A HERITAGE WALK IN ASCOT VALE, ( VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA.)& two Bruce families. :: FamilyTreeCircles.com Genealogy
<< Previous - Next >>


Journal by itellya

Contacting the Essendon Historical Society

Location Address:
Cnr Kellaway Ave and Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds.

Mail Address:
768-770 Mt. Alexander Rd, Moonee Ponds 3039

Email: esshissoc@mail.com Phone:03 9370 4607

(Please remember that our members are volunteers, and may not be able to take your call due to work or other commitments. Often e-mail is the best method of contacting the Society.)

President: Judy Maddigan judy.maddigan@hotmail.com

Vice President: Bob Chalmers

No matter how much they love their parents, adopted children often have a desire to meet their birth parents. Probably millions of people around the world are researching their family history for, I think, the same reason; to find out where they come from. When we can recount Aunt Polly's eccentric ways, somehow it adds to the sum of "being me".

Councils spend a lot of money in an effort to produce a sense of community. Australia Day festivities attract large crowds and a shared sense of being an Aussie is evident but the level of community spirit developed is nowhere that experienced by pioneers, and as soon as a community event is finished, many people go back to their homes, fortresses with high fences that act as barriers to community engagement.

By pioneers, I don't mean a century or more ago. Personally, I have fond memories of Tullamarine in the first half of the 1970's where people were working together to establish activities for children, develop the hall, get a kindergarten and so on. The person that did not know and enjoy the company of close to a hundred fellow residents was rare indeed.

Any attempts to develop community spirit without a knowledge and appreciation of where that community has "come from" is like expecting an orphan (from birth)to develop a sense of family. The prime aim of historical societies should be to help residents know where their community has come from (as well as helping family historian tell their potential readers whey they come from,of course!)

And that's just what Alex Bragiola and Bob Chalmers of the Essendon Historical Society are doing! I have known Bob for ages, through cricket and teaching,but more about him later. I have known Alex for over a decade. He gave me great assistance when I was researching EARLY LANDOWNERS: PARISH OF DOUTTA GALLA, finding items in the archives at the Court house museum and providing information about historic, but less well-known houses between Glass and Woodland Sts.

Bob, among his numerous services to the community was a long-time secretary of the Essendon (and district) Churches Cricket Competition, (which had several name changes)and the Essendon State School Sports Association.
I followed him in the latter role and had to wear three pairs of socks at once because his shoes were so big to fill; without the checklists and guides he gave me I just would not have coped. He had written several books including THE ANNALS OF ESSENDON and histories of Aberfeldie Primary School and the cricket comp.He was inspired by the titles information in my EARLY LANDOWNERS (which was mainly about farms) and set about finding title information about section 14, Doutta Galla, bounded by Lincoln Rd, Woodland St,Moonee PondsCk-Fitzgerald Rd and Buckley St.

The history walk took place last weekend and attracted 60 people. Those who missed out can conduct their own walk by obtaining a copy of the superb booklet produced by Alex and Bob. As well as having 55 illustrations (mainly photos of the houses whose history is discussed in detail), it even tells you when to cross the road!

Those pioneers discussed are listed below. As too much detail in the booklet would not have made the walk progress smoothly, I have added some information about one or two.

William Fletcher, Andrew Binns, Charles and Joseph Bradshaw, Charles Stuart Mossman, William Hoffman, Edward Byam Wight, John Watson, Harry Jennings, Alfred Nation, William Stanford, William Aitken, Alexandra Hiskens, Archibald Herbert Cox, W.S.Cox, Arthur Vaughan Hiskens, Samuel Bruce, Walter Sylvanus Melbourne Bruce, Mrs Allison, J.F.Gibbons, John McWhae, Elizabeth Henderson McWhae, George William Deighton, Augustus Jones, John Quinn, John Parry, Mrs Anne Evans, George Holmes, Thomas Hill, William Black, Daniel R.Dossetor, Muller Bros., Hillson Beasley and Little, Angel Bros., Thomas Coker, Patrick Higgins, Thomas Williams, Cunningham John McFarlane, Rev. Donald Macrae Stewart,Jessie Stewart, Robert John Fairbairn, Fiszel Kawka, Sarah Ann Barlow, John Thomas Smith, Rev. John Martin Strongman, William Jackson, William R.Morgan, Morgan&Mackintosh, Henry Byron Moore, Alexander Gillespie, Samuel Goth Cook, John Murdoch, Mary Ann Murdoch, Edward Nathaniel Abrahams, Murdoch McKenzie, Katherine Jane Anderson, Pastor James Burchett, John Little, James Rawsthorn, James Henry Davey, Elizabeth Hoffman, John Willman, Mr Drew, R.Dixon, Mary Anne Breeze, Robert Fleming and his sister Mary Ann, John and Hannah Bloomfield, Rogerson Bullen, Thomas Brunton, Stuart Dudley Brunton, G.B.Leith,John James McCully, James Currie, Taylor and Currie, Arthur Fenton, Henry Samuel Cole, Dugald Gordon McDougall, Redmond Ross Pomeroy and his wife Teresa, John and Annie Clark, John Cameron, James Buchanan,George Napier Turner, Charles Murray Puckle, Rev. Edward Puckle,John Riley, John Wren, Benjamin Nathan, William Cox.

That's 93 names and 55 photos etc in a 16 page booklet and it doesn't even look cluttered. I wrote in the title of one of my journal "names in a list ain't much good" and I can assure you that there is much detail about each name, for example, Augustus Jones was the Secretary of the Meat Preserving Company on the Saltwater River. Some of them were architect or builders of houses and bridges, others business partners of house owners.

JOHN WREN. There are an extensive biography and wikipedia entry about this Collingwood fanatic whose gifts of a fiver for a good game would have seemed like a fortune to the footballers during the depression.The wikipedia entry wrongly states that Wren was involved with the establishment of the Moonee Valley Racecourse.
Wren 's course was on the site of the Wingate Ave housing commission estate.

W.S.COX. Samuel Cox and William Samuel Cox, both butchers, the latter from Errol St, North Melbourne, leased Kensington Park, using it as the Kensington Park Racecourse for some years until the lease expired in 1882 and the land was subdivided. Cox soon leased (Feehan's?)Farm at Moonee Ponds and I have never seen any mention of an eleven year old John Wren being involved! Full titles information is available free if you request it. Buy the booklet to find out about the Secretary of the club/son-in-law.

THOMAS BRUNTON. One of the main roads of Roxburgh Park is named after Brunton, who came from Roxburgh in Scotland according to Alex and Bob.(By the way, in case you are commentating on the Essendon District Football League,Roxburgh rhymes with Edinburgh, not iceberg, you dummies!) Another main road is named after the grantee, Cameron, who named the property "Stoney Fields." (Broadmeadows Rate book 1863.)The late Donald Cameron's son John, who died aged 43 in 1882, had used this unattractive name so it must have been Charles Cameron (dead by 1895) who changed the name to Ruthvenfield. A Cameron grant just east of the Broadmeadows Railway Station was called Ruthven. There was a huge legal wrangle to sort out before the land could be sold to Thomas Brunton. (See ACTION AGAINST LAND BOOM SYNDICATE on page 10 of The Argus on 22-2-1893.)

The Kernans (see thanks for documents below) were pioneers of Somerton and John Kernan in the Pascoe Vale/Strathmore area where he named Loeman Rd after his great mate, Michael Loeman of Glenloeman on Tullamarine Island.
This comes from the Craigieburn History Interest Group's website.

Roxburgh Park Homestead as it was in 2001, photo courtesy of the National Library of Australia http://www.nla.gov.au/

Thanks to Yvonne Kernan and her family for the documents relating to the sale of Roxburgh Park in 1949

In a "Heritage Study of the Former Shire of Bulla District, 1998' Roxburgh Park was described as 'of regional historical and architectural significance' first house constructed early c.1850's and second house constructed 1895.

