Eltham is a suburb in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 20 km north-east from Melbourne's central business district. Its Local Government Area is the Shire of Nillumbik. At the 2006 Census, Eltham had a population of 17,581.
Eltham is one of the beautiful 'green wedge' areas that provide relatively undeveloped, accessible environments within the Melbourne suburban region. These green wedge areas are under constant pressure from developments such as road and freeway expansions, but Eltham has managed to retain its natural splendour with many tree-lined streets and leafy reserves.
Eltham developed around what is now Main Road from the 1840s. A reserve for a village at the junction of the Diamond Creek and Yarra River is shown on maps around 1848. By 1851 the first Crown allotments were being subdivded and sold, along with a private subdivision developed by TM Holloway and known as Little Eltham. At this time, the town's centre was located around the intersection of Pitt Street and Main Road.
Eltham Post Office opened on 1 February 1854.
The arrival of the railway in 1902 drew business further north along Main Road to the current town centre.
In February 1855 Hungarian immigrant Sigismund Wekey purchased 211 acres (0.85 km2) in what was then Eltham (but is now Lower Plenty), via The Victoria Vineyard and Garden Fruit Company of which he was manager, with a vision to start a wine industry in the new settlement of Melbourne.
In March 1855, Wekey held a meeting at the Bulleen Hotel and called for shareholders, each “according to his means”, in a proposed toll bridge, the first bridge ever built over the Upper Yarra, joining "Eltham" to Templestowe, and replacing a toll punt being operated by the company. The bridge would cut five kilometres off the trip from Eltham township to Melbourne, it was claimed at the meeting.
A plan, backed by a group of Melbourne businessmen who would form the ‘Templestowe Bridge Committee’, attracted the necessary shareholders and the project was underway. Colonial Architect of the day, James Balmain did the design as a private commission, engineers and builders were Allott and Greenwood. The foundation stone, laid by John Hodgson M.L.C., on 18 August 1855, concealed a manuscript giving details of the people at the ceremony.
The bridge would have a span of 43 metres and a width of eight metres. It would cost 2200 English Pounds ($US800,000 in today’s currency). It would be located at the end of what is now Bonds Road, Lower Plenty, the land for this road being donated by local landowners John Seymour and David Bell. And the Central Road Board agreed to level the road to the bridge on the Templestowe side through the estate of Henry Stooke.
Meantime Wekey conceived a plan for another bridge at Studley Park to improve and shorten the trip to the city even further. By 21 September the plan for this second bridge was underway.
A stoppage in the works of the Templestowe Bridge was explained by Wekey on 22 September as being a dispute between the Board and the contractors over payment when the foundation on the Lower Plenty side was found to be different than expected, causing a change in the design - the contractors were wanting more money to accommodate this.
Unfortunately in January 1856 the Victoria Vineyard and Garden Fruit Company was forced to sell its land. The sale was to Mr King for eight English Pounds an acre - the land had been acquired originally for 4.60 English Pounds an acre - but Wekey had been confident it would soon be worth 18-20 English Pounds per acre! The company was to be wound up shortly after.
It appears the Templestowe Bridge was operating by this time.
In March 1862, a deputation of Eltham residents approached the Commissioner of Railways and Roads, requesting the government buy the Templestowe Bridge then give it back to the Eltham District Road Board, as while its toll earning capability was not as “remunerative” as had been hoped, the bridge was a “great public convenience”. This request was denied.
In October 1863 there was a great flood causing the Yarra to rise 12 metres - it even flooded Elizabeth Street city. A number of bridges were washed away.
In March 1865 a deputation of Templestowe residents to the Acting Commissioner of Roads and Bridges, offered 600 English Pounds raised by them towards a new bridge to replace the Templestowe Bridge and requested a government grant towards the cost. The Acting Commissioner “promised to give the matter further consideration” though "he did not see from what fund a sum of money could be granted to them”.
The last ‘bits’ of the Templestowe Bridge, joining what was Eltham to Finns Reserve at Thompson’s Road, Templestowe, only finally washed away in the 1960s.
In 1860 another bridge was built nearby in what was Eltham but is now Lower Plenty, over the Plenty River. This bridge, bluestone blocks and steel, still stands today and is part of the Plenty River Trail close to the Heidelberg Golf Club and the Lower Plenty Hotel. It is possible that the Templestowe Bridge was similar in appearance to this.
