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Time Travellers in Essendon, Flemington and the Keilor Plains


The Shuter Estate


by Marilyn Kenny




Charles and Amelia Shuter, November 1889. 

Images courtesy State Library Victoria, Accession No: H41229.


Charles Shuter was on the move. Again. He had been born in Millbrook, Hampshire, UK in 1833, a posthumous child. His father, a surgeon had died aged 41, after a marriage of only three years, having produced Charles and an older sister Sarah. Charles travelled throughout Europe with his mother and sister then became a boarder at Winchester College in Hampshire. He treasured his associations with the school his entire life. His education was directed to fitting him for the Army but in 1852 he was recruited into the Victorian Police Cadet Corps. He then became Goldfields Commissioner at Beechworth. In 1855 Shuter was appointed as Stipendiary (Police) Magistrate for the West Bourke District. His circuit covered thirteen population centres including Mount Blackwood and Bacchus Marsh. Shuter himself lived at Greendale.


As well as his duties as Police  Magistrate, Shuter took on many other gazetted roles as Returning Officer and Church Trustee. In 1858 he married Amelia Lord of Bacchus Marsh, the marriage eventually producing eleven children over a nineteen year period. Shuter and family travelled back to the UK on several occasions for lengthy periods of residence. In 1876 the Shuters settled in Moonee Ponds when he became a magistrate for the Melbourne district. Initially the family lived in Ardmillan Rd but in 1877 he bought Lyndhurst a ten-room brick mansion at 105 Puckle St, between current day Shuter and Moore sts.  Lyndhurst had been built for Sydney Mills Puckle who died in 1878. Caroline Amelia, the eldest Shuter daughter married his brother Charles Murray Puckle in 1885. A conservative, Shuter was one of the magistrates dismissed by the Berry government in 1878, though reinstated five days later.  Magistrate Shuter played an active part in the Essendon community, being connected with St Thomas Church. He also took a leading role in the ill-fated attempt to rename Moonee Ponds as Kaleno. He was an active member of the Melbourne Club and took office as Club President in 1893. In 1888 Shuter sold the Puckle St property and moved to his newly built Malvern home Dunrobin. He later built a more elaborate home Wykeham Lodge in Armadale.


Wykeham Lodge.

Photo courtesy City of Stonnington


The Sale of the Shuter Property


Charles Shuter may have been a courtly English gentleman but he seems also to have been an astute property dealer. Melbourne was in the thralls of a Land Boom and Shuter selected just the right time to sell his property. Peter Yule states that The Melbourne land boom of the 1880s ranks along with the South Sea Bubble as one of the great speculative booms of history. By the middle of 1888 land prices reached extraordinary levels. Prices in the central business district rivalled those of London and speculators were paying sky-high rates for sub-divisional land far beyond the suburban fringes of Melbourne.


In May 1888 the 3¾ acre estate was put on the market, Shuter selecting the newly established real estate firm of Woods and Atkinson in Mt Alexander Rd to handle the sale. The purchasers were Henry Cheel and Jacob Wayman Read both of Prahran. 



Prahran Telegraph, 1 Dec 1888, page 5. 


Henry Cheel was born in London in 1841, and arrived in 1854. In 1860-62 he was in New Zealand speculating in gold mining. On return to Ballarat he entered the building trade. In 1867 he travelled to Queensland where he unsuccessfully invested in mining. He returned and in 1868 settled in Prahran. He became a prolific builder and is understood to have constructed over 600 houses in Prahran alone. He also was considered a very successful land speculator. Cheel was indirectly active in local politics, training candidates and was invariably successful in getting his man to the front. In June 1888 he was prosecuted for perjury arising from evidence given in a land dealing case involving forgery. In July 1888 Cheel was sued re another questionable land transfer deal. In Sept 1889 he was again in court in a share dispute.  He was regarded as one of the most genial and jolly personages who flourished during the boom period, his transactions at that time being of great magnitude.


Jacob Wayman Read

Prahran Telegraph, 16 July 1910, page 5.


