Bentleigh and Bentleigh East

Bentleigh is a residential suburb 13 km south-east of Melbourne, immediately to the north of Moorabbin and east of Brighton. Bentleigh and Bentleigh East lie along the axes of Henry Dendy's Special Survey of 1841 when he took eight square miles of land extending inland from the Brighton shoreline. The northern boundary was North Road, the southern boundary South Road and the eastern boundary East Boundary road. Centre Road was a convenient centre line through the survey. Bentleigh's shopping centre runs along Centre Road, and Bentleigh East's centre is at Centre and East Boundary Roads. Tucker Road is the boundary between the two suburbs, and Bentleigh East extends to Warrigal Road.

The area was known as East Brighton before being named Bentleigh in 1908 after the Victorian Premier, Sir Thomas Bent. East Brighton was occupied by stock runs until the early 1850s, when the increasing metropolitan population resulted in market gardens being established. The sandy soil was easily worked and there were springs in several places, part of the chain of water courses extending through the area to Cheltenham.

In 1849 a Methodist church was opened in Centre Road (near Jasper Road), one of four Methodist buildings built pre-gold rush in the Brighton district. An Anglican school was opened in 1850 in Tucker Road near Evelyn Street, and the Anglican church at the corner of Tucker and Centre Roads had its antecedents in the services held in the school.

There was a substantial Catholic community in the Bentleigh market-gardens area and in 1865 a school was opened on a church member's land in Bentleigh East. There was no church, however, and members attended services in Brighton, Glenhuntly, Oakleigh or Mentone, a situation which continued until 1955.

Bentleigh secured a break from the Brighton connection when in 1862 it was included in the Moorabbin Road District, separate from the municipal borough of Brighton. A State primary school, Bentleigh East, was opened in 1878 in Centre Road, just east of Tucker Road, replacing the old Anglican school. Among the townships between Caulfield and Moorabbin railway stations Bentleigh developed quite strongly in the early 1900s. The Sands and McDougall directory (1909) recorded two general stores, three bakers, three ‘confectioners’ (mixed businesses), a newsagent and a draper in Centre Road. The rural population was reflected in the corn store, saddler and two bootmakers. The bone mill was exiled to Warrigal Road.

The Victorian municipal directory described Bentleigh in 1933:

The shopping centre along Centre Road grew steadily before World War II. The Bentleigh West primary school was opened in 1927 (549 pupils, 2014). The well known East Boundary hotel was opened in 1934, by when Bentleigh was a substantial township with market gardens and orchards around it. There were tile and brick works, a public hall and a library.

During the 1950s Bentleigh and Bentleigh East underwent rapid residential growth. Primary schools were opened in Bentleigh East at Tucker Road (1952) (563 pupils, 2014), Coatesville (1953) (714 pupils, 2014) and Valkstone (1957) (593 pupils, 2014) and Eastmoor (1957) . A high school opened in 1956 (896 pupils, 2014). Market gardens fast disappeared as Bentleigh and Bentleigh East acquired modern and flourishing shopping centres, pre-school and elderly citizens' facilities and a range of sporting facilities.

Just within East Bentleigh the Moorabbin Heights primary school was opened in 1960, to which was added the Moorleigh high school in 1966. By the 1990s the high school was closed and the primary school supplemented by establishing a Steiner stream in conjunction with the State school.

The Catholic community had a primary school (1928) and a girls’ secondary school (1938) in Bentleigh and a primary school (1865) in Bentleigh East, but no church until the prominent St Paul’s building was erected in 1955. Education facilities were completed with a boys’ secondary school in Bentleigh East in 1970.

The Centre Road axis of Bentleigh and Bentleigh East is 5 km long. Their civic centres are not readily apparent, but Bentleigh’s is probably at Centre/Jasper Roads where the Methodist chapel began, and the memorial gardens and recreation reserve are laid out in Jasper Road. Bentleigh East’s civic centre is probably at Centre/East Boundary Roads, with the shops and the prominent East Boundary Hotel. Over two thirds of Bentleigh East, however, is east of the hotel.

At the southern edge of Bentleigh there are the Patterson railway station and neighbourhood shopping area. In Warrigal Road, Bentleigh East, there is the Yarra Yarra Golf Club (1929) with a Spanish-Mission style club house.

The Centre Road shops have continued to be two strong retail strips, often being ranked in the best in metropolitan Melbourne.

Bentleigh and Bentleigh East's street layout is of a grid design, requiring traffic-calming devices in some streets to maintain residential amenity. There are reserves and sports ovals, not over-generous in number. The Moorabbin Community Hospital (1975, now Monash Medical Centre) is a short way east of the Bentleigh East shops in Centre Road. Despite the extent of Bentleigh East there is no other significant shopping area.

Census populations for Bentleigh have been:

census date population
  Bentleigh Bentleigh East
1911 1737  
1921 1856  
1933 7749 222
1996 16,671 17,500
2001 13,543 23,489
2006 14,271 24,520
2011 14,920 25,925

In common with McKinnon and Ormond, at the 2011 census Bentleigh had above-average populations in the following religious affiliations:

religious affiliation % of total population
  Bentleigh Bentleigh East Victoria
Judaism 6.8 9.9 0.8
Eastern Orthodox 8.0 10.9 4.3

Further Reading

W.T. Dobson, The living harvest: a history of St Peter's Parish, East Bentleigh, 1974

John Cribbin, Moorabbin: a pictorial history 1862-1994, Moorabbin, 1995

Nancy Taylor, The first hundred years: a brief history of the Parish of St John’s Church of England, Bentleigh, Victoria, 1854-1954, 1954