Tuesday, 13 August 2019

The Pub With Three Names



The building that was on the road to Greensborough had three names during its sixty year history, each relating to a particular period of its operation and although it was outside the township boundary it was Diamond Creek's first pub. 

It was first licensed as the Evelyn Arms Hotel to Isaac Hawkins on 31st January, 1866, and named after the County of Evelyn that covered the district at the time.  The road was also the main route from Melbourne to the gold fields, so it became a favourite stopping place for travellers going north and east, hence earning the name Halfway House.

To find the place where the building stood look for a large, old eucalypt on the east side of Diamond Creek Road, just past the service station and opposite the St Thomas's complex.

To understand the origin of its third name of Tunnel Camp Hotel we need to go back into the history of Melbourne's water supply.

In 1849 ex-convict James Blackburn began to construct Melbourne's first reticulated water supply by damming a swampy area behind Whittlesea, and directing the water through an open channel to Melbourne. Unfortunately Blackburn died before his scheme was completed.  Because of Melbourne's rapid growth, by 1879 Blackburn's water supply wasn't keeping up with the needs of Melbourne's half-million population. Plans were made to bring water from the Watts River behind Healesville, by a series of open channels, syphons and tunnels, to a supply reservoir in Preston. The channel wound around the hills behind Kangaroo Ground and Research, under Diamond Creek Road near McLaughlan’s Lane, across the Plenty River on an iron bridge, then through to Preston.  That part of Preston is now Reservoir.

The complex of channels and tunnels was completed by men who lived in a series of large camps along the route, known as navvie camps. One was located near Diamond Creek Road before it heads downhill towards Greensborough. This camp was more of a small town, complete with all the services the men needed - cook house, blacksmith's shop, carpenter's shop, machinery sheds, stables and all the equipment needed for such an immense task.

Needless to say, both proprietors and men were delighted to have the Evelyn Arms Hotel nearby, and for a few years it did thriving trade. The magazine Police Life tells us that it was necessary to appoint a very strong Irish policeman named Waldron to the district at this time to keep order. A post office was also established in the building and in 1892 it handled 14,532 letters.

By 1916 the navvies had moved on, improved roads now provided easier access to Diamond Creek and Greensborough and the pub was off-license. There is still a tunnel under the road, but it now carries large water pipes instead of the open aqueduct, and it has been bricked up at both ends.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Diamond Creek Railway Crossing

Diamond Creek Railway Crossing with Coffee Palace previously Diamond Reef Hotel, c1920

This photo of the level crossing at Diamond Creek was taken about 1920. It shows the road behind towards the ovals and bridges and it can clearly be seen that the road alignment is similar to today. The ‘dogleg’ in the road at the crossing has always been there and it relates to the building on the left. At night, or in bad weather, it let coach drivers know they needed to slow down because they were approaching the hotel. The sign on the wooden building has ‘Coffee Palace’ but it was originally the Diamond Reef Hotel built by Dr Phipps to house his miners when he opened the Diamond Creek Gold Mine after gold was discovered in 1862.

From the 1890’s coffee palaces were popular across Melbourne with the influence of temperance and rejection of alcohol in the community. The railway line extension from Eltham to Hurstbridge was opened in 1912 with the tracks laid across the existing road alignment. The coffee palace/hotel was removed in the 1960’s and the Bini Shell was built there as a community centre in the 1979 - https://www.facebook.com/nillumbikcouncil/photos/nillumbik-chronicles-56long-time-nillumbik-residents-may-recall-the-rise-and-dem/1078079865536719/. The current community centre is now on the site.

For many years there was no signalling to warn drivers of oncoming trains from either direction. This was particularly dangerous because the cutting and bend on the Melbourne side made it difficult to see and hear oncoming trains. Drivers often found it better to stop, look and listen. In 1949, the R.A.C.V. President Sir Thomas Nettlefold raised concerns about the level crossings across the state saying “There was a cutting on the south side of the Diamond Creek crossing which prevented road users approaching from the east seeing a train until they were almost at the railway line. Because of that he thought the expenditure on a 'wig-wag signal' was justified.”
An article in the Argus of 21st February 1950, gives an insight into concerns Diamond Creek residents had about the crossing.

