Monday, 28 April 2008

The Railways - The Gippsland line

Narre Warren Railway Station, 1915

Railways have been pivotal in the development of the Casey Cardinia Region. We have had four railway lines running through the region and in the next few blog posts we will look at these lines. The earliest line is the Gippsland line to Sale. This line was opened in stages - Sale to Morwell June 1877, Oakleigh to Bunyip October 1877, Moe to Morwell December 1877, Moe to Bunyip March 1878 and the last stretch from South Yarra to Oakleigh in 1879. Originally the only Station open between Dandenong and Pakenham was the Berwick Station, pictured below in 1877.

Berwick Railway Station, 1877.

Other stations followed as demand increased. Towns developed around the Railway stations and in some cases such as Pakenham, the railway town eventually eclipsed the original town on the Highway. The Railway provided a means of transporting produce and goods. Officer was originally known as Officer's Wood Siding because the Officer family used it for the distribution of firewood. Apples were transported from the orchards at Toomuc Valley and Officer, potatoes and dairy products were transported from the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp. The railways also revolutionised personal travel in that they were quicker and more comfortable than horses and carts. Beaconsfield Upper was promoted as a holiday resort with fresh country air. Holiday makers were met at the Beaconsfield Station and conveyed to their guest house or hotel.

Advertisement taken from a booklet published by the Upper Beaconsfield Progressive League in 1899 to promote tourism in the area.

Beaconsfield Railway Station, 1910

The Railways also opened up educational and employment opportunities both in the local community and beyond. My grandmother, Eva Weatherhead, was an early commuter. In 1916, aged 15, Eva travelled down on the train each day from Tynong to Stotts Business College in Melbourne where she undertook a secretarial course. Until the 1950s children from the Casey Cardinia region had a choice of Warragul High School (established 1911) or Dandenong High (1919) so the few children from the area who went on to High School would have mostly travelled by train.

Monday, 21 April 2008


Pearcedale School in the 1930s.
Image: Pearcedale: moments in history (Pearcedale Hall Committee, 2003)

Pearcedale was originally called Langwarrin and was also known at various times as Langwarrin Estate or Old Langwarrin. When the Mornington and Stony Point railway lines opened in the late 1880s, the railway station near the Military Camp (now a Flora and Fauna Reserve) was named Langwarrin. A new town developed east of the railway station and was locally called New Langwarrin. A meeting of rate payers was held in November 1905 and it was voted to rename the original town Pearcedale, to avoid confusion with this new settlement of New Langwarrin. The name Pearcedale came from local landowner Nathaniel Pearce. 

Nathaniel and his wife Mary Grace (nee Hawke) are first listed in the Shire of Cranbourne Rate Books in 1894, when they purchased an orchard on 26 acres (about 10 hectares) at Langwarrin Estate.  Mary Grace, was a midwife and helped deliver many babies in the area. She had eight babies of her own - John 'Jack' (1886 - ?), William Henry 'Bob' (1887- Died of Wounds in France on July 4, 1916), Samuel (1889 - 1925), Catherine (1892 - 1934, married name Roberts), Charlotte (1893 - 1966, married name Hatch), Bessie (1897 - 1987, married name McConville), Nathaniel (1899 - 1973) and Thomas James (1904 - 1973). Nathaniel died  Februry 9, 1918 at the age of 55 and Mary Grace died July 24, 1949 aged 88. They are both buried at the Frankston Cemetery.

Pearcedale Junior Football Team, 1947
Image: Pearcedale: moments in history (Pearcedale Hall Committee, 2003)

The original town of Pearcedale had a slow beginning, read more about it here. In 1889 it had a few shops and a Post Office, Public Hall and Primary School. However the 1890s depression effected the town and the School closed in 1892 and the Post Office in 1893. The School re-opened in 1902 and the Post Office in 1907. The original hall burnt down and the replacement was opened on August 23, 1918. This event was witnessed by 400 people, who were entertained with a concert and a dance which finished at 4.00am. The Methodist Church was opened in 1918, the Anglican Church in 1938. Other Community milestones include the establishment of the Tennis club in the 1920s, the Cricket club in 1926, the Football club in 1929, the Progress Association in 1937 and the Fire Brigade in 1940. Electricty was connected in 1957, the Guides and Scouts both formed in 1957, the R.S.L in 1958 and the Infant Welfare Centre in 1961. Town water was connected in 1962.

You can read about the men who enlisted in the great War from Pearcedale here  in our Casey Cardinia Commemorates: Our War Years.

