On my visits to Acorn Nursery on Canterbury Rd in Surrey Hills I used to see a small old white house on the opposite side of the street - one day I saw that it 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’.
The Nunawading District in 1850’s
At the time settlers started moving into the Nunawading District the land had remained unchanged since Melbourne was founded in 1835. An early survey of the Nunawading District by the Surveyor Generals office in 1855 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’.
At this time the Nunawading District was crisscrossed with dray tracks which were used to bring cattle and timber from outlying areas to the Melbourne markets. These dray tracks developed into what we know today as Canterbury, Warrigal, and Whitehorse Rd’s. ‘Spenceycroft’ was located near the intersection of these cattle and timber routes which became the intersection of Canterbury and Warrigal Rd’s.
There had been some development in the area in the late 19th century but this was stymied due to the 1890’s Depression. As a result the majority of the area remained pasture and dairy farms late into the nineteenth century - housing development did not intensify until after World War 1.
THE MOELLER FAMILY
Gustaf ‘Adolph’ Moeller was the first owner of Lots 39A and 39B (corner of Warrigal and Canterbury Rd's) in the Nunawading District. He was born in Hessen, Germany in 1823. In October 1849 Adolph Moeller and his brother Christoph sailed from Hamburg, Germany aboard the Godeffroy and arrived in Melbourne in February 1850. They were brought to Melbourne as indentured labourers under an immigration scheme run by William Westgarth, William Dutton, Dr Alexander Thomson and other Melbourne businessmen.
Once they arrived in Melbourne Adolph Moeller changed his occupation from Veterinarian to Cabinetmaker. In 1851 Adolph applied for and was granted a Certificate of Naturalisation from the New South Wales government, the certificate would allow him to vote and buy land.
In 1853 Adolph Moeller bought two, 22 acre lots (39A and 39B) of Crown land in the Nunawading District (Surrey Hills) on the corner of Boundary Rd (Warrigal Rd) and Delaney’s Rd (Canterbury Rd). He payed £462.00 for lot 39A and £338.00 for lot 39B, the sale for both lots was completed on May 3, 1854. Adolph Moeller did not live on the land he bought in the Nunawading District preferring to live and work in Collingwood and Fitzroy.
Adolph worked on houses with Carl ‘Erdmann’ Jackel in Richmond, Prahran, Hawthorn and Kew and was also a witness at Erdmann Jackel’s marriage to Christiane Tzschoppe in February 1854 in Melbourne. Erdmann Jackel became an early settler of the Nunawading District (Surrey Hills) when he bought land from Adolph Moeller in the North West corner of Lot 39A.
According to the land title records Lots 39A and 39B was subdivided between 1856 and 1857 between five families:
Records show that in 1854 Adolph Moeller married Caroline Wenck in Melbourne; they had seven children Adolph, Louisa, Maria, Ernest, Emma, Annie and Gustav.
Caroline Wenck was born in 1838 in Saxony, Germany. She migrated in 1849 to Melbourne with her parents Andreas and Johanne Wenk (nee Zweck) and six siblings onboard the sailing ship Dockenhuden.
Caroline Moeller died in 1871. Adolph Moeller died in 1884 at his daughter Louisa’s home ‘Hillside’ on High St in Kew.
THE JACKEL FAMILY
The story of the house ‘Spenceycroft’ started when Carl ‘Erdmann’ Jackel bought a parcel of land from Adolph Moeller in 1857 and built the first house in this part of Surrey Hills.
Erdmann Jackel was born in 1808 in Peterswaldau, Silesia, Germany which is now part of Poland. Erdmann married Johanna Eleonore Bleicher in 1833; she was also born in 1808 in Peterswaldau, Silesia, Germany and together they had two children Hermann and Auguste.
The family initially sailed to South Australia from Silesia as part of a group of 50 refugees who left because of religious persecution, wars and political upheavals. They left Bremen onboard the Leontine at night on April 10th, 1848 and sailed via Rio de Janiero (Brazil) arriving in Adelaide on August 1st, 1848.
