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Heidelberg, VIC

Charming suburb on the edge of Melbourne known as a haunt for artists

Although Heidelberg is correctly known as the City of Heidelberg it is realistically a suburb of Melbourne lying to the north-east of CBD and 80 m above sea-level with the Yarra River forming its eastern boundary. In the 19th century The Municipal Directory described the area as undulating country "with a series of green hills, the sides of which slope gently into rich flats and valleys, the river [i.e., the Yarra] winding through the country". Today it is well known for its famous Heide Museum of Modern Art; its association with the plein air Heidelberg School of Artists; its parks and gardens and its impressive historic buildings.


Heidelberg is located 15 km by road north-east of Melbourne's CBD via the M3. It is 80 m above sea-level.


Origin of Name

Captain Sylvester John Brown bought 313 acres at what is now East Ivanhoe, naming the property 'Hartlands' and settling there in 1840. In 1837 his relative, Richard Henry Brown, observed that the area reminded him of the countryside around Heidelberg in Germany and the name stuck although it had, up to that time, been known as Warringal.


Things to See and Do

Heide Museum of Modern Art
Located at 7 Templestowe Rd, Bulleen, just east of Heidelberg, the Heide Museum of Modern Art is a true artistic wonderland comprising galleries, gardens and outdoor sculptures. It comprises "three galleries, stunning architecture and fifteen acres of gardens and sculpture park." The website (https://www.heide.com.au/visit/gardens-sculpture-park) describes the gardens perfectly when it writes: "When Sunday and John Reed purchased Heide it was a neglected former dairy farm. After fifty years of vision, dedication and sheer hard work, the Reeds moulded Heide into a personal Eden, connecting art with nature and creating a nourishing environment for the artists they championed – Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, Charles Blackman and Mirka Mora among them.
"Today, visitors can discover Sunday Reed’s walled garden, original kitchen garden and the wild garden near Heide I, and the famous Heide II kitchen garden in which Sunday worked daily until just before her death in 1981. Artist gardens have also been established within the Heide landscape by artists such as Lauren Berkowitz and Fiona Hall ...
"There are over 30 stunning sculptures to discover across the 15 acre site including works by Anish Kapoor, Anthony Caro and Neil Taylor. Jeff Thomson’s iconic Cows (1987) are a playful reminder of the museum’s dairy farm origins. Families can play Heide Detective using a free trail sheet to discover more about the park and sculptures." Heide is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm. There is a cafe which is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm, tel: (03) 9850 1500.

Heidelberg School Artists Trail
The trail comprises a series of 12 colour signs featuring paintings from six artists of The Heidelberg School. The signs have been erected along the Yarra River and allow visitors to take a pleasant stroll along the banks of the river and experience how the artists of the era - Arthur Streeton, Walter Withers, Louis Buvelot, Tom Roberts, Emanuel Phillips Fox and Charles Conder - interpreted the landscape. 
At each of the twelve sites there is a reproduction of the relevant painting. This provides insight into the artist's interpretation of the landscape. It starts off Banyule Road near the Banyule Flats Reserve and continues down the Yarra to Bulleen Park. There is a downloadable map, with short biographies of the major artists represented, at http://heidelbergcentral.com.au/artist-trail.

The Heidelberg Historical Society and Museum
The Heidelberg Historical Society and Museum is located in the old Court House (1899-1900) in Jika Street. It features material relating to the Heidelberg School of painters, along with "a substantial collection of photographs, objects, maps, documents, works of art and other items that help to tell the story of Heidelberg and its surrounding localities." The museum is open Sundays from 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm, tel: (03) 9457 2130. For more information check out https://www.heidelberghistoricalsociety.com.au.

The Old England Hotel
Located at 459 Lower Heidelberg Road, the Old England Hotel was first licensed in 1848. It was originally a 13-bedroom hotel with stables, coach house, stockyard and two-acre garden and as such is one of the oldest hotels in the state. Other outbuildings were added and it became a centre for social activities. From 1848-1900 it was the first stopping place for coaches from Melbourne to Queenstown. It was rebuilt to face Lower Heidelberg Road in 1890 and has been extended over the years but the original stone section of the 1850s remains as part of the building. It is recorded on the Victorian Heritage Database. Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/31341.

