Pages 100-149 - Moonee Valley City Council



Pages 100-149 - Moonee Valley City Council
business was the delivery service – people would ring in with their orders and have the
goods later delivered to their door. It was the appearance of a supermarket in the area
which led to the business being sold in 1976.279
In 1957 Cecil and Nancye Kirchner established the Avondale General Store in Military
Road, Avondale Heights.
The shop served as a grocery, greengrocery, milk-bar,
newsagent and post office for the earliest residents of the developing suburban area. In
the 1950s this part of Moonee Valley was still semi-rural and Kirchner’s shop became a
social hub, serving as a meeting place and venue for public meetings and debate.280
Creating car based centres
Napier Street in Essendon is a good example of an area that developed from an early
date to cater for increased car ownership, with the block between Mt Alexander Road and
Raleigh Street offering good car access to various small businesses. Between 1915 and
1926 businesses established in this block included Hillberg’s grocery, Bowtell’s
tobacconist, Bridger’s tailor shop, Beard’s drapery, Cornwell & Co auction rooms as well
as a saddler, a boot-maker and a fruiterer.
Evidence of increasing car use became
obvious when Beard’s drapery was burgled in 1925 and Police believed the thieves had
made a quick get away in a waiting motor car.281
In the post-war era strip shopping areas such as Napier Street in Strathmore and Dinah
Parade in Keilor East were designed to cater specifically for drivers, with car parking
spaces outside the shops being a part of the infrastructure. When land was auctioned for
the Dinah Parade shopping area in Keilor East in 1963 a site was also earmarked for a
petrol station.282 Shopping complexes developed in recent years, such as Airport West
Shoppingtown in the 1970s, DFO and the Homemaker Hub (both on land formerly part of
Essendon Airport), have extensive car parks.
Exhibiting Victoria’s innovation and products
Agricultural societies, based on British models, were established in the Australian colonies
to encourage farmers to increase production. From the first ploughing match organised
Robert Alves – communication with S Jennings, 3 April 2012.
Heritage Alliance, City of Moonee Valley Gap Heritage Study Vol. 2, pp 88-89.
Argus 12 September 1925.
Age, 13 May 1963.
by the newly formed Moonee Ponds Farmers Society in 1848, settlers in Moonee Valley
have shown a desire to exhibit and perfect agricultural skills, equipment, produce and
livestock. It was from this organisation and others that the Royal Agricultural Society
emerged and began organising shows in the nineteenth century, firstly on land near St
Kilda Road then, from 1883, on the government reserve on the northern edge of
Flemington Racecourse at Ascot Vale.283 Show Day was gazetted as a public holiday in
1885. Progressively pavilions and sheds were built, including an Arts and Crafts Pavilion
(1904), Hall of Commerce (1915), Pig Pavilion (1918), Cattle Pavilion (1920) and other
facilities including a grandstand and parade arena (1915).284 The showgrounds were
extended eastward in the 1920s and catering outlets multiplied. The Country Women’s
Association tea-rooms was always popular. Equestrian events also increased in the
1920s, with the prestigious Garryowen Trophy for women equestrians first awarded in
Banking and finance
Banks established in Melbourne opened branches in developing suburban areas in the
latter half of the nineteenth century. One of the first to arrive in Moonee Valley was the
English Scottish and Australian Chartered Bank which opened for business in Mt
Alexander Road in 1875. By 1884 the bank was housed in a handsome building designed
by the notable architects Terry and Oakden.286
The Colonial Bank of Australasia
established a branch in Racecourse Road, Flemington in 1889 while three banks
established branches in Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds between 1890 and 1899.287 Unique
to the area was the Doutta Galla Building Society established in 1890, the first directors of
which met at the City of Essendon Council Chambers before building new offices at
Railway Crescent, Ascot Vale.288 The Victorian Teachers’ Mutual Bank (formerly Credit
Union) formed in 1972, has been located in Mt Alexander Road near Moonee Ponds
Junction for many years.
Butler, Graeme, Essendon Conservation Study, Part 2, 1985, pp 276-279.
Butler, Graeme, Essendon Conservation Study, Part 2, 1985, pp 276-279.
285 accessed 4 April 2012
Heritage Victoria database
These were the Colonial, National and State Savings Banks (City of Moonee Valley Heritage Study,
September 2004).
Aldous, p 75. The office was opposite the Ascot Vale railway station.
Figure 65: Former ES&A Bank, Mt Alexander Road, Ascot Vale.
Source: Moonee Valley City Council.
Figure 66: Former ANZ Bank, Union Road, Ascot Vale.
Source: State Library of Victoria.
Entertaining and socialising
In Moonee Valley from the time of settlement there have been many venues for
entertaining and socialising. Hotels were among the first such places with 23 having been
established along Mt Alexander and Pascoe Vale Roads by the 1870s; four of those were
at Moonee Ponds Junction. Many halls established by churches and friendly societies
were also well used for social activities, as were sports clubs. One such sports club which
remains today as a popular local social club is the North Suburban Club at 622 Mt
Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. The club was founded in 1896, at the instigation of
Harry Chenoweth, as the North Suburban Cycling Club and activities centred around that
sport. The club’s first road race was a 21 mile ride from Moonee Ponds Junction to Keilor
Church and back twice.289
In 1899 clubrooms were established on the corner of
Maribyrnong Road and Ascot Vale Road (funded by the sale of debentures) and
furnishings included a billiard table and a grand piano.290 In 1936 the North Suburban
Club was declared to be the oldest club in Essendon and in 1939, with a membership of
300, the club built a large extension to its premises in Mt Alexander Road.291 After 1982
the Returned Servicemen’s League’s Essendon sub-branch made the North Suburban
Club its home.
Influence of temperance movement
There was a strong influence from the temperance movement in Moonee Valley in the
1880s and 1890s with the Temperance Township established in Ascot Vale. In addition
the Women’s Christian Temperance Union had branches at Ascot Vale, Essendon and
Moonee Ponds.
One can only speculate, but perhaps it was the influence of the
temperance movement which saw William Hosking’s Mutual Store at 681 Mt Alexander
Road become the Essendon Coffee Palace and Dining Rooms in 1891. This does tend to
indicate that there was a call for an establishment in the neighbourhood which did not
serve alcohol. While the temperance movement declined in the twentieth century, it’s
interesting to note that when the New Ascot Theatre, built in 1924, was altered in 1980 the
Certificate of Title still contained a covenant stipulating that the property could not be used
for the ‘sale, storage or manufacture of fermented and spirituous liquors’.292
Influence of liquor licensing laws
The impact of legislation introduced in 1916 lasted until the 1960s. In 1916 hotels were
required to close at six o'clock; the practice of not serving liquor after six also affected
restaurants, where most were unable to serve liquor at all, and those few that could were
obliged to have all glasses off the table by mid-evening. Many diners became accustomed
to wine served in cups. Until the 1960s, there were few restaurants because licences
were so difficult to obtain. Late in the 1960s, a loophole provided for the BYO licence,
which enabled diners to bring their own liquor and closing times for licensed premises
Chalmers, Annals of Essendon Vol. 1, p 67.
Chalmers, Annals of Essendon Vol. 1, p 75.
Chalmers, Annals of Essendon Vol. 2, p 132.
PROV VPRS 7882/P1/164 PB File 793.
were extended. The 1960s and early 1970s saw the growth of BYOs restaurants. In 1988
the government eased liquor licensing laws, making it far easier for restaurants to obtain
liquor licences, and permitting them to serve drinks without food in designated bar areas.
The changes paved the way for a new generation of cafés and wine bars, such as those
in Union Road in Ascot Vale or in Hall Street and Mt Alexander Road in Moonee Ponds.293
In Moonee Valley a new type hotel emerged in the form of the Hotel International (now
Skyways Hotel) at Airport West. When the hotel opened in 1962 it was reputed to have
the longest bar in Australia (120 feet) which could accommodate 1,000 customers.294 The
Hotel International was one of the first of Melbourne’s massive 'beer barns' which
appeared in suburban areas in the 1960s, reflecting, along with motels, the influence of
Dining out – culinary, cafe and bar culture
In the nineteenth century dining out in Moonee Valley would have meant a roast dinner at
one of the local hotels or perhaps the Coffee Palace – restaurants or cafes were rare until
the mid twentieth century. One exception was the Wine Hall set up by Robert Young and
John Seyfarth at the confluence of the Maribyrnong River with Steele Creek in 1894.
Here they sold colonial wines, aerated drinks, tea, coffee and light snacks in the scenic
surrounds.295 More common were tea rooms, such as the Tivoli Tearooms next to the
Essendon public hall in Russell Street or the Riverview Tea Gardens on the river at
Avondale Heights. Or in the 1950s shoppers in Puckle Street could call in to Mr Glick’s
Café Parisien for afternoon tea.296
293 accessed 8 April 2012
Heritage Alliance, City of Moonee Valley Gap Heritage Study Vol. 1, p 31; accessed 8 April 2012 accessed 8 April 2012.. Note –
when the Hotel International was opened in 1962 the bar was ‘reported’ to be 120 feet but it seems that this
was surpassed in 1970 by the Mildura Workingman’s Club.
