Forest Hill

Forest Hill is a residential suburb 17 km east of central Melbourne immediately south of Blackburn and Nunawading.

The area was originally known as Scotchman's Hill and Mt Pleasant in the 1860s. An early settler was Abraham Rooks (Rooks Road is on the east of Forest Hill), who was a Wesleyan. He was associated with the Mt Pleasant Wesleyan church (1865), which was the site of the area's first primary school. The church is now the Mt Pleasant Uniting Church.

The name Scotchman's Hill slightly predates 1860 when Scots farmers and woodcutters established a settlement. Both names gave way to Forest Hill, reputedly the name of a cottage occupied by a Captain Bunbury in 1841. The name certainly described the nature of the countryside when first encountered by European settlers.

Forest Hill is about 2 km south of the Box Hill to Lilydale railway, which resulted in it being unaffected by early land-subdivision schemes. It was mainly a fruit-growing district, with a general store, post office (1874), and a church. A State primary school was opened in 1926. The census population in 1933 was 286.

After World War II orchards near Nunawading were subdivided for housing and Forest Hill's population began to increase. Despite the relative remoteness of the area, a site at the corner of Canterbury and Mahoneys Roads was purchased in 1958 for a drive-in shopping centre, at about the same time as Myer was planning its first shopping centre at Chadstone. Forest Hill Chase, as it was later called, was ahead of its time and its retail catchment, and took another 20 years to achieve its potential. By the 1960s Forest Hill had within its area a baby health centre, swimming pool and sports reserve, the Nunawading high school (1955), and nascent shopping centre. Urban allotments bordered orchards, flower farms and poultry farms. The Parkmore primary school, in the east of Forest Hill, was opened in 1962. By 1970 Forest Hill's residential form was complete, with a grid street design predating the residential configuration concerned with lessening through traffic.

Forest Hill is best known for its regional shopping centre, but the name was attached to three secondary college campuses – the former Blackburn South (1960), and Nunawading (1955) high schools and, just outside Forest Hill's boundary, the Burwood Heights high school (1970) which is the sole Forest Hills campus. Forest Hill primary school closed in 1993. Forest Hill College had 528 pupils in 2014.

Forest Hill Chase has a department store, two discount department stores, two supermarkets and cinemas. There is a smaller drive-in shopping centre further east along Canterbury Road.

Forest Hill’s census populations have been:

census date population
2001 9664
2006 9315
2011 10,052

At the 2011 census 13.1% of residents spoke Mandarin or Cantonese at home.

Further Reading

Niall Brennan, The history of Nunawading, Hawthorn Press, 1972