Lilydale 3140The Lilydale township is 35 km. east of Melbourne, and is situated centrally in the former Lillydale shire which was amalgamated with three others to form the Yarra Ranges shire in 1994. The town is spelt with one "l"and the shire was spelt with two.
The first settlement in the district was in the flatter, less forested northern side of the shire, adjoining the southern side of the Yarra River, in the late 1830s. That area now comprises Yering and Coldstream.
The discovery of gold in the upper Goulburn River and Woods Point areas in the late 1850s caused the formation of a miners' access track. The place where the Woods Point Road crossed the Olinda Creek was chosen for a town survey. The origin of the name is uncertain. One version is that the Government surveyor, John Hardy, suggested that the town be named Lillydale after hearing his chainman singing a popular song "Lilly Dale". The name was also inspired by the surveyor observing lilies growing in pools of the creek. The other version is that a district surveyor's wife was name Lilly. Council clerks and the local schoolmaster shortened the spelling to Lilydale.
Land sales in the town were held in 1860 and within two years there were a post office, a store, a butcher's shop and a hotel. The traffic along the Woods Point Road stimulated business investment in the town in the 1870s and it became a sales centre for livestock from the Coldstream area. The northern area was planted with several vineyards which are discussed under Coldstream. Smaller vineyards adjoined the township.
Schools and churches were built in the 1870s, along with a Rechabite Hall which opposed alcohol, whether beer or local wine. On 16 February, 1872, the Lillydale shire was created.
The township's growth was stimulated by the opening of the railway line from Hawthorn in 1881, which brought excursionists. They patronized new guest houses, hotels and local food products. The railway carried manufactured goods and raw materials form brick works and quarries. A notable producer was David Mitchell at his Cave Hill limestone quarry. He was the father of Dame Nellie Melba (Helen Mitchell), and diversified into soap and foodstuffs factories at Cave Hill. Later he acquired several of the vineyards at Coldstream.
The 1890s depression and the opening of the railway to Healesville took tourists away from Lilydale. The depression ruined several vineyards and depressed prices for the local fruit and dairy produce. A once-buoyant shire council curtailed its public works. Recovery required much local effort, one example being Arbor Day tree-plantings to beautify the main streets.
Lilydale's proximity to Melbourne made it dependent on the metropolis for its economic well being. A change to growing oats and hay was thrown into reverse as motor lorries replaced horses and drags in the 1920s. A further change to small dairy operations was hampered by farmers not being able to afford statutory health improvements. Larger sheep and cattle acreages replaced some of the small holdings.
Lilydale remained a country town in a mainly rural landscape until the 1970s.
The agricultural show has been a continual event, despite urbanisation, and the Lilydale market with over 150 fresh-food and household foods stalls also continues. The shopping area is a main-street strip. Several secondary schools service Lilydale and its surrounding districts, and the Lilydale Lake and adjoining parkland provide a large recreational area.
The Lillydale shire, when proclaimed in 1872, extended westwards to Ringwood. Ringwood borough was severed in 1924 and Croydon shire was severed in 1961. On 15 December, 1994, most of the Lillydale shire was united with most of Sherbrooke and all of Healesville and Upper Yarra shires to form the Yarra Ranges shire.
The districts within the Lillydale shire were Chirnside Park, Coldstream (including Yering), Gruyere, Kalorama, Kilsyth, Lilydale, Monbulk, Montrose, Mooroolbark, Mount Dandenong, Mount Evelyn, Olinda, Seville, Silvan, Wandin and Wonga Park.
The Dandenong Ranges National Park extends from Montrose to Sherbrooke and then to Selby, crossing the former southern boundary of the shire at Olinda.
The western (Mooroolbark, Chirnside Park, Kilsyth), part of the former shire contains the majority of industrial zones and residential population. The other main population areas are Mount Evelyn and Lilydale. The chief manufacturing classifications are food and metal products, and machinery and equipment. Extractive industries operate at Coldstream, Lilydale and Montrose. Agriculture moved from grazing to crops. Vegetables grown are mainly carrots, beans and brussel sprouts. Viticulture has increased markedly, and nurseries for horticulture and cut flowers are numerous. Orchards grow pome and stone fruits, citrus and berries.
Apart from a free-standing drive-in shopping centre at Chirnside Park retailing in the former shire is mainly shopping strips or smaller groupings of outlets.
Lillydale shire's census populations have been 6,329 (1911) and 13,809 (1947). Notwithstanding the severance of Croydon the population in 1966 was 24,173, 50,858 in 1976 and 78,558 in 1991. Lilydale town's census populations have been 1,404 (1911) and 9,502 (1991).
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