30 November, 2012

Taking the heat

Well summer is certainly here! With an estimated top temperature for Geelong of 38°C and the mercury creeping up to 37° by 4:30pm it was certainly a warm day for a ride around the river. I started out at a balmy 28°C and kept to the shade as the temperature continued to climb.
In a - currently futile - attempt to add some photos to my newly created bird nests page, I was riding relatively slowly and scanning the overhead branches. I was also trying to ride in a relatively straight line, not collide with other cyclists or pedestrians and - oh yes - keep an eye out for snakes at the same time.
Well, I didn't run anyone down and I suspect it was too hot even for the snakes. I was making frequent stops and did discover several nests, but with no-one appearing to be home I couldn't tell who they belonged to.
I also spent quite some time chasing the perfect bird shot for this year's Barwon calendar. As I lurked amongst the tangled lignum a raven appeared and perched in a nearby eucalypt. (Don't ask me what sort, it's just too darn hard to tell them apart!) It perched for a while, beak open and then left me to continue my sneaking around in the undergrowth.
Raven aka Crow
Over an hour later and still not sure I got the right shot, I headed off again. I stopped briefly at a couple of nests I'd seen last week, snapped a few shots of some ducks on a branch and kept going.
Just before the boat ramp I spotted a Grey Butcherbird - also with its beak gaping. It struck me as odd that I hadn't ever noticed birds doing this before. A little further down the track and I saw a Starling. The same again, and then I came across a small group of Mudlarks. Their beaks were also open, however as they didn't stop shouting the whole time I was nearby so it was a little hard to tell what they were up to.
Grey Butcherbird
Finally, as I headed back past the boatsheds it soon became apparent that all the Silver Gulls (aka seagulls) which were usually scattered along the riverbank were all camped out under under one of the ash trees and yes, you guessed it! A good number of them had their beaks hanging open.
Silver Gull aka Seagull

By now I was fairly sure I was onto something and a quick Google search when I got home proved what I had suspected (and plenty of people probably know already): birds pant or gape when they are hot!
I soon discovered that birds - like dogs - do not have sweat glands, so they rely on other means to dissipate heat. The basic mechanism is still evaporative cooling and in birds this occurs through the mouth by panting - although heat exchange through unfeathered skin (such as legs) also occurs. Some (but perhaps not all?) non-passerine birds (ie those which do not belong to the order Passeriformes) also use a technique called "gular flutter" which involves vibrating the floor of the mouth and the upper parts of the throat.
Another quick Google search told me that ravens, butcherbirds, starlings and mudlarks were all passerines. Great, but what about the seagulls? Well Google didn't want to tell me about the specifics of Australian seagulls and the seagulls didn't mention it either. They just stood in the shade with their beaks hanging open.
From what I did find, gular flutter varies depending on the mechanics of each species' throat but in all cases it is more energy efficient than panting alone. Pelicans can do it, herons can do it too and so do cormorants, ducks, pigeons and a variety of other types of gull, so I guess the seagulls can also.
White-faced Heron chick
I now notice that whilst the adult White-faced Heron I saw was not gaping, the chick in the nest did appear to be.
Of course, the other side of the thermoregulatory coin is keeping warm when the weather is cold. Feathers provide obvious protection, but legs are also very important. In some species, leg veins and arteries are located closely side-by-side so that cool venous blood returning to the body is warmed via heat exchange as it passes arterial blood leaving the core.
Another obvious means of heat retention is of course, covering the bare skin. So, when you see a seagull or a duck standing on one leg, it is most probably not a poor little cripple, it is just a bit cool. Additionally, sitting down to cover both legs, tucking your beak into your side, fluffing up your feathers and facing downwind to minimise the surface area exposed to a cold breeze are also good ways to reduce heat loss if you are a bird.

Pacific Black Duck
Clearly the above photo is not a recent one, with all the ducks I saw during my ride either standing firmly on two legs, or (perhaps the best option) in the water.

