Historical information

Originally catalogued around 1998 as John Cochrane in front of Shillinglaw Cottage, this is now believed to be Thomas Cochrane born 1817 in Ireland.

The photograph is a reproduction of a low-resolution, poor-quality photograph.

Shillinglaw Cottage is significant to Eltham’s local history. It is one of the earliest known buildings still in existence. Records suggest that the cottage was built circa 1859 by a man named Cochrane, believed to be Thomas Cochrane, in conjunction with George Stebbings though it is not known what Stebbings’s contribution was.

It is believed Stebbings owned the cottage between 1874 and 1888. According to Margaret Ball’s (2017) book "Shillinglaw Family of Eltham 1660-2007", Thomas Cochrane and family lived there from 1867 to 1874 however this is contrary to the records of assessable rates levied by the Eltham District Road Board, established in 1858, which shows Cochrane was the owner occupier (in Little Eltham) of approximately 25 acres of cultivated land and 25 acres of pastureland upon which a hut was sited in 1860.

It is suspected that George Stebbings may have acquired the property from Cochrane in 1874 as it is noted that he had a tenant for a period, James Rossiter, who was the editor for the Evelyn Observer in Kangaroo Ground in 1874 (LATE SHIRE OFFICE AT KANGAROO GROUND (1934, February 16). Advertiser (Hurstbridge, Vic. : 1922 - 1939), p. 5. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article56743657).

In 1881 Phillip Shillinglaw became the ratepayer for the cottage though Stebbings retained ownership until 1888 at which time it was transferred to Shillinglaw.

Thomas Cochrane was born in Ireland in 1817 and died at Collingwood 1877. He married Sarah Jane Casey at St James, Melbourne in 1846. They had eight children:
• Elizabeth Jane Cochrane born 1847, Keelbundoora
• Sarah Cochrane born 1849, Keelbundoora
• William John Cochrane born 1854, Eltham
• Isabella Mary Cochrane (Cochren) born 1855, Eltham, my Great grandmother
• Mary Cochrane born 1857, Eltham
• Thomas Cochrane born 1859, Eltham
• William James Cochrane born 1861, Eltham
• Margaret Anne Cochrane (Cochran) born 1863, Eltham

Information received from Richard Stone in 2019, a 2nd-great grandson of Thomas Cochrane suggests that during the early 1930s, one of Isabella’s daughters and her family attended cricket matches at Eltham. The mother and a daughter (Richard’s cousin) would wander around Eltham and a cottage in the main street backing onto the cricket ground. The cousin remembers well her mother telling her that her mother, Isabella Cochrane, lived in the cottage as a young girl. The family also had a similar or the same photo of a man standing in front of the cottage.

When the Cochrane family left the cottage in 1874, Thomas Snr would have been 57 and Thomas Jnr 15 and William 13. The man in the photo has a dark and substantial beard. Therefore, it is unlikely to be Thomas Jnr or William and most likely Thomas Snr. The photo is of poor quality and low resolution however, there is little grey evident in his beard. It was possibly taken when Cochrane was a younger man shortly after the cottage was built, circa 1865.

When the Eltham District Road Board was established in 1858, the forerunner to Eltham Shire Council, Thomas Cochrane was listed as the occupier/owner of two assessable parcels of farmland in Little Eltham: one of 21 acres of pastureland and another 22 acres of cultivation land. George Stebbings was not recorded as an occupier or landowner. In 1859 and 1860 a Joseph/Joshua Stebbings was recorded as the occupier of a hut owned by G. Atkinson. A hut was recorded on Cochrane’s pastureland parcel in 1860 and this parcel increased in size to 36 acres in 1861 and grew further in size by 1863. George Stebbings first appears as the owner/occupier of a hut in Eltham in 1861, also 1862 and 1863. This is most likely his cottage (still standing in present day) in Pitt Street adjoining the Eltham Hotel property owned by Benjamin Wallis where he was residing in 1867 when they both sued each other for trespass. (POLICE. (1867, August 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 7. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5774640)

Thomas Cochrane was appointed one of the original trustees of the ground set aside for Eltham Cemetery in Feb 1860 (GOVERNMENT GAZETTE. (1860, February 11). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 7. Retrieved February 25, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5676991)


A very early photo of Shillinglaw Cottage with its original builder and owner/occupier, Thomas Cochrane. Cochrane was also a founding Trustee of the Eltham Cemetery Trust.

Physical description

Reproduction of sepia photograph