gun alley stories

46 John St Stories


This project would not have happened without Ruby (Humphries) Kwijas who grew up at 46 John Street. Her love of history and her stories about playing, living and working in John Street are vivid, and make Gun Alley come alive.

Ruby reminds us everyone is a part of the community and we all have a role to play in it be it big or small; using our brains or providing the brawn.

Throughout the Gun Alley pages you will see references in old articles to £ (pounds). £1 = $2; 10/- (10 shillings) = $1; 5/- (5 shillings) = 50 cents. Please note: this does not reflect the value of the money but serves as an indication only.

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January 24, 1881 – Patrick Hughes

September 26, 1884 – Alexander Campbell

August 24, 1886 – Charles Walker

1888 – 1889 -David Bedford livery stable keeper (tenant)

March 14, 1904 – Jane Hannah Walker

1920 – 1924 – Robert John May quarryman (tenant)

February 9, 1924 – Thomas Mitchell

1924 – 1935 – Robert Jamieson butcher (tenant)

November 15, 1940 – Henry Wilfred Briers

September 30, 1960 – Arthur Henry Humphries

September 2, 1969 – Angelo and Antonietta Di Pietrantonio

October 30, 1970 – Dorothy Helen Hill

Unlike most of the other properties in John Street 46 was not owner-occupied until Arthur Humphries in 1960. There were a succession of tenants – a lot only staying 12 months – and most were laborers. The three exceptions were David Bedford liver stable keeper (1888 – 1889); Robert John May quarryman (1920 – 1924); Robert Jamieson butcher (1924 – 1935).

Patrick Hughes

This was one of several lots Patrick Hughes purchased from John Hutchinsons’ executors on January 26, 1881 for a total of £145.

Patrick Hughes was an early Lilydale settler. He was born in Ireland in 1829 and at Country Atrim on November 1, 1852 he married Catherine McNally, daughter of James and Anne (Lavender) McNally. They had six children:

Anne J. b 1854; Sarah L. b 1856, Henry T. b 1858; Samuel b 1860, Elizabeth M b. 1863 and Edward M b 1868 at Mooroolbark.

Patrick arrived in Melbourne in 1863 travelling from Liverpool on board the SS Great Britain. His wife Catherine and children did not arrive until 1867 at which time they settled in Lilydale.

Patrick sold the property to Alexander Campbell on September 26, 1884 for £25. Patrick died and was buried at Lilydale Cemetery on September 11, 1886. He was aged 57 years old.

Sadly, his life as an early settler of the district received little mention.

Catherine died April 24, 1905 aged 81 years.

Alexander Campbell

Alexander Campbell paid £25 for the property and on the day of acquisition mortgaged it to the Victorian Permanent Property Investment & Building Society for £150.

Charles Walker

Alexander Campbell sold the property to Charles Walker a farmer and store keeper from Healesville, on August 24, 1886 for £320.

Charles Walker was listed as a store keeper on the Shire of Lillydale Ratebooks. And a farmer and storekeeper in his Will.

Walker died January 17, 1903 and Probate of his Will was granted to his son John Rookin Walker. His estate had real estate value at £7111.0.0 and personal property valued at £2634.8.2. When he made his final Will, Walker left his three properties in John Street, Lilydale on which there were tenements, to his daughter Jane Hannah Walker.

Jane Hannah Walker

Under the terms of his Will, Charles Walker left the majority of his vast real estate holding to his daughter Jane Walker, a spinster, who lived with her parents at Graceburn, Healesville. Jane arrived in Healesville in 1865 with her parents and brother. Throughout the rest of her life she continued to acquire real estate and was the largest property owner in Healesville at the time of her death on July 28, 1923 aged 75 years.

She kept Lot 8 Block 1 (2 semi-detached wooden homes valued at £20) and Lot 4 block 6 (46 and 48 John Street – 2 houses four roomed brick home and on semi-detached wooden home valued at £15) as noted in her Probate. She also held several other allotments in Healesville and total property valued at £10,360.00.

