History of Fawkner

In the late 1830s squatters pastured flocks of sheep from New South Wales and Van Diemens Land (Tasmania). Land was rented to squatters for ten pounds per year, and in the 1840s they could buy up to 640 acres where homesteads were established.

John Pascoe Fawkner

John Pascoe Fawkner was an early settler in the Merri-bek area. He built a timber house on the hill between Pascoe Vale Road and Moonee Ponds Creek above Marie Street in Oak Park, and lived there at his farm and at his townhouse in Collingwood between 1840 and 1855.

In 1850 Fawkner bought a section of land, subdivided it into small farms of between five and twenty acres, and called the place 'Box Forest'. Later the area was called Hadfield. In 1867 John Jukes bought the land from Fawkner and named the estate in his honor. The main subdivision in 1888 covered half the suburb now known as Fawkner although this area was not part of his original allotment. At the time it was called the Coburg Reserve Estate. The Estate was considered to be remote from Melbourne - it was seven miles away.

Fawkner's pioneer families

The Dowling family was one of Fawkner's pioneer families. Mr Michael Dowling, his wife Ellen, and their son and daughter arrived at their property at Major Road in September 1902. Mr Dowling bought two five acre blocks of land at 25 pounds per acre from the Land Mortgage Bank, a syndicate that had bought all the land from the west side of Sydney Road to Merri Creek and from Boundary to Major Road. Mr Dowling grazed cattle to fatten for market. The Dowling's house was built in Fitzroy and moved to their land west of McBryde Street near Merri Creek. Miss Dowling remembered a harsh, windy place with hardly a tree for miles around and the only houses, a few unfinished shacks . . . no shops, banks, hotels, post office or a state school. A baker from Campbellfield called three times a week to the Dowling's farm. All other food had to be bought at Coburg, where they also had to call at the Post Office for letters. Their nearest neighbour was half a mile away, and Miss Dowling had to travel on the train to Campbellfield to go to school. (Fawkner State School in Lynch Street did not open until 1909). The whole family drove in a dogcart pulled by a horse to St Paul's church in Coburg for Sunday Mass.

In 1910 there were only 35 houses within walking distance of Fawkner Station. From October 1914 a service of seven trains daily ran to Fawkner as well as a daily mortuary train to the cemetery.

Fawkner Cemetery

From the early 1890s a new cemetery was needed in Melbourne. The Northern Suburbs Cemetery Conference in 1902 recommended a 284 acre site which included Fawkner Railway Station. The first funeral was for Dorothy Gladys Knapp, aged four years, in December 1906. The cemetery was then known as the New Melbourne General Cemetery. In 1971 it was renamed the Fawkner Memorial Park.

There was no electricity in Fawkner until after 1920 when it was supplied by the City of Coburg's Electricity Supply Department. In the early 1920s returned soldiers began to settle in the area. During the 1930s priests were saying mass for residents in the Progress Hall in Merlynston (1932) and in King's Theatre situated in Queens Parade near Princess Street. St Mark's Church and school were not built until 1934. By 1939 post office directories listed only 180 buildings in Fawkner.

Early industry in Fawkner

The first important industry in Fawkner and Campbellfield, apart from quarries, was the Davey and Almy Pty Ltd Sealing compound works on seven acres on Sydney Road. Council approved their permit in 1946.

First housing in Fawkner

The first public housing in the area was built by the Housing Commission in 1949; 113 houses were established, some to accommodate returned servicemen and their families. Many were built on unmade roads ­ few had sewerage or water supplied. Coburg Council objected to any more houses being built until sewerage could be connected (for fear of pollution to the Merri Creek), so the Commission stopped building for several years.

North Fawkner

North Fawkner was cattle country up to World War 2 (1939-45). It was owned by the Coyne family who grazed dairy cattle. After the war the area was subdivided and sold for £30 per acre. An area was bought by Leighton Estates, intended for housing. In 1955 the first Labour Day Moomba Parade was held and the estate was named the Moomba Park estate. The building of the Ford factory in Broadmeadows provided employment for some residents.

1960s to the present day

European migration in the 1960s saw more people settling in Fawkner. Throughout Fawkner, the names of the original farmers were used for street names - such as Dowling, Jukes, Anderson and Mahoney. Eventually more services were provided for Fawkner. Fawkner High school began in 1956 in Coburg Primary School, moving to the first section of its new building in Fawkner in the following year. The swimming pool opened in 1964 and the library in 1969.

When local government boundaries were redrawn by the State government in 1994 Fawkner became part of the new city of Merri-bek, and no longer part of the municipality of Broadmeadows.

Further reading

  • Andrew Lemon, Broadmeadows: A forgotten history, Melbourne, 1982, pp. 24, 84­5, 90, 121,148, 174­5, 192­3
  • Written reminiscences of Miss Dowling (nd): Unpublished manuscript held at Fawkner Library.
  • Local history groups in Merri-bek Online Community Directory