Merri Creek Management Committee

Chapter 1.2 Historical Heritage


This chapter deals primarily with the post-contact non-Aboriginal cultural heritage. Aboriginal Cultural Heritage is dealt with in chapter 1.1, although there may be some overlap with this chapter where a place is significant for more than one reason.

Post-contact settlement of the lands of the Merri Creek corridor and catchment is comparatively well documented and can be sourced from local histories[29].

The Merri Creek Study[30] also provides an overview of the early decades of settlement, the growth of industry and its effects on the stream. A more recent account is included in MCMCs education kit Streets and Streams (MCMC 2000).

Since the settlement of Melbourne in 1835 the land along Merri Creek and its tributaries has supported farming, basalt and clay quarries, market gardens, industry, services and residential development.


The Planning and Environment Act sets out a number of objectives of planning in Victoria. One objective is to conserve and enhance those buildings, areas or other places which are of scientific, aesthetic, architectural or historical interest, or otherwise of special cultural value.

The Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter (1999) is seen as an important guide to the conservation of all types of places of cultural significance.

The Victorian Heritage Act 1995 has no stated objectives but provides for the protection and conservation of places and objects of cultural heritage significance and the registration of such places and objects, establishes a Heritage Council; and establishes a Victorian Heritage Register.

Historical Heritage Assessment

Map 7 - Historical Heritage places identified by Johnston & Ellender (1993)

Hall's Merri Creek Parklands Aboriginal and Historical Heritage Survey[31] has supplied an invaluable survey and compilation of information about structures and other evidence of the early years of post-contact settlement, though it did not include areas upstream of Craigieburn or on tributaries. His work also identified significant buildings and other structures along the creek from later times. In all, Hall identified 48 historic sites south of Craigieburn Road. Due to the comparative lack of development upstream of Craigieburn Road it is thought that there is a greater likelihood of the discovery of sites associated with early pastoral development in the middle to upper catchment areas.

The most common remains of early settlement are various types of stone structures, especially stone walls (Hall, 1989). These dry-stone walls date from a period between the 1850s and 1880s and are visible in areas upstream of Mahoneys Road where land has undergone less modification. They were built to provide boundaries for properties, assist with managing stock and clear paddocks of volcanic rubble (ibid, p. 51). There is some evidence that the first non-Aboriginal settlers in these parts chose land which was stony so that there would be plentiful building materials[32].

One of the more intact sites of historical heritage is the remains of a farming complex of dry-stone walls, pens, mud and stone dwellings and out-buildings covering about 11 hectares in an area of the Craigieburn Grassland Reserve (Galgi ngarrk) approximately opposite Patullos Lane, Somerton[33].

Perhaps the most consistent use of the creek corridor in the post-contact period has been for quarrying. The earliest quarries were situated between Heidelberg Road and the Yarra with the Melbourne Corporation Quarry operating from the 1850s at the site of the former Collingwood Tip near the end of Ramsden Street, Clifton Hill (now Quarries Park). The Collingwood Council Quarry opened in the 1880s adjacent to the Quarries Park quarry. Fitzroy Council was also reported to have opened a quarry on the site of the present-day Westfield Reserve, just south of Heidelberg Road in the 1840s. Later Heidelberg Council opened an adjacent quarry below the now MacFarlane Burnet Centre for Medical Research. The remains of a third small quarry are still evident today just south of Westfield Reserve. Other important quarries were the Wales Quarry in Brunswick (later Whelan's Depot), the quarry that the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (CERES) is now built on, and just to the east of the old Pentridge Stockade boundary near Coburg Lake. The most notable feature of the Wales Quarry was its depth - 51.8 metres at its western wall[34]. These quarries were all for basalt, however there were also many clay quarries associated with brickworks.

Other important historic features identified by Hall were those associated with water use and transport (e.g. Dights Mill), transport sites (e.g. numerous bridges - Heidelberg Road, High Street, Murray Road), drains (e.g. Green Street Main Drain which enters Merri Creek just north of Heidelberg Road), and a number of gardens, retaining walls and paths.

The work of Johnston and Ellender (1993) built on Hall's research and many additional significant heritage items were added to the database of information. Johnston and Ellender sourced information from local history studies, conversations with long-time residents, urban conservation studies and public authority records. A total of 107 historic sites were identified, of which one was considered of National significance, ten as State, seven as Regional, 67 as Local, one Local/Regional, and some 32 as either not assessed or of uncertain significance (see Map 7 below).

