Buchan is located twenty-six kilometres north of Nowa Nowa on the Princes Highway and 330 kilometres east of Melbourne. The township lies in the valley of the Buchan River hedged by rounded limestone hills.

Pastoralists first entered the area in the late 1830s. Buchan station, taken up in the 1840s, had a succession of owners. To the north were the Galantipy and Black Mountain runs. The name Buchan is thought to be taken from an Aboriginal word Bukkan-mungie to which various meanings have been ascribed. One interpretation is place of grass bag. There were small groups of Aboriginals in the area but their numbers declined rapidly after European settlement. In 1861, Rev. John Bulmer inspected land south of Buchan as a possible site for a mission station. When he moved to Lake Tyers, the remaining Aboriginals accompanied him there. At Cloggs Cave near Buchan, evidence has been found of Aboriginal occupation in prehistoric times.

Land settlement began in 1870, with the best land along the river quickly taken up. A township was proclaimed in 1873, taking its name from the station. The Victorian Municipal Directory described the district in 1888.

BUCHAN.- A mining and postal village with telegraph station, 230 miles E. of Melbourne, situated on the Buchan river. The district is suitable for grazing and mining; it is famous for its scenery and extensive caves. Population, 85.

There was some interest in mining from the earliest days. Over the years, many companies were formed, mainly to mine silver, lead and gold. A few larger mines were profitable but most were shortlived. Marble had been quarried in the 1860s to build the Murrindale Park homestead. Commercial quarries operated from the early 1900s. Black marble from Buchan has been used at the Shrine and State Library in Melbourne as well as buildings in London, elsewhere in Victoria and other states. From the 1950s a quarry also produced crushed lime for agriculture, paper manufacture and other uses.

The existence of the limestone caves was well known. In the 1880s the journalist ‘Tanjil’ described them in his Guide to the Gippsland Lakes and Rivers. But it was not until 1889 that they were surveyed. Development was recommended but it was 1900 before a local man, Frank Moon, was appointed as caretaker of the caves reserve. Moon explored most of the caves in the district, discovering the Fairy Cave in 1907. this dry cave with fine formations was opened for public inspection the following year. Royal Cave was opened in 1912 and by 1917 there were six caves open. Buchan became popular with tourists, who generally stayed several nights at one of the local guesthouses or hotels. In the 1920s, camping facilities were developed near the caves and regular bus tours began to visit.

On the river flats, crops such as wheat, oats and barley were being grown, as well as some hops, maize, arrowroot and beans. Some dairying was carried on, at first for local consumptionm. Around the turn of the century, several cheese factories were established on larger farms and a butter factory operated for some years. In the 1970s milk was sent by tanker to Maffra. Sheep and cattle grazing increased as settlement spread. Cattle sales began in Buchan about 1901. Closer settlement of the farming land meant more demand for services, so that by 1938 the Victorian Municipal Directory described a settled township.

BUCHAN – Township on Buchan river with post, telegraph and money-order office. State school, police station, mechanics’ institute, hotel, boarding-houses, branch of bank, store and butter factory. Remarkable caves in district, notably – The Fairy, Kitson, Spring creek, Moon (with an ice-cold lake containing small blind fish), King’s Slocomb’s, Wilson’s and others. Lead mines on Back creek and Murrindal river. River flats cultivated. Rail to Nowa Nowa; motor at 5.35 p.m., 20 miles; fare, 12s. 6d. Population, 100. SOUTH – Motor, 16 miles from Nowa Nowa; fare, 10s 6d.

Wattle bark stripping was an important industry and small spot mills worked in the surrounding forest. Since the Second World War, two large sawmills have operated at Buchan, providing secure employment.

The caves were closed during the war years, reopening in 1946. In 1984 the Shades of Death Cave at nearby Murrindal was opened for public inspection and adventure cavers explore many of the wild caves in the area. Today over 100,000 people visit the caves annually. The spectacular scenery of the nearby Snowy River, whitewater rafting and trail riding also bring tourists to the area. Also there are three alternative lifestyle communities north of buchan. The Victorian Municipal Directory describes Buchan in 1994.

BUCHAN – Township of Buchan, with post, telegraph and money order office, State school, police station, mechanics’ institute, hotel, motel, store, three churches, kindergarten and infant welfare centre. Remarkable caves in district, notably the Fairy and the Royal. Lead mines on Bach Creek and Murrindal River. River flats cultivated. Population -250. 26 km from Nowa Nowa. 330 km from Melbourne. Postcode 3885.

Sawmilling, tourism and farming have supported a steady increase in population. Services have improved and social and sporting organisations flourished. Buchan’s dependence on the timber industry is reflected by the importance of its annual axemen’s carnival. Another popular event is the picnic race meeting at Canni Creek, south of Buchan where a racecourse has been carved out of the forest.


