OUR BUILT HERITAGE AND THE STORIES OF THE PEOPLE BEHIND THEM
Established August 2022
The built heritage of the City Whitehorse is under threat
The built heritage of the City of Whitehorse is a statement of its character and culture. Its intrinsic value is not just in its acceptance and acknowledgment of the area's history but is vital in developing a comprehensive, diverse and mature future for the residents of the City of Whitehorse.
Having largely been developed after inner city areas like Boroondara and Stonnington, Whitehorse may not have as much built heritage, but this only makes it more important that we preserve as much of the built heritage that we can, before it is lost forever.
Currently there are two City of Whitehorse Councillor 's who represent the Council on the Heritage Steering Committee, to find out who they are please click on the following link: Councillors | Whitehorse City Council . Heritage matters appear to be the responsibility of the Whitehorse City Planning and Development Department.
In formulating the ‘Whitehorse City Council, Council Plan 2021 -2025 Year One’ the community consultation found that What We Love included 'Our respect for our local history and heritage' and 'Our heritage housing and neighbourhood character'.
The demolition or irrevocable changes to our built heritage raises a number of important questions about how we and our governments value, define and protect it. In Victoria the state government is responsible for developing and implementing heritage legislation.
When will the Victorian government implement heritage legislation that better protects our built heritage?
'There needs to be some creative thinking about how to guide infill into areas where it is most suitable
(for example near public transport), and where it will do the least damage to the most valuable suburban heritage.
The earlier analysis indicates that the heritage overlays and other measures made available to councils through
ResCode are not sufficient.'
Melbourne 2030 - Planning Rhetoric Versus Urban Reality, 2005
Arundel Wrighte the first European settler
The area of land that the City of Whitehorse presently covers was known as the Nunawading District from as early as 1840, five years after the founding of Melbourne. At this time Victoria was known as the Port Phillip District of New South Wales - Victoria became a separate colony in 1851.
The first European settler in the Nunawading District was Arundel Wrighte. Arundel was born in Westminster, England in 1806. In 1829 he sailed to Hobart and soon after his arrival obtained the position of Postmaster of Launceston. * Arundel married Frances Upton in 1832; Frances was born in 1810 in Sussex in England.
In 1836 Arundel visited the Port Phillip area (near what was to be Melbourne) and returned to Launceston where he leased his house, sold the furniture and bought 500 hundred sheep and one cow*. Then in January 1837 he sailed from Launceston to Port Phillip with his family, 500 sheep and one cow on board the sailing ship Lowstoff. Soon after their arrival Arundel built a wooden house within the town limits, but he was asked to remove it by the Police Magistrate. He eventually built another house on the north bank of the Yarra River opposite where the current Royal Botanic Gardens are located.*
Early in 1837 he explored along the Yarra River and discovered the land along Koonung Creek (Box Hill North) where he decided to establish his run. In 1839 Arundel and his family moved to their new home ‘Marionvale’ near the ‘W’ Creek, close to the current location of the Canterbury Gardens on Canterbury Rd so he could be closer to his run on the Koonung Creek. *
Arundel built a house on his Koonung Creek run (near the intersection of Shannon and Station St's), named it ‘Bushy Creek’ (later renamed ‘Beaudesert’) and moved his family there around 1843.
In 1845 the first bridge in Melbourne was built a little downstream of the present Prince’s Bridge by the Melbourne Bridge Co. The toll bridge was of a trestle style and built of timber from Arundel Wrighte’s Beaudesert estate in Box Hill North. It was known as the Balbirnie Bridge after the esteemed local landowner Robert A Balbirnie –Vans, Esq., J.P. who leased the bridge after he had just begun a punt service over the Yarra River at this location.
Arundel and his wife Frances lived at ‘Beaudesert’ until their deaths in 1887. They had three daughters Frances, Augusta and Marianne who had all been born in Launceston in Tasmania.
