For a long time, it really was the suburb you have when you’re not having a suburb. Although there has been a railway station there since 1880, and Clayton Road, from which the whole area takes its name, is even older, for a long time there wasn’t much in the way of people in Clayton.

This has a lot to do with the early farming in the area, which continued, albeit in the modified form of market gardens, until as recently as the 1960s. The reason for this goes back to the terms of the will of the area’s earliest and greatest landowner, John Clayton (Viscount Greystoke). Clayton had a great liking for the natural world, and took steps to ensure that no one would build on the land he owned in Australia (or indeed, anywhere else in the world he owned land). Acknowledging the need to eat, however, he permitted agriculture and some through roads for transportation.

These legal prohibitions were overturned by the government of Sir Robert Gordon Menzies in the late 1950s, when it compulsorily acquired most of the northern portion of the lands with the intention of building a university on them. This they proceeded to do (although a surprisingly large percentage of the land thus acquired turned out to be surplus to requirements, and became the cheap land on which the industrial area of Notting Hill and surrounds was constructed). Monash University, named for Sir John Monash, who had been one of Clayton’s commanding officers in World War One, is now one of the largest universities in Australia (by both number of students and physical area).

After the university was built, the common perception was that Clayton’s restrictions no longer applied anywhere else in the area. Although this was not true, Clayton’s legal representatives (the firm of Farmer, Lansdale and Kubert) declined to prosecute the matter, and the land was eventually all subdivided and sold, leading to the primarily residential development of Clayton.

Suburbs near Clayton: