Beyond the Shopfront: The Secrets of 71 Miller Street Revealed

Nestled along the once bustling thoroughfare of Miller Street in West Melbourne lies a hidden gem of historical intrigue—71 Miller Street. This unassuming address holds within its walls a rich tapestry of tales that have woven through time, from its humble beginnings to the present day. Join us as we delve into the captivating chronicle of this remarkable place.

In the annals of history, Miller Street emerges as a vital artery, pulsating with life between Curzon Street in the east and Laurens Street in the west. Initially, it served as a haven for the denizens connected to the Benevolent Asylum, standing proudly on its north side. The ebb and flow of occupants mirrored the shifting tides of the city’s evolution. The Asylum, once a cornerstone of the community, met its demise in 1911, paving the way for a new era on Miller Street.

In 1851, the Benevolent Asylum was the largest permanent public building in the local area, until being demolished by Wheelan the Wrecker in 1911, its patients and staff were relocated 20 kilometers south, at Cheltenham.[1]

[1] www.hothamhistory.org.au/the-benevolent-asylum/

The story truly unfolds in 1858, with the ink-stained pages of the Argus newspaper bearing witness to the first land sale of 71 Miller Street. John Harbison, a man of law and lineage, acquired two lots in a pivotal auction. His footsteps marked the genesis of a legacy that would span generations.

The first Crown Land Sale shows 71 Miller Street, was reported in the Argus newspaper on November 25th, 1858. John Harbison, a practicing solicitor then, purchased two lots at Messrs. Tennent and Co.’s auction rooms.

John Harbison was born at Armagh, Ireland in 1825 to parents Alexander and Ann, nee Timbrill. He arrived in Hobart in the 1830s but relocated to Port Phillip in 1849. In 1856 he married Mary Ann Mathers, and had ten children together, they lived at Rich-Hill Terrace, 58-64 Dudley Street, West Melbourne. Their home was later classified, historically significant in 1979 by the National Trust. John Harbison went on to become a large landowner, a Melbourne city councillor, an alderman and finally a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly from 1865 to 1871, before he retired and died 1915.

John Harbison sold his land in Miller Street within a year to Robert Harris who engaged Henry Scott of Collingwood to commence building a home for the Harris family in 1859. Robert Harris is recorded living in Miller Street from 1862 until 1872.

From Harbison’s stewardship, the property changed hands, each owner leaving an indelible mark on its history. Robert Harris, Henry Scott—the builder shrouded in mystery—and a succession of residents followed suit, breathing life into the walls of 71 Miller Street.

Other residents include H. W. Prott in 1873, Mrs. Elizabeth Florant in 1874, William Easby in 1875-76, Edward Spink in 1878-81, George Watson in 1882-83, and William Edwards in 1884. Little is recorded about the people named above, other than details in the council rate books.

Enter the Bindon family, whose tenure heralded an era of dual-purpose living—a home intertwined with a bustling shopfront. As the years unfurled, the quaint abode transformed into a confectionery haven, a cherished local milk bar. Generations of West Melbournians found solace within its walls, as it stood as a beacon of community spirit amidst the changing times.

But behind the facade of familial bliss lay tales of struggle and resilience. Henry Herbert Bindon, a man of principle, found himself embroiled in the tumultuous currents of railway politics, ultimately charting a new course as an estate agent. His legacy intertwined with the very fabric of 71 Miller Street.

Henry Herbert Bindon, born at Portsea, Hampshire England in 1834, was the son of Major William George Bindon and Louise Mary Lay, also spelt Laye.

His life and career were influenced by strong family figures. Henry was not only a son of a Major, but also a nephew of Judge Samuel Henry Bindon, of the Victorian County Court, who later became an M.L.A. for Castlemaine.

Henry devoted his early working life to the mercantile marine service and made several voyages around the globe from his home base in the south of England.

By the late 1850s, Henry chose to sink his roots in Melbourne. In 1859 at the age of twenty-four, he married eighteen-year-old Emma Lyon. Emma was born in 1841 in county Kildare Ireland, the daughter of Peter Lyon and Bridget Rutherford.

The Lyon family left Ireland at a time when absentee landlords were converting croplands to rangelands, making it more suited to animal grazing and forcing tenant farming families off the land. More than a million Irish died during the 1845-1849 Potato Blight.

Peter and Bridget Lyon and their eleven children left home and migrated to Port Phillip Bay. Their ship, the Minnesota, sailed from Liverpool, England and arrived in the Colony in December 1852, Emma was an eleven-year-old on their arrival.