Under the terms of her Will, all properties were to be sold and the money distributed to beneficiaries including £1000 to the Methodist Home for Children at Cheltenham. The remainder of the estate to go to the Women’s Hospital and Infirmary for Diseases of Women Carlton and the Children’s Hospital Carlton to establish and maintain a cot or cots at each.

Her executors William Lewis Hannah and Hugh Percival St John Hall sold the Gun Alley properties to Thomas Mitchell for £340. The contract of Sale was signed on September 22, 1923.

All the properties – 47 of them were sold on February 9, 1924 and realised the sum of £33,000.

Thomas Mitchell

Thomas Mitchell, no relation to David Mitchell, was the founder and managing director of Thos Mitchell and Company Pty Ltd well known for its Victory Brushware located at 360 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

In 1876 Thomas Mitchell started manufacturing brushware in a modest factory in Melboune.

Sadly he did not finalise the purchase of the property before his death on March 30, 1926.

In memory of his 50 years’ contribution, the company produced a special Victor Brushware catalogue which included a photo of him and the following tribute:

FAMOUS for Fifty Years” is a slogan of which we are justly proud.
It is indeed, a very far cry from the seventies of last century, and few of the firms who were
operating in those early days have survived the many vicissitudes
of business until the present time. The firm of Thos, Mitchell
& Co. Ltd. is justly proud of its record.
It was in the year 1876 that the late Thomas Mitchell commenced the manufacture of Brushware in a modest factory in Melbourne. From the very first, the quality and value of his products were recognised and appreciated. That the business has steadily grown since then, and now requires the output facilities of a Factory covering three and a half acres, can only be due to the maintenance of this reputation.
This is surely a record of progress and achievement.
” Victor” Brushware has grown consistently in public appreciation for over half a century, and is a standardised product. In pursuance of our policy of service, we have issued this Catalogue which we know will be of material assistance to the trade generally.
The illustrations herein are genuine photographs of the a c t u a l brushes and are true in every respect.
360-6 L O N S D A L E STREET, M E L B O U R NE
TELEPHONE CENTRAL 8750 ( 5 lines )

His executors – sons Charles Herbert Mitchell and Francis Leslie Mitchell with The Equity Trustees Executors & Agency Co Limited sold the property to Henry Briers on November 15, 1940 for £340.

Henry Briers

Henry Wilfred Briers was born 1891, the son of David Briers and Julia Duvision.

He grew up in John Street and lived to see it transformed from a residential street to a commercial precinct.

Henry owned the property until September 30, 1960 when he sold it to Arthur Henry Humphries for £300.

He worked as a wheelwright with his father and remained a bachelor and lived in the family home until he moved into Hazelmere at Montrose where he spent the last three years of his life. He died in 1978.

Wheelwright David Briers first purchased land in John Street in September 1886. The family remained in Gun Alley until 1986 when Edie Briers sold her home at 58 John Street to the Whelan family.

David Briers was born was born in Cookstown, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland in 1854. He immigrated to Australia with his parents Thomas 36, and Jane 35, on the “RED JACKET” in 1866 at the age of 10.

The family firstly settled at Geelong.

David is first recorded in Lilydale by December 23, 1886 as the 1887 Shire of Lillydale Rate Books show him as the freehold owner of Lot 9 block 1 of John Hutchinson’s Olinda estate subdivision. This property became his family’s home.

In 1888 he married Julianna (Julia) Susanna Duvoisin, the daughter David and Sussanah Duvoisin who was born at Yering in 1864. By the end of 1890, the property was listed as being a house in John Street.

David and Julia had 10 children. Henry Wilfred Briers, their second son was born 1891. He worked as a wheelwright with his father and remained a bachelor and lived in the family home at 49-51 John Street until he moved into Hazelmere at Montrose where he spent the last three years of his life. He died in 1978.

Arthur Henry Humphries

Ruby (Humphries) Kwijas wrote the following family story:

Arthur Henry Humphries was born in Turfentien South Africa on December 1, 1909. He was the fourth child of Lillian Jess (nee Smith) and Walter Humphries. After his father’s death in 1927 Arthur left home and took work on a ship arriving in Australian shortly before his 18th birthday. He jumped ship in Sydney and started his life in a new country.

