In a garden in Parkside Avenue, Blackburn, there stands a lofty stringybark. Local residents believe that in times long past it was the focus of an Aboriginal clan, the Wurundjeri, members of the Woiworung tribe of the Kulin, original inhabitants of the Nunawading area, and that it was a place of ritual, of Koori culture, of the corroborees of the Wurundjeri people. The stringybark, which may be 250 years old, has been declared the oldest tree in Nunawading. The Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society has stated it is the oldest tree in Nunawading.
Before the first freehold land sale in this area took place in 1850, it was mostly involved with charcoal and timber products. It was then illegal to fell timber within five miles of Melbourne. The roads were bad, and it was found/thought easier to transport charcoal than timber; it is thought that a number of charcoal burners operated in the area.
In the 1854 census, when Nunawading was included as a parish for the first time, almost half of the 271 residents were children under the age of 15. In 1857 a public meeting formally requested the government to proclaim a road district; thus, the Nunawading Road Board was proclaimed on August 6, 1857.
At this time public services were not easily granted by the colonial government. The first post office appeared in Box Hill in 1860, as did the first school. There was no water supply until 1894, and a wait of a further 30 years before the Shire of Nunawading received its electricity from the Victorian State Electricity Commission.
With the development of orcharding, floriculture and clay-based industries in the 1870s, the population increased and the 1881 census counted 1573 people in Nunawading Shire. This was further increased when in 1882 the railway line was extended from Camberwell to Lilydale. In 1888 Nunawading (then Tunstall) railway station was opened, and the following year saw the opening nearby of Tunstall Post Office to service the small local community that had been/was described a “no-man’s land”, a “Cinderella” between the townships of Mitcham and Blackburn. There was a Methodist church, but the small local community was never really a township.
With local orchards growing and marketing flowers both for seed and for the Melbourne cut-flower market, spring was a picturesque season in Nunawading. Some growers specialized in particular flowers; others, like the Adult Deaf and Dumb Society, grew a broad range which might include carnations, dahlias, roses, gladioli and chrysanthemums. The soil was suitable for a wide variety of plants and flowers were transported by rail daily to the city.
Demand for bricks was high in the 1880s largely because of Melbourne’s growth, and the local clay industries developed rapidly to cater to the expanding interest in brick homes. Nunawading possessed both high quality clays and good burning timber to feed the hungry kilns. The municipality was well positioned to take advantage of the booming construction industry – though equally well positioned to be effected by the results of its eventual downturn.
In 1945 the Shire of Blackburn and Mitcham became the City of Nunawading; the name of Tunstall was formally removed from the railway station and post office, and a new coat of arms was adopted.