Tambo Park Estate

The Tambo Park Estate near Summerhill Road in East Preston was one of the early homesteads in Preston.   Set on 105 acres it was a blue stone building with slate roof with eleven rooms, kitchen scullery, dairy, coach house and stabling.  The boundaries of the property stretched from Summerhill Road to Plenty Road and to the Darebin Creek.  

The location of the homestead can be clearly seen by searching on an aerial map of 1945  showing the buildings directly south and towards the eastern end of the quarry and sandpits. 
The property was originally part of the 885 acres that Thomas Alexander purchased in the 1838/39 land sales.   Alexander’s property stretched from High Street to Darebin Creek and from Summerhill road northwards towards Bundoora.    Alexander also purchased the adjoining block to give him a total of 1875 acres stretching from the Merri Creek to Darebin Creek and encompassing most of what would become Reservoir.   Alexander paid a £1,147 for his land and quickly sold it on to Captain Sylvester Brown who then promptly sold it to Thomas Edwardes.    Like most of Preston’s early landowners Alexander had no intention of living in Preston but was keen to make a profit from early land sales around Melbourne.  

We cannot be sure who built Tambo Park or when it was built but it appears that Alexander Short was there by about 1877.  By that stage the Rose Shamrock and Thistle Hotel and Doolan’s forge were well established just a short distance down Plenty Road and a daily coach from Melbourne stopped at the hotel.  

As a ‘gentleman farmer’ Short naturally progressed into local government and was the Jika Jika Shire President in 1884/85 and Preston Shire President 1888/89.   His first foray into local politics started in August 1879 when he put himself up for election for the vacancy of the Gowerville Riding.  

In 1882 the estate was put up for sale, with the suggestion that the property would be “eminently suitable for subdivision.”   In November 1891 Alexander Short died at Tambo Park.   Short was 60 years old and had suffered from diabetes for several years before hand.   As well as serving as Shire President, Short had represented Preston Council for seventeen years, and was the Chairman of the Preston Magistrates and Returning Officer for the Bourke East.   Short was survived by his wife Jane and eleven children.

In his will, dated 14th September 1887, Short left his household goods and possessions to his wife but instructed that Tambo Park be sold and the money used to purchase a home closer to the city for his wife.  Any surplus money was to be invested in property and the income passed onto his wife.  On the death of his wife three of his children were to receive £850 (Charlotte, Alexander and Ernest) with the other eight children dividing the remaining monies between themselves.    In a further amendment to the will, three of the children (Clara, Elizabeth and Eva) were cut out of the will.  The total value of the will was the then considerable sum of £12,316.  

Despite the instructions of the will, the property was not offered for sale until 1901, being described as “that well known property at Preston” and being “without doubt about the best that has been placed on the market for many years.”   Tambo Park was described as a substantial house with flower gardens, orchards, horse and cattle yards and six paddocks.  

Yet year after year Jane Short continued to be listed in the directories as living at Tambo Park in Preston.   In 1924 the property passed onto Ernest Short, and the by the 1940s it was the home of A. Short.    If the property was sold then clearly the Short family stayed on as tenants.   However the most likely scenario is that the property was not sold.

The exact location of Tambo Park remains a bit of a mystery.   Early directories listed it as Plenty Road and was not until 1942 that it was listed as Summerhill Road.   At that stage the estate had not been subdivided and the property was probably close to Plenty Road in the vicinity of the Summerhill shopping centre.

We do not know as yet exactly when the Tambo Estate was finally broke up and sold for subdivision but the house probably vanished shortly after.    The Tambo Estate was one the grand houses of early Preston and was one of the last links to the early days of Preston settlement.