Friday, December 29, 2023

Carlo and the Geelong Road tree planting project

In 1915 there was a proposal to plant trees along the Geelong Road. The scheme was devised by the Geelong municipalities and the Public Works Department. The Colac Reformer reported -
Speaking to a Geelong district shire engineer, Mr Catani, of the Public Works Department, said the Geelong and district municipalities ought to contribute towards the proposal to plant the Geelong-Melbourne main road with trees, as it would make the thoroughfare one of the most popular in the State, and tend directly towards the advancement of the whole district. The estimated cost is £10,000, half of which it is expected the Government will contribute; if all the councils interested assist in raising their share it will not be a heavy undertaking particularly if the Government allows them extended payments at a reasonable rate of interest. The scheme has been approved by Geelong district councils, but none has so far indicated what it is prepared to contribute. (1)

The success of the project, as the article noted, relied on various the Councils contributing towards the cost. Geelong at the time was covered by the following municipalities - City of Geelong, Borough of Geelong West, Borough of Newtown & Chilwell, Shire of South Barwon and Shire of  Corio; and the Geelong Road also went through the Shire of Werribee, thus six municipalities were involved.

Princes Highway (Geelong Road), Werribee in 1921
Country Roads Board collection, Public Records Office of Victoria VPRS 17684/P0003/34, 21_00072

There was support, in theory, for this project for different reasons, apart from the aesthetics of a shady, tree lined road. Firstly, as Cr McCann of Corio Shire noted  scientists wore of the opinion that the destruction of trees tended to reduce the average rainfall. If trees were planted along the road it, would make admirable shelter and be a good break wind. (2) Secondly, support came from the Conservator of Forests who considered that the road could be planted with timber of commercial value, which in years to come would certainly be reproductive. (3) Thirdly, it would provide employment for married men who had become unemployed owing to the war and drought. (4)

However, from the beginning, the City of Geelong was not interested on the grounds that  that it could lay out money to much better advantage on the foreshore and improving the Barwon river. (5) The Shire Engineer of Corio suggested that the only practical way to have the scheme carried out was to have the necessary power vested in the Country Roads Board (CRB); in that way all municipalities interested would be called upon to bear their proportion of the cost. (6) However, the CRB did not currently have the power to plant trees and the Shire President suggested that the Minister for Public works be asked  to amend the Act with the object of giving power to the Country Roads Board to carry out tree planting on roads. (7) 

The Country Roads Board was established in 1913, a central road authority with responsibility for those roads within the State considered to be main roads (8) and engineer William Calder (1860 -1928) was appointed Chairman. He had previously been the City Engineer at the City of Prahran. (9)

What happened of the Geelong Road tree planting proposal, that Carlo had advocated for? Nothing, and in all fairness the War would have meant that there were other priorities in the community for resources and man power.

Princes Highway (Geelong Road) between Werribee and Little River, 1916.
Country Roads Board collection, Public Records Office of Victoria VPRS 17684/P0003/916, 16_00028

There were later proposals for tree planting. In 1918, the Werribee Shire intended to plant an Avenue of Honour along their section of the road. (10) In 1924 The Argus noted that this stretch of road was the best in Australia for its length, is also the most uninteresting. It is devoid of both scenery and hills, crossing a wide expanse of plain....A row of trees on either side would greatly relieve the monotony of the drive, and would enhance the prospect. (11) That same year, another plan was  put forward by the Mayor of Geelong, Cr Robert Purnell who was hopeful that the Forestry Commission, with the assistance of the municipalities, will go through with the planting scheme. (12)

It wasn't until 1928, 13 years after Carlo and the Public Works Department were first involved that a tree planting project became a reality and by then the Country Roads Board, had tree planting powers.  The Argus reported in April 1928 that  To perpetuate the memory of the late Mr. W. Calder, who was chairman of the Country Roads Board, it is intended to complete the planting of trees along the Geelong road and to name the road the Calder avenue. (13)

The next year, in July 1929 it was reported that -
the planting of trees in the Calder memorial avenue along the Geelong road was recommenced last Monday, and in three days 368 trees were added to the plantations between Kororoit Creek and Aviation road, sold out between Werribee and Little River. At a meeting of the appeal committee yesterday representatives of the Country Roads Board reported that the board expected to plant 1,392 trees next week. It was stated that £1,475, which had been expended in making the avenue, represented only labour, in the trees planted having been presented by nurserymen. It was intended to purchase two varieties of trees which were not easily obtainable in Victoria. The committee expressed keen appreciation of the nurserymen's a generosity, and as a mark of gratitude it was decided to allot to them one of the plantations The committee decided to make a special appeal to motorists to contribute to the fund. (14)

Melbourne Road, Geelong (as that part of the Princes Highway is called in Geelong) in 1929. The Ford Motor Works is on the left.
Country Roads Board collection, Public Records Office of Victoria VPRS 17684/P0003/436, 28_00087

The planting of the Calder Memorial Avenue was completed in 1934, and by then over 60,000 trees had been planted. (15) I have no information about when the name Calder Memorial Avenue ceased being used. There are only 9 references to the name between 1932 and 1937 in the newspapers on Trove, so the early 1930s would be my guess. The road between Melbourne and Mildura, originally called the North-Western Highway,  was re-named the Calder Highway in December 1928 (16),  and this may have been a reason that the Calder Memorial Avenue name fell into disuse - apart from the fact the road already had two names,  the Princes Highway and the Geelong Road. 

Trove List - I have created a short list of newspaper articles on this topic, access it here

(1) Colac Reformer, February 9, 1915, see here.
(2) Geelong Advertiser, February 25, 1915, see here.
(3) Geelong Advertiser, January 9, 1915, see here.
(4) Ibid
(5) Geelong Advertiser, February 25, 1915, see here.
(6) Ibid
(7) Ibid
(8) CRB - Public Records Office of Victoria 
(9) William Calder - Australian Dictionary of Biography  
(10) Werribee Shire Banner, June 20, 1918, see here.
(11) The Argus, July 9, 1924, see here.
(12) The Herald, January 31, 1924, see here.
(13) The Argus, April 12, 1928, see here.
(14) The Argus, July 13, 1929, see here.
(15) Werribee Shire Banner, March 1, 1934, see here.
(16) The Age, December 24, 1928, see here.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Carlo and the Happy Valley Lake

On January 23, 1914 Carlo Catani and another Public Works Department engineer, Mr Dewar, arrived in Castlemaine (1). Their assignment was to inspect and survey the site for a lake, just outside of the town, at Happy Valley or Moonlight Flat, the newspaper reports use both terms as the location. The lake had a two-fold purpose - Forest Creek flood mitigation and recreation.

