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(3036, 17 km NW, Brimbank City, Hume City, Moonee Valley City)

Gazetted as a township in 1850 Keilor had a Roads Board in 1863 before becoming a shire in 1871 and a city in 1961. Some of the earliest Aboriginal artefacts in Victoria were discovered at the Keilor archaeological area. The first European explorer, New South Wales Surveyor-General Grimes, passed through the area in 1803, followed by Hume and Hovell in 1824, and John Batman in 1835. Settlers arrived in the late 1830s and 1840s, one of whom, Mr Watson, is said to have given the district the name of his father's cattle-breeding property or a rivulet in Forfarshire, Scotland, Other sources suggest keilor was an Aboriginal word for 'brackish water'. The first Keilor Inn was a hut constructed in 1841, rebuilt 20 years later. Keilor was on the main route to the goldfield of Bendigo and Castlemaine; from 1851 hotels and blacksmiths did a roaring trade. A female traveller noted the contrast between the 'pretty little village with a good inn, several nice cottages, and a store or two' and the 'vast expanse of flat and dreary land' of the outlying Keilor Plains.

In 1855 the philanthropist Caroline Chisholm organised the construction of 'shelter sheds' along the goldfield routes to encourage families to accompany their menfolk to the diggings. One was near Bonfield Street in Keilor village and another, named Robertson's after a local landowner, was on the Keilor Plains. Punts and rough log bridges proved unsatisfactory for travellers crossing the Maribyrnong River and a more substantial toll bridge was opened in 1854. The 1868 replacement, superseded in 1964, has been restored.

After the initial excitement of the gold rush Keilor settled into a relatively peaceful agricultural existence for nearly a century with hay production and cattle and sheep grazing being the main activities. One of the original proprietors of the Argus newspaper, Edward Wilson, ran his property Arundel as a model farm and experimental breeding ground. By the 1880s Keilor was most noted for its market gardening and especially its apricot orchards. A local farmer and long-serving shire councillor, David Milburn, pioneered irrigation on his properties, and other orchardists and market gardeners followed his example. Farming in the district received a boost in the early 1900s when Overnewton, the 11 000-acre (4450 ha) estate of William Taylor, was subdivided.

Change came to Keilor from the 1950s when industry and housing developers discovered the area. Both Essendon Airport (built on land first acquired by the Commonwealth in 1921) and Melbourne Airport (built at Tullamarine in 1971) were partly within the Keilor City boundaries. Between 1947 and 1954 Keilor's population trebled to 10 681. By 1961 there were 29 519 residents and in 1981 there were 81 762, attracted to the area by the cheap new houses and manufacturing jobs. By 1981 around 40% of residents were overseas-born, nearly half coming from Italy, the former Yugoslavia and Malta. Transport was another attraction. The Calder and Tullamarine freeways bisect the area, and the West Gate Bridge linked it with the other side of Melbourne from 1978.

Industry was concentrated in Airport West and Niddrie, and the valleys and rises around Keilor village filled with successive waves of mainly brick veneer homes. New suburbs such as Kealba (3021, 15 km NW, Brimbank City), Keilor Downs (3038, 18 km NW, Brimbank City), Keilor Park (3042, 15 km NW, Brimbank City) and Kings Park (3021, 19 km W, Brimbank City) were created, and others such as Keilor East (3033, 13 km NW, Brimbank City, Moonee Valley City), which had already been the site of a garden estate designed by Walter Burley Griffin in 1927, were further developed. Apart from the courthouse and hotel, nearly all the older buildings in Keilor village have been replaced, often with large and luxurious houses. By the end of the 20th century Keilor had become an affluent middle-class and professional dormitory for the western suburbs.

Jenny Keating

Carstairs, Joan, and Maureen Lane, Pubs, punts & pastures: The story of Irish pioneer women on the Salt Water River, St Albans History Society, Melbourne, 1988. Details
Evans, Angela, and the Keilor Pioneer Research Collective, Keilor pioneers: Dead men do tell tales, St Albans History Society, Melbourne, 1994. Details
Jennison, Susan, Keilor's heritage, Keilor Historical Society, Melbourne, 1997. Details