Nunawading

The history of Nunawading is written in blood. In the century and a half or so of its existence, the rights to name the area have swung back and forth between two families: the Nunawadings and the Tunstalls.

The Tunstalls came first, with Abner Tunstall settling in the area in 1866 after giving up on the goldfields. He laid claim to large tract of land on the southern bank of Koonung Creek and began to farm sheep and cattle upon it.

The Nunawading family came in greater numbers, and settled nearer the train line to Ringwood. Their leaders were Margaret and Susan Nunawading, who had come to Australia fleeing their family’s shame in Wales (as the name might suggest, the two women were the daughters of a nun who had betrayed her vows. With a Presbyterian). They opened a general store at the intersection of Whitehorse Rd and what is now Springvale Rd (it was then called Tunstall Ave). Almost at once, the women began lobbying the authorities to build a railway station where the line crossed Tunstall Ave.

Their efforts were in vain, until Abner Tunstall made common cause with them. With the combined efforts of the two leading families in the area, the station was soon announced to be built in the following year. However, it would be named Tunstall Railway Station, not Nunawading.

At this point, relations between the two families began to sour. The Nunawadings found other sources for the meat and dairy products they had previously purchased from the Tunstalls, while the Tunstalls opened a competing general store nearer to the railway station than the Nunawadings.

Several times, partisans and members of the two families came to blows, culminating in the death of Susan Nunawading after a particularly savage brawl in 1887. (To be fair, she had put out three men’s eyes with her umbrella before she was taken down.) After that, relations became ever more savage.

Molotov cocktails were thrown at both shops, signage seen to favour one family or the other was vandalised or destroyed, and the body count continued to rise. The Tunstalls, now led by Abner’s son Donald, began to withdraw from the area, instead concentrating their efforts to the north, building another general store on Mitcham Rd and encouraging other shopkeepers to build on the square thus created.

The naming of the area went back and forth over the next few decades, with the station, the post office, the local schools and the area itself all changing names at least once each, and often more. In the end, the Tunstalls relocated to what was by that time called Donvale, but the victory of the Nunawadings was Pyrrhic at best. By the time the issue of the area’s name had been settled, the last person still to bear the Nunawading name married and changed her name to that of her husband, Emil Scoresby.

Suburbs near Nunawading: