Historical Bayside

The People of the Stones

Three hundred years ago the Ngaruk Willum (Willum means people, Ngaruk means stones) clan of the Boon wurrung people lived on the land from Brighton to Mordialloc. They are celebrated in three foreshore sculptures at North Road, Red Bluff and Ricketts Point and their shell middens can still be found along the Coastal Trail and foreshore.

With an intimate connection to, and knowledge of, their local environment, the Ngaruk Willum ate several indigenous plant species, including saw-sedge, the tubers of Water-Ribbons, the fruits of the Sticky Boobialla and the berries and leaves of Honeypots. Medicinally, they used pigface balm to minimise pain, smoke from smouldering Manna gums to reduce fever, and decaying Tall SpikerRush to promote the healing of wounds. And they used the straw of plants to weave baskets, mats, fishing traps and nets.

Bayside’s colourful history

The names of Bayside’s suburbs, streets, beaches and parklands reflect its colourful history. A number of other streets are named after the early pioneers who braved the unknown and contributed to Bayside’s growth, while other names include those of corrupt politicians, landed gentry, market gardeners, property developers, artists and even a hero.

The first private land development in Brighton began with the 1841 when the government sold parcels of land. Although the area on offer was little more than a wilderness edged by beautiful beaches, Henry Dendy, aged 40 and recently arrived in Melbourne, bought 5120 acres. He bounded his extensive property with the roads that remain today: North, South and East Boundary roads. Despite the potential windfall that subdivision represented, a financial depression meant Dendy died poor. His name, however, lives on in Dendy Street, Dendy Park, Dendy Village, Dendy Beach and the Dendy Cinema.

At the time Dendy was buying up land, he was also sponsoring needy parishioners from Warnham, near his English hometown of Rowhook. One such man was John Booker, who came to Australia in 1842. Booker’s contacts with Dendy may have secured free passage for the Charman family, also of Warnham. Charman is immortalised in Charman Road and three Cheltenham streets. Charles, Edward and Booker streets are named after one of Booker’s sons.

Balcombe Road, from the beach at Black Rock to Nepean Highway in Mentone, takes its name from Alexander Beatson Balcombe, who in 1853 owned much of what is now the suburb of Mentone.

Perhaps the most well-known Bayside figure of the nineteenth century was Sir Thomas Bent. Described as “Bent by name, bent by nature”, he used his wiles to rise from market gardener to Premier of Victoria (1904–09). As a considerable landowner, he wielded much power of persuasion and was instrumental in ensuring the rail line extended to Sandringham, much of it along land he owned. He is remembered in the suburb of Bentleigh and Bent Parade in Black Rock. A statue of Bent stands guard over the corner of Bay Street and Nepean Highway, Brighton.

In the early days, Bayside suburbs attracted the wealthy who boasted extensive estates. Since the streets were largely undeveloped and houses were few and far between, the manors that the gentry erected bore elegant names rather than the simplistic street numbers we use today. Some of these grand estates are still hereCastlefield, on the corner of South Road and Hampton Street and extending eastward to Bluff Road, was once one of the largest estates in the area. In 1856, it was bought by John Matthew Smith and his family lived there until Smith named Ludstone Street after his birthplace in England, Ludstone Hall. Although the estate has been subdivided, the Castlefield residence lives on as part of Haileybury College on South Road.

Another grand manor is visible at the corner of Bamfield Street and Beach Road. Coggeshall was built by David Abbott (of Abbott Street fame). Although the tower and considerable gardens have since been split into private blocks, the main house remains as the Sandringham Club.

The landmark Black Rock House was built as a holiday house on 112 acres between 1856 and 1858 by Charles Hotson Ebden, a South African whose Australian pastoral empire made him (in his own words) “disgustingly rich”. Melbourne’s elite gathered at Black Rock House between 1858 and 1861. It was later used as a guest house and then converted into flats. Twice on the brink of demolition, it was saved, first by the efforts of Professor Peter MacCallum in the 1930s and, later, by the Sandringham Council, which purchased it in 1974. Black Rock House is now classified by the National Trust and listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and the Register of the National Estate.

Another area commemorates a famous local event. In 1924, two men held up the Hampton branch of the Commercial Bank of Australia and shot 22-year-old William Almeida. Despite his wound, Almeida gave chase and brought one of the men back to the bank at gunpoint. The next day, Almeida died of his injuries. The second robber was eventually captured and both were jailed. William Almeida is honoured by a drinking fountain in the Triangle Garden, on the corner of Linacre Road and Hampton Street, Brighton.

To learn more about Bayside’s history, visit the Brighton Historical Society or Sandringham Historical Society.

Thanks to the Sandringham Historical Society.