gun alley stories

Back Paddock Stories


The land to the south of John Street was known as The Back Paddock to the kids and families of John Street. The paddock purchased by John Hutchinson on May 31, 1860, backed on the homes along John Street and stretched southwards to the Three Chain Road (now Melba Avenue).

The land was bounded by the Olinda Creek to the east and to enhance drainage and improve crop production, channels were constructed to carry water and drainage across the paddock. The main one crossed the paddock and Hutchinson street at the back of the John Street homes and continued to William Street along to Main Street and under the railway west of the railway crossing. This was a constant worry as during heavy rainfall it caused numerous floods in the lower end of Lilydale.

At other times, the drain was the place where eels and fish were caught and rabbits hunted for food and skins.

However, like so much of Lilydale in the 1960s, the land became an industrial site, the home firstly Turner Industries and then Nylex-Olex Cables. While John Street was transformed from residential to commercial, the Back Paddock was transformed from farming to industry and then commercial in the 1980s. The new Market Place Shopping Centre is testimony of the confidence large retailers have in the future of Lilydale.

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The Back Paddock was “the backyard” for the kids of Gun Alley and a source of food for the families.

Ken Hawkey Memories

“At the rear of our house in John Street was a ten acre paddock called the back paddock which was bounded by the Olinda Creek in the east, “The Creek”, the Three Chain Road on the south and “The Drain” mentioned earlier on the west side.  The north side of course consisted of houses.  Part of the paddock is now developed and occupied by the Lilydale Market building. The Drain I think was man-made and the purpose of it was to take the excess water which was an overflow from “the Race” and which eventually finally finished up in the Olinda Creek…..  The Three Chain Road I referred to is that part of Old Gippsland Road, now Melba Avenue, that stretches from the railway crossing at Cave Hill Road eastwards down to the Olinda Creek, on which is the remains of an old blackberry covered bridge which was not usable in my time, the ‘20s.  The road was a misnomer then as it consisted of several dirt wheel tracks….”

( Ref Ken Hawkey Reminiscences Vol 1 pg 60)


In the 1940s little had changed in John Street. The Back paddock was still popular with the children for playing, celebrating Guy Fawkes Night, fishing and rabbiting among other things.

Memories of the 1940s from Ken Hawkey and Ruby Kwijas

“….. the boys brought home rabbits which they had caught in the Cave Hill paddocks behind our place, Mum had various ways of cooking these and they always tasted nice,

The ferrets: My brothers used them for catching rabbits, first they would put the ferret down the burrow, when the rabbits ran out they got caught in the nets which had been placed over the entrance, disease free rabbits were plentiful in the back paddocks. After skinning the rabbits their pelts were stretched over a U shaped wire frame, hung up to dry, then dad took them by train to be sold at the Victoria market.”

(Ruby Kwijas in Reminiscences Vol 2 pg 32.)

Hutchinson Street stopped at the southern boundary of Lot 3 along which The Drain ran:

“ There was a leaking from the race (Cave Hill water race) to the paddock below which ran into a small man made-creek which we called “The Drain”, not just a drain which fished very well for eels and English perch or Redfin.  “The Drain” is situated on the east side of the (Lilydale High) school which was then an open paddock on which we, “The Gun Alley” or John Street kids used to play the Cave Hill Road mob cricket. Harold Gilson was our skipper and Tom Kennelley was captain of Cave Hill Road team.

(Ken Hawkey in Reminiscences Vol 1 pg 57).

It was near these paddocks that the kids would make their bonfires to celebrated Guy Fawkes night (November 5)

“Bon fire nights (Guy Fawkes Night) was celebrated on the 5th of November, about two weeks prior we John Street kids collected wood, dead branches, anything that would burn etc. to build our bon fire and Betty Gilson made the Guy Fawkes doll to sit on top which was about 20feet high, or so it seems in my mind. There was great excitement on the night, the fire was lit about 8pm we had all brought our fire crackers, penny bungers, tom thumbs, catherine wheels and sky rockets.

The Temme family also built a bonny on the top side of town, the day after Guy Fawkes day there was much talk about who had the best bonny. One year I recall sparks from our bon fire set fire to Mr. Peake’s wood heap (six feet long fire wood stacked on the corner of John and Hutchinson streets) that was our last bon fire.”

(Ruby Kwijas in Reminiscences Vol 2 pg34)


However, like the rest of Lilydale, change was afoot and the Back paddock was no exception.