17 November, 2012

The Willows

As promised, in this post I intend to pinpoint as closely as possible the location of the camping spot on the Barwon known as The Willows which was so beloved of Geelong Grammar in the 19th century as well as being popular with both the wider community and Grammar's long-time rival, Geelong College.
Part of the problem with trying to locate the spot was simply the extensive number of willows which were planted along the banks of the river during the 19th and early 20th centuries. And these weren't just incidental plantings by individuals but rather, were introduced as part of civic beautification programs and - ironically - to control bank erosion across an extended time period.

Willow on the river bank below Barwon Grange
By the 1930s however, there were problems in some parts of the river and money was being provided by the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission to clear the willows from the upper reaches of the Barwon where they were clogging the flow. By contrast, downstream at Geelong and beyond, willows were still being planted. On 19th February, 1934 the Geelong Advertiser reported that recent plantings of willow had taken well and were now 6 ft high.  Then again, articles such as The Tragedy of the Barwon which appeared in The Argus of 14th May, 1949 highlighted the problem with willows.
But in the latter half of the 19th century when the boys from Grammar and College were honing their rowing skills on the lower reaches of the Barwon or whiling away their weekends around a campfire under the drooping branches, there was little concept of the problems ahead.
All of this meant that pinning down the precise location of a campsite simply known as The Willows was not exactly an easy process, but here is what I found:
The publication Light Blue Down Under: The History of Geelong Grammar School by Weston Bate made the following statement:

On the river their favourite breakfast place was The Willows, 8 kilometres downstream past the Barwon Breakwater, called simply 'the break'.

Willows and other exotic plantings immediately below the breakwater and the
 remnant chimney belonging to the "Willows" fellmongery of Dan Fowler
The Illustrated Heritage Guide to the Geelong College noted that:

The Willows was the name of a popular picnicking location on the Barwon River six miles downriver from the boat shed.

A little plotting using Google Earth showed me that - assuming the course of the river has not changed significantly in the intervening years - the two distances mentioned are only a few hundred metres apart...in the middle of Reedy Lake. Possible perhaps as there seem to be some areas not completely waterlogged, but unlikely as this was a publicly accessible picnic ground.
By contrast, many of the indirect references I located, pointed to the site being on the north bank of the river near Wilsons or Coppards Road, perhaps on the bend which is located between the two. My reasoning in thinking this was firstly, the place names mentioned in the poem Anabasis of the Alice by James Lister Cuthbertson which I mentioned in a previous post and I quote:

No check, no stay at The Willows
That redden in tender bloom,
But forward - and St Albans
Fades in the river gloom;
The crew in the poem are rowing from Barwon Heads to the school boat shed in town. An earlier part of the poem sees them enter Reedy Lake and then race another crew before rowing past The Willows and then 'St Albans', the stud built in 1873 for James Wilson, the famous racehorse trainer. His poem "Easy All" refers to cows grazing in nearby fields and "A Lament For The Willows" declaims:

No more do the thoroughbreds cluster
And stand in the cool of the shade,
To dream of the Flemington muster...
'St Albans' Homestead from Boundary Road
This surely refers to the bloodstock at St Albans Stud and is consistent with the following passage from the Church of England Grammar School Geelong History and register 1907 which states:

From Goat Island to the Willows the river is at its broadest and best; indeed, half-a-dozen eights could row abreast on the magnificent Long Reach, with its willow bordered shore....But what need of words: the Willows are the Willows, and for ever enshrined in the hearts of all true Grammar School Boys, who, one and all, feel to the successive proprietors of St Albans a deep debt of gratitude for allowing them, in Bean Lean's language "wood and water".

View downriver from the end of Boundary Road
Next, I found a newspaper report from September, 1903 detailing the accidental drowning of an 8 year old boy - incidentally a student at Geelong Grammar - who was on a boating excursion with the school at The Willows. The article refers to the event having occurred near the Geelong Racecourse which at that time as GC Magazine noted and I quoted in my previous post was:

on Barwon River flats off Tannery Road on the opposite banks to the end of Wilsons Road.

