gun alley stories

Introduction to Gun Alley Stories


Lot 7 was an interesting piece of land as its largest frontage was to Hutchinson and was bounded by the laneway running down the northern boundary which is still used today. It was here on the laneway that Henry Briers later built his forge which remained on the site until the erection of the Lilydale Express building in 1964. The forge was the only building on the site which was apparently used to keep the delivery horses. A large peppercorn tree grew on the corner with John Street and the children spent hours there out of the hot sun.

Audio Introduction

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John Hutchinson (1860 -1880)

William Hutchinson & Louis Deschamps (17/11/1880 – )

1880 – Olinda subdivision created.

1920s – How did Gun Alley get its name?

1940s Description of Lilydale

1960s Gun Alley transformation begins.

1970s Causeway built John and Hardy streets linked.

1980s – New back way in Lilydale

John Hutchinson JP

John Hutchinson was born at Cairncastle Northern Ireland in 1825 with his twin brother Robert.

The first member of the Hutchinson family to arrive in Australia was Joseph Hutchinson. According to John Hutchinson’s grand-daughter Lorna (Hutchinson Archer) Joseph wrote home to his brother John from Melbourne on July 23, 1853 sending money for him to join him in Melbourne.

Descendant Lorna Archer:

“John a school teacher, left his home land, with God blessings bible (father presentation), letter of commendation signed by minister of the General Assembly, Ireland, Cairncastle dated October 30, 1853. He sailed on the clipper Marco Polo in 1853 and resided in Warrandyte in 1854. He was the pound-keeper Pound Bend Warrandyte 1855 to 1872).”

At the Melbourne land sale on May 31, 1860 John purchased land at Lillydale – 124 acres from Cave Hill Road to the Olinda Creek for which he paid £640. The purchase included two township allotments- lots 11 and 12 block 1 east of the Lithgow Lilydale Hotel.

On March 3, 1863 at Melbourne he married Eliza Stinton of Warrandyte. and had a family of 10, 4 of whom died as infants. (BDM 744)

John Hutchinson was active in community affairs.

Writing in Lillydale The Billanook Country 1837-1972 Marian Aveling described John Hutchinson:

“Hutchinson is a central figure in the early history of Lilydale. Though not a resident f the village until 1871, he was closely associated with many aspects of its development. Hutchinson was a native of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, who had settled in Warrandyte in 1856. He was a pleasant, gregarious man, who soon established himself throughout the district as a reliable business agent in transactions between distant customers. These and his position as pound-keeper kept him travelling widely in the area, and very little happened that escaped his attention. Both by temperament and position he was the perfect political man – a treeless organizer who, over the next decade, would serve on almost every committee that formed in the district. By 1859 he was a political organizer for the Constitutionalist party in the Melbourne legislature, and the convenor of the Brushy Creek races. All the while he was building up his own herds of cattle and horses, and watching for chances to buy land.

By 1859 he was several times at Yering and Gruyere inspecting newly-surveyed land, and attended the auctions in Melbourne, but each time the prices were too high. Cattlemen buying to secure their runs made the bidding brisk. As the Yering sale he noted: ‘No chance of purchasing, as Castella had made up his mind to have it at any price’. Then in May 1860 he bought two township allotments at the Lilydale site, and four country allotments at Yering, a total cost of £640, all of which he enclosed with wire fences and used profitably as grazing land. He hoped to buy more country blocks, but prices remained high, and in December 1869 he bought two more town allotments at £5.10s.0 each. (pg 32 and 33 – extract from his diary.)

John was well thought of by other leaders in the district. In 1867 he was appointed the chairman of the Upper Yarra District Road Board which had been formed in 1862 and was elected the first president of the newly created Shire of Lillydale in 1872. He served as Shire President in 1873 and 1874 and remained on the council until 1878. (Prosperity & Progress (1889-1989), Sue Thompson Lilydale & District Historical Society).

He built the Olinda Hotel on part of his land. It was built of Rosemount stone and David Lithgow bricks. The site was laid out on December 17, 1869; the foundation stone laid on March 31, 1870 and the family moved from Warrandyte on Wednesday, March 15, 1871. Mrs Hutchinson and three of the children had resided at Warrandyte for 16 years and 3 months.

The hotel cost £1070.15.10 to build.

The children of John and Eliza were:

Matilda b Warrandyte 1863 (BDM 5610)

Sarah Eliza b 1864 at Warrandyte (BDM 19352)

John Waddell b 1866 at Anderson Creek died Andersons Creek 1868. (BDM birth 12372 death 7819)

Susanna Ellen b 1869 at Anderson Creek. (BDM 6135) Married John Jordan at Warrandyte in 1898.

John Waddell b 1871 at Lilydale (BDM 9990) and died July 16, 1891 at Lilydale of Typhoid Fever. He was interred at Lilydale Cemetery on July 16, 1891 with his father.

Margaret Evelina b 1873 died Lilydale 1875 aged 2.(BDM birth 10315 death 7344)

Joseph b 1875 at Lilydale died 1875 1 day old. (BDM birth 3349 death 2846)

Margaret Evelina b 1876 at Lilydale.(BDM 10463) Married James Allan at Lilydale in 1901 (BDM 890).  They went to New Zealand as the 1919 Probate documents of Eliza Hutchinson record they were living at Masterton New Zealand as was her sister Sarah Eliza and her husband. Both husbands in 1920 were listed as grocers.

Robert Waddell b 1878 at Lilydale. (BDM 23998). He married Priscilla Ann Hand at Lilydale in 1906.

The first Shire of Lillydale Rate Book as at December 26, 1871, John Hutchinson is listed as owning several parcels of land including four lots of Section 30 – 6, 7, 8 and 9 totalling 125 acres of which 6 are cultivated and valued at £88.

While his family settled into their new home – the Olinda Hotel – he continued his work in the community.

However, his life was cut short when on April 3, 1880 aged only 54, he was fatally kicked by a horse.

His death set into motion a series of events that helped open up further the township of Lilydale.

Under the terms of his Will dated March 11, 1880, he appointed his brother William and friend Louis Deschamp as his executors. He directed that Allotment 8 be surveyed into allotments of not more that ¼ of an acre or less if required as soon as possible after his death to pay his debts and funeral expenses and that the residue be divided into one to his sons John and Robert Waddell and the other half was to be equally divided between his wife Eliza and daughters, Matilda, Sarah Eliza, Susanna Ellen and Margaret Eveline. His Will was witnessed by Edward Poyner, Andrew Kennedy and Patrick Doherty. (PROV copy of Will and Probate papers).

According to Lorna Archer after John’s death, the executors appointed Mrs Kitchingham as Licensee of the hotel which remained in the family until it was sold in 1912. (Lorna Archer’s notes held by the Lilydale & District Historical Society).

The two executors immediately set about the subdivision of the Allotment 8 Section 30 land bounded by the Olinda Creek, Main St Cave Hill Road and south of the present John Street.

The land was subdivided into 6 blocks:

Block 1 had 12 lots

Block 2 – 20 lots

Block 3 – 23 lots

Block 4 – 23 lots

Block 5 – 15 lots

Block 6 – 9 lots.

The subdivision created three new streets; John, William and Hutchinson streets.

The Old Law titles to the land show why Hutchinson made a new Will with the subdivision of the land. On January 5, 1880 he gave a Letter of Deposit & Power of Attorney to the Colonial Back of Australasia against a £355 he owed.

By August 24 1880 the executors sold the first parcels of land; subsequent sales continued throughout the rest of the year and through until 1890.

However, Louis Deschamp died on May 21, 1884 and William Hutchinson on July 25, 1896 before finalising the estate. Eliza applied to administer the estate on September 11, 1896 but at her death in 1919, her son Robert Waddell of Woori Yallock and eldest daughter Matilda Campbell of West Footscray were appointed to administer the estate. In 1920 when Robert Waddell and Matilda Campbell applied to administer John Hutchinson’s estate, it was valued at £1545. (PORV Probate and Letters of Administration).

After her husband’s death, Eliza moved into a home owned by her later husband in Castella Street until a new home – the stone house – built of Rosemount stone was completed at 32 Cave Hill Road. According to the Shire of Lillydale Rate Books the stone house was built during 1882 as Eliza is shown as owning the property- 3 lots of Block 4 and house and the value of the property is now £20 compared with £1.10s.0 the previous year. (Shire of Lillydale Rate Books 1883 pg 76 roll number 104).

Eliza moved into the home with her young family. Later Eliza moved to Launching Place to live with daughter Susanna Jordan and her husband. This was her home at the time of her death. She died at Yarra Junction on June 9, 1919 (BDM 10072) and is interred with her husband and son John Wadell at Lilydale Cemetery. (SOL Rate books 1918 show Eliza’s address as c/- Mrs Jordan Launching place pg 24 roll no. 476 under McGee).

