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A brief history of Frankston

Once the playground to Victoria’s rich and famous, Frankston has reinvented itself time and time again to become what it is today; one of Melbourne’s most vibrant bayside destinations.

Read a little about Frankston City's history below then head to Frankston City Libraries and discover lost stories, people and places. 

Prior to European discovery, Frankston was populated by Indigenous Australians known as the Kulin people. Specifically, inhabitants in the Frankston area were from the Bunurong language group, of the Mayonebulluk clan.
Frankston City Council and Imagine Frankston recognises and acknowledges the original land owners, the Boonerwrung people of the Kulin Nations and respects their elders and traditions. 

Europeans first set foot in Frankston as early as 30 January 1803. Captain Charles Grimes and his party came ashore searching for fresh water, and met with around 30 local inhabitants, near the mouth of Kananook Creek. This arrival was 32 years before the founding of Melbourne (the first major European settlement in the then, Port Phillip District).

Melbourne was settled in 1835. In 1846, James Davey took up a large land holding which extended from Olivers Hill to Daveys Bay (his namesake). Olivers Hill was named after a local fisherman, James Oliver, who built a cottage atop the hill from which he kept an eye out for fish in the waters below.

The first official land sales in the area were held in 1853, and Frank Liardet (the eldest son of prominent settler, hotelier and descendant of French nobility, Wilbraham Liardet), established the ‘Ballam Ballam’ estate in 1854. The estate was the earliest officially recorded settlement in Frankston, and was located to the east of Port Phillip, in what is now known as the locality of Karingal. Liardet’s original homestead ‘Ballam Park’ is heritage listed and remains today; it is the home of the Frankston Historical Society.

Frankston’s early development was hampered by poor soils, distance from Melbourne city centre, and the existence of a major swamp occupying much of the area between Mordialloc and Seaford.

Thomas McComb, who arrived in Frankston in 1852, also purchased much land in the area (over what is now the Frankston central business district) and did much to develop the local fishing industry.

A pier was completed in 1857 and, between the 1850’s and the arrival of the Melbourne railway in the 1880’s, the area developed as a small fishing community.

An Anglican church and school were built in 1855, with the first Frankston post office opening on 1 September 1859. During the 1860’s there were estimated to be around 30 people living in Frankston, with about 200 others living in the surrounding area.
In 1874, a state school was built in Frankston as well as a Mechanics Institute and free library in 1880. The first savings bank was opened in 1881, and two brickworks factories and a cordial manufacturer were operating by the 1880’s.

The Melbourne railway came on 1 August 1882, which saw Frankston develop into a seaside resort. Its lure as a holiday destination increased particularly after the electrification of the railway service on 27 August 1922, which reduced average journey times from 90 to 62 minutes. Between these years, the area developed into a regional centre for the Mornington Peninsula and a playground for Melbourne's affluent.

Frankston was the site of the first Australian Scout Jamboree in 1935. It was the only jamboree in Australia to be attended by the founder of the Scouting movement, Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Several streets in the locality of Frankston South are named after the event (Baden Powell Drive being the most prominent). The original grandstand used for the jamboree remained a historic landmark at Frankston Park for 72 years, until it was destroyed by fire on 12 February 2008.

The population of Frankston boomed during and after World War II, increasing from 12,000 in 1947 to 82,000 by 1982. This was due to the establishment of small government housing estates in the area, to house the families of Australian Defence Force personnel stationed at the nearby Balcombe Army Camp in Mount Martha and the Flinders Naval Depot near Hastings.

In 1959, the Hollywood film On the Beach, starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner, was partly filmed in Frankston, at its railway station and in the surrounding area. The original novel, On the Beach, was written by novelist Nevil Shute, who lived in Frankston's south-east, in what is now the Frankston suburb of Langwarrin.

The origins of the name "Frankston" has been subject to some conjecture. Local folklore suggests that the town was named after a publican called Frank Stone, who ran a hotel at the corner of the then Point Nepean Road (now the Nepean Highway) and Hastings Road (now Davey Street). However, there is no evidence that such a person existed.
Two more credible possibilities are that the town was named after Frank Liardet or after Charles Franks, an early settler of Melbourne.
However, according to Frankston historian and author Michael Jones, Frankston is named after a British army general who fought in the Second Sikh War. The theory is strengthened by the fact a number of other towns in the area, such as Cranbourne, Hastings, Lyndhurst, Mornington and Pakenham, are named after British statesmen and generals. Jones suggests that Andrew Clarke, the Surveyor-General of the Port Phillip District from 1853 to 1858, named all these towns.

On 2 September 2004, Frankston was nominated for the Bursary Award in the Livcom International Awards for Liveable Communities. In October 2004, it received a Bronze Award for "management of environment and enhancement of quality of life".
On 24 March 2007, Frankston won two awards in the Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria's clean beach challenge. It won the award for "Friendliest Beach in Victoria", and also the "Natural Heritage Award" for the maintenance of Frankston Beach and the provision of facilities.
On 2 June 2008, Frankston was named Victoria's most sustainable city in the Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria's Sustainable Cities Awards.

Frankston City has been home to many inspiring people who have excelled in their chosen field. From sports to science, medicine to entertainment, their contributions continue to make the world a better place. Walk Frankston’s Mall of Fame to learn more about their stories and achievements. 

For more information about Frankston’s history, pop in and see the Frankston Historical Society at Ballam Park Homestead or visit the Frankston Historical Society