The village we all know and love as Mount Eliza is dripping in a rich history of visionary property developers, local produce and garden party soirees in immaculately landscaped grounds overlooking the bay.
In among the glamour, there are also some very sad stories, alongside incredible stories of survival and resilience.
Beautifully documented history of ‘the Mount’ is already available online and via the Mornington and District Historical Society. And 'Ranelagh: A Special Place' is a great read if you love to learn about local history.
Over time we’ll gather and share stories from Mount Eliza’s past with you. Rather than recast the carefully researched histories already documented, here are some fascinating conversations starters from the archives for your next social event.
'Mt. Eliza' snippets of history (up to the 1930s)
In 1836 Mount Eliza was named after the wife of explorer, grazier and entrepreneur Mr John Batman. Interestingly, Mount Eliza was referred to as ‘the Mount’ back in the 1920s. Shortening names and words is clearly not just a habit of current generations. While my peers take great care in spelling out ‘Mount’, historical archives and newspaper snippets all refer to ‘Mt. Eliza’.
You'll also find reference to 'Humphreys Road' in this article, the original name of today's Humphries Road. Despite investigations, this author couldn't crack the history behind the change in name, but it seems to have happened between 1921 and 1931.
Did you know...?
Mount Eliza has been hot property since 1854
- The area that is now Mount Eliza was once a part of New South Wales: up until 1851, the Port Phillip District was an administrative division of New South Wales!
- Going, going. Sold...: in 1854 the first auction sale of Crown lands at Mt. Eliza was held.
- Coastal acreage: the first buyer of Mt. Eliza real estate was Mr J T Smith who bought 280 acres ‘on the coast’ known as ‘Nyora’.
Thank you to Diane Dick (who is currently writing the book about Ranelagh mentioned earlier), who shared this with Live Love Mount Eliza in mid June 2016."... there is a Reserve named after Mr J T Smith which has a memorial erected by the Ranelagh Residents' Association in 1973 using some of the bricks from his original cottage. He was a Mayor of Melbourne on seven occasions between 1851 and 1864. Smith Street in Collingwood is named after him."
- In 1859 Mr Henry Cabdy Wells and his family moved in to 'Nyora' as tenants.
- Ranelagh estate was an early experiment in bringing country club design to Australia: after Mr Smith’s passing and a couple of incumbent residents, Nyora was eventually subdivided under the name ‘Ranelagh’. The precinct was designed by renowned international architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. Visit Ranelagh Club > History for a well researched and written summary.
- Gold rush mania: the fever of the gold rush drove lots of real estate interest in Mount Eliza.
Mount Eliza has always been a community of producers
- A viticulture past: the Wells family grew wheat and planted a vineyard. While vineyards didn’t take off in Mount Eliza, the quality of grapes was said to be excellent.
- Organic home grown produce: prominent land owners graced their ample estates with orchards, vineyards and English influenced gardens of roses and hedges.
Mount Eliza was rich in natural resources and through innovation, exports thrived
- Clay for building: landlord Mr J T Smith loved the outlook from Nyora and moved in. He renovated and extended ‘the bungalow’ using clay obtained from our very own Canadian Bay.
- Firewood for export: the name Canadian Bay came about because three Canadians were camped in Canadian Bay cutting and shipping firewood.
- Fresh schnapper for well fed villagers: a sea captain named Lintot bought 290 acres next to Nyora, built a house and named it Earimil. Lintot was a keen fisherman and pulled plenty of schnapper from Linton’s Reef.
- Productive homesteads: From the 1850s emerged a community of comfortable homesteads with orchards, gardens, horses and the occasional land owner or tenant had cattle grazing and wheat growing.
- Plentiful kangaroos for sport and economic gain: pickled kangaroo hams were a Mount Eliza specialty, sold to Melbourne.
- The gold rush came to the Mount for a moment: there was thought to be gold in Krackerboite Creek because of the presence of mica, a mineral so illuminating that is now widely used by cosmetic companies in luminescent makeup. A few mine shafts were sunk but mica, not gold, was struck.
- Bred horses for export to India: in 1851, Mr James Davey built a home ‘Marysville’ on the top of the cliff overlooking what we now know as Davey’s Bay. He built a jetty to send off freight - timber and firewood and later livestock and tallow. And... he bred horses for India!