Under the terms of her Will made March 31, 1917, Eliza gave son Robert Wadell (£200) and daughter Matilda Campbell (£60) legacies equal to the debt owed. Her executor Robert Wadell was to sell her real estate and divide it equally between each of her daughters.

Her estate was valued at £1449 which included 3 parcels of land from John Hutchinson’ estate:

  1. An acre of land part of Allotment 7 Section 30 leased to Stanley. No building but valued at £405.
  2. House and land containing 3 roods in Cave Hill Road part of Allotment 8 Section 30 let to Cameron and valued at £300.
  3. Fourteen acres – part of Allotment 7 Section 30 – no buildings, leased to John McGee and valued at £840. (PROV Will and Probate)

Children of John and Eliza Hutchinson

Matilda was born at Warrandyte 1863 (BDM 5610) and married Duncan Campbell in 1901 (BDM3183). Duncan was born at Ballarat. At the time of her mother’s death in 1919, Matilda and Duncan were living at Kingsville St, West Footscray (PROV Letters of Administration of John Hutchinson).

Sarah Eliza was born at 1864 at Warrandyte (BDM 19352) and married Walter James Gibson in 1899. In 1919 they were living in Masterton New Zealand. ((PROV Letters of Administration of John Hutchinson).

John Waddell b 1866 at Anderson Creek died Andersons Creek 1868. (BDM birth 12372 death 7819)

Susanna Ellen b 1869 at Anderson Creek. (BDM 6135)

In 1898 Susanne married John Jordan at Warrandyte (BDM 808). John was the son of Hall Jordan and Susan Fulton (parents James Fulton and Elizabeth Oliver). They had no children but lived in Lilydale and the district until her mother’s death in 1919 when they moved to “Willaroo” 157 Burke Rd, Canterbury. The Cave Hill home was leased out and remained in Susanna’s name until November 1924 when it changed into her brother’s name – Robert Hutchinson of Woori Yallock. (SOL1925  Rate Books pg 6 No. 114 Cameron). He still owned this and the land at the corner of William and Main Streets in at the end of 1937 (SOL Rate Books).

She died on December 24, 1941 and was interred in Lilydale Cemetery.

Lilydale Express obituary

Mrs J. Jordan

The death occurred on December 24 at her residence, Cave Hill road, Lilydale of a lady associated with early Lilydale, Mrs Susannah Jordan. Her parents Mr and Mrs John Hutchison were among the first of the districts residents, and were the original owners of the Olinda Hotel, where the family was very well known. The late Mr John Hutchinson also held the proud record of being one the first two or three presidents of the Lilydale Shire in 1872.

The late Mrs Jordan had been ailing for a considerable time before her demise. She is survived by her husband, and a brother Mr Robert Hutchinson of Woori Yallock. Numerous relatives also mourn their loss. The burial took place in Lilydale cemetery.

(Lilydale Express January 9, 1942 page 3).

A Bereavement Notice was placed by her husband:

Mr J. Jordan desires to thank all kind friends for letters, cards and telegrams received in his sad bereavement. All are kindly asked to accept these lines as sincere personal thanks. Cave Hill road, Lilydale.  (Lilydale Express January 4, 1942 page 2).

John Jordan died in November 1952 aged 82 years and was interred with his wife and parents on November 10, 1952 (P2 9/10 – Lilydale Cemetery records)

John Waddell b 1871 at Lilydale (BDM 9990) and died July 16, 1891 at Lilydale of Typhoid Fever (BDM 11084). He was interred at Lilydale Cemetery on July 16, 1891 with his father.

Death Notice Lilydale Express:

Hutchinson – On the 16th July at his mother’s residence, Lilydale, John Waddell, elder beloved son of Eliza and the late John Hutchinson of typhoid fever aged 20 years.

