Monday 14 August 2023

Villa Mar (Villa Maria) Beaconsfield

Villa Maria, Beaconsfield


Figure 1: Private Donor, Villa Maria verandah, Myli Local History Archive.

Early Owners of the Land:

The land on which Villa Maria (also known as Villa Mar) rests on is traditionally recognized as belonging to the Bunurong People of the Eastern Kulin nation.

After European colonization, the area we now know as Beaconsfield was once called ‘Little Berwick[1].’ The land which surrounds the Villa was once leased out as a pastoral run named Panty Gurn Gurn. In the Upper Beaconsfield Early History, C.W Wilson sites the first European owner of the land as C.F Jackson. The property then passed to Thomas Jackson in the 1840s and to William Bowman in 1850 before David Bowman was given preemptive right in 1853[2].

The Cardinia Heritage Study reports that a C.F Henry who owned land next to Panty Gurn Gurn requested Lots 34 and 35 were removed from the run[3]. In the 1870s the O’Neil siblings acquired lots of land surrounding Panty Gurn Gurn. From 1878, maps indicate an E. O’Neil occupying Lot 53, M. O’Neil in Lot 34, and John O’Neil holding lot 54.

It is thought that David Bowman’s slab and bark hut was built around the area where the current Villa Mar is located[4]. This historical map overlay of the run viewed on the Public Records Office of Victoria’s Map Warper shows a public house on the north-west corner of the property, and an old hut on the lower eastern boundary near the current Glismann Road. Another hut is also mentioned in Michael O’Neil’s probate record. You can also read more about Michael's death here, after being kicked in an altercation at the old Gippsland Hotel.

Figure 2: Overlay of map of Panty Gurn Gurn and Beaconsfield today from PROV Map Warper, PROV

Figure 3: Overlay of map of allotments in 1878 from PROV’s Map Warper, PROV

This map overlayed with a current map of Beaconsfield today shows property holders from 1878 in the County of Mornington indicates Villa Mar is located on Michael’s old Lot. O’Neil Road, named after the family in 1879[5], runs directly through Michael’s old property, through the northern boundary into John’s property before running through the north-east corner into an M. Officer’s land. Located just off O’Neil’s road on Michael’s property is Villa Mar Rise, where the Villa is located today.

Interestingly, rate books from 1876 and 1877 list Lots 53, 54 and 34 in Pakenham Riding as being under John O’Neil’s name, despite the above maps. Below are images from the 1876 rate book.

Another map found on Upper Beaconsfield History, presumably dated to after 1879 and most likely after 1880 due to the presence of O’Neil Road lists John as the executor of Michael O’Neil’s estate[6]. Michael actually appears to have passed in 1874, the same year as his mother Catherine, with John passing in 1852. Their memorial was erected at Berwick Cemetery[7]. Michael’s probate directs the property be left to his two brothers, John and William. The 174 acre property held a wattle and daub hut of two rooms[8]. In John’s probate of 1882, in which Elizabeth Savage is listed as committed, we can see John holds two properties, one of which has a wattle and daub hut of 5 rooms, while the other has no hut. Edward Savage, Elizabeth’s husband is listed as executor. After their deaths, the property was apparently gifted to the Sisters of Charity.

C.W Wilson[9] states that a William Brisbane requested a road be placed running through O’Neil property. Elizabeth Savage (nee O’Neil) consented, on the provision the road was named O’Neil road. This William Brisbane may be the same W. Brisbane that occupied several selections north and north east of the O’Neil properties, with O’Neil Road running directly to two properties listed under his name (Lots 70, 77 and 64)[10].

In 1878 and 1879 Rate Books it appears a William Sanderson was renting the lots off of John. Below is an image from the 1878 Rate Books.

From 1880, the properties are occupied by Mrs Savage (Elizabeth O’Neil, but still under John’s name. See below the rate book for 1880.

The properties are then list John as the proprietor in 1881, 1882, 1883. See below for 1881.

By 1880, Beaconsfield was seeing further development, with the Panty Gurn Gurn estate being subdivided[11]. After this year John O’Neil disappears from the rate books with his apparent passing in 1852. Lots 34, 53, 54 are now under an Francis E(?) Stewart, a banker from 1884. See below for the 1883-1884 rate book.