State Library of Victoria picture database
PROV VPRS 7882/P1/1223
Figure 67: Essendon Coffee Palace, Mt Alexander Road c1890s. Source: State
Library of Victoria.
It took until the late twentieth century for distinct eating areas (other than in hotels) to
develop in Moonee Valley – the most visible are Racecourse Road in Flemington, Mt
Alexander Road and Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds, Union Road in Ascot Vale and
Keilor Road in Niddrie. In the twenty-first century small enclaves of cafes and restaurants
have emerged on the back of Melbourne’s now ubiquitous ‘coffee culture’. One example
is the group of cafes in Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington, as well as cafes in Queens Park,
Maribyrnong Park and even at the well known plant nursery, Poyntons in Aberfeldie.
Figure 68: Shops and cafes in Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington. Source: Moonee Valley
City Council.
Influence of migration on dining culture
With a second wave of migration after the Second World War restaurants and specialty
businesses became a significant meeting point for migrant and non-migrant communities
and provided an opportunity for economic and social advancement. In the 1940s migrants
mostly from Italy and Greece, influenced a change in dining habits but were not the sole
reason; by this time many Australians had begun to travel overseas and were seeking
more sophisticated dining experiences. When the Chung On Café, owned by the Doon
family, opened in Mt Alexander Road in 1952 it quickly became popular: it was affordable
and convenient and had no competition in the Moonee Ponds vicinity.297
Figure 69: The former Chung On Chinese restaurant, Mt Alexander Road, Moonee
Ponds. Source: Moonee Valley City Council.
By the 1950s Puckle Street contained many Italian grocers and delis. In the 1960s Italian
pizza and pasta restaurant Carosello opened in Margaret Street opposite the Moonee
Ponds Railway Station and remains a popular local restaurant. The Italian community
established many small cafes in the 1950s and 1960s serving strong espresso-style
coffee. The Moonee Star Espresso Bar at 708 Mt Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds, is a
good example of this type of café. Cafes such as this laid the seeds of Melbourne’s
coffee culture which continues to see the spread of espresso machines throughout the
Helms, David, Heritage Assessment, Moonee Ponds Activity Centre, Stage 2, 2011, pp 14-23.
Figure 70: Carosello Italian Restaurant, Margaret Street, Moonee Ponds. Source: Moonee
Valley City Council.
With further waves of migrants such as the Vietnamese in the 1970s and people from
Turkey, the Middle East and African nations in the past twenty years, commercial
precincts such as Racecourse Road in Flemington (adjacent to large public housing sites)
have seen the emergence of cafes and restaurants featuring Asian and other types of
Creating picture palaces
The people of Moonee Valley have been well catered with ‘picture palaces’. Beginning
with the popularity of silent films as entertainment for a mass audience in the early years
of the twentieth century, halls and theatres in Moonee Valley have been designed and
redesigned to cope with demand.
A proliferation of theatres was built in the 1920s
coinciding with the introduction of the ‘talkies’, but new technologies in film projection as
well as viewing trends have seen a waxing and waning of cinema patronage over the past
one hundred years. Consequently one or two theatres have come and gone, but most
theatres in Ascot Vale, Moonee Ponds and Essendon are still standing, with many now
being used for other commercial and community purposes.
The Moonee Ponds Theatre in Puckle Street was Melbourne’s first suburban cinema.298
Opened in December 1911, the theatre had stalls and circle level seating for around 1,300
patrons and a special sliding skylight which opened to admit fresh air.299 In 1939, it was
modernised by specialist theatre architects Cowper, Murphy and Appleford and was used
almost continuously as a cinema until 1980 when it was converted for storage on the
ground floor and a billiard hall on the dress circle level.300
Figure 71: Picture theatre on Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds. Source: D Likar, Local and Family
History Collection, Sam Merrifield Library.
An early building adapted for film-goers was The Paramount in Union Road, Ascot Vale.
Originally built in 1889 as the Union Hall, it began screening films as the Ascot Vale
Theatre in 1917, and was later re-named The Paramount. It closed as a silent cinema in
1927 but the building, with its distinctive façade, is still a feature in Union Road.301 A
similar make-over was given to the Essendon Public Hall, built in 1911 in Russell Street,
opposite the railway station in Essendon. The hall was converted into a cinema (The
Plaza) by architect D R Dosetter in the 1930s and operated until 1959. It is now the
meeting place of Essendon’s Ukrainian community.302
Argus, 15 February 1940.
Aldous, p 88.
300 accessed 15 March 2012.
301 accessed 15 March 2012.
Figure 72: Essendon Theatre (later Ukrainian House) in the early twentieth century.
Source: Local and Family History Collection, Sam Merrifield Library.
When the Southern Cross picture theatre was opened on the corner of Buckley Street and
Lincoln Road in 1925, the Argus reported that it was the fourth new theatre which had
been opened in Essendon over that past year.303 The others were the New Ascot in
Union Road, the New Essendon (later Circle) in Leake Street, and the Waratah on the
corner of Mt Alexander and Ormond Roads (demolished 1959).304 This would have been
a busy year for local Essendon architect V G Cook (of Primrose Street) who had designed
both the Southern Cross and the New Ascot Theatre.305
Catering for tourists
Moonee Valley is not a tourist area as such, but has catered for tourists arriving and
leaving Melbourne. Essendon Airport was Melbourne’s main airport from 1921 until 1971
(when Tullamarine Airport opened).
During the late 1940s it was Australia's busiest
airport. The first international passenger flight arrived in 1951.
Many tourists and
competitors arrived at Essendon for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.
Major spring racing carnivals held at Flemington and Moonee Valley Racecourses have
attracted tourists for many years. From the 1860s race-goers from all parts of Australia
have travelled to the Melbourne Cup meeting at Flemington and (since 1922) the Cox
Argus, 28 November 1925.
Aldous, pp 86-89,
Plate meeting at Moonee Valley as Australia’s best thoroughbred horses competed for
high stakes. In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century these race meetings have
become international events attracting racing enthusiasts from around the world. Moonee
Valley Racecourse also hosted several Inter-dominion harness racing events, between
1978 and 2008, attracting trotting and pacing enthusiasts from around Australia and New
The Royal Agricultural Society’s annual show held in late September (as mentioned
previously in Themes 4.4 and 5.4) has been based at the showgrounds in Ascot Vale
since 1883.
The show grew throughout the twentieth century to become an event
combining science, trade, commerce, education and entertainment, catering for exhibitors
and visitors from both town and country.
On a local level, tourists have long been catered for with sightseeing boat trips on the
Maribyrnong River. Peter Somerville OAM has been conducting cruises on his boat, The
Blackbird, since 1979 and is a staunch advocate for protection and recognition of the
Maribyrnong River’s natural and historical heritage.306
Figure 73: The Blackbird, captained by Peter Somerville, cruising the Maribyrnong
River. Source: Moonee Valley City Council
Maribyrnong Weekly, 26 January 2012.
Working conditions and environments
The Moonee Valley area, while predominantly a residential suburb, has pockets of
commerce and industry which provide a diversity of working environments. In the 1850s,
with Mt Alexander Road being a major route to the Victorian goldfields, businesses were
established to cater for travellers along this thoroughfare. As train and tram connections
haberdashers, and grocers set up shops adjacent to train stations and tram stops. These
businesses provided employment opportunities for men and women.
The main
commercial precincts included Racecourse Road in Flemington, Puckle Street in Moonee
Ponds and Union Road in Ascot Vale. The tram depot in Mt Alexander Road, the first one
in suburban Melbourne (established 1906), was the workplace of tram maintenance
workers as well as a base for tram drivers and conductors.
The emergence of horse-racing as a sport, entertainment and business enterprise also
created jobs for many people in diverse roles. It began with thoroughbred racing in the
1840s when the Racecourse was established at Flemington, followed by the Moonee
Valley Racecourse established by W S Cox at Moonee Ponds in 1883. From 1893 until
1942 J L Reilly’s (later John Wren’s) Ascot Racecourse was the place for pony racing and
later trotting in the area east of the Melbourne Showgrounds. In addition, from 1946 night
trotting (a new departure) was held at the Showgrounds, moving to the Moonee Valley
Racecourse in 1976 and continuing there until 2010. These tracks and facilities have
provided a working environment for trainers, jockeys, farriers, stable-hands, saddlers and
caterers, both on the racecourses and in neighbouring precincts. Many horse trainers set
up homes and stables in the area known as ‘The Hill’ (sometimes called Whiskey Hill), the
area immediately north west of Flemington Racecourse and the Showgrounds and
including Langs Road, Fisher Parade, Leonard Crescent and Watson Terrace. From the
1970s these included Bart Cummings, Colin Hayes and in the 1980s Lee Freedman. From
the 1880s at least 15 Melbourne Cup winners and other champion racehorses, including
‘Manfred’ and ‘Dulcify’, have been stabled and trained from The Hill. ‘Saintly Place’ at 2224 Leonard Crescent, operated by Cummings, is one of the few remaining stables.307 In
the Moonee Ponds area Joseph Cripps, who trained the 1893 Melbourne Cup winner
‘Tarcoola’, resided and trained at a large property at 25 Park Street (on the corner of
The Hill: The Last Racing Precinct (unpublished);
accessed 5 April 2012
Margaret Street).