Happy Valley and Moonlight Flat, 1948.
Detail of Castlemaine, County of Talbot, 1948. Department of Crown Lands and Survey.
State Library of Victoria

The flooding on Forest Creek was an on-going problem, in fact 25 years previously in 1889, Public Works Department engineer, William Thwaites (2), also visited Castlemaine for the purpose of inspecting the flood damages, and also to confer with the Borough Surveyor [Mr Cornish] as to what is requisite to be done in connection therewith.  Accompanied by Mr Cornish, Mr Thwaites inspected Forest and Barkers Creeks, and was astonished to observe their silted condition. He expressed an opinion that, in order to avoid a similar disaster to that which occurred on New Year's Day, both creeks must be cleared and kept free of debris. It is to be regretted that this had not been done some time ago, when the Borough Council, consequent upon a report furnished by their Surveyor, brought the matter under the cognisance of the Government, and also pointed out the immense damage that would be wrought by a flood; with the creeks (particularly Forest Creek) in such a silted-up condition. When the channels have been cleared, the only plan that can be adopted to keep them free of silt is by the Government compelling sluicers to stack their tailings instead of allowing them to be deposited in the creeks. This evil should also have been remedied years ago. Mr Thwaites visited Moloney's Bridge, and the site of Butterworth's and the Telegraph bridges, and likewise inspected the course of the creek towards Moonlight Flat. At Happy Valley, the Mayor and Borough Surveyor pointed out to the Government engineer a spot where it has been suggested to construct a weir.  (3)

If, as reported, William Thwaites did produce a report on the flooding, siltation, the sluicers and a possible weir it was not acted upon as Carlo had to deal with the same issues on his visit. 

The Happy Valley Lake was the subject of newspaper reports and letters to the editors on occasions, and there seemed to be much community interest in the lake. The Mount Alexander Times reported -
Castlemaine will never be a pleasure resort, no matter how we try to boom it, without a large sheet of water, and that fact is being already realised. The construction of a lake at Happy Valley would cause that locality to be thickly settled in a few years besides being a leading attraction of the town. (4)

Seemingly the construction of the lake would be a simple job due to the natural formation of the country, a small embankment at the rocky formations on each side of Forest Creek, near Patterson's bridge, would form a lake of great dimensions. (5) To further this objective of Castlemaine becoming a pleasure resort, the Borough of Castlemaine invited Carlo to visit in January 1914, because Mr Catani was greatly interested in schemes such as that for Happy Valley, and his assistance would be of the greatest possible benefit. (6)

Carlo was in Castlemaine for a few days, with Mr Dewar staying longer to do a  complete contour survey of the site. The plans for the lake were finished in May, and at the start of June, the Mount Alexander Mail reported that three costings were out-lined in the report, each with different levels of flood protection -  £7675 (providing for a lake of 29 acres), £5010 (a lake of 41 acres), and £13, 238 (a lake of 16 acres), with full provision of flood diversion.... But the cost of the schemes appeared to the council to be almost prohibitive and, although the matter was referred to committee, the impression left on the public mind was that the council was not very optimistic. (7) It seems that the project was put in abeyance for the rest of the year and no doubt the start of the War meant that the townsfolk had other priorities.

However in January 1915, the lake was back in the news and it was suggested that the construction of the lake would provide work for the rising number of the unemployed. The original plans were revisited and a new scheme was presented with a costing of a more manageable £3,500. In June 1915, Carlo was back in the town to survey the site and present the revised scheme to the Castlemaine Borough Council. We turn again to the Mount Alexander Mail -
A smiling Happy Valley, with its desolated heaps and hollows sheeted over by a charming lake; its edges bordered by attractive shrubbery and rustic bowers, reached by pleasant tree-lined paths; white-winged yachts that glided peacefully over a wide expanse of rippling water dotted by innumerable pleasure boats, with here and there oarmen in racing skiffs, and occasionally ardent anglers indulging in patient sport.  It was an altogether delightful vision that Mr Catani, Chief Public Works Engineer, inspired when relating to the Borough Councillors on Thursday night, his scheme for the prospective lake at Happy Valley. By means of this sheet of water, flooding will be prevented, and incidentally a magnificent asset to the town will be created. The comparison was very apt when the Mayor (Cr. Sheridan) in opening the subject, referred to Lake Wendouree, at Ballarat. What was previously a dismal swamp had been transformed into a beauty spot, which would always associate Ballarat with the aesthetic. (8)

The scheme involved the construction of a weir, the depth of which would be 20 feet high, and a lake which would have three to four feet of water. On the issue of siltation, a plan which had been prepared by Carlo's associate, Mr A. T. Clark, was presented by Carlo who -
explained that the flood waters being retarded at the junction with the lake waters would there deposit the silt. Then in the summer-time the water of the lake could be lowered through the valve at the weir until the deposit of silt would be left "high and dry." At a moderate cost, it could be banked up, planted with trees, etc., and ornamental plots arranged. When subsequent floods deposited silt further down, similar methods would be adopted, until, in the course of time - and floods - a diaphragm or bank would be "naturally" constructed. This would take the place of the cosily artificial bank at first proposed, and at the same time would allow for a separate flood channel between it and the hills around which the creek should ordinarily flow. The cost of the maintenance indicated would amount, he said, to only about £50 or £60 per year, for a few years. These sums were not of course, reckoned in the estimate. The reduction of the scheme was merely to bring it within the bounds of possibility (9)

This amended scheme was based on the premise that all sluicing and dredging in Forest Creek and Moonlight Flat would have to stop, as this caused a silt and sediment build-up. The following exchange was reported - 
Cr. Cornish : That scheme is based on the proposal that dredging must stop?
Mr Catani : That is so. If you keep on beating up the stuff, you will always have a certain amount of it coming down.
Cr. Cornish : We have no control at all over the land. It (the creek) runs through country that has been dredged back five miles.
Mr Catani pointed out that the Council could get the Mines Department to excise the bed of the creek -to say above Chewton - from occupation by mining leases. The gold was the property of the Crown, and the Crown had control over the land, and could forbid the seeking for gold. Mr Brown (the Minister) was very strong now about stopping these dredges.

The report also noted that Carlo gave information about the material that should be used in constructing the weir - whether granite, slate, or massed concrete - which is to be thrown across the narrow neck at the western end of Happy Valley, through which the Forest Creek flood waters pour. In conclusion, Mr Catani told of what had been done with lakes at Albert Park and other places, and advised as to the best trees to plant in the silt deposits, when they are banked up as suggested. (11)
The Mount Alexander Mail concluded that During the conversational discussion Councillors appeared to be favorably impressed, but gave no assurance that they would accept the proposition. (12)

Miner sluicing in a creek, Castlemaine district, c.1894. 
Photographer: M. Law.

