1. Themes
  2. A to Z


(3103, 10 km E, Boroondara City)

Sited on a portion of Elgar's 1841 Special Survey, Balwyn lies in the northern extremity of the former City of Camberwell, to the north of Whitehorse Road and extending into North Balwyn (3104) at Doncaster Road. The Yarra River forms the northern border of the suburb, which runs to Greythorn and Union roads in the east, and Deepdene in the south.

Balwyn derives its name from the c. 1858 vineyard and rural retreat of Andrew Murray, editor of the Age newspaper. Balwyn (on the site of Fintona Girls' School) was one among a number of wine-growing properties and orchards which sprawled across hills and down slopes to the Yarra River. Other sites in the suburb were used for brick kilns and quarries. Before the city's expansion into the Dandenongs, Maranoa Gardens in Balwyn was the highest point in metropolitan Melbourne. It contains a unique display of native Australian flora. The adjacent Beckett Park has an observation tower and was the location of annual Empire Day bonfires.

Following the 1919 amalgamation of suburban tramway trusts, an electrified tram service extended along Doncaster Road. Housing estates such as the 1919 Balwyn Park Estate, 1922 Hillcrest Estate and the Camberwell City Heights Estate, also 1922, quickly followed. These estates were built over by expansive suburban villas, set in fine gardens and along tree-lined streets. North Balwyn, largely constructed since 1933, was typified by even grander houses, many of them in the 'ocean liner' style and seen at their most distinctive in the Riverview Estate.

The North Balwyn localities of Greythorn and Bellevue date from the 1950s, while a branch of the Yooralla Hospital for Crippled Children at the corner of Belmore and Balwyn roads gave its name to that vicinity. Camberwell Grammar School is on the site of the Balwyn Outer Circle railway station, later named Roystead as the area known as Balwyn moved north-east by 1920.

Balwyn, and especially North Balwyn, have always maintained an air of suburban exclusiveness. Unlike the more rarefied environs and moneyed circumstances of Brighton or Toorak, a Balwyn address quietly registers those new sources of wealth typical of the later 20th century. Skyhooks' 1974 hit song 'Balwyn Calling' criticised all that was stifling about middle-class suburbia. Now passed by the Eastern Freeway, Balwyn depends for its transport on the motor car more than the tram. Because of its expansive homes, exclusion of industry and location near the freeway, it remains a favoured locale of the upwardly mobile.

Chris Mcconville