Johnston and Ellender made a series of recommendations for protection of heritage sites. Most of these are incorporated in the action table for this chapter.

Their recommendations included:

· protection for historic places through Council Planning Schemes and State and Commonwealth registers;

· a provision in the Development Guidelines for Merri Creek (MCMC 2004) for protection of heritage sites; and

· mechanisms to ensure development proposals conserve historic buildings and features.

Since 1993 a number of additional places have been identified. These include John Batman's two outstation sites, one just south of Craigieburn East Road on the west bank of Merri Creek, and one just north of Summerhill Road also on the west bank of Merri Creek. A number of sites also came to light through survey work conducted for the Hume Freeway Craigieburn Bypass (Muir 1998), and a thorough cultural heritage survey undertaken for the Aurora development.

A number of sites have also been destroyed, by parkland development (e.g. Butlers Brickworks in East Brunswick), or their level of significance changed by alterations to their fabric or partial destruction, or enhanced understanding.

Darebin City Council adopted the Darebin Heritage Study in 2001. The study focussed on buildings in the southern portion of the municipality. In 2007 it commenced a new Heritage study to encompass the whole of Darebin. The Heritage Study will take place in six stages. The first stage will look at Darebins history, identify potential sites of significance, set out the key themes and prepare an archaeology report.

Hume City Council conducted a Heritage Review in 2003 updating a 1998 study of the former Bulla Shire, and a 2000 study of the remaining area in the new municipality, combining and validating the information in both studies. A Planning Panel considered the resulting planning scheme amendment and reported in 2005, deleting some of the proposed Heritage Overlay entries, and recommending further study of these sites. A further Heritage Review is underway in 2007.

Mitchell Shire completed stage 2 of a Heritage Study in early 2007 which will feed into its Planning Scheme Review Process. Funding is being sought and received for stage 3 of the study which might see an additional 600 buildings added to the heritage overlay. Council has sought Interim Heritage Protection orders from the Minister which precedes the actual amendment process. The documentation for the two are almost identical and so the Amendment would be placed on exhibition relatively quickly after Council receives the Interim Protection Order. The Heritage Amendment is expected to be on exhibition during the third quarter of 2008 with adoption probably not until early 2009.

Moreland City Council completed a heritage review in 2004. Work for the Heritage Review included a pre-contact study currently in draft form and a post-contact study, and heritage work has been undertaken for planning for the Brunswick and Coburg activity centres.

Yarra City Council recently completed an extensive heritage review[35] to provide support for a an amendment to the Yarra Planning Scheme that is designed to enhance and strengthen planning provisions in the Citys heritage precincts, and in 2007 exhibited a planning scheme amendment based on this work.

The City of Whittlesea completed a Heritage Study in 1990 which forms the basis of its heritage overlay. In 2003 it began preparation of a heritage sites planning scheme amendment.

Historic Place Protection

International and national significance

Heritage places of national and international significance are protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), Commonwealth legislation that provides a national framework for environment protection through a focus on protecting matters of national environmental and heritage significance and on the conservation of Australia's biodiversity.

The National and Commonwealth Heritage Lists were established in January 2004 with an amendment of the EPBC Act. The National Heritage List is a register of places of outstanding Indigenous, historic and/or natural heritage values. The Commonwealth List is a register of important Commonwealth owned places. Heritage places can be on one or both lists. The Australian Heritage Council assesses whether or not a nominated place has heritage values against the relevant criteria and makes a recommendation to the Minister on that basis. No Merri catchment places are on either list.

The Australian Heritage Council also keeps the Register of the National Estate, which since the 2004 amendment to the EPBC Act, affords no legal protection to sites. Prior to 2004 the Australian Heritage Commission was responsible for the Register. Many heritage sites described in Johnston & Ellender are recommended for listing on the Register of the National Estate.

Only one place described in Johnston & Ellender (1993) was assessed as being of National significance the Westgarthtown Heritage Conservation Area on Edgars Creek in Thomastown. Of the National lists, in 2007 Westgarthtown was only on the Register of the National Estate, and only as an indicative place (meaning that no decision had been made as to whether it should be listed).

