Monday, 12 July 2021

Diamond Hill

Diamond Hill was a location just out of Dandenong - the rise just over the railway crossing on today's South Gippsland Highway (1) or Cranbourne Road as it was called in the early days. It extended south to around Green's Road (2) (or Green's Lane as this road was originally called). This post looks at some references to Diamond Hill in books and newspapers.

We'll start with why the area was called Diamond Hill and this seems to be unknown. Jean Uhl writes this in her book Call Back Yesterday: Eumemmerring Parish (3) - The name Diamond Hill is obscure and obviously no great wealth from precious stones was ever forthcoming from that area although today the Drive-In Theatre at old Diamond Hill no doubt makes a good profit from its patrons. Diamond Hill and Prospect Hill were both identifiable addresses in the past, though Prospect Hill near Hallam is not to be confused with the hill so called in Dandenong because of the "Prospect" looking from the hill down over the township (4).

A Splendid Orchard and Vegetable garden to lease at Diamond Hill, 1879.
South Bourke & Mornington Journal, August 27, 1879 

Mrs Uhl also writes this about Diamond Hill - There was also the short-lived Diamond Hill Brick Company which was located where the giants General Motors-Holden, Heinz and International Harvester Company stand four-square to the winds of change near Diamond Hill with more material success to their shareholders than the Brick Company ever produced. It seems strange that the reason given for the collapse of the Brick Company was that the clay was unsuitable; someone blundered with the new type of kiln, evidently never going into the pros and cons of the industry, for it is in this very area that a clay pit is still being worked by the Ordish Firebrick Company Pty Ltd., founded over 100 years ago and the Centennial Brick Company managed to last for thirty years and gave employment to over 50 men in the 1880's (5).

There was a Civil Court case involving the Diamond Hill Bricks Works in June 1892 between the owner of the land on which the brick works were located and members of the Syndicate who owned the Company, you can read about it here. This wasn't the first time the Company was in the news as the August 1891 the Secretary and the Treasurer of the Diamond Hill Brick Works were charged with forging and uttering. Read a report of the Court case here.

33 acres of choice land for sale at Diamond Hill, 1880.
South Bourke & Mornington Journal March 17, 1880

In 2009, the Dandenong & District Historical Society published Jack Johnson's memories of Dandenong - When the Clock strikes: Growing up in the rural market town of Dandenong (6). Jack was born in 1929 and he mentions Diamond Hill and also talks about brick works - Three of the early brickmakers were Mr Handley in the Macrae Street area, Mr Hobbs in the Pultney Street area and Mr Northey (7) at the back area of the Diamond Hill property on Cranbourne Road (8)

The clay pits at Mr Northey's Diamond Hill Brick Works were all in the area around the unmade end of Kirkham Road where it crossed Frankston Road and about where the junction of the Gippsland and South Gippsland rail lines are today. Its boundaries were Cranbourne Road, Princes Highway and Frankston Road. This brickmaking plant was operating over thirty years before the rail lines were laid in 1878/79. The Diamond Hill homestead was next to the Gippsland rail line at 78 Cranbourne Road. There was also a small granite quarry at the back of the hill. It was on this property that Mr Garnar was killed by a bull (9).

After the war, one of the first factories to be built on the Diamond Hill site in Cranbourne Road was the South Australian Rubber Factory. Another early factory, built at the back of this farm facing Frankston Road, was the Commonwealth Engineering Works. They built rolling stock for the Victorian Railways and today go by the name Bombardier (10).

Mrs Uhl wrote - This locality of Diamond Hill saw many of Eumemmerring's early settlers who considered it to be a suitable and pleasant area to live (11). Amongst these settlers was the Garnar family, mentioned by Jack Johnston. The Garnar family arrived in Dandenong area in 1854. James Garnar had a farrier's business on Pound Road and in 1857 moved into Dandenong and operated a shoeing forge. His sons, James and Edward, continued in the business and added a wheelwright and undertaking business (12). Around 1894 they sold most of the business and retired to one of their properties at Diamond Hill, still carrying on the business of undertakers (13). The Garnar family operated the Funeral Directors business until it was sold to Le Pine in 1950 (14). The aforementioned Edward Garnar, sold his share of the business to his brother and went to live on his paddock of 400 acres on the Cranbourne and Pound roads, where he resided until a few weeks before his death, when he was removed to his sister-in-law's residence for better attention, he being a bachelor, and living alone in his little house (15). His death took place at the residence of his sister-in-law, Mrs J. W. Garner, Diamond Hill, Dandenong on February 6, 1914 (16).