The proposal to end sluicing was not popular and locals said the scheme was unworkable - the following letter to the editor of the Mount Alexander Mail from Mr J.P. Livingstone, summarises the opposition to the scheme -
I take it that this scheme is intended as a lake site, and for the prevention of floods. As a lake site, where is the person who will admire a lake of discoloured water? Mr Catani told us some time back that no lake would be worth looking at unless it were of clear water. He said he would have to turn the storm waters to one side, and keep the lake filled with clear water. How does he make storm water clear now? 
It seems to me that the originators of this scheme have not taken into consideration that great fall that there is in both Moonlight and Forest creeks, the number of barren hills without grass on them to stop the denudation of the loams and clays and the thousands of tons of gravel heaps in the creeks of this watershed. Stop sluicing when you like, and storm waters will still bring gravel, silt and slum; even light showers will bring some sediment into the basin. The retaining bank as it nears the centre of the basin, will shoot silt chains past, where it enters the water, and I contend that within ten year you will have instead of a lake only a dredge tailing heap on a large scale. What Forest Creek does not fill up, Moonlight will from the other side.
As regards the retaining bank, I will say that after 14 years' experience, that I have not seen it proved that anything but a concrete or stone wall is reliable for a storm channel bank. If grasses or trees could be grown in a few weeks, they would help the bank; but to grow them strong enough to be of use in that time is impossible. During ordinary years this creek carries off big volumes of water, about 4 or 5 times, so that not much time could be allowed for grass or trees to grow. Further, retaining banks often suffer worse from small streams than big ones. Logs, stones, or rubbish may heap up in the waterway, and turn the water diagonally into the bank, with the result that the bank is cut away in a few minutes.
As a remedy for unemployment the idea is ridiculous. For more money will be earned in the creeks and gullies than will be spent in men's wages on this scheme. During ordinary times some 70 or 80 men make a living in this area. (13)
Other letters were also published in a similar vein, with one dismissing the comparison to Lake Wendouree and Albert Park Lake - there is a vast amount of difference between the lakes at Albert Park and Ballarat, compared to this scheme, as they are natural depression lakes, and not a creek with close on 300 feet fall in five miles weired up (14).  A petition of 47 signatures of dredge sluicers and fossickers engaged on Forest Creek and Moonlight Flat (15) was also presented to the  Council pointing out the economic value of that industry to the area. 

Pennyweight and Moonlight Flats, Forest Creek in 1902. 
Detail of Plan of the Chewton-Castlemaine gold field: shewing anticlinal axial lines &c. 
Mines Department, Victoria, September 1902 
State Library of Victoria image

Whether it was these local objections or the cost of the project or the necessary diversion of manpower and resources into the War effort, the Happy Valley Lake did not eventuate and Moonlight Flat never did become thickly settled. Even in 1972 when Raymond Bradfield wrote his history of Castlemaine he described Moonlight Flat thusly -
It is interesting to reflect on old Moonlight. All the way down the valley one sees signs of the vanished population. Halfway down is the site of the Robert Burns Hotel, well known as a lively pub. Nearby, the burn out remains of the last of the succession of houses used as the venue for the post office, as the population dwindled with a stone- built garage outbuilding near the charred ruins, looking rather incongruous, all on its own. And down at the foot of the valley, on the rise overlooking Pennyweight Flat, the children's cemetery, already mentioned, which somehow seems appropriate to the end the story of Moonlight. (16)  Who knows what might have been if Carlo's delightful vision of Happy Valley Lake had come to fruition.

Acknowledgement - I am indebted to my research colleague and fellow Carlo enthusiast, Isaac Hermann,  for alerting me to Carlo's involvement with the Happy Valley Lake project.

Trove list - I have created a short list of articles relating to Carlo Catani and his involvement with the Happy Valley Lake project, access it here.

(1) Mount Alexander Mail, January 22, 1914, see here; Bendigo Independent, April 2, 1914, see here.
(2) William Thwaites (1853 - 1907). Read his Australian Dictionary of Biography entry here -
(3) Mount Alexander Mail, March 1, 1889, see here.
(4) Mount Alexander Mail, May 11, 1914, see here.
(5) Bendigo Advertiser, January 19, 1914, see here.
(6) Mount Alexander Mail, January 19, 1914, see here.
(7) Mount Alexander Mail, June 1, 1914, see here.
(8) Mount Alexander Mail, June 5, 1915, see here.
(9) Ibid
(10) Ibid
(11) Ibid
(12) Ibid
(13) Mount Alexander Mail, June 10, 1915, see here.
(14) Ibid - letter from Creekite.
(15) Mount Alexander Mail June 11, 1915, see here.
(16) Bradfield, Raymond Castlemaine:  a Golden Harvest (Lowden Publishing, 1972) p. 64. As  a matter of interest, Happy Valley, des not appear in the index.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Carlo's projects in Brighton

Carlo had a mixed relationship with people of Brighton -  he was helpful in having their breakwater constructed, which you can read about here; but they were unhappy with the fact that he took "their" beach sand away and that he wanted to build a foreshore road through their municipality; but on the other hand, Carlo also drew up plans to both strengthen and lengthen the Brighton Pier to allow excursion steamers to dock. 

Beach Sand removal
The Public Works Department removed beach sand to build up roads in low-lying areas of  Elwood. In January 1908, The Age reported that - 
The Brighton council having taken exception to the wholesale removals of sand from the foreshore at Elsternwick (1) by the Government, for the purpose of further improvements on the reclaimed lands at Elwood, delegates from that body had an interview yesterday with Mr. Catani engineer, of the Public Works department. The latter gentleman was able to demonstrate that the sand taken away was almost immediately replaced by the waters of the Bay. Recently, he explained, when operations were suspended for a day or two, the Government employes found that such a replacement of sand had taken place that the end of the railway track to the beach was buried beneath it. In the circumstances the council, which had suspended sales of sand from the beach elsewhere, will continue to authorise its removal at 2/6 per load under the supervision of its engineer. Further removals, free of charge by Government officers at Elsternwick will also no longer be opposed. (2)

In spite of Carlo proving to them that the sand was naturally replaced, Brighton folk were still complaining three years later. This report is  from January 1911 - 
Mr. Drake, secretary to the Public Works department, and Mr. Catani, engineer, visited Brighton yesterday, to confer with the local council in reference to repeated complaints by the latter that the Government had broken an undertaking given not to remove sand from the Brighton foreshore after a certain date, and that the continued removal was destructive of the attractions of the foreshore. The officials admitted that the complaint was well founded, as to the sand having been taken, explaining that it was used in making the boulevard at Elwood, but it was contended no detriment whatever would result, as the removals of sand were replaced by the deposits made by the incoming tide. Mr. Catani, in order to prove his contention, said that the rails of a tramway laid by the department on the beach at Cole-street wore on a level with the top of the sand on Friday, whilst yesterday they were 15 inches below the surface, and the men using it had to dig down to find the track. The rough weather of Saturday had also shifted a sandbank in the Bay from a position 100 feet out to close in shore. Mr. Drake said he would report on the discussion to the Minister. (3)

In 1917, at a function to mark Carlo's retirement from the Public Works Department, he reminisced about his career and had this to say about the sand - 
Making reference to the sand question, Mr. Catani said he could not see how any objections could be raised to the taking of sand for the work of beautification.... The Brighton Council say they want their beach left as it is, but the whole of the foreshores were just as much public property as the sun that shined to give us warmth. (4)

Brighton Beach, c. 1910. There was clearly, in Carlo's eyes, an abundance of sand.
State Library of Victoria image H40395/26