In 1958 Turner Industries Limited in Nunawading needed more factory space so purchased the Back Paddock in 1958.

(Lilydale Express October 20, 1961 pg 6)

Turner Industries Limited

Work started on the first stage of the proposed 13 acre Turner factory in Hutchinson Street was commenced and the 1960 range of mowers was produced there.

(Ref: LE October 20, 1961 pg 6)

In 1961 Turner’s Saw Division was transferred from Nunawading followed soon after by the Appliance Division. The factory manufactured hacksaw blades, bandsaw blades, saw chain, motor mowers, washing machines and clothes dryers which were sold throughout Australia.

The factory employed 1000 people throughout Australia and 250 at Lilydale of which 60 per cent were local residents.

(Ref: LE October 20, 1961 pg 6)

By 1968, the 70,000 square foot factory had 150 employees but at its busiest times, employed a further 100 people. The factory was manufacturing lawn mowers, steel measuring tapes, forks, spades and electrical and manual saw equipment.

(Ref Lilydale Express October 9, 1968 pg 1)


Turner Industries erected their factory and continued to expand in both size and the range of products produced at the factory.


In 1961 the Shire of Lillydale carried out improvements on the drain at Hutchinson Street which later led to the opening up of the road to link in with the Three Chain Road (re-named Melba Avenue in 1955).

John Street Bridge. Concrete abutments for the new drain bridge in John Street are now being poured. An Armco Arch structure is to be erected at this location (Ref: Shire of Lilydale Engineer’s Report for September 1961 dated September 20, 1961)

John Street bridge – The timber bridge over the open drain in John Street, has now been replaced by an Armco Arch culvert. Filling and gravel have now been spread over the culvert and the road open for traffic.

(Shire of Lillydale Engineer’s Report for November 1961 dated November 22, 1961)


The closure of the Turner factory in 1969 led to the site being purchased by another local industry Nylex (now Olex) Cables as an additional plant in 1970.

Nylex – Olex Cables

Motorists travelling from Melbourne quickly notice Lilydale’s famous avenue of trees as they navigate the sweeping bend into Main Street.

Most miss the collection of buildings of Olex Cables on the left, a company which has been a part of Lilydale’s manufacturing industry since 1945 and on that site since 1951.

The company has come a long way since the end of the war. At that time, Lilydale had two major industries – Cave Hill Quarry and Spicer’s Shoes (later Hollandia). Of these Olex has continued to grow and develop and is, after the Shire of Yarra Ranges, the largest employer in the municipality.

On June 12, 1945 Moulded Products opened its first factory in the old cordial factory in Clarke Street. Soon the old Lilydale Fires Station was taken over and an additional factory set up. Soon the company outgrew those so in 1948 it purchased the present site and opened a new factory in 1951.

Moulded Products changed its name to Nylex Cables in 1967 and Olex Cables in 1973.

In 1970 Nylex Cables bought the former Turner tools factory in William Street and established Plant 2 of its operations.

By 1980 the operations at the Plant were moved back to the Main Street operations.

Today, the company’s cables are delivered to all parts of Australia every day of the week, generating millions of dollars for the company and providing vital employment for our community.


When Nylex closed the Hutchinson Street operations, the building and site was again on the market. This time it was purchased by two developers John Delany and Jim McLellan who created the Lilydale General and Produce Market.

Lilydale General and Produce Market

Opened on March 6, 1980, the Lilydale General and Produce Market was the realisation of a dream for its proprietors John Delany and Jim McLellan.

For them the site was perfect for their plans as it was situated at the gateway to the diverse Yarra Valley produce and also accessible to residents in the outer eastern suburbs.

The proprietors extensively re-modelled the old Olex building to create the “biggest general and produce market other than the Victoria Market.”

The six hectare site had almost 1.5 hectares under cover with room for 200 stalls, a discount grocer with a difference, food stalls, clothing stalls and general stalls plus parking for more than 1000 cars.

Mr Delaney: “We believe the market will stimulate the growth of Lilydale as it will attract customers rom a wide arc around the municipality, and will cater to the needs of people in both urban and rural situations.”

Mr McLellan: “The market would strive to provide shoppers with the freshest, cheapest and widest variety of goods possible.

The market was designed to provide a unique atmosphere as stall holders were carefully selected for the goods they offered and their willingness to throw themselves into a different but traditional market.

(Ref: Lilydale Express February 26, 1980 pg 17)


The concept of the market has returned to the site with the extension of the Lilydale Market Place Shopping Centre.

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