About this blog

This blog is about the history of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and neighbouring areas, such as Pakenham, Cranbourne and Garfield, and any other historical subjects I feel like writing about. It's my own original research and writing and if you live in the area you may have read some of the stories before in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society newsletter or the Koo-Wee-Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, or the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator.
Heather Arnold.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Vervale is a little known town or locality between Cora Lynn and Iona. I grew up in Vervale, although I often say Cora Lynn, because no-one has heard of Vervale. Most people haven't heard of Cora Lynn either, but it's slightly more well known. The Shire of Berwick Rate Books give us some idea of the development of Vervale. Ratepayers in the area were listed as living in Cora Lynn or Iona until 1916 when some of these same ratepayers had Clarke’s Post Office as their address. This had changed to Vervale in 1917. Vervale was first written as Vere Vale. Vervale means “green valley”, a bit  ironic as  it is just flat Swamp land.

Vervale didn’t have a lot of facilities – there were no Churches, for instance. Until around 1960 Methodist and Presbyterian Services were held on alternate Sundays at the Cora Lynn Hall, or Presbyterians could attend the Iona Presbyterian Church. Catholics could attend St Josephs Church at Iona and those of the Methodist and Anglican faiths could attend Churches in Garfield. There were no Vervale sporting teams – you had to go to either Cora Lynn or Garfield to play sport.

Vervale General Store and Post Office, taken 1967 or 1969.
National Archives of Australia photograph. www.naa.gov.au

What Vervale did have was a General Store and Post Office, established in 1907 by J. Kirwan. According to the Shire of Berwick Rate Books it was sold to James & Edith McMannis in 1916. Mr McMannis died April 9, 1959, aged 90, and Mrs McMannis died June 4, 1967, aged 88, thus ending 51 years of store ownership. I only remember going there once, it must have been just before Mrs McMannis died and all I remember was that Mrs McMannis looked really old. Given that she must have been well into her eighties and I was only about seven, it's not surprising. Mr and Mrs McMannis are buried at the Bunyip cemetery.

Vervale also had a State School, and although it had three names it was never called Vervale. State School No. 3201 was established in 1894 as Koo-Wee-Rup North School, changed its name in 1899 to Bunyip South and changed its name again in 1905 to Iona. The School closed December 1993.

However, Vervale does have one claim to fame as it was the first place in Victoria in which asparagus was commercially grown. Thomas Roxburgh, who was a Shipping Agent, planted the first commercial crop of asparagus at his farm on Fallon Road,  Cheriton Park, though locally it was referred to as Roxburgh Park. The earliest reference I can find to this planting is an article in The Argus from May 8, 1912, page 6.

The Argus from May 8, 1912, page 6. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper

It's a bit hard to read - so here's what it says.   Asparagus Culture.  Bunyip, Tuesday. - Mr Roxborough, an enterprising resident of Melbourne, who owns land on the Koo-wee-rup Swamp, has grown nine acres of asparagus at Iona, and a jam company has offered to erect a canning factory on the land if he grows 20 acres.

The jam company, was, I presume A.J.C., as the farm was later called the A.J.C farm. Even though it says Iona it was really Vervale, but as I said before, Vervale  wasn't used as a name until about 1917.

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