Fred and Catherine Hurst had a weatherboard Victorian style dwelling moved from an inner Melbourne suburb to its present site on their Allwood property. Mr Charles Verso, builder and farmer, reassembled and refurbished the home for the Hursts. In 1987 Fred and Catherine’s daughter Frances married William (Bill) grey of Cottle’s breach and the newlyweds moved into the new House while Fred and Catherine Hurst moved into Mia Mia, a pretty cottage on the other side of Diamond Creek. Bill and Frances went about establishing the Allwood nurseries and by 1900 Bill had put most of the Allwood property under orchard, largely apples, pears, cherry plums and peaches and had developed an extensive nursery, growing seedling stock for supply to other local orchardists and the overseas market.
Special apples, late autumn varieties, were grown to supply apple cider manufacturers and Bill’s own cider factory. During the season that Allwood fruit was marketed on three days each week. Teams of men would work non-stop picking, packing and driving covered fruit wagons to market. In the very early 1900s Bill had an Acetylene Gas generator installed in a shed at the rear of the House the gas was collected and piped to both the House, and more importantly, to the packing shed for lighting during the busy growing seasons, packing could continue almost around-the-clock.
During the Edwardian era in England plant collecting had become almost an obsession and wealthy collectors financed expeditions in search of rare or different plants. New and exotic plants became available to gardeners. Many of these were from the Americas or China – Agave Americana, Cordyline etc. Bill selected these and other tough sculptural plants like prickly pear, agapanthus, holly and Japonica for the Allwood garden while mixing in a variety of bush roses, bulbs including Camassia, a North American native, and annuals, creating, in effect, a mini botanic Garden. A wide carriageway was created along which sweet pea and roses greeted the visitor. Peppercorns from Africa were planted at the rear of the House in the farmyard along with Cyprus and to Canary Island Palms placed in the centre of the front garden along with a row of a tall variety along the drive/carriageway. Like all gardens it evolved – later additions where Japanese Spindle Tree, a row of Seville orange trees that graced and still grace the side of the driveway (now a pedestrian walkway).
Still later where the addition of Camellia, Mexican Hawthorn and Wisteria all of which are suited to the dry but frost prone conditions.
Bill died in 1942 and although the garden, went through periods of neglect and many of the original plantings have been lost through drought or old age, the bones of the original garden remain, and the garden continues to be refreshed with additional new plantings and ideas. Eltham Shire purchased the property from Sheila (nee Hurst/Gray) Ferguson in 1984 for use as a community House. Allwood neighbourhood House opened in 1985 and the garden has since been maintained by some wonderful volunteers and committee members. Now a public space, Bills Garden has hosted festivals, wedding receptions and many other activities while still providing a quiet, reflective retreat as gardens everywhere do.
Allwood House Gallery
Hurstbridge and District Local History Group
Based at Allwood Neighbourhood House – 901 Main Road Hurstbridge 3099
Contact – Pam Lawson 9718 2271 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Formed in 1998 to carry on the work of a previous history group the Allwood history group That, the Hurstbridge and District local history group, also based at Allwood Neighbourhood House, continues that groups endeavours to collect, record, collate and preserve the Hurstbridge townships rich, varied and ongoing social, environmental and built history.
The group’s collection includes historical information relating to the first inhabitants of the district, the Wurundjeri William people – early settlers-the local fruit growing industry and the townships ongoing built and social growth. Displays of photographs and memorabilia include a display of found objects from the Caledonia Gold Fields (St Andrews).
Inside Our History Room
Hurstbridge and Local Districts History
Hurstbridge was first settled in 1842 by Cornelius Hayley, a grazier. The area was originally known as Allwood, after the Homestead built there. The town was renamed in 1924. The town’s current name is from Henry Hurst, who built the first log bridge across the Diamond Creek, upstream from the present Monash Bridge. In 1866, Henry Hurst was fatally wounded by a bushranger, Robert Bourke. Bourke was captured and tied to a wheel of a wagon under a tree (now known as Bourke’s tree) until troopers from nearby Queenstown arrived. Bourke was tried and found guilty of the murder, and was later hanged.
For many years the area was characterised by orchards and nurseries, and in 1912 a rail line was extended to Hurstbridge to transport fruit to Melbourne. As a result of this rail connection, a settlement started developing near the bridge. A post office opened in 1912, and the current single lane bridge designed by Sir John Monash opened in 1918. The township was originally known as Hursts Bridge until 1915, and then Hurst Bridge until about 1954. Further development of the town occurred in the post-war years, and electricity was connected in 1957.
The artist Albert Tucker moved to a 5-acre (20,000 m²) property in Hurstbridge in the 1960s, where he lived for many years. A series of paintings from the time depict the natural bushland around his property.