Watsons Creek, John Hill later Birch farm complex b1878-, 2014

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    Shire of Nillumbik heritage database 2007:.
    A sign on this cottage states: `This Cottage was built on a miner's right around 1876..
    Originally the home of the Hill Family it then became for almost half a century the home of the Birch Family.' .
    Another sign at the boundary states:.
    `Claim posted by G Maver 12/11/84' (1984).
    The early parish plans show this site in April 1873 as creekside land, with no Crown Allotment (CA) designation, but apparently part of John Hill's grant on the adjoining CA78A (2 acres, now vacant), both on the south side of the Watsons Creek. Adjoining properties were in the names of LL Smith (1879), WS Cheshire (1922) and Timothy Shaw. Hill paid ₤5/7/6d for the land. Application for a License to occupy Crown lands on any goldfield or Lands adjacent there to..
    John Hill, a shoemaker at Kangaroo Ground, had made an Application under the `Land Act 1869' on 30 October 1873 for 2a 3r 29p. The Application was granted 7 November 1873 but in 1874 after a report by Mounted Constable Walsh on the land. Edmund Harland of South Yarra owned it by 1886 and then Honor Birch purchasd it in 1910, converging the Hill and Birch family ownership history. As`Honor Williams, she was the legal owner by 1939 [ VTO]..
    Constable Walsh's report describes a `slab house or hut 24'x10' with a bark roof, 2 rooms lined with bark inside, slabs in aprt and Calico part, erected December 1878 in `passable repair'. Hill had been absent from the property for some months working elsewhere but had recently returned. The will of Honor Williams (formerly Birch) shows that the Birch family eventually owned this lot (cited as CA78A,B,C) as well as the adjoining `permissive occupancy' (dated 1/1/1938) of CA79A (this site) that was held as a grazing licence under section 121 of the 1928 act. Throughout the official record, the sites known now as CA79A and CA78A appear to be interchangeable, with CA79A non extant in parish plans [ DSE]. Buildings appear to have been erected on CA79 by the owners of CA78A..
    The first rate records for Edwin Birch, labourer, were in 1872: he was the owner-occupier of `Land Sutton East Riding St Andrews' with an annual value of ₤8. The same annual value was recorded in 1873 but on this occasion a hut was also included in the description [RB]. This was a `house' by 1877 and the annual value had risen to ₤10 in 1878. This coincides with the police report on the Hill property where the hut was stated as built in 1878. Ten years later Birch's name was crossed out in favour of Walter A Harris (?) and soon Honor Young (Honor Birch by 1893) was the owner-occupier and the annual value greatly increased from ₤10 to ₤30 by 1889: this may coincide with the acquisition of more land (listed as 196 acres by 1903). In the Edwardian-era Edwin Samuel Birch (labourer) was the rated owner-occupier and in 1906 the description was `House & Garden' (stated as on CA78A) [ RB]. .
    The Probate Inventory for Edwin Samuel Birch reveals the following:.
    1.181/4 acres of vacant land Allot 52 sec B at Christmas Hills Crown grant 4407/881379 £60.
    2.61 acres of vacant land Allot 53 and 54 Sec B at Christmas Hills, Crown grant 4932/986278 and 3172/634255 £120.
    3.18 ¼ acres of vacant land Allot 25 Sec D at Christmas hills crown grant 4462/892271 £30.
    Landed Property under Lease or Licence from the Crown .
    20 acres vacant land under licence from crown at Christmas Hills Allot 12 Sec A £30.
    3 ½ acres on which is a slab house at Christmas Hills Allot 78A held under Miner’s Right £50.
    The will of Samuel Birch stated:.
    All real estate to Honor Mary Birch and all personal property to Honor Birch (wife). As Honor Mary Williams, she was the next owner and her will stated: `…I give and bequeath all the improvements on the land held by me at Christmas Hills under Permissive Occupancy fro the Department of land and Survey consisting of the house property thereon and all the contents of the said house to my nephew Brian Joseph Martin of Christmas Hills aforesaid farmer’. Documents also describe a dairy being built there in 1935 and that the land had been held by permissive occupancy under Section 121 land act 1928 dated 1/1/1938..
    In 1977 the will of Honor Williams ( former Birch, died 8 July 1976) described the property at CA78A as including a four room, five square house of about 100 years old, with enclosed verandah, including kitchen, combined lounge dining room, bedroom and store room. It was built of `bush slabs' with a corrugated iron roof. there was also a diary erected in 1935. The valuer noted that the buildings were of little value except for their age: $1700 Shire site value, $3000 capital improved value. This property description matches closely what is on this site. Another description of the permissive occupancy (.75 ha) had a 90 year old double-fronted timber dwelling of bush timber with a timber slab floor and internal masonite lining: sleepout, living, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, bathroom, with a fuel stove and sink in the kitchen and a bath in the bathroom. Structurally it was in a `reasonable' condition for its age. Only the dairy, among the various outbuildings, had any value. Fences were post and wire, the pasture had regrowth of bracken and scrub with blackberry. There was also a list of furniture in the house varying from 15-50 years old, or `very old'. Honor owned 121 acres in total, as compared with the 196 acres of c1900. After Honor's death, George Williams, Walter and Brian Martin were for a brief period co-owners, selling to the MMBW in 1978 [ VTO]..
    More recently Creig Maver has claimed a miner's right for the land.

    Lesley A Butler, blackchooks, and 1 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. Jan Diamond 54 months ago | reply

      Great series of photos Graeme and what a well researched history.

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