Arthur’s youngest daughter Olive, accidentally in the 1970s discovered he had changed his name to Van Wyck soon after arriving here. By 1932 he was using his correct name as stated on his Marriage Certificate.

Melba Maud Walker was born at Moriarty Tasmania on April 9, 1912. She was the third child of Mildred Esther (nee Crawford) and Edgar Walker. Her Mildred and family came to the mainland in 1924. Melba met Arthur in the Wangarrata area where her family was share farming at the time.

They married at Echuca in 1932 where their first child Arthur was born. Their second child Eric was born at Lancefield while a further five children were born at Lilydale. All were born between 1932 and 1947. By 1937 the family had moved to Lilydale which was then just a little country town. Terry and Ruby remained in Lilydale while the rest of the family scattered around Australia. All were married by 1965.

Melba’s family had earlier links with Lilydale as they had moved there in 1924. When Arthur and Melba arrived in Lilydale they initially lived in Miss Janson’s house on the main Healesville/Warburton Road before moving to Collingwood for a short time. They returned to Lilydale in 1940 living in Cave Hill Road for a short time before moving into 46 John Street where the commenced buying a house from Henry Briers.

Arthur worked at the nearby David Mitchell Limestone Quarry before joining the Victorian Railways as a ganger until his retirement in 1968/69. When he retired Arthur and Melba moved to Echuca on the Murray River when they had married in 1932. After they rediscovered Echuca and the wonderful fishing in the Murray River over six or so years, Arthur became ill and passed away in June 1975. He is buried at Lilydale Lawn Cemetery. Melba returned to Lilydale in 1986 and purchased a unit No 11, 10 John Street, the same street she and Dad had bought up their children all those years ago.

Melba was happy in her new unit; she renewed old friendships and on one occasion celebrated her 80th birthday with Alice Nation and Nellie black who she had gone to Lilydale State School No876 back in the 1920s. She died of lung cancer in June 1994 and is buried in Lilydale Lawn Cemetery with Arthur.

Their seven children are:

– Arthur Edgar b April 9, 1932 d March 10, 1997. He married Rosemary Warrell and they had four children. Arthur’s nick name was Titch, a most likable bloke and a very fussy dresser. He loved classical music as well as band music and a lovely dancer. Most his married live he lived and worked in the Lilydale area as a postman, bus driver and milk tanker driver.

– Eric b January 14, 1934, married twice and has six children. He’s the wild one of the family. He would give you the shirt off his back. However he might pinch yours if he took a fancy to it.

He’s lived everywhere: country Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, New south Wales and North Queensland where he has been for the past 30 years. When in his teem Eric joined the circus and performed as a buck jumper. His stage name was, from memory, Hector Blamange. He travelled all over Victoria and loved the bush, fishing, shooting, rabbiting and deer hunting.

– Ruby Lila was born at the Dame Nellie Melba bush Nursing Hospital, Lilydale on February 17, 197 “just as the Cave Hill Quarry whistle sounded at 11am” he mum told her.

With her brothers and sisters Ruby attended Lilydale Primary School No. 876, the same school her mother Melba Walker and her brothers
and sisters attended after moving to Lilydale in 1924.

Ruby started worked as a telephonist at the Lilydale Post Office when 14 and in 1952 met Horst Kwijas. Horst and his family had settled in Mt Evelyn in 1950 after arriving from Germany to start a new life. Ruby’s father was far from please about her keeping company with a new Australian. They were married in 1955 and their only child Andreas John was born on June 15, 1956. Ruby and Horst purchased a block of land in Victoria Road, Lilydale and in 1961 moved into their home at no 27 Victoria Road.

– Terence b January 13, 1941 at the Royal womens Hosopital, Carlton. A real outdoors person he loved fishing, rabiting, shooting etc. He was a great footballers playing for Mt Evelyn in the late 1950s to early 1960s as did Hort’s two brothers Rolf and Geza.

Terry worked for Nylex Cables in Lilydale making the timber reels used for winding cables on. The company later became Olex. Terry is twice married and had four children. He lives opposite Ruby and Horst at 24 Victoria Road.

