gun alley stories

53 John St Stories


This was another of the group of properties purchased by Robert Black from John Hutchinson’s executors for £80 on November 11, 1880. It was sold to Mary Beddoe’s whose father William Scott operated a bookmaker’s shop at the Olinda Creek. A home was built on the land during the 1890s and was owned by David and Henry Briers from 1922 to 1949. During this time one of the tenants was Melville Maynard who leased the property which was home to three generations of his family until the 1950s.

Audio Introduction

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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John Hutchinson

William Hutchinson & Louis Deschamps (      – 11/11/1880)

Robert Black (11/11/1880 – 6/09/1890)

Mary Beddoe (6/09/1890 – 3/5/1922)

Alfred Clutterbuck (3/5/1922 -8/12/1922)

David and Henry Wilfred Briers (8/12/1922 – 16/08/1949)

Melville Maynard

Bob & Dorothy Holt

Harold Bernard & Clara Lillian Briggs (16/08/1949 – 25/9/1958)

Rocco & Eva Di Cesare (25/09/1958 – 15/05/1970)

Filomena Stagnitti (15/05/1970 -6/05/1978)

Eric Anderson & Dorothy Jean Pike and Rodney Anthony & Robyn Lee Hunter (6/05/1978 – 14/04/1981)

Willowbank Investments Pty Ltd (14/04/1978 –

Robert Black

Robert Black was born in Ballysally, Coleraine, County Derry, Ireland in 1934, the fifth son of John Black and Sarah Sheriff. After an education at Coleraine and Temple Moyle Agricultural College, Robert set sail for Australia, arriving in March, 1857. He joined John Kerr on an exploring expedition travelling through New South Wales and Queensland before arriving in Victoria. After renting, they later purchased a 500 acre farm near Lilydale from Paul de Castella.

The partnership lasted until 1870 when Robert Black visited Ireland where he married Mary Jane Moore on September 14, 1870. The couple returned to the district via San Francisco and Chicago. On his return, Robert purchased the Cooring Estate at Coldstream where he lived until his death at the age of 92 years in 1926.

Robert Black named his property Coldstream the name taken for the railway station. Later, the township, then named The Lodge, became known as Coldstream.

In 1900, he purchased the late Colonel Hutton’s property adjoining Coldstream and turned his attention to grazing. This property known as Cooring Yering, Bald Hill (the quarry) and Rowes Mount comprised about 1260 acres. The homestead was built by David Mitchell on the Cooring Yering portion of the property.

The quarry was originally opened by the railways for metal for ballasting the Lilydale to Healesville line. After the line opened, the quarry lay idle until 1911 when his son, William Moore Black, decided to re-open it and install a stone crushing plant.

While concentrating on sheep and cattle, Robert  also bred a few horses. His son William inherited this interest, breeding Clydesdales which became famous throughout Australia.

Robert was a Lillydale Councillor from 1873 to 1875 and  a Justice of the Peace from 1880. He was also instrumental in the erection of the Lilydale Presbyterian Church and the manse.

Robert and Mary had  five sons and two daughters – John Moore (1871 – 1882); Robert (1872 – 1935) married Jane Ellen Macintyre; Mary Jane Moore ( 1872 – 1918)  married David Kay (1859 – 1909), manager of the Colonial Bank, Lilydale; James Moore (1875 – 1885); William Moore (1874 – 1941) married Catherine Theodora Engel; Paul (1876 – 1944) and Sarah Elizabeth (1881). Robert’s wife, Mary died on June 21, 1925 aged 85 years and Robert died six months later on January 8, 1926.

Mary Beddoe

Robert Black sold the property to Mary Beddoe on September 6, 1890 for £45. However, the property does not appear in her name in the Shire of Lillydale rate Books but under that of her father William Scott who owned two other properties in John Street (one was lot 9 block 6) and also shop and premises in Main Street by Olinda Creek.