Appeal to Artists
Eltham has been a popular location for artists since the early 1900s. Eltham is famous for the Montsalvat artist community which built a rustic set of medieval-style buildings in the 1930s. Montsalvat is still open to the public and houses artists in residence and a year round calendar of public programs.
Aside from the Montsalvat artist community, Eltham has also been home to artists such as Walter Withersand Neil Douglas, as well as to writers like Alan Marshalland Mervyn Skipper.
One of the legacies of this artistic tradition is the local architecture, particularly the use of mudbricks as a building material. Alistair Knox (namesake for a major community reserve in Eltham's centre) was perhaps the best-known exponent of this technique of construction. Australia's first mudbrick community building, the Eltham Community Centre was opened in 1978.
Monsalvat, in Hillcrest Avenue, operates as a commune to artists and craftspeople. The first building was constructed in 1935 by artist Justus Jorgensen. The Great Hall at Monsalvat was built in 1938.
Shillinglaw Cottage was built in 1878 by a local builder, George Stebbing, with handmade bricks using an unusual design featuring burnt header bricks throughout the facade.
St Margaret's Church, located in Pitt Street, was constructed in 1880 and is included on the Historic Buildings Register.
The Eltham Courthouse, on the corner of Main Road and Brougham Street, was built in 1859 and was classified by the National Trust in 1977.
The timber trestle railway bridge across the Diamond Creek just south of the Eltham Railway Station is one of the few remaining examples of this type of construction in Melbourne. Built in 1901, the bridge was the subject of a lengthy dispute during the 1970s between the Victorian Railways and local residents over its preservation.
Eltham encompasses the state secondary school, Eltham High School, as well as the private girls secondary school Catholic Ladies' College. Another private secondary school, Eltham College of Education, takes its name from Eltham, but is located in nearby Research. Primary schools include Eltham East Primary, Our Lady Help Of Christians Primary, Eltham Primary and Eltham North Primary School. Several schools are also located in the exclusive connecting area of Eltham North, including St. Helena Secondary College, Plenty Valley Montessori School, Holy Trinity Primary School and Glen Katherine Primary School.
Eltham has a local train station, Eltham Station, located on the Hurstbridge Line.
The suburb is home to the Eltham Wildcats Basketball Club, one of the largest junior basketball clubs in the world.
Eltham Eagles Soccer Club and Eltham Cricket Club are also popular gathering points.
Eltham has a football team competing in the Northern Football League.
The suburb is home to the Eltham Tennis Club, one of the largest tennis clubs in the Nillumbik Shire.
Eltham Little Athletics Club is one of the largest of the eight clubs competing weekly at the Diamond Valley Little Athletics Centre at Willinda Park, Greensborough.
Eltham also has a sub-branch of the RSL. The venue functions as a hub for many events on the local calendar, with regular meetings by local sports clubs and the local section of the War Widow's Association. The establishment is also home to the local darts and fishing clubs, who compete regularly against neighbouring suburbs. Recently, theme nights have been introduced to Saturdays, with local bands and regional bands performing regular shows. The venue is community-minded, providing Anzac Day services which annually attract an attendance in the hundreds.
The Eltham Copper Butterfly (Paralucia pyrodiscus lucida) was discovered in 1938 in Eltham. After 1956 it was thought to be extinct until a population was found again at Eltham in 1986. A preserve for the butterflies has been created on land connecting to Eltham's Linear Park.
Jennifer Adams - Newsreader
Adam Dale - Australian Test Cricketer
Ben Mendelsohn - Actor
Peter Moore - Australian rules footballer with Melbourne and Collingwood - won two Brownlow Medals
Adam Simpson - former captain of the Kangaroos Australian rules football club
Wilbur Wilde - Musician, television personality
Terry Wallace - Richmond Football Club - Coach
Joel Green - Professional Tetris Competitor
Emily Browning - Actor
Kerry Armstrong - Actor
Stephanie Moorhouse - Former Olympic Gymnast
Jenny Teichman - Philosopher
Cadel Evans - Cyclist
Susan Bradley (musician) - Tuba, Ophicleide, Serpent and Cimbasso player; founder of Melbourne Tuba Quartet
Rosemary Atkin - Singer