Historical information

The Eltham Court House is Eltham's oldest public building. It was classified by the National Trust in 1977.

In 1857 five Eltham residents petitioned the licensing magistrates of the Heidelberg district asking for better police protection, including from itinerant gold prospectors who turned to crime when their quest was unsuccessful. In response the Eltham Courthouse was constructed in 1860. Over the years it has also been used for other activities, including for electoral polling purposes, inquests, early meetings of the Eltham Roads Board and even as an overflow classroom.

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.

The Eltham Courthouse is historically significant because its construction was intended to emphasise the centralised control over law and order in the Colony of Victoria in the wake of the 1852 Snodgrass committee report on the Victorian police force and the resulting Police Regulation Act (1853).

The nature of the Court House planning and use of architectural devices make the building's function easily interpreted. The arrangement of rooms, with public entry and clerical rooms to the rear, and the use of raised floor levels throughout these spaces to signify relative rank is easily perceived. The distinction in entries, public, magistrate and person-in-custody, and the existing court furniture enhances appreciation of this building.

The Eltham Court House is one of only two intact examples in the state of this simple design with projecting entry.

The building is of architectural significance because it retains intact early features. These include use of handmade bricks, simple decoration, roof trusses, timber ceiling boards, original windows, doors and associated hardware and a collection of court furniture. Additions to the court house have been done in a manner which did not interfere with the fabric of the original building.

Typical cases heard before the Court of Petty Sessions included financial debt, straying livestock, theft, assault, drunkenness, public disorder, truancy, motor vehicle offences, unregistered animals and failing to have children attend school, or be vaccinated.
The courthouse operated for over 120 years before it closed in 1985.

In April 2021, Nillumbik Shire Council authorised restoration of the building and furnishings. The extensive works required for the total restoration of this highly valued heritage building was undertaken by Ducon Building Solutions and other specialist contractors.

Covered under Heritage Overlay, Nillumbik Planning Scheme.
Victorian Heritage
National Trust of Australia (Victoria) State significance

Published: Nillumbik Now and Then /‚Äč Marguerite Marshall 2008; photographs Alan King with Marguerite Marshall.; p65

Significance

This collection of almost 130 photos about places and people within the Shire of Nillumbik, an urban and rural municipality in Melbourne's north, contributes to an understanding of the history of the Shire. Published in 2008 immediately prior to the Black Saturday bushfires of February 7, 2009, it documents sites that were impacted, and in some cases destroyed by the fires. It includes photographs taken especially for the publication, creating a unique time capsule representing the Shire in the early 21st century. It remains the most recent comprehenesive publication devoted to the Shire's history connecting local residents to the past.

Physical description

Born digital image file