This article intends using existing documentation to discover when the brick section of the Caretaker’s House at Yan Yean Reservoir was built and occupied.
Meredith Gould in her 1991 Whittlesea Heritage Study, speculated that the oldest or masonry section of the building known as the Caretaker’s Cottage, may have been designed by James Blackburn.
This is entirely possible as existing documentation held at the Public Records Office of Victoria shows. A letter dated 9th January 1854, from the Commissioner’s of Sewerage and Water Supply to the Colonial Secretary, notifies him of the Commissioner’s appointment of James Blackburn as its Consultant Engineer, at a salary of 300 Pounds p.a. which was to date from 19th October 1853, thereby proving that Blackburn was employed by the Commissioner almost five onths before his death on 3rd March 1854.
Another contemporary document shows that the “cottage” for the Resident Engineer and Keeper had been built and paid for at the contract price of £973.0.0 by the 30th September 1854. The weatherboard extension is believed to have been added in about 1860 to make it a suitable residence for a Caretaker and his family.
An engineer named Charles J Taylor was employed by the Commission as an assistant engineer with a salary of £350 p.a. from 21st June 1853. As to when the house was first occupied, a document dated 25th July 1854, prepared by the Commission for the Colonial secretary and dealing with the half year ending 30th June 1854, states that the above mentioned Charles Taylor had been appointed. Resident Engineer at Yan Yean at a salary of £550 dating from 9th June 1854.
I would suggest that Taylor was actually on a salary of £600 p.a. (the same as most of the Assistant Engineers) but was charged £50 per annum as rent for use of the house as was the practice of the Commission.
Therefore it is obvious that the first stage of this building was intended for his use, and these facts clearly indicate that stage one of this residence was completed and first occupied by Taylor on or about 9th June 1854.