Nine other places are registered on the Register of the National Estate, including the Craigieburn to Cooper Street Grasslands (Bababi marning), Dights Mill, and Pentridge Prison. A further nine are listed as indicative places, and two places recommended to be nominated by Johnston & Ellender are not listed.

No new places are being added to the Register. Other listing options as described below should be pursued for sites previously recommended for the Register which were not registered, as well as for those that were.

State significance

Table 3 Victorian Heritage Register status of Merri Creek historic places.

Places identified by Johnston & Ellender (1993) or Context (1999) of at least State significance and their status in 2007 with regard to registration on the Victorian Heritage Register



Place name


VHR Status


Coburg Cemetery


Not nominated


Heidelberg Road Bridge

Darebin /Yarra

Not nominated


Camoola Homestead etc


Not nominated


Murray Road bridge


Registered H1198


Newlands Estate


Not nominated




Registered H1551


Newlands Road Bridge


Registered H1446


Farming complex & Ford


Not nominated


Westgarthtown Heritage Conservation Area


Not nominated


Westgarthtown Lutheran Church


Registered H0899


Wuchatsch farm


Registered H0950


Graff's Farm


Registered H0915


Summerhill homestead & farm complex


Refused ~1995, re-nominated 2007


Maltzahns Farmhouse


Not nominated


Siebels Farmhouse


Registered H1212


Ziebells Farm


Registered H979


John Batmans Pastoral run outstation sites


Not on register, but Inventory Nos. 7822-0295 & 7822-0296


Dights Mill Site


Registered H1522


Urban Conservation Area (inc. Old Colonists)


Registered H0821

Heritage places of 'state significance' are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.[36] The Heritage Council of Victoria and the state government agency Heritage Victoria are responsible for maintaining this register and issuing heritage permits for the development of heritage places of state significance under the Heritage Act (1995).

Heritage Victoria also maintains a register of non-Aboriginal archaeological sites confusingly called the Heritage Inventory. Any activities that will result in the excavation or disturbance to an archaeological site on the Inventory, or its objects, must have first obtained the consent of the Executive Director of Heritage Victoria.

A number of sites within the catchment are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, or have been nominated or recommended for nomination[37]. Sites originally proposed for listing on the Register of the National Estate or which are listed on the Register, together with other sites of at least State significance should be considered for nomination to the Victorian Heritage Register. Of the 18 known places appropriate for the Victorian Heritage Register, in 2007 ten buildings or bridges were listed (see Table 3 below). A number of places are on the Heritage Inventory, although as they are not archaeological sites some may be removed from the inventory.





Local significance

Heritage places of 'local significance' (that is, places important to a local community) are usually identified within the local municipal planning scheme and are afforded protection via a Heritage Overlay control. Municipal Councils are responsible for issuing planning permits for the development of heritage places under the Planning and Environment Act (1987).

All Councils within the Merri catchment have heritage overlays in their planning schemes. Many of the heritage places described in Johnston & Ellender are recommended for protection in Councils planning schemes, however many are not included in the Heritage Overlays (see Table 4 below).

Table 4 Planning Scheme protection of historic places by municipality.

The number of places recommended for Planning Scheme protection by Johnston & Ellender (1993) and the number actually protected, by Municipality.

























An analysis of the themes identified by Johnston & Ellender suggests a bias in planning scheme protection towards housing, residential, educational, penal, German settlement and industrial places which mostly include buildings, and against public works, bluestone quarrying, burial, farming/pastoral, parks/recreation, railways, travel & access and water supply which often do not include buildings (see Table 5 below).



Table 5 Planning Scheme protection of historic places by theme.

The number of places recommended for Planning Scheme protection by Johnston & Ellender (1993) and the number actually protected, by heritage theme.




Public Works



Bluestone Quarrying












German Settlement











4, in part










Travel & Access



Water supply




Community organisations

The National Trust is a community organisation that works towards preserving and protecting heritage places. The identification and classification of heritage places by the National Trust does not constitute legal recognition of their significance. Although the National Trust plays an important role in advocating heritage protection, it is not responsible for issuing heritage or planning permits. There are many buildings in the catchment which are listed on the National Trust Register, but few if any have a strong relationship with the Creek or its tributaries.

