The Mont Albert District - a Pictorial History 1830 to 2013

1892 - Water Supply, Reservoirs and Sewerage

Indigenous Heritage
Geology and Topography
Vegetation and Fauna
Climate and Hydrology
1840s to 1870s
1850s - Parish of Nunawading
1852 - Whitehorse Inn
1861 - Postal Services
1880s - Electricity Supply
1880s to 1920s
1882 - Phantom Railways to Doncaster
1883 - Residential Heritage Precinct
1884 - Broughton Park subdivsion
1884 - Brickworks
1885 - Surrey Hills district - map
1888 - Football Clubs
1889 - Gas Supply and Gasworks
1889 - Doncaster Electric Tramway and Tower
1890 - Mont Albert Railway Station
1892 - Surrey Hills Golf Club
1892 - Water Supply, Reservoirs and Sewerage
1899 - Telephone Services
1905 - The Surrey Dive
1907 - Scouts and Guides
1912 - Mont Albert Village Shopping Precinct
1914 - Mont Albert Progress Association
1916 - Californian Bungalows
1917 - Schools
1917 - Wattle Park
1924 - Early Shortwave Broadcasting from the Surrey Hills district
1924 - Black's Estate
1925 - Bus Services
1929 - Tramways
1930 - Cricket Clubs in Mont Albert
1930s - Balwyn - Beckett Park Bonfires and Wildlife Sanctuary
1948 - Grange Tennis Courts
1957 - Pioneer Park
1961 - Surrey Hills Communications Tower
1981 - Box Hill Miniature Railway
Koonung Creek Parklands
Heritage Notes
Mont Albert Road - Early History
Mont Albert Rd - the East End
Elgar Rd - north and south of Mont Albert Rd
Mont Albert Rd - View St to Elgar Rd
Bushland Reserves
Service Associations
Sporting Clubs
Box Hill Institute of TAFE
Walking Trails
The Author's Websites
References and Acknowledgements

1892 - Surrey Hills Reservoir No. 1

1841 - carting water in Melbourne

In the era up to 1890 there was no permanent water supply to the Nunawading Shire, which included the Whitehorse district.
In the Boroondara Parish, water mains had been laid on only as far as Union Rd, Surrey Hills, in 1889.
In 1895, a standpipe was built at the Whitehorse Hotel site in Whiitehorse Rd, using water from the Surrey Hills Reservoir to supply Box Hill.
In the years 1902-1905, water reticulation in the Surrey Hills area continued - Mont Albert Station had water connected, but there were no taps.
The Surrey Hills Reservoirs
The western terminus of the original O'Shannassy Aqueduct was at the Surrey Hills Reservoir No.1, on the corner of Canterbury Rd and Tower St.

This storage facility was completed in 1892, with a capacity of 9 million gallons, servicing the areas of Box Hill and neighbouring suburbs. Until 1914 it was fed from the Yan Yean Reservoir by pipes.

The Reservoir was buil to on the site of the former Observation Tower, itself erected in 1882. 

When the O'Shannassy System was commissioned in 1914, Surrey Hills was then linked to the O'Shannassy Aqueduct by pipes from Launching Place.

In 1925, a pipe-head reservoir was built at Olinda,with a capicity of 11 million gallons - this was inserted into the O'Shannassy System, and carried water to a smaller storage dam at Mitcham, then to Surrey Hills.

In 1929, a second Surrey Hills storage reservoir was built, of 15 million gallons capacity, a short distance away from the No. 1 facility, on Bentley St, on the hill near Elgar Rd, and also fed from the O'Shannassy scheme. It incorporates the Water Tower, built in 1929, the first to be built by the MMBW. This imposing structure,a local landmark, resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but unlike the Italian tower, it is vertical!

Both reservoirs operate to this day, managed by Melbourne Water.

1908 - No. 1 Reservoir

2013 - Reservoir No. 1

2013 - the Water Tower

Supplementary Information
During the first years of settlement the settlers obtained their household water from creeks and run-off from their shingle-roofed homes into wooden butts. The advent of corrugated iron led to the installation of tanks, and when local fired bricks became available domed wells fitted with hand pumps also became sources of water supply.

The butts and tanks have gone, but some of the older buildings in the Surrey Hills/Mont Albert/Box Hill area still have their wells, although these are now covered over.

The expansion of settlement towards the east brought about the extension of the 32 inch water mains from the Yan Yean reservoir to Box Hill. In 1892 the Surrey Hills Number 1 Reservoir was built at a cost of 12,000 pounds to supply higher sections of the area. Construction of Surrey Hills Number 2 Reservoir was completed in 1913 and the accompanying tower was built in 1929.

Water is supplied to the reservoir by a 36 inch main from Maroondah and a supplementary 46 inch main from Mitcham set down in 1940. During peak period water flows from the tower to supplement ground level pump supply. The cylindrical tank, which has a capacity of 100,000 gallons, is mounted on a reinforced concrete shaft 26 feet in diameter and 95 feet high. The overall height of the Surrey Hill’s tower and tank is 109 feet.

Because of it’s location, 450 feet above sea level, and its height, the structure was specially designed so as to soften its impact on the surrounding area. The water tank component has vertical recessed panels framed in the wall while the balcony located at the base of the tank has a decorative treatment consisting of twenty four arches.

The roof is sloped to conform with the general architectural concept of the tower.

1916 - collecting water from standpipe, Balwyn Rd


In Melbourne in the 1860s, methods for disposing of human waste were very basic. A toilet consisted of a bucket that was housed in a wooden structure known as a pan closet toilet or thunderbox.

The early solution was to cart human waste away to the outer fringes of Melbourne where it was often used as fertiliser by market gardeners or taken to the tip.

Thunderboxes were only emptied about once a week by a nightman (so called because he collected pans at night by reaching through a small door in the back of the closet). Because the waste stayed in the pan for up to a week, thunderboxes were really smelly.

Since walking to the thunderbox in the cold and dark of night was not very appealing, many people opted to use chamber pots at night instead (which were often emptied straight into street drains).

To make matters worse, as Melbourne’s population grew the system of nightmen couldn't keep up and more and more people started disposing of their wastes directly into street drains.

 Sewerage was infoduced n Surrey Hills in the eafrly 1900s.



2013 - Reservoir No. 2

2013 - locations of the two reservoirs

Click on any image to display a full size view!