In 1888/1889 rate books F. Stewart appears again as occupier of lot 34, Michael O’Neil’s old lot. See below.

I do believe Stewart may have been renting the property, as from 1900 on Edward and Elizabeth Savage (the sister of John and Michael) are listed as owners of the land. See below.

Elizabeth passed sometime in 1916, and her probate lists properties held.

The last snippet mentions her inheriting her ‘brothers’ estates.’ Further, lot 34 is listed as:

Figure 4: Elizabeth Savage’s probate and will, PROV.

In her will, she gifts a number of assets to the Roman Catholic Church upon her husband’s death, due to the Villa already existing by this point, it is most likely the Elizabeth and Edward were allowing the use of the property even before Elizabeth’s death.


Villa Maria/St Vincent’s Rest Home

In 1913, several articles in The Advocate mention a Villa Maria Convalescent Home in Beaconsfield being run by the Sisters of Charity having been opened, with one stating the home opened a year past.

Figure 5: The Advocate, Villa Maria, 7 June 1913, TROVE


Figure 6: the Advocate, Visit to Villa Maria, Beaconsfield, 7 June 1913, TROVE

In 1915, The Advocate noted that the property had been purchased by St Vincent’s hospital with the Sisters of Charity administering a home for poor convalescents. Dubbed Villa Maria, and also known as St Vincent’s Rest Home, the newly constructed building had numerous modern amenities including gas, hot and cold water, and sewage.


Figure 7: The Advocate, St Vincent’s Rest Home, 20 February 1915, TROVE

The home proved popular, with some 86 patients having attended[12], however the distance from Melbourne proved to be too great and the home closed in 1916 only to open again as a pensioner rest home under the name Villa Maria, run by Miss Ethel Roper.[13]

Figure 8: The Advocate, Villa Maria, Beaconsfield, 14 October 1916, TROVE

In 1931, Rev. W.P. Hackett led a retreat for laymen.


Figure 9: The Advocate, Retreats for Laymen, 16 April 1931, TROVE

Alexander S. Thomas and Rose G. Irvine purchased the property in the 1960s and continued to run it as a rest home[14]. During the 1960s the property had shrunk to around 4 acres in size and in in 2005 the property was sold and is currently a private residence[15].



The Cardinia Shire (North) Heritage Study: Heritage Places describes the building (est. 1890s) as being “…a Federation Bungalow styled farm house sited at the top of a hill and concealed by a mature garden and trees reached by a long drive from a picketed entrance… The complex includes an Edwardian-era weatherboard former rest home with a corrugated iron room, 12 bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, a former chapel and two bathrooms. There is also a smaller contemporary house at the rear with three bedrooms and a veranda which was reputedly once used by the priests and another cottage once occupied by the farm manager. ”[16]


Figure 11: Private Donor, Villa Mar Driveway, Myli Local History Archive.

Figure 12: Private Donor, Villa Maria (building on the left original Cobb & Co. Coach house),Myli Local History Archive.

The Fedaration style bungalow building boasts original joinery and ceiling details and the unique architecture including the interior chapel, interior courtyard (a significant architectural feature) surrounded by twelve bedrooms hearkens back to the building’s original purpose[17]. This floorplan, donated by a private donor to Myli’s Local History archive gives an idea of the layout of the main building.

 Figure 13: Private Donor, Villa Maria Floorplan, Myli Local History Archive.

Figure 14: Private Donor, Interior courtyard, Myli Local History Archive.


Figure 15: Private Donor, Interior of Villa Maria, Myli Local History Archive.

Figure 16: Front door of Villa Maria currently with the original stain glass window, 2023, Private Collection

The building is also featured on the Cardinian Embroidery, on display permanently at the Cardinia Cultural Centre.

