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Name Origins in Rowville – Lysterfield

Name Origins of Places in Rowville and Lysterfield

First printed in “The Knox Historian” Vol 2 No 1 and reprinted with the permission of the Knox Historical Society.

Corhanwarrabul Creek

The name “Corhanwarrabul” (commonly pronounced corhan-warrabul with a silent ‘h’ but regarded as incorrect by the archaeologist, Eric Willacy, who pronounces it cor-hana-warrabul) has been widely used in the Knox area. Mt Dandenong was first known as Mt Corhanwarrabul, a name which persisted until the turn of the century.

The first white settler of Knox, James Clow, named his run ‘Corhanwarrabul’. In more recent times, Sir George Knox established a Corhanwarrabul Polo Club which operated between the wars.

The creek which flows through Scoresby and crosses Stud Road at the twin bridges near Caribbean Gardens bears the only use of the name today. The creek, in fact, was originally named the Narra Narrawong Creek in 1840 by the surveyor T.H. Nutt. The date of the change of name is not known.

The spelling of Corhanwarrabul has had many variations. T.H. Nutt in his 1839 survey of the Yarra River referred to the mountain as Corren Warabille and Daniel Bunce called it Korenth Marabool. An explanation for this may lie in the diverse English accents of the men who traversed the area who had no written aboriginal language to guide them in the spelling of aboriginal words they heard.

The meaning of Corhanwarrabul is uncertain. Helen Coulson in The Story of the Dandenongs suggests it means a desirable and attractive place, replete with birds flying, kangaroos jumping and lyrebirds singing. Muriel McGivern in Aboriginal of the Dandenong Mountain thinks that its name could mean, instead, “one of the two large humps in the range,” a reference to the Corhanwarrabul peak being just below Mt Dandenong, known today as Burke’s Lookout. Les Blake in Place Names of Victoria offers a third alternative meaning, “one of the feathered tribe”.

Dandenong Creek

The following notes are taken from Muriel McGivern’s book ‘Founder of the Dandenongs’.

There has always been much speculation about the meaning of the word Dandenong. The aboriginal word banyenong comes from banye (a burning) and nong (the past) an appropriate reference to the Dandenongs after bush fires. The surveyors of the 1830s and 1840s recorded many variations of this word – ‘Tanjenong’, ‘Tangynon’ and ‘Bangeong’ – all seem to be interpretations of the aboriginal word.

Problems were caused in the translation because the aborigines slurred English sounds, especially “B”, “T” and “D”.

Muriel argues that “Dandenong” may not in fact mean “high” in the dialect of the local aboriginals as is indicated in most works. Rather, the aborigines of the area when interrogated, most probably meant that the creek came from a high place.

Monbulk Creek

Monbulk Creek was originally known as Dargon’s Creek after the pioneer pastoralist Thomas Dargon who arrived in the 1850s. The name Monbulk appears to have come from an aboriginal word Monbolloc meaning a hiding place in the hills. Monbolloc consists of two aboriginal words, “mon” meaning magic and “bolloc” a pond or lake. This is reference to the nearby springs and their medicinal properties, thus the “ponds with magic powers”. (Muriel McGivern uses the spelling Mun Boolok ). Modern day Monbulk is believed to be the area which aborigines used as a sanctuary, bringing their wounded and sick to be healed at the springs. Nathania Springs and Coonara Springs Restaurant remain as indications of the location of these springs.


The area called Lysterfield on the southern boundary of Knox was originally covered by the pastoral run known as Monbulk. As the pioneer selectors moved in it became known as part of Narree Warren, though the locals referred to it as ‘The Flats’.

This title continued until the mid 1870s when the name Lysterfield was adopted at a public meeting. As with Rowville, the suggestion was made as a compliment to a famous local personality William Saurin Lyster, who was a pioneer in draining the Monbulk Creek flats and turning the land into the rich dairying country it still is today.


The history of Rowville can be traced back to 1838 when James Clow established his pastoral run “Corhanwarrabul” and built his homestead “Tirhatuan” near Wellington Road on the banks of Dandenong Creek. Yet it too, like so many localities in Knox, has only been known by its present name during the 20th century.

It was originally regarded as part of Narre Warren, being in the parish of that name, but became part of Lysterfield in the early 1870s.

The name “Rowville” was adopted in 1903 at the suggestion of Nick Bergin, the local blacksmith as a compliment to the Row family whose property ‘Stamford Park’ had been the focal point of the district since the 1880s.

Tirhatuan Golf Course

Tirhatuan (correctly pronounced “tirha-tuan”) was the name James Clow gave to the homestead he erected in 1841. The homestead stood on a rise on the east side of Dandenong Creek near Wellington Road and the site has been excavated by the Archaeological Society of Victoria.