After arriving in South Australia in 1848 the family lived in the Barossa Valley, in 1849 a year after arriving Johanna Jackel died and Erdmann was left to raise their two children Hermann and Auguste. In late 1853 the Jackel family finally moved to Melbourne.
In April 1854 Erdmann married Christiane Tzschoppe with Adolph Moeller as a witness at the marriage ceremony. Christiane Tzschoppe was born in 1818 in Silesia, Germany and had married her first husband Johann Tzschoppe about 1840 having three children, Ernst, Wilhelm and Maria together. The Tzschoppe family sailed from Germany in September 1852 onboard the Tancred arriving in Adelaide in January 1853, but Johann died in Yarraberg, Melbourne later in 1853.
Erdmann, Christiana and their combined five children lived in Yarraberg (Richmond), in South Yarra and then in 1857 moved to Weinberg Rd (now Wattle Rd) in the Village of Hawthorn, a small rural settlement 3 kilometers east of Melbourne.
In March 1855 with the assistance of the German Lutheran Minister Mathias Goethe, Erdmann petitioned the Lieutenant Governor Charles Hotham for a Certificate of Naturalisation which was granted in April 1855.
Erdmann bought a 5 acre parcel of land for £115 in 1857 in the Nunawading District (Surrey Hills) from Adolph Moeller.
The cottage that Erdmann Jackel built
Erdmann was a master cabinet maker/carpenter by trade and worked with Adolph Moeller, Wilhelm Finger and A. Schramm on houses in Richmond, Prahran, Hawthorn and Kew and also with Hermann Fuhrmann in Doncaster. It is therefore highly probable that Erdmann built his own Surrey Hills home or at the very least had it built since he had the means, knowledge, skills and contacts. A description of the property in Erdmann’s 1879 Will states that the house is a ‘wooden cottage containing five rooms and stable’.
As well as working as a carpenter Erdmann supplemented his income by keeping bees for their honey and making apiary equipment, but he is also listed in the 1875 edition of the Bailliere’s Post Office Directory of Victoria as ‘Ertman Jackel – Vigneron – Box Hill’. After his death in 1879 his Will states that there was ‘4 ac (acres) of fruit trees and vines’, a substantial vineyard as well as an orchard on the property.
Development of Erdmann Jackel’s original allotment
According to Title records the land in the south west corner (corner of Warrigal and Canterbury Rd’s) was approximately five and half acres. Erdmann Jackel owned the land from 1857 to 1880, then James Rayment owned it from 1880 to 1886 and around 1885/6 part of Erdmann’s original 5 acre block was subdivided for housing.
Part of Erdmann's land where ‘Spenceycroft’ was located became Lot 4. The owners of Lot 4 were Sven Wiedemann of ‘Colongulac’, Balwyn from 1887 to 1888 , The Melbourne and Metropolitan Permanent Building and Investment Society from 1888 to 1896 and James Board 1896 to 1910.
Part of Erdmann's land where the current St Stephens Presbyterian Church is located became Lot 6. The owners of Lot 6 were Arthur Snowden from 1886 to 1889, Charles Gordon and Company from 1889 to 1889 and William Cust from 1889 to 1907.
In 1907 Lot 6 was purchased by a consortium of local Surrey Hills residents/businessmen comprising Warehouseman James Allan, Accountant’s Thomas Hogg and Robert Mills (the father of Eleanor Jacobs (nee Mills) and an Elder of the Presbyterian Church) and Anthony Pryde who was the Treasurer and Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. In 1910 St Stephens Presbyterian Church was built on the south west corner of Warrigal and Canterbury Rd’s.
Erdmann Jackel died in 1879 and in his Will he appointed his wife Christiane as his Executrix. According to the 1880 Title records Christiane sold the Surrey Hills property to James Rayment. Christiane died at ‘Sunnyside’ in Berwick in 1891.
Neighbours of the Jackel family
The Schneider, Klepper and Horn families all arrived in Melbourne in 1854 on the sailing ship Oscar Vidal and they would later become neighbours in Surrey Hills. The fourth neighbour/landowner was Frederick Voight who arrived in Melbourne in 1850 and lived in Ballarat.
