Preserving a “little bit of History”

Melbourne may be a young city by World standards but it is still steeped in a rich and culturally diverse history and some of her homes are a visual tribute to that past.

So when Supa Group was asked to extend a workers cottage in Miller street, Alphington we were mindful of preserving a ‘little bit of History’ and research uncovered some very interesting history about the Miller family

The scope of works included the demolition of an extension that was constructed some twenty years ago, leaving the original front four rooms of the early 20th century workers cottage. A kitchen with open plan living area were added, along with a bathroom, laundry, and master bedroom with ensuite and robes.

In addition to the works on the extension, the remaining part of the original structure was renovated including a beautiful red gum floor throughout, and the roof replaced.

Alphington Workers Cottage

Miller Street Alphington Workers Cottage

Original Title Document

Original Title Document

 

The works commenced in January 2015 and were completed in mid June 2015.

The house is located on part of Crown Allotment 119 Parish of Jika Jika. That whole allotment was sold by the Crown to Richard and Godfrey Howitt in 1840. The Howitt’s were not land speculators and intended to turn the property into a working farm, but as anyone from that area could imagine, the massive river red gums created quite an obstacle.

The property was purchased by the Miller family. As the original title was issued as a “General Law” title it is not easy to determine exactly when this occurred. The Miller’s original holding was one hundred and fifty three acres and three roods. The original Torrens title is in the name of Albert Miller of George St, Fitzroy.  It extended in a North/South direction from the Yarra River to the Darebin Creek. Heidelberg Road and the Clifton Hill to Alphington Railway line were excised from that property.

Henry Miller Alphington

Henry “Money” Miller (1809-1888)

Albert Miller1

Albert “Handlebar” Miller (1845-1915)

 

Much of this land must have been sold off and Albert Miller, now of “Whernside” in Albany Road, Toorak had a new title issued in 1909. It then consisted of twenty two acres, one rood and twenty four perches “or thereabouts”. The remaining property ran between Heidelberg Road and the railway line from Lowther Street to Miller Street. There was also an access road from Heidelberg Road to the Yarra River included on that title.

Other notable properties close by included “Lucerne Farm” owned by Thomas Wills (ever heard of Willsmere?). This was situated where the La Trobe Golf Club is now located. On the other side of Heidelberg Road to the Millers property was Knockando Farm, owned by Dr Allan Ranald McDonald, which is the site of the Alphington Paper Mills, currently, being demolished.

Millers were a well connected and prosperous family. Albert’s Grandfather, Henry Miller was a veteran of the battle of Waterloo who came to Australia with a detachment of convicts.

Albert’s father was also Henry Miller, known as “Money” Miller. Born in Londonderry, Ireland, Henry was involved in finance and insurance, being a leading promoter and Chariman of the Bank of Victoria and founded the Victorian Life and General Insurance Co. He was also prominent in the Victorian Government as a parliamentarian and was president of the Board of Land and Works.

Albert Miller used the property at Alphington as a horse stud, and later purchased a property at South Morang which was known as Mill Park. He was a keen supporter of the Victorian Amateur Turf Club. From the Mill Park stables he had many successful steeplechasers and hurdlers including Redleap which won several notable races in 1892. Other family members followed Albert’s passion in breeding and racing horses and they were active members of the Findon Harriers Hunt Club.

The Alphington stables were subdivided and the title for property in its current form was issued to Ernest Hill, Engineer in 1926.

The property has had several owners over the past 100 years:

1931 – Veronica Mary Hickey, Married Woman 1932 – Douglas George Askew, Boot Finisher 1936 – John Alfred Naylor, Carpenter 1958 – Kathleen Rose Neville, Married Woman 1967 – Frank Cusmano, Shopkeeper 1972 – Robert Payne, Driver 1972 – Soloman Kurtz, Manufacturer 1976 – Valerie Jean Case, Nursing Sister 1984 – Kenneth McKoy, Technical Officer 1995 – Belinda Elizabeth Heyward 2001 – Nicolas and Fiona Heyward 2003 – Current owners