The Shire of Mornington 1978 – 2018
NARRATOR: Fergus Nutt a local business man and his father have been involved in the Mount Martha area since the 1950’s. Fergus please will you tell us how Mount Martha House has been involved in the development of the village.
Fergus Nutt: The Community Centre has been a focal point for our Community. In 1978 the local residents were concerned about the state of the house. The Mount Martha Citizens League under President John Pingario, Barbara Strickland and Maureen Floyd petitioned the Federal Government to sell it to the then Mornington Shire Council (now Mornington Peninsula Shire). The then local MP, Philip Lynch and Mayor Robin Cooper presided over the sale.
Mount Martha CFA Foundation member & gardener at Glynt Manor, Bob Barker, under the patronage of Dame Mabel Brooks who owned the property, delivered milk and butter to Mount Martha House and local residents. Upon retirement Bob was given his own home to live in, and is survived by his son Peter and his grandchildren , who previously Captained the Mount Martha CFA. Many sports and community groups have had rental agreements at Mount Martha House over long periods such as the Mount Martha Tennis Club, Lapidary Club & Mount Martha School of Dance. The Mornington – Mount Martha Model railway uses the top floor rooms where a model railway winds its way through the space.
Mount Martha House Community Centre was opened on 4th August 1979 by Mayor Don Gordon J.P, who was then Shire President, to be used for education purposes.
Narrator: Councillor David Gill who lived in Mount Martha at the time, was the Shire of Mornington representative.
Local resident Frank Pingario who owned the garage near the corner of Watsons Road with his brother John, together purchased Mount Martha’s first fire truck in 1942. This was housed in one of the bungalows where the white cottage stands, as well as being used at Balcombe Army Camp. Once in 1947, while at Balcombe Army Camp, there was a fire near Mount Martha House and the truck was unable to be attended as it was too far away!
Councilor David Gill: In 1997 the Shire of Mornington appointed a Committee of Management of Shire employees and local Councillors, house-users and residents and they employed a Booking Officer, Barbara Strickland who managed the house renting to community club and sporting groups. Booking Officers were Diane Burness, Shire employee Laurel Hughes and Margaret Woodcock McLean.
Narrator: The Committee of Management continues to operate. Previous Presidents include among others, Bruce Rayment, Alan MacDonald, Harry Harris, and from 2014, Bob Davies.
The first Caretaker in 1979 was Corporal R Jones, who had use of the bungalow, but paid his own power and gas, for the first 3 months. He was followed by Caretaker Len Tourney came to live there in 1979 until 1990.
1978 plans show areas of the house planned for the Shire Library and maternal health clinic followed by plans to sell the building it and turn it into a modern Motel. Community objection was very strong, so the plan was an idea only.
The 5 bungalows at the rear were falling into disrepair, one housed the CFA fire truck, Another housed the wood pile. A third was consecrated as St Martins Anglican Chapel. All were demolished in 1990, when a roundabout was installed on the Esplanade at the entrance to the property. At the same time a new white weatherboard caretaker’s cottage was built, but without insulation. The garages on Kilburn Gr were removed, and more tennis courts were constructed.
The current grassed area is NOT the Parade Ground, it was the croquet lawns and netball courts. At the same time the wine cellars behind the kitchen were blocked in around at the same time Each December 23, the community gathers to celebrate the festive season & sing carols.
The old house built at the rear in 1900 for housing the hotels staff, located in the current rear car park was demolished.
2016 saw the Mount Martha Primary School “Park and Ride” program.
The Mount Martha Citizens League who had persuaded the Shire of Mornington to purchase Mount Martha House continued to operate as Mount Martha Community Association under David Curtis when it was wound up in 2016. It was instrumental in working closely with Council to implement many changes for the Mount Martha area.
Like many buildings of this age, there are many ghost stories. If only the walls could speak! Many people have lived and died here and some have never left…. We prefer to treat our ghosts with respect so we will not be conducting ghost tours.
Now wholly-owned by Mornington Peninsula Shire, and noted as a heritage-listed property in the Mornington Peninsula Planning Scheme, Mount Martha House has one of the highest heritage protections of any building on the Mornington Peninsula. Continuous maintenance inside and out means there is always painting or sanding of floors, as well as upgrades in line with current Heritage Overlay and Heritage Victoria requirements.
One of the House users in In 2007 was Balcombe Grammar School. Its founding principal was Matt Dodd,
Matt Dodd: We are really privileged to have one day a week at the House. There was a room we were able to use that put us amongst the quilters, ping pong users and others. Given that the school started out of the suburbs, it was a really important part of the community rather than separate to it. Interestingly enough it has become part of the unconscious memory of the school, yacht club, bowls, head down to the tennis courts, play football down at the house still. It means they are getting many generations and many views. The school, prides itself on being an part of the community. This means the school gets many teachers, I am sure that the alumnae that we now enjoy confident community-minded young people that grew out of that 2007 time. With 34 students from years 4 – 7 enjoying their time with two teachers Miss Karen Simmonds and myself, walking to the beach, walking to the yacht club, having cups of tea with the quilters. It was a really fantastic part of the school’s history and it was one we were really proud to have been part of.
Narrator: This project of podcasts was made possible by a $5000 Community Place making grant, for which we are very grateful. We are indebted to the Mornington Peninsula Shire, especially Tricia Folvig who managed the insolvency of Mount Martha Community Contact / Living and Learning Centre, and steered the house in a new direction. Also to Heath Gillett and his team who have kindly donated the QR code plaques around the building.
Thank you as well to Brodie Goozee from Peninsula Podcasts. Many thank you to the Mount Martha Community Bank Branch of Bendigo Bank.
Many thanks go also to the army of volunteers who run groups, programs and truly love this building.
We hope you have enjoyed this short trip around the house, and will take time to look at the pictures in the history room and the front entrance hall display.
I suggest you stand out below the Parade Ground, under the flagpole and enjoy the timeless beauty of Port Phillip Bay. Imagine what our earliest peoples must have thought when they saw the first ships coming into the bay in the early 1800’s.
For further information on the Mount Martha area, please visit the Mornington and District Historical Society.
Thank you for being a part of our story, because it is the people who have made Mount Martha House, we don’t have items and things but we have people and their stories.
Thanks to Gillian Gordon
Barbara Strickland Dianne Burness Len Tourney John Pingiario
Balcombe Grammar School
ANDREWS. C. Mount Martha House 1890 – 1997
CALDER, W. The Changing Face of Mount Martha
CALDER, W. Mount Martha Lands and People 2009
GORDON. M. Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula pub: Loch Haven Books, Dromana, 1997.
Mornington & District Historical Society Inc
Mt Martha House Historical Collection
Many thanks to all contributors and supporters
Cr David Gill
Matt Dodd and Balcombe Grammar School