Caulfield, a residential area with a prominent metropolitan racecourse, is on Dandenong Road, 10 km from central Melbourne. In addition to the suburb of Caulfield, there are also the suburbs of Caulfield North, South and East. Until about 1990 Caulfield East also included the area bounded by Waverley, Belgrave and Dandenong Roads, but that is now part of Malvern East. The origin of the name is uncertain, although John Caulfield, a builder who arrived in Melbourne in 1837, has been suggested as a source. The name Caulfield was in use on maps around 1857, generally in the vicinity of the present racecourse.

In 1859 horse racing was held on a rough bush track and the Melbourne Hunt Club held occasional meetings in Caulfield. A racecourse was laid out on the site where the Hunt Club kennel was kept. In 1876 the Victorian Amateur Turf Club was formed and obtained the site for its metropolitan race course. The first Caulfield Cup was run in 1879.

Land survey maps for the Caulfield district were published in 1853, and the first sale of Crown allotments was in 1854. The Caulfield Roads District was proclaimed in 1857. In 1860 a shirt-lived school was established by four church congregations, and in 1864 a school was opened which became the Caulfield primary school. In 1865 the population of the district was estimated at 508.

The 1870s saw considerable development of Caulfield. The Roads District became a shire on 17 April 1871, and the Caulfield railway station was built in 1879 as part of the South Yarra to Oakleigh to Gippsland line. Two years later the Caulfield to Mordialloc line was opened. While this construction activity was under way an entrepreneur William Ross proposed the building of another line across the south of Caulfield shire, from Oakleigh to Elsternwick. It was associated with the Ross sugar beet factory, using sugar beet grown in Gippsland. The line did not open until the late 1880s, but failed during the Depression in the following decade. Its route is traceable on present-day street maps along Oakleigh Road and a linear park which is a prolongation of the road.

Caulfield in 1882 was a market-gardening district with about 182 ha of orchards with three churches, two hotels and the racecourse. By the end of the decade it was described in the Victorian municipal directory as a leading suburb with residences that had been rapidly built. There were six churches and several private schools, a municipal hall and offices, and tram routes from Elsternwick to the Caulfield and Glen Huntly railway stations. In 1903 Caulfield was described in the Australian handbook:

On 4 May 1901, the district's urbanisation was acknowledged by the shire becoming a borough, which became a town on 26 September of that year. The Caulfield municipality acquired separate suburbs, and the Caulfield township was in the north. The northern municipal boundary followed Dandenong Road, and the railway station and racecourse were quite close to it.

Melbourne's urban expansion as it affected the Caulfield municipality was begun on the western side well before the turn of the century and concluded on the eastern side where it adjoined Oakleigh in the late 1930s. The period of most rapid growth was from 1900 to 1920, and the Caulfield township was somewhat early in that period with its proximity to public transport facilities. Councillor (Sir) Frederick Eggleston was a councillor from 1911 to 1920, and a pioneer supporter of town planning. On 26 May 1913, Caulfield town council became a city. In the following year Caulfield Central School was opened, and in 1922 the Caulfield Technical School was opened as a regional facility convenient to Oakleigh and Mordialloc. (In 1958 it became a Technical College, nine years later the Institute of Technology and finally the Caulfield campus of Monash University.)

Caulfield city was described in the 1946 Australian blue book:

Caulfield's northern boundary is just south of an escarpment more or less followed by Dandenong Road. North of the escarpment is hilly, more elevated land than the land on which the municipality is situated. There were several swamps in Caulfield, one being just west of the racecourse and the low-lying land was blamed for water-borne diseases. Sewering was a major concern in the 1890s, to replace cess pits, along with water reticulation. By 1914 reticulated water was available on most new housing estates. Several swampy or low-lying areas became parklands. Paddy's Swamp from which peat and sand were extracted in the 1860s and 1870s, became Caulfield Park, the main sports area in Caulfield near the racecourse. On 16 April 1913, the part of Caulfield municipality between Poath and Warrigal Roads was annexed to Oakleigh borough.