THE KLEPPER FAMILY
Philip Klepper arrived in Melbourne in 1854 with his wife Anna Marie and two year old daughter Elizabeth on board the Oscar Vidal as unassisted passengers. Phillip was born in 1826 and Anna in 1823, they were both from the village of Nassau near the city of Dresden in Germany.
In Melbourne Phillip and Anna Marie (Mary Ann) had a further eight children. According to birth registration records George was born in 1854 and died within 12 months in Prahran, Anna Maria in 1855 in the Nunawading District, Hanna in 1857 in Boroondara (Hawthorn), John ‘George’ in 1859 in Nunawading, Johanna in 1861 in Boroondara (Hawthorn), Clara in the Nunawading District in 1862 and Agnes in 1864 in the Nunawading District and Anna in 1866 in the Nunawading District who died in 1867.
In August 1857 Phillip Klepper sent a petition to the Lieutenant Governor Henry Barkly in regards to attaining a Certificate of Naturalisation and the Certificate was granted in August, 1857. In Phillips petition for a certificate of naturalisation his occupation is listed as ‘farmer’.
In 1857 Phillip bought a 5 acre block of land from Adolph Moeller (Lot 4) for £102 in the Nunawading District, this is the first time Phillip Klepper’s name appears on the first sub division of Lot 39A. This is to the east of the subdivision bought by Erdmann Jackel in 1857 on the corner of Boundary (Warrigal) and Canterbury Rd’s or the north east corner of Moeller’s Lot 39A.
In the 1869 edition of Bailliere’s Post Office Directory of Victoria Phillip Klepper is listed as ‘Philip Klipper – Gardener - Box Hill’, but In 1873 records show his occupation as Wood Carter.
The Klepper family used to live at what is now known as 24 Wolseley Close, Surrey Hills which is North West of Mont Albert station. Phillip Klepper named the house ‘Rheinland Villa’ after the area he used to live near in Silesia.
In an article in the South Bourke Standard in 1873 it was reported that Mary Ann Klepper had shown symptoms of insanity and the court ordered that she was to be admitted to the Yarra Bend Asylum (Kew Mental Asylum) where she remained until her death in 1885.
Phillip Klepper died in 1887. In his Will he left the house to their son John ‘George’ Klepper. But George does not appear to have lived in the house, as only his sister Anna Maria is listed as living there in the 1890 Sands and McDougall directory.
The Klepper children
In 1874 their daughter Elizabeth Klepper married Robert Arbuckle. Robert was born in Burnfoot, Donegal, Ireland in 1842 and arrived in Melbourne in 1860 on board the ship Malta. They had five children Elsie, Ida, William, John and Beresford and lived in Hawthorn.
In 1891 Anna Maria married Nicholas Inglefinger; in 1893 they had twin girls Cecilia and Marie. Nicholas Inglefinger was born in 1864 on Wellingrove Station, Kings Plains, NSW and had moved to Surrey Hills with his parents in 1874.
The Klepper’s 24 Wolseley street house (north east of ‘Spenceycroft’) was referred to as ‘Surriville’ for the first time in 1891. Anna Maria Inglefinger (nee Klepper) lived in the Wolseley St house until her death in 1930 and her husband until his death in 1946. Their daughter Cecilia (Phillip Klepper’s granddaughter) lived in the house until 1954.
The house at 24 Wolseley St was demolished in the 1970’s.
Their daughter Marie Inglefinger (Phillip Klepper’s granddaughter) married James Drake in 1922 and they lived at number 16 Wolseley St from 1922 to c.1937.
John ‘George’ Klepper
Phillip and Anna’s son, John ‘George’ Klepper was born in 1859 in the Nunawading District (Surrey Hills). Records show his occupation as a labourer/gardener. In 1889 George Klepper married Elizabeth Lillian McKee of Box Hill then 25 years old. They had four children John, George, Teresa and Marjorie.
