Exploring England Studley Park Modern

Timeline Part One: op to the 1890s crash[1]

Since at least 40,000 years ago...         

... the Wurundjeri---one of several clans forming the Woi Wurrung language group which collectively belong to the area drained by the Yarra River and its tributaries---fish, hunt and gather food[2]

1803            Surveyor General of NSW, Charles Grimes, and his party make an expedition to Port Phillip and journey up the Yarra. Having come to the impasse of Dights Falls they proceeded inland for about half a mile on foot.[3]

1840            Born at Studley in the English county of Yorkshire, John Hodgson (1799 to 1860) takes a squatting licence over land on the eastern bank of the Yarra River and names the area Studley Park.[4]  Hodgson establishes the Studley Punt in the 1840s taking traffic across the river at the point where the bridge now crosses the river at the beginning of Studley Park Road.

1843            Robert Hoddle directs a survey which establishes Barkers Rd as the southern boundary of the Parish of Boroondara (in the County of Bourke). 'Boroondara' is a Woi Wurrung word meaning 'a place of shade'.[5]

1845            On January 22, in the first successful sale of land in Boroondara, Thomas Wills, an early settler from Fairfield with a convict past (who became wealthy and respected)[6] purchases lot 60 of crown section 14, the area bounded by Wills, Molesworth and Princess Streets. He names the property Willsmere.



 1851            Further Crown land sales of lots of between 15 and 80 ha.

While Kilby, Willsmere and Belford remain working farms well into the 20th century, other parcels of land further south begin to be subdivided for housing.

Nicholas Fenwick, then Commissioner for Crown Lands, subdivides his 112.5 acres estate into quarter-hectare blocks with streets laid out. He names the streets after English statesmen (Walpole, Gladstone, etc.), and the subdivision was named Kew, probably because its closeness to Richmond mirrored the relationship between London's suburbs of the same names. The estate was north-east of the Kew junction, bordered by Princess and High Streets. Fenwick provides Church of England with land for the Kew Primary School.

1856            Proclamation of the Boroondara Road Board District, comprising Kew, Hawthorn and Camberwell

The state government reserves land near the river (originally envisaged as a site for a village) for a mental asylum. The project is delayed and increasingly objected to by the borough council.

1857            Construction for John Hodgson MLC, of Studley House at 15 Nolan Avenue south of Studley Park Rd, now occupied by Xavier College preparatory school

1858            Construction at 7 Barry St of D'Estaville for Sir William Foster Stawell, first Attorney General and later Chief Justice of Victoria

1863            Joseph Butterworth Coombs purchases part of Lot 79 from Dr Thomas Black earlier conveyed to Dr Black by Fairfax, Fenwick and Bell.

1865            Subdivision of 'land adjoining the property of Sir William Stawell', resulting in extension of Barry Street and the creation of Conran St (now called Holroyd St) and Sir William Street and Studley Ave

1860            After Hawthorn effectively secedes from the Board, Kew acts likewise and is proclaimed a municipality on 22 December. It becomes a borough on 1 October, 1863.[7]

1863            Burn family establishes Riversdale, the first of many boathouses on the Yarra River. Now known as Studley Park Boathouse, it is the oldest continually operating public boathouse in Victoria.

1871            Kew Lunatic Asylum completed 'to house the growing number of 'lunatics', 'inebriates' and 'idiots' in the Colony of Victoria'. The Kew Cottages for children are added in 1887.

1871            Henry 'Money' Miller moves from  Richmond somewhere near the Town Hall to Findon, now long gone. Findon had been owned by Stephen Henty, famous for the early   settlement at Portland, Victoria and later a member of the Legislative Council. The property had been mortgaged to Henry Miller and later conveyed to him.


