For those of us interested in early Port Phillip society, there will be a presentation at Heidelberg Historical Society tomorrow night (Tuesday 9 April 2013) on one of the early settlers of the Port Phillip District. Thomas Wills (1800-1872) is associated with the Heidelberg district through his purchase of 176 acres in 1840 to the west of Darebin Creek, in what is now Alphington, for 3784 pounds. There he established Lucerne Farm, a double storey, stuccoed house built of locally hand-made bricks and bluestone. Richard Howitt, a neighbour described the house as:
delightfully situated on pleasant knolls and slopes. Seen from the south of the Yarra, with the garden like an English one, the widening Yarra at a distance from it and the gleam of the natural pond near it, partly hidden by trees, the landscape is very picturesque. Walking in the garden, you see natural birds which have become almost tame, so well are they protected by the owner. (Cited in Heidelberg Since 1836 p. 20)
Governor La Trobe is said to have been a frequent visitor, and the house was well known as one of the social centres of the district. Unfortunately, despite its ‘A’ classification, the house was demolished in 1960 as a car park for the La Trobe Golf Club.
Thomas Wills was a J.P. and a founding member of the Melbourne Mechanics Institute in 1839. He was no fan of the judge’s despite the ‘neighbourly’ connection and he signed a petition against Willis.
On Tuesday 9th April, Anne Marsden will speak to the Heidelberg Historical Society about Thomas Wills. She was awarded a 2013 Honorary Creative Fellowship at the State Library of Victoria to research the founding committee of the Mechanics’ Institution, which included many of the most prominent Port Phillip men of the time.
The meeting commences at 8.00 pm, Tuesday 9th April 2013 at the Ivanhoe Uniting Church Community Centre, Seddon Street Ivanhoe. Visitors are more than welcome.
Update: I’ve just found five photos of Lucerne, taken in the 1950s, when it was in very poor condition. You can see them at:
There’s other photos of Lucerne surrounded by floodwaters from the 1930s too