Directory and Electoral rolls show that in 1885 George Klepper was living in South Melbourne and in 1890 he was living west of Canterbury Rd near Kent Rd Surrey Hills, then in 1901 and 1904 he was living in Glenroy. His wife Elizabeth died in 1904. By 1911 he was living at 25 McGregor St in Canterbury (Camberwell) until his death in 1930.
George Klepper worked for 13 years as a gardener for the Rand family at ‘Kaleno’ in Balwyn and was very highly thought of by them as they placed a notice in ‘The Argus’ in 1930 after his death. The notice read:
Klepper – A tribute to the memory of George Klepper, a faithful servant for 13 years.
G Rand and family
I was curious to find out who had designed the ‘Kaleno’ house as it was designed in the Queen Anne style - a design favoured around this time by renowned Melbourne architect John Beswicke.
I consulted the Professor of Architecture at Melbourne University Miles Lewis and he was in no doubt that the house was designed by John Beswicke in the Queen Anne style.
‘Kaleno’ was demolished in 1993.
THE RAYMENT FAMILY
James Rayment Snr was born in Essex, England in 1817; he arrived in Melbourne aboard the Bengal in 1840 and lived in Emerald Hill (South Melbourne).
Jane McKnight was born in Liverpool, England in 1844 and came to Melbourne with her family in 1857 aboard the James Brown and also lived in Emerald Hill.
In 1861 James Rayment married Jane McKnight; they had five children James Jnr, Elizabeth, Alfred, William and Alexander. Jane McKnight died in 1871.
In 1873 James Rayment Snr married his second wife Elizabeth Brown (nee Keynton) and they lived in Emerald Hill. Elizabeth was born in the England in 1851 and came to Emerald Hill, Melbourne with her family in 1853 as a two year old.
In 1880 James Rayment Snr bought Erdmann and Christiane Jackel’s property in Surrey Hills, moved their family there and ran a dairy. Then in 1886 they moved to 85 Croydon Rd, Surrey Hills, but continued to run the dairy.
In 1888 James Snr sold the dairy and he and Elizabeth moved back to South Melbourne while his son James Jnr continued living at 85 Croydon Rd Surrey Hills. James Rayment Snr died in South Melbourne in 1890 and Elizabeth Rayment in 1902.
THE BOARD FAMILY
Title records show that James Board bought 654 Canterbury Rd from ‘The Melbourne and Metropolitan Permanent Building and Investment Society’ in 1896 and his occupation was listed as either ‘Gentleman’ or ‘Independent means’. James owned ‘Spenceycroft’ from 1896 to 1910 and lived there with his family from 1896 to 1905.
According to Professor Lewis’s estimation the Italianate house at 654 Canterbury Road was built after 1900. It is therefore likely that the Italianate house on the front of the original late 1850’s Erdmann Jackel cottage was built by James Board.
In 1905 James rented 654 Canterbury Rd to Henry Jacob’s who lived there with his family from 1905 to 1909.
In 1910 James sold this property to Scott Sharp (Grazier) who did not live there, yet he owned the property until 1935.
At the time of James’ death in 1914 he appears to own properties in Surrey Hills and Mentone, as well as holding mortgages on approximately ten others around Melbourne.
THE JACOBS FAMILY
Henry Atwood Jacobs was born in Hastings, England in 1861 and came to Melbourne on the Roslyn Castle in 1868 with his parents and seven siblings.
In 1886 Henry Atwood Jacobs married his first wife Eleanor Dobson Mills at her parent’s large estate ‘Troqueer’ on the corner of Munro St and Riversdale Rd, Hawthorn. Records show Henry’s occupation as ‘Warehouseman’.
Eleanor was the daughter of Robert and Ann Mills and was born in Emerald Hill (South Melbourne) in 1866. Around 1887/88 her parents Robert and Ann moved from Hawthorn after they built ‘Terregles’ at 79 Warrigal Rd, Surrey Hills (which still stands there today). Robert was an Elder of St Stephens Presbyterian Church, Surrey Hills which was next to ‘Spenceycroft’, and his name is on the church's foundation stone.