After Arundel and Frances’ death the land was bought by the Box Hill Township Estate Company which subdivided it and intended to sell it. But William Rodgerson who had married Mary Anne Leech, a granddaughter of Arundel Wrighte bought some of the land which had been 'Beaudesert' before it went onto the open market. On this land he bought he built an ‘Italianate’ mansion called 'Upton House' in Thames St, Box Hill in 1892 - the house was named after Mary's grandmother's family name of Upton. The Rodgerson family sold ‘Upton House’ to the RSL in 1950 and it was subsequently demolished in 1964 in the development of the Box Hill Hospital.
In 1957 Margaret Luke (nee Thodey. The Thodey family built and lived at 83-87 Dorking Rd in Box Hill) donated the stones from Arundel Wrighte’s original home ‘Beaudesert’ to the Box Hill Council. The stones were used to make a memorial cairn which was dedicated to Arundel Wrighte and is located in ‘Pioneer Park’ on the corner of Station and Harrow St’s Box Hill. Margaret obviously knew of and recognised Arundel Wrighte’s position in helping to found Box Hill and wanted him remembered.
By establishing his pastoral run in the Nunawading District in 1837 Arundel Wrighte laid the foundations for the establishment of Box Hill and the future City of Whitehorse.
'If we don't care about our past we can't have very much hope for our future’
Jackie Kennedy-Onassis: Saving Grand Central Terminal campaign New York, January 30, 1975
The Nunawading District in the 1850’s
After Arundel Wrighte had created his cattle run, the Nunawading District remained undeveloped until the first sale of Crown Lands took place in 1850. A small number of allotments were bought by land speculators who did not live on their allotments but may have leased them to farmers or were left vacant; this resulted in the area being very sparsely populated. The Nunawading District was about the size of the current City of Whitehorse. In the 1854 census there were 271 residents in the Nunawading District, by the 1881 census the number had grown to 1573. There were no European settlements in the Nunawading District until the early 1850's.
An 1855 survey of the Nunawading District by the Surveyor Generals office describes the area before the land had been cleared for farming and settlements as: ' Moderately undulating, but mostly poor, wooded with Stringy Bark, Messmate, Box and Cherry occasionally interspersed with Gum, Oak and a few Lightwood trees. Much of the undergrowth consists of wiry grass and scrub; abundant (although coarse) feed is however obtainable in spring on some of the portions. A permanent supply of water is afforded to the South Eastern part of the Survey by Dandenong Creek. Some of the waterholes in the Koonung Koonung CK do not become dry in ordinary summers; this remark is also applicable to several of the water holes in the channels of drainage constituting the sources of Gardiners Creek in the central part of this survey’.
The beginnings of what would eventually become Box Hill started in the early 1850's along the main road (Whitehorse Rd) which ran through the district. This encouraged the building of the first hotel (Whitehorse Hotel) on the corner of Whitehorse and Elgar Rd's in 1853 which was followed by a Blacksmiths, church and a store, by 1871 the population of the settlement was 154. Box Hill was named after local pioneer Silas Padgham's place of birth in Surrey in England.
In the 1880's, Box Hill was a rural hamlet outside of Melbourne, but this did not stop it from benefiting from the economic boom. These included an increase in land sales and residents, arrival of the first train at the new Box Hill Station in 1882, the start of postal delivery in 1887, the arrival of the first telegram in 1888, and a telephone service. In 1889, the first electric tram line in the southern hemisphere connected Box Hill to Doncaster via Station St and Tram Rd and in 1899 streetlights were installed in Box Hill.
The railway line from Melbourne to Lilydale inspired a land boom in Melbourne’s east. Land around Box Hill was no longer being purchased only by farmers but land developers who predicted suburbs growing along the train line.
