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How Heidelberg in Melbourne got its name?

Burgundy Street in Heidelberg


The land sale in Today’s Heidelberg by Crown auction began in 1838. Heidelberg was known as Warringal at that time, which was an aboriginal term for “Eagle’s Nest”. Nearly seven miles away from Melbourne, Heidelberg was reached by an unmade road through black soil of considerable richness from Melbourne via North Fitzroy. But this disadvantage was compensated by a country side of fertile land bordered by the clear flowing Yarra. Heidelberg boasted of a beautiful landscape on those days.

Mr Richard Henry Brown a social celebrity of those days, fashionable and distinguished, generally known from his reminiscent enthusiasm on the subject of the Grand European Tour, was better known as Continental Browne. Browne was very fond of retelling incidents of his “grand Continental tour”, hence his nickname. He was a land agent in Melbourne and was selling land in Warrigal as an agent of Thomas Walker.

There was a Champagne picnic at Thomas Walker’s land on Mt Eagle (The name of the estate was ‘Hartlands’ ) in the middle of 313-acre block of land that was to be purchased by Sylvester John Brown. The oldest of Sylvester John Brown’s ten children named Thomas Alexander Brown, adopted the pseudonym ‘Rolf Boldrewood’ when writing “Robbery Under Arms” and other works about the early days in Victoria. Rolf Boldrewood’s Old Melbourne Memories, describes the incident from his memory of what his father told him.

From Rolf Boldrewood’s Old Melbourne Memories

“I can see him now in the centre of a group of admiring friends, chiefly of the fair sex, standing on one of the heights which overlooked the meadows of the Yarra.

 ‘There, my dear madam, permit me to direct your gaze. Do you not observe the silver thread of the river winding through that exquisite green valley? it reminds me so vividly of the gliding Neckar, and alas! (here a most telling sigh) of scenes, of friends loved and lost. I can fancy that I look at my ever-remembered, ever-regretted Heidelberg! Those slopes rising from the farther river shore will be terraced vineyards; and these, where you can faintly discern the snow pinnacle on yon spur of the Australian Alps, I can imagine the grand outline of the Harz Mountains. It is, it shall be, Heidelberg! Charles, open more champagne. We must christen this thrice-favoured spot, on this trebly auspicious day, worthily, irrevocably!” “In some such fashion,” Thomas Alexander Browne added, “Heidelberg was named, and, what was more to the purpose, sold.”

 After his naming of Heidelberg, Richard Henry Brown was also known as “Heidelberg” Browne. The Post Office opened on 19 October 1853 as Warringal Post Office, and was renamed Heidelberg Post Office in 1865. Heidelberg was proclaimed a Shire on 27 January 1871. Due to the Anti German sentiments during the World War I, Heidelberg City Council proposed a name change and even organised a community naming competition, but the name Heidelberg remained.

Burgundy Street in Heidelberg