Balwyn is a residential suburb 10 km east of central Melbourne. To its south are Canterbury and Surrey Hills and northwards there is Balwyn North. Belmore Road divides Balwyn from Balwyn North.

Balwyn was part of Henry Elgar's Special Survey of eight square miles (1841), which was subdivided into small farms and grazing runs. One of the subdivisions was bought by a Scots editor and journalist, Andrew Murray (1813-80), in the late 1850s. He built a house which he named Balwyn, approximately on the site of the present Fintona Girls' School in Balwyn Road. Murray planted a vineyard, and reputedly derived ‘Balwyn’ from the Gaelic ‘bal’ and the Saxon ‘wyn’. Other vineyards prospered until the 1890s, and grape vine branches formed part of Camberwell city's crest. Balwyn was in the north of Camberwell city.

In 1868 the Balwyn primary school was opened in Balwyn Road, about 100 metres north of Whitehorse Road. It was moved to the present site, south of Whitehorse Road, in 1880, opposite Murray's property (430 pupils, 2014). Balwyn's first town centre was near the intersection of Balwyn and Whitehorse Roads, containing a few shops, a blacksmith and the athenaeum or mechanics' institute. Anglican services began in 1868 and the St Barnabas church, Balwyn Road, was opened in 1872. It is on the Register of the National Estate.

Balwyn was described in the Australian handbook in 1903:

Until 2008 Balwyn included Deepdene (see separate entry).

Balwyn's strip shopping centre is larger than Deepdene's, with a council library and community centre nearby. Balwyn cinema is west of the shops. There are several reserves, one of them being Beckett Park on an elevated site. Adjoining the park is the Maranoa Garden, planted with a diverse collection of Australian flora. Oliver J. Gilpen's mansion, subsequently Mary's Mount convent and accommodation for elderly persons, is near Maranoa Gardens.

Beginning in the 1990s, Balwyn in general and the Maranoa Gardens area in partiuclar, saw modest houses replaced by large houses verging on 'McMansions'.

At the boundary between Balwyn and Balwyn North, the Yooralla Hospital for Crippled Children (Carlton) opened a branch at the corner of Belmore and Balwyn Roads. The locality was known as Yooralla, along with the few shops and a post office, although the school was altered in scope to become the Belmore Special School. Balwyn high school (1954) is in Balwyn North (2016 pupils, 2014). Its consistently high results have made the school enrolment zone a hot real estate area for ambitious parents, adding several thousands to house prices. The zone extends from the Eastern Freeway to Whitehorse Road and from Severn/Balleen Roads to Greythorn Road.

Balwyn also has Fintona Girls' School which began in Hawthorn in 1896 and moved to Balwyn Road in 1936. In Whitehorse Road there is a Catholic primary school (1922), began when Deepdene Parish was established, and an imposing church of basilica proportions (1955).

Between 1987 and 1996 the median house price in Balwyn was about 75% above the metropolitan median, and for Balwyn North it was about 85% above the metropolitan median.

Balwyn's census populations have been:

census date population
1891 1283
2001 14,404
2006 15,312
2011 12,944*

*area of suburb reduced

At the 2006 census Chinese-speaking households amounted to 11.9% of Balwyn's residents and at the 2011 census they were 16.6%, an indication of the drawing power of a place at Balwyn high school. In 2012 house prices were 150% above the metropolitan median.

Further Reading

Geoffrey Blainey, A history of Camberwell, Lothian Publishing Company Pty Ltd, 1980

Donald Maclean, Balwyn 1841-1941, Melbourne, Catherine Gregson, 1942

Balwyn North and Deepdene entries