Main heading

Heidelberg History - Street Drainage

Burgundy Street Heidelberg in 1898

Evidence of Heidelberg's natural drainage emerges from time to time, when parts of Burgundy Street flood, especially near the Sir Henry Barkly Hotel and the shop or cafe opposite on the north west corner of Cape Street. A creek appears to rise in a small park to the south of the Austin Hospital, and this creek now flows mainly underground, along the line of Burgundy Street, crossing under Rosanna Road (formerly Buckland Street) just north of Burgundy Street and continuing in a blue stone paved course until it meets Salt Creek in Heidelberg Park. It's name is Saltwater Creek. The combined creeks either trickle or flow more strongly under Burgundy Street and into the Yarra.

The following map was adapted from Donald Garden's "Heidelberg, the Land and it's People, 1838-1900. Melbourne University Press, Australia (1972)". Donald Garden states that it was adapted from "earliest plan of village of Warringal, 1839". (Warringal was the name given to the village from 1838 until about 1860, when it became Heidelberg.) The map shows the approximate course of Saltwater Creek.

Map of Warringal Village 1839

In 1911, the Henry Barkly Hotel at the corner of Cape Street and Burgundy Street went under, not for the first time or the last time.

Saturday 11 March 1911, page 36


All the low lying portions of the town were flooded. At the intersection of Burgundy and Cape streets a lake was formed several feet deep, extending from the post office right across the road. Mr. Watt's grocery establishment, on the corner, and the news agent's premises adjoining were flooded to a depth of about 18 inches, a considerable amount of stock being damaged. The Sir Henry Barkly Hotel, on the opposite corner, also had about a foot of water in the bar room. One individual was standing waist deep in water, unsuccessfully endeavoring with a hoe to open up a drain which had been choked up. Several children who wished to cross the road on their way to school had to be carried over on their elders' backs.

Flood in Heidelberg Park 1934
(Caused by the Yarra River, not Saltwater Creek)

Flood in Beverley Road, Heidelberg Park, October 2022.
(The Yarra River water rose higher than in more recent floods)

Flooding continues to be a problem in Heidelberg, but various attempts were made to improve on drainage.

By the 1890s, Heidelberg residents were trying to improve on the mix of open drains and inadequate pipes that took refuse and stormwater from Burgundy Street and nearby.

Mercury and Weekly Courier, Friday 27 May, 1898, page 2.


THE absurdity of a council rushing to the ratepayers to ask what it shall do or what it shall not do was exemplified last Wednesday evening, when a meeting was called in the Recreation Hall, Heidelberg, to obtain an expression of opinion from the ratepayers in regard to the adoption of a drainage scheme. The ratepayers did not seem to know what they did want and so rejected all motions and did nothing, winding up the abortive proceedings by referring the whole matter to the council. That body is elected to do the ratepayers' business, and should have sufficient backbone to act without running after its constituents for instructions on all and every occasion. If there was one member of the Heidelberg riding with spirit and independence enough to take as firm a stand as Cr. RYAN did in the Greensborough riding in connection with the Diamond Creek Bridge, a good drainage scheme would be adopted.

The schemes that has been laid before the council from time to time are as follows : One scheme is to commence at the Austin Hospital's 9in. drainage pipe, with a 2ft. culvert from Studley-road to Hawdon-street. At Hawdon-street there is to be a 3ft. branch to take the drainage from the railway and Eaglemont and thus do away with the unsightly ditch that enters the main street next to Holland's timber yard. From Hawdon-street to Cape-street a 4ft. culvert is to be constructed, and from thence along Burgundy-street, and Jika-street, past the old cheese to near the baths, an under-ground sewer, 4½ft. in diameter, will be constructed.

The alternate schemes provides for the same system of drainage to Cape-street and from thence to follow the natural water course or gully to the river using the present culvert under the Sir Henry Barkly hotel, and building a new culvert, 4ft. 6in. in diameter to Buckland-street ; then to construct an open pitched invert or bottom to the river through the park.

The Shire engineer has recommended the scheme along the roadway as the best and most economical, as it will be complete from Studley-road to the river, which cannot be said of the other scheme, which provides for a discharge some distance from the Yarra. In the scheme he recommends the maintenance will be very small as the water flowing through will keep the sewer clean. The other scheme, through Sill's property, though the first cost would be smaller, viz. £2000 as against £3000, would be in the long run the most expensive as the open part to the river would be a growing nuisance and the maintenance would cost a large aggregate sum.

Mr THWAITES, engineer of the Board of Works, approved of the scheme recommended by Mr. LAWSON.

What is called the temporary scheme subsequently proposed was reported on by the engineer af follows :—

"The method suggested provides for catchment pits to be built at the intersection of Cape and Burgundy-streets opposite the post office. At the bottom of these pits an outlet pipe, 12 inch diameter commences—this will be large enough to carry the ordinary summer flow of the channels, and it would be laid along the south side of Burgundy-street, about 15 feet from the building line, thence along Jika-street past the police court, and discharge into the Yarra at the bottom of Yarra-street. This pipe, as I have before stated, will carry the ordinary channel water, but of course will not be large enough to discharge the heavier rainfall. As soon as this outlet pipe becomes full, however, the water will flow from an outlet provided in the pits and find its way thence into the present culvert, and into the existing watercourse. This would be practically clean water. Other small catchment pits, manholes, &c., would have to be built at the intersection of street channels, and at other points, and the pipes would require to be truly and carefully laid to the proper gradients. I estimate the cost of carrying out the work at £400.

Yet another scheme proposed by Cr. MATTHEWS was that the council purchase about 450 feet of land in Burgundy-street at £2 per foot for drainage purposes and construct a barrel-drain from Cape to Burgundy-street to empty into an open drain. All these schemes, upon which much engineering time and skill has been expended, and very much municipal oratory has taken place, have been rejected, and now, to quote Cr. LUGTON, "we are as we were before we started," because the council cannot or will not act with firmness and decision."

The same article goes on to other topics for a while, but returns to the fruity subject of drains, to remind the reader of Council's indicisive behaviour.

"The Heidelberg drainage question is still as unsettled as ever. The council appears disinclined to take any action of its volition, and the ratepayers are similarly inert. Thus the filthy, bottomless, germ-generating sewer remains master of the situation and next autumn will probably again send forth its noxious gases to capture residents in a typhoid or diphtheria grip."


Salt and Saltwater Creeks join, Heidelberg Park in 2004.

By 2004, the creeks are more for drainage than drains, so Heidelberg Park is better than it might have been. In fact, the bluestone lined "drains" through Heidelberg Park have an attraction in themselves.

Not that they could cope with the October 2022 flood.

Search this site using Google:

Heidelberg Historical Society (Inc. No. A0042118P)