Foreshore Drive
Which brings us to the next issue Carlo had with Brighton - he had the vision to have a foreshore drive all the way from Port Melbourne to Sorrento. To further this end,  in 1911 Carlo, Mr. Snowball, M.L.A., and Mr Edgar, M.L.C., inspected the foreshore at Brighton and found that it was blocked by private land jutting into the sea. In the near future, consideration would be given by the Government to the question of providing a boulevard from St. Kilda to Brighton. (5)

Sadly for Victoria, this ambitious scenic roadway never eventuated and if the following report from 1917 is correct, Carlo placed the blame squarely on the people of Brighton -
The construction of a boulevard around the Bay was one of the many schemes which Mr. Catani endeavoured to carry out whilst engineer for the Public Works Department, but the work suddenly stopped at the boundary between Brighton and St. Kilda, owing to private owners having the frontages to the foreshore. At a social gathering tendered to Mr. Catani recently, on the occasion of his retirement from the Department, reference was made to it, and Mr. Catani, in replying, said that but for the selfishness of the Brighton people the public would have now had a fine promenade all along the eastern side of the Bay. (6)

Excursion Steamers to Brighton Pier
In September 1910 it was reported that -
Plans for the strengthening of the Brighton Beach pier, so as to enable excursion steamers to call for traffic, are being prepared by Mr. Catani, of the Public Works department, and will be completed in time for the conference of the municipalities of Brighton, Caulfield, Moorabbin and consider the suggestion of the Minister of Public Works for the municipalities to contribute one-third, the steamship companies one-third, and the Government one-third of the cost the work. (7)

The plans were approved; the work involved extending the present pier 150ft., with a width of 21ft. 6in., walings are to be placed on both sides to form berths for steamers. (8) The tender was let to Messrs. Ross, Fraser, and Patience for a cost of £889/11; the cost of the work being being split between the steamship companies, the Brighton and Moorabbin councils and the Government. (9)

The Ozone, who made the inaugural trip from Brighton Pier in January 1912.
Photographer: Allan C. Green.
State Library of Victoria Image H91.108/2033

The inaugural trip from Brighton Pier took place on January 16, 1912 and The Argus reported - 
The parade steamer Ozone arrived a few minutes before 3 o'clock, and without any difficulty berthed on the east side of the pier. Close upon 400 residents of Brighton and Moorabbin, including Mr. M'Bryde, M.L.C., Mr Snowball, M.L.A., the mayor and councillors of Brighton, and the president and councillors of Moorabbin, boarded the steamer, which had already about 200 passengers from Port Melbourne and St Kilda on board. Amid the cheers of the large crowd on the pier, course was shaped down the bay. Whilst the ladies were being entertained at afternoon tea, a number of gentlemen assembled in the smoke-room, and several toasts were honoured. The Mayor of Brighton (Councillor Francis), in proposing the toast of the company, congratulated the directors on the success of their undertaking, and hoped that the steamers would frequently call at Brighton Beach. Mr. M'Bryde, M.L.C., Mr Snowball, M.L.A., and Councillor Small supported the toast. Captain Ramsay responded. He said that but for the assistance of the Brighton and Moorabbin Council the pier would not have been extended. He said that if the traffic warranted it, the company would run regular trips along the eastern side of the bay. He considered that the Brighton Beach pier was more suitable for the steamers than the St Kilda pier, and that although the former was unsheltered from the south-westerly and westerly winds, the water would have to be very rough to prevent the steamer calling. The company has not yet decided upon an itinerary for Brighton Beach, but the latter will be discussed at the directors' meeting on Wednesday week. (10)

In spite of the acclaimed inaugural trip, this service was not a success, as this report from January 1918 notes -
The paddle steamer Ozone will not be calling at Brighton Beach pier during the present season, as the boat has been taken out of commission. The traffic developed at Brighton has been very small, due primarily to the infrequency of the service, and it is understood to be the intention of the company to cancel the service in future. The service was instituted in 1910 [sic], falling upon the extension of the pier, the cost of which was borne by the Government, the company, and the Brighton and Moorabbin Councils in equal proportions. The only undertaking the company would give when asked by the councils to guarantee a regular service, was to agree to call for a period of 5 years as occasion permitted. The Brighton Council will have to contribute £20 a year for a further five years before they are relieved of their liability in connection with the venture, for which outlay they have a fine promenade pier at the beach. (11)

Another connection Carlo had with Brighton was his relationship with Thomas Bent - the Brighton Councillor and Mayor on nine occasions; Chairman of Moorabbin Roads Board, Shire President of Moorabbin on three occasions;  local M.L.A, held several Ministries and was at times the Premier of Victoria; however that is  a story for another time.

Trove list - I have created a list of articles on Trove connected to Carlo's projects in Brighton, access it here.

(1) In 1870 about 641 acres of Elsternwick was annexed to the municipality of Brighton. The annexed section included the area, and thus the foreshore, between Head Street and North Road. Parts of Elsternwick were also in the City of St Kilda and City of Caulfield.(Victorian Municipal Directory and Gazetteer for 1940)
(2) The Age, January 17, 1908, see here.
(3) The Age, January 10, 1911, see here.
(4) Prahran Chronicle, May 26, 1917, see here.
(5) Brighton Southern Cross, December 9, 1911, see here.
(6) Brighton Southern Cross, June 30, 1917, see here.
(7) Brighton Southern Cross, September 10, 1910, see here.
(8) The Argus, August 16, 1911, see here.
(9) The Age, July 24, 1911, see here.
(10) The Argus, January 17, 1912, see here.
(11) Brighton Southern Cross, January 5, 1918, see here.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Carlo and the Brighton Pier Breakwater

The citizens of Brighton spent decades advocating for a decent breakwater in the area for the protection of the Brighton Yacht Club vessels as well as other craft. A basic breakwater was established after the Yacht Club moved in 1886 to its present site adjacent to the pier, but this did not give sufficient protection. (1).  There are many reports of storm damage sustained by the boats; this example is from 1891 -
Whilst the gale was at its height last night about a dozen pleasure yachts, moored under the lee of Brighton pier, were totally wrecked. The craft were all anchored from the bows, and the strong southerly wind blowing at the time driving the sea straight over their decks simply smashed the little vessels to matchwood. Nearly a dozen yachts were sunk and two or three more totally disabled. (2)

Ten years before this storm, in 1881, it was reported that -
A deputation from Brighton, introduced by the Hon. C. J Jenner, M.L.C., waited upon the Commissioner of Trade and Customs yesterday, to ask that the pier at Park street, between Brighton and St Kilda, might be extended about 300ft. in a N.N.W. direction, and the sides boarded up above low water mark. It was explained that this was the only pier for boats between Schnapper Point [Mornington] and Williamstown and if the application were granted a shelter would be formed for yachts, fishing boats, and trading crafts. At present there was not the slightest shelter, and the boats were subject to frequent damage. (3)

In 1891 there was another deputation - 
A Breakwater at Brighton - A deputation from Brighton requested the Commissioner of Trade and Customs yesterday to provide a breakwater near Park street Jetty, Middle Brighton, for the shelter of fishermen's boats and pleasure yachts. (4)

And another ten years on, in 1901 -
The request made to the Port and Harbors Department for a breakwater in the neighborhood of the Middle Brighton pier was considered by them, and an officer was sent to report on the matter. The council was informed that the proposed works would cost £1,500, and it was asked what portion of the amount it was willing to pay. The council then wrote to the Brighton Yacht Club offering to contribute £250 if the club would give a similar sum. (5)

The pier, c. 1907, before the addition of the breakwater.
State Library of Victoria image  H90.111/164

In July 1908, Carlo Catani, Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department, was consulted on the matter -  
Extra mooring accommodation is required for the fleet, and the advice of Mr. Catani, of the Public Works Department, was sought to fix upon a suitable site for a breakwater. Mr Catani has recommended that the breakwater be placed about 200 yards beyond the Middle Brighton pier, and to form an irregular curve of the end of the pier. The recent waling of the pier affords of efficient shelter for the smaller boats. and the proposed breakwater would enable the largest yachts in the bay to moor safely at Middle Brighton. (6).

Another report from July 1908, showing Carlo's involvement -
Mr. Catani, engineer to the Public Works department, on Saturday visited Middle Brighton to make an examination of the local pier, for the purpose of reporting upon a proposed extension that would serve the purpose of a breakwater for the protection of yachts against south-westerly seas. He found that the waling put upon the pier last year is answering well in breaking the force of the water, and said that will be adequate for the sheltering of small boats, but in order to provide a smooth roadstead for larger craft it will be requisite to considerably extend the pier in the form of a curve in a northerly direction. This, he informed the members of the Brighton Yacht Club who accompanied him on his inspection, will be the effect of his report. (7)

Even with Carlo involved, things moved slowly, but in July 1910 Carlo was a part of  a Ministerial inspection of the foreshore from South Melbourne to Black Rock and the proposed breakwater was part of this tour - 
Favorable consideration was promised regarding an application for £2000 for a breakwater at Middle Brighton, the council to contribute £1000. Mr. Catani said he estimated that the complete scheme would cost £4000. For a like work at Sandringham, it was stated that £650 was required, and that it would be very difficult to raise as much more money locally. No promise was extracted from the Ministers, though the Minister of Works was impressed with the place as a harbor for yachts. (8)

Three years later, in March 1913, there was some actual progress - 
Mr. O. R. Snowball, M.L.A., notified the Brighton Council on Monday evening that a tender had been accepted for the extension of the Middle Brighton pier at a cost of £2,800, which was considerably below the estimate. In order that an improved breakwater might be secured, the Brighton Yacht Club were anxious that the balance, £1,200, should be expended, and he suggested that a deputation should wait on the Minister of Public Works to urge the request. Cr. Hall said that the estimate cost was £4000, and the Government had placed £2000 on the estimates as the first installment towards the work. Tenders were invited for the extension in messmate, ironbark or red gum, and after consultation with the Yacht Club, Mr. Catani recommended that the tender for the work in messmate at £2,800 be accepted. The Cabinet had agreed to find the £800 required so that the whole of the work could be carried out. In order that the breakwater might be more beneficial, the Yacht Club were desirous that close piling should be substituted for 200 feet of the new work instead of waling, and that the arm be extended 95 feel. This extra work would cost £1200, and it was necessary to obtain the Government sanction so that the contract might be to amended in that way. He moved that the Government be asked to extend the work so as to cover the original estimate, viz., £4,000. Cr. Francis seconded the resolution. He, however, considered it was wrong for the Government to accept a wood of less quality. The best material should be always used to obviate the necessity of repairs. In answer to Cr. Pullman, Cr. Hall said the extension of the pier by 95 feet would give a deeper and safer anchorage. Cr. Hall also contended that messmate timber was suitable for the work, although not so good as ironbark. Once the pier was constructed the Government would be responsible for its maintenance. Cr. Pullman suggested deferring the matter to the next meeting. Cr. Cheeseman said that it would not be wise to delay the matter, as the contractor was anxious to make a start with the work, and the part where close piling was required would be the place first undertaken. The resolution was adopted. (9)

Mr Snowball could later report to the Brighton Council that the Public Works Department had amended the plans of the Middle Brighton breakwater to provide for an additional 600 feet and a landing near the present shed. (10) 

The breakwater was funded by the Brighton Council and the Brighton Yacht Club, who jointly contributed £1000 and the Public Works Department, who contributed the remaining £3000 (11).  I don't have a completion date but it was reported in November 1913 that such progress is being made with the work that it is believed its protective uses will be in full effect by Christmas. (12)

Aerial view of Brighton Baths, pier and surrounds, 1940-1950.  
The breakwater was extended in the 1930s. 
Photographer: Francis Hodgson. State Library of Victoria image H96.163/4

The breakwater was extended in the 1930s, as we can see in the photograph, above, and in 1953, The Herald, published an unusual story, by Alan Dower, about this extension - 
Somewhere in the pile of prison bluestone used to build the breakwater at Middle Brighton 20 years ago, is one of the few links with the most charming but cunning and vicious murderess in Australian crime history. Pretty Martha Needle, curly-haired 30-year-old house wife, poisoned her husband, her two children and her fiance's brother . . . and sang hymns and recited psalms as she was being led to the gallows. Mrs Needle was buried in the wing of the old Melbourne gaol that now houses wireless patrol cars. But when most of the gaol was demolished in the 'twenties, the rough headstone of her grave was buried in the Middle Brighton breakwater.  (13)Read the rest of the story here.

Trove list - I have created a  short list of articles related to the breakwater at Brighton and the involvement of Carlo Catani, access it here

(1) Bate, Weston A History of Brighton (Melbourne University Press, 2nd ed., 1983) p. 351.
(2) The Age, July 13, 1891, see here.
(3) The Argus, August 27, 1881, see here.
(4) The Argus, June 25, 1891, see here.
(5) Caulfield and Elsternwick Leader, June 15, 1901, see here.
(6) The Argus, July 7, 1908, see here.
(7) The Leader, July 11, 1908, see here.
(8) The Age, July 1, 1910, see here.
(9) Brighton Southern Cross, March 15, 1913, see here.
(10) Brighton Southern Cross, April 26, 1913, see here.
(11) The Herald, February 14, 1913, see here.
(12) The Leader, November 1, 1913, see here.
(13) The Herald, November 21, 1953, see here.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Carlo and the St Kilda Botanical Gardens Gates

The Botanical Gardens in St Kilda, also known as the Blessington Street Gardens, were established in 1859. St Kilda Historian, J. B. Cooper wrote about the establishment of the gardens and the role played by Tilman Gloystein, in its design - 
At the St. Kilda Council meeting held on September 28, 1859, a motion was carried, affirming "the desirability of the reserve, bounded by Tennyson, Blessington, and Dickens Streets, in the neighbourhood of the swamp, being granted by the Government, for the purpose of a Botanical Garden, and that the proper steps be at once taken to procure the necessary conveyance." The motion brought forward by Councillor Tullett, and seconded by Councillor McNaughton, met with the warmest support from the chairman, the Hon. Alexander Fraser, M.L.C. Cooper....

