Peggy Spencer reflects on the changes during her time in Mountain Gate.
As hopeful young migrants, my husband Jack and I arrived in Australia in 1960. We rented a place in Armadale and spent every weekend looking for land on which to build.
We fell in love with Ferntree Gully. Our hopes were fulfilled when we saved enough money
to make a deposit to build our first home on Mountain Gate Estate (in those days, it was rudely called Mountain Goat Estate). There were no made roads, buses, kindergarten or school and worst of all, no shops and back then, I didn’t drive!
I was born In London, and grew up in Notting Hill Gate (many may recall the film Notting Hill starring Hugh Grant). However, we did not live in a trendy little house, but in a two-storey block of Council Flats (Henry Dickens Court), courtesy of the Kensington Municipality. My family lived in Pickwick House. We did not have a garden, but played in the area between each block of flats. And I don’t remember seeing any parked cars outside the flats in those early days either so parking wasn’t a problem. Fortunately, we lived very close to Kensington Gardens, so that became our immense playground. We skated on the Round Pond during winter, picked conkers from the glorious chestnut trees in autumn, played hide and seek around the Peter Pan statue and so much more.
As the years passed, Mountain Gate expanded. We had our school, kindergarten, sports clubs and so on, but were still in desperate need of a shopping centre. In 1968, we had one shop – development was somewhat slow; two years later there were only eight shops. Finally, in 1974, we celebrated the Grand Opening of Coles New World supermarket.
Our modest home was one of the first ‘brick veneer’ homes to be built. I remember being adamant that I did not want to live in a house made of ‘wood’ (weatherboard) which I soon learnt was the correct term. Over the ensuing years, our family grew in size (six children), and being unable to afford to buy a bigger house, we did the next best thing; first, we extended out the back (plenty of room there) and then a few years later we went ‘up’. Virtually, the first double-storey in the neighbourhood.
In recent times, I have been witnessing the many changes happening at Mountain Gate. More and more of the original modest-sized houses have been demolished to make way for much larger abodes. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to see these smaller, older homes being knocked down. Many are the three-bedroom, one-bathroom homes, built during the early 1960s, and are now taking up space in this thriving suburb. Demolition of the smaller home fits in with a popular nationwide adage: ‘older suburbs are turning over.’
In effect, now that those houses have past their ‘use by’ date, they are prime targets for builders who want to replace them with larger, modern houses, built in close proximity and with little or no garden or parking areas. It remains to be seen how well the public open spaces keep up with the changes.
However, we can take comfort in the words of local historian, Ray Peace, written many years ago: ‘Mountain Gate is now part of a modern suburb, yet its roots go back 150 years. Sweeping changes have overtaken the area, yet there are continuities from past to present…’