area now known as Northcote is on the traditional lands of the
Wurundjeri people. According to the Darebin Historical Encyclopedia,
"[w]hite settlers knew the Wurundjeri as the ‘Yarra’ tribe. They were
closely associated with the Yarra River and its subsidiaries, with
various subgroups of the tribe owning lands at various spots on the
course of the Yarra. They were the main tribe of Aboriginal people
settled in the area that would become Melbourne. Their language,
Woiwurrung, also distinguished them".
The subgroups of the
Wurundjeri included the ‘true’ Wurundjeri, under the clan head
Jakka-Jakka. This name is also spelt as Jaga-Jaga and Jika-Jika. His was
one of the signatures on John Batman’s ‘treaty’ of 1835. This clan
occupied land which included parts of the Darebin Creek. The
Kurnaje-berreing were further divided into two groups. Billibellary led
one group, the Wurundjeri-willam; his clan’s lands included the Merri
Creek and much of what is now Darebin. The other was led by Bebe-jan.
His clan owned some of the land by the Darebin Creek. The final subgroup
of the Wurundjeri was called the Boi-berrit, led by Bungerim. Their
land was centred around Sunbury. Within these subgroups there was
further division, usually on family lines, with each group owning a
defined tract of land.
Under leaders like Billibellary, the
Wurundjeri were able to develop reasonable working relationships with
white settlers. While they remained true to their values and customs,
they also became guides, messengers and workers in a world that was
changing so dramatically around them. Due to the tolerance and wisdom of
Aboriginal leaders like Billibellary and Beruke, and the patience and
determination of Assistant Protector William Thomas, there was little
violence between whites and the Wurundjeri-willam, a marked contrast to
the violence and brutality that disgraces much of the early history of
white settlement in Australia".
The European settlement of the
Northcote area began in 1839 with a Government land sale. Many of these
allotments were long, narrow strips of land running in an east-west
configuration, which has resulted in the street patterns of the suburb
to this day. The area to the north of (what is now) Oldis Gardens was
surveyed as the township of Northcote in 1853. The name is thought to be
derived from the leader of the English Conservative Party, Stafford
Henry Northcote. Although he was never Prime Minister he held several
important cabinet posts.
The southerly surveyed portion is now
Westgarth. It was the area further north of present-day Westgarth which
saw settlement and development, particularly around the mansion built by
William Rucker on Bayview St in 1842 (the area now known as Ruckers
Hill). Large, expensive houses were built throughout the Victorian gold
rush of the 1850s. Lower Plenty Road (or High Street as it is known
today) became the central street of Northcote, instead of Westgarth
Street as initially proposed. A bridge was built across the Merri Creek
in 1858, making access to the area more convenient. Throughout the
1850s, churches, schools, and hotels were built (see Timeline).
the 1870s the area contained a number of slaughteryards, piggeries, and
claypits. One such claypit operated on the corner of Separation Street
and High Street, which eventually became the Northcote Patent Brick
Company, supplying much of the area's bricks. When the brickworks closed
down, the site became the Northcote Plaza Shopping Centre in 1981. The
quarried land became the Northcote Regional Tip, later to be transformed
into All Nations Park, a public park. The Northcote Primary School on
Helen Street opened in 1874. At this stage, Northcote was still a rural
area, with orchards and occasional mansions.
1880s, land in Northcote was relatively cheap, owing to its lack of
public transport. This attracted speculative property investors, as well
as people of limited financial means, setting in place Northcote's
reputation as a working-class suburb. Following the arrival of public
transport in the late 1880s and early 1890s, the population of Northcote
began to increase. More businesses opened along High Street, as well as
churches and schools. The Little Sisters Of The Poor began building on a
site along St Georges Road, which still exists today. The town hall was
built in 1890, the same year the borough of Northcote was proclaimed.
The Northcote Football Club was established in 1898, with its home
ground at Northcote Park.
The Northcote Picture Theatre opened in
1912, presently its building is one of the oldest surviving picture
theatres in Victoria (it is now used as a reception center). A free
library opened in 1911, financed by Scottish philanthropist Andrew
Carnegie. Throughout the 1920s development grew along St Georges Road.
The Northcote High School opened in 1926.
Throughout the 1950s
the area became home to a large number of Italian and Greek migrants. By
the 1980s, gentrification of Fitzroy and Fitzroy North had pushed some
of the artistic and activist communities north into Northcote.
to Northcote via public transport was initially via the Inner Circle
Line, which when linked to the Heidelberg Line in 1888, ran close to the
southern border of the suburb. The line to Whittlesea was opened in
1891, creating a direct line to Northcote, although the line initially
journeyed via Royal Park, Carlton North, and Fitzroy North, before a
line was built from Clifton Hill to Melbourne through the suburb of
Richmond in 1901 to 1903. The northern section of the Inner Circle Line
was closed to passengers in 1948, leaving the eastern section (from
Melbourne to Clifton Hill, via Richmond and Collingwood).
Northcote has five railway stations along two lines. The Epping Line
serves Merri Station (formerly known as Northcote Station), Northcote
Station (formerly known as Middle Northcote Station), and Croxton
Station. The Hurstbridge Line serves Westgarth Station (formerly known
as Westgarth Street Station), and Dennis Station.
A cable tram
began operations along High Street in 1890 (now tram route 86). A tram
line opened along St. Georges Road in 1920 (now tram route 112).
Northcote is also served by bus routes along Separation Street,
Westgarth Street, and Victoria Road.
to the south of Northcote proper, is the more gentrified area of
Northcote, populated with cafes, bars, small fashion boutiques, and
High Street north of Ruckers Hill is an area
currently in flux. With its mix of ethnic and working class communities,
it is home to numerous furniture outlets, reception centres, the
Northcote Plaza Shopping Centre, factories and warehouses - as well as
several vacant shop fronts. Recently the influx of numerous cafes, bars
and art galleries has added to its eclectic nature, and this, combined
with rising property prices, is changing the nature of the suburb. In
July 2005, Darebin Council is beginning an extensive community
consultation process leading to the formulation of a new Structure Plan
for Northcote, known as the Northcote Place Making Project.
Northcote has a residual population of first and second generation
Greek and Italian migrants, and a (declining) population of students.
Northcote also has one of Melbourne's largest Lesbian communities.