(Lilydale Express July 17, 1891 pg 2)

Lilydale Express obituary:

It will be learnt with very deep regret by the residents of the Lilydale and Healesville districts of the death of Mr John Hutchinson. The young man was a carpenter by profession, and was extremely well liked by all who made his acquaintance. About eh beginning of June, Mr Hutchinson was following his occupation in the Hamilton district, and became ill, but did not give way to the aliment until about the 20th ult, when he returned home to Lilydale and took to his bed. Drs Norris and Craig were called in, and pronounced the deceased to be suffering from typhoid fever. He underwent many relapses, but on Wednesday morning he took a change which completely prostrated him. He lingered until 3.30a.m. yesterday when he expired. Mr Hutchinson, when in Lilydale, was a very prominent member of the Lilydale Football Club, and was greatly esteemed by the members. The funeral will take place this afternoon, and will leave the deceased’s late residence, Cave Hill road, at 3 o’clock. Rev Mr McBride of Dromana, will conduct the funeral service at the grave.

(Lilydale Express July 17, 1891 pg 2).

The Loyal Lilydale Lodge M.U.I.O.O.F. also attended the funeral service of Bro. John Hutchinson (Lilydale express July 17, 1891 pg 4). John was interred with his father.

Margaret Evelina b 1873 died Lilydale 1875 aged 2.(BDM birth 10315 death 7344)

Joseph b 1875 at Lilydale died 1875 1 day old. (BDM birth 3349 death 2846)

Margaret Evelina was born in 1876 at Lilydale. (BDM 10463) and married James Allan who born on the Orkney Islands,  in 1901 (BDM 890).  They went to New Zealand as the 1919 Probate documents of Eliza Hutchinson record they were living at Masterton New Zealand as was her sister Sarah Eliza and her husband. Both husbands in 1920 were listed as grocers.

Robert Waddell b 1878 at Lilydale. (BDM 23998). He married Priscilla Ann Hand in 1906 (BDM3183).

A farmer, he lived at Woori Yallock. Priscilla died in 1969 aged 87 years (BDM23168) and was interred at Lilydale Cemetery on October 4, 1969. Robert died in 1971 and was interred with his wife on May 13, 1971.

 (Lilydale Cemetery Register Nos 6904 and 7162 P1 318)

His obituary was published in the Lilydale Express of June 2, 1971:

Link broken with past

A link with the early days of Lilydale was severed with the death of Mr Robert Waddell Hutchinson in his 93rd year, at Fairfield Hospital on May 11.

Mr Hutchinson contracted meningitis shortly before his death.

He was a member of a family which was well known in the pioneering days of the district.

His father immigrated from Larne, Northern Ireland in 1854 and his mother from Suffolk England as a child in 1842.

Robert Hutchinson’s early life was spent as a worker on his uncle’s sheep and cattle stations in the Mansfield district. He returned to Lilydale and continued his interest in livestock driving cattle to Newmarket through Kew.

His main sporting interest was hunting, and he was a keen amateur rider at Moonee Valley, Yarra Glen and took part in point-to-point events and show through many years. He was the last surviving foundation member of the Lilydale and Yarra Glen Hunt Club and the Lilydale brass Band.

On March 7, 1906, he married Priscilla Anna Hand at the Presbyterian Manse, Coburg. They celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in 1966. She pre-deceased him 18 months ago.

They lived and farmed for many years in the Mooroolbark and Yellingbo areas, travelling far and wide to help those who were sick or in need of some other assistance.

The late Mr Hutchison was a staunch member of the Presbyterian Church which he served faithfully in the Lilydale and Woori Yallock areas as an elder.

He leaves three daughters and four sons eight grand-children and nine great-grand-children.

(Lilydale Express June 2, 1971)

The children of Robert Waddell and Priscilla were:

John William b Lilydale 1907(BDM 4301). He died in 1980at Clifton Hill aged 73 years (BDM 09757)

Flora Waddell b at Lilydale in 1909. (BDM 4440).

Aldith Lila b Camperdown 1911 (BDM 1339).

Lorna Mavis b Lilydale 1912 (BDM 13171) m … Archer.

Robert Waddell b Lilydale 1914 (BDM 14256).

Percival Hand b  Lilydale 1915 (BDM 31874).

Thomas Morton b Lilydale 1919 (28765). He died at Melbourne in 1979 aged 59 years. (BDM 6914)

Louis Deschamp

(References: Deschamp family research Leigh Blackburn December 1978; The Argus death notice; Hutchinson family photo album)

John Hutchinson appointed his younger brother William and close friend and Lilydale neighbour Louis Deschamp as executors of his estate.

Jean Louis (known as Louis) was born on January 22, 1842 at Peseux Switzerland, the second son of Victor Joseph Clement (known as Joseph Clement) Deschamp, a viticulturist, and Susanne Catherine Duvoisin.

