GLEN EIRA - WARTS AND ALL

[Carol Stals]

Carol Stals Brought the House Down with Her Talk on Glen Eira

As a resident of Glen Eira, Carol Stals has developed a keen interest in its history. She has been a member of the Port Phillip Pioneers Group for many years, a member of the Glen Eira Historical Society and also the St. Kilda Historical Society.

Glen Eira City Council was formed in 1994 following the amalgamation of the Shires of Caulfield and Moorabbin. It was named after 'Glen Eira House,' (demolished) which stood on 25 acres of land in Caulfield and was owned by Henry Ricketson. During World War 1 the house was commandeered as the 11th Australian General Hospital.

As many as 3,000 casualties might be brought to the hospital in a week. However there were no aftercare facilities and men were ofter billeted with local families. The Red Cross raised funds to build a small Rest Home adjacent to which a bowling green and a Returned Servicemens' League Club were established.

Very little is left from the World War I era, but what is left represents the history of the military in Caulfield. The original Red Cross Rest Home is now 'Montgomery House' at the Caulfield Hospital. It is fully intact externally and is still in use. With the support of the National Trust, Carol Stals advises that a Heritage Order has been received for the building and it is hoped that it will now get the publicity it deserves, so the local people can be aware of the building and its importance.

One of the oldest establishments still standing in Glen Eira is the 'Elsternwick Hotel' built in 1854. In a painting done by surveyor Robert Russell the hotel seems to stand in a wilderness and in fact the area was known for its bushrangers. Even Thomas Bent was bailed up, robbed and tied to a tree. Today the local football team calls itself the 'Bushrangers.'

'Glen Huntly House' was built in 1854 by architect Thomas Watts. He named it after the ship "Glen Huntly" which docked in the Port Phillip District in April 1840 with typhus on board. A temporary hospital was erected at Red Bluff and a track worn by people going to and from the hospital later became Glen Huntly Road. Thomas Watts was a charitable man and opened the front room of his house to different religious groups for Sunday services until churches were built.

Other generous people were Harold and Annie Pennington. Their home, 'Mood Kee' (spelt 'Moodkee' in early newspaper reports seen on Trove) was no mansion. It was named after the town of Mudki in India, where Harold had fought with the British East India Company. Although a humble mud brick abode its walls contained corridors in which one could hide if attacked by aborigines. Harold Pennington was called the 'grandfather of Caulfield.' The front room of his house was used for council meetings for 20 years. He was the first settler in Caulfield and a founding member of St. Mary's Church of England in Glen Eira Road. A modest, hardworking couple, they are buried in unmarked graves at the Brighton Cemetery.

The stately Caulfield Shire Hall, always referred to as the Town Hall, was designed by shire surveyor Sydney Smith in 1885. It originally contained the Post Office, Court Room and Police Station and has had some major changes over the years; in particular the addition of a portico and clock tower.

A smaller building was the 'London Tavern' in an area called Camden Town. Although mentioned in Sands & McDougall directories the name Camden Town is no longer used. The Tavern was built before 1866 and catered for the local working class. Men were employed as saddlers, strappers, etc., and the very large number of women working were in occupations such as dressmaking and millinery.

Another 'town' which has disappeared is Rosstown. This was an area named by Murray Ross of 'The Grange' in Caulfield. He built a six storey sugar refinery referred to as Ross's Folly as it never refined any sugar. It even had its own railway line, but used once only. Rosstown later became Carnegie.

'Halstead Mansion' built c1856 is the oldest surviving house in Caulfield. 'Crotonhurst,' another early home has been demolished, but its stables were purchased by Keith Murdoch and re-erected at 'Cruden Farm', Langwarrin. 'Frogmore' at 1 Wahgoo Road, Carnegie, originally owned by William Lyall, has over recent years been a nursing home. Despite it having been demolished in 2015, the site remains undeveloped after fourteen months. ('Frogmore' can still be seen in an earth view on Google Maps.)

There have been many noteworthy people living in Glen Eira. Amongst them were gangsters Squizzy Taylor and Ida Pender. Also spies Vladimir and Evdoka Petrov. Evdoka, known as Maria Allyson lived quietly in Bentleigh for 25 years. Builder A. V. Jennings lived in the area, as did ice cream maker William John Sennitt. David Warren invented the black box flight recorder and Will Alma was a famous magician.

Of artistic fame were the Boyd family at 'Glenfern House;' Sir William Dargie OBE, winner of eight Archibald Prizes and Harold Freedman who made a huge mural at Spencer Street Station.

Politicians included Thomas Bent; Joan Child; and quiz master Barry Jones. Katherine Susannah Prichard was a political activist and writer, and George Johnson was the author of 'My Brother Jack.'

There are endless tales about Caulfield Racecourse. Caulfield Station had a 'horse' platform, Phar Lap was stabled nearby, and Rothschild Street was named after the wealthy Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild.

'Box Cottage' in Jasper Road, Glen Eira and a World War 1 exhibition at the Glen Eira Town Hall offer more information about Glen Eira.

( The above is a report on Carol Stals's address at the General Meeting on 12 November 2016 )

( Contributed by Jan Hanslow. PPPG Member No. 1057 )


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