Lillydale Shire

Lillydale Shire (1872-1994), an area of 397.5 sq km, was centred on the Yarra valley east of Melbourne. Its main town, Lilydale, is 35 km east of central Melbourne, on the Maroondah Highway.

For an explanation of the origin and spellings of the names (with one or two Ls) see the entry on Lilydale.

Lillydale road district was created in 1856 and the shire was proclaimed on 16 February 1872. Its area was 580 sq km. In 1924 Ringwood borough was severed from Lillydale shire and in 1961 Croydon shire was severed. Both were burgeoning urban settlements.

Before the severances Lilydale township was the market centre for the Yarra valley with its rich alluvial flats. There was fruit growing in the hilly eastern parts. Ringwood and Croydon were smaller market towns for fruit, vegetables and dairy produce. All had agricultural shows. The railway from Melbourne to Lilydale (1882) had branches from Lilydale to Healesville (1889-1981) and Warburton (1901-65). The former serviced the Yarra flats and the latter orchard areas such as Wandin and Woori Yallock. There were also heavily timbered areas in the Dandenong Ranges, as the shire included Mount Dandenong (633 m), part of Olinda and the watershed of the Silvan reservoir.

In 1946 Lillydale (Lilydale) shire was described in the Australian blue book:

By 1961 Lillydale shire’s population (after Croydon had been excised) was about 18,000, 5000 more than at the end of World War II. Within 10 years the population doubled, and in another 15 years doubled again. Agricultural holdings declined in both number and total area, and farm outputs changed:

Year Holdings Holdings’ area Dairy cattle Beef cattle Pigs Sheep Vineyards
    ha         ha
1974-75 848 25,363 3088 14,510 11,008 5856 36
1992-93 290 13,736 2166 8821 13,566 3085 232

Vineyards along the Melba Highway and elsewhere proliferated, bringing a new kind of tourism in addition to the sight-seers at Mount Dandenong and Olinda.

Mooroolbark, south and east of Lilydale, became the shire’s biggest suburb with five State primary schools and a population in 1991 bigger than the whole shire 35 years before.

Mooroolbark is within easy reach of Mount Dandenong’s television transmission towers. On the other side of the range there are the volcanic Silvan basalt soils, home to fruit growing, cut flowers and other horticulture. Out of reach of railways, the Silvan, Monbulk and Wandin areas have avoided spectacular urbanisation; Silvan hosts annual flower farm festivals.

In 1994 most of Lillydale shire was united with all of Healesville and Upper Yarra shires and most of Sherbrooke shire to form Yarra Ranges shire. Lillydale shire’s census populations were:

census date population
1881 2543
1891 4646
1901 5348
1911 6329
1921 9409
1933 9855
1947 13,809
1954 16,619
1961 18,254*
1966 24,173
1971 36,162
1976 50,858
1981 62,077
1986 74,000
1991 82,600

*Croydon excised

Further Reading

Marian Aveling, Lillydale: the Billanook country 1837-1972, 1972

James Rouget, Shire of Lillydale, past and present, 1837-1923, St Kilda, 1924

John Paterson et al, Lillydale rural policy review, South Melbourne, 1980

Shire of Lillydale agricultural profile, Lilydale, 1995

Peter Baddeley, Billanook country revisited: a history of the shire of Lillydale, 1972-1994, Lilydale, 1996

Chirnside Park, Coldstream, Gruyere, Kalorama, Kilsyth, Monbulk, Montrose, Mooroolbark, Mount Dandenong, Lilydale, Mount Evelyn, Silvan, Seville, Wandin, Wonga Park and Yering entries