Ellis Cottage Historical Precinct

February 7, 2021
Ellis Cottage and surrounding farmland c1940.

Welcome to the Nillumbik Historical Society.  We are situated in the beautiful Ellis Cottage Historical Precinct in Diamond Creek, Victoria. Our aim is to preserve and share the history of Nillumbik.  We have a large archive of photographs, artefacts and historical documents relating to people who have lived in the area and places in the district where they worked, farmed, and mined, with a particular focus on the wider area around Diamond Creek.  The Nillumbik Historical Society was formed in 1973 with the inaugural meeting held at Lovitt Cottage, now known as Ellis Cottage.  We take our name of ‘Nillumbik’ from that originally used for the area now called Diamond Creek. We regularly meet and work with groups and schools which helps us to share what we have with a wider audience.  Our committee and volunteers are very active on behalf of the Society and we are committed to ongoing projects that share our local history with the community.  Please don’t hesitate to Contact Us if you are looking for information. We welcome visitors and offer tours to clubs, schools, and groups, by arrangement. A Devonshire Tea or some Coffee, Tea and Biscuits can be arranged for groups (min 10 people) with a talk and tour, booked in advance.  Call 9438 5619 or use the Contact Us page. We are open to the public on the first Sunday of each month or by appointment.

Ellis Cottage, home of the Nillumbik Historical Society. We are committed to ongoing projects that share our local history with the community and welcome visitors and new members

About Our Work

Since the Ellis Cottage site was handed to the Nillumbik Historical Society a number of additions have been made.  The historic Lock-up from the site of the Collins Street Police Station was donated and moved to the cottage precinct and is a good example of its type.  We use it as a standalone display. The Nillumbik Historical Society has added a barn to the precinct to maintain and display items from our district.  We also use it for meetings and other gatherings.  It was made possible by volunteers and a great deal of fundraising work over 15 years. The barn also houses an archival facility which allows the Society to efficiently meet growing demand for information about the area.  The barn and archives area, along with the cottage, hold many of our historical documents, photographs, and artefacts. Our latest addition to the historical precinct is the Lone Pine Memorial, completed in October 2017 after six months of dedicated work by VCAL students from Diamond Valley College, and Diamond Creek Men’s Shed, and with the support of the Montmorency-Eltham RSL and Banyule Nillumbik Local Learning and Employment Network. We take every opportunity to share information, photographs, and objects we have gathered, and received as donations, over more than 40 years with the community.  New projects include storing images of our artefacts so we can put them online, enabling those with links to the area to view our collection no matter where in the world they are located. We are also undertaking a project to transcribe of many of the letters we have, particularly those from local families during WW1.

About the Ellis Cottage Historical Precinct

The area of the Shire of Nillumbik was roamed for centuries by the Wurundjeri-willam clan of the Woi wurrung speaking people. The Woi wurrung territory encompassed the watersheds of both the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers and therefore occupied much of present-day Melbourne. William Ellis migrated to Melbourne from Devon in the mid 1840’s and was an early settler in the district, initially working on a farm in Kangaroo Ground, until he took up land along the Diamond Creek in 1850.  He bought 147 acres at what was then ‘Nillumbik’ or ‘Nillumbik on the Diamond Creek’.  He added to his land holding in 1861 with the purchase of a neighbouring property.  William lived on and worked the land living in a hut near the creek.  The farm stretched from today’s Reynolds Road across the creek flats and hills towards Wattle Glen. Once established, William Ellis built today’s cottage using local stone, completing it around 1865.  The stone walls, 40cm thick, were plastered inside with mud and straw.  The design was simple, a central passage with two rooms either side, each with its own fireplace.  The kitchen fireplace was built large enough to cater for all cooking needs.  A doorway from the kitchen led outside to a dairy and other farm buildings.  The roof was of hand-cut wooden shingles.  There was a domed well that collected rainwater from the roof, and two Italian cypress trees flanked the stone steps at the front door. In 1870, William’s nephew Nathaniel also migrated from Devon.  As William and his wife had no children and needed help, he came to support them on the farm.  William and Nathaniel prospered during their time on the farm, giving back to the community and supporting development of the area. The farm stayed in the Ellis family until after William’s death in 1896 when part of the farm was sold off according to conditions in his will.  William also left a bequest of £100 to build the gateway at Nillumbik Cemetery, Diamond Creek.  The gateway stands proud above the Sawpit Gully roundabout and is inscribed with the Latin words ‘Janva Vitae’ meaning Gate of Life. In the following years, the property was lived in by various families until the Lovitt family purchased the remaining land, including the cottage, in the 1960’s.  Phillip Lovitt and Peter Marriage rebuilt the cottage during the summer of 1972-73, as it was by then in an advanced state of disrepair and had been used for some time to store hay.  The cottage stayed in the care of the Lovitt family until it was sold, subdivided and developed in the early 1980’s. As part of the subdivision, the cottage and seven acres surrounding it was passed to the Shire of Diamond Valley who repaired and rebuilt the cottage handing it to the Nillumbik Historical Society for safe keeping on behalf of the community in 1989.  The reserve is still a public open place and is well maintained by the Shire of Nillumbik.

Ellis Cottage and surrounding farmland 1973.
A red brick gateway is the entrance to Nillumbik Cemetery, Diamond Creek. It was erected in 1897 by the executor of the will of William Ellis who bequeathed £100 for its construction.
Ellis Cottage sits on a public reserve of seven acres and is surrounded by outdoor displays and gardens
The carving of a Miner commemorating the importance of gold mining to the district, stands in the gardens which are lovingly maintained by volunteers and by the Shire of Nillumbik
Two Italian cypress trees flank the stone steps leading to the front door.
This wonderful old Peppercorn tree dates from the earliest days of William Ellis's farm, and the barn houses displays, local history archives, and events
Next to the barn is the historic Lock-up from the old Collins Street Police Station
The kitchen fireplace in Ellis Cottage, most of which is original with updates to the hearth with renovations. It was built large enough to cater for all cooking needs.
The spinning wheel at Ellis Cottage. Used for spinning thread or yarn from fibres, it was fundamental to the cotton textile industry prior to the Industrial Revolution, and increased the productivity of thread making by a factor of greater than 10. Traditionally this work was done by females, many of whom demonstrated great skill and speed
Ellis Cottage, home of the Nillumbik Historical Society was fully renovated in 1989 by the Shire of Diamond Valley
Nillumbik Historical Society welcomes visitors and offers tours to clubs, schools, and groups, by arrangement. We are open to the public on the first Sunday of each month or by appointment


10 Nillumbik Square, Diamond Creek, Victoria, Australia. Visit the Contact Us page for more information about where to find us and how to reach us. Visit the About page for more information about activities and tours. Visit the Membership page to see how you can become part of our active and supportive community no matter where in the world you are located.

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