In West Essendon from 1948 until 1964 former champion jockey-
turned-trainer, Alexander Fullarton, trained a steady stream of hurdle and steeplechase
winners from his stables near the Maribyrnong River.308
The airline terminals and hangars at Essendon Airport have also been the place of work
for many since it was opened in 1921. From the early days of the airport’s operation
aviation companies began to build workshops, hangars and facilities for passengers. One
of the first buildings erected was the Commonwealth Government’s hangar designed to
cater for the functions of the Civil Aviation branch in 1924.309
Soon to follow were
buildings for Hart Aircraft Service and Matthews Aviation. In 1937 Ansett Airways Ltd, set
up by former Essendon Primary School student, Reg Ansett, moved its headquarters from
Hamilton to Essendon.310 In 1938 Australian National Airways, the country’s then largest
airline, opened a state-of-the-art building incorporating a passenger terminal and aircraft
hangar. Workers housed in this building included pilots, hostesses, flying control officers,
engineers, administrative staff, caterers, freight-handlers and laundry staff.311
Figure 74: Australian National Airways building at Essendon Airport 1938. Source:
Building Journal, State Library of Victoria.
It should be noted that the first union established in Australia for air pilots was formed in
Moonee Valley. Air pilots and navigators met in the Essendon Town Hall in May 1938 and
established the Australian Institute of Air Pilots and Navigators which later became the
Australian Federation of Air Pilots.312
308 accessed 20 March 2012
Heritage Alliance, Gap Study Vol. 1, p 57.
Building, 24 October 1938
Sheehan, Mary and Jennings, Sonia, A Federation of Pilots, MUP, 2010, p 1.
High rise office buildings have been a feature in the Moonee Ponds Activity Centre since
the 1980s with the Australian Tax Office building and others, while large supermarkets
also now employ many local people.
Figure 75: Australian Tax Office building, Moonee Ponds. Source: State Library of
Depression era work
In 1927 the City of Essendon used funds from the Public Works Department to utilise
unemployed workers to regrade the cliffs at the southern end of Maribyrnong Park while at
the height of the Depression, between 1930 and 1933 day labourers worked on the
Maribyrnong river terraces for the MMBW.313 Other work done in the area by sustenance
workers (as the unemployed were called) was the levelling and forming of playing fields at
Travancore School and Aberfeldie Park.314 In 1934 sustenance workers also undertook
ground works for Debney Park High School on the land which was formerly occupied by
Debney’s tannery.315
Minutes Essendon Council Public Works Committee, PROV VPRS 7916, p1, unit1; MMBW Minutes 19301933
Argus, 25 April 1939
Breen, Marcus, People, Cows and Cars: The Changing Face of Flemington, Melbourne City Council, 1989,
p 33.
Figure 76: Terraces bordering the Maribyrnong River, Moonee Ponds.
Source: Moonee Valley City Council.
Theme Six – Building towns, cities and the garden state
Shaping the suburbs
Residential development of the Moonee Valley area in the nineteenth century hugged the
railway line through Newmarket, Ascot Vale and Moonee Ponds316. The Depression of the
1890s, after the collapse of the land boom, slowed the suburban development of
Essendon.317 However, there was rapid growth in the number of houses in the second half
of the first decade of the twentieth century, following the inauguration of the tramlines in
1906. Between 1905 and 1909 over 1,000 houses were built in the municipality.318
The inauguration of tram services stimulated development along either side of
Maribyrnong Road, and further along Mt Alexander Road at Essendon and North
Essendon. With increased development between Buckley Street and Keilor Road and at
Aberfeldie in the 1920s, residents clamoured for the extension of a tramline along Buckley
Street, while the Essendon tramline was extended as far as Keilor Road (Essendon North)
State school in 1923. The inter war years saw housing development in Strathmore, at
West Ascot Vale and in North Essendon.
Figure 77: Map of Melbourne Suburbs 1888. Source: National Library of Australia.
Argus, 8 November 1884, p13
Argus, 18 January 1910
Argus, 18 January 1910
Expanding services to meet demands
Water supply
Early residents of Melbourne and its suburbs often had to purchase water from water
carts, filled at central water towers and carted through the streets. In the 1850s
Melbourne’s first water supply scheme was inaugurated when the Yan Yean reservoir was
constructed and water was piped to central Melbourne. The pipe system was gradually
expanded throughout the suburbs – though often only to a stand pipe at a central location.
It appears that the water main connecting the Moonee Valley area to the Yan Yean supply
was connected to the corner of Mt Alexander Road and Moonee Street in 1857.319 The
unreliability of the water supply system led to the construction of a small service reservoir
at Keilor Road, North Essendon in 1881.320 The reservoir improved the supply of water to
the Essendon area and was later enlarged. Located where Lt Thompson Reserve now
stands, the reservoir was still in use in the 1950s.
Gas and Electricity
The Metropolitan Gas Company began connecting gas for street lighting and for private
customers in areas outside of central Melbourne after it was formed in 1878 and, by 1884
gas was connected in Flemington. When gas street lighting was connected to
Temperance Township in Ascot Vale in 1889, the occasion was celebrated with a torch lit
procession through the streets, with bonfires and bands. A competitor to gas as a source
of power was electricity. Essendon’s first electricity supply came via the North Melbourne
Electric Tramway and Lighting Company, in 1906. A powerhouse was constructed at the
company’s depot in Mt Alexander Road, Ascot Vale (the tram depot). However, the
company did little to expand electricity services in the growing municipality.321 In 1921 the
State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SEC) was formed to manage the production and
supply of electricity throughout Victoria. The SEC took over the North Melbourne Electric
Tramway and Lighting Company’s electricity supply in 1922, building a new main substation at Ascot Vale and several smaller substations throughout the district.322 Initially the
SEC used office space at the tramways depot. But, seeking a more central location in the
district, the Commissioners built a new office at 337 Ascot Vale Road, Moonee Ponds, in
319 Chalmers, Annals of Essendon, Vol.1, p.11
Argus, 23 November 1882, p.6
David Helms, Heritage Assessment Moonee Ponds Activity Centre, Stage 2 Report, September 2011, p.3
David Helms, Heritage Assessment Moonee Ponds Activity Centre, Stage 2 Report, September 2011, p.4
1923. This was the first metropolitan branch office constructed by the SEC and it
remained in use by the SEC until the 1980s.323
Waste disposal
In the 1920s a number of Melbourne’s municipalities considered using incinerators as an
alternative to dumping rubbish collections on wastelands and quarry holes. Despite fears
that an incinerator built in the heart of Moonee Ponds would look unsightly, Essendon City
Council built an incinerator at its Holmes Road Depot in 1929-1930. The incinerator was
designed by the Melbourne office of renowned architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion
Griffin and built by the Reverbatory Incinerator and Engineering Company and, when
finished in 1930, elicited admiration for its attractiveness.324 The incinerator operated until
1942.325 It now operates as an art gallery (see Theme Nine).
Figure 78: Essendon Incinerator. Source: National Library of Australia.
Fire services
Moonee Valley’s first firemen were volunteers. The first local brigade was formed in
1878.326 The Essendon Brigade was based at the rear of the Town Hall (Clocktower
Centre). Other brigades were based in Moonee Ponds, perhaps where the Elizabeth
David Helms, Heritage Assessment Moonee Ponds Activity Centre, Stage 2 Report, September 2011, p.4
Argus, 9 August 1930, p. 17
Heritage Victoria, Victorian Heritage Database, H057.
History of Essendon 1946, p 19
Street Fire Station was located, as shown on a map of Essendon in 1915, and Ascot Vale,
based on the corner of Mt Alexander Road and Middle Street, where a wooden tower was
erected.327 Later an Ascot Vale fire station was built in Ferguson Street, in Temperance
Township in 1890. This seems to have been replaced in 1905 by the disused fire station
still standing in Ferguson Street.328 In 1891 the Metropolitan Fire Brigade was formed and
fire fighters became professional and full-time. In 1896 a fire station was built on the
corner of Finsbury and Wellington Streets in Flemington (still standing).329 In 1905 a new
Essendon Fire Station opened on what is now the tram reserve and plantation on the
corner of Mt Alexander Road and Shamrock Street, Essendon.330 This fire station was
removed in the late 1920s, when the tram tracks were duplicated and placed in the centre
of the road. It was replaced in 1930 by a new station on the corner of Bulla Road and
Woodland Street, which included accommodation for married and single fire-fighters.331
Figure 79: Former Flemington Fire Station. Source: Moonee Valley City Council.
Bob Chalmers, response to draft Thematic Environmental History, 2012.
Chalmers, Annals of Essendon Vol. 1, p 41 and Chalmers, response to draft Thematic Environmental
History, 2012
Argus , 7 August 1896, p 7
Argus, 3 May 1905, p 7
Chalmers, Annals of Essendon, Vol. 2, p 50
The new Ascot Vale Fire Station, in Union Road, was opened in June 1927 with up to date
communications devices installed and space for new motorised fire trucks.332 Like the new
Essendon Station, built a few years after, it could accommodate married and single
firemen – in line with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s policy of fostering a sense of family
amongst its fire-fighter communities. A third fire station in the study area, located in
Milleara Road, East Keilor, was one of a number of fire stations designed by well-known
architects, Edmonds and Corrigan.