Henry and Eleanor Jacobs lived at ‘Ronade’ (also spelled ‘Ronelle’ and ‘Ronacie’ in some newspapers) at 186 Mont Albert Rd (now 321 Mont Albert Rd) in Surrey Hills from 1886 to 1891.
Henry and Eleanor Jacobs had three children, but only Amelia survived their infancy.
Eleanor died aged 25 on December 12, 1891, at her parent’s home ‘Terregles’ on Boundary Rd (Warrigal Rd) Surrey Hills and Amelia lived with her grandparents until she married.
Henry and Amy Jacobs (nee Scales)
After Eleanor’s death, Henry Jacobs continued living at 186 Mont Albert Rd then three years later he married his second wife Amy Lilian Scales in 1894. Amy Scales was born in Geelong in 1862; she was the fifth daughter of Sarah and Alfred Scales.
Henry and Amy Jacobs lived at 186 Mont Albert Rd from 1894 to 1905, the house was known as ‘Woodside’ during this time and was demolished in the early 1960’s. They had four children: Eleanor May in 1895 who died shortly after birth, Alfred Nailer, Winifred and Mildred.
In 1905 the Jacobs family rented and moved to 654 Canterbury Rd (‘Spenceycroft’) where they lived for four years until moving to Toora in Gippsland in 1909. In Gippsland, Henry was a Storekeeper, a lay preacher and a Lieutenant in the Victorian Army before 1901 and after Federation in the Australian Army. He was promoted to Captain in the 6th Australian Infantry Regiment in 1903 and during WW1 served as a Major.
The family returned to Surrey Hills around 1924 and lived at 22 Suffolk Road, Surrey Hills. Henry Jacobs died aged 71 in 1932 and Amy Jacobs died suddenly at home aged 83 in 1945.
The son of Henry and Amy Jacobs
Their son Alfred Nailer Jacobs enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) as a Private at the age of 18 in 1916. He reached France in September 1917, and that month was transferred to the 15th Field Ambulance, where he worked as a stretcher-bearer.
In Bullecourt, France on 29 and 30 September 1918 Alfred ‘carried wounded soldiers continuously under heavy Machine Gun, Gas and H.E. Shell fire for 36 hours from the Relay Post.’ His exemplary work was said to have saved many members of 14th and 15th Australian Infantry Brigades, as well as American troops and German prisoners. Alfred Jacobs was appointed Sergeant in the Education Service on 23 January 1919.Based on a recommendation from his Commanding Officer Colonel Adams, Alfred was awarded the Military Medal in May 1919.
He returned to Australia in June 1919 and was demobilised in September, 1919.
Alfred graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from Melbourne University in 1925. He worked at the Melbourne, the Homoeopathic and Bendigo Hospitals until moving to Western Australia. In the late 1920’s he worked at the Fremantle Hospital and the State Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Wooroloo before practicing at Yarloop in Western Australia.
During the Great Depression, Alfred established a practice in Harvey (Western Australia), where he was responsible for about 3500 impoverished workers and their families.
In 1940, Alfred Jacobs moved to Narrogin (Western Australia) where he helped found the Narrogin Native Welfare Association (NNWA) in 1946, for which he was honorary secretary throughout the 1950's. At the Aboriginal Advancement League’s first federal conference (1958), he presented the NNWA’s demands for full citizenship, land, fishing and mining rights. Alfred seems to have inherited his strong sense of social justice from his great grandfather Reverend Thomas Scales who was a leader in the ‘anti-slavery’ campaign in the 1830’s in England.
Alfred Jacobs died at Narrogin on 26 January 1976 and his wife Eva Jacobs in 1983; they are buried next to each other in the Narrogin Cemetery, Western Australia.
Henry Jacobs’ in laws - Alfred and Sarah Scales
Alfred and Sarah Scales were Amy Jacob’s (nee Scales) parents. Sarah Angus Scales (nee Dickenson) was born near Alston in Cumberland in 1821. She lived at Spency Croft, a farm on the high moor above Alston. Her father Thomas Dickenson was a Moor master (Lead mine agent). She met her husband, Alfred Scales, at Airedale College, the academy where her uncle Walter Scott was principal. She married Alfred Scales at the Independent Chapel at Alston in 1843.
