Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Mechanics' Institutes

This is Narre Warren North in 1895. The old store and the Mechanics' Institute is in the background and Raduchel's blacksmith shop on the right (click on photograph to enlarge it).
In the nineteenth century the term ‘mechanic’ meant artisan or working man. The Mechanics’ Institute movement began in 1800 when Dr George Birkbeck of the Andersonian Institute in Scotland gave a series of lectures to local mechanics. The lectures were free and popular. They led to the formation of the Edinburgh School of Arts (1821) and the London Mechanics’ Institute (1823). The movement spread quickly throughout the British Empire.The first Victorian Mechanics’ Institute was the Melbourne Mechanics’ Institute established in 1839 and renamed The Melbourne Athenaeum in 1873, which continues to operate in its original building in Collins Street. Over a thousand were built in Victoria and 562 remain today. The Berwick Mechanics' Institute and Free Library is one of only six which still operate as Lending Libraries.The Berwick Mechanics' Institute commenced in 1864. More information can be found on their website at www.berwickmilibrary.org.au  Richard Myers has written a book called Berwick Mechanics' Institute & Free Library.

Towns in Casey Cardinia in which a Mechanics' Institute was established are Bayles, Beaconsfield, Bunyip, Clematis, Clyde, Clyde North, Cockatoo, Cora Lynn, Emerald, Garfield, Lang Lang, Koo-Wee-Rup, Koo-Wee-Rup East, Nar Nar Goon, Nar Nar Goon North, Narre Warren, Narre Warren North, Officer, Pakenham, Pakenham Upper, Tooradin and Tynong.

For more information on Mechanics' Institutes you can borrow If the walls could speak : a social history of the Mechanics' Institutes of Victoria by Pam Baragwanath from the Cranbourne Library, or visit the Mechanics' Institutes of Victoria website at http://home.vicnet.net.au/~mivic/

The photograph above is of the Berwick Mechanics' Institute, taken before the 1982 renovations.These renovations extended the building width ways and also added a mezzanine level. This extension was made possible by a $50,000 donation by Lady Casey and City of Berwick funding.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Scouts in Casey Cardinia

2008 is the Centenary of the Scouting movement in Australia. The Scouting movement was established in England, in 1907, by Robert Baden Powell, who was created Lord Baden Powell of Gilwell in 1929. By 1908 the movement had spread to Australia, Belgium, Gibraltar, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand and South Africa. Casey Cardinia has a number of Scout camps. Gilwell Park, at Gembrook, was established in the 1920s, though Scouts had been camping at Gembrook since 1910. The land for Gilwell Park was donated by the Russell family of Swallowfield , Gembrook. Cecil and Alice Russell had arrived in Gembrook in 1907. They had three sons, Bill, Tom and Jack. Tom Russell became a Scout Commissioner. The G.W S Anderson Park at Officer was purchased in 1928. It was named after George William Strachan Anderson, who held various positions in the Scouting Movement and was Chief Commissioner of the Scouts from 1937 until 1951. There is also the Dallas Brooks Scout Park in Beaconsfield Upper. Sir Dallas Brooks was the Governor of Victoria from 1949-1963 and Chief Scout from 1948 until 1963. Many small towns in the area had their own Scout, Cubs and Guides troop. The photograph, above, is of the Cora Lynn Scouts, taken about 1947. The photograph, below, is of the Narre Warren North Cubs from1957. The Leader is Mrs Nell Schneider.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Soldier Settlers in Narre Warren North

Leslie and Mary Lowry
Image: Lowry family collection

On Saturday March 1st, 2008 the Soldier Settler Memorial Garden in Fox Road, Narre Warren North will be officially opened. This is a memorial to the seven Soldier Settler families who farmed in Narre Warren North from 1934. They are Thomas & Annie Edwards, Edward & May Ivens, Leslie & Mary Lowry (pictured above), John & Kathleen Rogers, Alfred & Sarah Sherriff, Francis & Jessie Stephenson and Arthur & Lila Street. The farmers, all Soldiers from World War One, were allocated blocks, on a 99 year lease, averaging 6 hectares (15 acres) which were mainly used for dairying and poultry production. The farms were in the vicinity of Fox Road and the Street farm (pictured below) is now the site of the Mary MacKillop Catholic Primary School. Some families, such as the Edwards and the Streets had been on Soldier Settler blocks in the Mallee, before being allocated land at Narre Warren North. Life could be hard for the Soldier Settler but by all accounts the Narre Warren North settlers formed a close group and contributed much to the community life of the area.

Street farm at Narre Warren North
Image: Street Family coillection

Photo credits : Thank you to Gordon Lowry for the photograph of Leslie & Mary Lowry and to Bob Street for the photograph of the Street farm.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


Some of the  first Europeans in the Lyndhurst area were the Wedge Brothers, Charles, Henry and John. They had arrived in Tasmania with their parents, Edward Davey and Lucy (nee King) Wedge. The family moved to Victoria in the 1830s and took up land at Werribee. Sadly, in May 1852 Edward, aged 76, Lucy, 64 and their daughter, Lucy, aged 45 were drowned when the Werribee River flooded. Another son, Richard, survived the flood. Edward was the brother of John Helder Wedge, a surveyor.  