Caulfield suburbs

Caulfield's suburban boundaries are Kooyong, Glen Eira, Booran and Glen Huntly Roads. It has the Hawthorn Road and Glen Huntly Road tramlines (1913). The tram intersection is a grand union junction (1913) where tram cars can turn right or left from all four directions. The junction is heritage-listed.

The town hall at the corner of Hawthorn and Glen Eira Roads dates from 1885. The main hall and portico underwent a major remodelling in 1931 as part of a local employment scheme during the Great Depression, and an arts complex was added in 1988. The Caulfield Library opened there in 1993 and Glen Eira city council is headquartered there. Caulfield hospital is in Kooyong Road. The site was originally the Glen Eira mansion (c1880-1964) and was a World War I military hospital.

Caulfield East

Caulfield East's suburban boundaries are Dandenong, Grange, Neerim, Booran and Kambrook Roads. Half the area is taken by Caulfield Racecourse, stables and Glen Huntly Park. The area is served by railway and the Malvern East tram (1913). Caulfield railway station (1914) is heritage-listed.

The Caulfield high school's building (1963) was at the south of the racecourse reserve and is now Glen Eira college. North of the railway is Monash University's Caulfield campus, formerly Caulfield technicial school.

Caulfield North

Caulfield North's suburban boundaries are Orrong, Wattletree, Dandenong, Kambrook and Glen Eira Roads. The area is served by three tram lines: Hawthorn Road (1913), Balaclava Road (1913) and the Glenferrie Road line which goes along Dandenong Road (1911). The first two tram lines meet at the corner of Caulfield Park, the district's largest and best appointed public reserve. Balaclava Road is also the address of an imposing brick Catholic church (1924), Caulfield Junior College (originally Caulfield North central school) (1916) and the former Presbyterian church, now the Indonesian Uniting church. The church (1926) was built for a new, fast growing parish and the heritage-listed design blends Gothic and Art Nouveau. To the west there is the Liebler Yavneh College (1962) and Melbourne Grammar School's junior campus (1918).

Glen Eira Road is the address of Shelford Girls' School (1898) adjacent to St Mary's Anglican church (1871) and Jubilee Sunday school (1887), both heritage-listed. Caulfield North's grandest heritage building is the Labassa mansion (c1890) in Manor Grove. A short way north is another synagogue in Inkerman Road.

Caulfield South

Caulfield South's suburban boundaries are a rectangle, Kooyong, Glen Huntly, Booran and North Roads. It is served by Hawthorn and Glenhuntly Roads tramlines (1925, 1913). It has the Caulfield primary school (1864) but Caulfield South school's opening year, 1928, typified the suburb's interwar and early postwar growth. Its south-west corner has Brighton cemetery (1849), well distant from built-up streets for probably its first 80 years.

Prince's Park is in the middle of Caulfield South. It has four ovals and is linked to a linear reserve which was the route of the Rosstown railway. Adjacent to the reserve there is Hillcrest Avenue, the address of A.V. Jennings first housing estate (1933). A short distance south there is a Jewish synagogue and kindergarten. Unlike the other Caulfield suburbs, Caulfield South has kept much of its detached house stock.

Census populations have been:

census date population
  Caulfield Caulfield East Caulfield North Caulfield South
2001 4857 1174 13,441 10,301
2006 4790 1242 14,034 11,113
2011 5160 1237 14,554 11,271

Caulfield City

Caulfield city was united with part of Moorabbin city on 15 December 1994, to form Glen Eira City. Its census populations were:

census date population
  Caulfield shire Caulfield town Caulfield city
1871 1227    
1881 2488    
1891 8005    
1901 9541    
1911   15,919  
1921     40,693
1933     65,297
1947     79,913
1954     75,217
1966     76,119
1971     81,865
1976     77,300
1981     72,800
1991     67,776

Further Reading

Peter R. Murray and John C. Wells, From sand, swamp and heath . . . a history of Caulfield, City of Caulfield, 1980

Geulah Solomon, Caulfield's heritage, 4 vols, City of Caulfield, 1989

Ian A. Brady, Prahan and Malvern Tramways Trust: Melbourne's foremost municipal tramway, Sydney, 2011

Carnegie, Glen Huntly and Murrumbeena entries