Figure 80: Ascot Vale Fire Station. Source: Moonee Valley City
Progress Associations
Progress Associations proliferated in Victoria in the early twentieth century. Formed by
residents and businessmen in local areas, they pushed for improvements in services and
transport and lobbied local governments on local issues.333 Their popularity was
maintained during the post Second World War era as the frontiers of Melbourne
expanded. In the Moonee Valley area, the formation of progress associations followed the
Argus, 10 June 1927, p 13
Brown-May and Swain, Encyclopedia of Melbourne, p. 573
pattern of residential development and an extraordinary number of progress associations
were formed in the Moonee Valley area over the twentieth century. An early association,
the Ascot Vale Peoples’ Association, is thought to have been formed as early as the
1880s.334 It lobbied for improvements to the Maribyrnong Road Bridge in 1908. Other early
progress associations included the Aberfeldie Progress Association, the Essendon
Progress Association, which aimed to build the Essendon Public Hall in Russell Street
(now Ukrainian Hall), the Moonee Ponds Progress Association, the Maribyrnong Hill and
Bagotville Progress Association (1917), which lobbied for a school (eventually built as
Ascot Vale West). Later progress associations represented such areas as North
Essendon, Keilor Road, Strathmore, Airport West and Niddrie.
While advocating for
services, such as the extension of public transport or the provision of education, progress
associations within the study areas also often aimed to beautify the area and attract
Post World War Two Development
An aerial photo taken of Melbourne at the end of the Second World War in 1945 shows
housing stretching as far as Fawkner Street and approximately Hoffmans Road in
Essendon, gradually thinning out as it reaches these boundaries. Then, abruptly, the land
seems empty, apart from the odd scattered farm house and sheltering trees. Within a few
decades, however, these open spaces would be almost completely covered with houses.
In the three decades after Second World War Melbourne’s suburbs spread out rapidly as
post–war migration, the baby boom and the housing shortages of the post-war years led
to a rush of home building. Land at the edge of the metropolitan area was cheap, offering
a chance for people to own their own houses. Moonee Valley was no exception.
Despite being an open space on the 1945 aerial photograph, the area now known as
Niddrie, had grown so much by 1950 that the Shire of Keilor began searching for a name
for the area west of Hoffmanns Road and south of Essendon Airport. ‘It was known as
East Keilor until so many people came to live there the Keilor Shire decided they would
have to face realities and give it a name.’336 By 1955 there had also been ‘considerable
development in the area south of Keilor Road towards Steele Creek’.337
Lenore Frost, Response to Draft Thematic History, 2012
Bob Chalmers, Annals of Essendon, Vols 1,2,3,
Argus, 15 December 1950, p 4
Argus, 18 November 1955, p 20
In the same year, the west side of the Airport, north of Keilor Road (Airport West) was
developing quickly. The streets were not made but a new state school was being built in
this area and builders were erecting houses.338 - In 1944 expansion of Essendon
Aerodrome closed Bulla Road as a road to the north and a new road, Lancefield Road ran
along the western perimeter of the aerodrome towards Bulla. Parallel to this road
Matthews Avenue was zoned as a light industrial area. Behind this light industrial zone,
the empty paddocks were ripe for residential development. By 1964 it was claimed that
one could buy the ‘lowest priced cream brick veneer in Melbourne’ in Airport West.339
The suburban development of Avondale Heights began in the late 1950s, when Apex
Realty began building on the first subdivision in the area.340 Elvie Reynolds remembered
that there were only six houses in the area when she moved there at that time.341 The
location of light industry nearby in West Maribyrnong apparently encouraged residential
growth in Avondale Heights, as too, did the replacement of the old single lane military
bridge with a new bridge in the late 1960s.
Figure 81: Rogerson Street, Avondale Heights c1966. Source: State Library of Victoria.
Many of the houses in these new suburbs were built by their owners in the decades
immediately after the war. Among these builders there were several post-war migrants,
moving out and up from first homes in suburbs such as Moonee Ponds or Footscray or
building their first homes on land that was cheap and located close to employment in
manufacturing industries. Influences from their homelands often coloured the design and
Argus, 18 November 1955, p 20
Age, 28 March 1964, p 15
Age, 14 December 1987, p 24
Age, 14 December 1987, p 24
ornamentation of their homes. By 1981 37 percent of those people residing in Avondale
Heights had been born overseas. Half of these were Italian.342
In 1974 the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) announced that
Melbourne’s first cluster housing development would be built on the Burley Griffin Milleara
subdivision of 1927. The MMBW had acquired the 60 or so acres in the mid 1960s.343 It
planned to widen and improve roads around and into the estate and relocate the proposed
shopping centre, but the basic vision of Burley Griffin for the estate would remain.344
Apart from infill housing and subdivision of the sites of formerly large mansions and their
gardens as at Penleigh Court in Moonee Ponds in the 1960s, much of the rest of Moonee
Valley was well-established by the post-war period. Strathmore Heights, however, was
subdivided in the 1960s, though little development occurred there until more recent
Establishing public housing estates
The Housing Commission of Victoria was established by the Victorian Government in
1938 after a public campaign for housing reform. The main impetus for the Commission
was the desire to demolish and rebuild 'slum pockets' in the inner city. Displaced residents
were moved to new housing developments built by the Commission, but building was
suspended in the early years of the Second World War. Nevertheless, planning continued
for the future as it had been revealed in 1939 that there was a shortage of around 40,000
houses and it was predicted that for every year the war continued (with no houses being
built) the shortage would increase at a rate of 8,000 per year.346
After 1942 the
Commission was responsible for developing regional and outer suburban housing estates
where low-income families were located in proximity to expanding post-war industries in
the northern and western suburbs.
In Aberfeldie construction of the first 47 houses, in pre-cast concrete, began in October
1945, with plans for a mix of styles in brick, weatherboard and concrete, some detached
and others in a duplex style.347 The City of Essendon contributed to the development by
Age, 14 December 1987, p 24
Age, 13 June 1974, p.7
Age, 13 June 1974, p.7
Heritage Alliance, City of Moonee Valley Gap heritage Study , 2006, Vol. 1, p. 27
Argus, 2 September 1943, p 5
Argus, 11 October 1945, p 8
constructing the streets – Caroline, Allan and May Streets.
A post-war shortage of
building materials held up construction for a time, with 29 of the Aberfeldie houses unable
to be completed in March 1946 because of the lack of roof tiles.348 Fortunately most of the
houses were completed by July 1946 when councillors from neighbouring Braybrook
conducted a tour of inspection. The councillors were impressed that the houses had tiled
roofs rather than iron and that they were fitted with modern conveniences including gas
stoves, coppers, bath-heaters, built-in cupboards, power points and stainless steel kitchen
sinks.349 In total 150 dwelling units were constructed.350
By 1949 another major Housing Commission estate was under construction in Ascot Vale,
on the site of the old racecourse opposite the Showgrounds. The estate, with a mix of
houses and flats (the flats being in three-storey blocks) was spread across the 77 acre
site. In total 800 units were built allowing for 55 acres of ‘open spaces, consisting of
lawns, yards and playing space, including a small oval.’351 The streets were named after
Second World War heroes, including Churchill, Blamey, Vasey and Dunlop, with the whole
development named the Wingate Estate.
By the end of the 1940s the Housing
Commission had constructed around ten percent of Victoria's housing.352
Figure 82: Wingate Estate. Source: Argus 1949.
Argus, 1 March 1946, p 3
Sunshine Advocate, 12 July 1946
The Argus Supplement, 16 July 1949
The Argus Supplement, 16 July 1949
352 accessed 4 April 2012
Figure 83: Wingate Estate under construction. Source: Local and Family History
Collection, Sam Merrifield Library.
The successive introduction of two, three and four storeyed concrete flats, such as those
constructed on the Wingate Estate, during the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s led to
the Housing Commission’s ambitious high-rise regime. After unveiling its first 17 storey
apartment block in South Melbourne in 1960, the Commission went on to erect more than
40 towers across its 21 estates including two areas in Flemington – Debney Park and
Crown Street.353 The first 20 storey tower block at Debney Park, adjacent to Racecourse
Road (the old site of Debney’s tannery), was officially opened in June 1965.354 The
building was the tallest prefabricated concrete housing block in Australia and was
designed to provide accommodation for up to 700 people. When opening the building, the
Minister for Housing Lindsay Thompson, declared that it was ‘a promising first step
towards reversing the population drift from the inner city area.’355 Less than two years
later construction began on another three similar tower blocks at Debney Park, allowing
accommodation for another 2,000 people.356 A feature of the new buildings was the
children’s playrooms and community laundries on every floor, with a sports oval, tennis
courts and children’s playground on the surrounding land. A similar high-rise tower block
was built at the other end of Racecourse Road, in Crown Street. By the 1980s conditions
at the Debney Park housing estate had deteriorated and tenants were unhappy with their
amenities, particularly the state of communal laundries, the lack of security and generally
Heritage Alliance, Survey of Post-War Heritage in Victoria Stage 1, October 2008, p 21
Also known as Holland Court.