[1] Hicks, P., 1988, Berwick Pakenham Corridor Historical Survey

[2] Wilson, C.W, 2013, Upper Beaconsfield: an early history

[3] Graeme Butler & Associates, 1996, Cardinia Shire Heritage Study: Volume 3 Heritage Places

[4] Wilson, C.W, 2013, Upper Beaconsfield: an early history

[5] Graeme Butler & Associates, 1996, Cardinia Shire Heritage Study: Volume 3 Heritage Places

[6] Unknown creator, c.1870s, Parish of Pakenham, from Marianne Rocke (comp.), Residents of Upper Beaconsfield and Surrounding Areas,

[9] Wilson, C.W, 2013, Upper Beaconsfield: an early history

[10] Unknown creator, c.1870s, Parish of Pakenham, from Marianne Rocke (comp.), Residents of Upper Beaconsfield and Surrounding Areas,

[11] Unknown Creator, 1880, Plan of the town of Beaconsfield or East Berwick, courtesy State Library of Victoria, identifier: 1586449,

[12] Graeme Butler & Associates, 1996, Cardinia Shire Heritage Study: Volume 3 Heritage Places

[13] Graeme Butler & Associates, 1996, Cardinia Shire Heritage Study: Volume 3 Heritage Places

[14] Friends of the Cardinian Embroidery, 2006, Cardinian Embroidery

[15] Friends of the Cardinian Embroidery, 2006, Cardinian Embroidery

[16] Graeme Butler & Associates, 1996, Cardinia Shire Heritage Study: Volume 3 Heritage Places

[17] Heritage Council Victoria, 2023, Villa Maria, Victorian Heritage Database,

Monday 3 April 2023

Recollections of life at Pakenham Consolidated School from early beginnings in 1952 to 1957

The following post has been written by a past student of Pakenham Consolidated School.

2023, a time for reflection and recall of our days at the consolidated School-  an experiment whereby  many small rural schools in the district were closed and students, the ‘baby boomers” were bussed to a central large school..

Pakenham Upper State School’s last photo before closure in January 1952

Pakenham Consolidated School was large and the classes many- double classes from prep to grade 6 and a senior section for students in forms 1-4.

The buildings and the building of the school have been described elsewhere on a blog and will be mentioned only as anecdotal to our life within the school.

Firstly, we were bussed from as far away as Mt Burnett and Pakenham Upper, and Army Rd to the north, Toomuc Valley to the west, Rythdale, Cardinia and Pakenham South to the south, and Nar Nar Goon North, Tynong, Tonimbuc, Cora Lyn to the east.  Our bus trip took half an hour from 8.30 for a school starting day at 9.00am until 4.00pm when we again caught the bus home.

Mt Burnett / Pakenham Upper bus circa 1955

 In prep class, 1952, we were housed in the Art room and taught by Miss Ahern for six months- an elegant lady, clad in pale grey serge straight skirt to mid-calf, puce fine knit jumper and long painted fingernails to match. High heeled shoes and stockings topped off her formidable appearance. She used flash cards to teach us the alphabet and after lunch, we all had a nap on our woolen mats brought from home. Her beautiful piano playing whilst we napped was a welcome delight –she played a ‘brown bird singing’ with her long fingers rippling up and down the keyboard. Our reader for the year was titled ‘John and Betty.’

 Grade 1, 1952 The second half of the year was a much noisier affair in the junior school - an area dominated by the old Pakenham State School which housed the junior mistress Miss Glew, a strict woman who ruled assemblies with a wooden ruler applied to the backs of the legs for lapses in attention. Our teacher, Miss Pearce sported a cherry red/maroon swing back coat. In grade 1 and all other classes, we sat in wooden desks that seated two- boys in one half of the room and girls in the other half. The general rule was, a quiet classroom- hands up to ask or answer a question, 'Hands on heads’ to regain some classroom order and hands together fingers clasped and sit up straight to see which row could go to lunch first. We read from the Grade 1 reader, played with plasticine which had a particular pungent smell and was a marbled brown and streaked composition of colours as it had been used by many classes before us. The plasticine was rolled out on to wooden boards and stick figures made by rolling pieces of plasticine to the required shapes, Finger painting was looked forward to as a large dollop of blue/green coloured paste (like clag, the universal sticking paste kept in glass jars and applied with a round quarter inch brush) was applied to a sheet of cartridge paper. Our job was then to spread the paste with our hands and draw wavy patterns with our index finger- a precursor to writing possibly. We also had religious instruction by Mr Dyer who sang heartily and told us to build our love on a strong foundation- as we did the hand actions placing a closed fist on top of the other closed fist and repeating, demonstrating the strong foundation.

