Origin of Place Names Toolangi and Castella
by Bernie Miller
Previous names and origin of the name Toolangi
Toolangi and Mount Rose
On commencing research for this article, there were many comments, locally and online, that the Toolangi district had been known as Mount Rose up until the 1890s. This information is shared on the online tourist sites, such as ‘Visit Yarra Valley’ and ‘Hey-Australia’, as well as real estate agents selling property in the area and the en-academic.com web site. All accompany their assertion with the same statement: ‘It is believed the area was known as Mt Rose up until the 1890s’. For the purpose of this article, I searched for reliable information that could be cross referenced to support this statement, but could find nothing online to support this statement, including Trove records. In the current COVID climate, Further access to resources and records held by Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) and State Library Victoria (SLV), specifically records that are not online, is not currently available. If and when we can establish the veracity of Toolangi district at any time being originally called Mount Rose, we will update this article.
Toolangi as the Yea River Settlement
The first formal naming of the Toolangi area found online is in 1889 (Herald, 20 November 1889), when it was referred to as the Yea River Settlement. The use of this as the name for the district can be found in numerous newspaper articles, council correspondences and advertisements through to late 1892, when the name Toolangi began displacing it in documents and articles. This is consistent with the period in which blocks of land in and around what is the present Toolangi township were surveyed by the government surveyor and offered for sale under the name Toolangi.
The person at the centre of the Yea River Settlement naming in 1889 was managing director of the Yea River Company, Albert E. Walkeden. He emerges from research as a forceful land boomer, organising syndicates and campaigning for investment and political support with politicians and through various local and Melbourne newspaper advertisements and articles (via Trove). The first article in the Herald, 20 November 1889, describes a meeting at the Yea River Settlement site (present-day Toolangi), to which Walkeden had invited 20 influential people from Melbourne. The Yea River Company was seeking lease of 20,000 acres either side of the Yea River and a further 1200 acres with right of purchase, lying at the bottom of the valley, to be utilised for settlement purposes. This is the first online record identified of a proposed permanent settlement at Toolangi and the settlement was to be the proposed site of the headquarters of the Yea River Company, the principal sawmill, workshops and supply store. Further, the company planned for the Yea River Settlement to be the terminus of a proposed narrow-gauge railway, to be connected to Yarra Flats (Yarra Glen). The guests were told that the area had chocolate soil capable of producing anything, stone suitable for building existed in large quantities and there were deposits of brick clay and lime and abundant water. While the company was principally involved with timber and railway construction, it recognised the tourist and settler potential of the area. The potential of the settlement was promoted to engage the favour of the Melbourne audience. Walkeden spoke of the railway commerce and tourism potential, and confided that a hotel was to be erected on site, near the river, amid the woodland scenery.
Walkeden’s promise, at the meeting in 1889, of a hotel being built at the Yea River Settlement, surfaced at the end of 1891. The Lilydale Express, 27 November 1891, and the Yea Chronicle, 10 December 1891, reported that on 24 November Walkeden had applied for a Roadside Victualler’s Licence for premises situated at the Yea River Settlement, Parish of Tarrawarra North. Walkeden originally called the hotel Ye Olde Queens Heade Ynne (Argus, 21 April 1893) and he changed this name within a few years to Toolangi House Hotel. This hotel survived for 83 years and burned down in April 1975.
Through the early 1890s to 1892, many and various newspaper articles and advertisements carried the name Yea River Settlement for the district. For example, The Lilydale Express, 22 April 1892, carried an advertisement calling for tenders for falling and hauling of logs for the Yea River Company’s sawmill for three months: contact Whip Ellis, mill manager, Yea River Settlement. The Weekly Times, 4 September 1892, carried an article on further discussion of the proposal to construct a tramway from Yarra Glen to the Yea River Settlement.
The change of name from Yea River Settlement to Toolangi is first found online in September 1892, when Alfred Ernest Walkeden, agriculturalist and sawmiller of Toolangie (sic), near Yarra Glen, was served insolvency notices, with sources citing pressure of creditors and the commercial depression (Australasian, 10 September 1892; Argus, 22 September 1892; Herald, 6 September 1892). This is our earliest online record of the use of Toolangi as the name for the district. However, the name Yea River Settlement was still being used through to 1895, sometimes in tandem, as Toolangi, Yea River Settlement. For example, the Lilydale Express, 16 November 1894, has an article describing various places in the Yarra Valley and surrounds: ‘…On the left, the Great Dividing Range, rising tier upon tier, until the high elevation of the Yea River Settlement is reached.’ The name is used in combination with Toolangi in the Lilydale Express, 8 February 1895, in an article reporting on the Eltham Shire Council meeting, which mentions ‘Mr Walkeden, of Toolangi, Yea River Settlement, rates issue discussed’.
Origin of the name Toolangi
The context of the selection of the name Toolangi, or people responsible for that selection, has not yet been identified. Toolangi was mostly in the Shire of Yea in its earliest history and early Yea Shire Council records were destroyed in a fire (Pockett, 2021b). Further information may possibly be accessed when the Public Records Office is available for public searches, post COVID restrictions. An assertion we do now know to be incorrect, is the origin of the name Toolangi is an Aboriginal word which means tall trees. This has been a widely held belief in the community and is stated on the websites of many organisations, including our local Toolangi-Castella Community House. It has been quoted online by politicians, various environmental groups, and a number of tourist organisations and real estate agents.
Toolangi-Castella is on Taungurung and Woiwurrung countries. In the language of the Taungurung, Dhulangi (pronounced Toolangi) means stringybark tree. Dhulangi was a very important resource to the Taungurung, as it was used to construct yilam (shelters), weave binak (baskets) and to make string (Healy, 2011). In Australia, most Aboriginal languages have been written using a phonemic orthography, i.e. a set of conventions using the sounds of words for writing a language (NESA, 2021). As an example, early records of the Taungurung language record it as Daungwurrung. Taungurung language is very closely related to the language of the neighbouring Woiwurrung (Wurundjeri) from the Yarra Valley, as both are part of the Kulin Nation and many words, including the word Dhulangi, are shared (Wurundjeri Land Council, 2021; Wesson, 2001).
Origin of the name Castella
Castella was named for the de Castella family. Paul de Castella was a pioneer of viticulture and winemaking in Victoria. He came from Switzerland and, in 1850, purchased the lease on Yering Station, a run of 30,000 acres (12,140 hectares) held by the Ryrie family (Paul de Castella Wiki, 2021). In this period, the overwhelming majority of pastoral land was controlled by a relatively small group of squatters. Following the gold rush of the 1850s, demand for land grew and the Victorian Land Acts of the 1860s attempted to redress this situation by putting up the lease holdings for selection for sale to small landholders. The first Acts of 1860 and 1862 did not achieve their full intent, as many squatters purchased blocks in their own name or in the name of their relatives or using dummy bidders. Paul de Castella was not among them and relinquished all but 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of the original Yering Station (Horn, 1969). He subsequently selected and purchased a further 320 acres (129.5 hectares) at what is present day Castella, an area north of the present Kinglake-Healesville Road, stretching down to the Yea River.
The de Castella family did not permanently settle at Castella, but they did build a large holiday house on the property, which they used regularly over many years and they called this property their Muddy Creek Farm, Muddy Creek being the original name of the Yea River. This house was located above the Yea River, on the slope of the hillside behind present-day Banksia Court. Two current long-time residents in their 70s, Jan Williams of the Singing Gardens and Dennis (Herb) Cherry, have told me separate stories of going to visit the ruins of the old de Castella holiday house as children (Williams, 2020; Cherry, 2021). Jan Williams was a child visitor to Castella, many years before she moved to Toolangi as a young adult. Herb Cherry spent much of his childhood living in Castella near his family’s sawmill, close to the site of the old holiday house. The ruins have long since disappeared, perhaps due to bushfires over the years. This appears to be the first home constructed in the Toolangi-Castella area.
Mention of the location of Paul de Castella’s selection is found in local and Melbourne newspaper articles from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. For example, The Healesville Guardian & Yarra Glen Guardian, 12 November1898, in an article on the Yea River Railway League, mentions representatives Beech, Christopherson, Bjorksten, Downey, Rose and Smedley presenting a case for a railway extension to be put through from Yarra Glen to Mr Paul de Castella’s selection near Yea River Gap (present-day Castella), to provide access to rail for both Toolangi and Kinglake. An early map of Tarrawarra North Parish from the early 1900s indicates Christopherson, Smedley and Bjorksten originally owned land north of and running down to the Yea River, in what was then Woodburne, but is now classed by Murrindindi Shire as Castella (McClements, 2021). These blocks were a short distance from the de Castella property. On 14 December 1898, The Age newspaper reported a further meeting of support for the railway extension was held with the Minister for Railways, with a deputation from the Shires of both Yea and Eltham and this included J. Quinlan who was President of Yea Shire, Paul de Castella, H. Rintell (then lessee of Toolangi House Hotel) and G. Knott. The Age reported that the Minister was prepared to submit the matter to the Railways Standing Committee for consideration. (Pockett, 2021a).
Alec Prentice Sewell (1909-2003), author and philanthropist, of Teamsters Hill at Toolangi, who spent family holidays at his own family property in Toolangi throughout his childhood and eventually lived in Toolangi for much of his later adult years, mentions one of these men from the Yea River Railway League, Christopherson, in his memoirs of Toolangi. Christopherson he describes as ‘…the Norwegian dynamo who fathered the Castella break away from Toolangi’ (Sewell, 1992). This suggests that Christopherson was involved with the recognition of Castella as a district distinct from Toolangi and he was likely to have been involved with the naming of the district. This would have been ratified by the Yea Shire. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, some of the early records of the Yea Shire council were lost in a fire and they include records of early Castella, which would have recorded the naming of the district (Pockett, 2021b). Therefore, records on Christopherson were explored to substantiate his early involvement with the Castella community.
Further research showed that in 1900, Abraham Christopherson is recorded as a member of the Kinglake Fruit Growers Preserving Company, a fruit pulping and jam factory co-operative based at Kinglake, which was pulping raspberries, gooseberries and plums grown on the local farms for jam. The co-operative had 47 members, mostly Kinglake farmers, but some farmers can be identified as coming from what is now Castella, by matching names on maps and other records. Articles in the Yea Chronicle of 1907 (Yea Chronicle, 1907a, 1907b) mention Abraham Christopherson and other delegates petitioning the Yea Council to repair the bridge over the Yea River and to make the road to link Toolangi and Glenburn (including the present Castella Road). He is also mentioned in some early newspaper accounts prior to the First World War, as president of the Toolangi Progress Association. Local newspaper articles attesting Abraham Christopherson’s advocacy for the local community and on behalf of rate payers, can be found right through to 1934, where he and other locals petitioned the Healesville Council to pressure the Country Roads Board to construct the unmade section of Castella Road (Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 1934) and effect bridge repairs. Toolangi and Castella had been annexed from Yea Shire to Healesville Shire in 1924 (Symonds, 1982).
Abraham Christopherson was the first Castella Postmaster and remained in this position from the inception of the temporary post office at Castella School in 1917, through its years in the post office building across the road from the school up to 1935, when the position passed to his sister-in-law, Mrs F. Brenda (Pockett [n.d.]). He is also acknowledged in the Healesville and Yarra Glen Guardian (1927), at the Arbor Day presentation, as the Chairman of the Castella School committee.
Paul de Castella died in 1903 (Horn, 1969) and the Castella property passed to Eleonore Fairlie de Castella, Paul’s daughter and oldest child. Vision and Realisation, the official history of schools in Victoria, notes that in 1917 Miss E. F. de Castella donated an acre of her land in Castella to the Castella School League, a group from local families who built a schoolroom 25 ft x 18 ft, as a site for the Castella School (Blake, 1973). Christopherson was one of those local families. The Education Department purchased a further two acres from her, to extend the school grounds (Blake, 1973). Clearly from these records, the district was called Castella before 1917, prior to the donation of the land by Miss de Castella and prior to the erection of the Castella school. Eleonore Fairlie de Castella died in on 5 February 1942 and the property passed to her cousin, Hubert’s de Castella’s daughter, Louisa Madelaine de Castella, who died in 1957 (Yarra Glen Cemetery, 2021).
A 1945 Kinglake map (Kinglake Map, 1945) shows Christopherson’s property was 120 acres, bordered by present Castella Road to the east, the present Healesville-Kinglake Road to the south (on the map Crook Road runs through Christopherson’s property and divides his property into blocks 75b1 and 75b2), and immediately north of Christopherson’s block is block 75, a property of almost 200 acres belonging to Miss L. de Castella. The block numbering indicates that Christopherson’s land is part of the original de Castella land and therefore part of the selection owned by Paul de Castella, and that at some point the de Castellas sold the block to Christopherson.
From the evidence of Christopherson’s advocacy to establish and support a distinct Castella district and his associations with the de Castella family, it seems quite plausible that the name Castella may have been proposed originally by Christopherson. However, as the relevant records from the Yea Shire have been destroyed, it is not possible to confirm this. If we can at a later date establish this as fact, we will update this article.
‘Arbor Day Castella State School’ (1927) Healesville and Yarra Glen Guardian, 16 July 1927, from Trove, the National Library of Australia, Australian Newspaper Digitization
Blake, L. J. (1973) Vision & Realisation: A Centenary History of State Education in Victoria, Vols 1-3, Melbourne, Education Department of Victoria
Cherry, D. (2021) Personal Communication, Toolangi-Castella History Project
Eltham Shire Council Meeting (1895) Lilydale Express, 8 February 1895, via Trove
Hawkins, D. (comp.) Kinglake: A Collected History of the Kinglake District, Kinglake, Victoria, Kinglake Historical Society
Healesville Shire Council minutes (1934) Healesville & Yarra Glen Guardian, 29 September 1934, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/60451577
Healy, L. (ed.) (2011) Liwik-nganjin-al Ngula-dhan Yaawinbu Yananinon: Taungurung Dictionary, Brunswick, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages
Horn, K.A.R. (1969) ‘Castella, Paul Frederic de (1827–1903)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/castella-paul-frederic-de-3337/text4763, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 29 August 2021
Insolvency Notices Walkeden (1892) Herald, 6 September 1892; Australasian, 10 September 1892; Argus, 22 September 1892, via Trove
Kinglake Map (1945) Counties of Evelyn & Anglesea, Melbourne, Government Printer, https://viewer.slv.vic.gov.au/?entity=IE9594459&mode=browse
Licensing Application Walkeden (1891) Yea Chronicle, 10 December 1891; Lilydale Express, 27 November 1891, via Trove
New South Wales Government Education Standards Authority (NESA) (2021) The Sounds and Writing Systems of Aboriginal Languages, https://ab-ed.nesa.nsw.edu.au/go/aboriginal-languages/practical-advice/the-sounds-and-writing-systems-of-aboriginal-languages
Paul de Castella (updated 2021) in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_de_Castella
Pockett, D. (2021a) ‘The Yea River Railway League’, Toolangi-Castella History web site, https//ToolangiCastellaHistory.org
Pockett, D. (2021b) Personal Communication, Toolangi-Castella Local History Project discussion
Pockett, R. (n.d.) Letter to J. Priestley on Castella Post Office, shared with Toolangi-Castella Local History Project
Proposed Tramway (1892) Weekly Times, 4 September 1892, via Trove
Sewell, A. (1992) Memories of Toolangi, a personal history written for the Healesville Historical Society
Symonds, S. (1982) Healesville: History in the Hills, Lilydale, Vic, Pioneer Design Studio Pty. Ltd.
Tarrawarra North Parish Map (1908) accessed 2021 from records of Cherry/Lawrence families, courtesy of Heather McClements
Victorian Licensing Act and Amendments (1890, 1900, 1906) Roadside Victualler’s Licence, http://classic.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/hist_act/la1906104.pdf
Wesson, S. (2001) Aboriginal Flora and Fauna Names of Victoria, Northcote, Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages
Williams, J. (2021) Personal Communication, Toolangi-Castella History Project
Wurundjeri Land Council (2021) Language and Naming, https://www.wurundjeri.com.au/services/language-naming
Yarra Glen Cemetery (2021) https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/2325416/yarra-glen-cemetery
Ye Queens Heade Ynne (1893) Argus, 21 April 1893, via Trove
Yea Council Minutes Report (1907a) Yea Chronicle, 8 August 1907, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/60451577
Yea Council Minutes Report (1907b) Yea Chronicle, 19 September 1907, via Trove
Yea River Railway League (1898) Healesville Guardian & Yarra Glen Guardian, 12 November 1898, via Trove
Yea River Railway League (1898) The Age, 15 December 1898, via Trove
Yea River Settlement (1889) Herald, 20 November 1889, via Trove
Yea River Tramway Proposal (1892) Lilydale Express, 22 April 1892, via Trove
Yarra Valley and Surrounds (1894) Lilydale Express, 16 November 1894, via Trove