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History of Coburg

Coburg Post Office 1917

Coburg, one of the oldest suburbs in Melbourne is situated 8km north of Melbourne CBD, in the local Government area of the City of Moreland.

Before the European settlement, this area was occupied by the Woiwurrung speaking Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. In late May 1835, John Batman, now known as one of the founders of Melbourne, met eight Woiworung Chiefs near Merry Creek in Northcote (debatable whether it was Edgars Creek near Thomastown or near Plenty River in Greensborough) and allegedly purchased 600,000 acres of land in exchange for blankets, tomahawks, scissors and other such gifts and an annual tribute of the same.

Pentridge Stockade 1853. Image Courtesy: State Library of Victoria

Coburg was first surveyed by Robert Hoddle, then a senior surveyor and on 14th June 1837, noted that a man named Hyatt had a sheep station and a hut on the east bank of Merri Creek near present day Outlook Road. Hoddle described the adjoining land as good pasture for sheep with patches of light forest of casuarina, eucalyptus, and mimosa. Hoddle marked a 327-acre village reserve and one road, which was later known as Sydney Road. The surveys were conducted for auctioning the land and the first auctions on Coburg area was on 1st August 1839 and the second on 3rd October 1839.

In August 1840 surveyor Henry Boorn Foot named the village reserve, Pentridge, after his wife’s birthplace in Dorset, Britain. Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser published this new item about the naming on 20th August 1840

The Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser (NSW: 1838 – 1841), Thu 20 Aug 1840 / Page 3

Port Phillip News.

PENTRIDGE. – His Honour (Mr. La Trobe,) on Tuesday last, gave the name of “Pentridge” to the village on the Sydney Road, about four and a half miles from Melbourne. It is truly a delightful spot, and the ground is excellent. We may, therefore, anticipate in a short time, a flourishing village, and gardens sufficient to supply our market with every description of vegetables, of which there is such a scarcity at present, although in great demand. In the immediate neighbourhood we reckoned as many as twenty-one farms, all in the occupation of gentlemen, who are busily engaged in the erection of dwelling houses and other buildings requisite for carrying on agricultural operations upon an extensive scale. There are also six families of the labouring class, and Mr. La Trobe has promised to recommend to His Excellency that the site of a church should be reserved for the inhabitants, who are already more than sufficient in number, to entitle them, by the provisions of the church act, to the required grant.”

By early 1840’s Pentridge’s population was estimated to be close to 200. As per the road act of 1840, in June 1842, forty-one land owners along the Sydney Road formed a road trust to repair and maintain Sydney Road. Sydney Road was not proclaimed as an official route until November 1850. After 1854 road users paid a toll, except for those on foot or driving wood or manure carts.     The toll gate was in operation until 1877.

Coburg School 484, Courtesy: State Library of Victoria

Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser published this news item on 16th December 1841

Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser (Vic. : 1839 – 1845), Thu 16 Dec 1841, Page 2

”Pentridge— The Magistrates in petty sessions have repeatedly refused to grant a license for an inn in the rising village of Pentridge on the Merri Creek, assigning for their refusal no better reason than the in sufficiency of the police force to preserve order at so great distance from town. The records of the coroner’s inquests and the recent convictions for sly grog-selling in the Police Office, sufficiently show the fallacy of this argument, for it is obvious that there is a greater risk of disturbances where sly grogshops exist, than where there is a regularly licensed inn, in as much as it is not likely the landlord will encourage drunkenness at the risk of losing his license.”

Worsening law and order situation in the forties prompted the stationing of Constable Francis Gough at Pentridge in 1846. Land for a new Police station was set aside at northwest end of Drummond Street in 1854 and a two room blue stone station was erected in 1857.  A new police station was erected on the west side of the Sydney Road just above Munro Street in later years, at the request of the council.

Coburg Reserve 1888

In the 1840’s the new settlers of Pentridge also had complaints about the aborigines and were worried about their safety.

Southern Australian published this news item on 4th November 1842

Southern Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1838 – 1844) Fri 4 Nov 1842 Page 4

”THE ABORIGINES.- A person named Morgan, who resides about half a mile from the village of Pentridge, came to the Police Office on Friday last and made a complaint to the sitting magistrate, Major St. John, that the blacks had been very troublesome in the neighbourhood of the Merri Creek. Mr. Morgan stated that parties of blacks, four or five in number, had called at the different huts and demanded flour, threatening to spear the inmates if it were not given to them. Two men of the parties were armed with a musket and pistol, who said they would shoot the complainant if he did not immediately supply them with provisions. Complainant said he would give them what they wanted in five minutes, whereupon they allowed him to depart, and he forthwith proceeded to procure assistance from his neighbours, but on his return he found the blacks had decamped.”

