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Compiled for Darebin Heritage by Brian Membrey

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School 824 : Memories : The Tip


Perhaps the juxtaposition of lunchtime and a rubbish tip is unfortunate, but it was a fact of life at South Preston State School.

The area now known as T. A. Cochrane Reserve behind the southern section of the school was the Preston Tip in Collier Street, certainly during my time and for at least a decade either side of that.

One of the earliest industrial enterprises in Preston, the site as early as the 1860’s was the quarry for Arndt's Brickworks near the corner of Raglan and Hotham Streets, later operated by Fitzroy Steam Brick, Pipe, Tile and Pottery Works until the economic depression of the 1890’s forced its closure.  

The 4.2 acres of land was bought by the Council in 1944 for £4,332.  It is believed that prior to the acquisition of this site, the earlier tip comprised three smaller clay holes just south of Raglan Street between Hotham and High streets.

As well as the clay hole, there were apparently four brick kilns which I have no recollection of in the 1950’s.  These were probably on the section on the corner of Raglan and Hotham, the current single-story terraces along both streets are of almost uniform design with the cream brick exteriors strongly reminiscent of the late 1940’s.

The clay hole itself was set back about twenty yards from the borders with the school and I seem to remember an access road between the rickety old school fence and the tip itself (confirmed at the 150th celebratory Open Day in 2016).

When the Council commenced filling the quarry with garbage is uncertain [1], but the site was converted to recreational use in the early 1960s, and as Cochrane Reserve became the home of a soccer club - probably Preston, but by then, many national names were also being appended.   

From memory, the club didn't stay long, perhaps because of problems with noise and car parking in the middle of what was, except for the school, a residential area.  It's probably ten years since I walked past, but it was being used then for hockey and with a number of tennis courts along the northern side.  

During the 1950’s, there were regular infestations of cockroaches into the school yard, especially on the girl's side closest to the tip, but I don't recollect many problems within the building itself.  Likewise, there were probably rats, but again I don't think many were sighted except rarely in the school grounds.

Prevailing winds from the north and north-east generally kept the smell to a minimum, but there were a few days, especially in summer months where the rubbish caught fire, and then it was definitely time for clothes pegs on the nose.  The worst days were when the fire took hold underground and it took the local Brigade up to several hours to fully extinguish.


[1] I think the earlier tip was a series of clay holes just south of Raglan Street between Hotham Street and Plenty Road, now the Florence Adams Playground.  After Collier Street was closed, the site of the Ray Bramham Gardens and Darebin Arts and Recreation Centre extending along St. George's Road south of Bell Street was used - formerly the clay holes for the Clifton Brick Company which I think operated until the late 1950s.   Another example of how much Preston and to a lesser extent Northcote owe  to former quarry sites for much of their current parklands and recreational areas.  14 acres which became Northcote Park in Westgarth Street was the only land ever provided by the Colonial Governments of the mid-nineteenth century for recreation in either municipality.