1881            Portion 79 of the Borough of Kew divided into Studley Park Reserve (between Raheen and Fenwick Street) and Queens Park which fronted Princess St north of Stawell Street

Land on Walmer St south of Studley Park Rd divided into four irregular allotments

Mt Pleasant Estate subdivision created, comprising the area bound by Conran Street (now called Holroyd St), Princess Street and Molesworth Street, running right down to river[8]



1882            David Syme purchases a property by the name of Blytheswood located in the southern-most corner of Studley Park South, close to Victoria Street and the Yarra River

1884            Opening of the Victoria St Bridge providing access via the cable tram to the city

                   Construction of Knowsley, later known as Raheen, for Edward Latham of the Carlton Brewery, later purchased by Sir Henry Wrixon and then transferred to Catholic Church

1887            Horse tram established from Boroondara Cemetery to Victoria Bridge

1888-94       Construction of houses on the south side of Wills Street , e.g. 33 Wills St for hardware merchant  Charles Green in 1892 and 47 Wills St in 1894

Initially the brick Victorian villas, sited on generous allotments, were afforded pleasant views facing the open lands of the Kew Asylum grounds. Houses were built on the north side of Wills Street during the 1950s.

1889            Construction of Inverkelty mansion at 11 Redmond Street, sited to take advantage of elevated view of city, for William Kelty, manager of the Victorian Freehold Bank and later director of British Bank of Australia Ltd

1890            Rosebank Estate (bordered by Princess, Wills, Redmond and Molesworth Streets) subdivided and offered for sale for a second time[9], but lack of transport once again deters many buyers

1891            Outer-circle railway line stations Fairfield Park to Riversdale opens in March with stations at Willsmere and East Kew but is closed just a couple of years later due to lack of passenger traffic. The line is dismantled in 1930 to allow construction of the Chandler Highway... bridge still visible near wood-yard at Harp Junction

 [1] Material in this timeline is drawn mainly from  Pru Sanderson's Development History of Kew, City of Kew Urban Conservation Study, Volume 2 1988, Available from http://tinyurl.com/y394a3y. Some of the sources cited in Sanderson report include: 

                 Beardsell, David V and Herbert, Bruce H. The Outer Circle: A History of the Oakleigh to Fairfield RailwayAustralian Railway Historical Society, 1979

 Rogers, Dorothy. A History of Kew, Lowden Publishing Co., 1973

 Vaughan, W.D. Kew's Civic Century, W.D. Vaughan Pty. Ltd., 1960

[2] The City of Boroondara's Indigenous Heritage Study can be viewed at any of the City's libraries.

[3] James Fleming, one of the Grimes party, wrote in his diary that the land was

stony, about six inches of black soil (with) white clay at the bottom... (Mr Robbins) got up a tree; saw it to be a gently rising hill, clothed with trees for ten or fifteen miles. A little above the fall there is a small island, and the river divides in two. The timber in general is gum, oak and banksia; the latter two are small, the gum two to four feet in diameter, and from ten to thirty feet high, on some of the low ground they are something larger.

[4] Hodgson's "Studley" in Nolan Avenue is on the Register of the National Estate and his surname became a street name on the southern side of Studley Park Road.

[5] For details of the history of contact between white settlers and the Wurundjeri people in this immediate area, see the Boroondara Indigenous Study.  An online-document produced by St Pauls Church in East Kew aimed mainly at local parishioners and focuses on the history of local churches and schools also contains some interesting material on this topic---see http://www.stpaulseastkew.com/about/kewhistory.html.

[6] Wills left his property to his nephew the colourful Thomas Wentworth Wills, who was influential in establishing Australian Rules football. Wills spends time in the Kew Lunatic Asylum and, shortly before his suicide in 1880, the Melbourne Hospital.

[7] Kew municipality's census populations were 1,439 (1861), 8,462 (1891), 17,382 (1921), 20,859 (1947), 33,341 (1961) and 27,291 (1991). On 22 June 1994, Kew City was once again united with Camberwell and Hawthorn cities to form the City of Boroondara.

[8] The northern end of what is now Studley Av is labelled as 'Wills St' (or is it Wilis?) in the 1881 plan of the Mount Pleasant allotment.

[9] It and Section 61, Mount Pleasant Estate immediately to the south, were first offered for sale in 1881.