Bullen's drain

Bullen’s Drain was a watercourse which ran down from Preston, along Oakover Road and then down the Bracken Avenue, finishing in the Merri Creek near Woolton Avenue. A crossing at Woolton was one of only two crossings across the drain. This rough watercourse had been originally constructed to carry storm flow from Dundas Street through to the Merri Creek, but as it was extended northwards past the slaughterhouses and tanneries of Oakover Road and Preston, it soon came to carry the overflows from their own drains as well.

The drain soon acquired a reputation for its noxious smell. The low lying land around Bracken Avenue provided little in the way of natural drainage when the drain overflowed. A health officer in 1889 declared that the area was unsuitable for habitat and indeed even by 1911 there were few houses in the area. The Northcote Council blamed the Preston Council for the effluent which flowed down the drain but little action was taken by either council. Around 1900 the State Government allocated £3,000 for an upgrade in the drain. It did little to stop the Preston factories from continuing to use it to dispose of waste, and the noxious smells continued.

In 1902 the Northcote Council won a court order to stop Preston using Bullen’s Drain to get rid of their waste. Nothing improved. Even a revolt by the local residents had little effect. After the First World War the Government allocated money to upgrade Bullen’s Drain and it was probably at this time that it acquired a concrete base and bluestone walls. The drain was not finally covered in until the 1950s.

Lemon, Andrew (1983). The Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.

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