Thursday, 25 March 2010


This is our 100th blog post and I thought that I would tell you all about Vervale, which is where I grew up. Vervale is a locality surrounded by Cora Lynn, Iona and Garfield on the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and I feel it must be the least known town in both Casey and Cardinia. The Shire of Berwick Rate Books give us some idea of the development of Vervale. Ratepayers in the area were listed as living in Cora Lynn or Iona until 1916 when some of these same rate payers had Clarke’s Post Office as their address. This had changed to Vervale in 1917. Vervale was first written as Vere Vale. Vervale means “green valley”.

Vervale doesn't have any Churches. Until around 1960 Methodist and Presbyterian Services were held on alternate Sundays at the Cora Lynn Hall, or Presbyterians could attend the Iona Presbyterian Church. Catholics could attend St Josephs Church at Iona and those of the Methodist and Anglican faiths could attend Churches in Garfield. There were no Vervale sporting teams – you had to go to either Cora Lynn or Garfield to play sport.

Vervale Post Office, 1967. ( Image no.B5919/2186). 
 From the collection on the National Archives of Australia website.

What Vervale did have was a General store and Post Office, established in 1907 by J. Kirwan. According to the Shire of Berwick Rate Books it was sold to James & Edith McMannis in 1916. They had the store until the mid to late 1960s. Vervale also had a State School, and although it had three names it was never called Vervale. State School No. 3201 was established in 1894 as Koo-Wee-Rup North School, changed it’s name in 1899 to Bunyip South and changed it’s name again in 1905 to Iona. The School closed December 1993.

However, Vervale does have one claim to fame as it was the first place in Victoria in which asparagus was commercially grown. Thomas Roxburgh, who was a Shipping Agent, planted the first commercial crop of asparagus at his farm Cheriton Park, though locally it was referred to as Roxburgh Park. The earliest reference I can find to this planting is an article in The Argus from May 8, 1912 where it is reported that he had nine acres of asparagus planted. By the 1930’s the major commercial asparagus production area in Victoria was the Koo Wee Rup and Dalmore area. Soon after, this area was to become the largest asparagus producing area in Australia. There was an interview in the Pakenham Gazette of December 8, 1999 with Bill Roxburgh, the grandson of Thomas. In the interview Bill talks about how his grandfather, who owned 300 acres, had planted all different kinds of trees on a five acre section of his land and had built his own park to relax in.

Some of the remaining trees planted by Thomas Roxburgh at Cheriton Park, on the corner of Fallon Road and Simpson Road in Vervale.

As I said before, Vervale means green valley, which is a bit of a misnomer as, like the rest of the Swamp, if is very flat and prone to flooding. My grandfather, James Rouse, took up 56 acres on Murray Road in Cora Lynn in 1903 and in 1913 also purchased land on the corner of Main Drain Road and Dessent Road, which is now owned by my parents and the following pictures show this property under some of the many floods to hit the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp.

Corner of Main Drain Road and Dessent Road, under flood, in 1937.

Corner of Main Drain Road and Dessent Road, under flood, in 1958.

Corner of Main Drain Road and Dessent Road, under flood, in 1990. The original house in the previous two pictures has been demolished and a new house built plus some potato sheds.


Anonymous said...

Hi Heather

How fabulous to hear about Vervale where you grew up. I loved the old pic of the Post Office and those lovely old trees which are still standing. I have just looked up where it is on the road maps and next time I'm down that way will check it out and then go to the great bakery at Garfield
Best wishes

Heather said...

The Store and Post Office has changed a bit, it is now a private residence. There are still some trees standing that mark the site of the old State School so there is not a lot to see at Vervale, but it is worth the trip to go to the Garfield Bakery (and the Butcher shop is really good as well.)

Jennifer Mays said...

My grandmother (Bertha Russell nee Miller went to the original Iona School which burnt down in maybe 1913. My Mother, Ella Parsons, nee Russell, went to the second Iona School in the 1920's as did I in the late 1950's - '60's.