M is for Mechanics Institutes. Our earliest Library in the area is the Berwick Mechanics' Institute and Free Library which started in 1862 and is still going strong. There were once over 1,000 Mechanics' Institutes in Victoria, many still exist as public halls, but there are now only six that still lend books, including the Berwick one. It is a remarkable achievement and there would be very few other institutions that have played a continuous role in the history and social life our our community for over 150 years.
Berwick Mechanics' Institute 1970s
E is for Education. The earliest schools in the area opened in 1854 - there was a school on Captain Robert Gardiner's property at Berwick - this was the fore-runner of the existing Berwick Primary School. In 1869 it was re-located to a new building on the corner of Lyall Road and Peel Street and later moved to Lyall Road. Also in 1854 a Church of England School opened in Lyndhurst, the first teacher being Robert Davies. There were 12 boys and 10 girls at the school and they paid 2 pence per day to attend. Free education in Victoria did not come in until 1872 when the Education Act made the Government responsible for 'free, secular and compulsory' education. Students who wished to continue their studies past Grade 8, the level at which State schools originally finished, would have had to have gone onto a private school until State High Schools were established. Depending on where you lived in the region you could have gone to Warragul High (opened 1911) or Dandenong High (opened 1919) or Upwey High (opened 1937 as a Higher Elementary and became a High School in 1944). Koo-Wee-Rup (opened in 1953 as a Higher Elementary and in 1957 as a High School) and the 1960s saw Doveton High open in 1960, Monbulk High in 1963, Pakenham High in 1967 all providing local familes with closer options for continued education.
R is for Religion. When towns were first surveyed the Government set aside sites for Churches. The earliest purpose built Church in the area was, I believe, Scots Presbyterian Church in Cranbourne built in 1860, although before this services would have been held in private homes. This building no longer exists so the oldest church building in the area is St Johns Anglican Church in Cranbourne erected in 1865 and still in use today. Other nineteenth century Churches in the area that are still in use for their original purpose include St Andrews Presbyterian (now Uniting) Church at Berwick built from 1879, the Avonsleigh Church of Christ built 1887 and the Koo-Wee-Rup Presbyterian Church built in 1888 as a Wesleyan Church in Cranbourne and then shifted to Koo-Wee-Rup in 1896.
Scots Presbyterian Church, Cranbourne, built in 1860 and replaced in 1953 by the existing Church.
R is for Recreation The earliest record I can find of any organized sport in the area is this advertisement (below) from 1860 of the Cranbourne Cricket Club's Annual dinner at the Schnapper Point Hotel. Schnapper Point is now known as Mornington. The Berwick Recreation Reserve was gazetted on July 14, 1863, five years before land was set aside in Cranbourne for 'public recreation and racecourse purposes' on August 3, 1868.
The Argus April 7, 1860
Y is for Yuletide. 1839 is the earliest account I can find of Christmas being celebrated by European settlers with a connection to this area. Robert Jamieson and Samuel Rawson had taken up land on the Yallock Creek and began to move cattle to the Station from November 13 1839. On their way back from Yallock they went to Edward William Hobson’s Kangerong run at Arthurs Creek where they arrived on Christmas Eve where they were wassailed or toasted with a bowl of hot toddy ( a drink made from spirits, usually whiskey, hot water, sugar and lemon juice).
Christmas was celebrated in Old English style with champagne and Rawson wrote we were a merry party that evening sitting in a hut, which a beggar in England would hardly live in, the walls full of holes, the roof covered with bark through the crevices of which a person might have crept with the greatest ease, the floor the natural earth and situated in the middle of the eternal forest whence 18 months before a white man had never trod.
Shire of Berwick Councillors, c. 1890s.
They are photographed in front of the (now demolished) Council Chambers, built in High Street Berwick in 1865.
H is for Holes in the ground - quarries and other extractive industries. The most well known quarry in the area would be Wilsons Quarry at Berwick which began in 1859 and was owned by the Wilson family until 1978. It is now Wilson Botanic Park. There are other quarries in the area - the granite quarry at Tynong where the stone for the Shrine of Remembrance was sourced is a well known example and of course there have been (and still are) sand mines at Cranbourne and Lang Lang.
Quarry the granite for the Shrine of Remembrance at Tynong.