Key References

Allom Lovell and Associates (1998) City of Yarra Heritage Review, Building Citations, Volume 2 Parts I and II

Broome, R. (1987). Between Two Creeks, Lothian, Melbourne

Context Pty Ltd (1999), Merri Creek Historic Sites Review of Protection Status and Recommendations, report prepared for Merri Creek Management Committee Inc.

Ellender, I. & Christiansen, P. (2001). People of the Merri Merri The Wurundjeri in Colonial Days. Merri Creek Management Committee, Melbourne.

Graeme Butler and Associates (2007) City of Yarra Review of Heritage Overlay Areas 2007, report for City of Yarra.

Hall, R. (1989). Merri Creek Parklands Aboriginal and Historical Heritage Survey, Vols. 1 & 2 Report prepared for the Merri Creek Bicentennial Committee, Melbourne.

Johnson, C. & Ellender, I. (1993). Cultural Heritage Report, Vols. 1 & 2, prepared for Melbourne Water and Merri Creek Management Committee, Melbourne.

Lemon, A. (1983). The Northcote Side of the River, Hargreen, Melbourne.

Merri Creek Management Committee (2000) Streets and Streams education kit.

Moreland City Council (2004) Moreland Local Heritage Places Review

Muir, S. (1998) Hume Freeway Alignment (Options1-5), Western Ring Road to Donnybrook Road, Archaeological Investigation, Strata Archaeology Report for VicRoads February 1998. (Appendix 5 in VicRoads Hume Freeway Metropolitan Ring Road to Craigieburn Planning Assessment Report Technical Appendices October 1998.)

Moloney, D. and Storey, R. (2003) Hume City Heritage Review, report for Hume City Council.

Penrose, H. (1994) Brunswick One History Many Voices, Victoria Press, Melbourne.

Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) (1975), The Merri Creek Study, PIRG, Melbourne.


Historical Heritage Issues

1. Merri Creek upstream from Craigieburn and Merri Creeks tributaries have not been adequately surveyed for historic sites.

2. Historical heritage features along the Merri Creek and its tributaries, apart from buildings, are not well protected under heritage overlays in planning schemes, possibly because often they are not built structures and therefore outside the specialist focus of many heritage consultants, and outside the scope of many heritage project briefs.

3. No heritage places along Merri catchment corridors have been listed or nominated for the National Heritage List, so no places in the corridors have Australian Government protection.

4. There is no guidance as to whether any places should be nominated to the National Heritage List; Merri waterway heritage studies need updating.

5. Appropriate management practices for protection of historic sites have not been consistently implemented or applied along Merri Creek.

6. Since 1993 no further assessment has been made of Heritage places along Merri Creek and its tributaries. Given the amount of work that has been done in other studies a new heritage study for the waterways is needed to consolidate the other studies.

7. All local governments can and should use the HERMES heritage database to store and share information.


1. To conserve and enhance those buildings, areas or other places which are of scientific, aesthetic, architectural or historical interest, or otherwise of special cultural value. (From the Planning and Environment Act objectives).


1. All sites identified as being of local or higher significance in Johnston & Ellender protected in Council Heritage overlays by 2010.

2. All sites identified as being of state or higher significance in Johnston & Ellender registered on the Victorian Heritage Register by 2010.

3. Continued identification of sites of heritage significance.

4. Sites are conserved (managed to maintain their heritage features).

5. Sites are not destroyed without a well-considered investigation.

6. Information provided to all land managers, both public and private, regarding locations of significant sites and their responsibilities for protection and management of sites.

7. Interpretation of all sites of significance within a context of ensuring their management and protection.

8. The inclusion of the upper Merri Creek and tributaries as part of heritage reviews.

9. An overall review of Merri Creek historical heritage undertaken by 2012.



See Section E page 182



See Appendix 1 page 4

[29] e.g. Broome, 1987; Lemon, 1983, Ellender & Christiansen, 2001

[30] PIRG, 1975

[31] Hall 1989

[32] Wuchatsch and Payne, in ibid, p. 56

[33] Hall, 1989, p. 52-7

[34] Hall, p. 62

[35] Graeme Butler and Associates (2007) supporting Allom Lovell and Associates (1998)

[36] The Victorian Heritage Register is searchable online at (accessed 7/1/09)

[37] Reports such as Johnston & Ellender (1993) mention the Historic Buildings Register, which became the Victorian Heritage Register.