Mitcham 3132Mitcham is a residential suburb 20 km east of Melbourne between Nunawading and Ringwood, bisected east-west by the Maroondah highway and the railway line from Box Hill to Ringwood. It was named after Mitcham Grove, a farm property owned by William Slater who grew roses and herbs for perfumes and remedies. An alternative account is that it was named after a property called Mitcham Heights, itself named after Mitcham, Surrey. Previous names were Air Hill and Emery's Hill. All the names acknowledged Mitcham's elevation in relation to adjoining areas.
East of Mitcham the Koonung Creek begins its passage towards the Yarra River, and the Mullum Mullum Creek (also flowing to the Yarra), skirts the northeast side of Mitcham. In 1861 Johann Schwerkolt bought land bordering the Mullum Mullum Creek, beginning with grape growing but changing to orcharding after the Phylloxena infestation. The property was later acquired by the Antonio family, who donated part of their land for a bush reserve and the Antonio Park primary school (1960). Schwerkolt's cottage had been continuously occupied, and shortly afterwards was acquired by Nunawading council and restored.
Mitcham was occupied by orchardists and the clay (like neighbouring Tunstall), was good for bricks and pottery. Roman Catholic (1872) and Anglican churches were opened. In 1882 the railway line was extended form Camberwell to Lilydale, and a station opened at Mitcham in 1886. A police station was opened in 1888 and a primary school was built in 1890. Subdivisional activity was flattened by the depression, but the Austral Park estate south of the railway station was marketed in 1906. The memorial hall (1926-1988) became the venue for musical and dramatic societies begun in the 1930s.
At the end of the second World War Mitcham's shopping centre in Whitehorse Road at the Mitcham Road intersection had four grocers, and butchers, fruiterers, newsagents, a draper, an ironmonger, boot repairers and a blacksmith. The banks and the post office were on the south side. Within ten years postwar residential expansion had reached Mitcham. During the 1960s new schools opened: Antonio Park (1960) and Verdale (1969) primary schools, a high school (1960) and a technical school (1965).
The technical school was near the Nunawading Art Gallery, in which the Mitcham Arts Association (1984) was a notable participant.
By the mid 1990s Mitcham had undergone the full cycle of population growth, and fewer school-age people resulted in the closure of the secondary college on the old technical school site. Verdale primary school had been renamed Rangeview and its neighbour in Heatherdale had been closed.
Mitcham has several large parks north of Whitehorse Road, including Antonio, Yarran Dheran and a sports reserve. On the south side there is a linear park and a large portion occupied by Yarra Valley Water and the Mitcham Reservoir. The Mitcham shopping centre has strip shops along Whitehorse and a drive-in centre a little to the north. There is also a small centre southwards in Mitcham Road.
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