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.

Clifton Hill

Clifton Hill is a residential suburb 4 km north-east of Melbourne, separated from Collingwood by Alexandra Parade and the Eastern Freeway. Its eastern boundary is the Merri Creek, and the northern boundary is the road to Heidelberg.

An early landowner, better known in Richmond, was John Docker, who owned Clifton Farm in 1841. A land speculator, John Knipe, later named the area Clifton Hill.

The Melbourne City Council operated a basalt quarry in Clifton Hill, between Yambla Street and the Merri Creek, in the 1850s, continuing until the 1950s. Most of the other land was held by the Crown for agistment purposes, and Government land sales began in 1864. Residential settlement ended the use of Clifton Hill for the burial of sewage in the 1870s. It was the more salubrious part of Collingwood council’s area, having elevated land with larger houses and two reserves. Mayors Park and Darling Gardens. It had about seven houses per acre compared with fifteen per acre in Collingwood, south of Alexandra parade. Most were red brick and terra cotta tile compared with weatherboard and iron roofs in Collingwood.

An industrial landmark, the shot tower, was erected beside Alexandra Parade in 1882. Primary schools were opened in Gold Street (1874) and Spensley Street (1891). The shot tower and the Gold Street school are on the Victorian Heritage Register, as is the railway station (1888). The railway line connected Collingwood and Heidelberg until a link between Princes Bridge and Collingwood was opened in 1901.

Of more commercial significance was the cable tram (1887), which brought the Smith Street shops within easier reach. A local shopping strip grew along the tramline in Queens Parade.

Clifton Hill’s residential attraction lessened after the turn of the century as middle class housing grew in the eastern suburb and industry took up land for factories. The Victorian Municipal Directory described Clifton Hill in 1933 as –


The Merri Creek loops around the eastern and part of the northern boundary. By the 1990s the whole of the river bank was edged with parklands, including a large space occupying the quarries site. Clifton Hill underwent accelerated gentrification compared with Collingwood: by 1987 Clifton Hill’s median house price was 112% of the metropolitan median, and in 1996 it was 160%.

There is an attractive shopping centre along Queens Parade, separated from the main thoroughfare by a plantation and subsidiary motor track. The shop facades are in a good state of preservation and comparatively few have fallen to non-retail uses.

Further Reading:

  • Barrett, Bernard, The Inner Suburbs: The evolution of an industrial area, Melbourne University Press, 1971.
  • The Flat and the Hill: Conserving Old Collingwood, Department of Planning and Housing and the City if Collingwood, 1991.


Kew is a residential suburb 6 km. east of Melbourne, bordered on its west and north by the Yarra River, on its south by Hawthorn and on its east by Balwyn.

In 1840 John Hodgson (1799-1860) took a squatting licence over Studley Park, on Kew’s eastern bank of the Yarra River. Hodgson was born at Studley, Yorkshire (hence “Studley Park”), and his surname became a street name in a subdivision nearby. Hodgson’s “Studley” in Nolan Avenue is on the Register of the National Estate. In 1851 Crown land sales in lots of between 15 and 80 ha. took place in Kew. One of the purchasers, Nicholas Fenwick had his 495 ha. estate subdivided into quarter-hectare blocks with streets laid out. He named 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.

Access across the river was provided early in the 1850s by a bridge to Burwood Road, Hawthorn which resulted in Hawthorn being developed ahead of Kew. Nevertheless, two hotels were opened along High Street by 1854, one at the junction and the other, the Harp of Erin, at the corner of High Street and Harp Road. Congregational, Baptist, Primitive Methodist and Anglican churches were opened in 1854, 1855, 1856 and 1858 respectively. The Anglican church opened a school in 1856 and the combined Protestant Churches opened one in 1859. It was replaced by a government school in 1870. Direct access to Kew was gained when the Johnston Street bridge was built in 1858.

In 1856 the Boroondara Road Board District, comprising Kew, Hawthorn and Camberwell, was proclaimed. After Hawthorn in effect seceded from the Board in 1860, Kew acted likewise later in the year and was proclaimed a municipality on 22 December. It became a borough on 1 October, 1863.