This information and the photographs are from the book Pearcedale: moments in history, published by the Pearcedale Hall Committee in 2003. The couple pictured on the cover are Nathaniel and Mary Pearce. The building behind is the old hall which was replaced in 1918.

The information about the Pearce family comes from the Indexes to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages; Nathaniel's death notice in The Argus, February 11, 1918, see here; Mary Grace's obituary in the Dandenong Journal of July 27, 1949, see here.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008


Small scale drainage works on the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp had been undertaken by private landowners from as early as 1856 but it wasn't until 1888 that the Government became involved. The Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, William Thwaites, surveyed the Swamp in 1888 and his report recommended the construction of the Bunyip Main Drain from where it entered the Swamp in the north to Western Port Bay and a number of smaller side drains. A tender was advertised in 1889. In spite of strikes, floods and bad weather by March, 1893, the contractors had constructed the 16 miles of the drain from the Bay to the south of Bunyip and the Public Works Department considered the Swamp was now dry enough for settlement. Like many towns, the Railway was the catalyst for growth and development of Koo-Wee-Rup. The Koo-Wee-Rup Railway station was opened in 1890. It was originally called Yallock and was re-named Koo-Wee-Rup in 1892. Koo-Wee-Rup is an Aboriginal word for “blackfish swimming”. Some growth had taken place in the town before 1890, a school was established in 1884 between Koo-Wee-Rup and Bayles with 22 pupils, and the first permanent house, “The Grange” was built in 1888. By 1894, the town consisted of the Railway siding, pay office for the Swamp workers and three shops. This small population however developed a cricket team, a Temperance Society and sporting carnivals. By the beginning of 1900, a Presbyterian Church was established, Catholic and Anglican services were held, the Recreation Reserve was established and a doctor even visited weekly from Cranbourne.

In spite of the occasional flood, the town prospered. The first Catholic Church and a Public Hall were built in 1902, a Bush Nursing hospital was built in 1910 and in the same year the school was moved into the township from Bethune’s Road. In 1915, the Royal Hotel was erected and in 1917, the Anglican Church. (pictured))

The town became a railway junction in 1922 when the line to Strzelecki was opened. This line went through Bayles, Catani, Yannathan and Heathhill then up into the hills to Strzelecki on McDonald's Track. The recreational needs of the locals were met with the construction of the Wattle Picture Theatre in 1927, the same year the Koo-Wee-Rup Electric Light and Power Company supplied electricity to the town.
A little known fact about Koo-Wee-Rup is that in 1921-22, an experimental radio receiving Station was established by Amalgamated Wireless Limited. This Radio Station received transmissions direct from Europe without the need for relay stations. This discovery helped revolutionise international communication.

These photographs are from a series of postcards produced in the 1930s or 1940s to promote Koo-Wee-Rup.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Captain Robert Gardiner

Captain Robert Gardiner is one of the earliest European settlers in the Berwick area. Gardiner took up a pastoral lease, in 1837, south of Berwick where Edrington is located. By 1853, he is listed on the Parish Plan of Berwick as owning over 1350 hectares (3300 acres). Gardiner named his property Melville Park, after his father Melville William Gardiner. The Gardiner family had a connection to Berwick-upon-Tweed in the United Kingdom and this influenced the naming of town of Berwick.

Captain Robert Gardiner in 1885.
Image: State Library of South Australia Image B 16732.

Gardiner was born in Scotland in 1812. He first came to Tasmania, where he was involved in the whaling industry. Gardiner married his first wife Susan Foley (sometimes listed as Folley) in 1834 in Hobart and they had the following children - Elizabeth Mary (born in Hobart in 1840), Robert Melville (Hobart 1850),  Abraham (Hobart 1852), Susan Phillis (Hobart 1854), Ada Jessie (Bollinda, Victoria 1859). Susan, the daughter of James and Mary (nee Sherburd) Foley died in 1865. Robert married Sarah Anne Gardiner in 1866. She was born in Hobart in 1829 and was the daughter of James and Sophia (nee Meredith) Lloyd and the widow of James Gardiner, whom she had married in 1848 in Hobart.  She died in 1894.*