Jacob Wayman Read was born in Cambridgeshire in 1842. He was apprenticed to the drapery trade and went to Queensland in 1865. In 1867 he settled in Prahran and set up J. W. Read & Co. drapers and outfitters, of Chapel-street. This became one of the largest establishments outside of Melbourne, employing upwards of 50 hands. Read claimed his success was due to non-involvement in politics but was he an enthusiastic supporter of local sports and clubs. Cheel and Read associated socially as well as in business. They were frequently at the same events and holidayed and served on committees together,   including the Prahran Permanent Building Society.


The date of transfer of the Shuter estate to Cheel and Read was 24 July 1888, the month in which Melbourne land prices peaked. The land, with frontage 365 foot to the southern side of Puckle Street and 669 ft to Moore Street, was then subdivided as LP2872 (which included the creation of Shuter Street) into allotments. The Puckle Street frontage was divided into 16 business lots each of 15 x 100 ft., the remainder into Villa allotments.


It was common for investors to band together in syndicates buy land on low deposit and expect to on sell it rapidly at a higher price. The rapid turnover in real estate at ever increasing prices which could never be justified by normal returns was a feature of the boom. Sometimes speculators bought shares in a company set up to subdivide land, occasionally the arrangement was less formal. Often spec houses were rapidly built and sold to dummy buyers to inflate prices. Something like this probably was planned with Shuter’s estate.  Cheel and Read and others involved from Prahran were experienced in such dealings. Prahran had become a City in 1879 and at this time had a population of over 38,000, annual revenue of £48,000 and in terms of rateable property ranked third in Victoria. Including the suburbs of South Yarra, Toorak and Armadale within its boundaries Prahran described itself as the favoured residential locale of Victoria’s elite containing the magnificent mansions of the wealthiest citizens. Essendon, in contrast, was declared a Town in 1889, had a population of 9200 and revenue of £15,708. Prahran Council was described in those days as a graduation college for land boomers. It is not surprising then that the Shuter estate was bought by Prahran businessmen.


The Shuter Estate Auction



William Lawrence Baillieu in 1909

Image H85.175/7 Courtesy State Library of Victoria 


In late October 1888 Melbourne’s premier auctioneers Munro and Baillieu auctioned the 58 sites, Baillieu himself wielding the hammer. Free rail passes and lunch in a marquee were offered to those who attended the sale. Lyndhurst itself was promoted for use as a possible Coffee Palace i.e. a temperance hotel for travellers. The firm of Baillieu and Munro held a central role in land transactions of the times. Born in 1859  W L Baillieu worked as a bank clerk until 1885 when he set up as a real estate agent in partnership with Donald Munro, the son of leading land boomer, MLA for North Melbourne and future Premier  James Munro. This last named  gave financial support to the firm and put the resources of his Federal Bank behind it. By 1887 Munro & Baillieu was Melbourne’s leading real estate agency, Baillieu being described  as the greatest auctioneer of all with a compelling presence on the stand, and a speed in disposing of business which left onlookers gasping. In 1887 Munro & Baillieu surpassed all others in the volume of business done, selling land worth more than £3 million. In the 12 months to October 1888 the partnership profits were £168,000.


W L Baillieu however was not as successful with the Shuter estate. The auction result reported in the newspaper was that the sale realised £3,741 12d. 6d. There was no account of the number of blocks sold or the price per foot. It seems that perhaps no more than half the land was sold. No land transfer details were recorded on the title deeds. However on 23 January 1889 a caveat was lodged preventing and forbidding registration of any changes in proprietorship or any dealings with estate or interest. It is not clear whether this applied to whole or part of the land but nothing was recorded on the title for twelve months. This caveat stayed in place till it lapsed fourteen months later on the 31 March 1890. It appears that Cheel and Read had not been able to clear the monies they owed for the land.


In summary the following transactions then occurred:


31 March 1890 Lawrence Samuel and Edwin John Stevens were the only local residents to purchase when they acquired Block 2 on Puckle St. The Stevens Brothers had been born 1856 and 1860 respectively at Emerald Hill. The family later moved to Tavistock, Robinson St, Moonee Ponds. In 1884 they had set up as builders on the east side of Mt Alexander Rd near St Monica’s. By 1888 the brothers had changed course and established a real estate agency in Mount Alexander Rd close to Buckley St. A shop was built on their Puckle St site which served several generations of various real estate agents.


