Time will tell

By Melissa Walsh  Photos Yanni

Theodore Roosevelt said “the more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future”, and this philosophy is the catalyst for the members of Somerville’s historical society to keep pushing on.

Every Wednesday a group of community-minded men and women gather together to make sure the history of their home town is never forgotten. They are the members of the Somerville, Tyabb and District Heritage Society, and dedicated to sharing and educating locals and visitors about the township’s rich history.

“We are a historical society dedicated to preserving, collecting, researching and cataloging our history so that future generations can understand more of their past,” said Brenda Thornell, the secretary of the group of bubbly members who meet at the Mechanics Hall each week.

“It has been such a great community here and we want the history to be there for our young people to look up if they need it,” said Brenda. “We have had to step into the technology era and now have our youngest member, Lisa, doing our website and social media with our Facebook page.”

Walking into the Somerville Mechanics Hall, the members of the society include members of some of the oldest families on the peninsula, many of them born in the Somerville Hospital.

Somerville, Tyabb and District Heritage Society was formed in 1996 and has around 60 members. “The basis of our collection is from the late local historian Mrs Leila Shaw and is known as the Leila Shaw Collection, along with other locally collected memorabilia. Leila had called a meeting of the residents that had been here for many years and wanted to see if they wanted to start a historical society. We had our own history because of the fruit growing industry which is what her books are based on,” said Brenda, of the group that has a shared interest in historical things having lived in Somerville for generations.

“It is different now. All the orchards have become housing, and there’s not one left in Somerville. Now you don’t have the same connection to neighbours; it is different from what it used to be. But it is important to keep the history alive for future generations,” said Brenda.


Somerville, Tyabb & District Heritage Society is at the Mechanics Hall Institute, 66 Station Street, Somerville with a collection of photographs and memorabilia associated with the history of the fruit growing industry and local families in the Somerville and Tyabb District.

Check them out on Facebook or phone 5977 6489.

First published in Peninsula Essence – October 2017

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