The name “tirhatuan” is generally thought to be an aboriginal word referring to the “flying or gliding possums” which once abounded in the area. However, Ann Hamilton in her 1938 biography of James Clow, argued that it refers to the “cry of the wild pigeon”.

Police Paddocks

The reserve along Stud Road known as the “Police Paddocks” obtained its name from the area’s long association with police work going back to 1837 when the first Native Police Force was established and based on the site.

In later years, a second Native Police Force operated under Captain Dana from 1842 to 1853, after which the police used the property to breed and agist the thousands of horses needed for police work.

In 1879, black trackers were brought down from Queensland to assist in the Ned Kelly hunt. They continued to be stationed there until the 1920s when the property was vacated by the Police Department.  In 1930, 1720 acres were proclaimed as a public reserve to be known as the “Police Paddocks”.

Churchill National Park

The area which the National Park covers was once part of the Native Police Depot and later the Police Horse Stud. In 1939, 476 acres of the hilly north-east section of the Police Paddocks were reserved for a National Park and in 1943 the Dandenong National Park was proclaimed. In 1944 the name was altered to Churchill National Park as a tribute to Sir Winston Churchill.

C.E. Exner Memorial Park

This reserve in Scoresby, which includes the Scoresby Oval, tennis courts and netball courts, was named in honour of Carl Erenfreid Exner for his lifelong work for the Scoresby community.

Exner came to Rowville from Mulgrave about 1900 and was one of the first market gardeners in the Knox area. For many years after the Great War, the major local fund raising activities were held in his barn, with music provided by Exner himself on his accordion.

As a result of these functions, the Scoresby Hall was erected in 1924 and the Scoresby Oval purchased and opened in 1925.

He remained active throughout his life in local sporting teams, playing in the first cricket team in 1925 and being on the executive committee of the football club when it began in 1925 and when it was reconstituted in 1946.

Heany Park

The old swimming pool and surrounds were named after Thomas Moore Heany who began his career with the Shire of Ferntree Gully in 1906 when he was appointed Acting Secretary. In the following 40 years he served as the Clerk of Works and Value (1911-1921) and then as the Shire Engineer (1921-1947) until he moved to the Shire of Mulgrave.

His association with Heany Park went back to 1924 when the Water Supply Commission still operated the 300,000 gallon storage basin (built in 1894) which linked the Belgrave Reservoir with Dandenong.

In 1940 he arranged with Cr. Violet Lambert for a ten year lease of the pipeline for the benefit of Lysterfield farmers. In 1952, the Council purchased the pipeline rather than see it dismantled and later use of Heany Park ensured that the purchase price was more than covered.

Benedikt Park

Rosa Benedikt owned Scoresby’s oldest remaining house, “Glennifer”, from 1946 to 1970. In 1959 she was responsible for the sub-division of the property for housing, naming it “Glennifer Farms”. This is the area bounded by O’Connor Road and Stud Road.

Most of the streets in the sub-division are named after members of her family – Zerfas, Armin and Benedikt are, for example, the names of her three husbands!

The line of pine trees along the park’s eastern boundary was once part of the property and led to a large dam at the northern end of where the park now is.

Caribbean Gardens

A.W. Spooner acquired 300 acres of land at Scoresby in 1945 which he named “Dalmore Park” and where he built a French Provincial mansion.

In 1958, whilst overseas, he noticed a new material, fibreglass, and realised its potential in the boat-building industry. Soon after, he established the Caribbean Boat Factory. It soon became necessary to have a lake for testing the boats and in the early 1960s Lake Caribbean was created. It was subsequently opened to the public and developed by one of his sons, Rod Spooner, as Caribbean Gardens.

First published in the Knox Historian Vol 2 No 1. Republished in the May 1993 edition of the Rowville-Lysterfield Community News.

Source: Rowville Lyster

Discover the history of Rowville & Lysterfield

This article is not intended to be a ‘potted’ history of Rowville and Lysterfield. Rather it is intended to  whet your appetites for finding out more about the district’s past by briefly indicating people and  topics that can be read about from the extensive local history resources kept at the Rowville Library.

The Rowville and Lysterfield area has a fascinating history. It was first settled by Europeans in 1837,  only two years after John Batman founded the settlement of Melbourne on the banks of the Yarra  River.

In October 1837, Captain William Lonsdale who was in charge of the infant settlement directed that land in the district of “Nerre Nerre Warrene” be set aside for a depot for a native police corps. Early survey maps show this land to have covered an area of about six square miles. It extended from the present line of Police Road in the north to Heatherton Road in the south and from the present Gladstone Road to the west (in North Dandenong) to deep into the Lysterfield Hills to the east. The depot itself was established on a hill east of what was then called the “Dangynon” or “Dangy Nong” Creek in what is now the Police Paddocks.

The initial Native Police Corps under the leadership of Captain De Villiers was not successful. However, in 1842 Superintendent LaTrobe appointed Captain Henry Dana to re-establish the Corps. Dana was a tough, resourceful leader who welded the Corps into a disciplined unit that saw active service all over Victoria or, more correctly, the territory that was then called the Port Phillip District of New South Wales.

Thus the Corps from its base in the Police Paddocks was involved in the history of settlements throughout Victoria. Because of that involvement there are very extensive official records of its activities and personnel. More about the Corps can be found in Les Blake’s small and easily read book “Captain Dana and the Native Police Force” available at the Rowville Library.

There were plenty of dramatic moments at the Native Police Depot. In July 1849, bad feeling between W.H. Walsh, second in command at the depot, and Superintendent William Dana led to attempted murder.

Walsh had become jealous because of Dana’s attentions to Mrs Walsh and one day as Dana assisted the lady to dismount from her horse, Walsh drew his pistol and shot him. The bullet passed through Dana’s body but he survived to make a generous plea for mercy for his attacker at Walsh’s trial.

As a result of this Walsh received the comparatively light sentence of seven years.

The Corps was finally disbanded in 1852 but the depot became a stud for police horses and, later, horses for other authorities such as the fire brigades.

Rev James Clow settled here in 1838 (to the north east of the bridge over Dandenong Creek in Wellington Road). He got on well with the local aborigines and was appointed as an official protector by Governor LaTrobe.

John Wood Beilby bought the Corhanwarrabul run from Clow in 1850. He had been an explorer and claimed to have made the first discovery of gold in Victoria (at Navarre near Stawell). He established the first saw mill in the Dandenongs but had to close it down because of the competition of cheaper timber from Tasmania.

The district was part of the hunting grounds of the Yarra Yarra and Westernport tribes. You can find out a great deal about them through the reports of the dedicated Protector of Aborigines, William Thomas (after whom Thomas Street in Dandenong is named).

James Clow taught one of the tribesmen whom he named Jack Weatherly to use a rifle to shoot game – including lyre birds – for the Clow family.

The story of the decline of the tribes following European settlement is a very sad one.

Many stories of the original inhabitants of the district still survive. One is a legend about an aboriginal boy named Billoo. On hearing that a ship carrying white men had arrived in the bay, he walked beside the Corhanwarrabul and Dandenong Creeks until he reached the seashore. It is believed that there he met the giant runaway convict William Buckley and that many years later he came in contact with John Batman’s party and assisted them in their dealings with the native tribesmen.

When the Kelly Gang was thumbing its nose at the law in the 1880s, aboriginal trackers were brought from Queensland to assist in locating the outlaws. A group of trackers was stationed at the Police Paddocks up until the 1930s.

The first sale of Crown land within what is now the City of Knox was for land in Rowville. This occurred in October 1855. The sale was not successful with only three lots being purchased. However, it is interesting to note that an area designated then as a village site has now become the Stud Park Shopping Centre.

One of the allotments bought at the sale extended from the corner of Stud and Wellington Roads south to the Dandenong Creek (including the site of the present SEC station). The purchaser was a cigar merchant, Julius Politz, who named his property Kilcatten Park. He planted forty acres of tobacco there and employed several families who established a small settlement on the creek. A very old pear tree is all that remains now of that little community of homes.

The district was originally known as “Nerre Nerre Warrene” which was an aboriginal term interpreted as meaning “no good water”. The Lysterfield area came to be known as “The Flats” until about the mid 1870s when one of the earliest selectors, William Lyster, donated land to be used for a school site. When the locals were asked what name they wanted the school to be called they chose “Lysterfield” in honour of William Lyster’s generosity. The name was gradually used for the whole area including what is now known as Rowville.

In 1903 the blacksmith, Nick Bergin, whose forge was near the corner of Stud and Wellington Roads, decided to petition the government to establish a postal service to the area. (Mail had to be picked up at Scoresby up to that time.) Permission was given and Nick was asked to provide a name for the Post Office. He chose “Rowville” to honour the Row family of Stamford Park. The family, with its large stable of horses, was Nick’s biggest customer.

James Quirk was the original purchaser of the property later named Stamford Park and he sold to Frederick Row senior in 1858. Frederick had been born in the village of Bourne in the county of Lincolnshire, England in 1825. The village of Stamford is about ten miles south of Bourne. Frederick and his cousin, Richard Goldsborough, came to Melbourne as young men and established prosperous businesses in the wool trade. Stamford Park passed to Frederick’s second son, Edward, who in 1882 built Stamford House. Edward bred racehorses, jumping horses and remounts which were exported to India where they were in demand for the Indian Army. At Christmas time and during the spring racing season the house was filled with guests. Because of failing health, Edward sold the property to Thomas O’Keefe in 1909. He died a year later at the age of 54.
+ Edward Row’s most famous horse was Mahonga whose name is recalled in Mahonga Drive that runs off Lakeview Avenue. He won many jumping prizes at shows including a fifty pound first prize at the Royal Melbourne Show. Other top class horses owned by Edward were Jess and Cedric. Jess cleared a jump of six feet six inches at the 1893 Melbourne Show. Tragically, most of the horses were killed when the stables caught fire in 1901. There were excellent horses down the road in the Police Paddocks such as the imported thoroughbred stallions Woolaton, Valiant and Gersey.

The most famous of the district’s horses, however, was undoubtedly Mosstrooper owned by Gus Powell of Lysterfield. Mosstrooper was an extraordinary racehorse and many good judges have rated him as the greatest jumper ever bred in Australia. In the space of twelve months (between August 1929 and August 1930) he won five of the nation’s top jumping races: the Australian Hurdle and Steeplechase double at Caulfield in August 1929, the Grand National Hurdle and Steeplechase double at Flemington in July 1930 and, a month later, the Australian Hurdle at Caulfield for the second year in succession

The only thing that stopped Mosstrooper winning in later years were the huge weights imposed on him by the handicapper. Even so, he still managed places. For example, he ran third in the 1932 VRC Steeplechase carrying 12 stone 7 pounds (79.5kg). In those days too he was not jumping the brush fences used today but obstacles such as stone walls and log fences. The Mosstrooper Hurdle is run each May in his honour at Caulfield.

Mosstrooper was retired in 1934 following the death of his owner and spent the rest of his days at the family’s Lysterfield property, “Netherlea”. The gallant horse is buried on the property, his headstone reading:

Here Lies Mosstrooper
Best Horse Ever
1921 – 1946
+ Rowville and Lysterfield have often been used as locations for the filming of TV episodes especially some of the old police shows such as Matlock Police. All of the outdoor scenes in the TV series “Rush” starring John Waters were shot in the valley behind Churchill National Park, north of Churchill Park Drive. A “tent town” was constructed there and traces of it can still be found in the valley.
+ Churchill National Park with its area of only 193 hectares is Victoria’s smallest National Park. However, since its linkage with Lysterfield Lake Park in 1994, the total area has been greatly enlarged. Churchill Park was originally part of the area set aside in 1837 for the Native Police Corps depot. In the 1930s the area was declared a National Park with the name Dandenong National Park. In 1944 at the height of the Second World War it was renamed Churchill National Park in honour of the famous British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
+ There have been two points of discussion in Rowville for many, many years: when will Wellington Road be duplicated and will there be a rail link to Rowville. Well, way back in 1912 Rowville had a railway – but not for passengers. The line was established to transport stone for road making from a quarry located just inside the present northern fence line of Churchill National Park. Dandenong Council invested 4,000 pounds in the project. A large steam engine was set up on site to power the crusher and the concrete foundations are still visible there today. Stone was fed from the crusher into side-tipping wagons, each of which held 2.6 cubic yards. A “train” of three wagons descended by gravity along a two foot gauge iron track past the site of the Native Police Depot before crossing Dandenong Creek. At this point horses hauled the trucks towards the intersection of Brady and Stud Roads where the stone was tipped into large hopper bins. From the bins the stone dropped into six wagons which were pulled into Dandenong by a steam traction engine known as “Lizzie”. Because of its great weight it could only negotiate Stud Road in the dry summer months. Rising costs and the dwindling quantity of good quality stone caused the closure of the venture and with it Rowville’s only railway in 1915.

More about this piece of local history can be read in a booklet entitled “Scoresby Tramways” available at the Rowville Library.
+ In the late 1970s the site of James Clow’s homestead, “Tirhatuan”, was excavated by the Archaeological Society of Victoria. It would seem that most of the original building had collapsed by the late 1860s with the exception of a stable that may have lasted until about 1930. The dig revealed the existence of a large house with stone footings, slab walls and a large number of heavy timber poles supporting an iron roof. The house had an earthen floor and some of the walls were up to ninety centimetres (three feet) thick. These walls were built with a stone core faced with mud bricks. There were three separate buildings: the original timber slab hut, the later main house which was surrounded by a side verandah and then a much later construction which appears to have been the stable. The collapse of the house covered a store containing about 80 bottles. The bottles enabled the archaeologists to accurately date the site. Many of the artefacts discovered at Tirhatuan can be viewed at the Visitors’ Centre at Jells Park.
+ The Rowville Drive-In Theatre was built on land owned by Jack Finn between Stud Road and Bergins Road. The giant screen stood on the present site of the Baton Rouge Motel. The Drive-In was built in 1956 and photos of the ticket box at that time show the large Olympic decorations as it was the time of the Melbourne Games. The Drive-In was a great success and a good film on a warm weekend caused traffic jams. Irene Gilligan remembered the queue of cars sometimes extending well up Stud Road beyond the Wellington Road intersection.
Bryan Power