Between April and June 1890 eight transfers applying to 22 blocks were recorded. These owners were not local residents but had associations with Prahran and the building or hotel trade. It is possible that, as was common when a building society or land scheme was wound up, that the investors in Cheel and Read’s failed venture, the Shuter estate subdivision, received some of the land in part recompense for their losses. See Appendix below for a summary.


On 1 December 1890 another caveat was lodged regarding most of the land that had not already been transferred. After some further complicated dealings the National Bank foreclosed on its mortgage and took possession on the unsold portions of the land which amounted to approximately half the estate, including Lyndhurst and a block held in Cheel’s name alone.


The Post Office Site


At the time of the Shuter Estate sale the Post Office debate had been raging for six years. In 1887 Post Master General Derham had said that the 1888 estimates would provide for the establishment of the Moonee Ponds Post Office. Nothing happened in 1888. In 1889 the locals believed they were on the brink of the selection of a Mount Alexander Road site. However late in the year they learnt through unofficial channels that the Government had bought the Puckle St land as a Post Office site. Although it was stated then, November 1889, that the land had been purchased it was not until the 28 May 1890 that three lots on the corner of Shuter and Puckle were transferred to Her Majesty Queen Victoria for the future Post Office. So even before the first caveat was lifted in March 1890 the Government was in the process of acquiring the land.


The long debate about the Moonee Ponds Post Office site was a running public joke. Many speculators and investors in Prahran and elsewhere would have known that the authorities were looking for a site. It would have been understood how the presence of such a facility would affect land prices in the vicinity. Undoubtedly the suspicions of those at the time that undue influence had been used to sway the Crown’s purchase were justified. As the 1891 editorial in the North Melbourne Advertiser expressed it:

The whole agitation (i.e. to move the Post Office to Puckle St) has been raised by two or three land speculators who purchased ground at an extravagant rate in the height of the boom, and who now want to dispose of some of it at a still more extravagant rate to the Government.


In the previous article Councillors Buzzard and Dangerfield were noted to be part of the Shuter Syndicate i.e. supporting the Puckle St choice. Buzzard was a prominent real estate agent who owned several Puckle St properties. Dangerfield was an accountant/financier. Those holding land or owning property in or near the western end of Puckle St had a vested interest in promoting anything that would attract business to the quiet end of the thoroughfare. The failure of the Shuter estate sale must have brought home that a lure was needed, a key business that would anchor the street and ensure the success of the land sale and increase the value of nearby properties. Guaranteeing that the Government located a crucial service on the Shuter estate and maintaining this stance against community opposition was the tactic adopted.


There were others who had a direct financial interest in seeing the far south western site selected so making Puckle Street and the Shuter estate an attractive proposition for investors and buyer.


In 1882  Charles Shuter bought  three Lots on the northern side of Puckle St and directly opposite Lyndhurst paying 42/6 a foot. At the time of his move from the district Shuter sub divided these lots and had seven shops  erected. He derived income (£500 p.a. in 1902) from these rents and so would have had cause to use his influence to ensure the commercial success of the western end of Puckle. He may have also been directly affected by the likely failure of Cheel and Read’s venture and lobbied to ensure a prime key occupant of the estate.


