New Horticultural Hall Opening – 1887

Published Jan, 2023

A wonderfully detailed view of the new Horticultural Hall in its original location opposite Nillumbik Cemetery. The large dimensions of the hall are obvious and thought has gone into how it would be used, with ample windows for ventilation when shows were held during hot weather. It gives us an insight into the times, showing transport by horse and carriage and men, women and children dressed as they did then. The horses have an interesting ‘cap’ on their heads fitted over their ears - what were they for?

When the Diamond Creek Horticultural Society held its third annual exhibition on Thursday, 10th March 1887, there must have been a great deal of excitement that it was to be in the newly-erected Horticultural Hall.

The hall was purpose built for horticultural displays and measured 50 feet by 26 feet. It was built on land opposite the Nillumbik (Diamond Creek) Cemetery and overlooked properties owned by some of our early orchardists who would also provide exhibits and compete for prizes.

The Evelyn Observer of 18th March, 1887 reported that it had stalls running full length on the sides and ends, and a centre table reaches from on end of the room to the other, with space for visitors to pass between. And that it is only a skeleton, but the centre table and side stalls being nicely arranged with abundance of exhibits, and the suspension of antimacassars, and the presence of evergreens, &., took away all appearance of nakedness, and made a picture worth studying, and was fully appreciated, apparently, by the large number of people from all parts, near and far. And we cannot pass this part of the affair without saying that it was a laudable innovation the laying of tan on the floor, as it kept down all the dust and made it soft walking.

Prizes for show totalling £35 were offered across three classes – fruit, flowers and vegetables, and special prizes were offered by other contributors. Visitor attendance was reported to be good, and a large number of and many fine exhibits were on display despite the reported unfavourable season.

The new Horticultural Hall’s interior shows an impressive display of exhibits. We are lucky to have this photo showing so many local people and visitors. A number of special as well as other prizes are offered, among them being a champion prize, five guineas silver cup, to be won two years by the same exhibitor, for the best collection of 24 varieties of apples and 6 varieties of pears, 4 of each.

The show in 1887 ended with a sale of fruit and a speech from Mr. E.H. Cameron M.L.A., then 25 gentlemen moved on to the Royal Mail Hotel (then located in Chute Street) for lunch. To do justice to these events, we have included this from the same report above.