It is not clear when the home was built on the property but both appear to have had homes by the late 1880s. After her father’s death the property was listed in May Beddoe’s own name.

Mary Beddoe, the daughter of William Scott, bootmaker and Mary Grey was born c 1857at Lanarkshire, England. William and Mary Scott were early Lilydale settlers as he was listed in the 1872 ratebooks as rented a shop and residence from Henry Perrrin.

In 1879 Mary married Thomas Johnston Beddoe born at Gloucestershire c 1843.  Thomas Beddoe, a carter, appears in the 1878 Shire of Lillydale ratebooks as the owner of Lot 1 Block 6 which was at the north east corner of Jones and Clark streets By 1882 he owned a home on the Olinda Estate but just where isn’t clear.  Mary and Thomas had 7 children: Thomas George Edward b Lilydale 1880; Mary Laura (Elliot) b 1882; Willliam Henry Graham b 1884; Elizabeth Annie b 1887; Flora Edith Louis b 1889 d 1890; and Emily Olinda Evelyn b 1898.

In later years, the family lived in the house between the creeks on the south side of Main Street where William Scott, Thomas’s father-in-law, had a boot shop. He obituary published in the Lillydale Express on October 2, 1936 notes:

“An abiding affection for her old home near the creek in the main street rendered futile all attempts of her family to join them elsewhere”.

Thomas died on January 3, 1930 aged 87 years and Mary on September 19, 1936 aged 79 years. Both are interred at the Lilydale Cemetery.

Alfred Clutterbuck

Alfred Clutterbuck bought the property from Mary Beddoe for £385 in May 5, 1922 and had sold it to David and Henry Briers by December 8 of that year for £300.

The price he accepted from the Briers is perhaps explained as Clutterbuck had once been a wealthy man but apparently suffered during the Depression. Sadly, he was found in the Olinda Creek by some boys on July 5, 1935. Help was called but he had drowned. He was 69 years old and was interred at Lilydale Cemetery. An inquest was to be held but not reported in the Lilydale Express.

(Lilydale Express July 12, 1935)

David and Henry Briers

Father and son David and Henry Briers next owned the property which joined their vacant block of land.

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.

Throughout the subsequent years, David’s wife Julia, son Henry and also purchased various blocks and his brother Albert also lived in the street where he and his wife Edith raised their three children.

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.

They had 10 children including Henry Wilfred Briers who 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.

For more details on the Briers family go to 49 John Street.

Melville Maynard

One of the families to rent No. 53 from David and Henry Briers was the Maynard family

Memories of the property

Elsie Barnes (nee O’Donnell) well remembers the home which her grandparents rented from Henry Briers.

She lived in 53 from about 1936 and it was where she spent many happy years.

Later, when Elsie’s mother married Percy (Dinks) Peak, they moved into a home he had built further west in John Street on the south east corner of William and John streets.

Elsie’s grandparents, Melville and Hilda Maynard and her mother Millie arrived in Lilydale from Tasmania about 1929.

Millie Maynard married Charles O’Donnell, a master painter and they had one child Elsie born in 1931.

“My grandparents lived in Mt Evelyn for a little while. Granddad got work on the Silvan Dam and Nan in the main Street had a café, delicatessen, ice creams and all that sort of thing in Lower Main Street called the Main Tea Rooms.

“Grandad finished on the dam and started work with Bill Hansen so they sold the tearooms business to Mrs Chubb and moved from behind the shop into 53 John Street (next to the present day Lilydale Brake service) which they rented from Henry Briers

“Next door was a vacant block then Henry Briers bungalow and his house.

“My mum and Dad had rooms with Mrs Harry Fish next door to the tea rooms and when Granddad and Nan moved into John Street we moved as well.’’

Elsie was born at Wynfield Private Hospital in Belle Vue Street, Lilydale in November 3, 1931 and moved with her grandparents and parents to John Street about 1936.