Age, 24 June 1965; Howe, Renate (ed) New Houses for Old, Fifty Years of Public Housing in Victoria,
Ministry of Housing and Construction, 1988, p 148
Age, 15 December 1966.
poor maintenance. This led to the formation of the Flemington Tenants Association in
1982. Members of the Association successfully lobbied the government for improvements
to their buildings and grounds and by working together for a common cause established
an enhanced sense of community.357
In the 1960s many of the first tenants in the Flemington high-rise flats were migrants from
England, Italy, Turkey and Yugoslavia.358 A survey conducted in 2009 of the Wingate
Estate found that there were more than 50 nationalities represented including people from
Ethiopia, Vietnam, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, China, El Salvador and Chile.359
Figure 84: Housing Commission Flats, Debney Park, Flemington.
Source: Moonee Valley City Council.
Breen, Marcus, People, Cows and Cars: The Changing Face of Flemington, 1988, pp 42-43.
Breen, Marcus, People, Cows and Cars: The Changing Face of Flemington, 1988, p 40.
359 accessed 4 April 2012
Making homes for Victorians
Homes for the wealthy, working class homes, middle class homes
From the mid-nineteenth century, when Hugh Glass began construction of his mansion,
Flemington House, until the 1890s, a number of wealthy Victorians built imposing
mansions in the Moonee Valley area. These houses expressed the wealth and social
position of their owners, who had become successful pastoralists, merchants or
businessmen in colonial Victoria.
They dotted the slopes of Moonee Valley, usually
occupying high ground. Many were built after land was subdivided and offered for sale in
the 1880s. While some of these mansions were demolished or destroyed in the twentieth
century, others were converted to new uses – often as private or Catholic schools or
The substantial grounds that surrounded these mansions were gradually
subdivided and sold –often as late as during the1960s.
A number of these imposing houses were associated with the McCracken family whose
brewery, the Robertson and McCracken Brewery, established in Little Collins Street,
Melbourne in 1851, prospered not only because of scientific practices in the production of
beer, but also because it tied many hotels to serving its beer. Ailsa, now demolished,
which had been built in Mt Alexander Road, Ascot Vale in the1850s, was the first home
associated with this family. Robert McCracken, founder of the brewery, purchased it in
1865.360 McCracken’s successors in the business, son Alexander and nephew Coiler, built
even more lavish homes during the land boom of the 1880s. Coiler built Earlsbrae Hall in
1890. He lived here for ten years. Later the flamboyant E W Cole, founder of Coles’s Book
Arcade in Melbourne, owned and lived in Earlsbrae Hall. In 1919 it was acquired by the
Anglican Church for use as a girls’ school, Lowther Hall.
Alexander McCracken,
pioneer of so many sporting clubs in the Moonee Valley area, built North Park, in what is
now Woodlands Street, Strathmore in 1888.
North Park was purchased by the
Columban Fathers as the Australian headquarters of the St Columbans Mission in
Essendon Historical Society, The Fine Homes of Essendon and Flemington, 1846-1880, p. 10
Heritage Victoria, Victorian Heritage Database, H060
Gellie, G. H., 'McCracken, Alexander (1856–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of
Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 April 2012
Heritage Victoria, Victorian Heritage Database, HO 128
Figure 85: Earlsbrae, now Lowther Hall, Moonee
Ponds. Source: Moonee Valley City Council.
A description of the Essendon area in 1884 mentioned the ‘many villas in beautiful
grounds’ and ‘snug cottages peeping out from shady groves’.364
While there were
instances of rows of cottages built for working class people in Moonee Valley during this
era, often these homes were interspersed amongst the villas on the higher slopes of the
valley, close to railway lines.
Figure 86: Villa-style homes in Travancore. Source: Moonee Valley City Council.
Argus, 8 November 1884, p. 13
A model working man’s cottage was built in Lee Street, Flemington in 1892, reportedly by
the Yarra Yarra Star Bowkett Building Society.365 This and a few other Star Bowkett
Building societies offered means by which working class people could purchase property,
by offering shares in the company and then conducting regular ballots. Shareholders were
all entered into the ballot. Those who won the ballot repaid their loans to the society at £8
per year for each £100 borrowed. Their payments could be suspended when they were
unemployed or ill. The Star Bowkett societies appear to have been connected with the
Victorian Trades Hall.
Rows of workingmen’s cottages were erected at Flemington in the pocket between the
Flemington Racecourse and the railway yards in the late nineteenth century. Similarly,
Temperance Township in Ascot Vale offered cottage sites suitable for ‘artisans.’ A row of
workingmen’s cottages was also located close to Moonee Ponds Railway Station in
Winchester Street.
Figure 87: Workers’ cottages in Coronet Street, Flemington. Source: Moonee Valley City Council.
Flemington–Kensington Timeline accessed 5 April 2012
By the 1920s, it was estimated that over 60 percent of Essendon residents owned their
own homes.366 The Housing and Reclamation Act 1920 authorised the State Savings
Bank of Victoria to lend money at concessionary rates for housing. This scheme enabled
wage earners to purchase their own homes. The State Bank developed a number of
styles of housing from which borrowers could choose. By 1926, Essendon was amongst
the Melbourne suburbs with the heaviest concentration of State Bank homes – with 268
State Bank homes under construction.367
Establishing private gardens and backyards
Domestic gardens throughout the Moonee Valley area continue to reflect changing garden
styles over the past century and a half. Remnant exotic trees in the grounds of the Royal
Children’s Hospital Travancore Campus give some glimpse of the magnificent garden that
was developed around the mansion, Flemington House, in the 1860s and 1870s. But later
plantings in the grounds of the campus are illustrative of a return to favour of indigenous
gardens in the latter half of the twentieth century. Throughout the municipality private
gardens often reflect the trends in garden styles of particular eras. Exotic trees remain in
many Victorian and Edwardian gardens in the city’s older areas. Post Second World War
front gardens still often display the planting of specimen flowers that were popular in the
From the 1870s the Borough of Essendon stimulated private efforts to beautify the
municipality’s streets, encouraging ratepayers to plant trees in front of their homes.368
Again, in 1934, the City of Essendon proposed a massive tree planting scheme to
celebrate Victoria’s centenary. The council planned to plant over 2,000 trees across the
entire municipality.369
World renowned rose grower and developer, Sam Brundrett, established his first nursery
between Salisbury and Montague Streets in Moonee Ponds in 1893 and, for a while, was
associated in business with John Oliver, later the City of Essendon’s Curator of Parks and
Gardens. Brundrett specialised in developing roses suitable for Australia’s harsh climate.
He sold his roses through the Victoria Market and via mail order, but visitors were always
welcome to visit the nursery.370 In 1909, Brundrett presented the Essendon State School
Age, 22 September 1928, p. 5
Argus, 19 October 1926, p. 15
McJunkin, History of Essendon 1948, p. 160
Heritage Alliance, City of Moonee Valley Gap Heritage Study 2006, Vol. 2 p. 24
Brundrett Catalogue (SLV), Brundrett entry Encyclopedia of Australian Science
with a collection of 130 rose varieties and promised to do the same for Ascot Vale and
Moonee Ponds West Primary Schools in subsequent years, hoping that this would enable
the schools to compete in the National Rose Society of Victoria’s annual prize for the best
rose garden.371 In 1925 Brundrett’s Roses moved to Narre Warren.
The former Club Secretary’s house at Moonee Valley Racecourse was built in 1937. The
garden was laid out to a design by renowned landscape architect, Edna Walling, who
prepared two plans: a ‘tentative sketch’ and a more fully formed plan noted as being for
‘Mrs W.S. Cox, Mooney Valley, Essendon Victoria’. Both plans are now held in the State
Library of Victoria collection.372
Figure 88: Design for garden of Club Secretary’s house at Moonee Valley
Racecourse. Source: State Library of Victoria.
At ICI’s Research Facility in Ascot Vale, extensive gardens were developed in the postwar years. Along with a number of indigenous trees, there were ‘very few countries that
were not represented’ in the garden that was mainly concentrated on the property’s
Newsom Street and Stanford Street frontages.373 Remnant trees from this garden remain
on the site.
Argus, 27 August 1909, p.5
Helms, David, Heritage Assessment Moonee Valley Racecourse Stage 2 Report, February 2012
Neill, K G, A History of ICI Australia Research Group, Ascot Vale, 1989
Developing higher density living, shared accommodation, flats and apartments
Flats were uncommon in Melbourne and its suburbs until the inter-war years when many
blocks of private flats were built in areas such as St Kilda, South Yarra, Parkville and East
Melbourne.374 Comparatively few blocks of private flats made their appearance in what is
now the City of Moonee Valley at this time. Some exceptions, however, include the three
block complex of Moderne and neo-Tudor flats, known as Shirley Court at 125-135
Mooltan Street in Travancore, designed by architect, James Wardrop.375
Figure 89: Shirley Court, Mooltan Street, Travancore. Source: Moonee Valley City
In 1941 William Simmie constructed a block of six Art Deco flats and a maisonette at 519
Mt Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Simmie and his wife occupied the maisonette.