After they were married, Henry and Emma Bindon lived at Station place, Sandridge, current day South Melbourne. Henry was employed by the Melbourne and Hobsons Bay Railway Company.

Henry and Emma had nine children together from 1860 until 1883, but three died, six would grow into adults.

In the early 1860s Henry was elected secretary of the Engine-drivers and Fireman’s Association and later became its President.

It was said that Henry’s strong ethical beliefs and moral fiber as a staunch ‘mate’ and someone who would stand up for those in trouble, particularly workmates who didn’t have the courage or ability to stand up against tyrannical regulations and despotism themselves, in the public service, led to Henry’s eventually dismissal from Victorian Railways, according to a 1897 notice “An Eventful Life” published in the North Melbourne Gazette.

Whilst living in Miller Street, Henry was appointed a vote assessor for the Bourke Ward. In 1892 he became a Justice of the Peace and sat on local and city benches as well as the district courts at various times until 1897.

Henry died after complications from surgery for stomach cancer at the age of sixty-two in 1897, leaving his wife Emma, fifty-six years of age, six daughters, Louise, Nina, Docy and Irene and two sons’ William and Harry. Emma spent thirty-eight years married to Henry and outlived him by a further thirty-two years, passing away in 1929 at the age of eighty-eight.

The Bindon family’s association with 71 Miller Street lasted thirty-eight years.

The Hartshorn family’s arrival in the street heralded a new chapter, steeped in education and hardship. Ebenezer Hartshorn’s path, from a teacher in Glenorchy, Victoria to the head of a bustling household in Hotham, and an appointment to teach at the Bank Street, Ascot Vale primary school, bore witness to the trials of life. Yet, through it all, the family found solace within the walls of 71 Miller Street, leaving an indelible mark on its storied past.

Mary Hartshorn as she was known on the 1908 Bourke Ward council rate book at 71 Miller Street, was born Mary Stevenson in 1852 at Glasgow Scotland, a daughter of James Stephenson, also spelt Stevenson and Mary Jenkins.

In 1852, her family, James (32), Mary (32), David (6), James (4), William (2), and the one-month-old daughter Mary Stephenson emigrated to Melbourne from Glasgow, Scotland. They sailed on the Brooksby arriving in Port Phillip Bay on October 26th, 1852. Mary’s father’s occupation was a cooper.  A cooper was a person who made wooden casks, barrels, and other wooden containers, usually heated, or steamed so they could be bent into barrel shapes.

As the decades waned, the Goldburgs and the Sandersons cast their lot with the property, their presence adding yet another layer to its colorful history. The confectionery counter gave way to newspaper stands, as the rhythm of life beat on within its confines.

Albert Joseph Goldburg was born in 1902 in Melbourne, the son of Alfred Mark Goldburg and Blanche Moore. Florence Muriel Sanderson was born in 1900 at South Melbourne, the daughter of Joseph Sanderson and Mary James.

Albert’s father, twenty-year-old Alfred Goldburg arrived in Australia in 1887 along with his twenty-five-year-old brother, Herman, on board a German mail-steamer, Salier with 439 passengers.

In 1924 Albert Joseph Goldburg married Florence Sanderson and they had three children. Albert Joseph, Mabel Florence, and James Claudius Goldburg. Their first child Albert Joseph was named after his father. Phillip and Albert’s occupations over the fifteen-year time span shown in Sands & McDougall directories from 1940 to1955 were confectioners and later shown as newspaper vendors at 71 Miller Street.

Amidst the comings and goings, one figure stands out—a woman of mystery and myriad talents. Lee Pattinson, known by many names, left an indelible mark on 71 Miller Street. Her literary endeavors and wartime experiences paint a portrait of resilience and fortitude, echoing through the halls of history.

Lee Pattinson, christened Muriel Margaret Storm in 1920 at Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, was the daughter of George H. and Maria W. Storm, nee Irving.

George Henry Storm was born in Northumberland England. Maria Wilson Irving came from Anderston, Lanarkshire, Scotland and were married at Glasgow in 1914. They had three sons and two daughters, George Henry, Laurence, Muriel Margaret, David Morris Irving, and Edna May Storm.

In 1926 when Lee Pattinson (Muriel Margaret) was six years of age her family immigrated to Queensland, Australia to live.