Grade 2, 1953 We moved over to the long classroom wing and grade 2A was housed in the room nearest to the road. Here Mrs Joyce Hosking taught us by allowing us to see on excursions, how food was made- We visited the bakery in Pakenham to see the loaves go into the multiple tins for baking, Handsford’s dairy farm to see the cows being milked and Hosking’s apple orchard to see how apples grow. In the classroom we made a model of an orchard in our sand tray at the back of the room using gum twigs for trees and rolled up little balls of red crepe paper for the apples which we pasted on with clag. Grade 2, 1953, saw the school perform a grand scale concert over 2 nights at the Mechanics Institute and the Hall. The theme ‘around the world’ was apt, as we had more students arriving from Netherlands, Poland and Germany.

Grade 2 students prepare for the concert

Grade 2A in 1953 with Mrs. Joyce Hosking

 This was also the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, so a walk to the station was undertaken to see the Royal Train - our big challenge was then to make the crown from coloured paper (kindergarten squares.) It was also a year for rife coughs and colds and absenteeism as we slowly recovered from pleurisy, glandular fever and tonsillitis. We read from the Grade 2 reader and a primer with coloured drawings. For craft work we made a pom pom blue bird in sky blue wool with a red felt beak on a twisted wool red and blue cord by which to hang it up. In Grade 2 we wrote with blue pencil- largish hexagon shaped shaft.

Grade 3, 1954- We moved to the next room in the long wing with Miss Kathleen Gibbs- who wore a 6 gored grey flannel skirt and a sky-blue hand knitted jumper with a Fair Isle yoke. Miss Gibbs had very neat small sloping Copper Plate handwriting and her black board was artistic and neat. She was able to decorate the top of the board in Spring with pink blossoms and leaves drawn with coloured chalk- It was a work of Art indeed. Miss Gibbs taught us about the Trans Canada Railway and about animals called moose and beavers. We read from the Grade 3 Reader and did arithmetic from a text called Arithmetic for grade 3 and learnt to write- good work was rewarded with a rubberstamped animal or a silver or gold stick on star.

This year we had a wash bag with soap and a washer in a draw string bag, which we proudly hung at the front of the room, but I feel wasn’t used too much after the novelty wore off! Our craft work was to knit a dark brown doll with clothes- a mammoth task as garter stitch was time consuming – most of us struggled but one of our class members completed the task with clothes- very neat and perfect like its horse-riding creator from Toomuc Valley!

We also travelled by bus to Warragul to see the Queen - a very hot day and a very long wait seated on the grass of the showgrounds in our roped off section to see her drive past us.


Queen Elizabeth II at Warragul 1954


Grade 4 and 5, 1955-1956 with ‘skinny’ Mrs Warren ( there were 2 Mrs Warrens.)  Mrs Warren wore Fletcher Jones skirts and twin sets- mostly her dark green tartan and fuschia twinset, but for best when the Inspector, Mr. Holden came in his FJ Holden car, she wore her black and white Shepherds’ plaid skirt with her scarlet twinset, her lipstick matched and just before lunch she would open her lunch tin and look in the lid for a mirror, apply fresh lipstick, and use the index finger and thumb to make sure she had no ‘runs’ in the corner of her mouth. She was firm and fair and taught us how to write in Copper Plate font, practicing until we ‘got it.’ In later life we often were amazed by the similarity of the handwriting of siblings and friends alike – all taught by Mrs. Warren. She taught us well, tables, arithmetic operations including long division in grade 5- here we also progressed to using fountain pens. We also learnt to prepare a page in our exercise books each morning by ruling a margin down the left side, the width of a ruler- no bumps. Perhaps the greatest pleasure was receiving the Greyhound pastel box, new at the beginning of the year with colours we did not have in our pencil set- Sea Green and Turquoise were favourites. (To this day my school buddy and I both live at different locations with the Sea Green around us all day.) Mrs. Warren was a perfectionist and for her we worked hard. We learnt spelling from a spelling list issued by the Education Department- 10 spelling at a time to be learnt overnight and tested the next day. We also had many tables tests until we knew all our tables to 12 times faultlessly. The geography lesson was the Murray River and for history we learnt about early explorers in Australia like Burke and Wills and Ludwig Leichardt. For Assessment, we kept a Test Book in our wooden desks to be used when Mr. Holden arrived to test our learning. From time to time, we did a writing piece in the test book to be shown to Mr. Holden. Music was learnt from a song book and from the radio broadcasts- songs from around the world – Dance the Hopak and the Maori Canoe Song. Our craft work for the girls, was the making of a cloth cover for our Reader using red 1/8 inch gingham cotton cloth with our name cross stitched in blue Broder cotton using the squares for guidance. A 2-tone tea cosy for a tea pot was knitted, in basket weave stitch- green garter stitch lining and gold basket weave outer layer (patriotic for Olympic Games?) and from memory a knitting cotton face washer in garter stitch,