“We had a gravel road, it only went as far as the creek; no running water only water to the tap at the front of the house; kerosene lamps.”

She was about 11 (c. 1940) by the time electricity went through.

In an 199 oral history, Elsie described the home:

“The house was a two-bedroomed weatherboard house with a detached wash house with a tub. We would boil the water and have a bath.

“We had a stove in the kitchen and sitting room. Enclosed front verandah.”

Life was a little difficult for Elsie as she was an only child. However Betty Gilson and the Gilson family across the road became part of Elsie’s extended family.

“The Gilson home was like a second home to me.”

Mr Maynard’s garden was his pride and joy – he had a large part at the back of the house and the block next door by the Olinda Creek.

“Grandfather used to work his little guts out doing his veggie garden and the kids’ cricket and footballs used to end up there. In the end he used to keep them and not give them back

“John Street didn’t go right through and it was a wonderful place to play cricket.”

Another person jealous of Mr Maynard’s veggie garden was Poon Kee.

Elsie: That’s the 2 storey shop. Poon Kee used to back onto my granddad’s garden. Funny old man. He’d sell Nan anything over the fence – lemonade, lollies fruit but he wouldn’t sell grandad any plants for his garden because local people in John street used to get their veggies off granddad and that didn’t go down well with our Poon so he wouldn’t sell him anything. He used to say: That old Maynard over there him work all day long him head down and arse up and he do nothing but work.” Grand dad couldn’t get a thing. Anything else he’d sell us but not plants.

After her schooling at Lilydale State School and Lilydale Higher Elementary School Elsie began a millinery

“I went into Melbourne to be an apprentice milliner. I did 2 years with Patterson. Lang 7 Bruce in Flinders Lane and then I started to get severe migraines and couldn’t travel so I came home and had a job at Guers laundry on the big rollers pulling all the sheets and table cloths through. Then Mr Ron Whisson he had the fruit shop on the corner of Clarke & Main and he also bought out Mr Morris who had a little fruit shop between Bennetts Electrical and the bike shop. It was tiny little shop. And he asked me if I would go and work in that fruit shop for them I went to Mitchell & Burrige the drapers I don’t know how I came about that. They asked me, it was a lot cleaner than the fruit shop.

Elsie married Ken Barnes in 1953 and they moved into their own home in Allison Crescent. But the friendships made in the years in John Street still continue to today.

Holt family

Another tenant in the house was the Holt family who moved into 53 John Street while Bob and his father were building the workshop next door  at 55 John Street– Lilydale Brake Service.

By this time the home had almost reached the end of its life.

In a video recording, Dorothy Holt said:

“We moved down from Healesville and we had five children the youngest of which was two weeks old and the eldest was 12. We moved into the house next door to the shop, a rented house, which didn’t have much in the n way of conveniences but we were all together and our big boys were able to go to Mooroolbark Tech, and we had an outside loo and bathroom concrete floor and green enamel bath. We rented the house for 12 months, but while we were there the boys went to scouts, we went kindergarten meetings and church and carried on our lives and became part f the Lilydale community.”

Dorothy also remembered those 12 months as being cold and foggy during winter.

Filomena Stagnitti

The next owner was Filomena Stagnitti who paid Di Cesare $12,000 for the property on May 15, 1970. She held the property for 8 years and on August 31, 1978 she entered a Contract of Sale to sell the property to Eric Anderson & Dorothy Jean Pike and Rodney Anthony and Roby Lee Hunter for $59,000, highlighting the transformation of the land from residential to commercial.

However, two months later in October 1978, Housing Commission Victoria served notice that the property was deemed unfit for human habitation.  The notice was finally cancelled in October 1979 as the property had been demolished or to use the Commission’s terms “has now ceased to operate”. The sale to Pike and Hunter was completed on February 18, 1981. The property was subsequently sold to Willowbank Investments and became a car yard which is still its use today in 2013.

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