Former Police Station
Located at 7 Jika Street is the former police station which is described as "a single storey bluestone structure believed to have been erected circa 1860, presumably to designs by the Public Works Department of Victoria. Asymmetrically composed, the structure has a projecting wing, with twelve-pane sash, quoins and window surrounds. There is a timber veranda arranged in four bays. Other features are the hipped slate roofs, chimneys, plinth and random-coursed masonry ... Architecturally the structure is a typical example of an essentially Italianate style, given added interest by the presence of Colonial style details, including the windows. The masonry work is of note, as is the unusual four bay arrangement of the veranda and the shallow hipped roof." For more details check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/64345.

St John's Anglican Church
Located at 1 Burgundy Street, St John's Anglican Church was built between 1849-1851 to an early English Gothic Revival design. Some sources claim it was the first permanent Anglican church in Victoria, outside of Melbourne and certainly it predates the gold rushes. Its central feature is the castellated, square-pinnacled tower which rises above the entrance. The building is composed of stuccoed brickwork on a bluestone plinth. The shingled roof has been replaced with slate. There is a four-bay nave and small chancel with buttresses and lancet windows. For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/31169.

St John the Evangelist Catholic Church
Located at the corner of Cape and Yarra Streets, St John the Evangelist Catholic Church is a bluestone building "designed by W W Wardell and commenced in 1860 under the supervision of J B Denny. It was completed in 1909 largely to Wardell's design, under Kempson and Conolly. Windows to the west (1909) and east (1914) by William Montgomery." The Victorian Heritage Database goes on to note that the church organ is "A two-manual instrument of 10 speaking stops built in 1890 by the Kew organ builder Alfred Fuller for St Mary's Church, Echuca, moved to Redemptorist Monastery, Ballarat in 1970 and installed in its present location in 2000.
The instrument is lavishly constructed from excellent materials and is of particular note for the intact state of its preservation; its romantic-symphonic tonal design, including several unusual stops; the adoption of tubular-pneumatic pedal action, unique in Fuller's surviving work; its outstanding casework in fiddleback blackwood incorporating elaborately decorated facade pipes." For more details check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/64326.

Located at 60 Buckingham Drive, 'Banyule' is one of the oldest mansions in Victoria. It was built for Joseph Hawdon to a design by architect John Gill and completed in 1846. The Victorian Heritage Database notes that "Banyule is a two storey house of rendered brick on sandstone footings. The roof was originally at least partly shingled, but this was replaced by slate by 1867. Banyule is predominantly Elizabethan in style, and its Flemish gables, crenellated oriel, pepper-pot pinnacles and chimney groups result in a most picturesque skyline. The 1846 house had three main rooms asymmetrically arranged on the ground floor and a fine staircase leading to the six rooms on the first floor. Gothic forms were used for interior details such as mantelpieces, cornices, doors and architraves. The detached two-roomed kitchen block to the north-east might have been built in c1843, before the main house. In 1908 there were major additions, designed by the architects Klingender & Alsop: a two storey wing, in a style sympathetic to the original, was added to the south-east, and on the north side the kitchen block was linked to the house. In 1922 repair work was done under the supervision of A & K Henderson. In 1975-7 the house was altered by Yuncken Freeman Architects for use by the National Gallery of Victoria. This involved the removal of internal walls and doors, filling in of fireplaces, and the removal of a chimney." For more details check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/589. It is a private residence and was sold in 2019 for an undisclosed amount which the real estate agent revealed as "“a lot more” than its previous $5.2 million sale in 2015." It can be viewed from the banks of the Yarra River.
The Heidelberg Historical Society notes of the view: "Take a walk along the Main Yarra Trail, from Plymouth Street near the tennis courts, over Banyule Creek, past the Native Gardens and the Banyule Flats sports grounds. You get fine views of Banyule house, perched on the hill above the flood prone river flats. Swamps are a haven for birds. The occasional tiger snake slithers across the path." For more https://www.heidelberghistoricalsociety.com.au/history.html.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Wurundjeri willam Aboriginal people.

* The rich river flats attracted pastoralists, market gardeners and orchardists by the mid-1830s.

* The first land sales in the area occurred in 1838.

* Heidelberg was well settled by 1841 with timber cutters, dairy farmers along the creeks and gentleman farmers.

* Joseph Hawdon transported livestock from Jugiong on the Murrumbidgee in New South Wales to Melbourne in 1836 and established a trail which others soon followed.

* In 1838 Hawdon contracted the first mail run through the uncharted country between Melbourne and Yass.

* By 1839 Hawdon settled at Heidelberg

* Captain Sylvester John Brown bought 313 acres at what is now East Ivanhoe, named the property 'Hartlands', and settled there in 1840.

* Brown's son, Thomas Alexander Browne (who added the 'e' to the surname), who lived on the property, later adopted the pseudonym Rolf Boldrewood and became one of Australia's first novelists of note.

* In 1837 a relative, Richard Henry Brown said that the area reminded him of the countryside around Heidelberg in Germany.

* Another early settler was Alexander McKillop whose daughter Mary McKillop, became Australia's first saint. The first mass of the parish was held at their house.

* The Heidelberg Road Trust was formed in 1840-41.

* The first church at Heidelberg was Scots' Presbyterian built of rendered brick in 1845.

* In 1846 Hawdon built the elegant 'Banyule' homestead.

* In 1848 the Great Heidelberg Road was opened. It was the first macadamised road in Victoria.

* Small farmers arrived in the 1850s growing wheat, oats, potatoes, vegetables, barley, lucerne, maize and hops and establishing market gardens, orchards and vineyards.

* Charles Henry Baker built the Old England Inn in 1850. Local citizens organised a petition to prevent him obtaining a licence and so he opened it as a general store but he was granted the licence upon reapplication.

* A group of German Lutherans settled in the Heidelberg area in 1850.

* St Monica's Catholic Church was built in 1851.

* In 1851 St John's opened. It was reputedly the first permanent Anglican church to be established in Victoria, outside of Melbourne.

* A Primitive Methodist Church opened in the town in the 1850s.

* St John the Evangelist Catholic Church was built from 1857-60.

* A Wesleyan Methodist Church opened in 1859.

* Tea plants were grown at Eaglemont in the 1860s. Sheep, cattle and horses were also grazed on the local estates. 

* Heidelberg shire was declared in 1871.

* The Austin Hospital was opened at Heidelberg in 1882. It was financed by a substantial donation from the widow of Thomas Austin of 'Barwon Park'.

* The Municipal Directory of 1883 likened Heidelberg to an English hamlet, describing it as a pretty municipal and postal village with a population of 457 and a pleasant resort for picnic and wedding parties from the city.

* In the mid-1880s a loose association of painters, including Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin, C.D. Richardson, Charles Conder, Walter Withers, Jane Sutherland, Clara Southern and Emma Boyd (the wife of Arthur Boyd) began adapting the ideas of the French impressionists to Australian conditions. Often painting in the open air to capture the nature of Australia's light, colour and atmosphere. The group acquired the name 'The Heidelberg School'.

* The railway from Clifton Hill and Collingwood reached the town in 1888.

* In 1889 members of the Heidelberg School launched a major exhibition of their works entitled the 9" x 5" Exhibition.

* By 1891 the town had a bank and an agency of an insurance company.

* The population of Heidelberg was recorded as 713 in 1891.

* The railway was extended to the inner city in 1901.

* Walter Burley Griffin and his brother-in-law lived and worked at Heidelberg in the 1910s and 1920s.

* Heidelberg was declared a city in 1934.

* West Heidelberg was opened up when the Housing Commission contracted A.V. Jennings to subdivide the area in 1945.

* An Olympic village was established near Heidelberg in 1956 to provide accommodation and training for the Melbourne Olympics competitors.

* In 1987 the Waringal Shopping Centre was completed.

* The 1991 Census recorded a population of 63,300.

* In 2012 the hospital in Heidelberg added the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre.


Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Information Centre at Heidelberg.


Useful Websites

There is a shopping website for Heidelberg. Check out http://heidelbergcentral.com.au.

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