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Page history last edited by Lenore Frost 6 years ago

Time Travellers in Essendon, Flemington and the Keilor Plains




By Lenore Frost


A postcard of the Essendon Town Hall, former Essendon & Flemington Institute, postmarked June '06.  Collection: Lenore Frost.


The 1853 Roads Act established road districts and district roads boards with the power to levy tolls and maintain roads. Between 1854 and 1860 twenty-two road districts were established, but Essendon and Flemington was not established as a road district until 1861, possibly because the main thoroughfare, Mount Alexander Road, was maintained by the Central Roads Board formed in 1853.


The Municipal Institutions Act of 1854 allowed new councils to be created by petition, and in 1861 one hundred and sixty-nine residents of Essendon and Flemington duly signed a petition requesting local government, which request was granted by the government.   The first municipal government institution formed in this area was the Municipal District of Essendon and Flemington, which was gazetted on 27 December 1861.  The Municipal District  preceded the “Borough” by some 22 months.    It was created under the Municipal Institutions Act 1863 whereby the 56 existing Municipal Districts in the colony of Victoria became Boroughs when the Act came into effect on 1 October 1863. (1) 


In January 1862 a public meeting was held at the Moonee Ponds Hotel, in the room where the Court of Petty Sessions convened on  Mondays, to decide how many members would form the new council, whether the members of the council would be remunerated, and to duly elect members to the Borough Council of Essendon and Flemington.


It was decided that there would be seven members of the Council, and that there should be no  remuneration of any kind paid to Councillors. The first Councillors elected were: J T Smith, MLA, JP, John Grant, Peter McCracken, JP, William Hoffman, Richard Leake, John Filson, and  Edward Byam Wight.


Councils had the power to manage roads, levy tolls on roads, and levy rates on land and buildings. The canny Councillors decided to save rates money by building a Town Hall which would also be  utilised by the local Court of Petty Sessions, thus attracting an annual grant of £500 for rent. They  chose a site at the corner of Mt Alexander Road and Warrick Street, next to the Prince of Wales Hotel.


Over the next two decades the divergent interests of the two ends of the Borough led to  dissatisfaction with Council by the residents at the southern end who were trying to rid themselves of the noxious trades in their area. They felt that their rates were being spent to benefit the residents at the northern end of the Borough. In 1882 a petition was raised to form their own Council. The new Borough of Essendon sought a more central location for their Town Hall and in 1884 purchased a building which had been commenced by the Essendon and Flemington Institute, also known as the Essendon Athenaeum.


The new Kensington and Flemington Council, meanwhile, held their meetings in a hall on the south side of Racecourse Road between Pridham Street and the Doutta Galla Hotel. In 1901 they opened their own Town Hall in Bellair Street, Kensington. Unfortunately the small Borough proved to be  economically unsustainable, and on 30 October 1905 Flemington and Kensington joined the City of Melbourne.


Kensington Town Hall, in Bellair St, Kensington.  Photo:  Lenore Frost


Essendon was proclaimed a Town in on 12 December 1899, and a City on 19 April 1909. Seventy years later, on 1 October 1979, the City of Essendon increased its size by the addition of Strathmore from the former City of Broadmeadows.


A new Civic Centre was built on the corner of Pascoe Vale Road and Kellaway Ave in 1974, and the Town Hall was refurbished and renamed the Essendon Community Centre. Extensive damage was  done to the Community Centre in a fire in 1975, which was subsequently partly rebuilt.


In 1993 a statewide program of council amalgamations was undertaken, and in 1994 the City of Moonee Valley was formed, consisting of the following suburbs:


  • Essendon, Moonee Ponds, Ascot Vale and Strathmore from the former City of Essendon;
  • Flemington and Kensington from the City of Melbourne;
  • Airport West, Avondale Heights, Keilor Heights and Niddrie from the former City of Keilor.


After further redevelopment the Essendon Community Centre was relaunched in 2000 as the

Clocktower Centre, the clocktower being the only original part of the old Essendon Athenaeum still standing.


                                                                                                                                                ©  Lenore Frost


(1)   Peter Willoughby, 'Before the Borough', in The Newsletter,  No 212 February-March 2012. Essendon Historical Society Inc, Moonee Ponds.


Forward to 1880s-Land-Boom

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