Gold prospectors were the first white residents of the forested foothills now known as Beaconsfield Upper, which is about 45 km east of central Melbourne. In 1872 H.J. Valentine discovered gold in Hunted, later called Haunted, Gully and at one time there were two hundred miners working the gullies. Timber was then taken from the area by loggers. A school was opened in 1883.
Settlement progressed slowly until amended land laws allowed smaller subdivisions and several 20 acre blocks were selected. A large boarding house, known as Beaconsfield House or Big House Hotel, was built. The district became well known for its scenery and healthy air, and large numbers of people travelled by train to Beaconsfield station and were carried up to the hotel in horse drawn vehicles. A number of large houses were built, often with extensive gardens and panoramic views.
Many orchards, growing apples, cherries, lemons and other fruit, were established around the 1890s. The post office, opened at Beaconsfield Hotel in 1878, was known as Beaconsfield, but after the railway station was named Beaconsfield in 1881 the district became known as Beaconsfield Upper.
An assembly hall was built in 1884, with library and tennis court. There was a school (279 pupils, 2014), post office, stores, recreation ground and another hotel, the Pine Grove. Beaconsfield House was destroyed by fire at the turn of the last century. The area was devastated by the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983. The hotel and shopping centre have been rebuilt and there is a memorial to the 20 people who perished there during these fires.
The acreage in orchards declined in the 1990s. However Beaconsfield Upper was rediscovered with people moving there for the peace, clean air and views. The increased population has ensured many community services, including a nursing home, sports grounds, a kindergarten, community complex and a shopping centre. Out of town there are the Beaconsfield golf course, an equestrian centre and the Dallas Brooks scout camp.
Beaconsfield Upper’s census populations have been:
N.E. Beaumont, Early days of Berwick and its surrounding districts of Beaconsfield, Upper Beaconsfield, Harkaway, Narre Warren and Narre Warren North, 3rd ed, 1979
Berwick-Pakenham Historical Society, In the wake of the pack tracks: a history of the Shire of Berwick, now the City of Berwick and the Shire of Pakenham, 1982
From bullock tracks to bitumen: a brief history of the Shire of Berwick, 1962
Upper Beaconsfield: our bushland environment, Upper Beaconsfield, 1989