Keilor Historical Society Inc.1990
Highlights which exemplify the features of Keilor Region.

Keilor Market Gardens

Photo left: Keilor Market Garden.
Keilor’s market gardening tradition began when David Milburn settled in the valley in 1857.

A skilled gardener he gained the nickname ‘Davey the Basket-Man’ because he sold fruit, vegetables and butter at the roadside to diggers travelling to the goldfields.

Acknowledged as the first irrigator in Victoria, in 1857, he developed an irrigation method by using a hand pump to draw water from the Salt Water River (now known as the Maribyrnong River).

David Milburn came from Yorkshire, England in 1853. He tried the diggings and was not successful and then came to Keilor in the employ of William Taylor at Overnewton. He bought 15 acres and in 1860 had 165 acres of market gardens and fruit orchards. He sold vegetables to the diggers on the way to the goldfields.

He was the first farmer to establish an irrigation plant in Victoria. He was also a Councillor for 35 years. He died in 1918 at the age of 90.

An insight into a social event in Keilor was a Wedding held in 1890.

“A very pleasing ceremony was celebrated in Christ Church, Keilor on 3rd instant by the Rev.R.H.Rodda of the Church of England, Broadmeadows. The occasion was the marriage of Miss Sarah Ann Milburn, eldest daughter of Mr David Milburn of the Grange Farm, Keilor, to Mr William Lyne of Westernport. The wedding party was very large and it took some fifteen vehicles to convey them to the church, making the little village quite astir. The bridesmaids were the three sisters of the bride, three sisters of the bridegroom, Miss Kruse and Miss Fyffe, while Mr Hateo of Carlton was very happy as best man. The wedding breakfast was laid out at the residence of the bride’s parents and about 90 sat down to a sumptuous repast. All went merry as the proverbial marriage bell and Rev. Mr Rodda proposed the health of the bride and bridegroom in a good speech….Mr D. Milburn and Mr Thomas Lyne of Tooradin, Westernport, returned thanks. A fine large marquee was erected with a good dancing floor and in the evening about 120 guests assembled to celebrate the occasion with the mazy dance. The wedding presents were both costly and numerous. The committee of the congregation of the Church of England at Keilor gave a handsome silver tray, teapot and cruet in kindly recollection of the bride’s services to the church. In conjunction with Miss Gowdie (sic), Miss Milburn has for some time past undertaken the duties of honorary organist. Congratulations and kind wishes were numerously expressed for the future welfare of the young couple. It is needless to remark that the bride’s parents are very well known and respected in the Keilor Shire of which Mr Milburn has been for many years a councillor. The happy couple left for their wedding tour for the Gippsland Lakes.” (Source: The Essendon Gazette, Dec.11, 1890)

“In Keilor, orchards had been planted on the river flats by the mid 19th century along with market gardens. David Milburn on Arundel Road developed the first irrigation system in Victoria to water his orchard and market garden in 1857. He described how he carried out the work at the First Irrigation Conference, convened by Alfred Deakin in March 1890:

I started by getting my living from 7 acres of land, leased in 1857, with 2 acres of orchard; used water by hand pump. Afterwards bought 45 1⁄2 acres of land; planted 3 acres of orchard; and used pump worked by horse-power. In 1870 bought 70 acres of land adjoining; planted more fruit trees, and erected chain water-lifter, worked by horse-power, which gave 100 gallons per minute at 34 feet delivery; this with fair results. Had a windmill erected, having four different pumps, all in a small way, for when horse, or man, or wind stopped, the water stopped.

In 1884, having a few hundred pounds to spare, I thought of going in for a centrifugal pump and engine, but I was recommended to try two hydraulic rams, and erect a weir across the Saltwater River to work them; but what with the rams not working well and the weir being washed down three times, I did not get good results the first 2 years. In 1887 had a third ram put down. When plenty of water is running over the weir, the three rams will deliver, at a height of 50 feet, 150 gallons per minute, at 30 feet high, 220 gallons per minute. These are a great improvement on the former pumps (saving horse and manual labour), as they work day and night with very little attention.”(‘Victoria’s First Irrigator’, Aqua, vol.10, June 1959, p.189, May 1962, pp. 153-4.)(Source of photo and text: ‘Farm and Dairy’ by Gary Vines, 1993)

“One of the oldest family-owned market gardening businesses in Keilor, G.S.Milburn and Sons, is no more.

The firm ceased production in December (1999),when the older two of the three Milburn brothers – Bruce and John, retired.

…Their departure from vegetable production at Keilor ends a family tradition dating back 146 years to the arrival of their great-grandfather, David Milburn, in 1853.

...David explained the focus was no longer on production for market and wholesale to small suburban green grocers.

‘People are increasingly buying fruit and vegetables in supermarkets’, he said.”
(Source: ‘Farm dynasty ends’ by Chris Evans, 1999)