Circa 1930
(Centre for Gippsland Studies, Monash University, Gippsland)

Further Reading:

  • Adams, J., “The Tambo Shire centenary history”. 1981.
  • “Buchan School no. 1905”: a brief history of Buchan district and schools prepared for the Buchan School Centenary. 1977.
  • Buchan Sesquicentenary Committee, “Bukan-Mungie: 150 years of settlement in the Buchan district – 1839-1989”. 1989.


In 1970 a new town had been established by the Housing Commission in the Parish of Hazelwood, to supply accomodation for State Electricity Commission workers and their families. The town was planned with the Morwell shire, with provision for shopping and civic amenities. An optimum population of 40,000 people was envisaged for the year 2000.

The Hazelwood Planning Scheme was approved in 1964. The site was chosen for its pleasant location at the foot of the Strzelecki Ranges, overlooking Hazelwood pondage. It was relatively free from air pollution, is not over rich coalfields and is in close proximity to the larger towns and power stations in the Latrobe Valley. The town was to include private as well as Commission estates. The houses were to be all brick and of varied designs. Residential areas were to be grouped around the town centre so that people could walk through parks and under main roads to the town centre. There were to be eleven neighbourhoods named after the district’s pioneering families. Each neighbourhood would consist of about 600 homes grouped around parks, a school and corner shops. There was to be an area for light industry. The proposals were ambitious, with plans for a shopping mall, large department store, market, theatre, civic centre, cultural centre, hotels, offices, bus terminal, racetrack and golf course.

Land was compulsorily acquired and house construction commenced in late 1964. The first families took up residence in late 1965. The town had been known as Hazelwood, the name of the surrounding district and the original pastoral run. But in February 1965, the government changed the name to Churchill to honour the English statesman, Sir Winston Churchill. The local response was very negative and very vocal and it was November 1966 before the issue was definitely settled in favour of Churchill. A bronze coloured structure 102 feet high represents a “cigar”, symbolising the town’s link with Churchill. The issue of the town’s name re-emerged in 1987. After much lobbying, a survey was taken and a close result favoured retaining the name Churchill.

Growth of the satellite town was initially slow so purchase conditions were relaxed. By 1968 the shopping centre was constructed. Progress accelerated by 1969 with more than 100 homes being built each year. Community spirit was strong, with the Citizens’ Association formed in 1966 being a strong force in town affairs.

But then development in the Latrobe Valley slowed, consequently slowing Churchill’s rate of development. Most residents had young families and were critical of the lack of community facilities. During the 1970s and 1980s, a Community Health Centre was established, as well as a Leisure Centre, hotel and secondary school with community library. In 1972, the newly established Gippsland Institute of Advanced Technology began operations at its new site at Churchill. Now merged with Monash University, it has expanded greatly, with approximately 1,800 internal and several thousand external students.

By 1976 the population was 3,500, by 1981 about 4,800 and by 1991, 5,600. Churchill is identified as a University town situated on Monash Way, 9kilometers south-east of Morwell. Monash University Gippsland is located on a 64-hectare campus at Churchill. The town is attractively set out on the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges adjacent to the 520 hectare man-made Hazelwood Pondage. There are three primary schools, a church, secondary school, four pre-school centres and health and recreation facilities.

Although the town now has many facilities, it is not as grandiose as originally planned. In 1991, the population was only slightly more than in 1986, well short of original projections. A large proportion of Churchill’s workforce was employed by the State government, so that the rationalisation and privatisation of the power industry has had a negative impact on the town. The general economic recession has also been felt severely, with the closure of a lingerie manufacturer previously employing 250 people. However the staff and students of the university contribute to the economic and social welfare of the town. Rather than a self contained town, Churchill has become a pleasant dormitory suburb with people travelling to the larger nearby towns for major shopping and entertainment.

Further Reading:

  • Housing Commission, Victoria. “Churchill: strategy for urban management”. 1979.
  • Housing Commission, Victoria. “Exciting things are happening”. c.1965.
  • Legg, S.M. “Heart of the valley: a history of the Morwell municipality”. 1992.


Caulfield, a residential area with a prominent metropolitan racecourse, is on Dandenong Road, 10km. from Melbourne. Until 1994 Caulfield was also a municipal city. The origin of the name is uncertain, although John Caulfield, a builder who arrived in Melbourne in 1837, has been suggested as a source. The name Caulfieldwas in use on maps around 1857, generally in the vicinity of the present racecourse.

In 1859 horse racing was held on a rough bush track and the Melbourne Hunt Club held occasional meetings in Caulfield. A racecourse was laid out on the site where the Hunt Club kennel was kept. In 1876 the Victorian Amateur Turf Club was formed and obtained the site for its metropolitan race course. The first Caulfield Cup was run in 1879.

Land survey maps for the Caulfield district were published in 1853, and the first sale of Crown allotments was in 1854. The Caulfield Roads District was proclaimed in 1857. In 1860 a shirt-lived school was established by four church congregations, and in 1864 a school was opened which became the Caulfield primary school. In 1865 the population of the district was estimated at 508.

