A street sign along the Old Princes Highway has been changed! An ‘S’ has been added to the Wood Street to make it Woods Street. The controversy over this street name has now been resolved. The Beaconsfield Business group contacted the Council querying the sign “Wood Street” on the Highway and Woods Street on the street pole. The Council has confirmed it is “Woods Street” and requested that Vic Roads change their two green directional signs to conform.
The first record of Woods Street appears in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal of October 5, 1889 when the Berwick Shire Council approved the alignment of this new street. It was named after John Woods (1822-1892) a member of the Victorian Parliament from 1871 to 1893, and Commissioner for the Railways 1877-1880. When the railway line from Sale to Oakleigh was opened in April 1879, there were stations at Berwick and Officer but none at present day Beaconsfield. In 1876, entrepreneur William Brisbane of Berwick, knowing the rail line was being built, and realising there was a great demand for sawn timber and firewood in rapidly expanding Melbourne, entered into partnership with John Day, and built a sawmill near the present day Central Hotel, then called the Gippsland Hotel. Brisbane needed a rail siding to get his timber to Melbourne, and knew a siding would also benefit the new selectors in hills district- now Upper Beaconsfield, and Little Berwick, the small settlement near Cardinia Creek, later named Beaconsfield.
Brisbane wrote to the Commissioner for Railways several times, requesting a siding at this site, but without success. In a flamboyant gesture, Brisbane invited 120 ladies and gentlemen from Melbourne to lunch at his guesthouse in Upper Beaconsfield on Saturday November 30, 1878.
The guests included three M.L.A’s - Dr. L.L.Smith, Bosisto, and John Woods, all of whom had selected 20 acre blocks in the Upper Beaconsfield area, so would have benefited from the proposed station. The visitors were picked up in horse drawn vehicles at the Berwick Station and on the way to Upper Beaconsfield were shown the place where a station was required.
At lunch, a toast to John Woods the Commissioner for the Railways was proposed. In reply Woods said he accepted Brisbane’s suggestion, and agreed to open a station. He then proposed a toast to Brisbane.
On the December 1, 1879 Beaconsfield Railway Station opened for traffic - passengers, and goods. The Station sign stated “Beaconsfield Station”, “Passengers for Beaconsfield Ranges alight here.” The Station was an immediate boost to the local economy. The first post office was opened at the station in 1883. When State School No. 3033 opened on its present site on June 5, 1890, it was officially called Beaconsfield Railway Station School. In 1951, the name was shortened to Beaconsfield School.
Woods Street was so named to acknowledge John Woods contribution to the early development of Beaconsfield. Beaconsfield soon grew as well with both homes and shops in the Woods Street area. There are still some early 20th Century cottages along Woods street which have been lovingly restored by their owners. In the early 1900’s Adamson’s hardware store was established and served the town from 1906-1983. Woods Street also had the Post Office and Jim Parke's butcher shop along with the Grosby factory (which operated from 1945 to 1951) and is still a mix of residential and businesses today. The War Memorial was built in 1920 and still stands at the end of the Street.
John Woods was born in Liverpool England on November 5, 1822. He was the son of a railway man and John trained as a locomotive engineer in Liverpool and then on the Leipzig and Dresden railway. He won first prize for axles at the 1851 Great Exhibition. He was married to Sarah Gibbons and they arrived in Victoria in 1852 and went to the Goldfields where he led passive resistance to the licence fee. At Ararat he was elected to the local court and then to the Mining Board and from 1859-1864 he was a member of the Legislative Assembly, from 1871-1892 representing the seat of Crowlands and then the new electorate of Stawell. He sat on many Select committees, mainly about railways. He was a commissioner for the 1880 Melbourne International exhibition and honorary commissioner to the 1883-84 Calcutta Exhibition; from 1890 he was a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways. He died on April 2, 1892.
The Berwick Shire Rates Books show that John Woods purchased land, 20 acres Lot 130 Parish of Pakenham in 1878 and held it till his death in 1892. Lot 130 is off Hughenden Road just down from the intersection of Telegraph Road in Upper Beaconsfield. Woods was one of the first batch of selectors of 20 acre lots after the land was subdivided by the government in 1876-77.
This article was first published in The Beaconsfield Banner, June/July 2010 edition, the community newsletter produced by the Beaconsfield Progress Association. Ann is a regular contributor to the Beaconsfield Banner and the late Dr Charles Wilson, was a local historian, generous with his knowledge and research. Sadly, he passed away on June 5, 2010 at the age of 90.
Biographical details from Australian Dictionary of Biography Volume 6 Melbourne University Press, 1976 pp. 434-435.
South Bourke and Mornington Journal 1889
Beaconsfield the school and it' s district: 1890-1990 by Audrey Dodson.
In the wake of the pack tracks by the Berwick Pakenham Historical Society.