Town Without a Name

August 30, 2023

An extract from Edward Bage, Diamond Creek: surveyor, adventurer and gentleman by Jock Ryan (Nillumbik Historical Society 2001)

Victoria’s booming population led to houses and farms springing up haphazardly with little regard to the location of future townships or roads.

One such community had developed twenty five kilometres north east of Melbourne where, in 1862, four gold-bearing quartz reefs had been discovered.

Here a mine had been established and a rapidly growing population set itself up. Within a year of the discovery of gold, 24 families were associated with the mine, and within a few years some 200 families were involved.

A copy of an early map held by the Nillumbik Historical Society shows that farm and house fences were already being built over future road, making the need for a proper survey more urgent.

The district in question, which we now know as Diamond Creek, did not even know what to call itself until 1868, because during its twenty years of European settlement it had carried a confusion of names.

It was first referred to as Wilsons, because in 1846 John and Martha Wilson and their seven children settled on land close to the creek, where he grazed pigs and sheep for his butchers shop in Melbourne.

It was sometimes called Nillumbik, because in 1837 Surveyor William Hoddle had established the boundaries of the electoral Parish of Nillumbik, and this name at least had some official sanction, even though it had not been given to the growing township.

This confusion is apparent in some early legal documents. For instance the Memorial transferring land from the Crown to William Ellis in 1851, described the location of the property as near Nillumbik, simply because the authorities did not know how else to describe the location.

The further confusion arose because of the change of the name of the creek.

We know that Henry Arthur had been allocated most of the Diamond Valley as his share of John Batman’s purchase of 600,000 acres from the aborigines in 1835, and as would be expected, Arthur gave his name, Arthur’s Creek to the entire stream from the mountains to the Yarra.

However, at some unknown date, probably in the late 1840’s, and by some unknown authority, the name of the lower course of the stream from Hurstbridge to the Yarra was changed to the Diamond Creek.

The origin of the name Diamond Creek is not the purpose of the story, but whatever its origin, it seems certain that by the late 1840’s the name Wilsons was disappearing and the name Diamond Creek was interchangeable with the name Nillumbik.

Although the population of the town started to grow in 1862, it took the authorities another five years before they commissioned Edward Bage to survey and name our streets, and finally resolve the confusion surrounding the name of the township.

We are indebted to the memoir of Edward Bage’s son for an explanation of how our streets got their names. His son, Charles Bage, tells how as a nine year old boy he was standing at the window of his father’s office in Queen Street, looking out over vacant land towards Swanston Street where a procession was in progress.

The procession which took place on Thursday 27th November 1867, was part of the celebration for the visit of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh to lay the foundation stone of the Melbourne Town Hall.

On this day Charles’ father had the plans of the newly surveyed township on his drawing board, so he used the occasion of the Royal visit as his inspiration for the naming of the streets. Hence we have Galatea – the name of the frigate which brought the Duke to Australia, Chute Street named after the Commander in Chief of the Victorian Armed Forces, Major General Sir Trevor Chute, KCB, Hyde Street named after Lieut-Colonel Hyde Page who was Deputy Quartermaster General, Alfred and Edinburgh from the Duke’s title, and of course Bage Street to honour the surveyor himself.

The Diamond Creek Township commenced as the Township of Nillumbik at Diamond Creek, as laid out by Contract Surveyor Edward Bage in the late 1860’s over a number of permissive occupancies (Nillumbik Heritage Review 2006).

Edward Bage’s early survey plan of 1867 shows details of early settlement and how the new plan affected previous boundaries. The large open area in the centre of the survey plan was set aside for Nillumbik Cemetery. (Source State Library Victoria)

John Donaldson of Diamond Creek was the first owner of Crown Allotment 5 Section 2 in 1867, the allotment then extending from Chute St to Hyde St. Edward Bage’s early survey plan of Nillumbik Township show the imposition of the survey grid on the pre-existing buildings and fenced yards. The map showed allotment 5 as one of three existing lots on this (south) side of Chute St set at an angle to the new grid, with a building shown facing Chute St but none facing Hyde St. Chute St appeared then to be the main street of the town. Donaldson was the owner of a house at Diamond Creek in the 1870’s but it is unknown if this house was it, given the building already facing Chute St. (Nillumbik Heritage Review 2006).

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