 In 1854 he leased Bolinda Vale and Redrock estates (in the Sunbury/ Romsey area) from William John Turner Clarke. It was whilst he was at Bolinda Vale that Gardiner encountered the Burke and Wills expedition. Burke and Wills had left Royal Park on the 20th of August, 1860. The entourage consisted of 18 people, 24 camels, 23 horses and seven wagons and it was anticipated that they would cover 32 kms (20 miles) a day. Their third camp was at Bolinda Vale on August 22nd and according to the diary of Ludwig Becker, the Naturalist on the Expedition, Gardiner ‘provided hospitality for the party and fodder for the animals without charge'. In January 1868 Gardiner took up the lease of the Mount Schank Station in Mount Gambier at the cost of 10,000 pounds per annum. Mount Schank, as with Bolinda Vale, was owned W.J.T Clarke.
Gardiner played a large role in the civic life of Mt Gambier and donated a very fine pipe organ to the St Andrews Presbyterian Church in 1884 and the same year donated the money for a fountain in the Cave Gardens. This fountain (pictured) is said to be the first large marble fountain made in 'the colonies' and was made in Melbourne.

Memorial Fountain, Mount Gambier, 1925 - donated by Captain Robert Gardiner in 1884.
Image: State Library of South Australia B 43969/7

A little known fact about Captain Robert Gardiner is that he is the great grandfather of the ballet dancer Sir Robert Helpmann. Sir Robert’s mother was Mary Gardiner, a granddaughter of Captain Robert.

It appears, from the date of the donations of the organ and fountain, that Captain Gardiner maintained his interest in Mount Gambier after he left the area as he built a very grand house, Mintaro, for himself in Lancefield in 1882. It was designed by James Gall and has been described as the ‘other Government House’. It is pictured below. Gardiner died in South Yarra in 1889.

A country mansion: Captain Gardiner's new house, Lancefield Road. The Architect was James Gall.
The Australasian sketcher April 9, 1881. 
State Library of Victoria Image A/S09/04/81/117

* Some of this information about the family comes from Early Settlers of the Casey-Cardinia District, published by the Narre Warren & District Family History Group.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


Father Wilfred Pooley (1912 - 1969)
Image: Maryknoll: history of a Catholic Rural Settlement by Gael White (Artistic Wombat, 2002)

Maryknoll was established in 1949 by Father Wilfred Pooley (1912-1969) as a Catholic community based on the principals of faith, family life and co-operative enterprise. This was part of a broader movement in the Catholic community, encouraged by the Melbourne Archbishop, Dr Daniel Mannix, for Catholics to move away from the distractions of the city to a rural environment and become closer to God. A National Catholic Rural Movement was established in 1939 to support Catholic farmers and Father Pooley was very keen to establish a 'City of God' in a rural community and paid a deposit of 100 pounds on 218 hectares (540 acres) in Tynong North, on March 25th, 1949. The rest of the purchase price of 4,400 pounds was lent by the Handley family of Dandenong, and was initially in the name of Margaret Handley. The settlement was known as St Mary’s until 1955 when the name was changed to Maryknoll to avoid confusion with other towns called St Mary’s.

Margaret Handley,  is pictured in the back row of the St Mary's Parish Ladies Tennis team. 
Image: A Parish carved from the bush : a centenary history of the Dandenong Parish by Greg Dickson (St Mary's Centenary Committee, 1983)

The first settlers lived in 'temps', very basic dwellings without running water, electricity , gas or other 'mod cons'. Families then moved onto two acres block, where a modest three bedroom house was built.

 Ted Knox and son, Martin,  taken 1959, outside their home in Maryknoll.
Image: Knox family collection.

The cornerstones of community life, the Holy Family Church and the Holy Family School were both opened by Archbishop Mannix on September 3. 1950 attended by more than 3000 people. The Archbishop reiterated the rationale for the Maryknoll settlement in his address - We are tired of listening to people talk about the drift from the country to the cities and the necessity of decentralization. People and Governments talk much but little is done. Father Pooley, however, doesn't talk very much, but he is certainly very active, and I am confident he will succeed in this great project  (The Advocate, September 7 1950, see here)

The Holy Family Church and some of the houses in Maryknoll were designed by the architectural firm of  Smith, Tracey, Lyon and Brock, read about this, here.

Holy Family Catholic Church, Maryknoll, 1963.
Image: Knox family collection.

Maryknoll had a number of co-operative industries including a housing co-operative, a joinery, hardware store and an aerated water factory. Other towns in Casey and Cardinia were established as stopping places on transport routes, or to serve the surrounding farming community and for Maryknoll to be established on the values of faith and religion gives it a unique place in the history of Casey and Cardinia. More information on Maryknoll can be found in the book Maryknoll: history of a Catholic Rural Settlement by Gael White (published by Artistic Wombat, 2002)