Alfred Scales was born in Alston in Cumberland in 1819. He was the eldest son of Reverend Thomas Scales of Leeds. Like his father and maternal grandfather, Alfred became an Independent Minister. Thomas was a leader in the community, a passionate supporter of the anti-slavery movement, liberal politics (the Liberal Party in England were in favour of reducing the power of the Crown and increasing the power of Parliament) and a founder of the Silcoates School for the education of sons of Independent Ministers and missionaries.
In 1838 Reverend Thomas Scales was chosen to accompany Lord Brougham, Joseph Sturge and Captain Hansard RN (Royal Navy) when they presented petitions to Queen Victoria. These were based on resolutions passed at meetings at Exeter Hall of "friends of the negro" on behalf of the enslaved people in her empire. In 1840 Thomas appears in a painting of the meeting that was held at Exeter Hall called 'The Anti-Slavery Society Convention 1840'. This was painted by renowned English painter Benjamin Haydon who also painted portraits of William Wordsworth, John Keats and the Duke of Wellington.
Alfred and Sarah Scales journey to Australia
Sarah and Alfred with their five children – William, Constance, Emily, Thomas and Alfred Jnr sailed to Melbourne in October 1852 onboard the sailing ship Blackheath. Early in the voyage William, aged 7 months, contracted typhoid and died. Constance, the eldest, aged 7, who had assisted her mother in nursing the baby William then also died. Upon reaching Cape Town in South Africa, Sarah disembarked from the ship with their three remaining children while Alfred Snr continued onto Melbourne where he arrived in March 1853. While Sarah and the children were in South Africa their oldest son Thomas, aged 3 also died but she finally arrived in Melbourne in March 1854 with Emily and Alfred Jnr. After settling in Geelong, Sarah and Alfred had five more children - Rose, Ethel, Alice, Amy and Edward (who died aged 2 years).
Alfred Scales was a Minister in the Independent Congregational Church in Geelong which was based at the Independent Chapel on Collins St; it is now called St Michael's and is on the corner of Collins and Russell St’s, Melbourne.
Sarah Scales ran ‘Miss Scales Boarding School’ in Virginia St, Geelong, in January 1859 the school moved to ‘Sunville’ mansion in Newtown. By December 1859 the Sisters of Mercy arrived and the ‘Sunville’ mansion became the home of the Convent of Our Lady of Mercy, in 1860 the Catholic Church purchased the site and established a Convent there. In the 1866-7 directory of the Geelong Advertiser, Sarah is listed at a ladies school in Packington St, Geelong.
Records show that Alfred and Sarah Scales lived in Surrey Hills from approximately 1882 to 1893 at ‘Avondale’ on Union Rd (178 Union Rd) near the corner of Guildford and Union Rd’s, the house was demolished in 1971. Sarah died in 1884 and Alfred in 1893 both at 'Avondale' in Surrey Hills.
How ‘Spenceycroft’ got its name
Henry and Amy Jacobs rented and lived at 654 Canterbury Rd, Surrey Hills from 1905 to 1909.
Amy Scales’ mother Sarah Scales (nee Dickenson) used to live on a farm called ‘Spency Croft’ near Alston in Northern England; it is highly likely that Amy named ‘Spenceycroft’ at 654 Canterbury Rd, Surrey Hills after the farm her mother grew up on.
The first time 654 Canterbury Rd is referred as ‘Spenceycroft’ was in the MMBW plan number 2241, (1909) and in the Sands and MacDougall directory (1910) during and after the time Henry and Amy Jacobs (nee Scales) had lived there.
'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 COLLINS FAMILY
William Collins lived with his brother Patrick Collins lived at 18 Russell St, Surrey Hills from 1931 to 1935 and then bought 654 Canterbury Rd in April 1935.
William was born in Bendigo in 1873 to Henry and Ellen Collins (nee Morgan). He enlisted in the 4th Victorian Imperial Bushman and served in the first Boer War from 1900 to 1902. He spent time at a training camp in Langwarrin, Victoria before sailing for South Africa on May 1st 1900 on board the transport ship Victorian.