“Hoodoo” level crossing worries Diamond Creek
Diamond Creek residents said yesterday that they had been fighting for six years to get a better warning signal at the railway level crossing there.
Saturday’s fatal accident was the eighth at this “hoo-doo” crossing. 
Mr T.W. Harrington, president of the local progress association, said: “There’s not a car or truck driver in the district who hasn’t escaped a train there by ‘the skin of his teeth.’ “ 
He said that he, Cr. Ryan, and Mr. Stone, JP., had asked the Railways Department for a wig-wag signal in 1947. 
“The Railways refused because there was adequate warning at the crossing, and because the line was railway property, and motorists were actually “trespassers” Mr. Harrington said. 
There is a signboard warning sign on both sides of the line, about 100 yards from the crossing. This, if heeded by a motorist travelling at anything up to 35 miles an hour, would give ample time to slow down and pull up. 
But there is a gradient and a sharp turn in the road right on the crossing. The train coming through the cutting on the Melbourne side can be seen clearly only for the last 70 yards. 
A motorist’s attention would be distracted from all but a commanding type of warning signal. 
In theory the crossing is quite safe - in practice a more commanding type of signal is needed. 
A city magistrate said at an inquest into an accident there last year: “Automatic or wig-wag signals should be installed. The approach to the crossing is awkward, and the present warning signals inadequate.”
Residents were determined to make their railway crossing safer, and wig-wag signals were finally installed, and in following years boom-gates. We now have the signals, lights and gates as they should be but the bend in the line on the Melbourne side is still there.
As the article indicates there were fatal accidents and others where people were injured, however, not all accidents ended in tragedy. One accident had an unexpected humorous side. We are not sure what year it was - An Eltham bound train had just left Diamond Creek when the driver realised that he needed to relieve himself. As he stood at the driver’s door, the train gave a lurch and he fell out. The driverless train continued happily on its way to Eltham where it came to a stop on a slight rise before the Eltham station. The unhurt driver could not catch the moving train so he returned to the Diamond Creek station. Realising the event could raise a lot of difficult questions, it was thought best to call an ambulance so that he could be admitted to hospital. A subsequent enquiry decided that he had become very ill, and no further action was taken!

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Herbert Family Property and the Diamond Creek Racing Club

With the continuing development along Collard Drive and down the hills to Herbert's Lane and the creek flats, it is timely to share some information about the original property that goes back to the pioneering days of Diamond Creek.

The new estates around Collard Drive are being built on what was 100 acres of land owned and farmed by the Herbert family.  It spread along Broad Gully Road from where Herbert's Lane cuts in up to where it meets Black Gully Road then across the hills and creek flats to the east.

William Wandless Herbert arrived in Melbourne in 1847.  He spent his early life in the Scottish Borders and the northern part of the English county of Northumberland where he was a sheep farmer.  We are not sure why he chose to settle in Diamond Creek but he may have met the Wilson family who were Diamond Creek pioneers.  The topography of our area, similar to his home, may have been a factor and its potential for farming.  Two years after he bought the land in 1852 he married Elizabeth, daughter of John Wilson and Martha Burgess.  They named their property 'Greenhills'.

William and Elizabeth built a stone house and barns on and around a rise above the creek and developed a farm.  They raised a family of four sons and four daughters who also worked on the farm into adulthood and became the second generation to work it.  William initially ran sheep on his property, but problems with foot disease saw him move to raising cattle and horses.

When gold was discovered in Diamond Creek in 1862, mines of varying size and success were opened across the hills and gullies.  William Herbert started the Nillumbik Mine in the gully that runs from Collard Drive down to the creek.  His success with mining allowed him to increase his holding in Diamond Creek by another 212 acres in 1866 and also buy 312 acres at Nutfield north of Hurstbridge in 1872.  Portions of the Nutfield/Hurstbridge property, which the family called 'The Station', are still owned and farmed by William's descendants today.

The family were active in the community in local organisations and groups.  One of those groups was the Diamond Creek Racing Club.  When the Diamond Creek Race Meeting was run on the creek flats near the house each year a dance usually followed and locals danced into the night in the barn below the house.