The first owner was Donald Cameron a Scot and he named the property 'Ruthvenfield', again reflecting its Scottish origins as Ruthvenfield is a village, in the parish of Tibbermore, county of Perth, Scotland and the bluestone and granite house built sometime after 1848. In the 1949 sale for the property it is stated 'A Granite Quarry of Monumental & Building Stone of excellent quality, a valuable asset is situate on the Southern Boundary' this is possibly where the materials for the original bluestone and granite dwelling house were extracted from.

In 1882 the dwelling was then described as 4 rooms built with stone walls and partitions of brick with a slate roof and timber cottages used for bedrooms along with various outbuildings and various family members seem to have been running the property after Cameron died.

Thomas Brunton a flour miller purchased the property in 1895. It was not long before plans were made to build a red brick house on the property and said to be the present building on the site. Brunton is attributed to being the person who named Roxburgh Park after his birthplace in Roxburgh, Scotland. It was again described in the 1949 sale as 'of brick' and built on an elevated position'. Brunton bred cattle, horses and Shropshire sheep on the property 'originally established by the late Hon. Thom Brunton, MLC as a country home and Stropshire Stud Farm'.

Brunton sold the property to a Mr. E. A. Porter who carried on a 'Lincoln Sheep and Shorthorn Cattle Stud'. The Hon. Thomas Brunton, MLC died at his Ascot Vale home in 1908 which was interestingly named 'Roxburgh'.

In 1926 the property seems to have then passed into the hands of Thomas Ellis Silvester Esq. and was advertised when auctioned in 1949, as being situated as Somerton - Broadmeadows - Greenvale District. The property was described then as situated 13 miles from Melbourne, 8 miles from Essendon and 3 miles from Broadmeadows at the end of the Melbourne - Pascoe Vale Road and you can see this demonstrated clearly by the plan of the property when auctioned.

The Roxburgh Park of old was originally located in Somerton, with Roxburgh Park only becoming its own
suburb when developed by the Urban Land Authority/Urban Rural Land Commission.

The house on his grant at the corner of Kensington and Epsom Rd was called "The Ridge", its name recalled by a street named The Ridgeway. Holy Trinity Church of England (now an eastern orthodox church) was built on part of the grant, donated by the Wight family.

Patrick was involved in the construction of the road to Mt Alexander near Keilor and bought several blocks on the north side of this road, being part of Keilor Township in section 19 Doutta Galla (west of Collinson St.)If I remember correctly, there is more detail in Angela Evans' KEILOR PIONEERS: DEAD MEN DO TELL TALES.

His Butzbach homestead was accessed by an extremely long driveway from Buckley St. It was located near Croft St (named after a later owner) and the bend in Price St, east of Hoffmans Rd.Butzbach (later called Buckley Park, hence the name of the Douttas' home ground) extended about a half mile east of Hoffmans Rd.

John Agnews Bruce (actually John Vans Agnew Bruce-see comment 1) owned the northern 1000 acres of Jamieson's Special Survey between Bruce Rd and the Martha Cove Waterway, extending east to Bulldog Ck Rd (Melway 151 K12.) He was a partner in Cornish and Bruce who built the Mt Alexander and Murray River Railway.The southern majority of the Survey was owned by Big Clarke who was supposed to have(a) given the 1000 acres to his son in law as a wedding present (A DREAMTIME OF DROMANA) or (b) sold it to him at a handsome profit (LIME LAND LEISURE.)Sam and Walter Bruce were possibly related to John, whose address was given as Essendon in a Flinders Shire ratebook (wrong-see comment 1)seen while I was researching Louis Edwin Tassell, his tenant until he died circa 1868, after whom the waterway (Tassells Creek) was named.

COKER. ?On the 30th ult., at his residence, 390 Latrobe-street, Thomas Coker, well known in sporting circles, aged 75 years.(P.1, Argus, 2-10-1889.) Thomas Coker may have been an early Ascot Vale resident buying 10 acres in June 1870 and subdividing the block into nine allotments. He financed the building of a number of houses in Ascot Vale Rd in the 1870's and 1880's.

Seven times Mayor of Melbourne, Essendon/Flemington and Keilor councillor, Member of Parliament, short term teacher at George Langhorne's aboriginal mission on the site of Melbourne's before launching into business, builder of Ascot House in Fenton St, Ascot Vale, grantee of the north west corner of the parish of Moorooduc which became the Ranelagh estate at Mt Eliza (plaque at entrance); not really that much to say about him!!

