Sunday, 1 June 2014

Athenry of Diggers Rest - A History with a Fiery End

In the early morning of Monday, 26th May 2014, a building of heritage and dispute was burned to the ground under suspicious circumstance.

Photo by Saskia Spahn of Athenry at the time of dispute

For over two months the fate of the building divided the community, while the Melton Council rejected an application from property owner DivCorp to demolish the house to make way for a roadway into a planned residential estate.
Photograph by Paul Stanley - Approximately 3:00 am Athenry burns

Why was the building important and what happened on that balmy Autumn night?

A History In Brief

Athenry  (Named after Athenry  of Ireland - meaning "Ford of the King") was designed by Englishman Albert Tame some time before 1935 to resemble a castle.  The house included medieval and nautical characteristics and it is believed adaptations Mr Tame made after the 1930s came from materials salvaged from the Edina, one of the longest serving steam vessels.
Photograph of the SS Edina 1854

The house was owned by the Kilgariff family from 1951, the house was sold in 2001 after years of drought and low wool prices and is now earmarked for demolition to make way for residential development. Mr. Mike Kilgariff was distinguished community gentleman being a former Mayor of Melton and President of the local Lions Club.

The house was vacant from that time.

The Dispute

The building was owned by DivCorp who submitted an application to demolish the house to make way for a roadway into a planned residential estate. However the council was denied access to the property by the owner to conduct a heritage assessment until early 2014.

Div Corp Pty Ltd, project manager Charlie Watson (a former Melton Councillor) said the house was beyond repair and inhabitable.  

Mr David Kilgariff, son of Mr. Mike Kilgariff, said that, “We need to retain some of the little history Diggers Rest has left.”

Some local residents took sides on the arguement and formed lobby groups to approach the Melton Council who then sort an amendment to the Victorian State planning scheme to protect the house.

The application was in progress when the building lit up the night sky. 

Eyewitness Accounts Of The Fire

Around 2:30 am, Monday 26 May, an unidentified lady drove pass Coimadai Road property to see flames lighting up the sky and threatening the surrounding trees. She immediately called 000 then, fearing for the safety of adjacent people, roused them from their sleep. By the time the neighbourhood was awake, approximately 10 emergency units were battling the fire. The blaze was well contained by the fire crews and continued to smolder until after sunrise. 

Diggers Rest Talk has been informed that all people living in the adjacent houses were asleep when the fire was reported.


Melton Criminal Investigation Unit Sergeant Ron Briz said given the house had no electricity or gas connected, early indication were the fire was suspicious. He said, “The house has been completely destroyed and CFA investigators are on their way to determine the cause, but it looks suspicious.”

Do you know more about the history or fire?

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