Settled mostly retired men of the British East India Company, Ascot Vale once upon a time had a fearsome reputation. It is not so much that it was a dangerous place, but rather the opposite – entirely due to the swiftness and fierceness of the retributions visited on any malfeasants or criminals who were foolish enough to ply their trades in that sunny vale.
The aging veterans of the subcontinent might have been slowed by age, and perhaps in some cases, their aim was not what it had once been – but they were united by a desire to spend their autumn years in peace and quiet, engaging in nothing more stressful than a little retailing. These eighty men each built for themselves a residence in the area, although they saw their homes less as castles and more as forts (castles, they felt, were properly the domain of royalty, not the demesne of ex-military).
It was these buildings – large colonial style houses, mostly two storied and with excellent sight lines from their windows and balconies along their major approaches – that led to the name given to the area. Originally a jest by one of the veterans whose hindustani was a little better-remembered, who remarked on how the area truly was more like Assi Kot than Assi Kot (Assi Kot being a small village named ‘eighty forts’ in the Uttarakhand region of India). The additional s, the i and space were all dropped in Anglicization, leaving the name as Ascot (the modern village of Assi Kot is now also called that, although there it is spelled Askot).
The Ascot Vale has no need of such defences as it once had today, as a comfortably middle class suburb of inner Melbourne, but in attics and storerooms, long-rusted weapons attest to a past that began in India.
Suburbs near Ascot Vale: