Open Daily 9:30–6:00, Monday Until 8:00

EST 1986

Who are we?

Canterbury History Group was formed in response to community interest in Canterbury and its history. We collect and preserve the history and heritage of the Melbourne suburb of Canterbury and promote it in the community.

We welcome anyone who is interested in the history and heritage of Canterbury.

We hold monthly meetings with guest speakers on a range of historical subjects, mainly relating to Canterbury. We also celebrate History Month, hold occasional exhibitions and walks. We respond to enquiries about families, houses, businesses, churches, schools and sporting clubs.

Over many years, volunteers have collected and catalogued an archive of photographs, maps, books, letters, memoirs and other historical records.

We have also published a number of pamphlets and two books which are available to buy here. We also publish 6 to 7 Newsletters a year.

When do we meet?

We meet on the 4th Monday of the month at 8.00 pm. Meetings are held from February to June with a winter recess in July and August. We have a meeting in September, an annual dinner with a speaker in October to celebrate History Month and a November Christmas lunch.

Where do we meet?

In the Meeting Room of the Heritage Centre at 190a Canterbury Road. There is ample parking in Canterbury Road and in the Station car park.

Canterbury Public Library 1907

Heritage Centre

Boroondara Council has refurbished the Old Canterbury Public Library in the Canterbury Gardens as a Heritage Centre for Canterbury History Group and Surrey Hills Historical Society.

Opening early in 2024, it will house the Collections of both groups and provide a Meeting Room for meetings and exhibitions.

There is a Volunteers Room for cataloguing and research and a Local History Room where members of the public can do research during opening hours.

Opening Hours from to ?

We are closed on public holidays.

Canterbury Public Library

History of the Canterbury Public Library (now the Heritage Centre).

The Canterbury Public Library was opened in March 1907 by JE Mackey MLA at the eastern end of the newly planted Canterbury Gardens. A timber building with a tiled roof, it had a bay window, turret, return verandah and a ramp. (Years later, the turret was removed and the verandah enclosed ) It was a very early purpose-built library: there were two large rooms for the public, one a reading room, the second for recreation of a quiet nature: draughts, chess etc. There were also caretaker’s apartments at the rear. The cost was 730 pounds, 400 pounds paid by the council and 330 pounds raised by locals.

The library was the culmination of local efforts that had started a decade earlier to provide books for community use. The Canterbury and Balwyn Literary Institute commenced in 1890 in Golding’s Hall above his factory in Canterbury Road, adjacent to the western end of the gardens. The institute was very active for 4 years, holding more than 50 fortnightly meetings. It was revived around 1897 by the Rev. J J Watsford in the form of the Canterbury and Balwyn Free Library. This was housed in 1899 in one of the rooms of G.G. Mercy’s Canterbury Buildings in Canterbury Road, opposite the Gardens, as Canterbury Reading Room and Library. Between 1897 and 1903, the institute acquired 2,500 books and the library was open for lending three days a week. As well, between 7.00 pm and 10.00 pm every evening, daily and weekly newspapers were available in the free reading room. However, the aim of the institute was always to have its own building.

The literary institute was self-supporting. In 1903, the annual subscription fee was eight shillings per annum and there were 120 subscribers. It also received annual donations from the council of 5 pounds until 1906 when it was given a grant of 15 pounds. The Victorian Government also gave it a grant of 60 pounds in 1905.

The building of a library was initiated by the institute who in 1903 asked the Camberwell and Boroondara Shire Council for a ‘new and commodious building’ in Balwyn Road. They offered to subscribe pound for pound and ‘vest the whole concern in the council’. George Bennett, headmaster of Balwyn State School from 1880 and Surrey Hills State school from 1906, had been actively involved in the project. They raised 300 pounds to get it underway.

The Canterbury Public Library was closed in 1977 amid protest, its functions and book stock transferred to the new Balwyn branch library in Whitehorse Road. A bookmobile still visited the library until 1979. Since then, the building has housed a number of community groups: Theatreworks, PlayStation and the Toy Library.

Don Gibb and Stuart Warmington, Visions of A Village
Don Gibb with Jill Barnard, Canterbury A History
Geoffrey Blainey, History of Camberwell

Canterbury Public Library c 1912
Foundation members of the Canterbury History Group. Left: Don Gibb author of ‘Canterbury A History’ and ‘Visions of a Village’. Right: Stuart Warmington illustrator ‘Visions of a Village’.

History of the Canterbury History Group

In August 1985, the Canterbury Neighbourhood Centre and the Canterbury Chamber of Commerce sponsored a ‘Historical Happening’ held over three days and consisting of a display of historical photographs, speakers and talks. This event generated so much interest in the history of Canterbury that it led to the Canterbury History Group being formed early the next year.

The inaugural meeting was held on Monday, February 24, 1986, at the Canterbury Neighbourhood Centre. At this meeting, it was moved that the group be named the Canterbury History Group. The objectives of the group would be, ‘The researching, recording and preserving of the history of Canterbury.’

These objectives have been extended in our Constitution to include ‘ promoting interest in and research into the history of the district of Canterbury, but not exclusively.’ To this end the group would:

  • Collect and preserve items of historical interest
  • Compile and keep an historical record of the district
  • Produce and publish historical material
  • Affiliate and maintain contact with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria
  • Liaise and organise occasional combined meetings with other historical societies in the Municipality of Boroondara on matters of mutual interest
  • Liaise with relevant bodies in relation to the preservation of buildings and objects of architectural and historical value or interest
  • Raise funds for the fulfilment of the Group’s projects. It would be a non-profit organisation


Canterbury History Group is a member of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria ( RHSV) and the Boroondara Historical Societies Association (BHSA). It is actively involved with the Canterbury Community Precinct and its stakeholders.

We are fortunate that two of our members have written excellent local histories which have become fund raisers for the Group. Visions of a Village – Canterbury Shops and shopping 1880s -1990s and Beyond’ by Don Gibb, illustrated by Stuart Warmington was first published in 1995. It is still in print: it was revised in a second edition in 2007 and a third revised edition in 2017.

Likewise, Canterbury A History by Don Gibb with Jill Barnard was published in 2019 with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, supported by a Boroondara Community Strengthening Grant. It was republished in a second revised edition in 2022, sponsored by the Bendigo Community Bank. The Group has also written and published brochures detailing walks around Canterbury and installed a series of plaques in Maling and Canterbury Roads.


Canterbury History Group is a member of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria and the Boroondara Historical Societies Association. It is actively involved with the Canterbury Community Precinct and its stakeholders.


Neil Curry


Libby Wilson


Sue Woolley


Loreen Chambers


Rob Bradley


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