As one of the earliest house sites in the east side of the Diamond Creek which still contains foundations and the main structures of the barns built and used by the family from the time they began farming in 1852, it is vital that this rise of land above the creek is not impacted by any current or future development.  An archaeological dig was completed at the site in the early 1990's which identified and recorded its importance to our local and pioneering history.

Details of 'Herberts Ruin' can be found on the Victorian Heritage Database - https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/12203

The rise above the creek where the remains of the house and barns are found, 1980

The Diamond Creek Racing Club ran a race meeting each year from the late 1870's.  The annual meetings were usually held in December under Victorian Racing Club rules as part of the racing calendar.  The race meetings were very popular, drawing entries and spectators from across the district.

In December, 1880 the Diamond Creek Race Meetings were moved to a new course on the Herbert family property.  The Argus newspaper of 6 January 1881 reported that three races were held and the meeting was 'a successful one, the weather being delightful and the racing good'.

Looking across the creek flats where race meetings were held towards the house and barn site, 2015

The meetings were held between Christmas and New Year with the weather usually warm and dry, which appears to be a good thing because the track was reported to be rough in places with some difficult bends.  A report of the December 1883 meeting gives a wonderful insight into the fun to be had by locals and visitors alike.

Evelyn Observer, and South and East Bourke Record, 4 January 1884
The track on the property was used throughout the 1880's.  Race meetings were moved to the property of William and Nathaniel Ellis on creek flats directly across the creek in an area that currently sits between the trainline and the creek.  There are some wonderful reports of those meetings to be found on the National Library of Australia's Digitised Newspaper Archive (TROVE).

Look out for more articles in the near future about that and other episodes of Diamond Creek's diverse and interesting history.

(Photographs produced with the permission of ©Jean Verso)

Thursday, 3 January 2019

We would like to wish all of our friends and visitors a

Very Happy and Successful
New Year

Our next Open Day is

Sunday 3rd February

Looking forward to seeing you from  
2pm - 4pm

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Another Successful Year for the Society

The Society has had a busy year and achieved a great deal, our volunteers have put in uncounted hours to make sure our projects have been successful.  We have supported and been supported by the community in a number of ways and would like to thank everyone involved with the Society and who have supported our projects throughout the year.

In late 2017 we had the official opening of our Lone Pine Memorial Garden which commemorates the Battle of Lone Pine in 1915.  The garden was designed and built by the 2017 VCAL class from Diamond Valley College.  During the six months it took for the garden to be completed we learnt a lot about how much inter-generational projects can give to all who are involved.  Young and old also found that age doesn’t really matter because everyone has something to give and, we all learnt about respect, co-operation and sharing knowledge and skills.

That first stage of the project was successful because of the dedicated, and ongoing involvement of local community groups - Montmorency-Eltham RSL, Diamond Creek Men’s Shed, Diamond Valley College, Banyule Nillumbik Local Learning and Employment Network and the Nillumbik Historical Society.

The memorial garden has a plaque that has the story of the Battle of Lone Pine.

2018 saw the start of a new stage of the project to complete the area around the garden and make the area next to our barn a place where people can sit and contemplate, learn about how WW1 affected the local area and those who served and those who did not come home.  We now have three flagpoles for use on ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and other days according to the RSL calendar.   A second plaque will be installed that has the names of all 29 men who served in WW1 and who died during the conflict.

The third stage of the project will kick off next year with a planned plaque on the wall of the barn with the names of the 110 men from Diamond Creek who served during WW1.

The students with the support of their teachers also laid a new concrete path between the barn and Ellis Cottage.  Over a few weeks, they organised themselves to allocate work and skills and under instruction laid out the mesh, put in spacers and when the concrete truck arrived had a lot of fun spreading, and smoothing it.  The path which now has all of the students names etched into the cement is a welcome addition to the cottage precinct.  Its full worth was felt in winter when for once there was no mud tracked into the cottage or barn!

So much of the work, much of it pick and shovel, is done by the students.  We are so appreciative of their good humour, willingness to get stuck in and to try anything new.  We couldn’t be happier with all of them and we look forward to a new group of VCAL students, and some we already know who will return for their final six months of school in 2019.