Charles, Henry and John leased Banyan waterholes or Ballymarang  from around 1839.  The run covered the area from around Dandenong to Frankston and was 42 square miles or 10,000 hectares. The held the land until 1852, when it was subdivided - Charles took the Bangam section and John and Henry the Ballymarang section.  Charles married Fannie Bethia Wright in 1852 and died in Malvern on  November 25, 1895 aged 86 (thus born about 1809). John married Mary Wedge Darke in 1867. Mary was the daughter of William Darke, the Government Surveyer of New South Wales. John died in Queensland in 1883, aged 72, thus he had been born about 1811. They had a property called Johnswood at Lyndhurst and he was an original member of the Cranbourne Road Board, which was established in 1860 and an original Committee member of the Mornington Farmers' Society  Henry Wedge married Mercy Rossiter in 1852. You can read about the Rossiter family, here.  Henry died on December 29,  1866 at the age of 47 (born about 1819) The cause of death was 'measles and inflammation of the lungs' according to the Death notice in the The Argus. Richard had died in Sale in 1870, aged 56.

Other early squatters in the area were the Ruffy Brothers. The Ruffy Brothers squatted on the Tomaque run, after having arrived from Tasmania in 1836 (though some sources say they left Tasmania in March 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. 

From the 1850s, other settlers arrived in Lyndhurst included Alexander Norquay, Alexander Dunlop, George Bird, George and Frederick Hall (Hall Road was named after Frederick) , John Close, Donald and Alexander McClelland, George Howard, James Sime,  John Donnelly, Richard Gray and Frederick Sparks. The town was gazetted on February 25, 1861 and the post office opened in 1867 and closed in 1976.  In December 1854 an Anglican School opened at Lyndhurst, with 22 pupils on the roll. By 1861, the school population had increased to 86. A Catholic School, opened in 1856 in a fairly basic building, as the floor was made of sand, this school became the Lyndhurst Common School in 1865 and the Lyndhurst State School, No. 163, in 1873. It closed in March 1888. Another school at Lyndhurst operated from 1863 to 1869, closed for three years and then re-opened in 1873 as Lyndhurst No. 732. This school was known for  a time as Bald Hill State School. This school closed on February 26, 1980. The school building is still there but is now residential. Much of the information in this paragraph, including the list of Lyndhurst pioneers comes from Niel Gunson's book The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire.

A report of the Lyndhurst School closure - the report is undated and does not say which paper it was from.

Use of the name Bald Hill School for Lyndhurst school.
The Argus July 26, 1866

As is usual in most towns a hotel is established early on and in 1871 Richard Taylor (c. 1825 - 1912) opened his hotel, Taylor’s Half Way House (pictured below). According to his obituary, Richard dug the clay from a pit on his property, made all the bricks by hand and built the hotel himself. It was demolished in 1966. The family also had 136 acres of land at Lyndhurst.  Richard had arrived in Victoria in 1854 and worked on the gold diggings. His wife Sidonia (c. 1824 - 1865) and children Elizabeth (c. 1852 - 1941, married Alexander Cairns in 1887) and Charles (c. 1853 - 1857)  arrived in 1857. Another three children were born in Victoria, Richard Charles (1858 - 1861), George Henry (1862 - 1907) and Walter (1865 - 1866).*  The family, sadly is a typical example of the high infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate of the Victorian era - with little Charles dying the year he arrived in Victoria, little Richard dying at about 3 years old, little Walter dying at about one year old and the mother, Sidonia, dying the same year she gave birth to Walter.

Taylor's Half Way House

An advertisement for the Half-Way House from 
South Bourke and Mornington Journal September 12, 1877.

Lyndhurst also had a Memorial Hall, built in 1921 and destroyed by fire on January 25, 1944. The Hall was built as a Memorial to Lieutenant Malcolm Kirkham (Killed in Action in France September 9, 1918) and Driver Charles Payne (Died of Wounds April 26, 1918) , who had died whilst serving in the First World War. The hall had cost over 700 pounds to build and its value had increased to over 1,000 pounds with later additions, according to the report in the Dandenong Journal of January 26, 1944. A smouldering cigarette butt was said to be the cause of the fire. The report goes on to say that the district is going to miss its social centre, which has been the means of raising thousands of pounds for patriotic and other purposes. There was talk at the time to rebuild the hall but it never eventuated. There is a history of the Hall here. I have also researched all the Great War soldiers from Lyndhurst, you can read it here.

There is also a Presbyterian Church in Lyndhurst. The first mention I can find of it is 1886. I cannot find any reference to when it was officially opened or when the existing church was erected. I have created a list of articles on the Church on Trove, you can access it here.