William was severely wounded in action at a battle at Quaggashoek (South Africa) on the 12th of May 1901 and returned to Melbourne. He re enlisted in February 1902 and spent three months in South Africa before the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed on 31 May 1902 that ended the Second Anglo-Boer War.
Directory records for 1931 and 1934 list William Collins and Patrick Collins living at 18 Russell St Surrey Hills.
After William died June 15th 1936, Probate for 654 Canterbury Rd was granted to his nephew Peter Breheny who lived at 654 Canterbury Rd from 1936 to 1937.
1937 Title records show George Watson as the owner. He was the owner of the ‘Surrey Hills Omnibus Company’ located across the road at 665 Canterbury Rd, Surrey Hills (the site of the current ’Acorn Nursery’); but he did not live at 654 Canterbury Rd.
THE HAINS FAMILY
Ellen Hains was born in 1879 in Rokewood, Victoria. George Hains was born in 1874 in Amiens, France.
George operated a photography business from his home in Hawthorn in 1925 and continued operating it when in 1940 they moved to and rented 654 Canterbury Rd. He specialised in student class photos from schools in the Surrey Hills, Doncaster, Box Hill and Ringwood as well as other areas.
George and his second wife Ellen had a son named Charles who was born in 1921. In 1940 at the age of nineteen; he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) with the rank of Flight Sergeant but was shot down and killed off the coast of Malta in 1942 aged 21.
George Hains died in 1952 and Ellen Hains in 1955 both at 654 Canterbury Rd.
THE SEBASTIAN FAMILY
According to the title records Alan and Olive Sebastian were the owners who lived at 654 Canterbury Rd from 1955 to 2013.
Alan Sebastian was born in Yarrawonga in 1917 and Olive Sebastian (nee Stokes) was born in 1916 in Malvern. Both their occupations are recorded as Pastry Chef. Alan served in the Australian Civilian Military Forces (CMF) during World War 2. Alan Sebastian and Olive Stokes were married in 1955, Alan died in 2003 and Olive in 2013.
Alan and Olive Sebastian donated a copy of a photo of Spenceycroft sometime in the early 1980’s to the Surrey Hills History Group. The photo was used by the Surrey Hills History Group in the book ‘Surrey Hills – In celebration of the Centennial 1883-1983’.
THE BUILDINGS OF 'SPENCEYCROFT'
Although it is not unusual for homes to be added to or altered; the development of ‘Spenceycroft’ clearly showed two distinct styles of architecture that were built at different times. These buildings were not only historically significant individually but together they formed a very unique historical house.
To view aerial photos of 654 Canterbury Rd from 1945 to 2021 please click on the following link and enter the street address into the search box : Whitehorse Maps
The cottage building
After I consulted the world renowned Australian Professor of Architecture Miles Lewis his assessment was that the wooden cottage was built after 1855. In my investigations I found that the cottage was built by Erdmann Jackel after he bought the land in 1857; the cottage may have been built between 1857 and 1860.
In Erdmann Jackel’s 1879 Will the house is described as a ‘wooden cottage containing five rooms’.
The cottage may have also had a verandah running along the front of it facing Canterbury Rd; verandah's were a common feature of cottages/homesteads at this time. The verandah was most likely removed when the Italianate house was built on the front of the cottage.
In a 1910 MMBW map the cottage appears for the first time with the Italianate house built on the front of it.
The Italianate building
As mentioned James Board owned the property from 1896 to 1910 and lived there with his family. It is likely that he built the Italianate house on the front of the cottage during this time.
Professor of Architecture Miles Lewis’ assessment was that the style of the house that was built on the front of the cottage was suggestive of an early 20th century ‘Sub Italianate’ style. Professor Lewis based his evaluation on the design elements of the house such as the verandah frieze, convex verandah roof, and terracotta ridging. He also stated that the main stylistic details such as the bracketed cornice, tripartite windows and blocked boarding were derived from the ‘Italianate’ but the symmetrical form does not, as it is also found on many otherwise ‘Italianate’ nineteenth century houses’. Professor Lewis stated that the house was built in front of the cottage after 1900.