ARTHUR FENTON. Later owner of Ascot House. If I remember correctly he was a daring young man in a flying machine.

by itellya Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2013-01-30 03:51:23

Itellya is researching local history on the Mornington Peninsula and is willing to help family historians with information about the area between Somerville and Blairgowrie. He has extensive information about Henry Gomm of Somerville, Joseph Porta (Victoria's first bellows manufacturer) and Captain Adams of Rosebud.

Do you know someone who can help? Share this:


by itellya on 2013-01-30 21:51:43

Everyone makes mistakes, and I have deliberately not corrected my blue in the journal to illustrate the point. I knew John Bruce's name had an "S" in it but I put it in the wrong place; I also said that the evidence that he lived in Essendon came from the Shire of Flinders (and Kangerong)rate records. Something troubled my mind and on checking my Tassell notes, I discovered the advertisement, for tenders for a lease of his Brokil Estate near Mt Martha, on page 12 of The Argus on 7-5-1874. (Brokil Creek from which the estate's name came was also known as Tassell's Creek.)It ended "J.Vans Agnew Bruce, Fletcher St,Essendon."

Here is John's biography.
Bruce, John Vans Agnew (1822?1863) by John Maxwell
John Vans Agnew Bruce (1822-1863), road and railway construction contractor, was born in Edinburgh, the son of John Vans Agnew Bruce and his wife Catharina, n?e Robertson; he was said to be descended from one of the oldest families in Galloway. He gained his early railroading experience in Scotland and arrived in Victoria on 4 April 1854 'with only a ?5 note in his pocket'. He soon formed a profitable partnership with Peter Le Page at Gisborne, tendering for road construction contracts, notably the main road from Melbourne to Mount Alexander. After the partnership was dissolved on 13 September 1856 Bruce continued to supply and spread road metal in that area. By 1857 he was well known as one of the largest employers of labour in the colony. In August 1857 a group of Gisborne residents petitioned him to stand for the Legislative Assembly seat of West Bourke, but Bruce was too busy with contracting to enter politics. In 1858 he joined William Cornish in a successful tender of ?3,357,000 for the first thirteen sections of the Melbourne to River Murray railway. Their line reached Sunbury ahead of schedule on 13 January 1859, but Cornish died in March and work was delayed by strikes on the northern sections: Woodend was not reached until 18 July 1861, and the line was opened to Bendigo on 26 October 1862. On 3 March 1859 Bruce had moved to Castlemaine where the works could be more adequately supervised and where by 1860 he had established a large foundry turning out rolling stock and railway plant.

Bruce was determined to make a large profit from the huge contract by reducing wages and lowering the working conditions of the thousands who clamoured for employment. Strikes and demonstrations were frequent as the trade unions unsuccessfully tried to maintain their position in a period of deflation: in July 1858 workmen protested at payment by truck; by November 1860 Bruce had forced the strong Stonemasons' Society to agree to his terms by bringing four hundred German masons to the colony to compete with them. In July he had tried to compel the workmen to accept monthly payments, but the government intervened and fortnightly settlements were restored. Demonstrations erupted into violence in 1861 when Bruce reduced all wages by 2s. a day and rioting workmen smashed machinery, assaulted overseers and made three attempts to derail trains.

In 1859 a select committee had investigated reports that Bruce was using inferior materials and submitting false measurements. Its first chairman, John Woods, had to resign after an alleged attempt by Bruce to bribe him, but his use of inferior cement was proved and the committee recommended that government supervision of the contract be tightened. Bruce had enough friends in the government to escape with anything but a mild censure. Certainly the huge contract made him a powerful figure: parliament was told that he 'circulated more money and had more patronage than the government or any individual in the colony', and he was not above using it to achieve his ends. His own engineer, William Zeal, to whom he paid a salary of more than ?2000 was earning ?600 as a government engineer at the beginning of the line's construction. Charles Don, the working-class member of parliament, claimed that Bruce had once said that any man could be bought for money. Despite his merciless handling of labour he maintained a show of philanthropy, acting in 1863 as chairman of the Irish Relief Committee and working to secure an annual government grant to colonial charitable appeals.