So, The Willows was on St Albans land near the Geelong Racecourse and I figured that "the magnificent Long Reach" between Goat Island (the small island over which the aqueduct passes) and The Willows was the broad, straight stretch of the river extending from somewhere downstream of Boundary Road to a bend about halfway between Wilsons and Coppards Road.
Looking up the "Long Reach" from Wilsons Road
Then, finally,  on the History of Australian Rowing website, I stumbled across an online version of Karen Threlfall's Fair Play and Hard Rowing: A History of The Barwon Rowing Club 1870-1990. On pages 3 and 4 of Chapter 4 is an extended description of a rowing excursion to Barwon Heads written (of course) by Cuthbertson. In it, is the following passage:

...and soon running beyond Goat Island and the bend, which leads to the Long Reach. At this point the river is wide enough to row six eights abreast and for a mile and a quarter runs quite straight. The view from off the Australian tannery is very fine, right ahead lies the long stretch of bright blue water, terminating in picturesque clumps of withered yellow reeds, crowned with the pale green lines of the willows, which are now in the glory of their spring foliage. Coming down to the end of the reach, the boat travels opposite the side of Mr Crozier's splendidly grassed paddocks, which are here bordered for half a mile by willows. We run our boat up the cutting, at the end of the paddock, and get out for breakfast at the spot which is so well known and liked by Grammar School boys. We collect large bundles of dried lignum branches, boil our billy, cook our chops, and make coffee of a most satisfactory description. Could anyone wish for a better camp?

Now, it didn't take long to ascertain that "Mr Crozier" was John Crozier, owner of 'St Albans' subsequent to James Wilson. Well that fitted.  A few more quick measurements on Google Earth and I came up with a location which was at the bottom of Coppards Road almost exactly where I guessed from Cuthy's poems and some of the other sources.
Probable location of The Willows. Click to enlarge
Well, that solved that problem. I still have no explanation for the two sources suggesting that the site was some 2 to 3km further downstream in Reedy Lake, but am reasonably confident that I now have the right spot. The next problem however, is taking some photos. I know that Coppards Road runs into the lake, about 1km short of the river channel. I don't currently have a kayak, so an on river approach isn't appealing, which leaves a stroll of just over 1.5km across private land...
I'll keep you posted...

08 November, 2012

And they're off and racing!