At the close of the show a sale of fruit was held, which realized £4 10s, a few of the exhibitors (notably Messrs. H. Mills and R. Stevenson) generously giving their exhibits towards the building fund. The labours of judging devolved on the following ladies and gentlemen:—Fruit Messrs.—C. Draper, J. S. Adams, and Panlin. Vegetables—Messrs. Knox and Woodmason. Flowers and Jam—Messrs. W. Bartlett and W. Bartlett, jun., and Mrs. Bartlett. Fancy Work—Mrs. Finlay and Miss Taylor. Having made these few observations about the show itself, we give a few remarks made by Mr. Cameron, M.L.A., President of the Society, at the opening of the show. Mr. Cameron said that he had endeavored to obtain one of the Ministry to open the show in the new building, and the Minister of Lands had promised to be there that day, but at the last moment was reluctantly compelled to defer his visit; having to go into the country upon some business. Mr. Dow was very desirous of again visiting Diamond Creek, and explaining why he came into the district some years ago, and he also wished to see the fruit growing capabilities of the district of which he had heard so much. He hoped that next year they would be more fortunate, and, as they could not obtain one of the Ministry, the pleasant duty had devolved upon his shoulders. He was very pleased to see that the committee had succeeded in building such a fine hall in which to hold their shows. Knowing the difficulties with which they had to contend, it showed a great amount of energy and determination on their part that they had overcome them all, and were now enabled to invite the public to their third show held in a building of their own. He understood that the whole cost of the building was under £90, which, he thought, was very cheap, considering the size of it, viz., 50ft x 26ft. He also understood that the whole of this amount was borrowed upon the guarantee of a few of the members of Committee, who had thus made themselves liable for the amount, feeling sure that the success of the shows would soon enable them to pay off the amount. He sincerely trusted that the people of the district would generously give a helping hand to those who, by their exertions, were doing a great amount of practical good to the district generally; for, undoubtedly, a show of this king was of great benefit to any district, for it drew the attention of strangers to the capabilities of the Diamond Creek valley for fruit-growing, and it also induced the fruit-growers to strive to always raise none but the best fruit, and each to endeavour to excel his neighbour; and thus the character of the fruit grown in the district would be gradually raised to a high standard of excellence. At the conclusion of the opening speech, some twenty-five gentlemen adjourned to the Royal Mail Hotel, and partook of a most creditable dinner, prepared by Host Panglase, Mr. Cameron, M.L.A., being chairman, and Mr. N. Ellis, President of the Heidelberg Shire, Vice-chairman. After hunger was appeased, Mr. Cameron rose, and, in a short speech, proposed “Prosperity to the Diamond Creek Horticultural Society.” He expressed himself as greatly surprised at the headway it had made. When it was first started he thought, looking at the small area of country to support it, that the society would not achieve any great success. The show of that day was equally as good as last year, especially in the fruit, which was the best he had ever seen outside of Melbourne. The root exhibits were numerous, but, he thought, not so good as last year. He congratulated the committee on its undertaking of erecting the building in which that day’s show was held, some of whom, he understood, had entered into bonds to pay the liability contracted. He thought more that a passing vote of thanks were due to those who had taken this responsibility. (Cheers). Establishments of this kind brought places into popularity, and consequently enhanced the value of property, therefore, he contended that residents were morally obliged to support them. (Cheers). Mr. N. Ellis replied shortly. The Committee, he said, had had some uphill work, and some of them had stuck to it like bricks. The dryness of the season was against the present show. Mr. E.T. Peers also replied, stating that in his opinion the establishment of this society was one of the noblest efforts put forth for the welfare of the place. He would ask what was the soil at and around Diamond Creek good for? Certainly not for dairying or farming. But, nevertheless, there were fortunes to be made out of the stringybark ranges and valleys by intelligent minds, by the cultivation of fruit, as exemplified by Mr. Draper, also Messrs. Jones and Mills. And the establishment of the Horticultural Society was a great lever in this direction, for it showed not only what they could do but what others could, and thus stimulated exertions in the perfection of the fruit growing. He was a firm believer in irrigation, to a certain extent, and hinted that Mr. Draper should set the example. “The Judges” were proposed by Mr. Peers, and replied to by Mr. Draper, who said, he would go further than Mr. Cameron, and say that the fruit exhibited that day (the best samples) could not be excelled in or out of Melbourne. Diamond Creek was the finest district for fruit growing, not only in Victoria but in the whole of Australia. There was one drawback, they should have a railway. And he went on to quote the cost of carriage of fruit from Sandhurst, &c., as compared with Diamond Creek. Mr. Peers proposed “The President,” and Mr. Cameron replied, and, referring to the remarks made by Mr. Draper anent the carriage of fruit and railway, said that gentleman had overlooked the fact of many fruit-growers at Sandhurst and other places having to cart their fruit to the railway stations, varying in distances to 6,10, 20 miles, and so on. During a recent visit by the Chairman of the Railway Commission to the district that gentleman had greatly admired the orchards, but he was opposed to a deviation of the Whittlesea line, but nevertheless, he was so impressed that he placed on record that the district was entitles to a railway—a continuation from Heidelberg, and the instalment, he had no hesitation in saying, would be in the next railway bill. (Cheers). But he advised them not to be too sanguine, as it may be seven years before the next bill was introduced. Mr. Ellis proposed “The Secretary,” and Mr. Flintoff replied and proposed “Mr. Verso,” who had gratuitously prepared plans and specifications for the new hall. Mr. Verso replied, and the proceedings terminated.

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