The area was known as East Brighton before being named Bentleigh in 1908 after the Victorian Premier, Sir Thomas Bent. East Brighton was occupied by stock runs until the early 1850s, when the increasing metropolitan population resulted in market gardens being established. The sandy soil was easily worked and there were springs in several places, part of the chain of water courses extending through the area to Cheltenham.
In 1849 a Methodist church was opened in Centre road (near Jasper road), one of four Methodist buildings built pre-gold rush in the Brighton district.
There was a substantial Catholic community in the Bentleigh market-gardens area and in 1865 a school was opened on a church member's land in Bentleigh East. There was no church, however, and members attended services in Brighton, Glenhuntly, Oakleigh or Mentone 's situation which continued until 1955.
Bentleigh secured a break from the Brighton connection when in 1862 it was included in the Moorabbin Road District, separate from the municipal borough of Brighton. A State primary school, Bentleigh East, was opened in 1878. Among the townships between Caulfield and Moorabbin railway stations Bentleigh developed quite strongly in the early 1900s. The Victorian Municipal Directory, 1909, described it as -
The shopping centre along Centre Road grew steadily before the second world war. The Bentleigh West primary school was opened in 1927. The well known East Boundary hotel was opened in 1934, by when Bentleigh was a substantial township with market gardens and orchards around it. There were tile and brick works, a public hall and a library.
During the 1950s Bentleigh and Bentleigh East underwent rapid residential growth. Primary schools were opened at Tucker Road (1952), Coatesville (1953) and Valkstone and Eastmoor (both in East Bentleigh, 1957). A high school opened in 1956. Market gardens fast disappeared as Bentleigh and Bentleigh East acquired modern and flourishing shopping centres, pre-school and elderly citizens' facilities and a range of sporting facilities.
Just within East Bentleigh the Moorabbin Heights primary school was opened in 1960, to which was added the Moorleigh high school in 1966. By the 1990s the high school was closed and the primary school supplmented by establishing a branch of the Rudolf Steiner primary school in conjunction with the State school.
At the southern edge of Bentleigh there are the Patterson railway station and neighbourhood shopping area.
The Centre Road shops have continued to be a strong retail strip, being ranked as the ninth best in metropolitan Melbourne in 1994.
Bentleigh and Bentleigh East's street layout is of a grid design, requiring traffic-calming devices in some streets to maintain residential amenity. There are reserves and sports ovals, not over-generous in number. The Moorabbin Community Hospital is a short way east of the Bentleigh East shops in Centre Road. Despite the extent of Bentleigh East there is no other significant shopping area.
The median house prices in Bentleigh and Bentleigh East in 1987 were 22% and 10% respectively above the median for metropolitan Melbourne. In 1996 they were 25% and 14% above the metropolitan median.
Dobson, W.T., "The Living Harvest: A History of St. Peter's Parish", East Bentleigh, 1974.
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