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Moonee Ponds

(3039, 7 km NW, Moonee Valley City)

Now called the Moonee Ponds Creek, the Monee Monee Ponds were, in the 1830s, a chain of waterholes that fed into the West Melbourne Swamp. It is thought that their name was derived from an Aboriginal word for lizard. In the 1840s farms and market gardens were cultivated on the gentle slopes of the district. Traffic to the Mount Alexander gold fields stimulated the development of a small commercial cluster centred on Moonee Ponds junction on the Mount Alexander Road. The swamp on the site of what later became Queens Park provided a campsite for gold seekers on their first night out of Melbourne. Explorers Burke and Wills also used it for their first camp on their ill-fated expedition in 1860.

When Flemington and Kensington split from the Borough of Essendon in 1882 Moonee Ponds became the geographical centre of the borough. The town hall moved from a site in Ascot Vale to the Essendon and Flemington Mechanics Institute on the corner of Mount Alexander and Pascoe Vale roads. This site remained the administrative heart of the municipality of Essendon until a new civic centre was built nearby in the 1970s. William Samuel Cox established the Moonee Valley racecourse on farmland to the east of the town hall in 1883, though it was not until the 20th century that the club became a non-proprietary racing club. Moonee Ponds' population grew in the land boom of the 1880s, as estates were subdivided for attractive garden villas and substantial homes on the high ground, particularly in proximity to the Essendon railway line. One subdivision sparked commercial development on the north side of Puckle Street, which ran between the old commercial centre of Mount Alexander Road and the railway line. Subsequent waves of development saw Puckle Street grow into a significant regional shopping centre. Despite Moonee Ponds' growth spurt in the 1880s and another in the first decade of the 20th century, there were still many gaps to be filled by suburban houses in the interwar years. In 1956 satirist, Barry Humphries, cast Moonee Ponds as the quintessentially suburban environment for his 'average housewife', Edna Everage.

Jill Barnard