Historical Towns Directory

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Find Sunbury

The Sunbury area's first white settlers were George Evans and William Jackson, who arrived in July 1836. It was Jackson, who, together with his brother, Samuel, named Sunbury after the English Sunbury-on-Thames.

Evans took up the Emu Bottom run. His original sandstone homestead (1836) remains today as part of a more substantial building.

W.J.T. 'Big' Clarke was another early pastoralist to obtain land in the Sunbury area. The double-storey, bluestone fifty-room 'Rupertswood' mansion was built by his son, Sir William Clarke , from 1874-76. The mansion features a 100 feet high tower and a description from the time states that it was built in the 'Byzantine order of architecture'. A ballroom was added to the building in 1881-82.

Rupertswood, one of the largest residences in Victoria, was also an important social centre and played host to parties, balls and hunt meets. Clarke, who was the president of the Melbourne Cricket Club, met the English cricket team while sailing home from a European tour in 1882 and invited them to join him for Christmas and New Year at Rupertswood, a visit which has been credited as giving rise to the existence of the Ashes trophy.

The Ashes, today a bi-annual series of test cricket matches played between England and Australia, was born as a result of Australia's surprise seven-run victory against the English team in a one-off test match at The Oval in England in 1882. This was the first time that an Australian eleven had played an English eleven.

The English Sporting Times ran a satirical obituary, written by journalist Reginald Brooks, after the match which lamented the death of English cricket and stated that, 'The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia'.

Emu Bottom Homestead, Sunbury

The English team, captained by the Hon Ivo Bligh, travelled to Australia to reclaim 'the Ashes' in 1882-83, winning a three test series 2-1.

Though there was a long-held view that the Ashes trophy was presented to Bligh after the third match, further research around the centenary of the Ashes gave rise to another version of events. This account tells the story of the Ashes urn being presented to Bligh after a social game at Rupertswood. The urn was said to contain a burnt bail, but it has also been stated that the urn contains the remains of a burnt stump, ball or ball cover. It was also suggested by Bligh's daughter-in-law that the urn actually contains the remnants of her mother-in-law's veil. Bligh retained the urn until his death in 1927. It was given to the Lord's cricket ground in the 1930s and remains there today.

The Clarke family sold the Rupertswood property to Sunshine Harvester manufacturer, H.V. Mackay in 1922. Rupertswood was subsequently subdivided and the remaining property was acquired by the Salesian order of Catholic priests and brothers in 1927.

The railway reached Sunbury during the construction of the line between Melbourne and Bendigo from 1859 to 1862, around which time Sunbury's first vineyards were being planted. The Sunbury region grew into an important winemaking area and Victoria was producing half of Australia's wine at one point during the 19th century However, an infestation of the 'Phylloxera' vine louse devastated the state's vineyards (though it bypassed Sunbury) after entering Victoria in the 1870s and the depression of the 1890s signalled the further decline of the winemaking industry

The 'Craiglee' vineyard was established in 1863 by politician and businessman, James Stewart Johnston, who constructed the property's bluestone winery between 1865 and 1868. Winemaking at Craiglee ceased in the 1920s due to the economic circumstances and public tastes of the time. Vines were replanted on the site of the original vineyard by Patrick Carmody in 1976.

James Goodall Francis, who became the Victorian premier in 1870, also established his Goona Warra vineyard in 1863. The vineyard continued to operate for a while after Francis' death in 1884, but the land here too was eventually given over to other farming activities. The remaining 17 acres of the Goona Warra property was bought and replanted as a vineyard in 1983 by John and Elizabeth Barnier. Original buildings such as the homestead (1863-75) still remain on the property today.

The Sunbury township was also developing in the 1860s. A Catholic church and school, as well as an Anglican school opened in 1860. In 1867 a permanent Anglican church was established, and a Presbyterian church was built the next year.

Rupertswood Mansion

An industrial school opened at Sunbury in 1864 and was converted to a mental asylum in 1879. Extensions were made to the building between 1891 to 1914. The asylum was renamed the Caloola Centre in 1985. It was decommissioned in the early 1990s and opened as a campus of the Victorian University of Technology in 1995.

Sunbury, around 35 kilometres north-west of Melbourne, began to develop as a commuter suburb of Melbourne from the 1960s. In the 2001 Census Sunbury's estimated population was recorded as 27,342 people.

Sunbury Family History Society Inc
Information: The Society aims to provide research facilities and records to assist with genealogical and family history research for members and the community; and to research and record cemetery records (burials, headstones) in the area. Founded 1984.
Publications: Monthly meetings (from February to November inclusive) on the 3rd Wednesday at 8pm, Senior Citizens Centre, 8 O'Shanassy Street, Sunbury.
Events: 'Trace Back' is published several times per year and available on website.
President Phone: 03 9744 4478
Secretary Phone: 03 9744 6474
Contact: Bill Wilson (President); Barry Priest (Secretary)

PO Box 601
Sunbury VIC 3429

Email: sunburyfhs@hotmail.com
Website: http://www.sunburyfhs.org.au
Sunbury Historical & Heritage Society Inc
Information: The aims of the Society are: (1) to inform the residents of Sunbury about the history of Sunbury's historical buildings and monuments; (2) to inform visitors to Sunbury about the town's history; (3) to inform students at both primary and secondary schools about the history of Sunbury; (4) to collect historical information and artefacts for the George Evans Museum; (5) to educate interested people in local history by holding seminars and lectures; (6) to inform the Society's members of local, Victorian and Australian history through lectures, tours, newsletters and journals; and (7) for all members to enjoy being part of the Society.
Publications: 'Informal' is published bi-monthly.
Events: Sunbury Autumn Festival in March; Annual General Meeting in July; Sunbury Annual Show in October; and Annual Dinner in November.
President Phone: 03 9744 1849
Secretary Phone: 03 9744 4524
Contact: Peter Free (President); Kath Tremlett (Secretary)

PO Box 423
Sunbury VIC 3429

Email: freedearhenry@hotmail.com
Sunbury Visitor Information Centre
Information: Open daily from 9am to 5pm
Phone: 03 9744 2291
Fax: 03 9740 6999

43 Macedon Street
Sunbury VIC 3429

Email: tourism@hume.vic.gov.au
Sunbury & District Heritage Association
Information: The aims of the society are to enhance and develop community awareness of Sunbury's history and heritage and surrounding districts. The aims are achieved by (1) collecting and displaying items of historical significance such as early records, photographs, memorabilia, books and other publications and cataloguing and conserving the items according to correct archival procedures. (2) mounting historical displays in a variety of community venues. (3) supporting the conservation of the Australian landscape, native flora and fauna and Aboriginal ceremonial sites. (4) offering educational programs and research assistance to the community.
Publications: Sunbury Heritage Walks Sunbury and District Heritage Self Drives
Events: Members meet monthly on 2nd Wednesday from February to December .
President Phone: Veronica Burgess 03 9744 4669
Secretary Phone: Trevor Dunn 03 9744 1591

8 Terence Street
Sunbury VIC 3429

Email: sunburydha1978@hotmail.com
Website: http://home.vicnet.net.au/~sunburydha1989



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