In attempting to chase down the popular 19th century camping spot along the Barwon known as "The Willows" which will be the topic of my next post, I came across  some other places and dates which relate to the land along the river and its historical uses. The first of these was the Geelong Racecourse which today is in Breakwater a short distance from the north bank of the river, however this has only been the case since 1909. Prior to its moving to the present site, the track was located on the opposite side of the Barwon at Marshalltown (now the suburb of Marshall). According to GCMagazine the Geelong Racing Club was established in 1865 and was located "on Barwon River flats off Tannery Road on the opposite banks to the end of Wilsons Road".
A map of the town and district of Geelong dated 1848 (held by the State Library of Victoria) shows the racecourse as having its northern boundary level with today's Reserve Road, its southern boundary a little north of Boundary Road and extending from the river on the east to a point a few hundred metres short of the Barwon Heads Road on the west.
On 4th March, 1869, an invitation was issued by the club to Prince Alfred the Duke of Edinburgh to attend a race meet at the course. The Duke who was no stranger to the region having visited the Austin's property 'Barwon Park' and opened the bridge across the Barwon at Winchelsea the year before, accepted the invitation.
By the time of the Duke's visit, which occasioned a public holiday and a huge crowd, one grandstand was in place and another temporary structure was erected for the event. The Duke and his party arrived in Geelong by train and were then whisked to the racecourse by carriage.
In 1872, the first Geelong Cup was run at the track. The horse which won that inaugural race was The Flying Scud which as it happens was trained by one James Wilson - owner of the famous St Albans Stud, located on the opposite bank of the river.
Geelong Racecourse, Marshalltown, c1900. Image held by the Victorian
State Library
The race meetings at Marshalltown drew patrons from as far afield as Melbourne, Ballarat, the Bellarine Peninsula and Colac, all keen to enjoy a day at the races. To accommodate this interest, a branch line from the railway line to Colac was built to the racecourse, running special services only on race days. It branched off from the main line somewhere near today's Marshall Station, crossed Barwon Heads Road and curved around to terminate inside the racecourse grounds. More detail can be found on this page of the Rail Geelong website.
The race track at Marshalltown however, was not without its problems. Situated on low-lying land beside the river, it was of course prone to flooding and by 1905 it was deemed to be too far from the centre of Geelong and a decision was taken to move to a new location at Breakwater. The last race meeting was held on 13th January the following year.
A little later in the year on 1st July, the land on which the former racecourse stood was handed over by the government to the Geelong Harbor Trust - a newly formed body who decided to develop the land as an experiment in agriculture: Sparrovale Irrigation Farm. A quick Google search will generate quite a bit of information about the farm over the years so I won't repeat it in detail, but will settle for a brief outline.
The entrance to Sparrovale Farm, Marshall
Sparrovale Farm (yes, this is now the accepted spelling and I note that the road signs have been adjusted to match in recent times) was named after Edward Rogers "Ned" Sparrow, secretary of the Geelong Racing Club and was set up as a model farm to prove that using the best farming practises of the day, what was otherwise viewed as waste land could be turned into a profitable farming venture. To do this, the land - about 1077 acres which included the former racecourse and surrounds - was drained and an irrigation system installed. A manager's house was erected near Sparrowvale Road and additional land allocated for employees' cottages. A nursery was established along with a poultry run, calf sheds, milking sheds, cattle pens and other dairying facilities. Horses and pigs were also bred whilst some of the land was given over to cultivating crops.
Things however, did not always go according to plan and after the property was flooded in 1909 and again in 1911. As a result, a levee bank was built to protect the reclaimed land from the inevitable flooding. This can clearly be seen from above to the present day. To aid construction, a tramway which also served to transport goods within the farm was extended along the line of the old railway branch to the banks of the river before, travelling some distance downstream. Construction of the levee began in January, 1912 and continued until funds dried up in September, 1915.
In 1916 however, the media of the day reported damage to the levee banks during another flood event. A further setback occurred in 1915 when a significant amount of cash was stolen during a robbery on the property.
Ultimately, the venture was not as successful as the Harbor Trust had hoped. The Trust itself struck difficulties and in 1933 new commissioners were installed. The property was maintained for a further three years until 1936 when it was decided to sell. The new owner of Sparrovale Farm was Mr W H Bailey, the son of Stephen E Bailey of Suma Park, Queenscliff. Stephen was educated at Geelong Grammar and in fact would have been at the school in the era dealt with in my previous three posts. He would surely have known where The Willows was!
The back of Sparrovale Farm from across the river at Wilsons Road
His son meanwhile, seems to have made a going concern of Sparrovale Farm for almost twenty years before selling up in 1955 to Mr C O Lorimer of Remirol Park, Ocean Grove for the sum of  £70,000. By this stage the property extended to some 1,400 acres and it was remarked at the time that Mr Lorimer was intending to establish a dairy herd on the land.
By 1964, the property had changed hands once again and at this time was established as an incorporated company under the name of KM Briscoe & PR Briscoe & GB Perkins & HG Perkins, also known as the Sparrovale Pastoral Co. In 2000, the farm was winning awards for their sheep and then in 2005 for their cattle. I believe Sparrovale is still a privately owned property.
Anyone wanting more historical detail the Sparrovale Farm page of the Geelong and District History Site is a good place to start.