Features of the cottage and Italianate building
The house had a number of features that included a Bay window on the western side to catch the afternoon sun and sunset, external storage cupboards, a fountain and pond in front of the north side of the house around which there was circular driveway. There may have been many other features but these are now lost, a heritage assessment may have found other features that may have been of significant heritage value.
One of the unique features of the house was the front door bell which was made in Belgium in the early 20th century. This type of bell was used as Sacristy Bells in the Roman Catholic Church in Belgium & France.
In the front garden there was a pond and a fountain. The first record of the pond appeared on a MMBW survey map (no 2241) in 1909. The pond and fountain was a feature at the front of the house - a heritage assessment may have found if it was of significant heritage value.
The house had a large mature garden which was a part of the local environment for 160 years, its history and was an integral setting for the house. The gardens may have been overgrown but with a little attention the overall structure was still present and could have been fully restored. The garden was planted with numerous varieties of shrubs and bushes which an assessment by an Arborist may have found plants of significant heritage or horticultural value. I have searched the Whitehorse Councils Planning Register but I could not find an Arborists report, the trees and gardens were not covered by a Vegetation Protection Overlay (VPO).
THE REDEVELOPMENT OF "SPENCEYCROFT'
In 2015 local social media stated ‘In recent years Spenceycroft has been sold several times and has become increasingly derelict’. According to the title records Alan and Olive Sebastian were the owners who lived at 654 Canterbury Rd from 1955 to 2013. After Olive Sebastian’s death in 2013 the house was sold in September, 2014 to a Bulleen resident and then in July, 2015 sold again to a Surrey Hills resident who developed the site. Photographs taken in September 2014 and in July 2015 (as part of the online sales campaign) show that the house was in a well maintained condition when it was sold.
In June, 2016 an application was lodged with Whitehorse Council (WH/2016/476) to subdivide the land into three lots and approval was granted in July, 2016. In December, 2016 a Building Application (2933/2016) was lodged by a Private Building Surveyor and was approved in January, 2017. I searched the online register of Whitehorse Councils Planning site but did not find a ‘Planning Application’ or a ‘Planning Application at Advertising’ in regards to the development of this site. I rang the Whitehorse Council and spoke to the Planning Department but they could not find a Planning Application. I eventually found the application (2933/2016) under the ‘Building Application Register’ not the usual ‘Planning Register – at Advertising’. Why was it done in this way? Subsequently the historic house was demolished and one building of two units was built on the site.
In an article in the Whitehorse Leader in February 2015 the Whitehorse Council proposed heritage overlays for a number of buildings/sites within Whitehorse. In Surrey Hills, heritage overlays were proposed for two houses, one church and the Telstra communications tower at 730 Canterbury Rd, Surrey Hills. ‘Spenceycroft’ at 654 Canterbury Rd, Surrey Hills was not included in the Heritage Overlay proposal. In my investigations I did not find a heritage assessment, evaluation, article, comment, mention, report or a citation for ‘Spenceycroft’ at 654 Canterbury Rd, Surrey Hills.
THE FUTURE FOR THE CITY OF WHITEHORSE
The house did not have a Council Heritage Overlay, it was not on the Heritage Victoria Register or on the Register of the National Estate or registered with the National Trust. The house should have been considered for registration with all of these organisations to better protect and preserve it for current and future generations to learn from and enjoy.
A very dangerous precedent has been set by the destruction of this house and its deep and rich history - this is not only a loss for the residents of Surrey Hills and Whitehorse but for Australia. All we have left to show for 170 years of human and built history at 654 Canterbury Rd, Surrey Hills is one photo of the front of the Italianate house and what I have written about it. What a loss!
The families that built and lived in the house are not being recognised for their contributions to the history of Surrey Hills and Whitehorse.
This is an abridged version of my original extensive research.
The demolition or irrevocable changes made 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/protections.
When will the Victorian government implement heritage legislation that better protects our built heritage.
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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.