He arrived in Australia in January 1854 with his father and elder brother Louis Auguste (known as Auguste) by the ship Kenau Hasselaar which sailed from London on September 20, 1853.

Louis was 12 years old. Two years later in 1856 the third child Joseph Clement (known as Clement arrived with his mother.

In 1860 the family arrived in Lilydale where Joseph settled his three sons on 90 acres of vineyards.

Louis owned and operated the “Olinda” vineyard comprising 18 acres bordering Cave Hill, Albert Hill and Beresford roads and on the west by Kidgell Street.

Louis was a member of the first shire of Lillydale Council in 1872 and remained on council until the end of his term in 1874. Also with him on council was John Hutchinson who was the shire president for the first three years (1872 – 1874).

In 1878 he opened Deschamp’s wine hall on the corner of his vineyard at Cave Hill Road and Maroondah Highway.

Louis married twice.

His first wife was Sarah Campbell born 1843 and died June 4, 1876 aged 33 years. They had five daughters – Louise, Eliza, Mildred, Adele and Olinda.

Louis’ second wife was widow Catherine Smith nee Mahoney who was born in 1843 and died January 28, 1903 aged 59 years.

She arrived in Australia on July 21, 1864 aged 21 years and married Patrick Smith the following year. They had six children – Sarah Therisa, Mary Eliza, Margaret, Catherine, Maria and Patrick. Patrick died September 13, 1874 aged 36 years. Mary Eliza, Margaret and Patrick all died in November 1876 from scarlet fever.

Louis married Catherine Smith at Heidelberg on June 28, 1877 and they had three children: Susanna Catherine, Louis John and Cecilia Mary.

With 10 children it must have been a busy time for the family. Sadly, time was short for Louis who died on May 21, 1884 aged 42 years of pleurisy. At the time the children ranged in ages from 21 to just 4.

In Letters of Administration filed with the Victorian Supreme Court, at the time of his death Louis had an estate valued at £2049 which included the Olinda estate land of  47 acres of which 16 acres was a vineyard valued at £20 per acre and the remaining 28 acres was grazing land fenced and paddock. And valued at £6 per acre. He also owned 2 acres of land on the Main Road on which was erected a 10 roomed brick house licensed as a colonial wine shop. The third piece of land he owned was a ¼ acre outside the township with a shed on it – it was rented out at 25/- per year.

In personal estate he had 4 large wine casks valued at £48; 5000 gallons immature wine value at £375 or 1/6d a gallon, furniture; insurance policy of £250 and cash in Colonial bank of £60.  His debts totalled £760 which included a £350 loan via promissory note to his mother Susannah Deschamp. 

It was left to Catherine to carry on the vineyard and wine hall until their youngest son Louis John (born April 12, 1880) could take it over. Catherine died January 28, 1903 aged 59 years.

(References: Deschamp family research Leigh Blackburn December 1978; The Argus death notice; Hutchinson family photo album)

William Hutchinson JP (1838 – 1896)

William was born at Cairncastle County Antrim Northern Ireland in 1838. His lengthy obituary published in the Lilydale Express of August 7, 1896 tells of a life lived to the fullest.

Death of Mr. Wm. Hutchinson, J.P.

Sincere regret was expressed on all sides in Lilydale and district when it became known that Mr W. Hutchinson, a well-known and much-respected resident of Anderson’s Creek, had departed this life. This sad event took place about 4 a.m. on Saturday, 25th of July, the cause of death being inflammation of the lungs. For some days previous deceased had been suffering from influenza, which turned to inflammation. Dr. Phillips, of Heidelberg, was then called in, and notwithstanding his assiduous care, deceased gradually sank and quietly pasted away at the hour stated above. The deceased leaves a wife and young family of nine. The funeral took place on the following Monday, and was attended by a very large number of the residents of
Anderson’s Greek and surrounding districts, many travelling long distances to pay their last tribute of respect to one so highly esteemed in life. The cortege was the largest ever seen at Anderson’s Creek, The floral tributes sent to the family by sympathising friends were numerous and beautiful. Deceased was borne to the grave by four of his nephews— the Messrs Morton brothers, of Lilydale. Mr Hollow, who conducted the service at the grave, gave a brief but eloquent address in which he referred to the many good qualities of the deceased, and to the loss that the bereaved widow and children; the Bench, the church, and many institutions would sustain through his death, and truly remarked all would miss him.