On completion of the railway contract he returned to Melbourne but after an attack of apoplexy died suddenly at his Essendon home on 5 April 1863 aged 41. A Freemason, he was buried in the Presbyterian section of the Melbourne general cemetery. He was survived by his wife Margaret Menzies, n?e Macfarlane, and by two sons and two daughters. His descendants and those of his partner were left to face the long legal battle for recognition by the government of additional financial claims from the railway contract.

Stanley and Walter Bruce were not his children but still may have been related, sons of Robert. It is possible that Cunningham John McFarlane was related given John's wife's maiden name.The Brokil Estate seems to have been advertised for lease in 1874 by his first-born child, which doesn't make sense when a later child was named John Bruce. This would indicate that the first John had died young so the second John must also have been given exactly the same name.

m. 11 Dec 1843, St. Cuthbert?s, Edinburgh22
John Vans Agnew BRUCE647,646 Margaret Menzies MACFARLANE646
b. ca 1821646
occ. Railway engineer
d. 5 Apr 1863, Essendon, Australia of a stroke
br. 7 Apr , Melbourne General Cemetery, Plot 123
Orig. b. ca 12 Dec 1820, Ireland
d. 4 Oct 1868, Tintern, Toorak, Australia
br. 5 Oct , with her husband

John Vans Agnew BRUCE
Robert Vans Agnew BRUCE
Margaret Vans Agnew BRUCE
Sarah (Selena) Vans Agnew BRUCE
Margaret BRUCE
Florence BRUCE

by itellya on 2013-01-31 02:17:11

JOHN VANS AGNEW BRUCE. There are numerous reports of the disruptive tactics adopted by the Irish workers employed on the construction of the Melbourne-Mt Alexander and Murray River Railway, especially near Sunbury. If these Irish workers, for whom Keilor's historic St Augustine's R.C. church was started, reacted to Bruce's penny-pinching tactics with a word meaning "born out of wedlock", they were spot-on.

John Vans Agnew Bruce1
M, #132793
Last Edited=2 Nov 2004
John Vans Agnew Bruce was born illegitimately.1 He is the son of John Vans Agnew of Barnbarroch and Sheuchan and Catherine Robertson.1
He was given the name of John Vans at birth.1 He emigrated to Australia and had issue.1

[S37] Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, page 263. Hereinafter cited as Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th edition.

It was claimed on page 45 of A DREAMTIME OF DROMANA by Colin McLear,in discussing Maria Stenniken working as a servant at the Brucehouse on the Survey,that:
"Bruces of Paterson, Lang and Bruce, the well known merchants of Flinders Lane, Melbourne, had a house on the Survey just to the south of what is known as Ellerina Road*, the boundary between the Shires of Flinders and Mornington.--(Maria)---.The Bruce family was that to which Lord Stanley Melbourne Bruce, one time Prime minister of Australia belonged." Somewhere else in the book, the Clarke and Bruce index entries giving no clue as to where,Colin stated that the Brokil Estate was a wedding gift to Bruce, his son-in-law, whereas Charles Hollinshed in LIME LAND LEISURE said that it was sold at a decent profit.

Stanley Melbourne Bruce was the son of John Munro Bruce, a Scot born in Ireland.It was John Munro Bruce who was the RESIDENT partner of the firm mentioned above and it was John Vans Agnew Bruce who sought a lessee for his Brokil Estate in 1874, so both of the peninsula histories have put their money on the wrong John Bruce.

I have so far failed to find any BRUCE-CLARKE marital link although the Clarke-Bruce family could provide a clue. I suspect that the relationship between John Vans Agnew Bruce and John Munro Bruce would be back as many generations as that of Convict Henry Gomm (transported to Hobart 1836, buried at St Kilda) and Henry Gomm of Somerville. Possibly their ancestors were both sons of Robert the Bruce! It is highly unlikely that the prime minister's family had anything to do with the Brokil Estate.

Register or Sign in to comment on this journal.