Balwyn is a residential suburb 10 km. east of Melbourne. To its south are Canterbury and Surrey Hills and northwards are Balwyn North and Greythorn, which extend to the Koonung Koonung Creek.

Balwyn was part of Henry Elgar’s Special Survey of 8 square miles (1841), which was subdivided into small farms and grazing runs. One of the subdivisions was bought by a Scots editor and journalist, Andrew Murray (1813-80), in the late 1850s. He built a house which he named Balwyn, approximately on the site of the present Fintona Girls’ School in Balwyn Road. Murray planted a vineyard, and reputedly derived “Balwyn” from the Gaelic “bal” and the Saxon”wyn”. Other vineyards prospered until the 1890s, and grape vine branches formed part of Camberwell city’s crest. Balwyn was in the north of Camberwell city.

In 1868 the Balwyn primary school was opened in Balwyn Road, about 100 metres north of Whitehorse Road. It was moved tothe present site, south of Whitehorse Road, in 1880, opposite Murray’s property. Balwyn’s first town centre was near the intersection of Balwyn and WhitehorseRoads, containing a few shops, a blacksmith and the athenaeum or mechanics’institute. Anglican services began in 1868 and the St. Barnabas church, Balwyn Road, was opened in 1872. It is on the Register of the National Estate.

The southern part of Balwyn contains Deepdene,which in 1891 had a station on the Outer Circle railway running from Oakleighto Fairfield via Camberwell. The railway was built with land subdivisionsales in view, but its partial closure in a few years dampened prospects.A service continued from Camberwell to Deepdene until 1943, the last steamtrain service in metropolitan Melbourne, the “Deepdene Dasher”.Deepdene’s residential development awaited tramline extension in 1916 -northwards along Burke Road to Whitehorse Road and eastwards along WhitehorseRoad to Surrey Hills. Further to the north Balwyn had neither train nor tram, and a tram extension along Doncaster Road did not come until 1938.The terminus, however, was short of Balwyn’s easterly limit and the areas beyond the terminus (Balwyn North and Greythorn) awaited development inthe 1950s and 1960s.

Deepdene primary school was opened in 1915. TheCamberwell Grammar School, at the southern edge of Deepdene, occupies “Roystead”,which was a name given to one of the stations on the Outer Circle. Deepdeneh as an active strip shopping centre along the Whitehorse Road tramline,and further east Whitehorse Road shops are situated in Balwyn.

Balwyn’s strip shopping centre is larger than Deepdene’s,with a council library and community centre nearby. There are several reserves,one of them being Beckett park on an elevated site. Adjoining the park isthe Maranoa Garden, planted with a diverse collection of Australian flora.Oliver J. Gilpen’s mansion, subsequently Mary’s Mount convent and accommodationfor elderly persons, is near Maranoa Gardens.

Balwyn North, larger in area than Balwyn and Deepdenetogether, is predominantly postwar in its residential growth. In 1941 BalwynNorth was described as the next housing-site destination after the occupationof the Mont Albert Ridge in Balwyn was completed. The Doncaster Road ridge,Balwyn North, had a lovely view of the Yarra Valley and the Koonung Creekand in the opalescent distance, the sprawling city. Balwyn North was a mixtureof expensive suburban houses with beautiful gardens, and decayed dairy farmsand orchards, with tumbled down fences awaiting subdivision. The shops atBurke Road and Doncaster Roads are known as Dickens Corner, the site ofG.J. Coles and Coy’s first Supermarket (1961), which traded under the S.E.Dickens grocery banner. Neighbourhood reserves are fewer, but there arethree large ones with ovals and other facilities. There are three primaryschools (North Balwyn, Greythorn and Boroondara), and two high schools (Balwyn,years 7-10, Greythorn, years 11-12). The schools were opened between 1950and 1958. Greythorn named after Greythorn Road (so named because the firstproposed name, Whitethorn, was too like Whitehorse), is a locality withinthe larger Balwyn North. So too is Bellevue, near where Bulleen Road joinsthe Eastern Freeway as it skirts Balwyn North.

At the boundary between Balwyn and Balwyn North,the Yooralla Hospital for Crippled Children (Carlton) opened a branch at the corner of Belmore and Balwyn Roads. The locality is known as Yooralla, along with the few shops and a post office, although the school has altered in scope and is the Belmore Special School.

Between 1987 and 1996 the median house price in Balwyn was about 75% above the metropolitan median, and for Balwyn Northit was about 85% above the metropolitan median.

Further Reading:

  • Blainey, Geoffrey, “A History of Camberwell”,Lothian Publishing Company Pty. Ltd., 1980.
  • Maclean, Donald, “Balwyn 1841-1941”,Catherine Gregson, Melbourne, 1942.

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