Mr Hutchinson was born at Cairncastle, County Antrim; Ireland, in 1838. He joined the Irish Constabulary, and remained in it for some time. In 1859 he came to Australia, and followed up mining for some time in Victoria. He then turned his attention to New Zealand, and spent some years on the various goldfields there, where he had some thrilling adventures and experienced many hardships. He then returned to Victoria and purchased the place where he resided from his brother John. In 1873he married Miss Blair, a daughter of Mr C. F. Blair, an old resident of  Anderson’s Creek, and formerly of the Indian Army. Ho was a public man and took a great interest in anything pertaining to the welfare of the people. He was a considerate dispenser of justice, and was a councillor for the Warrandyte Riding of the old Shire of Bulleen for many years. He also had the honor of never having to contest an election for his seat. He was a kind-hearted man, and those in trouble always found in him a true friend, The many visitors to the famous Yarra Tunnel, which is close to where he resided, always received a warm welcome and were hospitably entertained by him, whether friend or stranger. He was a model husband and a loving father.

Mr Hutchinson was a brother of the late Mrs R. Morton, of Lilydale; the late Mr R. Hutchinson, of Maindample; the late Mr John Hutchinson, for many years a councillor, and also president of the Shire of Lilydale; and Mr Joseph Hutchinson J.P., of ” Woodlands” Mansfield. He has one sister at present living in Ireland.

(Lilydale Express August 7, 1896.)

William married Alice Jane Blair in 1873 (BDM3200) who was born in Madras, the daughter of Charles Frederick Blair and Alice Eaton.

They had nine children:

Henrietta b Anderson’s Creek 1874 (BDM13320)

Sarah Alice b Anderson’s Creek 1875 (BDM 20604)

John b Anderson’s Creek 1878 BDM 62)

Caroline Jane b Anderson’s Creek 1880 (BDM6 016)

Catherine b Anderson’s creek 1883 (BDM 39)

William b Anderson’s Creek 1885 (BDM 59)

Susannah b Anderson’s Creek 1888 (BDM 26073)

Fredrica b Anderson’s Creek 1892 (BDM 9471)

Joseph b Anderson’s Creek 1896  (BDM 8178)

Alice Jane died at Anderson’s Creek in 1904 aged just 48 years (BDM 3477).

1880 – Olinda subdivision created


Residents move in

Many of the early purchasers were the wealthy people of the town – the Who’s Who of Lilydale who were perhaps trying to help the Hutchinson family or perhaps saw the opportunity to make some money on one of the first subdivisions of the town since it was surveyed in 1860. Some of them sold off the properties in the 1890 Depression while others sold when they realised it was part of the Olinda creek flood plain and really suitable for housing.

Slowly homes were erected and owners moved in as in the case of the Briers family or the homes were rented out to labourers and railway workers.

Here the workers went about their lives, working hard, raising their children and putting food on the table.

Shire of Lillydale Engineer reported on July 31, 1889:

I have inspected and made a temporary survey of the streets in Hutchinson’s Estate. There are in all 18½ chains to form and metal, which with footpaths on each side, 10ft wide gravelled, but not kerbed, similar to Chapel street, and a bridge on John street would cost about £691. Too expensive to do at the time.

1920s How did Gun Alley get its name?

From as early as the 1920s, John Street between the Olinda Creek and Hutchinson Street was called Gun Alley and the children from there were called The Alley Kids by those who didn’t live in John Street.

It seems to have been lost in the mists of time.

There are several stories given but none can be clearly documented:

  1. Someone was killed with a gun in the street in the very early days
  2. The residents had their own guns which was common as they would go hunting for rabbits, foxes and kangaroos in the 1880s.
  3. It was a dead end street which ran behind the shops fronting Main Street and two of the blocks were fenced for the horses used in deliveries by the back and butcher.

Whatever the reason for the name, that section of John Street certainly was a dead end and ran behind the shops. It was also on the lower side of town and not included in the original township of Lilydale as laid out by Surveyor John Hardy in 1860 because it was rich alluvial land and swampy.

It was the working man’s part of town. Occupations of the tenants were mainly labourers and railway workers. The homes were simple and with only a couple of exceptions small weatherboard homes. The high side of Olinda Creek was Lilydale proper with wide streets, smart, larger homes on larger blocks and the owners were business and professional people.