Another family member occupied one of the flats. Simmie was the builder of many
significant buildings, including the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. His firm, Simmie
and Co, had offices in Rankins Road Kensington. The Art Deco flats at 519 Mt Alexander
Road, built at a time when there was pressure to accommodate war workers in the
Moonee Valley area, still retain their English style gardens in 2012.376
Brown-May and Swain (eds) Encyclopedia of Melbourne, p.271
Heritage Alliance, City of Moonee Valley Heritage Review, 2004, p.57
376 David Steel, A Prominent Australian Builder and His Contribution to the Neighbourhood Character of 519 Mt Alexander Road,
Moonee Ponds, 20 July 2012
Theme Seven - Governing Victorians
Developing institutions of self-government and democracy
Developing local authorities
In 1852 a government surveyor named two village reserves Essendon and Hawstead but
the district did not move to form its own local government until 1861 when there was
sufficient population to petition for such a move.377
At this time the local population
exceeded 300, with most residents concentrated in the southern portion of the
municipality in the Flemington and Ascot Vale areas. The first meeting of householders
and landowners, after proclamation of the Municipality of Essendon and Flemington, was
held in January 1862 at Wilson’s Moonee Ponds Hotel where a council of seven men was
elected.378 The first councillors were: John Filson, John Grant, William Hoffman, Richard
Leake, Peter McCracken, John Thomas Smith and Edward Wight.379 One of the first
actions of the Council was to appoint a Board of Health, before turning its attention to
policing and postal services. In 1863 the Municipal Institutions Act constituted Essendon
and Flemington as a Borough.380
The Act also introduced provisions that required
councils to appoint committees and keep minutes of committee meetings. The Borough
was divided into three wards:
Flemington and Kensington; Ascot Vale and Moonee
Ponds; and Essendon.
Hawstead was later named Glenbervie in 1854; Victorian Government Gazette, 8 November 1861.
Victorian government Gazette, 27 December 1861, 10 January 1862.
Aldous, p 22.
Following the passing of the Municipal Institutions Act (October 1863), 56 Municipal Districts in Victoria
became Boroughs (P Willoughby, Essendon Historical Society).
Figure 90: First Town Hall, Mt Alexander Road, Ascot Vale. Source: Aldous.
In the 1860s the Council often met in a ramshackle building at the back of the Moonee
Ponds Hotel which also served as the Court House.381 The first council chambers were
built in 1863 in Mt Alexander Road beside the Prince of Wales Hotel (on the corner of
what is now Warrick Street), to the design of architects Matthews and Sons.382 In 1882
Flemington and Kensington split from Essendon and formed a municipal borough to the
south. It was at this time, as the population of Essendon was rapidly expanding, that the
Council saw the need to move to more commodious chambers in a location more central
to its constituency.383
It was not surprising then that eyes should be turned to the
Essendon and Flemington Institute building which had been built in 1880 on a site
previously considered for a town hall. Situated at the junction of Pascoe Vale Road and
Mt Alexander Road, the Institute was a handsome, although still partially completed,
building designed by eminent architect J J Clark. The Council acquired the building in
1886, paid off the mortgage, and made further extensions in 1910 and 1914.384 In 1930, a
clock was installed in the tower and in 1941 the building was again modified with sections
being rebuilt.
After the council chambers were moved to a new civic centre built in
Kellaway Avenue, Moonee Ponds, in 1973, the town hall was converted to a community
centre. It was renovated and officially opened as the Essendon Community Centre in
1976. In recent years the building has been named the Clocktower Centre. When it was
Aldous, p 24.
Essendon Conservation Study 1985, Part 1, p 115.
The population rose from 2,833 in 1881 to 14,411 in 1891, notwithstanding the fact that residents of
Flemington and Kensington had defected to form their own municipality in 1882.
Helms Report MV Activity Centre Sept 2011
opened in 2000 it was the first venue constructed according to Arts Victoria’s performing
arts centre benchmarking standards.385
When Flemington and Kensington split from Essendon in 1882 to form a separate
borough, its council first met in a building next to the Newmarket Hotel and then at a hall
adjacent to the Doutta Galla Hotel at 323 Racecourse Road, Flemington.
The latter
building, known as the Flemington and Kensington Hall, was home to many lodges and
associations, as well as serving as the municipal offices until 1901 when more substantial
premises were built in Bellair Street, Kensington.386
Figure 91: Essendon Town Hall c1906. Source: State Library of Victoria.
Figure 92: Former Essendon Town Hall, now Clocktower Centre. Source:
Moonee Valley City Council.
Butler, Graeme, Flemington and Kensington Conservation Study, City of Melbourne 1985, p 15 and p 25.
Essendon was elevated to the status of a Town in 1890, and then proclaimed a City in
By 1912 Essendon had been divided into four wards – Essendon, Aberfeldie,
Moonee Ponds and Ascot Vale. Municipal boundaries changed in 1979 when Strathmore
(an area previously referred to as North Essendon) separated from Broadmeadows to
come under the jurisdiction of the City of Essendon. (See Appendix 2 for other minor
boundary changes).
Another change occurred in 1994 when the Victorian State
Government instituted a policy of council amalgamations creating the City of Moonee
Valley. The new configuration incorporated the City of Essendon and part of the former
City of Keilor. North Melbourne and Kensington were excised in 2008 and now form part
of the City of Melbourne.
The City of Moonee Valley now includes:
Flemington, Travancore, Ascot Vale, Moonee Ponds, North Essendon, Aberfeldie,
Avondale Heights, West Essendon, East Keilor, Niddrie, Airport West and Strathmore.
Figure 93: City of Essendon – showing Wards in 1915. Source: State Library of Victoria.
Struggling for political rights
Moonee Valley has been the stamping ground of many political figures – some involved at
a local level, others serving with distinction in State and Federal parliaments.
demographics of Moonee Valley, with a strong property-owning, well-educated, middle
class population, have ensured that the area has had a mix of left and right wing political
Local government
The first representatives of the people at local government level were men of property and
influence. The names of many of Moonee Valley’s early mayors and councillors live on
through the district’s street names including: Fenton, McCracken, Napier and Pattison to
name just a few.
Dorothy Fullarton was Essendon’s first female councillor, joining the Council in 1972.
Dorothy’s husband John A P Fullarton preceded her as a City of Essendon councillor
serving from 1958 for 13 years. Both John and Dorothy had a term as Mayor of Essendon
– John in 1962-3 and Dorothy in 1974-5.387
State government
James Munro, Victorian Premier from 1890-92 was a strong advocate of the temperance
movement and invested in the development of Ascot Vale’s Temperance Township.
Munro’s banking and land speculation businesses fell on hard times when the boom of the
1880s turned to bust in the 1890s.388 Similarly, Sir Thomas Bent, Premier from 1904 to
1909, did not represent the people of Moonee Valley, but had strong connections with the
area through his land development projects in the 1880s and 1890s. Bent owned land
adjoining the Maribyrnong River.
Age, 28 August 1974.
Australian Dictionary of Biography online.
Victorian Legislative Council
Thomas Brunton, a president of the Essendon branch of the Victorian Protection League,
resided at ‘Roxburgh’, Ascot Vale. Brunton came to Australia in 1853 to look for gold but
was unsuccessful. However, his business aptitude, combined with early training as a
baker, led to him building up a substantial flour milling business. Brunton had early
political ambitions from the 1860s, but did not gain election until 1890 when he held the
Southern Province seat in the Victorian Legislative Council. He held the seat until 1904.
Brunton called himself 'one of the old loyal liberal school' and regarded the possession of
property 'as evidence of thrift and good citizenship' and a proper basis for the franchise.389
Victorian Legislative Assembly
Essendon and Flemington was an electoral district of the Victorian Legislative Assembly
from 1889 to 1904. It was held for most of its existence by future Prime Minister Alfred
Deakin before his switch to federal politics in 1901. It was abolished in 1904 and replaced
with separate Essendon and Flemington electorates.
