The History of Forest Park Homestead
The Upwey District was originally known to white migrants as “Mast Gully” after a timber camp was established in this area in about 1850 to make masts for sailing ships. In the early 1870’s the first European settlers put down roots around Ferntree Gully and sometimes called the place “Devil’s Nook”. When the narrow gauge railway to Belgrave was built, the women of the Tullidge family (the only immediate residents of the district), suggested the name “UPWEY” for the little station, this being the name of their birthplace in Dorset, England.
In August 1875, William Dean bought eighty acres of Crown Land in Upwey, and named the property “Forest Park” It is believed that much of the main house was already built before Dean bought it, but the exact construction date is lost.
Prominent local, George Callcott owned Forest Park until 1903, when the holding was bought by John Griffiths, a Melbourne tea merchant (of Griffith’s Tea fame).
The Griffiths family used the property for a couple of months each year as a summer holiday residence and they later bought 40 more acres of adjacent land. At this stage the home Forest Park had six bedrooms, with a schoolroom attached at the side, horse stables, a coach house, and a gazebo.
By the early 1920’s Upwey had become a favourite weekend country getaway for Melbourne city dwellers, but the Forest Park homestead had outlived it’s usefulness for the Griffith’s family. With the children all grown, the house and land was unused and was eventually sold in 1925.
In the early 1930’s the land was subdivided but the Second World War transpired and fear for the capital cities in Australia took hold. Former weekend houses in the Dandenong Ranges were used for the evacuation of families seeking escape from the Melbourne city area. Many who came fell under the spell of The Hills and remained as permanent residents. During the 1940’s the population of Upwey steadily grew and home builders began activity in the Forest Park Estate – now known as Upwey South
In 1979 the well-established primary school that had been built on the Forest Park land had grown very large, so the Department of Education made the decision to purchase the old adjoining homestead.
In 1980 Upwey South Primary school became the proud caretakers of this prestigious Heritage-Listed home and its surroundings.
The homestead is the proud home of 3MDR 97.1FM, with the 3MDR community planning on restoring the adjoining stables, which sit alongside the homestead.
Thanks to Brian Neal (local resident) and the Upwey Township Group for the research for this article