Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Cranbourne Library site - from squatter run to industrial plant to recreation complex

The Narre Warren & District Family History Group, the Local History Archive and the Local History Librarian (that's me!) are now located at the Cranbourne Library Complex, we used to be at Narre Warren, so I thought we would take a look at the history of the Cranbourne Library site, starting from the arrival of the Squatters.

The first Europeans in the region to occupy this site were the Ruffy Brothers.  They squatted on the Tomaque run, after having arrived from Tasmania in 1836 or 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. The Brothers held Mayune collectively, until Frederick took over the lease from 1845 to 1850.  You can read more about the Ruffy Brothers in a previous post.

Back to Mayune - in 1845  Mayune was reduced in size with the eastern part being renamed Ravenhurst and taken up by John Crewe.  Crewe also later acquired Mayune from Frederick Ruffy in 1850 just before he (Crewe) died in 1850 at the age of 31.  Crewe’s widow Eliza then took over the lease of the property which was then acquired by Alexander Cameron in 1851. Who were the Crewes?  We can get an idea of the social status of the family by John and Eliza's marriage notice and Eliza's death notice (see below). According to these notices John was the second son of Lieutenant-Colonel Crewe of Madras and also the nephew of Lord Crewe of Crewe Hall, Cheshire. Crewe Hall (pictured below)  is a Grade 1 listed mansion built in the first half of the 1600s for Sir Randolph Crewe. The location has been the seat of the Crewe family since the 12th or 13th century. It is now a hotel. So clearly John Crewe came from illustrious forebears.

Crewe Hall in 1710, the family seat of John Crewe. The Crewe's house on the Mayune property would have none of the comfort or glamour of this building. 
Artist Unknown - Hinchliffe E. 'Barthomley: In Letters from a Former Rector to his Eldest Son' (Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans; 1856), facing p. 324

John and Eliza Crewe's marriage notice in the Port Phillip Patriot March 30 1847.

Eliza Crewe's death notice in The Australasian March 21, 1868

Eliza Crewe died in 1868 at the age of 44. She was the daughter of Thomas Baynton and Eliza Arabella Smith. Thomas Baynton was the brother of Zillah Baynton who was married to Benjamin Rossiter, who took over the Ravenhurst property from Crewe after his death. You wonder was this to help out their niece, Eliza Crewe, or they just knew the area and wanted to settle here.  Benjamin and Zillah’s son, Charles Rossiter who was married to Ellen O’Shea (from the family who gave O’Shea’s Road its name) moved to Yallock around 1875 and is the source of the name Rossiter Road in Koo Wee Rup. A bit more on Thomas Baynton - he had the Darlington Run near Kyneton in 1841. Baynton the town near Kyneton is named after him. Totally irrelevant to this story but an interesting fact is that the Bourke and Wills Exhibition passed by the Baynton property on its way north - Ludwig Becker sketched the occasion (see below). Ravenhurst was  later named Tulliallan and you can read more about the Rossiters  here on my post on the Tulliallan.

Crossing an ancient crater from near Dr. Baynton's 25 August 1860 by Ludwig Becker.
State Library of Victoria Image H16486

Alexander Cameron (1815 - 1881) took over the Mayune lease from  Eliza Crewe in 1851 as we said. At later land sales he purchased 592 acres, the Pre-emptive Right, on the corner of what is now Cameron Street and the South Gippsland Highway and renamed renamed the property MayfieldNiel Gunson, in his book The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire (from where most of the following information on Alexander Cameron - both senior and junior - comes from) considers that Cameron is the father of modern Cranbourne like most Scots settlers he valued the services of an industrious tenantry and gathered a community about him which formed the nucleus of the future town.  One of his ‘industrious tenants’ a shepherd named James Mackay is said to be responsible for the name of Clyde.  Gunson says that the watercourse that was the boundary between the Mayune run and the Garem Gam  run was named Clyde creek as MacKay had ‘cut the name on a tree whilst watering sheep’ and the name was used for the creek and then the town.

Cameron was a trustee of the Presbyterian Church in Cranbourne which opened in May 1860, he was Cranbourne Cemetery Trustee, a member of the Cranbourne Road Board from 1863 to 1867. Alexander had been one of the original petitioners to have the Road Board established which happened on June 19 1860.  He was married to Margaret (nee Donaldson, 1822-1895) and they had seven children.