Members for Essendon (since 1904):
William Watt
Maurice Blackburn
Thomas Ryan
Francis Keane
Arthur Drakeford
James Dillon
United Australia
Samuel Merrifield
Arthur Drakeford Jr
Allen Bateman
George Fewster
Sir Kenneth Wheeler
Barry Rowe
Ian Davis
Judy Maddigan
Justin Madden
Dr Samuel Merrifield was born in Moonee Ponds in 1904 and educated at Moonee Ponds
West State School and Essendon High School. He joined the Australian Labor Party in
1922 and was an office-bearer of the Moonee Ponds branch from 1935. He worked as a
surveyor for several Victorian government departments and was Commissioner of Public
Works and President of the Board of Land and Works, 1952-1955. He entered the lower
house of the Victorian Parliament in 1943 as the representative for Essendon, moved to
the seat of Moonee Ponds in 1945 then lost his seat in 1955. Subsequently he served as
a Member of the Legislative Council for Doutta Galla from 1958 to 1970. He was involved
in many community organisations and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by
Monash University in 1973. He died in 1982.390
Sir Kenneth Wheeler, whose working life was in the retail dairy industry, was a Liberal
Party member. He represented Essendon in Victoria’s Legislative Assembly from 1958 to
1979 and was Speaker from 1974-1979.391
Joan Kirner, Victoria’s first woman Premier (from 1990-92) was born and raised in
Essendon. Kirner attended Aberfeldie State School and Penleigh PLC. Kirner was a
school teacher before entering the upper house of the Victorian Parliament in 1982
representing the Australian Labor Party for the Province of Melbourne West. Between
1985 and 1988 she was Minister for Conservation, Forests & Lands. In 1988 she moved
to the Lower House as the member for Williamstown and was appointed Minister for
Education (1988-1990) and Minister for Ethnic Affairs (1990-1991). She served as Deputy
Premier from 1989-1990 and in 1992 became the Leader of the Opposition.392
Judy Maddigan, worked as a Librarian and served five years on the City of Essendon
Council before her election to State parliament in 1996. She had first contested Essendon
unsuccessfully at the 1992 election, winning the seat back for Labor in 1996. Maddigan
served as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees from 1999-2002 and was appointed
Speaker for the 2002-2006 parliament, becoming the first woman in this role.
Biographical information from catalogue entry for Samuel Merrifield manuscripts collection, State Library of
391 accessed 20 March 2012
Federal government
One of Australia’s most lauded Prime Ministers, often referred to as the Father of
Federation, Alfred Deakin, began his career on the national stage as the representative
for the borough of West Bourke which included the Essendon area.
William Watt, who ‘lived in a red-brick Federation style home on the corner of Leslie Road
and Park Street and ran a real estate agency in Moonee Ponds’ began his political career
at the age of 26 when he entered State parliament in 1902.393 A Liberal Party man, Watt
rose to become State Treasurer from 1909 to 1914 and Premier from 1912 to 1914. He
went on to succeed Alfred Deakin as the Federal member in 1914. Watt was Federal
Treasurer from 1918 to 1920 and Acting Prime Minister during 1918-19.394
Travancore resident, Arthur Calwell, was endorsed by the Australian Labor Party in 1940
for the seat of Melbourne which he won in that year's election. In 1945, under the Chifley
government, Calwell was appointed Australia's first Minister for Immigration. Calwell was
elected to lead the Labor Party in 1960 but failed to overcome the Menzies Government in
the polls. He was succeeded by Gough Whitlam as leader of the Opposition in 1967 and
retired from politics after his party's win in the 1972 election. Calwell’s political career was
affected by the split in the Labor ranks in 1955 when strong anti-communist feelings led to
the formation of the Democratic Labor Party.
The split was felt particularly keenly
amongst the Flemington Catholic community where many aligned themselves with the
new party.
Calwell, a devout Catholic, stopped attending St Brendan’s church in
Flemington and worshipped for many years instead at St Patrick’s in Melbourne.395
Jones, Adrian, Follow the Gleam: a history of Essendon Primary School 1850-2000, Australian Scholarly
Publishing, c2000, p 43.
Jones, Adrian, Follow the Gleam, p 43.
Breen, Marcus, People Cows and Cars, p 36;
Figure 94: Leader of the Opposition, Mr Arthur Calwell of ALP, drops his
voting paper into the ballot box, Melbourne 1963. Source: NAA A1200 L45904.
Democratic Labor Party Senator Frank McManus, an Essendon resident, lost his seat in
1961 but later returned to the Senate and eventually became leader of his party.396
The Federal seat of Melbourne which includes Ascot Vale (south of Ormond Road) was
held by the Australian Labor Party’s Lindsay Tanner from 1993 to 2010. Tanner, a lawyer
by profession, rose to become Minister for Finance in 2007, having previously held many
senior shadow minister positions when his party was in opposition. When Tanner bowed
out of politics at the 2010 election, his seat was won by Green’s candidate Adam Bandt
who became the first member of that party to be elected to the House of Representatives.
Labor movement
Lawyer Maurice Blackburn was elected as Labor member for Essendon in the Victorian
Legislative Assembly in 1914. However, his strong stand against the war, particularly his
anti-conscription stance, cost him the seat in 1917.397 Blackburn returned to practising
law, establishing the firm Maurice Blackburn and Co in 1921, dealing primarily in trade
union law and civil liberties cases.
Albert Monk, who was educated at Moonee Ponds West State School, became a noted
trade union leader. Monk was born in England in 1900 and emigrated to Melbourne with
Aldous, p 134
his family in 1910 when his father was employed to establish the Commonwealth
Government’s Cordite Factory at Maribyrnong. Monk was subjected to 'anti-Pommy'
bullying at primary school and later recalled, 'I think that what happened to me in the sixth
grade helped to start me on my rebellious career'. After leaving school, he attended a
business college and in 1924 joined the staff of the Trades Hall Council (THC). In 1930
when the THC executive established the Central Unemployment Committee Monk was
appointed secretary. By the outbreak of the Second World War Monk held three important
positions in the Labor movement – president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions
(ACTU), the Trades Hall Council and the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party.
Monk held the ACTU presidency twice – from 1934 to 1943 and from 1945 to 1969. In
1970 Monash University awarded Monk an honorary doctorate of laws.398 On his death in
1975 the Premier of Victoria Sir Rupert Hamer, stated that Monk had ‘championed the
cause of the worker without fear or favour and, at the same time, retained the highest
respect of employers and Governments.’399
Gaining the vote for women
The women of Victoria fought long and hard throughout the late nineteenth century to gain
the vote. An indication of this fight is illustrated by the ‘monster’ petition presented to the
Victorian parliament in 1891.
The petition contained signatures from around 30,000
Victorian women, including many women from Ascot Vale, Flemington, Newmarket,
Moonee Ponds and Essendon.
Spearheading the women’s suffrage movement was the Women’s Christian Temperance
Union (WCTU). The WCTU was formed by women concerned about social problems
associated with alcohol.
They tackled the problem through a wide-ranging agenda
addressing issues related to prison reform, female suffrage, early childhood education,
human rights, peace and arbitration, and indigenous disadvantage.400 With Temperance
Township established in a large section of Ascot Vale, it’s not surprising that there was a
strong branch of the WCTU in this part of Moonee Valley. Branches of WCTU were
formed in Ascot Vale in 1891 (later becoming known as Moonee Ponds-Ascot Vale) and
Essendon in 1894.401
Age, 2 April 1970; Age, 12 February 1975
University of Melbourne Archives - WCTU records
University of Melbourne Archives.
Maintaining law and order
Creating a judicial system
Local courts such as those established at Essendon and Flemington operated under a
judicial system known as magistracy. During the magistracy's formative years, police
magistrates and other paid officers such as Commissioners of Crown Lands, Protectors of
Aborigines and Gold Fields Commissioners combined their duty of dispensing summary
justice with various policing and administrative functions. Justices of the Peace, in keeping
with English practice, were commissioned from the ranks of local gentlemen and were
empowered in an honorary capacity to preside over Courts of Petty Sessions, which in
1969 were renamed Magistrates' Courts.402
Figure 95: Former Flemington Courthouse. Source: Moonee Valley City Council.
Court proceedings in the Essendon area were first conducted in a modest timber building
at the rear of the Moonee Ponds Hotel, then when the council chambers was constructed
in Mt Alexander Road in the 1860s, court hearings were conducted in this building. When
Encyclopaedia of Melbourne, pp 405-408.
the Council moved to new premises in the former Essendon and Flemington Institute in
1886, the court moved there too. This arrangement reputedly ended, after a dispute with
Council over furniture, and led to a dedicated court house being constructed nearby in
1890.403 John Davies, the noted Moonee Ponds vigneron, and a member of Victoria’s
Legislative Assembly from 1861 to 1864 was chairman of the Essendon and Flemington
bench of magistrates for 32 years, having first taken up the position in 1869.404 In 1928
Mrs Mary Merrifield became the first woman Justice of the Peace to sit in the Moonee
Ponds Court. A plaque in her honour was placed in the Moonee Ponds Courthouse in
A magistrates court still operates in Moonee Valley and is now located in
Kellaway Avenue adjacent to the old courthouse and the Elderly Citizens Club, and
municipal offices.
In Flemington, after separation from Essendon in 1882, a court house and police station
complex was constructed in Wellington Street in 1891. The court house was used for
recording local births, deaths and licences as well as for hearing criminal and civil law
Policing Victoria
The Police Regulation Act 1853 amalgamated Victoria’s seven autonomous police forces
and created the position of chief commissioner of police, a full-time police administrator
who oversaw policing throughout the colony. The Act stipulated that intending constables
had to be of sound constitution, able bodied, under 45 years of age, able to read and write
and of good character. In the suburbs of Melbourne, courts and police stations with ‘lockups’ were often a part of or adjacent to municipal offices. The close relationship between
the buildings indicating how much law and policing were elements of municipal order. The
Police would bring those charged – usually with common assault, drunkenness or petty
thieving – before the court where cases were heard by a local magistrate or bench of
During the 1850s, a Police depot was located on Bulla Road, just north of the Lincolnshire
Arms Hotel.408 In the 1870s a Police Station was established near Flemington Bridge on
Butler, Graeme, Essendon Conservation Study 1985, Part 1, p 122. ; Annals of Essendon
Argus, 6 June 1939.