Later in life Lee’s occupations listed on the Australian Electoral roll as a nurse and journalist does not spell out Lee’s full story. Other records discovered at the National Library of Australia, show Lee was a romance author of 16 titles as well as a scriptwriter for two of the Crawford Productions popular 1960s and 1970s Australian Television series Homicide and Division 4. Other records at the National Library also indicate Lee had WWII experience, coming to Australia, when she was [20] years of age, she worked with a Netherlands intelligence unit in Sydney during the war. Her medical experience included bush nursing and writing advice columns for the magazine New Idea on childcare. She also had interests in rug-hooking handcraft and hobby farming, which may explain why she eventually retired to Warrigul, Victoria.

Lee Pattinson’s romance novels were written under the pseudonyms of Noni Arden, Rebecca Dee, Caroline Farr, Teri Lester, Kerry Mitchell, Pamela Nicholls, and Anne Maxwell.

Did you know by way of a comparison to 71 Miller Street, three hundred meters walk, at the southwestern corner of Miller and Dryburgh Streets existed another local family run convenience store from 1869. It was operated by Francis Young until 1883, followed by Patrick McCarthy until 1891, and John Doyle till 1902 then known as Leonard Lindsay’s greengrocer store until around 1913. The shop was acquired and demolished when the public works department built the Dynon Road bridge over the railway line in West Melbourne to Footscray. The four Victorian buildings are gone, the site today is vacant land beside a busy roadway.

One hundred and eighty meters away from 71 Miller Street between Lothian and Dyrburgh on the northern side, were more retail shops. William McMaster built a bakehouse and shop at 128 Miller Street in January 1859. It continued operation as a bakehouse until 1870. Then it became the local butchers shop run by Thomas Crocket until 1876. It was later managed by Michael Kennedy until 1883, and George Smith later ran a grocery business at that address. Three doors east was a second butcher’s shop run by Thomas Swaby. Next door to him was still another greengrocer’s shop on Miller Street operated by Patrick O’Brien.

A few steps further west from 71 Miller Street on the corner of Anderson Street was once Melbourne’s famous A. F. Brockhoff & Co. Biscuit Factory which employed hundreds of local workers, all who lived within easy walking distance of their place of work. Brockhoff’s made biscuit names such as Savoy, Crest, Stirling, Malt-o-milk, Grain-o-malt, Crispo, Edinburgh Shortbreads, Teddy Bears, Shapes and Saladas.  A. F. Brockhoff & Co. Biscuits merged with Arnotts in 1964 due to local moves by overseas biscuit manufacturing competition.

Today, 71 Miller Street stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit—a beacon of hope amidst the tumult of modernity. As the pages of time turn, may its legacy endure, a timeless reminder of the lives intertwined within its walls.

by Stephen Hatcher, member of the Hotham History Project. 2024.

 

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Story Title: “Melodies of Miller Street: A Journey Through Time”

Logline:
In the heart of West Melbourne, lies a quaint address steeped in history and mystery—71 Miller Street. Follow the captivating tale of generations entwined within its walls as they navigate love, loss, and the ever-changing landscape of a burgeoning city.

Synopsis:
Set against the backdrop of a quiet but once bustling street in West Melbourne, “Melodies of Miller Street” chronicles the multi-generational saga of the families who call 71 Miller Street home. From its humble beginnings as a simple residence to its transformation into a beloved local milk bar, the house witnesses the ebb and flow of life over the decades.

The narrative unfolds through the eyes of various inhabitants, each with their own dreams, desires, and struggles. We meet the Harbisons, whose patriarch’s ambitions shape the destiny of the property. Then, the Bindons bring warmth and laughter to its halls, turning it into a cherished community hub.

As the years pass, the Hartshorns grapple with the challenges of education and societal change, while the Goldburgs and Sandersons usher in a new era of commerce and innovation. Amidst it all, the enigmatic figure of Lee Pattinson casts a shadow of intrigue, her secrets woven into the very fabric of 71 Miller Street.

Through triumph and tragedy, love and betrayal, the house remains a steadfast beacon of hope—a symbol of resilience in the face of adversity. As the story unfolds, viewers are transported through time, witnessing the evolution of not just a building, but a community bound together by shared history.

With its rich tapestry of characters, dramatic twists, and poignant moments, “Melodies of Miller Street” invites audiences on an unforgettable journey through the heart of West Melbourne. From its humble beginnings to its enduring legacy, this is a story that resonates across generations—a timeless tale waiting to be told on the screen.

by Stephen Hatcher, member of the Hotham History Project. 2024.