Take the heritage walk
View the Alphington and Fairfield Heritage Walk Part I on a map
View the Alphington and Fairfield Heritage Walk Part II on a map
In 1837 Colonial Government surveyor Robert Hoddle divided the land surrounding Melbourne into parishes, including Keelbundoora to the east of the Darebin Creek and Jika Jika to the west.
Within these Parishes, Hoddle laid out Crown Sections and Allotments for future sale. Land sales were held in the Jika Jika parish during the Melbourne land boom of the 1840s yielding the site of the future Alphington. Long, narrow Crown Sections of between 90 and 180 acres offered frontages to the Yarra River or Darebin Creek, perfect sites for farming.
In 1840 Thomas Wills relocated from Sydney and, for a startling sum of £3784, purchased a prime 176 acres with extensive frontages to both the Yarra River and the Darebin Creek. Wills began clearing immediately and built a veritable mansion called Lucerne surrounded by English garden and fronting an artificial lake. Considered by some to be one of the most intelligent men in the colonies, Wills built up a property which was noted as being the 'grandest of its day'. Lucerne was eventually demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Latrobe Golf Club.
Heidelberg Road, one of the Colony's first toll roads, was a busy thoroughfare to the rich Heidelberg farmlands and later for teamsters, gold seekers en-route to the Diamond Creek or for day trippers from Melbourne to the sylvan surrounds of Alphington, Ivanhoe and Heidelberg. Alphington was slow to develop as an urban area and remained as farmland.
One of the most prominent of these early farms, complete with a modest farm house, orchard, vegetable plot, vineyard and an ornate bird house, was George Perry's Fulham Grange, located on the banks of the Yarra (including today's Coate Park). The renowned painter, Eugene von Guerard, painted this picturesque farm in 1855 with accuracy hitherto not seen in local artistic works. Richard Perry had established the 105 acre farm from wild bushland, to be carried on by his sons Richard, William and George. The Australasian described this part of the Yarra as 'one of the prettiest spots in the neighbourhood of Melbourne… where the fertile banks of the Yarra rise precipitously nearly 100 feet above the shaggy, little used but ever flowing river.'
Apart from the riverside farms, there was William (later Sir William) Manning's Alphington village, created as a stopping point en-route to Heidelberg, just west of the Darebin Creek crossing. Manning (1811-1895), land speculator, barrister and politician, was then the Solicitor General of New South Wales. He offered 130 plots for sale at the Alphington Village estate in 1854, named after Manning?s home town in Devon, England.
In 1856 John Adams opened a general store and became the first postmaster there in 1858. The Adams family remained in the district well into the 20th century developing a large quarry works located where Rockbeare Park is today (part of the Darebin Parklands), named after the previous land owners, Thomas Hutchins Bear and William Henry Rocke.
Fairfield Park and St James Park
During the land boom years of the 1880s large areas of the land east of Northcote Hill (today's Fairfield and Alphington), were subdivided for suburban allotments. Charles Henry James and his brother in law, Percy Dobson, created housing estates such as Fairfield Park and St James Park (1883), carved from the farms that lined the Yarra, like Perry's Fulham Grange.
Early subdivisions along the Yarra catered for affluent buyers with small acreages perfect for "gentlemen's residences". Fulham Grange, halfway between Fairfield and Alphington, was among the first of these estates to be sold. The predominantly flat land north of Heidelberg Rd was subdivided into smaller allotments and sold at a much lower price as working men's freeholds.
Fairfield and Alphington railway stations
The railway stations at Fairfield and Alphington opened in 1888 as part of the Heidelberg line, in the hope that the transportation would make the area more attractive to investors. However, as the railway passed through so many junctions on its way from Spencer Street to Heidelberg station, the journey took upwards of an hour and a half and was hardly an incentive to settle along its route. In contrast, the Whittlesea line (opened in 1889) offered a faster route from Melbourne to North Fitzroy and the new suburbs to the north such as Northcote and Thornbury. In 1901 the Heidelberg railway line was much improved, now running half hourly during peak times and directly to Princes Bridge, Melbourne, via Clifton Hill.
Outer Circle Railway
Another attempt at providing public transport to the area was the Outer Circle Railway from the Gippsland Railway at Oakleigh to the Heidelberg line at Fairfield, crossing the river at today's Chandler Highway bridge, en-route to Kew. The Outer Circle was so unsuccessful that passenger services were ended within two years. The population continued to grow during the early 1900s, largely due to the overcrowding of inner city suburbs, particularly Collingwood and Fitzroy.
The Yarra River was a popular drawcard for the area with Deep Rock, Fairfield and Alphington Parks popular picnic and swimming destinations from the First World War period into the 1950s.