Breen, Marcus, People Cows and Cars, p 25
Frost, Lenore, Murder and Misfortune on the Mt Alexander Road, np.
Mt Alexander Road and another, from the 1880s, west of the Newmarket Hotel in
Racecourse Road.
When a new Police Station was opened in Wellington Street,
Flemington in 1891 only the Mt Alexander Road one was still operating.409 After Sergeant
O’Meara had moved his force out of the Mt Alexander Road premises the old building and
watch-house was incorporated as part of the Flemington State School.410
The new
substantial red brick Police Station, which included a residence, was connected to the
court house by the single-storied lock-up, and much to the chagrin of the Essendon
Police, included a telephone.
Figure 96: Police Station, Wellington Street, Flemington. Source: Moonee Valley City Council.
The Moonee Ponds Police barracks were originally at the apex of Mt Alexander and
Pascoe Vale Roads, Moonee Ponds, but were relocated to the south west corner of the
Moonee Ponds Reserve (Queens Park) in the 1880s after the Essendon and Flemington
Institute was built on this site. The Police reserve was closely associated with the
Constable in Charge, Samuel Jones, and was commonly referred to as Jones’ Paddock.
In contrast to Flemington, the Essendon Police Station at Moonee Ponds, was described
in 1893 as a dilapidated wreck – the floors were rotten, the drains were broken and rats
Butler, Graeme, Flemington and Kensington Conservation Study 1985, p 84.
North Melbourne Advertiser, 31 July 1891.
were frequent visitors.411 In 1903 plans were in place to construct a new Police Station
next to the Essendon Court House (its current location), but building did not commence
until 1911.412 In the intervening years the Police operated out of ‘Garryowen’, a large
house at 689 Mt Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Sixty-five years later the Essendon
Police Station was again deemed to be a health hazard with the Council’s Health
Inspector describing the building as ‘shocking, overcrowded and damp’.413 A new building
was erected on the site in the 1980s.
Other police stations included one established in North Essendon in Mt Alexander Road,
north of Grice Crescent in the 1890s, moving to 73 Raleigh Street in 1921, and another
established in 1902 at Ascot Vale in a house in St Leonard’s Road, which was replaced by
a new building in Union Road in 1952.414
In the twenty-first century parts of Moonee Valley have become known for their
association with Melbourne’s ‘gangland war’.
Violent confrontations have occurred in
Strathmore (at the Cross Keys Reserve), in Combermere Street, Aberfeldie and in Union
Road, Ascot Vale.
Defending Victoria and Australia
The vast distance between Europe and Australia's southernmost mainland colony, did not
assuage Victorian feelings of vulnerability. While there was some comfort derived from
Victoria’s strong connection to Britain in the nineteenth century, with protection offered by
the British Navy, Melbourne was thought to be at risk of attack or invasion if the British
Empire ever went to war. Melburnians were alarmed on several occasions in the 1850s
and 1860s by the possibility of attack, particularly by Britain's confirmed enemy, Russia.
In 1883-84 Victoria became the first of the Australian colonies to create a Ministry of
Defence and rifle clubs and school cadet corps were flourishing in the 1880s.415
North Melbourne Advertiser, 21 April 1893
Chalmers, Annals of Essendon, Vol. 1, pp 91 and 139.
Age, 15 November 1977
Chalmers, Annals of Essendon, Vol. 1, p 218 and Vol. 2, p 338.
Encyclopaedia of Melbourne, pp 198-200; Commonwealth Year Book 1914, p 934.
Training people to serve in the military
In line with the military ethos of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many
schools formed cadet corps. In 1886 the Essendon State School organised a concert to
raise money for their cadet corps. Funds were needed for cadets to buy their uniforms and
equipment and to attend competitions. A military officer attending the concert assured
parents that ‘no accidents would happen as the ammunition was kept by the teacher and
the only one who could possibly be shot was the man at the target.’416 Twenty years later,
the Flemington State School formed a cadet corps in 1906, and followed it up a year later
with the establishment of an armoury at the school.417 In 1911 the Commonwealth
government brought in a system of compulsory cadet training for boys aged 12 to 18
The Boer War (1899-1902) was the impetus for the formation of the Essendon and
Flemington Rifle Club and 30 members were sworn in at its first meeting in March 1900.419
While the early years of the rifle club focussed on sporting and social activity, by the time
of the First World War, the club was able to take pride in having trained many young men
for the military as well as having a ready volunteer force for home defence.420 In 1912 the
City of Essendon, at the behest of the Commonwealth government, began looking for a
site for a drill hall.421 In early 1914, a site in Pascoe Vale Road near Queens Park, which
had been used as the city pound, was chosen and tenders were called for building in May
1914, just months before the outbreak of the First World War.422 It was at this time that
the Senior cadets of the Essendon Rifles became the 58th Infantry Battalion, organised as
a battalion along the lines of the Australian Imperial Force. (AIF).423 The battalion was
supported by the Essendon Citizens Military Association, established shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, which raised money to buy equipment for the drill hall,
organized sporting events and generally attempted to make military training attractive to
citizen forces and cadets.424
When the commander of the Essendon Rifles, Lieutenant
Colonel H E ‘Pompey’ Elliott was called on to raise the 7th Infantry Battalion, as an
expeditionary force on the out-break of war, it was natural that many men from Essendon,
North Melbourne Advertiser, 12 November 1886.
Breen, Marcus, People, Cows and Cars, p 28
Commonwealth Year Book 1911, pp 1076-77.
Chalmers, Annals of Essendon, Vol. 1, p 77
Essendon Gazette, 24 August 1916.
Essendon Gazette, 12 March 1914.
Chalmers, Annals of Essendon, Vol. 1, p 160; the site was reserved by the Victorian government as a
pound for the Borough of Essendon and Flemington in 1864 and transferred to the Commonwealth of
Australia in 1914, Victorian Government Gazettes 1864 and 1914.
Also known as the Essendon-Coburg-Brunswick Regiment
Essendon Gazette, 3 December 1914.
Moonee Ponds, Ascot Vale and Flemington were enlisted into this battalion.
Essendon boys of the 7 Infantry Battalion were on the first boats that landed at Gallipoli
on 25 April 1915.425
An Air Force cadet unit currently trains at the drill hall site in Pascoe Vale Road.
In Ascot Vale in 1916 a drill hall was constructed on a site provided by the Royal
Agricultural Society of Victoria.426 The Showgrounds were also used as a military camp,
as was a large area in Maribyrnong across the river from Moonee Valley, where a
remount depot for army horses was also established. This was the start of an on-going
use of land and facilities at the Showgrounds by the military. With the out-break of the
Second World War (1939-1945) the RAAF established its No. 2 Hospital at the
Showgrounds as well as its No. 1 Engineering School.
In addition, members of the
Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force trained at the RAAF’s No. 2 Technical Training
School, learning fitting, rigging and telephony.427 Essendon Airport of course was an
important base for the Air Force, with an Empire Air Training School established there.
Another facility utilised during the Second World War was the Travancore Children’s
School which was vacated by the children and used as a hospital for around 300
American servicemen.428
Figure 97: Nurses at No 2 RAAF Hospital, Ascot Vale 1941. Source: AWM.
Information supplied by Lenore Frost, July 2012.
This drill hall has now been demolished.
Argus, 28 June 1946
Breen, Marcus, People, Cows and Cars, p 33.
Protecting civilians
During the Second World War the City of Essendon made preparations to protect its
citizens in the advent of air raids. ‘Zig-zag’ trenches were dug in 1941 in vacant land in St
Thomas Street, Moonee Ponds, between the court house and the baby health centre; in
Maribyrnong Park, Queens Park, Victory Park, Lincoln Park and the Scott Street
Figure 98: Trenches being dug in Essendon opposite Queen’s Park. Source:
State Library of Victoria.
Argus, 26 December 1941 and 30 December 1941
Civilian war effort
There were many activities carried out by the citizens of Moonee Valley during the Second
World War which contributed to the war effort. A significant one was the Victory Garden
located in Fairbairn Park where 60 acres of land were set aside for growing vegetables.
The garden was controlled by the City of Essendon, with a paid supervisor, but all labour
was voluntary with the proceeds going to the Australian Comforts Fund.430 Children of the
Essendon State School also grew vegetables in the school grounds and organised the
‘Ginger Meggs’ salvage corps.431
People working in munitions factories and other war industries (mostly across the river in
Maribyrnong) lived in special war workers housing in Nimmo Street, Essendon,
Maribyrnong Park and Buckley Park.
Figure 99: War Workers’ housing, Nimmo Street, Essendon 1945. Source: Argus.
Protecting Victoria’s heritage
Designating historic sites
Moonee Valley has several special interest groups dedicated to researching the history of
the social, cultural and physical history of the area. The Flemington Association has been
active in the local community for more than 40 years and stems from groups going as far
back as the Flemington Ratepayers Association, which formed in 1881. Members of the
Chalmers, Annals of Essendon 2, p 214;
Australian War Memorial picture collection;