Tonight’s Ringwood Historical Society meeting focused on the Hunt family, a prominent Ringwood family that settled in 1901. James Hunt migrated to the Victorian goldfields around 1851 and Walter, one of his ten children, moved to Ringwood in 1901 with his wife Euphemia. The Hunts were prominent orchardists and owned land near Bedford Road and Greenwood Avenue.
Sydney Hunt, Walter’s brother, also settled in Ringwood and was a foundation member of the Ringwood Bowls Club and President in 1946 and 1947, as well as Club Champion in 1936, 1939, 1946 and 1950. Sydney was a prominent plumber and installed many of early Ringwood’s water tanks.
The orchardist theme continued with the President of the Doncaster and Templestowe Historical Society discussing the orchards of Doncaster, who were often settled by migrants with little farming experience. Despite the lack of quality soil, the orchardists produced many varieties of apples and pears, as well as stone fruit, such as peaches and nectarines.
The orchardists often picked their crops during the night so that they could load their carts and transport the fruit to Queen Victoria Market at day-break so that their produce was fresh. Six coolstores were later built within the region, which assisted in the transportation of this produce.
Doncaster was also home to Melbourne’s first tram and the first electric tramway in the southern hemisphere. The tram route was constructed between Box Hill and Doncaster along what is now Tram Road and was operated between 1889 and 1896, largely to cater to tourists who would visit Doncaster Tower, an 86 metre tower that was constructed in 1879.
The most prosperous years for the orchards were between 1920 and 1930, after which the Great Depression and World War II, led to a decline in the orchards and later to residential development.
While orchards remained prominent until the 1970s, the construction of Doncaster Shoppingtown in 1969 accelerated the suburbanisation of the area and just two orchards, located within Manningham’s green wedge, remain today.
The regional historical societies cooperate extensively with research and their archives and the two historical societies have exchanged information to further knowledge of their respective areas.