The death of Edward and James' mother, Christina, at Diamond Hill in 1889.
South Bourke & Mornington Journal, June 19, 1889

Edward's sister-in-law, was Margaret Garnar, nee Carriss, who died in August 1946. Her husband, the late James W. Garnar, pre-deceased her 33 years ago, at “Hothamville,” Cranbourne Rd., Diamond Hill, the old home in which her family of one son and six daughters were all born and reared. They are: William J. (Dandenong), Madge (Mrs. Leppitt), Alice (Mrs. Taylor), Nellie (Mrs. Rawlings), Florence (Mrs. Sainsbury), Elsie (Mrs.Blain), and Hilda (17). It was Margaret's husband, James, who was killed by the bull, as mentioned by Jack Johnson (18).

Other interesting facts about Diamond Hill -

John Hemmings, a carpenter, constructed Richard Ellis' store in 1860 in Langhorne Street the timber being cut and sawn on Diamond Hill (19).

In April 1915, Diamond Hill was the scene of a fatal accident - On Saturday the Coroner inspected the scene of the fatal accident at the level crossing on Green's-lane, at Diamond Hill, near Dandenong, in which Mrs. Dowsett was killed. Mr. Dowsett is suffering from severe shock and fractured ribs (20).

In June 1917, there was another fatal railway accident at the Diamond Hill Railway Crossing, which I feel would have been the crossing on the South Gipplsland Highway - We regret very much to chronicle the death of Mr John Holly, nursery man, of Mornington Junction, which took place on Thursday afternoon at Nurse Campbell's private hospital, Thomas street, Dandenong, from the result of a railway accident, sustained at the Diamond Hill railway crossing, on Tuesday evening, May 29, at about 6 p.m. (21).

On a light hearted note, in 1918, a farm at Diamond Hill produced a perfect pumpkin - A very fine sample of Turk's Cap pumpkin, of perfect symmetry, is on view at the Club hotel, Dandenong, where a guessing competition as to its weight is in progress, in aid of the funds of the Alfred Hospital. We don't want to tell you the exact weight of the "pump," but it is somewhere between 251bs and 35 lbs. It was grown by Mr Alex Haslett, manager for Major Wilson,"Brackenhurst," Diamond Hill, Dandenong, The guesses are only 3d each, and the winner gets the cap (22).

The last mention of Diamond Hill I could find was in 1956 (23), but now it seems to have disappeared, as has any sign of the Diamond Hill Brick Works, the Garnar home where James and Margaret raised their seven children and Alex Haslett's pumpkin patch.

Trove list - I have created a list of articles on Trove connected to Diamond Hill, which includes references to other settlers. Access the list, here.

(1) Reminiscences of Early Dandenong by G.F.R. (Dandenong & District Historical Society, 1992), footnote p. 17. G.F. R was George Fenton Roulston, who originally published his book in 1935.
(2) The  Age, April 23, 1915, see here and The Age April 27, 1915, see here.
(3) Uhl, Jean Call Back Yesterday: Eumemmerring Parish (Lowden Publishing, 1972)
(4) Uhl, op. cit., pp. 89-90
(5) Uhl, op. cit., p. 89.
(6) Johnson, Jack When the Clock strikes: Growing up in the rural market town of Dandenong (Dandenong & District Historical Society, 2009).
(7) Mr Northey, this may possibly by Mr Northway, who is referred to in Reminiscences of Early Dandenong on page 79.
(8) Johnson, op. cit., p. 201.
(9) Johnson, op. cit., pp. 201-202
(10) Johnson, op. cit., p. 202
(11) Uhl, op. cit., p. 73.
(12) Edward Garnar's obituary in the Dandenong Advertiser, February 12, 1914, see here and Reminiscences of Early Dandenong, pp. 34-35.  I haven't found out when Edward Senior, dies. His wife Frances Christina (nee Tilney) died in 1889 aged 76. Their son Edward died 1914, aged 72 and their other son, James William Garnar, died in 1913 aged 62.
(13) Dandenong Advertiser, February 12, 1914, see here
(15) Dandenong Advertiser, February 12, 1914, see here
(16) Dandenong Advertiser, February 12, 1914, see here
(17) Dandenong Journal, August 7, 1946, see here.
(18) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, March 27, 1913, see here.
(19) Reminiscences of Early Dandenong, op.cit., p. 30
(20) The Age April 27, 1915, see here.
(21) Dandenong Advertiser, June 7, 1917, see here.
(22) Dandenong Advertiser, March 28, 1918, see here.
(23) The Argus, February 13, 1956, see here.

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