Historical information

Pru Sanderson, in her groundbreaking ‘City of Kew Urban Conservation Study : Volume 2 - Development History’ (1988), summarised the periods of urban development and subdivisions of land in Kew. The periods that she identified included 1845-1880, 1880-1893, 1893-1921, 1921-1933, 1933-1943, and Post-War Development. These periods were selected as they represented periods of rapid growth or decline in urban development. An obvious starting point for Sanderson’s groupings involved population growth and the associated economic cycles. These cycles also highlighted urban expansion onto land that was predominantly rural, although in other cases it represented the decline and breakup of large estates. A number of the plans in the Kew Historical Society’s collection can also be found in other collections, such as those of the State Library of Victoria and the Boroondara Library Service. A number are however unique to the collection.


The Kew Historical Society collection includes almost 100 subdivision plans pertaining to suburbs of the City of Melbourne. Most of these are of Kew, Kew East or Studley Park, although a smaller number are plans of Camberwell, Deepdene, Balwyn and Hawthorn. It is believed that the majority of the plans were gifted to the Society by persons connected with the real estate firm - J. R. Mathers and McMillan, 136 Cotham Road, Kew. The Plans in the collection are rarely in pristine form, being working plans on which the agent would write notes and record lots sold and the prices of these. The subdivision plans are historically significant examples of the growth of urban Melbourne from the beginning of the 20th Century up until the 1980s. A number of the plans are double-sided and often include a photograph on the reverse. A number of the latter are by noted photographers such as J.E. Barnes.

Physical description

The Dale Estate in Deepdene was made possible by the death of Robert Sparrow Smythe, Australian journalist, newspaper editor/owner and theatrical manager. Smythe lived in his residence ‘Highate’, Deepdene until his death in 1917. In the subdivision proposed one year later, before the end of the First World War, 18 allotments were to be created. The very fragmentary plan in the Society’s collection notes that a large weatherboard [house] will need to be removed. This may be Smythe’s own home. The proposed subdivision included allotments facing Burke and Whitehorse Roads and Dale Street. Bordering the subdivision is the Deepdene Station and the Outer Circle Railway Line. The clear directions on the plan indicate that in 1918 it was possible to travel by train from Deepdene to East Camberwell and Ashburton