The Society would like to thank Diamond Valley College who have supported us for more than two years, allowing their VCAL students time each week to come to Ellis Cottage and help us with whatever work needs to be done.  It has had an incredibly positive affect on all and even though we are working there is always fun, jokes and a relaxed atmosphere.  We are proud to be supporting them and to have had some input into their work placements and experience.

Another work placement we have supported during 2018 is a VCAL student from St Helena College with an interest in history.  They have helped us for one day a week since April, photographing our artefacts, scanning old documents and updating our database and will return to continue their placement in 2019 for the final six months of school.

After the VCAL students finished up in late October, Year 9 students came along for a few days during November to help out with landscaping the Lone Pine garden area, and digging a trench.  Some of them plan to go on to VCAL so it was lovely to meet them early on and get to know them a little.

In March we published five local history books covering many aspects of the history of Diamond Creek and the surrounding area.


The Diamond Creek Farmer
The Story of William & Nathaniel Ellis
Uncle and nephew William and Nathaniel Ellis developed and worked the farm to the north east of Diamond Creek from the 1850's where Ellis Cottage now stands on the reserve along Main Hurstbridge Road.

When Did it Happen in Diamond Creek? 
A Chronology of Events in Diamond Creek From Settlement to the Early 20th Century
This book is a chronology of the place originally called Nillumbik or Nillumbik on the Diamond Creek and now Diamond Creek. It starts from the 1830's and runs through most years to the 1920's.

Pub Crawl
Around Diamond Creek’s Historic Pubs
Diamond Creek had five pubs in the mid 1800's, most were built or were started to house, feed and water the miners who flocked to the area from the early 1860's when gold was discovered.

Then Came Gold
A History of the Diamond Creek Gold Mine

A history of gold mining in Diamond Creek from the early 1860's to the 1950's.

Things You Didn’t Know About the Railway
Eltham-Diamond Creek-Wattle Glen-Hurstbridge

The story of the need for and the extension of the railway line from Eltham to Hurstbridge and the fruit growers and other residents who needed it.

Copies of all five books were donated to each primary and secondary school in the Shire of Nillumbik.  We are proud to offer these for sale at $10 each.

With the help of some enthusiastic volunteers we have started a Transcription project.  Our aim is to eventually have digitised and transcribed copies of all of our important documents and letters available to the public.  It is the beginning of what will be a long project, so we are starting small to make sure we have the most efficient process possible.  The first ‘mini’ project is scanning and transcribing letters written home from France during WW1 and our hope is that this will be a standalone collection that will be of value to family and local historians.  However, it is early days and we have a lot to do.

Other highlights during the year were

18th March  Harvest Festival Celebration and Blessing the Plough service with members of local churches.

10th April  We took delivery of a 100 year old Harmonium organ donated by the Graham family of Kangaroo Ground.  It is now the centrepiece in the front room of Ellis Cottage.

25th April  The Society attended and laid a wreath at the Diamond Creek ANZAC Day service.

27th May  We spent a lovely Sunday afternoon at Ellis Cottage with about 30 people listening to Irene Hayes play the Harmonium donated by her family.

More videos of the day can be found on our Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/elliscottage/?eid=ARDcfscS7KmxNsyhw3vXEpzOcHnpOirGDsK2tclfSfbp0Hod2256UT6TKcHsTSq4n1ur4LRqryNyl3K5

25th August  Sausage Sizzle at Diamond Valley Mitre 10 manned by our wonderful volunteers.  A successful day of selling sausages, books and chatting about local history.

26th August  Stall at the Hurstbridge Wattle Festival where we had great weather, large crowds and a fun day talking to visitors about the history of the Eltham to Hurstbridge railway extension, the history of Wattle Day and local history in general. 

October  We put in a Butter Making display at Diamond Valley Library for the full month which had many of our artefacts that were used for butter making and the story of what they are and how they were used.

2nd October  We gave a talk about the History of Diamond Creek at Diamond Valley Library to a good audience in support of History Week.

2nd December  Our annual Christmas get-together and Christmas hamper raffle.

We are looking forward to another full and enriching year in 2019 but will now take a breather for a few weeks to enjoy the festive season with our families.

Wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas and New Year

Tuesday, 11 December 2018


In the 1870's there were farms and settled land along the creek flats, hills and gullies to the north of the township that is now Diamond Creek.  As population increased in areas north to Allwood and beyond, the need for a school for the local children became apparent.  With the state school at Diamond Creek already established and with an extension planned, a school with an attached residence for a head teacher and his family was also built in 1876 at Upper Diamond Creek.

The schoolhouse and residence at Upper Diamond Creek and the extension to the Diamond Creek State School were built by Charles Verso who in later years married a local girl, Annie Herbert.  In later years they settled on a property north of the township of Hurstbridge.

John Sebire was appointed as head teacher at Upper Diamond Creek State School on 25th August, 1898.  From the beginning of his training as a teacher in the early 1880's and through various appointments he qualified in a number of disciplines including singing, drawing and gymnastics and was assessed after his previous position as “a Superior Teacher – skilful , thorough and methodical” and “in every way suited to the charge of this School.”

Mr Sebire and his wife Christina were active in and supportive of the community during the years they lived at Upper Diamond Creek and two of their children attended the school.  When John Sebire and his family left the district in August 1907 to take up a new appointment the local community held a social evening and presentation in appreciation of their service to the community.  An article in the Evelyn Observer and Bourke East Record of Friday 30th August, 1907 gives us some wonderful detail of the proceedings and includes some familiar family names from the local area.

The residents of Upper Diamond Creek on Thursday evening, 22nd inst., invited Mr. and Mrs. Sebire and family to a social evening prior to their departure from the district. The Mechanics' Institute, which had been most tastefully decorated by the ladies of the district, was crowded and for several hours time passed very pleasantly and merrily. Mr. Curtis presided over the function, and Misses Lily Burston, E. Yates, Woodward, and Alice Woodward, and Messrs. C. and N. Woodward, Boucher, and several others contributed, songs and recitations. During the course of the evening's festivities, Mr. Woodward, on behalf of the parents and residents generally, presented to Mr. Sebire a very valuable case of cutlery and to Mrs. Sebire a most beautiful afternoon, tea set. In doing so, Mr. Woodward stated that he desired, to testify to the great esteem in which the recipients were held by the residents, of their appreciation of Mr. Sebire's untiring and successful efforts as their school teacher, and of the great loss that the district would suffer by their departure. He assured them that they carried away with them the universal goodwill of the people of the district and wished them godspeed in their new sphere of life. Mr. Peers then, on behalf of the Diamond Creek Rifle Club, presented Mr. Sebire with a pair of valuable field glasses.

Mr. Peers, who has been the Captain of the Club since its inception, spoke enthusiastically of Mr. Sebire's services as Secretary and Treasurer of the Club, and gave unstinted praise to him not only as a rifleman but as a teacher and a neighbour. Mr. Sebire, who received a most hearty reception, cordially thanked the residents for the many manifestations of their good will. He expressed the delight and the great gratitude that Mrs. Sebire and he felt at the hon-or which they were receiving at their hands that evening. He assured them that he felt completely overwhelmed at receiving such splendid gifts and that the recollection of their goodness would only end with his life. Not only had they entertained them in a royal manner that evening and bestowed upon them these costly presents, but he acknowledged with the truest gratitude that the people for 9 years had made them feel they were among true and warmhearted friends. He sincerely hoped that in the future they would see a great deal of each other, and extended a hearty invitation to each to visit Mrs. Sebire and himself in their new home. 

Three ringing cheers, with musical honors, were then given for Mr. Sebire and these were repeated for Mrs. Sebire. Ample refreshments were served, and several dances were enjoyed by the younger part of the company before this enjoyable social festival was brought to a close. The school children determined, however, that they should have a demonstration on their own account, and, during the afternoon, Misses Myrtle Durham and Linda Larson, on behalf of their schoolmates, presented Mrs. Sebire with a very elegant pair of silver salt cellars and spoons and Mr. Sebire with a very fine lamp. The girls each made a very neat and creditable little speech, to which Mr. Sebire responded, assuring them that he was especially pleased to receive a gift from the scholars, as it proved that in spite of the high pressure under which they had been worked for some considerable time he still retained their affection and good will. Mr. Sebire, who is departing for St. Kilda, is to be succeeded by Mr. Lyttle, of Rockbank.

