Box Hill

It wasn’t an actual box. That’s important to know. It may have been boxy in shape, possessed certain box-like qualities, but it wasn’t an actual box.

It was a crate.

Arundel Wrighte was no man’s fool. When he first arrived in the district he called “Marionvale”, back in 1838, he knew he was going to have some difficulties with the authorities, who have traditionally taken a dim view of squatters like Wrighte.

His solution, until 1844, when he built an actual house, was to live in an early version of the mobile home. He dwelt in a large shipping crate to which he had attached wheels and reins. Whenever Governor La Trobe’s men showed up to dispossess him, he was always somewhere else on the large territory he claimed. He could not be evicted because he could not be found, and eventually his unauthorised tenure went on for long enough that his claim had to be recognized, at least in part. Other settlers had moved to the area by that time, occupying some of the land claimed by Wrighte, and their claims were upheld (as they were authorised settlers rather than squatters). Wright did at least contribute the area’s name, but rather than Marionvale, as he had desired, it took on the derisive nickname it had been given by the hapless troops who had failed to evict him.

This sort of thing would happen again and again in the history of Box Hill, whose residents were all-too-often too clever for their own good. For example, in 1889, they built the first electrified tram line in the Southern Hemisphere. While today Melbourne’s trams are an iconic feature of the city, the Box Hill tram was too far from the city and never connected to the rest of the network, and little remains today to indicate that it was ever there. (Contrary to popular belief, Tram Road, Box Hill was named after Gerhardt Von Tramm, an early protestor of the tram who disappeared mysteriously during its construction – local legend states that his corpse was buried under the tram tracks.)

In 1921, Box Hill prohibited the sale of alcohol, which sent the local economy (and not a few of the residents) into a spiral of depression that would last until the outbreak of World War Two. In the aftermath of that war, Box Hill forged a sister city relationship with Matsudo in Japan, which was not in any way due to the number of Box Hill servicemen assigned to the occupation forces, or any illegitimate issue they may or may not have fathered during the occupation, no matter what the scandal sheets of the day said.

Today, Box Hill is a thriving suburban hub for transport and shopping, and haunted by the ghosts of Wrighte and Von Tramm. It celebrates an annual holiday on Boxing Day each year, which is marked by tradtional competion farting and hangovering, and the solemn viewing of the first day of the annual Test match. (Swearing that next year you’ll get organised and actually go to the ground to see it was once a part of this ritual, but has fallen into disfavour in recent years as a consequence of the increase in both ticket prices and television sizes.)

Suburbs near Box Hill: