Over forty years ago a group of passionate community activists began a remarkable journey to save the much loved Wyreena buildings and property from the threat of demolition.
A determined and resourceful group of artists and community members fought to retain the historical buildings and surrounding gardens of the former grand family home and convent for the enjoyment of the community.
Inspired by their vision for a community arts centre, the group campaigned vigorously, eventually winning the support of the former Croydon City Council as well as the Victorian Government who purchased the property for this purpose. Since its official opening March 1978, the Wyreena Community Arts Centre has remained the creative heart of the Croydon community and has become much loved by people from across Melbourne’s outer eastern region. Artist Kay Scott’s story beautifully conveys the spirit of the times. Her story was been captured on video by Andy Drewitt as part of Wyreena’s 40th Birthday celebrations in 2018.
Today, Wyreena is proudly owned and operated by Maroondah City Council as a thriving Community Arts Centre.
Download the A History of Wyreena booklet(PDF, 3MB)
Wyreena's chronological history
The original Crown lot of Hector Turner, the son of Croydon’s European founder, William Turner, is established.
The Catomore family - Beryl and Charles Catomore and their three children - buy the land, currently a cherry orchard. They clear it and erect their home in 1923, naming it “Hayward”, probably after an ancestral home in England. The land comprises four acres.
Hull Road, Worral Street, Beryl Street and Alwyn Street border the property (as they do today). Two acres are a cultivated garden (including a tennis court) and the house cow grazes the other two.
The architects of the house, Hudson & Wardrop, are also the architects for the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne erected in the previous year.
Following the marriage of the Catomores’ daughter to a Croydon Solicitor, a second 2-storey home is built in the grounds and named “Silver Birches”.
Property sold to the local Catholic parish and renamed Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. The front house is used as a residence for the nuns, while Silver Birches operates as a Commercial College.
Saved from developers by local residents, the property is purchased for $360,000 by the City of Croydon and the Victorian State Government for use as a Community Arts Centre.
Wyreena officially opens as an Arts Centre. Progressive restoration and improvement since that time has been fostered under the guidance of a volunteer committee of management together with the City of Croydon and now the City of Maroondah.
The 20th anniversary of Wyreena Community Arts Centre and the opening of The Conservatory Café and the Adventure Playground.
Silver Birches is extensively renovated inside and out.
Opening of the new Pottery Studios.
Renovation of the entrance and toilets at Silver Birches. This was a joint project with Scope Victoria to provide a more accessible space. An extension was also made to the Conservatory Café kitchen.
Renovation of the Wyreena office and entrance.
Wyreena celebrated 30 years as a Community Arts Centre. As part of these celebrations the ‘Reflections of Wyreena(PDF, 6MB)’ booklet was developed. This booklet is a compilation of stories contributed by the community, many of whom have been associated with Wyreena since it became a Community Arts Centre in 1978. Some have stories to tell about the nuns who ran the Business College in the 50s and 60s.
The Wyreena Gallery undergoes a transformation and is renamed The Arts Lounge. The exhibition space adjoins the Conservatory Café and has comfortable seating where visitors can sit and enjoy the diverse range of work on display. All work is original, for sale and is created by talented artists from within the region and beyond.
Upgrades to access and parking at Wyreena include the driveway and the re-sealing of the top section of the car park.
A new playground is built called Wyreena PlaySpace which includes natural play elements as well as traditional elements. Unique creative features by visual artist and wood sculptor James Cattell as well as by sound artist Herb Jercher (Hapi Sound Sculptures) are integral to this exciting space. New paths and gardening are upgraded and a new side gate entrance is enhanced by James Cattell and the local community who are invited to create clay birds for this entrance.
The unique GlowB cubby, designed and created by Playce (creative place designers) in collaboration with artist Benjamin Gilbert, is purchased by Maroondah Council. The GlowB cubby wins ‘Best Cubby’ and ‘Best Interior’ as part of The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in ‘The Kids Under Cover’ Cubby Challenge.
The Wyreena PlaySpace wins Best New Playground under $500,000 in the Parks and Leisure Awards for Victoria and Tasmania.
Upgrades to the original Wyreena building include replacing the terracotta roof in keeping with the heritage character of the building.
Council embarks on a process of research and consultation to develop a Wyreena Heritage Master Plan which will inform the upkeep, maintenance and further development of Wyreena in keeping with its cultural heritage significance.
Wyreena celebrates 40 years as a Community Arts Centre. The ‘Celebrating 40 years exhibition’ brings together artists and community members who have been a part of the Wyreena story since it was saved from developers in 1978. Local award-winning film-maker Andy Drewitt is commissioned to produce a video which captures the fascinating story of the Saving of Wyreena which can be watched above.
100 year anniversary of the Main Building. Tours of the property are introduced to share the interesting social and architectural history of the property with the community.