Stanhope O'Connor, 1880. Courtesy of the State Library

of Victoria Collection.  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/240727


Another businessman very quick to make capital out of the selection of the Puckle St site was Stanhope O’Connor.   O’Connor had been born in 1849, a son of an establishment Irish military family. He arrived in Australia at the age of 20 years with his own way to make in the world. By 1876 he was serving as an Inspector with the Queensland police. In March 1879 he and his party of six Native Police trackers were invited to Victoria to assist with the hunt for the Kelly gang. O’Connor served for 15 months in Victoria and took a lead role at the siege of Glenrowan and the capture of the outlaws. In 1879 in Benalla O’Connor married Louisa Farewell Smith a daughter of John Thomas Smith of Ascot House, former Lord Mayor and MLA.  The marriage was secret  possibly because J T Smith had died in early 1879. However it was public enough in June for Louisa and her sister to travel with O’Connor when he was summoned back to Glenrowan. The couple had a more public marriage ceremony in February 1880.  By 1881 he had set up in business as a hide and skin merchant and wool broker. This business was short-lived and by 1883 he had been taken into partnership as a sharebroker. By 1884 the family had moved into their newly built Puckle St house Charnworth. In 1889 O’Connor built five two-storey shops on part of this estate and by 10 December 1889 was advertising them as a few feet from the site purchased for the new Post Office. These shops eventually brought O’Connor an income of about £300 pa. O’Connor was a leader of the Puckle St for the Post Office lobby group, acting as secretary and delegate to Ministerial discussions.


Puckle St property owners would have reasoned that with the railway, a Temperance Hotel and a Post Office, all bringing traffic and creating demand for staff residences and businesses nearby, their holdings would only increase in value.


The series of caveats suggest some problems occurred with the speculators group. Was there disagreement between them, could one or more not meet the payments, did some scheme fall apart? Whatever the reason the land was not immediately developed. The Government could not be got to move quickly enough and there is evidence that once Derham had moved on subsequent Post-Master Generals were not enthusiastic about the site. However the economic climate deteriorated rapidly and the site could probably not be resold for anything like its purchase price.


From mid-1888 land prices stated to decline though this was believed to be a temporary tightening. The situation then worsened. A series of strikes, banks calling in overdrafts, withdrawal of overseas investments and calls on shares led to increasing numbers of public and private bankruptcies. In the one year 1891-1892 twenty financial institutions and 100 public companies closed down with debts in the millions. Land became unsaleable and in 1892 there were 12,000 empty houses in Melbourne. The continued strong public opposition to the Puckle St Post office may have made investors wary. By 1892 there was a stalemate with the locals nearly getting their Mt Alexander Rd site over the line. The Puckle St group rallied with the 1892 threatened legal action. By 1893 Melbourne’s population was declining and probably more than a third of Melbourne's breadwinners were without work. In mid-1893 the Government was forced to declare a week long Bank Holiday to stop a run on reserves and the complete collapse of the financial system. By 1894 there was no money for public works and without a Post Office there was nothing to particularly recommend this largely vacant Shuter estate to anyone who still had investment funds.


Much of the land stayed vacant. After foreclosing in 1894 the National Bank did or could not start finding buyers for their land until 1902. In 1892 Munro and Baillieu and their firm became secretly insolvent with a deficiency of over £120,000, paying 6d in the pound. James Munro became bankrupt in 1893 with liabilities of £94,000, losing over £600,000 in land deals. As his estate was worthless he paid nothing to creditors. The Federal Bank was privately wound up.


MMBW plan of Puckle St 1905 showing that the Shuter estate was still

substantially undeveloped. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/125369 


The Post Office was not built for sixteen years after the land was acquired. Many of those who had been keenly involved in the debate were no longer on the scene. Read retired in 1903 and died in 1910. His estate was valued at £28,000 and included some of the Buckley Park Estate in Essendon, a relic of another Boom time shoddy scheme. His store Read’s Corner became Chapel Street’s largest and is now Prahran Central. After the bust Cheel retired to Gippsland and ended his days as the landlord of a public house at Drouin. He died interstate aged 63 in 1901. As his estate was thought to consist only of clothing his family did not think it worthwhile to take out Letters of Administration. In 1916 his eldest daughter found a certificate of title in an old bible and applied for Probate. The block of land in Caulfield was valued at £10. O’Connor died in 1908 in his St Kilda home leaving an estate of £1636. Louisa O’Connor had been supporting them by running this as a boarding establishment.


The peripatetic Charles Shuter died on his travels in Nice, France in 1902, leaving an estate of over £15,000.


