Pioneer Families of Diamond Creek District STARLING & STEWART

June 22, 2022
Starling family home ‘Hazeldene’ from Heard Avenue c1920. On the left side of the photo is the original four- roomed ‘adobe’ (clay) cottage built by George Durrant Starling in about 1870. Beside it to the right is the four- roomed timber house added by grandson George Davey Starling jnr. in about 1890.

George Durrant Starling and his wife Clementina left Norfolk, England and arrived in Melbourne in 1859 to start a new life, first living at Janefield, now Bundoora, where they ran a farm. They were joined ten years later by their grandsons George Davey Starling jnr. and Adrian Starling, then in 1886 their son George Davey Starling snr. and his daughter Leonora.

Alexander Stewart arrive in Melbourne from Edinburgh, Scotland in 1852. He was working on the construction of Yan Yean Reservoir when he met and married Mary Jane Short in 1854. Their first child Margaret was born there in 1855. After work at Yan Yean was completed, the family move to a farm in Mernda. In the mid-1860’s they were living in Janefield later moving to Greensborough. In the 1870’s they bought land at Tanck’s Corner (Yarrambat).

Links between the two families may have begun in Janefield and seem to have been kept up over the years as George Davey Starling jnr. married Margaret Stewart there in 1877. Maud, their first child, was born in Diamond Creek in 1878, followed by nine more children over the next 20 years.

George and Margaret Starling and family at home at “The Firs” Yan Yean Road c1904. Back: Leonora, Frederick, Gertrude, Ida, Front: Walter, Mary, Esther, Margaret, George Davey Starling jnr., Isa

The Starling family properties were centred on an area between Diamond Creek, Plenty, Greensborough and Tanck”s Corner so this gave them a number of options for schooling over the twenty or so years when the children were growing up. Isa, at five, started walking the one and half miles to Diamond Creek, often with her sister Ida giving her a piggy back home. Later when she was older, Isa moved to Greensborough State School, a three mile walk, which she did until she was old enough to ride a horse to school. Walter and Leonora attended school at Tanck’s Corner, while other members of the family went to school at Plenty and Diamond Creek.

An 1888 survey map (below) of the area from Nillumbik (now Diamond Creek) Township west towards Plenty has details of properties owned by George Davey Starling jnr. and George Durrant Starling who had also moved to Diamond Creek in 1870. The vertical road to the right of the centre of the map is now Lambert Street and on the left edge is Yan Yean Road/Heard Avenue.

The family had houses on both properties, with the late and main house on Heard Avenue, initially named ‘The Firs’. In 1917 it became ‘Hazeldene’ after daughter Isa suggested it be renamed for the town on the Flowerdale Road, where there was a favourite picnic spot on the King Parrot Creek, beside the bridge leading to Hazeldene township.

George Davey Starling was an orchardist and a member of the Nillumbik Horticultural Society and more than likely also a member of the Nillumbik Fruitgrowers Association as most orchardists in the local district were.

The family were active in the community attending and supporting St John’s Church of England and later Diamond Creek Methodist Church as well.

Frederick and Walter served during the First World War, both seeing action; Fred came home and married and continued helping with the farm and orchard while living nearby; Walter was severely wounded in France and died in 1918 in a London hospital.

Maud and her husband George Fineran lived near the Plenty School, but George was killed in 1916 during the First World War. Maud’s father helped her start a shop at her home that became the original Plenty store. Later, Maud’s sister Leonora and her husband Frank Winsor took over running the store. They used logs as rollers to move the house down the hill, close to the location of the Plenty Store that has recently been upgraded with the Yan Yean Road widening.

Alexander and Mary-Jane Stewart built their home in Pioneer Road in 1870 using wattle and daub – a frame of wattle saplings packed with mud. The walls were papered inside with old newspapers from the 1860’s; the roof was originally wooden shingles, later covered with galvanised iron from Scotland.

Alexander and Mary-Jane Stewart and family c1895, Pioneer Rd, Tanck’s Corner. Back row: David, Jaen (Jane) and Robert Stewart holding nephew Allan Hewitt Front row: Alexander Stewart seated with grandson’s Murdoch Hewitt and Alec Bayliss, Mary-Jane Stewart and Elizabeth Hewitt (nee Stewart)

Alexander Stewart died in 1900 and Mary-Jane in 1913, both are buried in Nillumbik Cemetery. The Stewart cottage was then looked after by Robert Stewart and family, and after that by the Hackett family, from about 1948. The old cottage was blown down by a severe storm in the mid-1950’s, having stood for about 80 years. The site is marked by elms and shady pine trees, which include several Scots pines that may have come from trees originally planted by the Stewarts.

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