Friday, 21 March 2014

Lysterfield - a short history

The first European settlement in the Lysterfield area took place in 1838 when James Dobie and J. S Kerr took up the Monbulk Run. This run was  eight square miles (about 2,000 hectares) and was based around the Monbulk creek. This run takes in modern day Lysterfield, Belgrave South and Belgrave Heights.
Dobie and Kerr operated this run until 1850 when Ambrose Eyles, took over for a short time and then Thomas Dargon. Dargon and his wife Margaret took up the Monbulk pre-emptive right in 1856, the year they were married.  Margaret, remained on the property after his death in 1862 and she retained the Monbulk lease until 1872, where she ran it with her second husband Robert Nixon, whom she married in 1867. The Dargon Homestead site is now within the Lysterfield and Churchill State Park. Nixon was a Berwick Shire Councillor when this area was part of Shire of Berwick (the Scoresby ward went over to the newly created Shire of Fern Tree Gully in 1889)


Margaret Dargon (nee Cahill 1827-1897)
Source: Story of the Dandenongs by Helen Coulson

Other early land owners included Edward Barry who took up 440 acres in 1856.  The Barry property was named Mountain Gap (a descriptive name as it was located in a gap in the hills).   His son William Barry and his wife Elizabeth  also owned land at Lysterfield around the intersection of Wellington and Kellett Roads. Barry was also a Berwick Shire Council. Their daughter Ada married George Powell who was notable for supplying  the British Army with horses;  he also sent 6,000 horses to South Africa during the Boer War. George and Ada’s daughter, Violet Lambert, was the first woman in Victoria to be elected a Shire Councillor, when she stood for the Shire of Fern Tree Gully in 1931. The Barry family gave their name to the Barry Ranges sometimes called the Lysterfield Hills.


A great photograph of Mrs Elizabeth Barry (nee Beck 1845-1921)  and three of her four daughters.
Source: Story of the Dandenongs by Helen Coulson

Another early settler was George Battersby who selected 195 acres in 1862. His son John built Cloverdale Cottage in Hallam Road, which still remains today.

Abraham Strettle settled in 1865 on land called Sweet Hills due to the lush pasture. Streetle  established a cannery to can produce from his extensive orchard however the trees were destroyed by bush fires before they matured. Sweet Hills later became the site of an Church of England Boys Training farm and it was later acquired as part of the Lysterfield Reservoir. The Training Farm was established in 1937. It was first managed by The Rev. R.G. Nichols, and in 1942 was taken over by the Church of England Boys' Society. In 1945, the Farm moved to Yering and it closed in 1950. The Farm had its own school – Lysterfield Boys Home No. 4601. It operated from June 1942 until 1950. It was also called the Yering Boys Home School, so I presume that the School moved from Lysterfield to Yering with the training farm. There are still reminders left of this Boys farm in the Lysterfield and Churchill State Park the most obvious of which is Boys Farm Track and Heritage walk. Click here for the Parks Visitor's Guide.

Wellington Road was originally known as Narre Warren Road and was the main route used by people travelling to Emerald. Wellington Road was named for the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), whose military career is usually associated with the Napoleonic Wars and the 1815 Battle of Waterloo; however the people of the old Fern Tree Gully Shire were non partisan as they called an adjacent road after Napoleon (1769-1821).


William Saurin Lyster (1828-1880)
Portrait by George Frederick Folingsby. 
State Library of Victoria Image H5237

Land for a school was donated by William Saurin Lyster and to acknowledge this gift the locals decided to name the area Lysterfield. The area had been known locally as The Flats.  Lyster had selected his land, which he called Narre Worran Grange in 1867 and as the land was swampy and he drained the property and ran a dairy farm and produced his own cheese.  Lyster also claimed to have introduced grand opera to Australia; his opera company opened its first season in Melbourne in 1869.  Lyster is written up in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, click here, to read about his life. The aforementioned George Powell purchased part of the land originally owned by Lyster in 1928 and called his property Netherlea. The State Library of Victoria has a series of photographs of Powells house, which was originally Lyster's Narre Warron Grange  and three are reproduced below.



Netherlea, Lysterfield. Photographer: John T. Collins
State Library of Victoria Image H97.250/2689

Netherlea, Lysterfield. Photographer: John T. Collins
State Library of Victoria Image H97.250/2691

Netherlea, Lysterfield. Photographer: John T. Collins
State Library of Victoria Image H97.250/2712

According to Vision and Realisation: a centenary history of State Education in Victoria the Lysterfield school was opened on April 9 1877 as Narre Warren North School, No. 1866 on the south side of Wellington Road. The name was changed to Lysterfield in September 1879. Around 1883 the School was closed due to declining number and the building was used for church services and a Post Office. In 1886, Edward Warriner, the head master was told that he must operated Lysterfield half time with Menzies Creek School, No. 2457,  in spite of the three hours of travel  between the two on horse back. Edward was saved from this arduous travel by the Education Department opening the school full time towards the end of 1877.
The school closed again in 1893 and re-opened in September 1908 on a new more central site, in a leased building on Mr Sealey’s farm, as School No. 3573.  The first teacher was Marion Hale and she was succeeded by May Fairbairn. Enrolment numbers were never high and in 1911 it operated part time with Scoresby State School, No. 1028. Lysterfield, No. 3573, was destroyed by fire in 1912 and the Lysterfield locals were once again without a school even though at the time of the fire the School had an enrolment of only four pupils. Then in 1918 classes began in the Anglican Church in Wellington Road.  In 1920 a new building began construction on the original site and it opened in September 1921 with 15 pupils. The school re-located in 1997 to Bellfield Drive and it currently has about 460 pupils.


Lysterfield Post Office 1920s
Photographer Charlie Hammond
State Library of Victoria Image H90.72/68


State Government Gazette  November 8, 1877

The Post Office was established in 1877 and the opening was announced in the State Government Gazette of  November 8, 1877. Notice is reproduced above.

A quarry was opened around 1903 with granite for road making being the major product and various quarries have operated since in the region. An Anglican Church was established in 1906, but closed in 1924 and was moved to Upper Fern Tree Gully to become St Thomas’. In 1928 the Progress Association was established and the Progress Hall was built and opened in June 1931 on the corner of Wellington and Kelletts Road.  It was well used by the community until the 1960s when it fell into disuse and disrepair. In the late 1960s it had a short revival of fortune when it was taken over by The Hut theatre group however, sadly, the hall burnt down down on June 2 1972.

Lysterfield is probably most well known today for its lake, which is the old Lysterfield Reservoir. Work on this Reservoir began in 1929 and due to delays caused by the Depression it was completed seven years later in 1936. Lysterfield was part of a overall plan to provide water to the Mornington Peninsula and Frankston and thus the Flinders Naval Base. The first stage was the construction of the Beaconsfield Reservoir (capacity 200 million gallons) between 1916 and 1920. This Reservoir was supplied with water from the Bunyip Main Race and, then from Beaconsfield, water went by pipe line to various reservoirs on the Mornington Peninsula and later on also supplied water to Dandenong, Hallam, Beaconsfield and Berwick. When Lysterfield (capacity 924 million gallons) was finished this meant that other towns further down the Peninsula would also have a water supply. After the Second World War additional water was required and this was supplied from the Tarago River to the Bunyip River and then to Lysterfield. Lysterfield and Beaconsfield were decommissioned with the opening of the Cardinia Reservoir in 1974. Lysterfield Lake as it is now called is part of the Lysterfield and Churchill State Park.

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