The History of Toolern Creek
There is evidence that people were frequently using the land around Atherstone long before the modern day. In fact, from the times of Aboriginal prominence through to the early explorers that came with John Batman, the area has kept a fascinating record of our history and development. So much so that there have been 15 areas identified as of historical significance within 5 kilometres of Toolern Creek. At some of these, archaeological artefacts have been discovered that have allowed historians to learn a little bit more about the people who lived in Atherstone in the past.
For instance, long before Melton South was occupied by European settlers, it was home to the Woi Wurrung and Bun Wurrung speaking indigenous tribes. It is thought that this may have served as the meeting area for multiple tribes located around the vicinity. Discovered artefacts, scarred trees and previously identified sites mark the area as of importance to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register.
By the late 1800s much of the land around the Werribee River was already being used by European settlers. Initially the specific area around Toolern Creek was called Pennyroyal but by 1839 there are records describing it as Toolam Toolern Creek.
Charles James Gerrard, as an example, is shown to have occupied land on the east bank of the river on maps from 1839. By 1853 the land originally used by Gerrard was bought by William France Tulloh who named the bluestone property on site as Strathtulloh homestead. This is now a Victorian Heritage registered building.
From the 1880s to early 1900s greater Melton South and its railway station facilitated the sawmill and timber industries, sheep farming, chaff and then later slowly transitioned towards dairy farms. Because of this increased activity, Sir John Monash was recruited to build a bridge over Toolern Creek in 1913. This concrete girder bridge still exists and can be seen today.
In 1912 William Burton purchased some land east of Toolern Creek for his wife Hannah and their 11 children. From here they lived and ran a mixed farm until 1943. This area is now the site of some historically significant bluestone building foundation remains called the Atherstone Home Complex Remains that may unlock many archaeological mysteries about early Victorian settlement.
Although by 1968 roads on the western side of creek showed the imminent arrival of the suburbs to Melton South, by 2004 much of Toolern Creek specifically was still being used as rural farming land. This means many of the archaeological remains, artefacts and other historical evidence have been preserved intact, waiting for researchers to uncover and investigate them.
Although it is a modern day development, Atherstone really is a part of our living Victorian history.