By the mid 1840’s the area near Moonee Ponds Creek and Merry Creek had become populated by Yeomen farmers. Fruit tree orchards, wheat and market gardens thrived. The Gold Rush of 1850’s saw men leaving Pentridge for Goldfields, like elsewhere in Victoria. Legend claimed that only Stainsby the shoemaker and Wakefield the watercarrier remained (Coburg Between Two Creeks, Richard Broom).  But many returned soon.  In the 1850’s Pentridge’s population was increasing due to immigration and by 1857, 1348 people lived in Pentridge village.

The first Inn in Coburg, the Golden Fleece was built in 1842, on Sydney Road, north of Page Street. Many Quarries operated in Coburg since the 1850’s and by 1875, there were around 41 quarries in the area.

In 1848, Wesleyan Methodists received two-acre land grant for a church in Pentridge and a blue stone chapel was consecrated there in 1850. In 1851, a Wesleyan day school was conducted in the church. A new chapel was dedicated in 1857, which had changed its name from Wesleyan Chapel to Pentridge Wesleyan Church.

The Anglicans constructed Holy Trinity Church in Pentridge, which could seat 150 people, was consecrated by Bishop Perry on 30th December 1849. An Anglican day school was opened soon after. Church’s first bell was loaned by Pentridge Stockade and when the Church’s northern transept collapsed in 1869, it was rebuilt by convicts at the stockade.

In 1852, An school building committee was formed and the Board of National education obtained two acres of land behind the Wesleyan Chapel for the purpose the building an school. In March 1853 the Pentridge School began functioning in a tent. By June that year a wooden schoolhouse had been built.  Foundation stone for a new school building was laid on 21st December 1857. The board of education, which was created after The Common School Act of 1862, renamed the Bell Street Common School to School No 484.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) Thu 21 Feb 1850, Page 2, Domestic Intelligence.

”THE STOCKADE—IMMEDIATE preparations are to be made for the erection of a stockade on the Sydney road, beyond Pentridge for the reception of criminal sentenced to work on the roads by our courts of criminal jurisdiction.”

Pentridge Stockade came into existence on 5 Dec 1850 and Samuel Barrow was appointed the first superintendent. Samuel Barrow had been appointed as superintendent of penal establishments in Victoria by Lieutenant General Charles Latrobe, following a stint as resident magistrate of Norfolk Island. Pentridge was close to Melbourne and only 6 of 327 acres of village reserve set aside by Robert Hoddle were alienated so far.  Though initially the stockade was on a land size of 43 acres it soon swallowed most of the reserve land reaching more than fivefold its original size, to the protests of the locals. But by 1959, it had relinquished most the land for different purposes and shrank to a size of 60 acres.


The Melbourne Daily News (Vic. : 1848 – 1851) , Sat 7 Dec 1850 Page 2

The Pentridge  Stockade. — OnThursday morning sixteen of the prisoners, confined in the Melbourne gaol under sentence of hard labour, were marched to the Pentridge stockade, decked in white jackets and trousers, bearing the government brand, and being marched in military order, ready presented an imposing spectacle. They were accompanied by Chief District Constable Brodie, with eight of lite district police, and Mr Barrow, the Superintendent of the station in a cab.

In the 1850s road leading to Melbourne were almost impassable. Having been cut up by the horse and bullock teams on their way to the diggings. The Road Board made a request to the Penal department for help to make roads. During the construction of the roads, the prisoners were locked up in wooden houses built on wheels which enabled them to move to any part, where prison labour could be utilised safely. The road from Brunswick to Pentridge was the first made by prison labour in Victoria. (Early History of Coburg by B. Cooke)

A Post Office was established in September 1852 at the corner of Reynard Street and Sydney Road. Pentridge’s first local paper Brunswick and Pentridge Press, which published as a weekly by Wilkinson Brothers of Brunswick had its first print in October 1858. Pentridge Road Board came into existence in 1859.

The name ‘Pentridge’ became synonymous with Pentridge Stockade and the locals wanted to have the name of the village changed, as they were tired of the embarrassment of saying they lived in Pentridge. In 1857 Father Charles O’ Hea called a public meeting to change the name of Pentridge. Many names were suggested – Donegal, Limerick, Tipperary, Merrivale and Coburg among them. On 23rd December 1867, the Chief Commissioner of the Board of Land and Works received the petition signed by 191 people from Pentridge Village requesting a name change. The Duke of Edinburgh was soon to visit the colony and it was suggested that they could honour him by calling the village Coburg. The Duke was a member of House of Saxe – Coburg. The Government agreed and the change of name was officially made in March 1870.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), Tue 16 Jun 1868, Page 4

TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 1868

”A deputation from the Pentridge district, consisting of the Rev. C. O’Hea (Roman Catholic), the Rev. J. Cooper (Presbyterian), and Messrs. D. Moore, Bell, T. Dolling, J. B. Kendall, and V. Wortley, of the Pentridge District Road Board, waited on the Hon. Mr. O’Grady, Minister of Roads and Bridges, yesterday morning, to present a petition largely signed by the residents in that neighbourhood, the effect of which was to pray that the district of Pentridge might be changed in name, and be henceforth known as Coburg. Their object was, as the deputation stated, to relieve the residents from some of the disagreeable associations connected with the immediate neighbourhood of the chief penal establishment in the colony. The deputation complained, with evident justice, that their property was injured in value, and the neighbourhood depreciated in character, because of a prison and prisoners with whom they had nothing whatever to do. Mr. O’Grady said in reply, that he thoroughly entered into their feelings, but he was withheld from granting their request by the fact that the Local Government Act gave no authority whatever for any change of name. The deputation were somewhat disappointed at this. The Rev. J. Cooper pointed out that the name Pentridge was in fact a misnomer, as the district so designated was really outside of Pentridge proper ; and Mr. D. Moore also spoke in the same strain. Mr. O’Grady again expressed his regret that he could not at once interfere, but the fact was that the Gazette notices, the proclamations, the seal of the district, &c., all were in the name of Pentridge. He promised, however, to seek advice from the Crown Law Officers on the subject.”

Coburg became a shire in January 1875. Farmers and market gardeners formed Coburg’s largest occupational group. In the seventies farmers of Coburg were making a shift away from growing Wheat to oaten hay, as the number of cattle and horses were ever increasing in Melbourne.

The single-track railway line and a station at Coburg was opened on 8th September 1884 and in 1889, the line was extended to Somerton. Coburg Railway station was built in 1888. The extension to Somerton was closed on 13 July 1903 due to operating loss, but reopened to Fawkner on 13 November 1906. In October 1887, Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company ran a cable tram until Moreland Road. The Brunswick and Coburg Tramways Trust came into existence in 1914. The first electric tram ran from Moreland Road, Nicholson Street and Bakers Road on 27th April 1906.

By 1900, Coburg’s population had increased to 6092 and the population was increasing in a faster pace and by the 1920’s the population was 20,000. In 1903, Shire president John McCroy proposed that Coburg become a Borough and signatures were taken for a petition.  Coburg was gazetted a Borough in June 1904, but this was declared invalid as the shire’s accounts had not been audited and wound up. It was gazetted as a Borough again  in January 1905. Coburg became a town in 18 September 1912 and was proclaimed a city on 29 March 1922.

After the 1940’s, housing shortages became an issue. The housing Commission had purchased 63-acre Spring Meadows Estate at East Coburg in 1940. After the World War II, immigrants from Europe began pouring in and the situation became worse. In 1944, the Commission had purchased Roslyn, Dunville and Newlands Estates and the Commission built 777 houses. Industrialisation picked up after the war and more people started settling in Coburg.

Coburg Post Office 1917

1950’s and 60’s saw many educational institutions coming up in the Coburg and surrounding areas. Newland Primary School and High School, Coburg Technical school and Coburg Teachers School were established in the 1950s and Pascoe Vale Girls school and Mercy College in the 1960s.

In the 1960’s 200 acre dairy farm operated by Alan and Edith McKay near Newlands Road were sold to Kodak and the owners of Coburg Drive in . These were one of the last farming activities left in Coburg at that time.

The Newlands High School became a secondary college in 1990. But declining student numbers resulted in its closure in December 1992. The land became part of the Pentridge Village housing development.

Pentridge Prison was officially closed on 1st May 1997. In 2004, Kodak’s Coburg factory finally closed its doors. New housing estates came up at the Gaol site and at the former Kodak site in the 2000’s.

Coburg East Primary school was then merged with the Secondary College in 1997 to form Moreland City P-12 College. In 2004, Moreland City College was closed. In 2005, fire damaged the original school building. The reincarnated Coburg High School is located on the site of the former Moreland City College.

Coburg High School was closed in 1993 and merged with Preston Secondary College to become Coburg – Preston Secondary College in 1994. Coburg East Primary School was merged with Coburg – Preston Secondary College to form Moreland City P-12 College in 1997. In 2004 Moreland City College was closed. In 2007, Coburg Senior High School was established and 2015, name was changed to Coburg High School.

In 1994 Coburg city was united with Brunswick city and parts of Broadmeadows city (Fawkner, Glenroy, Oak Park) to form Moreland city.



The Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser (NSW: 1838 – 1841), Thu 20 Aug 1840 /Page 3/ Port Phillip News.

Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser (Vic. : 1839 – 1845), Thu 16 Dec 1841, Page 2/ Local Intelligence.

Southern Australian (Adelaide, SA : 1838 – 1844) Fri 4 Nov 1842 / Page 4 / PORT PHILLIP

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) Thu 21 Feb 1850, Page 2, Domestic Intelligence.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), Tue 16 Jun 1868, Page 4

Coburg Between Two Creeks by Richard Broome




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