names listed on the boards and you can read about them here