In the late 1880's Box Hill attracted several of Australia’s most famous artists to it 'en plein air' (in the open) artists camp on David Houston's farm. Tom Roberts, one of Australia's most famous and important landscape painters, came to Box Hill determined to capture the play of light and shade in the Australian countryside. He was accompanied by fellow painter, Frederick McCubbin, and they were subsequently joined by a number of other artists including Arthur Streeton, Louis Abrahams, Charles Conder and Jane Sutherland.
In 1927 the City of Box Hill established a collection of artworks that included works by renowned Australian painters Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Louis Buvelot. This valuable historic collection became the responsibility of the City of Whitehorse after its formation in 1994.
Whitehorse Council has created an excellent Artists Trail where visitors can experience the places which inspired some of Australia's most famous landscape paintings.
'Australia has a rich natural and cultural heritage that underpins our sense of place and national identity
and makes a positive contribution to the nation’s wellbeing'
Australian Government - Australian Heritage Strategy, 2015
About the City of Whitehorse
The City of Whitehorse was formed in 1994 by the amalgamation of the former cities of Box Hill and Nunawading. The name Whitehorse came from the White Horse Inn ( White Horse effigy and the Box Hill pub – TIME GENTS ) , a pub originally on the corner of Cotham (Whitehorse Rd) and Elgar Rd’s in the mid 19th century. The ‘white horse’ symbol was closely associated with the City of Box Hill and was a prominent feature of its coat of arms prior to its amalgamation with Nunawading.
The City of Whitehorse includes the suburbs of Balwyn North (part), Blackburn, Blackburn North, Blackburn South, Box Hill, Box Hill North, Box Hill South, Burwood (part), Burwood East, Forest Hill, Mitcham, Mont Albert (part), Mont Albert North, Nunawading (part), Surrey Hills (part), Vermont (part) and Vermont South.
To view a map and aerial photos of the City of Whitehorse from 1945 to 2023 please click on the following link: Whitehorse Maps
About the author
Hasan is a long term resident of Whitehorse .
I have always been interested in architecture, archaeology and history and the associated stories of the people who lived and worked in the buildings and on the land.
My interest in the history of Whitehorse began many years ago and was stimulated further when on one of my visits to the Acorn Nursery on Canterbury Rd in Surrey Hills I noticed the small old white house on the opposite side of the street had vanished. This intrigued me and I started investigating what had happened. I found a wonderful story about Surrey Hills, its history, the people who settled, owned and lived there but specifically about the demolished house which I discovered was called ‘Spenceycroft’.
In my investigations I came across comments such as 'I didn't know that about Whitehorse' or 'Whitehorse does not have history or heritage'. These comments inspired my research and the information I found is a testament to the rich and diverse heritage of Whitehorse.
I have learnt much more about the rich and diverse history of Whitehorse and the people who contributed to our local heritage and culture - the journey is still continuing.
I hope that you will join me in my journey of discovery. I will periodically add homes and different interesting items I have come across in regards to the heritage of Whitehorse to this website.
'It is clear that while specific groups can claim ownership of specific parts of Australia’s heritage,
all Australians have rights to have a say in protection and management of the nation’s heritage.
A shared responsibility approach to heritage protection and management can deliberately recognise
all the relevant stakeholders—community, organisations and government agencies;
at all relevant levels—local, regional, state, national and international.
It is a deliberate multi party relationships approach to managing the heritage'
Australian Government - Australian Heritage Strategy, 2015
To contact Whitehorse heritage please fill out the form below or visit Whitehorse heritage | Facebook
You are welcome to use the information on this website, but please acknowledge its source and the author. *Box Hill by Andrew Lemon, 1978
In September 2023 a developer lodged an application (WH/2023/768) to demolish and build three dwellings at 25 Thames St, Box Hill North.
This house was lived in and may have been built by William H Elsum, a well-known Melbourne poet, historian, editor, newspaper founder and printer.
Please email the Councillors of the Whitehorse Heritage Steerage Committee requesting that an assessment be undertaken of this house by a heritage consultant to ascertain its local &/or state heritage significance.