Cameron was also one of the first people to bring to a wider public the discovery of the Cranbourne meteorites. The first meteorite was discovered by William MacKay, who assumed that it was part of an iron deposit. He had made it into a horse shoe and it was displayed  at the Melbourne Exhibition of 1854.  In 1860 Cameron took the horse shoe to Melbourne to a conference to convince the powers that be that Cranbourne should have  a railway line due to the commercial possibilities of this iron deposit.  At the conference the Town Clerk of Melbourne, E.G Fitzgibbon,  thought that this was not iron but a meteorite and he then presented his findings to the Royal Society and this put the Cranbourne Meteorites on the world stage with interest from the British Museum and the Emperor of Austria!  As a matter of interest, Cranbourne would have to wait until 1888 -  another 28 years for a railway - you can read about the line here.

After Alexander Cameron (who incidentally gave his name to Cameron Street) the land went to his son Alexander junior (1850 - 1920). Alexander was also a member of the Cranbourne Shire from  1881 to 1898 and Shire President 1883-84, 1891, 1892 and 1893. Gunson says that Cameron along with George Poole and Christopher Moody were strong personalities who dominated the Council.  In 1884 it was reported that six out the eight Councillors refused to sit 'under the Presidence of the present Chairman due to his obstructiveness and prevention of business'

Cameron moved to Mayfield in 1883 - he was described as an ‘extraordinary speculator’ and he rented at one time  nearly every rentable property in the Cranbourne, Tooradin and Koo Wee Rup area, all up he had 5,000 acres in 1896 plus land belonging to his brother. On the Mayfield property he had nine studs of horses, cattle and sheep and also grew barley, oats and flax. Not surprisingly Cameron was also instrumental in establishing the Cranbourne Sale Yards – although arguments went on from 1883 to 1889 as to where they should be located - the rear of the Shire Offices was the eventual location and they held their first sale January 1890. In spite of what seem liked a profitable business in  1889 Cameron was forced to mortgage the estate and went to the Collie district in WA, where he died in 1920.

We don't have a photograph of Alexander Cameron, but here's one of his Champion Ayrshire bulls. that won a prize at the 1891 Royal Melbourne Show.
Illustrated Australian News September 1, 1891

After that the land where we are now was leased to various people  - Charles Cochrane, James Downey, Edward Henty, John Monohan to name a few until  around 1932 when the estate was sold to a Henry Creswick, who I believe was responsible for sub-dividing the land into smaller parcels as by this time it was getting hard to trace the land owners in the Cranbourne Shire Rate Books. There is some connection between the name Creswick and the Melbourne Hunt Club, which is just to the north of the Library site - haven't quite worked this connection out yet - but the Hunt Club moved to Cranbourne in 1929.   Some of the Mayfield property (the Pre-emptive Right section) had already been sold to George Hope (around 1911) who established his model dairy  having moved from Kooyong Road in Caulfield. You can read about this here.

So now we have a bit of a gap in ownership of the land so lets fast forward to 1980 when the Sperry New Holland era started. Sperry New Holland had commenced operations in Victoria at Dandenong in 1955. They manufactured agricultural equipment including hay balers and hay bale elevators.  In 1980, they purchased a 46 hectare site (around ten times the size of their Dandenong operations) in Cranbourne-Berwick Road, Cranbourne. They built a 2 hectare factory and it opened around 1982. Initially there were over 400 people employed  but a recession hit within 18 months and there were redundancies and layoffs. In 1985 the Company was taken over by the Ford Motor Company, but continued producing machinery and also made parts for car manufacturers. There is an interesting article called New Holland in Australia 1945 - 1987 written by Ray Smith, who held various roles in the New Holland Company from 1955 until he retired as the Marketing Director in 1991. You can read it here.

The factory had its own spur line from the main South Gippsland Railway line. The spur line went into what is now the The Shed, a skate board facility,  so  I presume it was used a for despatch. If you are interested in railway infrastructure then there are some photographs of the old line on the Vicsig.net website, here.

The Ford  New Holland factory closed down around 1992  as  operations were shifted to New South Wales and sadly,  workers were made redundant. The entire site was sold to the Cranbourne Shire for five million dollars. The Casey Cardinia Library Corporation moved into the Administration building in 1996 and the main factory building is now the Terry Vickerman Indoor Sports Centre.

Terry Vickerman was the Cranbourne Shire Chief Executive for 22 years until he retired in December 1994, after the Council amalgamations. He was responsible for the purchase of the building, which was not without its critics. There was a report in the Cranbourne Sun of March 16, 1992  about the acquisition (see left). The Shire of Cranbourne Ratepayers and Residents Association threatened to stand candidates against the sitting councillors who had voted for the purchase - the gist of the complaints against the purchase were that the Council had not provided enough information on the transaction and that residents outside of the Cranbourne township would have to pay for the site but would obtain no benefit from it. You can read more about the purchase of the site and see some photos here.

Either way, 25 years on, whether the five million dollars purchase price was a fair price or not the site and its associated buildings are now a real asset to not only the Cranbourne community but further afield. 

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