You know you're in the country when just 1km from the outskirts of the main strip there are a huddle of cows lying sheltering under a tree. In every direction there are paddocks, albeit separated by a long stretch of main road on the way to Whittlesea.
Whittlesea is believed to have been named after a region (Whittlesy) in England. It was surveyed in 1853. The construction of the Yan Yean Reservoir in the same year attracted a larger population to the area.
Now Whittlesea is well known for the popular Funfields adventure park and the Whittlesea show. The Whittlesea Agricultural Society's Annual Show was first held in 1859. It is one of the oldest and largest in Victoria.
As you drive into Whittlesea, a newish McDonald's is now flanked on one side by the old Whittlesea Hotel with its landmarked palm trees and on the other by the more recent, modern Sontaya Thai restaurant. This section of road once housed a doctor's residence, boot maker, bakery and general store. It is directly opposite to the local public school.
Whittlesea has a number of major banks, a Foodworks store, delis, cafes, clothes stores; you name it and you're likely to find it here. But this wasn't always the case. Whittlesea has a long history as a small beloved country town.
The former court house is now the tourist information centre
On the edge of the town stands a historic society/visitor information centre that once was an old courthouse. It operated petty sessions until 1985. At the other end of the town stands a memorial for those fallen in the war. The trek around town reveals many historic monuments and buildings that make up a heritage walk.
I have included some here that could be part of a group or individual great race to find some of Whittlesea's historic places. If you can locate the first stop - the former courthouse and police lock-up - you are on your way to complete this heritage great race.
At the corner of Church St and Beech St you will find Whittlesea House (formerly the Prince of Wales Hotel). It was also once a boarding house under the name of Whittlesea Coffee Palace (c1907). Find the original Prince of Wales Crests of three ostrich plumes rising through a gold coronet with the motto 'Ich Dien' (meaning 'I serve'). This can be found on the corner of the building.
Proceed east along Beech St to find the Masonic Temple formed in 1919. At that time it had less than a couple of dozen members. The leadlight windows featuring the Masons' symbol were covered over for preservation in 2012.
Also in Beech St is the Royal Mail Hotel. This building suffered badly as the result of a fire in 1936. Despite the bucket brigade the fire was unable to be fought because of a lack of running water at the time. It was rebuilt with some of the original bricks.
If you turn into Forest St you will find the Former Free library, once also a Mechanics Institute and the Uniting Church. Some of the original bookcases are still in tact. This building has been used for various organisations including a picture theatre, youth club, Lions club and church.
The church building was first opened in 1876 as a Wesleyan Methodist Church. Since then it has been a Methodist church as part of a Presbyterian Church and a Uniting Church.
At the intersection of Forest and Walnut St you will find the Memorial Arch. This is the entrance to what was the grazing park. It was dedicated to the fallen soldiers of the district. Their names appear on the pillars.
The arch features the rising sun insignia of the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces. Locals objected to its movement, but due to fear of damage from increased traffic, the road was diverted around the arch.
Proceed east towards the park and you will find JW Towt Reserve and George Sherwin bandstand (2001). The reserve was named after an active town citizen who was a town shire councillor for 18 years. If you return back to Walnut St you will find Clancy's tea rooms (1920).
Distinctive Hybrid Plane and Silky Oak trees line the main streets of Church and Lime St creating an attractive avenue of honour. These were planted to honour the memories of WW1 and WW2 soldiers who died defending their country.
You will also find the old post office on Church St. When the service began in 1853, deliveries were made twice weekly on horseback. An original old clock is on the wall behind the counter.
At the southern end of Church Street, the soldiers monument stands proudly on a granite base. It was unveiled in 1926 before 300 people. School children were given a day off to attend.
If you continue along Laurel St toward Plenty Rd you will find the location of the former railway station (1889-1955) and the site of the first Whittlesea show. Also on this street is the Whittlesea Fire station opened in 2011. The bell is from the 1950s.
On Plenty Rd, an old school room still stands. It is now the office area of the school. This would have been heated by a wood fire and hard to maintain the heat because of the high ceilings. It was built on a bluestone base and complete in 1878. The school now comprises many modern buildings.
View from the school. The hotel and Mc Donald's is in the background
There are various other historic buildings along Plenty Rd such as old cottages and the former Whittlesea Sawmill. They give an insight into what life might have been like in the 1800s in and around Whittlesea.
A few years back the loyal Whittlesea locals protested hard, though unsuccessfully, against establishing a McDonald's store in their town. Despite the growth and modernisation of Whittlesea the locals still treasure and guard the heritage and history. it's still clearly a little bit country.
Acknowledgement: Whittlesea Township Heritage Walk booklet. Produced by the Whittlesea Historic Society and available for sale at the Visitors Information Service.
Great article didn't know where Whittlesea was. Its as dry in Melbourne as it is in NSW. Hope relief comes soon to these property owners. The Wesleyan's seemed very prominent in the early eras of Australia.