The actual name of Avondale Heights was derived from the old name of area between Clarendon Street, Military Road and Brown Street, which was for many years known as Avondale Estate.
The postal area of what is now known as Avondale Heights was previously Maribyrnong West. Some years ago the Council took action to re-name the area. It was agreed that the name of the area now known as Avondale Heights should be called Avondale after the fore-mentioned subdivisional estate.
However, the postal authorities drew attention to the fact that there was a similar town in Queensland by the same name as “Avondale” and in consequence of this, “Heights” was added to the original proposal by Council.
During the 1930’s, when Avondale Heights was known as West Maribyrnong, the district was subdivided into small dairy and cattle farms, with some poultry farming. Some of the families who lived in the area at that time were – Ahern, Duffy, Pearson,, Creegan , Fitzpatrick, Engblom, Johnston, McKenna, Roberts, Grech, Lauricella and Hicks.
Three separate market gardens owned by the Aherns, were rented originally by Chinese farmers.
The area, a plateau above the Maribyrnong River has a superb view of the distant city.
In the 1960’s the area was still dotted with small farms, with a small row of shops, it has grown as a suburb since then.
There is only one main road – Military Road which runs from Canning Street and Maribyrnong Road, then becomes Milleara Road; which has a row of shops about 60 at the Canning Street end and 30 at the other end.
Geological History of the Area
The Maribyrnong River was originally called ‘Salt Water River’, because sea water from the Hobson’s Bay penetrated the river for a considerable distance. The skeletons of a shark and dolphin were found under Maribyrnong Park, while oysters and other marine shells have been found where Steele Creek enters the Maribyrnong. Once the tides of Hobson’s Bay influenced the Maribyrnong as far as Braybrook and Avondale Heights.
Volcanic rocks have determined much of the physical character of the area. Molten lava flowed from active vents and cooled to form sheets of basalt, or bluestone. the flat plains of the Western Suburbs, owe their flatness to these lava flows.
Since the plains of bluestone were formed, the Maribyrnong River has cut through the plain, and it is because this rock was so hard and resistant that the river has such steep banks.
Bluestone from Fowler’s Quarry at Niddrie is about four and a half million years old. This means that rock in the Keilor Plains area belongs to the geologic period called Pliocene.
Aboriginal people that lived in the area from before white settlement were the members of the local clans, the Wurundjeri and the Marin-Balluk.
On their journey of exploration from Sydney to Victoria, Hume and Hovell made their way towards the Keilor Plains, passing over the site where Keilor is today, until they reached the sea near Geelong. They were the first white men to travel over the great plain which sweeps up from Port Phillip to Sunbury.
The Keilor Plains
The Keilor Plains are composed of bluestone rock, which flowed down as molten lava from the Sunbury area towards Port Phillip Bay. the bluestone rock north of the Maribyrnong River ( where Avondale Heights is today) is some of the oldest volcanic rock in Melbourne.
Solomon’s Ford is at the west end of Canning Street. In 1803, an expedition led by Charles Grimes, the New South Wales Surveyor General, sailed up the Yarra and sent a party in a rowing boat up the Saltwater (Maribyrnong) River. The boat got as far as Solomon’s Ford and could not go any further. Grimes was the first recorded white man to explore the area. The ford was named after Michael Solomon who had a sheep station there. He was one of the first settlers in Victoria.
The first record of European farming interests in the area was in 1835, when Edmund Davis Fergusson and Michael Solomon had a pastoral holding in the Avondale Sunshine area.
Solomon’s ford was the lowest crossing point on the Saltwater (Maribyrnong) River, and was for many years the only way from Melbourne to Geelong and westward.
Canning St Bridge
During World War 1 you had to know a password to cross over the Cordite Bridge, which is now known as the Canning St Bridge. A curfew on the river was imposed at the beginning of World War 2 from 6pm to 6am. A boom was drawn across the water to stop any access.
First Evidence of Humans in the Area
On the 10th October 1940, Mr. James White dug up an ancient human skull, (now known as the Keilor Cranium) on the banks of the Maribyrnong River. This skull has been found to be more than 8,000 years and less than 15,800 years old.
Evidence has been found along the Maribyrnong River that proves that people lived in the area 18,000 years ago.
Animal bones were excavated and sent to the museum where work was done to determine which animals they belonged to, thus it has been possible to learn about part of the fauna of the Maribyrnong River valley during the latter part of the Ice age. Bones of Diprotodon or two-toothed marsupial as big as a Thylacoleo (Marsupial lion), and a Tasmanian Devil larger than the species living now. Kangaroos and wombats also lived in the Maribyrnong Valley at the same time, which was 31,000 years ago according to the radio-carbon analysis on charcoal from the same matrix as their bones.
Jennison, S, 1997, Keilor’s Heritage, Keilor Historical Society, Keilor,Vic; pp72-74
Other information from Sam Merrifield Library Local History Collection