1940s Description of Lilydale

Writing in the Lilydale Express on August 24, 1945, well known author Eileen Finlay wrote about the approach to her home town, of John Street and the Olinda Creek.

I don’t think there is anything left for me to write about Lilydale. I have done its streets, churches, amusements, trees, gates and its people. But as a grand finale I will speak about the approach to your town.

Now this is a very important thing in any place. One wants to get a thrill of anticipation before one enters it. A drab approach and you dislike the town before you get there. It makes all the difference.

Now there are very many towns – and I know my Victoria – which have an outstanding approach. There is the wonderful avenue into Bacchus Marsh. There is the incomparable Jimmy’s Point at Lakes Entrance. There’s the amazing turn in the road with Foster lying beneath you, and the panorama of the seas beyond. There’s another sudden bend and you’re above the clustered roofs of Wood’s Point; and among many other places there’s the hill which you run down into the curling street of Gisborne. Here is Lilydale’s rival for trees. Then there is the famous hoary old clump of poplars as you enter Harrietville – how often have they been painted!

But none of these vistas can compare with the curl in the road on Melbourne Hill which instantly opens up, below you, the glorious view of Lilydale.

How often do cars pause there – and it calls for widening of the road at that curve, to act as a look-out.

There lies the town! It has been said that the name Lilydale is not good enough for it. It could do with one of those quaint, arresting names with which English villages abound. But, of course, we know the origin. It was named after the wife of its first pioneer – and rightly so.

There lies the straggling town beyond its fine entrance avenue. Nothing stately or important in buildings strikes the eye, but, taking the scene as a whole, we at once think of serenity and peace.

Below, nearly, Holstein cattle are browsing, and beyond them is the quaint old row of houses in John street, which I have seen flooded to their roofs.

Boldly stands out the bush nursing hospital – a splash of red. Cave Hill, with its gaping wound, is behind us, so we can’t see that; but the old three-chain road meanders along, and the reedy little creek, which never runs dry whatever happens, one can trace with the eye as it slithers through the town under its two bridges and cuts the valley in half. Away it goes, through the fertile paddocks and on to Yarra flats.

Strangers, pausing, never fail to speak of the Lilydale hedges. Some wise men of the past planted the hawthorns.

It is spring, and away to the left are cattle knee deep in grass; and beyond Christmas Hills can be seen. Further still rise the great mountains beyond Healesville, but our eyes are content to rest nearer afield.

Once “The Towers” was a landmark of interest, but it is mellow now with creepers and trees; and its original vines have not marched up to its doors for many years, so it merges into the general landscape.

In the spring the sun shines down on glinting roofs, hedges make boundaries, and trees, dressed in girlish green, will soon be matrons in full summer gowns.

People are so thrilled with the approach that they haven’t time to notice the somewhat stark and uneven wide street, or to wonder why it is left so stark and tree-less. It is a hot street, and cool trees would surely be an asset.

Looking down, one wishes there were a few stately poplars her and there to make it even more English and to throw autumn splashes of gold to mingle with the green hedges along the flats and the red berries of the hawthorns.

Oh, Lilydale, how green is your valley!

And now that peace has come, one looks down upon the town and there pauses for deeper thought.  So many homes will be jubilant and rejoicing as their boys come home; but there are the stricken though proud homes too, to which no loved boy will ever return.

And I feel quite sure that wherever Lilydale boys have been – whether in hot desert sands or in the fetid muddy jungle – they have all at some time thought of their little home town, and found themselves saying within their hearts, “Lilydale – Ah, how green is thy valley!”

(Lilydale Express August 24, 1945)

1960s Gun Alley transformation begins

The early 1960s heralded the start of the transformation of John Street from a quiet residential street to small service businesses such as Bob Holt’s Lilydale Brake Service

1970s Causeway built John and Hardy streets linked

Gun Alley remained a safe place for the kids to play cricket in the street until the causeway was built across the Olinda Creek in 1970.

Prior to the opening John Street was reconstructed and bitumenised:

John Street – Reconstruction in preparation for bitumen sealing is in progress on John Street between Hutchinson Street and the Olinda Creek levee bank (Ref: Shire of Lillydale engineer’s Report March 20, 1968)

1980s New back way in Lilydale

Once Hardy and John streets were linked motorists realised they could go “the back way” and avoid the traffic at Main Street.

The council installed traffic lights which greatly improved traffic safety.

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