Darebin Quarries

Like neighbouring Brunswick, Darebin became a centre for quarrying. From small beginnings in the 1860’s in areas around Clarke St in Northcote and Hotham and Raglan Streets in Preston, the industry would flourish and become the area’s biggest employer by the 1890’s, only to suffer declines with the collapse of the building boom and subsequent depression. Brick making in Darebin would always be subject to these troughs of inactivity, and be punctuated by surges in business and profits. In the latter stages of the nineteenth century Darebin was dotted with quarries and holes being worked by private citizens, but these small enterprises were soon given away and by the early stages of the twentieth century it was the large quarries with backing from private and public companies that dominated quarrying. Over time the industry had fewer and fewer players and by the 1960’s it was all but finished, with many of the major quarries being used as rubbish tips by Council, with a view to converting the land to parks and sports grounds which the area’s rapidly expanding population needed. 

Darebin quarries were of three different types. Most prominent were the clay holes, which were used to make bricks. These holes were most common south of Bell Street, where the Silurian deposits made the soil most conducive to brick making. Hence South Preston, Thornbury and Northcote became home to some of the largest brick manufacturers in Melbourne, in particular the Clifton Brickworks in Preston, the Glen Iris Brick Company in Thornbury and the giant Northcote Brick Company in Separation Street. To the east, near the Darebin Creek, the ground bore bluestone or blue metal, which was used by both private industries and the local council. In the council’s case, the gravel produced was excellent for construction of roads in the fledgling area. Finally, further to the north, large sand pits were dug, particularly around the Plenty Road area in East Reservoir, near to Bundoora and La Trobe University.

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Northcote Historical & Conservation Society. (1988). Northcote: Glimpses of Our Past. Northcote, Vic: Author.

Swift, William George (1928). The history of Northcote: From its first settlement to a city. Northcote, Vic: Leader Publishing.

Watson, Kelly (1998). Recollections of the Darebin Creek Valley. Alphington, Vic: Darebin Creek Co-ordinating committee