Thursday, 20 March 2008

Berwick Mechanics' Institute and Free Library

We have looked at the history of Mechanics' Institutes in a previous blog post  and this post will concentrate on the Berwick Mechanics' Institute and Free Library (B.M.I.F.L) which was established in 1864. 

Early meetings were held at the Border Hotel (Berwick Inn) owned by Robert Bain (1831-1887) A block of land had been reserved for a Mechanics' Institute on the corner of Peel Street and Rutland Road (previously known as Irby Street, see map below) and a building was constructed on the site in 1866. This building was moved to its present site in High Street, in 1877 or 1878. The site was donated by Robert Bain on a 500 year lease on the condition that the land continued to be used for a Mechanics' Institute. The rental was one shilling per annum, if demanded. A framed copy of the original lease can be seen at the B.M.I.F.L.

Early sub-division plan of Berwick, showing site earmarked for a Mechanics' Institute.
Click on map to enlarge it.

In the nineteenth century the B.M.I.F.L. offered a full range of educational books and journals and newspapers. Instructive and improving lectures were held and the Berwick Mutual Improvement and Debating Society presented stimulating debates on topics as diverse as Is the moderate use of tobacco on all its forms injurious? Is reason confined to man? Will the British nation decay as the great nations of antiquity have done?. Alongside these lectures and debates was also a lending service and the B.M.I.F.L still continues to provide a lending service to the public. This service is run entirely by volunteers and in the last year over 44,000 items were lent to adults and children.

Among the gems of the Berwick Mechanics' Institute and Free Library is the Casey Collection. This collection is from the private Library of Lord and Lady Casey from their home at Edrington in Berwick. The collection provides an insight into the lives and interests of Lord and Lady Casey.

 A portrait of Lady Casey by Cecil Beaton

There is other Casey memorabilia as well including a portrait of Lady Casey by Cecil Beaton and a portrait of Lord Casey by Sir William Dargie. Lord Casey (1890-1976) was the Governor General of Australian from 1965-1969. He married Maie Ryan (nee Ethel Marion Sumner Ryan, 1891-1983) in 1926 and they had two children. Lady Casey donated the Casey Collection to the Institute and donated $50,000 in 1979 for a new Library building. Their daughter, Mrs Jane Macgowan, has also been a generous benefactor to the Institute.

A portrait of Lord Casey by Sir William Dargie.

The information and illustrations for this post were taken from Berwick Mechanics' Institute and Free Library by Richard Myers.  You can also purchase copies at the Berwick Mechanics' Institute and Free Library, 15 High Street, Berwick. Visit their website at

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Lang Lang

The original settlement at Lang Lang was on the corner of McDonalds Track and South Gippsland Highway. A store and hotel were built by William Lyall in c. 1867 on his property Tobin Yallock or Torbinurruck. This town was officially known as Lang Lang although locals called it Tobin Yallock. Tobin Yallock would eventually have a church, a Post Office, Mechanics’ Institute and other stores. The Great Southern Railway line to Port Albert reached Lang Lang in February 1890. The Railway Station was named Carrington after Charles Robert Carrington, the third Baron Carrington, who was Governor of New South Wales from 1885-1890. Carrington was later created the Marquess of Lincolnshire. Carrington had the honour of being the first living person, other than Queen Victoria, to ever appear on an Australian postage stamp. He and Governor Arthur Phillip jointly appeared on a New South Wales stamp in 1888. Incidentallly, a mint condition Carrington stamp is today valued at around $400.00 or 190 pounds sterling.

The Railway Station was renamed Lang Lang in December 1890. The coming of the railway caused the decline of Tobin Yallock and by 1894 most of the businesses and public buildings had transferred to the new Lang Lang near the Railway Station.

Interestingly the Lang Lang area had also been known by another name at one time, that of Protector’s Plain. This was the name of a State School which opened on the Westernport Road in 1888. The school community was re-located onto the current site in Lang Lang in June 1891. The name Protector’s Plain (also Protector's Flats) came from a camp in the area used in the late 1830s and early 1840s by William Thomas, a Protector of Aborigines.

The history of Lang Lang is covered in the book Protector's Plains : history of Lang Lang Primary School No.2899, 1888-1988 and district compiled by Barbara Coghlan in 1988. This book has a full list of pupils who attended the State School, information on local families, community groups and businesses and a history of the area. It also includes information on the Easter Monday rodeo which began in the early 1940s and the General Motors Proving ground. GMH purchased the 900 plus hectare site in the mid 1950s. It is still in use, and its many acres of uncleared bush land are a wildlife habitat.

 The Lang Lang and District Historical Society was established in 1988. The Society maintains a small, but interesting,  Museum in the old Infant Welfare Centre.  More information on their website

Lang Lang, c. 1906
State Library of Victoria Image H2014.1013/157  
The greeting on the card reads: George told me to tell Neil to come, so had to say they had a room, he was surprised at it

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


The first European settler in the Garfield area was Mr Thompson, who was granted the lease of the Cannibal Creek Cattle run in 1845. The term Cannibal Creek is believed to refer to the killing of dogs by dingoes although another interpretation is that it was it was a corruption of the Aboriginal word coonabul from couna meaning “forehead” and bal meaning “he” or “she”. This possibly referred to the shape of Mount Cannibal, which was thought to resemble a head. Another early settler was J.James, the owner of the Pig & Whistle hotel, on the Old Telegraph Road.

