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St Albans

(3021, 16 km NW, Brimbank City)

This residential suburb originated as a settlement of house-builders attracted to remote and therefore cheap blocks of land on the Keilor Plains following the extension of the suburban railway network in February 1887. George LeFevre, a member of the Legislative Council, had persuaded Richard Speight, chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners, to erect the station near his land, which he then sold to the Cosmopolitan Land & Banking Co., managed by Alfred Padley. Architect Percy Oakden designed an elaborate subdivision for St Albans township, and the company promoted settlement with a land sale in February 1888. Padley, who probably named the subdivision after St Albans in Hertfordshire because of family associations, settled for some years with his large family and was for a time a councillor of both Keilor and Braybrook shires. Straddling their boundary, St Albans was not a priority for either shire.

In 1906 St Albans was described as a railway station with a post office. Thirty years later (according to Sands and McDougall's directory, 1936) there were still only 125 households and 17 farmers at St Albans, served by eight shopkeepers, two churches (Anglican and Presbyterian) and a mechanics' hall (1906). Electricity came in 1930, mains water in 1940, and a telephone exchange, that soon had all of six customers, in 1951. After World War II, cheap land attracted waves of settlers from the inner western suburbs, including many factory workers, refugees (displaced persons) and immigrants. Vladimir Borin sympathetically described the energetic and co-operative spirit of St Albans in these pioneering years in his novel The uprooted survive (1959).

By the 1960s St Albans was losing the makeshift air that accompanied shanty and bungalow dwelling, and the distinguishing skillion or half houses were disappearing as families completed their homes. With self-help and local agitation, St Albans expanded its schools and range of community amenities. Timber homes built by owner-builders on unsewered blocks without made roads gave way to estates of brick-veneer homes. Gardeners learnt how to deal with the cracking clay soils of the plains. Gradually the isolated and dusty St Albans of old was transformed into a greener suburb with a good range of social and commercial facilities. The population grew from about 1000 at the end of World War II to 7000 in 1962 (with 78 shops) and 20 000 in 1966. Ginifer railway station opened in 1962. St Albans and the contiguous new suburbs of Sunshine North, Keilor Downs, Kings Park and Albanvale are now part of the City of Brimbank.

John Lack

St Albans History Society Inc, Around and about St Albans, Author, Melbourne, 1992. Details
St Albans Railway Centenary Committee, St Albans: the first hundred years, Author, Melbourne, 1986. Details