Yan Yean, it’s hidden history

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Yan Yean, its hidden history

By Barbara Miller

It is generally accepted that the name ‘Yan Yean’ originated in the 1850s from the aboriginal tribes which frequented the swampy, fertile lands around the Plenty River. The waters were rich in fish, eels and birds, which provided an abundant food source for the inhabitants. Two scar trees were noted in the area during a 1989 archaeological survey.

White settlement of the Plenty began soon after the establishment of the town of Melbourne, with the area at first being known as Ryder’s Swamp. Settlers made use of the fertile lands to grow their own produce, and also to supply Melbourne’s growing population. Homesteads, farms and businesses were quickly established, and this spelled the end of the way of life of the original inhabitants.

Although there are many historic buildings now missing from the Yan Yean area, it’s surprising how much history is still there to be seen if you wander down some of the back roads and take the time to stop and look. The Whittlesea Historical Society bus tour in March will be searching out some of these locations, and visiting a significant homestead as well. Did you know that Yan Yean has an Avenue of Honour? Did you know that the small red brick bridge by Plenty Road is a 1901 Monier bridge, built by engineer William Lockwood?

Yan Yean was a thriving town during the time of the construction of the reservoir, with a population at one stage of over 1000 people. These families lived in tents and slab huts during the three years that construction was under way. There would have also been the sorts of shops and businesses necessary to support the population and the construction works.

Have you ever noticed the big square tank on She Oak Hill? This tank was imported in steel sections from England in c1934 and erected by Ian Kerr and Ernie Lear. It was capable of holding 50,000 gallons of water pumped from the MMBW aqueduct, which was used in Kerr’s new Burnside Dairy on the opposite side of Donnybrook Road.

Do you check the big red shed on Old Plenty Road for community notices? This shed was originally the goods shed for the Yan Yean general store, which stood just to the south of this building. The general store was a popular meeting place for the locals when picking up the mail and the groceries.

Did you know that the railway platform at Yan Yean (still there!) was a very busy station, with timber, fruit from the Arthur’s Creek orchards, and milk from the various dairy farms in the area being transported to Melbourne. A small siding was used by milk trains from 1926 to 1945. The station also became the destination of visitors from Melbourne, who would then walk to the reservoir to spend the day picnicking and enjoying the beautiful surrounds of the reservoir park.

The Yan Yean Reservoir is celebrating 170 years since the turning of the first sod by Governor LaTrobe in 1823. There will be an event held at the reservoir on the 24th of March, organised by the Friends of Tourrourong. There are some great activities being planned, including a re-enactment of the ceremonies of the day. Whittlesea Historical Society will be there, and we’d love to meet you and hear your stories and memories of local history too. See you there!