- Purple flowered Polygala sprung from Marysville: Mr James Davey bought six seedlings of the Polygala plant and it spread itself far and wide throughout Mount Eliza. Unfortunately this one isn’t a great story in terms of biodiversity outcomes!
"About 30 people gathered at Yamala, on Oliver's Hill, where Miss Marea Lucas was the hostess for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. They then went to the Ranelagh home of Mr. and Mrs. Jack McComas for the first course, followed by the main course provided by Mr. Mick Syme at Hartley Cottage, Mount Eliza.”
– Extract from The Argus newspaper, New Year’s Eve 1938 (trove.nla.gov.au)
What’s in a Mount Eliza name?
- Moondah: in 1888 Mr James Grice bought the southern boundary of Earimil down to Gunyong Creek, 250 acres known as Moondah. In indigenous language, Moondah means ‘black snake’ and refers to the creek running through it.
- Manyong or Manyung: on the other side of Gunyong Creek to Manmangur Creek, 280 acres was sold to Mr Richard Grice. Grice gave it the name ‘ManYong’ a combination of the first and last syllables of each of the creeks.
- Humphreys Road (now Humphries Road): was named after Mrs Wooley’s brother Mr Humphrey. Mrs Wooley was the wife of William Wooley who bought some land in conjunction with Mr James Davey.
- Oliver’s Hill: was known as ‘Old Man Davey’s Hill’ after James Davey’s father – William Davey. Mr James Oliver, a fisherman and carpenter, joined the residents on Old Man Davey’s Hill when he bought property there. He was frequently seen gazing out to sea considering the fishing conditions so the area evolved to being referred to as ‘Olivers Hill’.
- A quick history on Davey’s Bay: between Boundary and Humphreys Road 2,278 acres was split into six separate blocks including a 640 acre block, four 391 acre blocks; and one odd lot of 74 acres. In 1839, 21 year old Mr James Davey was granted a pre-emptive right on the largest block (Kackeraboite Creek runs through it). He then built a small home where the ‘Marathon’ homestead used to be. He later built a larger home ‘Marysville’ on the top of the cliff overlooking what we now know as Davey’s Bay. In 1854 he exercised his right to buy the freehold. He gave 20 acres known as ‘Beachleigh’ to renowned architect Mr Thomas Watts who built a house on it in 1878. Reverend Mr Campbell bought 80 acres from Mr Davey and built ‘Glen Shian’. William Woolley and James Davey bought 162 acres named ‘Yamala’.
- Mount Eliza’s first reported homicide: in 1862, land owner William Hastings’ wife disappeared. Her body was later found in Gunyong Creek. He was found guilty and was hanged for his crime.
- The Ritchies family: ‘Ritchies: a trolley load of history’ is an engaging book that details the incredibly challenging lives of the Ritchies family. It is a fantastic read. Mr Thomas Ritchie was one of the earliest residents of the Mount. He left England to find his fortune in gold, surviving a ship wreck but losing everything he had. He didn’t find his fortune on the goldfields. In 1854, he married Miss Kennedy and settled on ‘Old Man Davey’s Hill’. Tragically, in 1863 the Ritchies’ homestead burnt down and the charred remains of four of their eldest children were found. And the challenges and loss continued. Mount Eliza’s IGA Ritchies is indeed a survivor and success story that has defied the odds.
- You could once sail a boat straight into Sweetwater Creek!
We can't wait to share many more historical stories from Mount Eliza from local families, to incredible mid 20th century architecture, to the history of our schools and local landmarks.
Article funded by Vicki Sayers, Live Love Mount Eliza | Written by Julie Pearce, Content Services Melbourne
The Argus, Melbourne extract: courtesy of www.trove.nla.gov.au
Historical images: courtesy of http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/ (all out of copyright and free for public use)
Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip; Billis R V & Kenyon AS; MacMillon & Co. 1932 - http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-29718849/view#page/n5/mode/1up
The Early History of Mount Eliza on the Mornington Peninsula; compiled for the Mt. Eliza Progress Association in 1926 - http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-43723395/view?searchTerm=mount+eliza+#page/n7/mode/1up/search/mount+eliza