Eltham Courthouse Officially Reopened (Jim Connor, EDHS Newsletter No. 263 April 2022)
In the Conservation Management Plan prepared in 2006 for the Eltham Justice Precinct there is mention that more than 350 court houses have been built by the Public Works Department since 1856, when the Department was established.
It also states Eltham was in an early group of 'Victorian Free Classical' structures, featuring a projecting entry porch and gabled roof. Characteristically, this group shares a simple, rectangular shape, central placement of the court room with smaller-scale offices set back at the sides or rear of the court room, arched openings, and decorative string courses.
The Statement of Significance listed in the Victorian Heritage Register states:
‘The Eltham Court House dates from the time when the town was largely self-contained. It was initiated in response to itinerant gold prospectors who turned to crime when their quest was unsuccessful. This type of localised solution is characteristic of the self reliance preserved in Eltham today. The court house is an important symbol of the spirit which makes Eltham distinctive as a community.’
It also states: ‘The Eltham Court House, built in 1860, is one of only two intact examples in the state of this simple design with projecting entry.’
So with this background it is most appropriate this valued historic building has recently been the subject of a total restoration, as detailed in previous newsletters. This was a major project undertaken by Nillumbik Shire Council.
At a small function in the Eltham Courthouse, on 23rd March 2022, Nillumbik Shire Council Mayor Fran Eyre declared the fully restored building officially reopened. In doing so the Mayor spoke about the earlier law and order function of the court and the importance of this building to the Eltham community.
Wingrove Ward Councillor Geoff Paine then highlighted the importance of historical societies and groups within the shire and their valued activities in recording and preserving their local history. EDHS president Jim Connor thanked everyone involved with the project and provided an overview of the history of the courthouse. Michael Ioannides, Council’s project manager, spoke about how the restoration process proceeded and those involved in undertaking the works required.
Cr. Natalie Duffy, various council officers, EDHS executive committee members, as well as representatives of the head contractor Ducon Building Services and the heritage advisors, RBA architects and Conservation Consultants, were also in attendance, as was a representative of Nillumbik U3A.
After the formal part there was some light hearted interpretation of how past legal proceedings may, or may not have, occurred within this courthouse, before some refreshments were shared in the former second courthouse at the rear, which is now utilised by Nillumbik U3A.
This was a successful celebration of a very worthwhile project.
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- conservation consultants,
- cr. geoff paine,
- cr. natalie duffy,
- ducon building services,
- eltham courthouse,
- eltham district historical society,
- eltham justice precinct,
- jim connor,
- mayor cr. fran eyre,
- michael ioannides,
- nillumbik shire council,
- nillumbik u3a,
- opening ceremony,
- rba architects,
- restoration project