Some way north of the village, next to the river, a site was reserved for a mental asylum in 1856. The project was delayed and was increasingly objected to by the borough council, but by 1871 the building was completed, becoming the Willsmere Hospital. The Kew Cottages for children were added in 1887. The erection of such institution was somewhat of a contrast to the well-to-do homes built in streets named after statesmen and legal luminaries. In 1875 The Australian Handbook described Kew as –


In 1878 Kew gained the first of its numerous private schools, Ruyton Girls’ School (Anglican) and Xavier College (Jesuit Fathers), which is on an elevated site with a domed chapel visible from several kilometres away. The Methodists Ladies’ College (1882), Genazzano – girls, Faithful Companions of Jesus (1889) and Trinity Grammar (1902), which absorbed an earlier Anglican high school, are nearby. Later schools, also in the east-west part of Kew between Barkers and Cotham Roads, include the Sacred Heart Catholic school, Carey Baptist Grammar (1923) and Preshill – The Margaret Lyttle Memorial School (1931). In the same east-west part, but closer to the river are Xavier College Preparatory (Burke Hall) and the School of Early Childhood Development, both in former mansions.

The result of this concentration of private school in Kew was that in 1990 the municipality had six government campuses and twenty-eight non-government campuses. The non-government school pupil populations were fifteen times those of the government school populations.

The first public transport service in Kew was a horse tram from the Hawthorn railway station (1876). Ten years later a horse tram service was opened along High Street, from the Boroondara (Kew) Cemetery to the cable tram on the other side of the river. (The cemetery is noted for its elaborate monuments to prominent citizens.) In the same year a railway replaced the horse tram between Hawthorn station and Kew, and the spur line provided an often criticized service until 1957. The line ran along the west side of Xavier College terminating short of the Kew junction. The railway station site was later occupied by the Country Roads Board’s headquarters. Its other station was Barker. Another attempt at providing public transport was the Outer Circle railway from Oakleigh to Fairfield.. It entered Kew at Burke Road, about 500 metres north of Cotham Road, travelling generally north-west to the Chandler Highway bridge over the river. Most of the route is now a linear park. The Kew section opened in 1891 with stations at East Kew, Willsmere and Fulham Grange. It was so unsuccessful that passenger services were ended within two years. Trams proved to be more successful, with services opening along High Street, Cotham Road and northwards along Glenferrie Road to the private schools’ area between 1913 and 1915. The Burke Road tram opened in 1918.

In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Kew, with about four times the population as in 1875, as –


High Street developed two strip shopping centres, the main one east of Kew junction and the other near the Harp Hotel. A minor landmark near the Harp Hotel, on land formerly occupied by the Outer Circle, is a wood yard. Each year before Winter a metropolitan newspaper can be relied on to feature the yard’s wood pile, acknowledging the preference for a traditional wood fires in Kew’s comfortable homes.

Between 1910 and the outbreak of the second world war Kew’s population approximately tripled. It was proclaimed a town on 8 December, 1910, and a city on 10 March, 1921. There was scope for postwar housing growth, in outlying areas near Yarra Bend Park and around Stradbroke Park to the north-east. Over the road from Kew’s boundary Coles-Dickens opened their first supermarket at the corner of Burke and Doncaster Roads in 1961.

Kew is generously provided with parks. Alexandra Gardens is in the original village and a larger reserve with the cricket ground is next to the cemetery. On a much larger scale the colonial government reserved the Yarra Bend Park and Studley Park (1877) adjoining the Yarra River. Yarra Bend was the site of the first asylum (hence the pejorative expression “gone around the bend”). Both parks retain much of their original bush land, although part of the park in Kew has had an excision for a golf course. (The part in Fairfield on the other side of the river has had larger excisions for a larger golf course, ovals, infectious diseases hospital and a women’s prison.) The scenic Yarra Boulevard (1936) runs through the park. In the north-east of Kew there is Willsmere Park and Hays Paddock, each with a bushland billabong. In Kew North, next to the Yarra River, there are Green Acres and Kew Golf Clubs. They are skirted by the Eastern Freeway.

The shopping centre east of the Kew junction contains a landmark post office and war centograph, passed on either side by tram lines. The congested site saw the postal activity removed – mail sorting to a more functional site and retail sales to a shop. The post office became the QPO restaurant, and is on the Victorian Heritage Register. Willsmere Hospital (also on the Register) was decommissioned and became the Willsmere housing development site in the early 1990s.

The median house price in Kew in 1987 was twice the median house price for metropolitan Melbourne, and in 1996 it was 211% of the metropolitan median. Kew East’s median house price was two-thirds higher than metropolitan Melbourne’s during 1987-96.

On 22 June, 1994, Kew city was united with Camberwell and Hawthorn cities to form Boroondara city. Absorption with Camberwell saw Kew’ civic offices become a customer service centre.

Kew municipality’s census populations were 1,439 (1861), 8,462 (1891), 17,382 (1921), 30,859 (1947), 33,341 (1961) and 27,291 (1991).

Further Reading:

Beardsell, David V., and Herbert, Bruce H., “The Outer Circle: A History of the Oakleigh to Fairfield Railway”, Australian 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.