The Council enclosed the Blessington Street land with a substantial picket fence, six feet in height, and then made the announcement to the residents, that it was proposed to form the land into a "public gardens, and promenade." Designs for the gardens, and promenade, were announced...... The design of Mr. Gloystein was adjudged the most suitable one in the contest, and he was paid the £10. The lines of the walks, and flower beds were "trenched out agreeably with the design, and a nursery commenced, in the gardens ready for the next season's planting." (1).

The Gardens in 1896. Dickens Street is on the left.
Detail of Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works plan, scale 160 feet to 1 inch. no.45 , Prahran & St Kilda.

There is more detail about the Botanical Gardens in an Argus newspaper article from June 1860.  Tilman Gloystein's surname is incorrectly listed as Goldstein in the article. 
The Municipal Council of St. Kilda, at their weekly meeting yesterday evening, took two steps forward towards the establishment of a local botanical garden, by, in the first place, awarding the premium for the best design to Mr. Tilman W. Goldstein; and, in the second place, by accepting a tender from Mr. Kidner for the fencing-in of the gardens, at a cost of £424. Mr. Goldstein's design, although somewhat elaborate, is not marked by that formality so that frequently characterizes plans of a similar kind, and, whilst avoiding the mistake of dividing the ground into too small plots, for plants, &c., lays out ample space both for promenade and riding or driving, interspersed by numerous shrubberies. The only approach to formality is immediately in the centre of the gardens, where he proposes to place a pavilion for a band, and which is surrounded by circular walks and beds. Mr. Goldstein has adorned the place by a couple of fountains, and has selected spots for the erection of hot-houses, a lodge, a superintendent's residence, and other buildings, which it will probably be too costly to carry out at present. (2)

Tilman Gloystein was a tragic figure and this 1856 report gives us some insight into his life -  
a highly respectable-looking German, named Gloystein, was brought up at the City Court on Wednesday on suspicion of being a lunatic. The unfortunate man, it appeared, is an architect by profession and has been several years in the colonies. Recently, however, he has been without occupation, and during the last fortnight he has been residing in a boarding-house in Lonsdale-street west. His altered circumstances appear to have preyed on his mind and on two or three occasions of late his conduct to his fellow-lodgers has been such as to cause the charge of lunacy to be preferred against him. Gloystein was questioned by the Bench, and gave a very coherent and intelligent statement of his depressed circumstances. He alleged that his conduct to his fellow-lodgers was the result of some impropriety on their parts. Dr. O'Reilly was called and stated that Gloystein was a perfect gentleman when in sound health, but his belief was that at present he was suffering from mental anxiety. (3).

In the 1860s and 1870s there are numerous newspaper reports of him being charged with vagrancy or drunkedness for which he spent time in gaol or in the Asylum. He was admitted for the last time to the Sunbury Lunatic Asylum on December 1, 1879, where he died on January 22, 1894, aged 77. (4).

Over the years the gardens became neglected, so much so that in 1901 a person using the pseudonym, 'A. Ratepayer', wrote to the Prahran Telegraph -
....the name botanical must be looked into. As regards myself I call botanical gardens where all ornamental shrubs, trees, and flowers are named with large and small labels in writing. Our botanical gardens contains nothing but a few rough trees, common pelargoniums, common chrysanthemums and verbenas, and a few plants here and there of other species. There should be nice ornamental trees and flowers of all descriptions, and then the name botanical would then come in, and the public would have something to look at. (5).

John Watkins, Curator of the Gardens

It was the appointment of  John Williams Watkins as curator of the gardens which turned the gardens into a place well worth visiting. In 1919 the Prahran Telegraph reported that -
When we remember what the old rambling place of wild wilderness was until Mr. W. J. Watkins, the present curator, came along, and turned it with the spade of a true gardener, and transformed it into an abiding place of smooth, sweeping lawns, bordered with a fringe of many-hued lace made up of variegated flowers, and picturesque shrubs, we can well marvel at the change he has delved to bring about o'er the scene. We have had it suggested to us that a fairy wand was at work, and the results seems to give that impression, but we know better.  An inhospitable soil, filled with the metal screenings of streets, had to be taken in hand. The soil had to be so dealt with as to see that plant food took the place of metal screenings. The rose has been made to blossom in the desert, or something akin to that miracle has been performed by Mr. Watkins. The garden is now the home of exquisite flowers that in their season appear on the benches of flower shows, from there to bring awards of excellence, and prizes, and cause visitors to marvel that such beautiful blooms can be grown, if you know how, in St. Kilda-by-the-Sea. (6).

Not only did Mr Watkins perform miracles in the garden, but  -
every bush is labelled in bold letters, giving not only the name of the variety, but the class to which the variety belongs, which will make the display instructive to the amateur gardener as well as enjoyable to the ordinary flower lover. (7)  I hope the chap who wrote to the newspaper in 1901, lamenting the lack of labels, appreciated this.

The Blessington Street Gardens. 
Photographer: Rose Stereograph Co, c. 1920s-1954.
State Library of Victoria Image H32492/1935

The curator who worked his magic on the Botanical Gardens was John William Watkins. John was born in Brighton in Melbourne on October 18, 1872 to Richard and Emma (nee Best) Watkins; Richard was also a gardener. John married Caroline Godfrey Brown in Longford in Tasmania, on January 11, 1900. Caroline had been born in Launceston on July 2, 1881 to John William and Catherine (nee Owen) Brown. John and Caroline had two sons, both born in Launceston -  Albert Edwin on November 6, 1900 and Vernon Arthur on July 8, 1902. (8)

In 1911, John was appointed as the curator of the St Kilda Botanical Gardens. In 1914, Mr. Watkins was promoted to Head Gardener at the City of St Kilda, with the responsibility to supervise the gardening work throughout the city (9) In 1916 it was reported that at the Botanical Gardens he had the assistance of two elderly gardeners, men whom the curator has great faith in, preferring, from experience, men who are elderly. He is also charged with the supervision of the whole of the reserves and street planting in the city, having 13 men under his charge for that work. (10)

Sadly, Caroline died at only 40 years of age, on October 29, 1921. Her obituary in the Prahran Telegraph, described her -
as esteemed by a large circle of friends for the best of womanly qualities which she was gifted with in a marked degree. News of her death after an operation came as a great shock to them. It was some time before they could realise the sudden passing of such a bright spirit. Her obituary also notes that as well as being the mother of  Vernon and Bert that she was also the foster mother of Fred. (11)

On September 8, 1923, John remarried, to Doris Eileen Games. Doris had been born on January 3, 1894 in Richmond to Stephen and Martha (nee Bertrand) Games. John and Doris had two children, Jack and Nina.  He was still employed as the Curator at the Gardens in 1937, but I have no information when he retired. John died January 22, 1942, aged 69. January 22 was the same day that Tilman Gloystein died, so that's an interesting connection.  Caroline, John and Doris (who died September 13, 1970) are buried in the same grave at Brighton Cemetery. (12)

