Rodda Street Coburg

Do you ever drive around and wonder how street names came to be?

Fortunately the Moreland City Council are pretty good at putting signs along street names letting us all know who was who in the zoo when certain streets were named.

I’ve been noticing this sign for a long time – Supa Group are renovating a home in this Coburg street.

In the case of Rodda Street, it was named after James White Rodda, who had a market garden at this location in 1858. Being a humble market gardener probably didn’t come with naming rights attached. But James was also a member of the Coburg Road Board from 1868 to 1870. Roads Boards were the predecessors of local councils, so he was effectively a councillor, albeit for a short time and his name was immortalised accordingly.

Rodda Street is located directly near the Coburg Town Hall (with library and other community facilities), so James would not have had far to walk for his meetings. The town hall is a distinctive building constructed in 1922, and as with many civic buildings of that era was dedicated to those who served in the Great War of 1914 – 1918.

Coburg Town Hall with distinctive dome – a remnant from the Federation era when domes were common.

Bluestone Cottage Bell Street Coburg c.1858

Coburg is famous for its bluestone. The bluestone for this house was quite possibly sourced from the same quarry that was used to build Pentridge Prison, construction of which started in 1851. Pentridge is only a short walk from this cottage and the quarry can be seen on the North side of the old prison at what is now known as the Coburg Lakes, formed out of the Merri Creek.

Also on Bell Street, now a vacant lot was the Coburg High School. It is directly opposite the Coburg Town Hall.An Aged Care Residence is to be constructed there which makes me nostalgic for the Classic façade that was. The school was actually established during the First World War and my Aunty, who was an English and History teacher worked there in the 1950’s.

At least grow some vegetables (?) – the old Coburg High School site has been vacant for years.

To the west of the school site are some gardens with a lovely monument to Cr Harry Malcomson Rogers, who fittingly had a particular interest in parks and gardens, and children’s play equipment. Sadly he died at the age of 46. Harry had served in WW1.

Memorial to Cr Harry Malcomson Rogers with Griffins intact Harry Potter style. Coburg Football Ground and swimming pool is in the background.

The Sands and McDougall Melbourne Directory of 1905 shows that at this time there were houses on both sides of Rodda Street, before the High School was constructed. One of the properties on the West side of the street was called “Roddaleigh” and was owned by Frederick W Murphy. A walk along the length of the street could not identify any of the houses with this name so it is possible it was demolished to make way for the school.

The Argus has a couple of reports noting the name J.W. Rodda, both of them relate to fires:

The Argus 29th December 1873 – not an insurance job.

The Argus 4th March 1878

I’m always on the hunt for name associations and links. The name Rodda is instantly recognisable from my childhood. My older brother Greg had a best friend, Terry Rodda, son of Fred and Maureen. They were dairy farmers at Pannoo-Bamawm. One of my very early memories was going to visit the Rodda’s on their farm and exploring it at night, crickets and frogs calling. Bumping into buildingsand pieces of equipment in the dark.

Fred Rodda was a classy country footballer who had been recruited to Rochester from Golden Square at Bendigo, where there the Rodda name is quite well known.

Fred Rodda in his Rochester guernsey- a good looking rooster who was busy on and off the field – Fred and Maureen had eight children.

In 1957 Rochester caused a coup d’état by recruiting Noel McMahen who in 1955 and 1956 had captained the Melbourne Football Club to consecutive premierships. He was a VFL superstar but he reckoned his time was up at Melbourne and looked to play out his last few years at a country club.

Excerpt from Rochester 1958 club souvenir

McMahen had a huge impact at Rochester and achieved immediate success. The great thing about it was that it was done largely with local players, many of whom still live in Rochester and the surrounding districts. They were delighted that McMahen had agreed to join them. So much so that even though the club wore the Essendon Bombers strip, they renamed the club the Rochester Demons and adopted a new club song.

Rochester made the finals in 1957, and won premierships in 1958 and 1959. In 1960 and 1961 the club made the grand final but were runners up. McMahen’s five years were up and he was replaced by Con O’Toole, another former Melbourne player in the VFL.

1962 was another great year for the club, and the team were dubbed “The Invincibles” as they did not lose a game all season, including the Grand Final. They also won the 1963 premiership.

At the end of the 1962 season, Fred had played 120 games for Rochester and was described as “an excellent mark and kick; great team player and vice-captain”.

I’m not sure if Fred was related to our man in Coburg, James White Rodda – James died in October 1912, having prepared his last will and testament shortly before then. There was no mention of any of his property interests in his will or probate application. He left specific amounts to his four children (more to the boys!), however there was a shortfall in the estate against the legacies, so they all had to be adjusted accordingly.

Apart from the vacant block being the former High School, Rodda Street today consists of mainly Victorian brick homes, some single fronted, some double fronted. There are a couple of 1960’s houses and a handful of modern townhouses.

One of the double fronted Victorian homes in Rodda Street. Plainly ornamented but with subtle corbels under the eaves

Edwardian Homes in Rodda St Coburg with common wall.

Supa Group have commenced the renovation and ground floor extension of one of the single fronted terraces. Oddly enough the clients name is Murphy, so it would be interesting to know if they were related to the Murphy who owned Roddaleigh directly across the street.

Supa Group’s works include the demolition of the rear of the existing property, then adding a ground floor extension to the property.

Victorian Terrace with parapet concealing the roof

What was there prior to demolition…..

Partial Demolition……

Extension underway, slab laid.

When complete the house will have three bedrooms, contained wet area and Kitchen with open plan living area to the rear of the property.