The school served the community well until a new school was built and opened in Anzac Avenue, Hurstbridge in 1916.  The schoolhouse was moved from Upper Diamond Creek to the site of Wattle Glen Primary School, however, it burned down in about 1925.

We are fortunate to have the part of the building that was the residence standing today in its original position on Main Hurstbridge Road.  It is located just north of Yates Road and is one of a number of early buildings still standing in the area. 

 Residence of Upper Diamond Creek state school as a house today 

(The National Library of Australia requires that transcriptions should reflect the original newspaper article with no corrections)

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Our Society

Nillumbik Historical Society’s aim is to preserve and share the history of Nillumbik. We have a large archive of photographs, artefacts and historical documents relating to people who have lived in the area and places in the district where they lived, farmed and mined, with particular focus on the wider area around Diamond Creek.

The Society was formed in 1973 with the inaugural meeting held at Lovitt Cottage, now known as Ellis Cottage.

William Ellis migrated to Melbourne from Devon in the mid 1840’s and was an early settler in the district, initially working on a farm in Kangaroo Ground, until he took up land along the Diamond Creek in 1850. He added to his land holding in 1861 with the purchase of a neighbouring property. William lived on and worked the land living in a hut near the creek, and once established built today’s cottage using local stone completing it around 1865. The farm stretched from today's Reynolds Road across the creek flats and hills towards Wattle Glen.

In 1870, William’s nephew Nathaniel also migrated from Devon. As William and his wife had no children and needed help, he came to support them on the farm. William and Nathaniel prospered during their time on the farm, giving back to the community and supporting development of the area.

The farm stayed in the Ellis family until after William's death in 1896 when part of the farm was sold off according to conditions in his will. William also left a bequest of £100 to build the gateway at Nillumbik Cemetery, Diamond Creek. The gateway stands proud above the Sawpit Gully roundabout and is inscribed with the Latin words ‘Janva Vitae’ meaning Gate of Life.

In the following years, the property was lived in by various families until the Lovitt family purchased the remaining land, including the cottage, in the 1960’s. Phillip Lovitt and Peter Marriage rebuilt the cottage during the summer of 1972-73, as by then it was in an advanced state of disrepair; it had been used for some time to store hay. The cottage stayed in the care of the Lovitt family until the surrounding land was sold, subdivided and developed in the early 1980's.

As part of the subdivision, the cottage and seven acres surrounding it was passed to the Shire of Diamond Valley who repaired and rebuilt the cottage handing it to the Nillumbik Historical Society for safe keeping on behalf of the community in 1989. The reserve is still a public open place and is kept well maintained by the Shire of Nillumbik.

Since the site was handed to the Society a number of additions have been made. The lock-up from the site of the Collins Street Police Station was donated and moved to the cottage precinct and is a good example of its type. We use it as a standalone display.

The Nillumbik Historical Society has added a barn to the precinct to house our archives and display photographs and artefacts from our local history. We also use it for meetings and other gatherings. It was made possible by a great deal of fund raising work over 15 years so the barn could be built and fitted out.

The barn also houses an archival facility which allows the Society to efficiently meet a growing community demand for information about the local area. The barn and archives area, along with the cottage, hold many of our historical documents, photographs and artefacts.

Our latest addition is the Lone Pine Memorial, completed in October 2017 after six months of dedicated work by VCAL students from Diamond Valley College, Diamond Creek Men’s Shed and with the support of the Montmorency-Eltham RSL and Banyule Nillumbik Local Learning and Employment Network.

We take every opportunity to share information, photographs and objects we have gathered and received as donations over more than 40 years with the community. Our latest projects include storing images of our artefacts so we can put them online for a much wider community to view and beginning transcription of many of the letters we have, especially from local families during WW1.

We are open to the public on the first Sunday of each month or by appointment, so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are looking for information.

The Pub With Three Names

EVELYN ARMS - TUNNEL CAMP - HALFWAY HOUSE   The building that was on the road to Greensborough had three names during ...