The caption reads (in part) Beautiful silver-grey granite of an eminently suitable kind is available at Tynong, in Gippsland, and workmen are shown in the photograph hewing the blocks of granite from the hillside. Inset:-A fine heap of granite blocks ready for dressing. They measure from six cubic foot upwards
The Argus of November 14, 1928 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3968930
R is for railways. Railways have been pivotal in the development of the Casey Cardinia Region. The Railways have always been used for personal travel - to go to work, to go into Dandenong or Melbourne for reasons such as shopping or to access medical services - but they have also influenced the location and growth of towns, transported produce to markets and tourists to holiday destinations. We have had four railway lines traversing the region and three are still operating. The earliest line is the Gippsland line to Sale which was opened from Oakleigh to Bunyip in October 1877 and fully opened in 1879. The Great Southern line commenced construction in 1887 and was fully operational from Dandenong to Korumburra by June 1891. It was later extended to Port Albert. It now only goes as far as Cranbourne. The famous Puffing Billy line, officially called the Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook line, opened in December 1900. Finally the Strzelecki line from Koo-Wee-Rup to Strzelecki opened on June 29, 1922 and closed in stages until it was completely closed in February 1959.
I is for Industry. The 'Big Three' were established at Dandenong in the 1950s - International Harverstor in February 1952, Heinz in 1955 and General Motors Holden in 1956. Between the three of them they employed thousands of people and they had an immediate impact on the area. The factories required workers and even though a Railway Station was built for GMH and opened in the October or November of 1956, it was good if there was a pool of workers living close by, thus Doveton was established as a suburb in 1954 by the Victorian Housing Commission to house these workers. The factories also accelerated the housing development in Hallam, Hampton Park and Cranbourne from where people could drive to work and park - GMH alone had a 1000 space car park.
International Harvester Factory, 1980s.
S is for Space. This area is notable for the Cranbourne Meteorites. So far thirteen meteorites have been discoverd in the area in virtually a straight line from Officer to Clyde to Devon Meadows to Pearcedale from 1853 to 2008. You can visit the Cranbourne No. 12 meteorite at the Civic Centre in Narre Warren and the Cranbourne No. 13 meteorite at the Casey RACE Swimming pool in Cranbourne.
Cranbourne meteorite with the chain which was employed to pull it from its position for transport to the Melbourne Museum, 21 February 1862. Photographer: Richard Daintree.
State Library of Victoria Image H36595
Carting timber at Gembrook
State Library of Victoria Image H32492/2163
M is for Market Town - that is Dandenong. The history of our area is historically linked to Dandenong as it was a service town to the surrounding area. For instance, Dandenong had a large public hospital with specialists. It was also where the local children went to High School until local schools were built from the 1950s onwards. Dandenong was also the major shopping area for people from the surrounding area and a trip to the Dandenong market to buy clothes and other goods was a ritual for many. The Dandenong Market was also the major livestock market for the area. In the late 1940s and the 1950s my father used to drive his parents from Cora Lynn to the Dandenong market where they sold their eggs, chooks and calves (all carried on the back of the ute) and they were just one of the many thousands of small farmers who did the same. The Dandenong Market originally located on the corner of Lonsdale and McCrae Streets and opened in 1866, 150 years ago. It moved to its present location on Clow Street around 1926 and in 1958 the stockyards moved to Cheltenham Road. The Dandenong Stock Market was the last municipal owned and operated facility in Victoria, and closed on December 22, 1998. It is now a housing estate.
A is for Agriculture and farming. Small family farms, were were the main stay of the rural economy of this area from around the 1880s to the 1970s. These farms were dairy farms, poultry farms, pig farms, potato farms and market gardens. The first settlers in the area were the squatters and large (often absentee) landowners but from the 1850s the big squatting runs were broken up, Government land sales took place and other farmers moved in. Later on these farms were subdivided again (basically 1880s onwards) and this gave small farmers the opportunity to purchase land - this was historically the pattern of settlement for most of our region. It was also encouraged by government schemes such as the drainage of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and the Soldier Settlement Scheme after the Great War. We still have family farms in the area, but the nature of agriculture has changed and farmers need to get bigger to survive, plus there are land use competition pressures from the ever expanding Urban Growth boundaries.
My grandma, Eva Rouse (nee Weatherhead) and my aunty, Nancy Rouse, on their small family farm at Cora Lynn, c. 1927.
S is for Swamp. The Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp originally covered about 40,000 hectares or 96,000 acres and is part of the Western Port sunkland. The Swamp area is basically contained in the Cardinia Shire which is about 128,000 hectares, so if you imagine that if it was left undrained, then one third of the Shire would be a Swamp. The Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, William Thwaites (1853 - 1907) surveyed the Swamp in 1887 and his report recommended the construction of the Bunyip Main Drain from where it entered the Swamp, in the north, to Western Port Bay and a number of smaller side drains. A tender was advertised in 1889. In spite of strikes, floods and bad weather by March 1893, the private contractors had constructed the 16 miles of the drain from the Bay to the south of Bunyip and the Public Works Department considered the Swamp was now dry enough for settlement. At one time over 500 men were employed and all the work was done by hand, using axes, shovels, mattocks and wheel barrows. By 1904, over 2,000 people including 1,400 children lived on the Swamp. Many more drains have been added over the years.