Monday, 26 February 2018 08:40

Historic huts being destroyed

Strobridge’s Huts are the last remaining buildings from the ghost town of Brookville in the Mount Delusion State Forest, west of Swifts Creek, and they are being slowly wdestroyed by vandalism and theft. Forest Fire Management Victoria staff wanted to share the background to these historic huts in the hopes of creating more care and less destruction. The township of Brookville began in 1868 as a small goldmining settlement of canvas tents and expanded to include 36 houses, two hotels, a post office, school, butcher, store, and a recreation reserve, with an estimated population of 500 to 700 people, peaking from 1895 into the 20th century. Today the township of Brookville and surrounding settlements are deserted and have reverted to forest as they once were, apart from two lonely huts. Lucy Strobridge lived most of her adult life as a recluse in these huts until the age of 81 when she died in 2001 – locally they were known as ‘Lucy’s Huts’. The back hut was believed to have been built in the 1880s and is one of the earliest huts in the district. Lucy used it as her kitchen and the insides of the hut are blackened from decades of soot from her cooking fire. The front hut was built in the 1920s, using local timber from the Brookville sawmill.

The building was later modified during the depression years and was Lucy’s main dwelling. As a young girl, Lucy was educated and attended the Brookville school nearby. Later she left the local district for Melbourne to study the arts at university, returning later to live in Swifts Creek. Lucy returned to the family home (these huts) in Brookville to live with her mother. Lucy was very shy of strangers and would hide at the sight of anyone coming near the huts. For food she trapped rabbits and grew vegetables. It’s remarkable to think of Lucy living in the harsh Australian bush for so many decades with little contact from the outside world. She lived alone for 38 years after her mother’s passing in 1972, remaining mostly independent until the end. These huts bear testament to a time now passed, showing the traditional bushcraft skills and practises required to survive that are rarely seen today. Forest Fire Management Victoria is asking for respect for these historic huts so that others may enjoy the story of Lucy and the history of Brookville, and also for the return of the window sashes that were stolen from the front hut in December 2017 so the hut can be repaired. Contact the Swifts Creek DELWP office if you have any information.