Lyndhurst also had a Railway Station on the west side of Lyndhurst Road (also called Dandenong Hastings Road and Western Port Highway), near Bayliss Road, which opened  October 1, 1888. It was on the Great Southern line that went all the way to Port Albert.  The South Gippsland Railway line now stops at Cranbourne.  Passenger services beyond Dandenong ceased in June 1981 but goods services continued to operate. In 1992, the goods trains ceased and this is when the line beyond Leongatha was taken up. The passenger service was reinstated on December 9 1984 and continued to run until July 23 1993. Trains returned between Dandenong and Cranbourne when the line was electrified in March 1995.  Lyndurst Station is no more, although it was apparently used until 2009 for cement. Lynbrook Station opened April 2012, it is 500 metres south of the original Lyndhurst Station.

This classic photo of Lyndhurst shows the Lyndhurst store in the background. 
It was taken by Peter Enlund on October 23, 1977. 
Source: Victorian Railways Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/groups/383290015105229/

This photo, is I believe, Lyndhurst, 1960s - with the general store on the right. So what is the connection between the Half Way house building and the Half Way house hotel? I do not know - same building with the first floor removed or was it just named as a homage to the Hotel.

One of the early European settlers in the area as we said before were Alexander Norquay (1813-1890) and his wife Barbara (nee Cromarty c. 1815 - 1891) who migrated in 1852 from the Orkney Islands in Scotland. They came out with three children - William, Mary and John and had two more children in Victoria, James and Anna Bella*. William, was a member of the Cranbourne Road Board from 1863 - 1864 and 1866 - 1868. William and his wife, Susanna Vessey, farmed at Lang Lang and Koo Wee Rup  after leaving Lyndhurst. Mary married Anthony Facey who was the Cranbourne Shire Secretary from 1884 to 1909 and Shire Engineer from 1909 to 1912. John married Lydia Carter,  James married Margaret MacPherson - their son Walter James was Killed in Action in Belgium on October 13, 1917  - and Anna Bella married William Brown.

The Norquay family have left behind a wonderful reminder of their presence in the form of the Morteon Bay fig tree (fiscus macrocarpa) which is located in Figtree Walk at Lyndhurst. This tree was thought to have been planted by John Norquay, in the 188os or 1890s. It is on the City of Casey Heritage Scheme.

Moreton Bay fig planted by the Norquay family and a later farm house which was demolished in 2003.

The original Norquay house - the photo was taken in 1966.  

Exterior shot of the original Norquay house, taken in 1966. What a classic photo!

A few interesting facts about Lyndhurst
  • Lyndhurst was originally known as Bald Hill 
  • Lyndhurst was named after Lord Lyndhurst (1772-1863), Lord Chancellor Of England
  • Skye was known as Lyndhurst South from 1903 until 1964. A murder in the area in 1903 had brought unwelcome attention to Skye and local residents had the name changed. The victim was William Ford who was about 70 years old
  • Lynbrook was developed on land which was originally part of Lyndhurst.

Lyndhurst South officially becomes Skye on July 28, 1964.
Victoria Government Gazette  August 5, 1964.

*Some of this information comes from Early Settlers of the Casey Cardinia district   researched and published by the Narre Warren & District Family History Group.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Nar Nar Goon

The first European settlers in the Nar Nar Goon area were John Dore and Michael Hennessy, who leased Mt Ararat, No.1 run, from 1844. When the partnership broke up in 1855, Dore continued on with the lease in his own right. John, and his son Tom, purchased 526 hectares (1300 acres) at the first Crown Land sales in the 1860s. The railway line to Sale, cut through the Dore property. The line was opened in 1877, but the Nar Nar Goon Railway station wasn't built until 1881. Other early settlers were John Startup (who was a foundation member of the Berwick Road Board) and a Mr Kettle, who took up the Mt Ararat Station run in 1854 and Phillip and Michael Mulcare. Michael Mulcare's land was the site of the the subdivision for the township of Nar Nar Goon. Mulcare Street is named after him. Other early settlers include Alexander Ritchie, Jane Forturne, John Browning and the Bourke family.

In the 1990s the Progress Association undertook the painting of a number of murals representing different aspects of the history of the town. The murals provide a delightful and fascinating glimpse into Nar Nar Goon's past and include the Nar Nar Goon race course, which operated until the 1940, Tom Snell's General Store, Arthur Thorne's Butcher Shop,  W.H Foulsham's bakery, the Nar Nar Goon churches,  the Public Hall and a tribute to the timber industry and the dairy industry. A booklet, from which these images were taken, is available for sale at the Milk Bar (previously Grover's Railway Store).

I have done some research into the Great War Soldiers listed on the Nar Nar Goon Honour Board and the  Nar Nar Goon North State School Honour Board. There are fifty five names listed on the boards and you can read about them here