Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Heidelberg Road - An early instance of road pricing in Australia

In trying to dig out some facts on how Melbourne developed its road system I came across Max Lay’s, Melbourne Miles, The Story of Melbourne’s Roads, Australian Scholarly Publishing 2003.

This is not my idea of light reading though Dr Lay obviously loves this stuff. My main finds in this book were parochial. I live north-east of Melbourne city in the suburb of Ivanhoe not far from the Yarra River which runs into the city of Melbourne.

In 1841 Melbourne had a total population of only about 4,500. But even by this time the population had spread well out into Melbourne’s hinterland in the direction of my home. Adjacent areas of Bulleen, Templestowe and the river flats in Heidelberg were surveyed in 1837 by Robert Hoddle – the Surveyor General who was responsible for Melbourne’s initial road layouts. The Heidelberg land was sold in 1838 and sheep stations were installed on it by year’s end. It was an important early area of rural settlement though these days it is almost entirely urbanised.

The first local road body in Melbourne was the Heidelberg Road Trust (HRT) established in 1840 to develop a rough track into the first arterial road leading out of Melbourne. To fund this HRT levied rates on land within 5 km of the road and could apply to levy tolls from users. In fact Heidelberg Road was the first major road out of Melbourne and the first road in Melbourne to levy tolls – they commenced in 1847. Tolls were common in England in the 1830s and had been levied in Sydney since 1811. In Victoria as a whole, from 1853-1856, road costs were half covered by tolls.

By 1854 there are measures of average weekly road usage along Heidelberg Rd – 341 two-wheeled carts, 165 four-wheeled carts and 50 bullock carts! Tolls varied from ¼ pence for passage of a pig or a sheep up to 18 pence for 2 or 4-wheel carts. Exemptions were offered to those attending funerals or for those going to or from church! Toll evasion was a major problem – unscrupulous travellers diverted around toll gates by travelling along footpaths – a practise soon stopped by law.

Heidelberg Road was also the first road in Melbourne used by locals for pleasant Sunday drives in their ‘carriages and gigs’. Heidelberg itself became of interest in the 1880s because the Heidelberg school of art founded itself there – Ill try to get around to discussing this in a future post but the link gives a good brief picture. Heidelberg Road was eventually sealed with bitumen in 1938 and declared a main road in 1960.

15 comments:

FXH said...

The first round-about in Melbourne was at the corner of Belmore and Union Roads Balwyn. There is still a round-about there.

I knew I'd find a vaguely relevant place to disgorge this bit of information one day - thanks Harry.

FXH said...

More trivia - I'm pretty sure the main plein air site of the Heidelberg School was at Box Hill South.

Fred Bastiat said...

As you say, May Lay's book is not light reading but it is superb, I learnt things from there that I'd never heard of before.

And one of these which has caught my attention was the transition from Mount Eagle to Eaglemont. Now that I know of the transition, it is so obvious that I don't know how I didn't know that!

And the origin of Moonee Ponds with ponds (lagoons ?) stretching all the way of what we call Moonee Ponds to near Batman's Hill.

I think Lay has produced a great book but it is not one which you would take to bed with you!

FXH said...

Ms FX the artist tells me the camp was in on the creek behind where the new Bunnings is now down Middleborough Road. Theres a plague and I think a Neighbourhood house nearby.

FXH said...

plague - I hope not - perhaps a plaque

FXH said...

aah
Roberts Mc Cubbin Primary School
Birdwood St, Box Hill South, VIC 3128

or this might be better for you harry

Box Hill Golf Club - 18th hole

hc said...

fxh & fred, I am interested that you guys are interested. I am too. It is trivia in one sense as fxh notes but entertaining to know the history of your surrounds.

I'll look for that roundabout and for the plaque.

I actually live in Eaglemont Fred but yes, it took me a few years to twig. I was interested in Lay's description of the steep climb of Heidelberg Road up Eaglemont Hill -now softened by the cutting.

I think Lay's book is a good reference for local history.

FXH said...

hc - I've always been interested in the small stories as well as the big ones.

My recent trip to Scotland and Ireland has just made me realise how important this is - although its a bit different looking for the Heidelberg School camp as opposed to walking around the area where Michael Collins was killed or looking at the bullet holes in the Dublin Post Office or walking around where the Battle of The Boyne was.

FXH said...

I also visited Adam Smith's Grave

hc said...

fxh, Thanks for the pic. Did you try James Buchan's recent 'Adam Smith and the Persuit of Perfect Liberty'. Its final lines:

'He was put in a corner of the Canongate churchyard under a stone...The sympathetic visitor. though in the heart of a great capital city, looks up from Smith's tomb and sees lawns and woods, and arms of the sea, and distant mountains'.

lucy tartan said...

I don't know where the main camp was, but there's a walking / bike trail meandering through Banyule with the sites of well-known paintings marked in. Still Glides the Stream (and Shall Forever Glide) was definitely painted from a spot on the main Yarra trail behind the hill that rises to Burke Road. Is that Ivanhoe or Eaglemont?

hc said...

Lucy, Not quite sure where you are referring but the hill with the cutting next to it is Mt Eagle and the suburb east and north of that is Eaglemont.

I used to live in Banyule for a short period but I cannot think of the trail. You don't mean the trail running next to the wetlands I assume. I'll get a map and search.

Anonymous said...

I meant the City of Banyule. A bit vague, I see now. The path I'm thinking of runs alongside the Yarra.

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