– Claudia Emily b February 12, 1942. A beautiful baby with snow white curly hair she was the apple of her parents’ eye. After schooling at Lilydale Primary School Claudia worked at the Lilydale Telephone Exchange and loved dancing. Claudia was young when she married James McLachlan from Glasgow, Scotland. He had a great singing voice and sang all the lovely Scottish songs. They had four children and moved to Seaforth North Queensland where he younger sister Olive had moved a short time earlier.

– Olive Marlene b September 30, 1943 had dark hair and brown eyes like Melba’s sister Peggy.

Olive worked at Hollandia Shoe Factory in John St, Lilydale. As a teenager she was interested in ballet dancing but her parents couldn’t afford the lessons. She had a pair ballet shoes which Ruby believes she still has. She met and married Barteld Swart from Holland who worked for Millard’s Timber yard at Mt Evelyn. He had arrived in Lilydale with his parents after the Second World War. Soon after their wedding the couple moved to Charters towers, Queensland and had four children. They moved back to Lilydale and lived opposite her parents in John Street where their second son was born and lived in Mt Evelyn and Wonga Park before moving to Seaforth, near Mackay, North Queensland near to sister Claudia. Later they moved back to Charters Towers.

– Allen Robin b April 13, 1947 was the youngest and affectionately called Bub. As a toddler he often got the wanders – so much so that the gates had chains on them to keep him in. However he was still able to get out. I remember one occasion he went for a walk with Trixie the cockaspanial. Fortunately this elderly couple picked him up some five or six miles away and bought him home in their horse and cart.

He married Dianna Simpson from Kyabram and they had four children. They lived and worked in most parts of rural Australia and bought up their four children on a property in Western Australia called Lake Mason, a 380,000 acre property north of Kalgoorlie, on which they ran sheep, cattle and poultry. The children were educated via School of the Air and a governess. The nearest shops were 700kms away.

Angelo and Antonietta Di Pietrantonio

Angelo and Antonietta Di Pietrantonio only held 46 John Street for just over a year before it and the adjoining 48 John Street were purchased by Dorothy Hill on October 30, 1970 for $32,000. Dorothy still owns the property today.

Angelo was the eldest son of Francesco and Rosa Di Pietrantonio. Francesco first arrived in Australia in 1926 but returned home to his wife and family before again migrating to Australia in December 1934 and settled in Silvan where they soon purchased and worked their own family farm.

In the mid 1950s Francesco purchased the former Deschamp’s wine saloon at the corner of Cavehill Road and Maroondah Highway which Angelo ran. Later Angelo and his brother Romeo transferred to liquor license to their continental delicatessen business which became a licensed grocery.

(Dreams from a Suitcase, Recollection of Italian Settlers in the Yarra Valley pgs 126 to137)

Dorothy Helen Hill

Dorothy Helen Hill (nee Roberts) moved to Lilydale in 1948 when her father purchased a property in Rourke Street which at the time was an unmade street with a drain in the middle which had to be crossed to reach their property.

That year, Dorothy met Colin Hill at the Dance Mecca at the Yarra Glen Memorial Hall. He was the son of Eddie C. Hill, a descendant of the pioneering Hill family who were early settlers of the valley.

They were married and had two children Brian and Jennifer.

Eddie Hill followed the family tradition and became a councillor of the Lillydale Shire being president on three occasions during his 16 years on the council. He was awarded an MBE for services to the community.

Colin Hill was a stock station agent advising property owners on the purchases and sale of sheep and cattle throughout the Yarra Valley and other more distant areas. With the change of land zonings which allowed the subdivision of large properties into smaller blocks, Colin and Dorothy decided to open a real estate office at 94 Main Street, Lilydale to take advantage of the changes to lifestyle in the Yarra Valley. The business was closed in 1983.

With confidence in the future of the area, on November 17, 1970 Dorothy Hill paid $32,00 to purchase 48 John Street, Lilydale. She also purchased the adjoining 46 John Street and combined both properties to bring them under the Torrens Land system.

Like other owners, Dorothy Hill realised the commercial potential of John Street after the causeway was completed in July 1970 and linked Hardy and John streets in 1970.

In 2012, Dorothy still owned the property which now has a car yard and Lilydale Tool Shed on the site.

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