© M Kenny 2018



Newspapers- Essendon Gazette, North Melbourne Advertiser, The Age, Argus

Birth Deaths Marriages Indices

Public Records Office Victoria:  Probate records

Lands Victoria Land Titles

Australian National University. Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2015. http://adb.anu.edu.au

Cannon M. The Land Boomers, MUP.

Yule P. "Searching for WL Baillieu at Public Record Office Victoria".  Provenance, 8. 2009.

Yule P. William Lawrence Baillieu: founder of Australia's greatest business empire.  Hardie Grant Publishing, 2012.


Acknowledgments Thanks to Bob Chalmers of Essendon Historical Society for assistance regarding Land Titles





List of those to whom lots in the Shuter Estate were transferred in mid-1890:


1 Thomas Ellis acquired the title to Block 52 on the 26 April 1890, mortgaged this in 1892 and had it repossessed in 1895.Ellis’ painting and decorating firm in Prahran was one of Victoria’s biggest employing over 70 men. His handiwork formed no inconsiderable proportion of the attractions in many a mansion such as Stonnington and the Public Library. Ellis became a Prahran Councillor in 1888 and served as Mayor 1890-91. He associated in business and socially with Cheel and Read. As well as his business he owned over 30 tenanted properties and speculated in land at Elsternwick, Malvern and Clayton. In 1894 Ellis unexpectedly retired from the Prahran Council and later that month applied for bankruptcy citing as reasons   Depreciation in value of real estate and losses in land purchased by him in July and August 1888 and falling off in business. His liabilities were £39,616. In 1888 monthly takings in his business averaged over £2,000, and they gradually fell off through the depression until at the date of sequestration they were under £200. Justice Molesworth felt forced by precedent to agree to the bankruptcy but criticised a decorator who gave up his proper business and went largely into speculations and contracted to pay large sums of money for calls, who came into court owing nearly £40,000, and had nothing wherewith to pay the large liabilities he had incurred.


2 Edward Joseph Jones was registered on the 26 April 1890 as owning two blocks on Moore St and one in Shuter St. Jones, b 1862, lived in Clifton Street, East Prahran. He was a plasterer and contractor, the business being one of the oldest established trades in the district.


3 Robert Henry was registered as the owner on 2 May 1890 of two blocks one on Puckle, the other on Shuter. Henry was  the manager at Kat Kat Station at Bald Hill, Kalkallo. Henry sold his land in 1906.


 4 Thomas Joshua Jackson was registered on the 14 May 1890 as owning two blocks on Shuter and Puckle Sts. He was born in Dublin in 1834, and immigrated to Victoria around 1852.In 1861 he left for New Zealand where he successfully engaged in mining. Returning to Melbourne in the mid-1860s he and his cousin H F Young became associated with a series of suburban hotels. In 1875 they took over the Princess Bridge Hotel. Their management and promotion of the hotel became so well known that it was referred to as Young and Jackson’s.


5 Ellen Gertrude Sisk was noted on the title on the 4 June 1890 as having three blocks on Puckle, Moore, and Shuter Sts. She was  born in Geelong in 1858 and the family later moved to Princess St, Prahran. After qualifying in 1875 she worked as a teacher achieving a senior position at a Prahran school. Through her sister she was associated with the hotel trade particularly running the Champion Hotel in Fitzroy and the Imperial in Bourke St. Sisk sold the land in 1898, the year she married.  


6 Charles Peter Rouvray became the registered owner of land parcels in Shuter and Puckle st on the 10 May 1892. He was b 1846 in the UK and is recorded as a grazier and gentleman. Rouvray with his wife Martha and seven children lived in Prahran during this period.


7 Lewis Hart was the last purchaser when on the 4 August 1894 he was recorded as owning three blocks. Hart b 1838 was a curio dealer who at one time had a shop in the Royal Arcade but later operated only from his home at 30 Gertrude St Fitzroy. He died on the 25 April 1915 leaving an estate of  £1616 including the Shuter estate land. All these blocks were still vacant The Puckle St block next to the Post Office was valued for probate at £300, the Moore St land at £90 and the Shuter St at £130.


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