Historical information

Situated near the top of what was known as 'Policeman's Hill' according to Miss Ivy Reynolds, neice of the photographer, Tom Prior.
From the left, Eltham Court House, Police Residence and Police station on Main Road and corner of Brougham Street. These buildings formed part of Little Eltham and still stand (without the front fence) today though the Police Station was demolished in 1986 due to termite damage. A replica was built circa 1989.

The institutions of law and order in Colonial Victoria included the police, courts and prisons.

The 1852 report of the Snodgrass Select Committee appointed to "identify the policing needs of the colony” noted there existed seven independent police forces that did not co-operate or regularly communicate. Following the committee's report all these police entities were merged into the Victoria Police, founded on 8 January 1853, to implement law and order responsibilities throughout the Colony of Victoria.

The Eltham Courthouse (1860) and adjacent Police Residence (1859) formed a justice precinct established in the immediate aftermath of the 1852 police inquiry and the effects of the gold rush. The physical presence of these buildings, in the centre of the early Eltham township, defined centralised control over law and order.

In the early days the Police Constable in charge would conduct his duties travelling around the district by horse; a stable was located at the rear of the residence. At times the horse would be grazed on the paddocks across the road. Horseshoes were forged by the blacksmith beside the Courthouse on the high side of “Policeman’s Hill”. Along with the stable, there was a two-cell bluestone lockup where prisoners were held awaiting trial in the adjacent Courthouse. Their meals were usually provided by the policeman’s wife or from the hotel just up the road.

With the arrival of the railway in 1902 the town centre gradually shifted towards the railway station. The Police Station and operations were moved into the town centre in 1961 to a renovated house in Pryor Street, which was later replaced by the current Police Station.

From 1961-1981 the residence was occupied by the Vermin and Noxious Weeds Destruction Section of the Department of Crown Lands and Survey. Prior to August 1967 the former Police Station was dragged to the rear of Police Residence to make way for the construction of a driveway and access from Main Road. The building was placed on the site of a former Scullery and modified for Lands Department use.

In 1981 the Shire of Eltham took over management of the former Police Residence in Eltham. It remained unoccupied for a period whilst its future was discussed in Council. It was then used for a community job creation scheme until 1985.

In 1985 the Shire of Eltham Parks and Environment occupied the residence. Council improved the driveway but later added a second rear access from Brougham Street due to the dangerous nature of the Main Road entrance. Additionally, a rear toilet facility between the Police Residence and the relocated former Police Station, which was doubling up as a lunchroom. Council also commenced discussions to re-establish a replica Police Station.

Around November 1986 the former Police Station was demolished; believed to have been suffering termite damage.

About 1989, after some years of discussion, a replica Police Station was built, based on photographs, to act as a lunchroom and meeting room for the Parks and Environment staff and volunteers doing community service.

In 1996 Eltham District Historical Society held discussions with Nillumbik Shire Council commissioners throughout the year regarding a home for the Society. A proposal was put forward by the Society in October to occupy the former Police Residence.

In March 1997 Eltham District Historical Society gained access to former Police Residence and on July 12, 1998, moved into its Local History Centre.

In July 2018, Eltham District Historical Society gained access to the replica Police Station (which had been used as a music library and storage for the Eltham Concert Band) for use as part of regular heritage tours for schools and community-based groups.


This photo forms part of a collection of photographs gathered by the Shire of Eltham for their centenary project book,"Pioneers and Painters: 100 years of the Shire of Eltham" by Alan Marshall (1971). The collection of over 500 images is held in partnership between Eltham District Historical Society and Yarra Plenty Regional Library (Eltham Library) and is now formally known as 'The Shire of Eltham Pioneers Photograph Collection.'
It is significant in being the first community sourced collection representing the places and people of the Shire's first one hundred years.

The Reynolds family were early settlers in Research.

The Reynolds/ Prior collection of photographs were taken by Tom Prior, the maternal uncle of Ivy Reynolds, around 1900 and the 60 photos in the album give a fine overview of many of the landmarks of Research and Eltham over 100 years ago.

lvy lived in the family home for many years at 106 Thompson Cres Research. Ivy's father, Ernst Richard Reynolds and grandfather, Richard Reynolds, lived at the same address. Ivy's father Richard worked for Mr. Trail on his property in Research. Reynolds Road is named after the family.

Mr Tom Prior (wife Eva) worked at the Melbourne zoo. He was very innovative and made his own camera, using the black cloth hood to exclude the light.
The photographs are a reminder of the rural nature of Research and Eltham and its rich heritage.

Physical description

Digital image