History of Ercildoune and Footscray Historical Society



National Bank of Australasia opens

The building was erected by the National Bank of Australasia on the corner of Napier and Hyde Streets, the first substantial bank building in the growing and prosperous township of Footscray. It was designed by Terry Oakden to incorporate a banking chamber, manager’s office, vault and spacious manager’s home. Contractors Goss Hopkins completed the building in 1876. Mr Alexander John Learmonth (1841-1894) was the first manager. He was born in Tasmania, and the son of Alex Learmonth, mayor of Hamilton Victoria.

Image: Ercildoune 1909 with staff of the National Bank of Australasia


National Bank Fraud Case

George Lake Onyons, a National Bank clerk was convicted of larceny of 17 Footscray borough council debentures of £100 each. Despite admitting guilt and making reparations, the young man was sentenced to 5 years hard labour.


Bank Panic

To avert a run on the banks, the Government proclaimed five unasked-for bank holidays in one week in May. The National Bank directors called upon customers to open trust accounts. Footscray Council supported Footscray’s bank manager.

Image: Argus 1 May 1893


Napier Street properties £20 per foot

Following the 1880s’ property boom many blamed the “cronk banks” for the devastating depression.


Bank manager’s residence only at 66 Napier St

The National Bank decommissioned the building at 66 Napier St, having established a branch in the Footscray shopping centre. It remained a residence for bank managers until 1940.


C B Smith’s Footscray Historical Society

Claude Belcher Smith was Footscray’s official historian for Victoria’s Centenary Celebrations. A son of pioneers George and Esther Smith, Claude ran a real estate agency with offices at 48 Pentland Parade Seddon and 23 Buckley Street Footscray. News articles refer to him as the president of the short-lived Footscray Historical Society.

Image: This photograph was taken in June 1935, to mark the centenary of John Batman’s landing on the Maribyrnong River. Claude Belcher Smith at the bow of the sailing ship holds a facsimile of the infamous treaty intended to deny Wurunderi-willam people of their land. Also on board the vessel are children from Hyde Street State School.


New owner W G Casserley

William Gregory Casserley (1890- 1967) buys 66 Napier St. It comes to be known as Ercildoune and is divided into residential flats.

Image: View from the north of Ercildoune


Footscray Town Hall meeting resolved to form the historical society

In 1968 the Town Clerk of Footscray, E. J. Smith and the City Solicitor, Ian Secomb had been the first to recognize the need for the society, and they gathered like-minded people from the business community of Footscray to discuss the matter. The public meeting held on 17 October 1968 resolved to form the historical society which was incorporated the following year.

Image: E J Smith, Footscray Town Clerk


K W Casserley sells Ercildoune

On the death of W G Casserley, Ercildoune, in a dilapidated state, was valued at $17,770. Founding members of the City of Footscray Historical Society secured a loan of $20,000 from the National Bank to purchase the building.


Building repair begins

As government funds became available contractors were employed to restore Ercildoune.

Image: Section of tessellated floor in the banking chamber which is still in need of restoration.


National Trust of Australia plaque

In 1969 the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) added Ercildoune to its register of heritage buildings. In 1980 NAB contributed funds for the bronze plaque and its engraving.

Image: Ercildoune’s NTA (Vic) Plaque


Mortgage paid off

By 1993 the Society’s title for 66 Napier St was unencumbered thanks to gala dinner fundraisers, generous donations and leasing of a good part of the building to architect Lawrence Atley.

Image: Lawrence Atley designed Footscray Town Hall extension.


Founders’ Garden

In 2001, the Founders’ Garden was created at Ercildoune. Linda Longley championed the Founders’ Garden and gathered the volunteers who undertook the work of planting out the site.

(Image: Linda Longley at Ercildoune)


Model Rules and ACNC registration

In 2016, Footscray Historical Society adopted the Model Rules with purposes “to advance culture” and successfully applied for ACNC registration as a charity.


Jubilee celebrations

Footscray Historical Society celebrated its 50 year anniversary on 21 October 2018 with a gathering at Metro West. Mayor Cuc Lam officiated and Royce Pepin AM MBE KCJS, an original executive member, was in attendance. The Society appreciates the generous support of Community Pitch Partners and Hop Nation brewery for making this event so successful.