For sport, we did lots of drills - cross ball and tunnel ball where we competed fiercely with our other grade class.  Lunchtimes we played rounders endlessly- a game like baseball but with a little cricket bat with which to hit a tennis ball. Skippy was big too. 2 students turned the big rope while the whole class took turns to run or jump through the turning rope. My sister’s class were good at double rope skipping, where 2 ropes were turned and jumpers ran and jumped through without tangling in the ropes. Hopscotch was also big and the boys played marbles and chasey around the school. The highlight of Grade 5 was of course the trip by train to Melbourne to see the Olympic Games- we had a day at the athletics and saw Vladimir Kutz run the 5000 metres. The whole school also filed through the house over the road from the school to see a grainy black and white image of the games on a very new television set- the only television set at the school end of Pakenham.


 Grade 6, 1957 and we moved to the South side of the school- 2 grade sixes Mr. Bert Bailey in his navy well worn pin striped suit, and Mrs. Joyce Hosking, rugged up on the school bus in her orange and black, big collared mohair coat. Here we learnt to become efficient and faster at arithmetic and read from Reader for grade 6 and from The School Paper which arrived monthly. The school paper had articles, short stories poems song on the back cover and could be used for transcription, comprehension and spelling. We practiced writing, knowing the ‘parts of speech’- Subject and then the predicate. The predicate had adverbial clauses, adjectival phrases and correct tenses for verbs. We learnt a poem by heart as we had done from grade 3 onwards. Social Studies was a large part of the week and we travelled theoretically from England to Australia learning the history, geography, journeys of discovery along the way. Occasional light relief came with The Gould League of Bird Lovers Colouring competitions and the use of Derwent pencils to get the colours of the ‘blue crane’ correct. The grade 6s also had the pleasure of delivering a crate of milk to each class by morning play time. We formed pairs of 1 boy and 1 girl and then had races with the full crates to see which pair could deliver the most crates- clatter bang across the yard... Sometimes out the classroom window you could count the carriages of a coal train from Yallourn- 48 springs to mind. Miss Walke taught us singing with challenging songs like Peter Dawson’s “Stockriders’ Song” with the lyrics ‘We’ve been up Queensland way with the cattle many day.’ Art was taken in the Art room- a dedicated room with Miss Dot Barr and Miss Ruth Butler in charge. We learnt the rudiments of water colour painting, attempted guache by mixing egg yolk into pigment paint powder, stitched a rag doll and wove a basket base with gingham fabric draw string beach bag, knitted a cardigan and the senior school made macramé belts with plastic tubing 1/16 inch in diameter. The canteen stocked the plastic by the yard and the plastic ‘craze’ consumed the school. On the school bus, we macraméd key rings, wrist bands and kept eternally busy watching our patterns emerge.

 We also played 'cats' cradle’ on the bus with a length of wool and the person sitting beside you working the patterns in the wool. The excursions this year were to Grant’s Picnic ground at Kallista in the Dandenongs to see the forest and see the crimson rosellas. Another excursion was to Melbourne where we climbed to the top of the Nicholas building to see the sights- 6 floors from memory!