The 1870s saw considerable development of Caulfield. The Roads District became a shire on 17 April, 1871, and the Caulfield railway station was built in 1879 as part of the South Yarra to Oakleigh to Gippsland line. Two years later the Caulfield to Mordialloc line was opened. While this construction activity was under way an entrepreneur William Ross proposed the building of another line across the south of Caulfield shire, from Oakleigh to Elsternwick. It was associated with the Ross sugar beet factory, using sugar beet grown in Gippsland. The line did not open until the late 1880s, but failed during the depression in the following decade. Its route is traceable on present-day street maps along Oakleigh Road and a linear park which is a prolongation of the road.

Caulfield in 1882 was a market-gardening district with about 182 ha. of orchards with three churches, two hotels and the racecourse.By the end of the decade it was described in the Victorian Municipal Directory as a leading suburb with residences that had been rapidly built. There were six churches and several private schools, a municipal hall and offices,and tram routes from Elsternwick to the Caulfield and Glenhuntly railway stations. On 4 May, 1901, the district’s urbanisation was acknowledged by the shire becoming a borough, which became a town on 26 September of that year. The Caulfield municipality acquired separate suburbs, and the Caulfield township was in the north. The northern municipal boundary followed Dandenong Road, and the railway station and racecourse were quite close to it.

Melbourne’s urban expansion as it affected the Caulfield municipality was begun on the western side well before the turnof the century and concluded on the eastern side where it adjoined Oakleigh in the late 1930s. The period of most rapid growth was from 1900 to 1920,and the Caulfield township was somewhat early in that period with its proximity to public transport facilities. Councillor (Sir) Frederick Eggleston was a councillor from 1911 to 1920, and a pioneer supporter of town planning.On 26 May, 1913, Caulfield town council became a city. In the following year Caulfield Central School was opened, and in 1922 the Caulfield Technical School was opened as a regional facility convenient to Oakleigh and Mordialloc.(In 1958 it became a Technical College, nine years later the Institute of Technology and finally the Caulfield campus of Monash University.)

Caulfield’s northern boundary is just south ofan escarpment more or less followed by Dandenong Road. North of the escarpment is hilly, more elevated land than the land on which the municipality is situated. There were several swamps in Caulfield, one being just west ofthe racecourse and the low-lying land was blamed for water-borne diseases. Sewering was a major concern in the 1890s, to replace cess pits, along with water reticulation. By 1914 reticulated water was available on most new housing estates. Several swampy or low-lying areas became parklands. Paddy’sSwamp from which peat and sand were extracted in the 1860s and 1870s, became Caulfield Park, the main sports area in Caulfield near the racecourse. On 16 April, 1913, the part of Caulfield municipality between Poath and Warrigal Roads was annexed to Oakleigh borough.

Caulfield is shown in street directories as consisting of Caulfield North and Caulfield South (each distinct postcodes) and a minuscule Caulfield East around the railway station and included in the Caulfield North post code. Caulfield East includes the Monash University campus (former Institute of Technology), a shopping centre and a reserve. Caulfield North contains the racecourse and the Victorian Racing museum, the Arts Centre alongside the Town Hall, Caulfield Park, a strip shopping centre at Balaclava and Hawthorn Roads and private schools – Shelford Anglican Girls’ School(1898), and an Anglican Boys’ Grammar School, Grimwade House (1918). Near Grimwade House are two Synagogues catering for the substantial Jewish population in St. Kilda East and west Caulfield. In the same area is a boom-time mansion”Labassa”, which has become National Trust Property. Caulfield High School, near the racecourse, was opened in 1960.

Caulfield South has a large general hospital which has grown from a first world war military hospital which was put in the”Glen Eira” mansion. Bisecting the area is the Glenhuntly Road tramline and shopping strip. Important open spaces are Princes Park (with four ovals, tennis and bowling facilities) and a linear park along the former Rosstown railway. The Brighton Cemetery is also in Caulfield South, having been established in 1849 before the Roads District was defined.

Caulfield municipality included Carnegie, Glenhuntly, Murrumbeena, Ormond and Ripponlea.

In 1987 the median house prices for Caulfield North and Caulfield South were 104% and 61% respectively above the median price for metropolitan Melbourne. Much the same margins were recorded for the next ten years.

Caulfield city was united with part of Moorabbin city on 15 December, 1994, to form GlenEira City. Its census populations were 15,919 (1911), 65,297 (1933), 81,865 (1971) and 67,776(1991). In 1911 the Caulfield township had a census population of 7,669.

Further Reading:

Murray, Peter R. and Wells, John C., “From sand, swamp and heath . . . A History of Caulfield”, City of Caulfield,1980.

Solomon, Geulah, “Caulfield’s Heritage”(4 vols.), City of Caulfield, 1989.