The real impetus for the growth of Garfield came with the coming of the Railway line in 1877. The original name for the siding was Cannibal Creek, but it was renamed Garfield in honour of the assassinated American President, James Garfield, who was shot July 2nd 1881 and died September 19th ,1881. By the early 1900s, the town of Garfield had a baker, a carpenter, a blacksmith, sweets shop, saddler, wood merchant, builder, carters, a butcher and a hotel. The Methodist Church and the public hall were also early additions to the town. The Cannibal Creek School (established in 1886 on what is now the Princes Highway) moved to the top of Garfield hill in 1900 and to its current location in 1910. The growth of Garfield was also spurred by the drainage of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and the subsequent settlements south of the town at Cora Lynn, Vervale and Iona. The Garfield Picture Theatre (still standing) was built in 1924 for Mr Donohue and its power plant supplied the town with electricity until the arrival of the S.E.C.

The photograph at the top is an early view of the Main Street of Garfield. The image above is from the early 1960s, possibly an Anzac Day service as a wreath is being placed at the Memorial cairn, in the Main Street.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Casey Cardinia and the Melbourne Grammar connection

I have a collection of second hand books at home, amongst which is Liber Melburniensis 1858-1914. This is a record of all the boys who attended Melbourne Grammar in those years. The school started in 1858 and the first Head Master was the Reverend John Bromby, whom we have met before in this blog as the town of Gembrook is situated on land that was owned by the Reverend John Bromby. Bromby's five sons Christopher, Ernest, Edward Hippius, Frederick Jeremie and Robert Henry also attended the School

Left: Reverend John Bromby.
Johnstone, O'Shannessy & Co. from a lithograph by Fergusson & Mitchell. National Library of Australia, nla.pic-vn3600375

The first pupil at Melbourne Grammar was Edward A'Beckett, the son of Thomas Turner A'Beckett. Edward A'Beckett was the first cousin of W.A.C. (William Arthur Callendar) A'Beckett, the owner of The Grange, built 1866, at Harkaway.

The Grange, Harkaway. Photographer: John T. Collins.
Photo taken November 28, 1965. 
State Library of Victoria Image H97.250/134

Other boys who attended the School and have a Casey Cardinia connection (according to their address after leaving the School) are

A'Beckett, Gilbert Arthur Cecil  (b.1872) of Beaconsfield. Gilbert is the son of Edward Fitzhayley and Jane Deodata (nee Burke) A'Beckett.
A'Beckett, William Gilbert  (b. 1864), son of W.A.C. and Emma (nee Mills) A'Beckett of The Grange, Harkaway.
A'Beckett, Arthur Heywood  (b.1868) of Bunyip. Arthur is also a son of W.A.C and Emma A'Beckett. Arthur purchased a farm in Bunyip around 1895. 
Browne, Eric Cecil  (b.1890) of Beaconsfield 
Burke, Edward Francis (b.1857) of Tynong 
Courtney, William Wilson  (b.1876) of Narre Warren 
Drew, Michael Forristall  (b.1873) of Harkaway 
Fairchild, James Herbert  (b.1871) of Lang Lang
Kent, Robert Anthony  (b.1887), son of Anthony and Mary Ann (nee Hillbrich) of Oatlands, Narre Warren.Two of his brother Alfred and Norman died whilst serving in World War One and are on the Narre Warren War Memorial. 
Lyall, John Mickle Harewood  (b.1869) son of William and Annabella Lyall of Harewood,  Koo Wee Rup
Martin, Alexander Raynes (b.1892) of Tynong.
McGregor, John  (b.1872) son of Duncan and Margaret McGregor of  Dalmore, Koo Wee Rup 
Mein, Pultenay Warford  (b.1876) 
Mein, Douglas Warford  (b.1878) both of I.Y.U Station, Pakenham 
Robinson, William  (b.1865) of Beaconsfield 
Stone, Everard (b.1870) of Monomeith
Were, Clive Wellington   (b.1890) of Officer. Clive was Killed in Action at Gallipoli in World War One and is listed on the Officer Honor Board and the Memorial Gates at the Recreation Reserve (see here
Wilkins, George Alva  (b.1887) of Emerald 

This is the IYU  Homestead. It was built in 1859 and destroyed by fire around 1929.
Photograph from: In the wake of the pack tracks, published by the Berwick Pakenham Historical Society.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Soldier Settler Memorial Garden, Narre Warren North

On Saturday, March 1st, 2008 the Soldier Settler Memorial Garden at Narre Warren North was officially opened by the Mayor of the City of Casey, Cr Janet Halsall (pictured above). Cr Rob Wilson (pictured below right), the Chair of the City of Casey Soldier Settlement Committee made an enthusiastic speech. Many community groups were present, including members of the R.S.L, who displayed the Australian flag and the Union Jack, representing the two flags that the First World War soldiers fought under.

The Garden commemorates the seven Soldier settler families who farmed at Narre Warren North from 1934. They are Thomas & Annie Edwards, Edward & May Ivens, Leslie & Mary Lowry, John & Kathleen Rogers, Alfred & Sarah Sherriff, Francis & Jessie Stephenson and Arthur & Lila Street. Bob Street, the son of Arthur & Lila, gave us an interesting account of growing up at Narre Warren North. The photograph below is of Bob Street and some of the descendants of the Soldier Settlers. All the families were represented apart from the Rogers, whose one daughter died without issue.

The Memorial Garden is on the corner of Fox Road and McKenzie Lane in Kalora Park. This land was originally owned by Francis and Jessie Stephenson. The plaque is mounted a piece of granite and the Garden has been landscaped with plants typical of gardens from the 1930s and 1940s. It is an attractive Memorial to the Soldier Settlers of Narre Warren North.