The management of the whole school was overseen by the Principal Mr.Charles McKenzie Hicks who had a rubber stamp with his name in French Garabond font- no doubt to stamp the hundreds of reports written on small sheets of paper about 10cm by 8 cm- just enough room to put a score out of 10 for each subject and a small comment of how the student was going. His secretary was Mrs Bowyer for whom my buddy and I did her flower arrangement for her desk each Monday morning – to be handsomely rewarded with a tin of toffees at the end of the year. Each day we marched into school to the march ‘Imperial Echoes’played over the loudspeaker. Each Monday morning we had an assembly where we pledged allegiance to Country and to the Queen and promised to ‘cheerfully obey our parents, teachers and the law’ – the boys stood at attention with their right hand over their hearts as they chanted the oath. The flag was raised each Monday and we all sang the National Anthem ‘God Save the Queen’. The school also had a Fife and Drum band and a Bugle and Drum band, introduced and supervised by Mr. Frank Walsh who also was the band leader for the Pakenham and Citizens Brass Band. Many students who began in the Bugle and Drum Band moved on to play brass in the Pakenham band and for some it became their careers.

Mr. Frank Walsh conducting the Pakenham and Citizens Brass Band at Sale circa 1953

Music lessons were available at the school and also nearby at the St Patrick’s convent under the watchful eye of Sister Eugene where many students learnt piano and violin.

School Sport in the form of athletics was conducted by dividing students into the 3 houses, red for McMillan, blue for Strezlecki, and white for Bennett. We ran in white shorts and t-shirts on the ground beyond the shelter sheds. A few times we travelled to Poowong Consolidated for higher level competition and Poowong came to Pakenham occasionally for ball sports contests.

Our school uniform, for girls, was a blue and white 1/8 inch gingham frock, with white collar and cuffs. The frock buttoned to the waist and had a buckled belt and 6 gored skirt. (Madame Weigall pattern- our mothers stitched our frocks). Our underpants were grey airtex fabric- no fancy knickers!- grey socks and black lace-up shoes. The school jumper was grey with bands of maroon and royal blue. We wore a white shirt and maroon tie. In grade 6 we also had a grey blazer and a school badge with the motto ‘to thine own self be true’. The boys wore grey pants above the knees with long grey socks.

Mostly we brought our lunch of sandwiches and fruit from home but the canteen was run firmly by Mrs. Jackson and Mrs. Burnett – where a hot pie for 1/6d was a luxury on a cold day. Any leftover coins could purchase a variety of bagged lollies of which knock-knocks were a favourite.

At the end of grade 6, some students remained at PCS to complete forms 1-4, whilst others travelled to Dandenong Technical School, Koo Wee Rup, Upwey and Drouin High School.

Note: Photographs of Mrs. Hosking teaching in her classroom and the Art room are available on a previous blog by Heather- Casey Cardinia- Pakenham Consolidated School.

All photos and information written and provided by Private Donor.

Class photo student names are available at the archives.

Wednesday 11 January 2023

City of Casey Civic Memorabilia Collection

Early in 2020, the City of Casey Civic Memorabilia Collection was formed. The collection, which numbers 800 objects in total, tells the story of the development of City of Casey. All objects have social, historical and cultural significance to the current and past local government entities in the region, including the Shire of Berwick and Cranbourne.

The objects include purchased, created, awarded, or gifted items, including artworks, ceremonial, armorial, commemorative, development, sport and community objects. From the 1970s, the City of Casey displayed many of these objects in their council building at Narre Warren. When the council moved offices, to Bunjil Place in 2017, the decision was made to take the collection off display. Once the council offices in Narre Warren were closed, the collection was documented and put into storage.
Portrait of Lord Casey. System ID: 1361.

Berwick Sister City Commemorative Plate. System ID: 1223.

All objects remained in storage until 2019, when the City of Casey commenced a project to catalogue the items to make them accessible to the outside world. Currently, around 124 items are available to view through the online catalogue. The City of Casey has indicated that it intends to add more objects to this collection in the future, when adequate research can be completed into the remaining collection items.

Edwin Flack Statuette. System ID: 1326.

Old Cheese Factory, Berwick. System ID: 1434.

Wilson Botanic Park, Berwick. System ID: 1368.

There are quite a few objects depicting Lord Casey, the Berwick sister City programs with Berwick-Upon-Tweed and Springfield, Ohio, the Edwin Flack games available for viewing on the site. There is also a notable collection of artworks which display historical buildings throughout the City of Casey.

You can peruse the collection via the Civil Memorabilia Collection website.

Written by Kate Davis, CCLC.