Tuesday, 26 February 2013


Gembrook derived its name from the property owned by early European settler, Albert Le Souef who was the first official settler in the area when he purchased 129 hectares (320 acres) of land in July 1873. He called this property Gembrook Park.  The original Gembrook settlement was south of today’s town and the community that grew around the Ure familys Silver Wells property was to the north of today's town. However, the commercial focus of the town shifted to around the Gembrook Railway Station when it opened as part of the Puffing Billy railway line. The Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook Railway, as it was officially known, was a narrow gauge railway of 2 feet, six inches and opened December 19, 1900.

Gembrook Railway Station, taken between 1920 and 1954.
State Library of Victoria Image H32492/2159

Dorfmans Ranges Hotel Gembrook. Wolf Dorfman was licensee between 1935 and 1946.
State Library of Victoria Image H32492/4109 

One of the earliest buildings in Gembrook is the Ranges Hotel which was opened in 1902 by John and Jane McMahon. From around 1904, the hotel was operated by brothers,  Fred and Howard Pitt. In 1921 it was taken over by John and Catherine Beacham who transferred the licence to Wolf Dorfman in February 1935. Dorfman transferred the licence to Daphne and Alfred McGregor in 1946.  

Another view of the Hotel, most likely taken in the 1940s or 1950s.
State Library of Victoria Image H32492/267 

Panorama of Gembrook
State Library of Victoria Image H32492/4110

Other community buildings followed the Hotel -  an Anglican Church opened  in 1905, a Catholic Church in around 1922 and various shops. The Memorial Hall was opened in December 1921 and later a Library and a Meeting Room was built under the Hall, as it was on a sloping block. The Memorial Hall was demolished in 1981 and replaced by a ‘community centre’. 

There was an earlier privately owned hall which, from 1906 until 1915, was used for State School No.2506, which had previously been located in Gembrook North. This School began in 1879 as the part time school No.2110, sharing the same number as Emerald State School,  and became full-time in 1889. Classes took place in the Union Church from 1884 until it moved to the Main Street in 1906. In 1915, a new building was built and the School moved to its current location.  There were four other Gembrook Schools -  Pakenham Upper School, No.2155, was called Gembrook South from 1879 until 1916, when it was renamed Pakenham Upper. It became part of Pakenham Consolidated School in 1951.  Gembrook West, No.3211, operated for just over a year from August 1894 until October 1895. The second Gembrook West School, No.4073, operated from 1921 until 1923. Finally Gembrook South East, No. 3468, opened half time with Nar Nar Goon North in March 1904 and closed in December 1908.

Finally, Gembrook is the home of the Gilwell Scout Camp, established in 1926 and visited by Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the Scots movement,  in 1931 and 1935. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Grange, Harkaway

The Grange was built  for the Honourable William Arthur Callandar A'Beckett, M.L.C., J.P. (1833-1901) in 1862 or 1866 (depending on sources). It was designed by local architect George Washington Robinson. The house had views over Port Phillip Bay and was off A'Beckett Road, even though the original entrance was from Halleur Road as A'Beckett Road was made after The Grange was built.  A'Beckett married Emma Mills in 1855 and one of their daughters, Emma Minnie (1858-1936), who was an artist married fellow artist, Arthur Merric Boyd (1862-1940).  In 1948, The Grange  was purchased by Arthur and Minnie's son, the author, Martin A'Beckett Boyd (1893-1972) and his nephew, Arthur Boyd (1920-1999) painted murals in the house. Sadly, this grand house was sold in 1955 and then re-sold in 1963 to a Quarry.

On November 26, 1967  photographer, Richard Dunbar, took some photographs of The Grange and the murals and his widow, Margaret has kindly allowed us to reproduce them here. This is a rare opportunity to see the murals, in situ

Peter Freeman, the author of Brick Homes of Berwick* saw The Grange before it was demolished and wrote (possibly circa 1963)  It is now owned by the quarry - which owns the whole property, and it is slowly being surrounded by overburden, cracked by heavy blasting work and is bound to be demolished in the near future. It is  a tragic end to a beautiful and historic house. I do not know the exact date The Grange was demolished, but as it was standing in November 1967, then 1968 would be  a likely date. We have a 1970 aerial photograph in the collection and it has certainly been demolished then.

Along with the photographs was this, undated, newspaper article from The Age, written by Geoff Maslin,  about the murals.  In the article, Melbourne Art dealer, Joseph Brown, says that when they removed the murals steel frames had to be made to fit around each section of the four walls and a mobile crane and a semi-trailer were needed to cart them away. At the time the article was written (circa 1990) the murals were being stored at a Canberra warehouse by the National Gallery.

*Brick homes of Berwick by Peter Freeman. We have a photocopy of this typed manuscript in the Archive, it is undated, but written possibly circa 1963.  Mr Freeman looks at The Grange and other early brick homes of Berwick, Harkaway and Narre Warren North.