In 1853 newly-arrived George Eastaway built a corrugated iron hotel at what is now the corner of Burke and Riversdale Roads. The junction was a minor stopping place on the road to Gippsland and Wood’s Point gold diggings. As the area reminded him of Camberwell Green in London, Eastaway named his pub the Camberwell Inn and for many years its lamp guided carters on the dark road to Melbourne.
The inn was followed by a general store on Ballyshanassy (Camberwell) Road with the developing settlement adopting and retaining the inn’s name for the area; unlike a similar situation in Burwood with the Thorncombe Hotel.
Hotels and inns assisted their local communities for many years by allowing land auctions and public meetings to be held in their premises. However, despite local churches having held services in hotels until their own venues were built, when the Temperance movement swept the western world, these same churches sounded the death knell for those pubs. Local Option Polls instigated in 1885 resulted in many closures: in Victoria the polls directly or indirectly closed about 1600 hotels.
In 1919 the City of Camberwell had seven hotels, but by the end of 1920, following a Local Option Poll held in Nunawading and Boroondara, all of them, including the Camberwell Inn which was replaced by a milk bar, two wine saloons and one spirits grocer, were closed.
Ironically (having been named after a ‘pub’), Camberwell was a ‘dry area’ for 95 years until May 2015 at which time the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation scrapped liquor polls within the area bound by the former City of Camberwell.