It was during the time that John Watkins was the curator that Carlo Catani, and others, donated money for the erection of gates at the Blessington Street Gardens.  The Prahran Chronicle of April 15, 1916 reported that the St Kilda Council had received donations of  £1 each... from Messrs Treichel, Baxter, Catani, Kendall and Davis towards the cost of erecting a gate to the same gardens at the corner of Blessington and Tennyson streets. (13)

At the time of this donation Carlo was living at 39 Blessington Street, St Kilda. I believe the other donors were his Blessington Street neighbours - Otto Johann Treichel, a jeweller of  No. 35;  Robert Baxter, independent means, of No. 37; Herbert Francis Kendall, a traveller, of No. 66a; Henry Davis or Henry Charles Davis, both chemists, of No. 68. (14)

To accommodate these gates the Council created a new main path twelve feet wide leading to what is to be the chief entrance at the corner of Blessington and Tennyson streets, where a pair of dignified looking gates are to be erected with money subscribed by certain appreciative rate-payers. This path was completed in October 1916. (15) It would have been a convenient entry for Carlo and his neighbours to enjoy the Gardens and admire the wonderful work of Mr Watkins and his team.

I have no information as to when the gates were erected but in November 1918 it was reported that -
The main entrance at the corner of Tennyson and Blessington streets, has been made more than ordinarily inviting by the erection of large ornamental iron gates. (16)

The gates on the corner of Tennyson and Blessington streets, 
the funds for which were contributed by Carlo and his neighbours.
Image: Isaac Hermann

As you can see from the photograph the gates are surmounted by the sign - St Kilda City Gardens. The Gardens were renamed the St Kilda City Gardens in June 1932, according to a report of a St Kilda Council meeting at that time. (17).  Does this mean that the name was a later addition to the original gates or were new gates made with the new name?  I don't know. I like to think they are the original gates and thus a tangible reminder of the generosity of Carlo and his like-minded neighbours of Blessington Street.

Acknowledgment -  I referred to St Kilda Botanical Gardens: a social snapshot of its first hundred years by Patricia Convery (St Kilda Botanical Gardens, 2014) for some background for this story. Thank you to my research colleague, Isaac Hermann, for alerting me to Carlo's donation towards the gates.

Trove lists
I have created  a short list of articles on John William Watkins and his time at the Blessington Street Gardens, access it here; and on Tilman Gloystein, access it here.

(1)  Cooper, John Butler The History of St Kilda from its first settlement to a city and after 1840 - 1930, v. 1 (St Kilda City Council, 1931), p. 141. 
(2) The Argus, June 29, 1860, see here.
(3) The Argus, August 8, 1856,  see here.
(4) See my Trove list of articles on Tilman's life, here; His Inquest is available at the Public Records Office of Victoria, read it here.
(5) Prahran Telegraph, June 29, 1901, see here.
(6) Prahran Telegraph, April 12, 1919, see here.
(7) The Leader, October 11, 1913, see here.
(8) Index to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages;  Tasmanian Archives ; Brighton Cemetorians website
(9) Prahran Telegraph, February 21, 1914, see here.
(10) The Herald, November 2, 1918, see here; Prahran Telegraph, March 11, 1916, see here.
(11) Caroline's obituary - Prahran Telegraph, November 5, 1921, see here;
(12) Index to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages. Doris Games' birth entry in the Indexes says she was born in Richmond; the death entry in the Indexes says she was born in Muckleford.  John's death notice The Argus, January 26, 1942, see here; Prahran Telegraph, March 14, 1930, see here;  Marriage notice, The Argus, October 13, 1923, see here; Brighton Cemetorians website  The 1935 Sands and McDougall's Directory of Victoria, still list his occupation as Curator and his address in the cottage in the Botanical Gardens and the 1937 Electoral Roll shows similar information.
(13) Prahran Chronicle, April 15, 1916, see here.
(14) Electoral Rolls on
(15) The Leader, October 14, 1916, see here.
(16) The Herald, November 2, 1918, see here
(17) The Argus, June 14, 1932, see here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Carlo provides flood recovery advice to the Victorian Racing Club at Flemington Racecourse in 1916

In 1916, on Saturday September 23 and Sunday September 24, Melbourne suffered from extensive flooding - the Yarra River rose in places by 18 feet and the Maribyrnong River flooded low-lying land along its bank, including parts of Footscray, Kensington and Flemington. Kensington residents were also impacted by the flooded Moonee Ponds Creek. Many people were made homeless. (1).

Here are some reports of the flooding -
.... no fewer than 70 residences at Maribyrnong, mostly erections of practically recent date, were rendered untenable and the contents considerably damaged. In one or two cases only the roofs of the houses were discernible and as floating logs and rooted-up trees came down stream, impelled by an irresistible force, to crash against the sides of the buildings, it was feared that the structures would be swept away. (2).
There was this  short report -  Along Maribyrnong River, at Kensington, about 200 houses were flooded and the flood water covers an area of about 24 acres. (3).
Another report about Kensington - 
At Kensington the Moonee Ponds Creek overflow took place in the area from the Flemington road on the north to the West Melbourne docks on the south. Despite the low-lying nature of this territory portion of it is thickly inhabited, and the dwellers in these areas suffered severely. The canal, swollen with a fall of over five inches of rain, assumed the proportions of a huge river, and soon Stubbs street, which faces the creek, was merged in the rushing torrent and the tide was lapping at the doors of houses in the vicinity and inundating back yards and homes in a manner which threatened much worse conditions to come. Factories were surrounded by huge lakes, and a general cessation of labour resulted. Residents stuck to their home to the last possible moment, and as a result many were rescued in exciting circumstances. Conditions were particularly bad in the area south of Macaulay road, where, despite the perils of the position, a number of new houses had recently been erected. About 30 families had to leave their homes, and many of the sufferers alleged that the flood, as in previous case, was rendered more serious as a result of the stupid policy of the Government in stopping the flow of the creek by driving piles in connection with a bridge, at the railway gravitation yards into the bed of the canal. The authorities arranged that sufferers could store their belongings at the Kensington Town Hall, but more material comforts were provided by the kindly offices of a number of residents who hastily improvised an impromptu relief movement.  Prominent among such benefactors was Mrs. Jones, licensee of the Centennial Hotel (4),  who threw her doors open to the sufferers, with the result that 31 individuals were accommodated with free board and lodging until the waters subsided. To accomplish this philanthropic task local bakers, butchers and grocers had to break through Sunday observance to supply the requisite stores to supply such to the large "family"' so suddenly called into being. It was a case of the better the day, the better the deed (5).

Floods at Flemington, c, 1900-1925. I believe the top image is of 
the Moonee Ponds Creek.
State Library of Victoria Image H37726

Many residents were unprepared for the flooding and The Age report noted the reason why some residents were caught out - 
Word that Maribyrnong River was likely to overflow was first received by Sergeant Ryan, of the Footscray police, on Thursday, but at that time there had been little rain in the metropolis, and though the police warned residents below flood level to be prepared very little attention was paid to the warning. In the intervening years since the previous destructive flood similar warnings had been issued on numerous occasions, but the expected floods did not occur, and those concerned found that the trouble in removing goods to higher levels had been unnecessary. Consequently on this occasion, even when on Friday fortified by reports from Lancefield, Sunbury and Gisborne, the police issued a further warning, very little heed was paid. But on Saturday morning the river commenced to rise so rapidly that those concerned had to make for safe positions, and had then very slight opportunity for saving their goods. By midday the river overflowed its banks from Maribyrnong to the railway bridge at Footscray, and half an hour later the heavy volume of water had spread in some places until the river appeared in places along the Maribyrnong valley over half a mile wide; and it kept on rising. (6).

Some of these residents suffered a double blow as many places of employment were also affected by the flood - the Abattoirs at Kensington for instance and the the Colonial Ammunition Company, at Footscray which was flooded to a depth of six feet - it was reported that it would be close to a month before it could operate again. (7)

Flemington Racecourse. The Great Flood Sept 10, 1906 - the flood a decade earlier
State Library of Victoria Image H42587/8

Also affected by the flood was the Flemington Racecourse. The following paragraph lead The Age newspaper's report on the flood - 
History repeated itself on the Maribyrnong River on Saturday. Ten years previously premises along its banks were flooded out; the racecourse at Flemington was submerged and left in such a condition that the V.R.C. October meeting had to be held at Caulfield, and considerable valuable property was washed away. The position is practically the same now, and the fact that such is the case completely disposes of the excuse put forward in 1906 that the trouble was caused by the damming back of water at the underpinned railway bridge at Footscray. (8)

Naturally the concern of the V.R.C., in 1916 was the same as that in 1906 - the fact that the Melbourne Cup carnival, held in early November, was just five weeks away, so they went straight to the top and asked Carlo Catani for advice on how to remedy the flood damage.  In October  1916, The Age reported - 
A visit of inspection was yesterday paid to the Flemington racecourse by the chairman (Mr. L. K.S. Mackinnon) and members of committee, who were accompanied by Messrs. Catani (Public Works department), Kermode (engineer of ports and harbors), W. Davidson and Jas. Wilson, jun. The object of the visit was to confer and obtain advice in regard to the flood damage, and the means of removing the silt, thousands of tons of which was carried on to the racing track, saddling paddock and lawn by the flood waters. The silt is being cut away and removed as quickly as possible, and new turf will have 
to be laid in various parts of the ground. The methods of dealing with the work in hand were generally approved of by the visitors, who attended by invitation, and it is expected that with a spell of fine weather, the grounds will be in readiness by Derby day, Saturday, 4th November. The repairs to be effected will entail a considerable outlay. In the committee rooms and other buildings the linoleums and other furnishings were badly damaged by the flood waters, and will need to be replaced.

The Age later reported on the efficacy of these remedial works  - 
Traces of the devastation wrought by the recent floods will be easily discernible at Flemington on Saturday week, when the V.R.C. Spring meeting will be commenced with the Derby programme. Yesterday forenoon a semi-official inspection of the course and grounds was made by a party of sporting pressmen and others........In some parts of the course the flood waters extended to a height of 6 feet to 7 feet, and considerable damage was done not only to the racing track for the whole circuit, but also in various other directions, and it is estimated that the cost of the renovation work will total close upon £2000. Particular attention first of all was paid to the course proper, from which thousands of tons of silt, which had been 15 inches deep in places, had to be removed, and when the whole of the running track was chipped off with spades by the workman, grass had to be sown down immediately. The roots of the original plantation had not been interfered with to any extent, and this, with the new growth, has done so well that with a few fine days ahead everything will be in readiness for the big fixture next month. There may be a soft spot or two close to the rails, but generally speaking the course should be in excellent order by Melbourne Cup day. The silt has been placed in heaps in the saddling paddock and other parts of the course for removal or use in some other way in the future.....In its scheme of renovations and improvements, at which between 350 and 500 men were employed, the club received material expert assistance from Messrs. Catani, Kermode and Davidson, and has done excellent work during the time at its disposal. (10)

The Melbourne Cup race went ahead and was won by Sasanof, by over two lengths. In reality, the winner was the Victorian Racing Club who had the resources to employ up to 500 men to repair the damage to the Flemington Racecourse as well as the clout to receive the advice of the top Public Works Department Engineer, Carlo Catani. I wonder how much official assistance the people along the Maribrynong River and Moonee Ponds Creek, who were flooded received, but I think we know the answer to that (11). It was no doubt left to concerned locals such as Mrs Margaret Jones of the Centennial Hotel and her troop of bakers, butchers and grocers. 

(1) Read flood reports - The Age, September 25, 1916, see here; The Argus, September 25, 1916, see hereBendigo Independent, September 25, 1916, see here; The Age, September 26, 1916, see hereFlemington Spectator, September 28, 1916, see here;
(2) The Age, September 25, 1916, see here
(3) Bendigo Independent, September 25, 1916, see here
(4) The Centennial Hotel, on the corner of Rankins Road and Smith Street in Kensington was built in 1888, a good description was in the North Melbourne Advertiser, September 8, 1888, see here.  There was the Bar, Dining Room and Billiard room on the ground floor; 14 bedrooms on the second floor and 21 bedrooms on the third floor. It was sold in September 1938  to Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Sadler, licensees of the Village Belle Hotel, St. Kilda. The hotel, a large three-story brick structure, has long been a landmark in Kensington suburb, and is one of the oldest and best-known hotels there. It is the intention of Mr. and Mrs. Sadler to reconstruct the hotel and make it one of the most modern suburban hotels. (The Age, September 24, 1938, see here). In April 1939, it was reported that the Victorian Licensing Court had given approval for alterations costing £4000 to be carried out to the Centennial Hotel, Kensington, Victoria, by F. Morsby, architect. This would have been the time that the hotel was converted into the existing two storey building. (Construction, April 5, 1939, see here)
At the time of the flood it was operated by Margaret Jones; her husband John Joseph Jones, had died the year before, in Sydney, on September 18, 1915; he had previously been at the Cornish Arms Hotel in Brunswick and the Cheltenham Hotel, Cheltenham. He was an active supporter of all branches of sport, and will be well remembered in connection with the early history of the Colllngwood Football Club.  (Death notice The Argus, September 21, 1915, see here; short obituary in The Herald September 22, 1915, see here). Margaret died January 7, 1917 at the age of 42; the couple had two children, John and Eileen. The late Mrs. Jones endeared herself to a large circle of friends by her philanthropic acts; her generous deeds in relieving sufferers by the recent floods will be remembered, and she was a prominent worker in local charitable and patriotic movements.   (Obituary Essendon Gazette, January 11, 1917, see here
(5) Flemington Spectator, September 28, 1916, see here
(6) The Age, September 25, 1916, see here
(7) Ibid
(8) Ibid
(9) The Age, October 10, 1916, see here; there is another report of the visit in The Argus of October 10, 1916, see here.
(10) The Age, October 28, 1916, see here.
(11) Interesting letter here about the lack of assistance from the Melbourne City Council -  The Argus, September 26, 1916, see here.