05 November, 2012

The River Poet

I guess that not too many Australian rivers can boast of having their own poet, however during a recent search to see what - if any - poetry had been written about the Barwon, I was surprised to discover, not just the odd ditty, but an entire book of verse titled Barwon Ballads and School Verses.
The author of these lyrical tributes was of course, none other than James Lister Cuthbertson whom I discussed to some extent in my previous two posts: The old Light Blue and The school of the Barwon. In brief, he was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1851 and arrived in Australia in 1875 where he took up the position of Master of Classics at Geelong Grammar School. He soon established a close relationship both with the headmaster John Bracebridge Wilson and with the boys under his care.

James Lister Cuthbertson taken from Barwon
Ballads and School Verses, 1912
Amongst the various legacies he left to the school was the precursor of the Corian, the school's annual magazine. He was a regular contributor both during his time as a teacher and after, signing his pieces as "C". Another lasting legacy was the introduction of the house system, along which lines the school is still largely organised to the present day. Inter-house music, debating and in particular sports competitions are stalwarts of the school curriculum. But even prior to this, in Cuthbertson's day, the Grammar boys were encouraged to participate in outdoor activities and "Cuthy" himself was a more than willing participant in this part of the curriculum. His love of rowing, hiking, camping and the outdoors was frequently expressed in his poetry and much of this also reflected the time he spent on the Barwon:
Which camp is best, taken from Barwon Ballads and School Verses, 1912
The above poem describes the various camping spots used by the the school (and others, including Geelong College), between Fyansford and Barwon Heads and is typical of the way he described the river and the surrounding countryside. His verse generally reflected the 19th century public school values of the day and much of his description of the Australian countryside could equally be applied to his Scottish homeland. One of his favourite camping spots and a recurring theme in his poetry was a place known as The Willows, which was (as mentioned in the previous post) in the vicinity of the Saint Albans Homestead. Whilst today's view of willows along Australian waterways is anything but flattering, the citizens of the 19th century saw them very differently.
And yet despite the English cliches, he also showed a great appreciation for his odd antipodean surroundings. He repeatedly referred to gum trees, ti tree and in particular, the golden blooms of the wattle trees. He also showed an acute sense of humour and a degree of local knowledge, when in discussing the "joys" of camping he noted "mosquitoes that bite like a dog".
On numerous occasions he described extended excursions to Barwon Heads and back with crews rowing into the night or starting out well before dawn. His poem The Anabasis of the Alice is a good example. In fact, he often gave the name of the boats crewed by the boys. There was the Cleopatra, the Iris, the Daphne, the Argo and of course the Alice which was mentioned on more than one occasion and even carried the crew of '89 to victory in the Head of the River - held that year on the Yarra.
But beneath all the eloquent words and the tales of sporting prowess, Cuthbertson was a troubled man. He was a homosexual working in a boys' boarding school in an era when being gay was a crime. I can find no public suggestion of impropriety of any sort either then or now. The introduction to the posthumous publication of "Barwon Ballads" says only that "little has been said of Cuthbertson's relations to the school in which he spent so large a part of his life. This is a matter that belongs to the school, and finds its appropriate place in the school records; but for the general public it has little concern".
Of course, Wikipedia is not so constrained and describes his battle with alcoholism, noting that the boys were assigned to look after him when he was incapable of doing so himself. This was known as "Cuthy duty". Whilst his friend John Bracebridge Wilson was headmaster, he enjoyed a relatively protected position and was even promoted to acting headmaster upon Bracebridge Wilson's death, however it appears that the new headmaster Leonard Hartford Lindon was not so tolerant and as I mentioned previously, Cuthbertson soon departed.
He spent his retirement, after a brief return to England, first in Geelong and then in the Melbourne suburb of Cheltenham. He spent holidays travelling to Queensland, fishing in South Australia and writing. Throughout the rest of his life he maintained his connection to the:
"...fair school, that in our hearts is queen,
With purpling ivy mounting o'er its tower..."
Geelong Grammar School, view from Maud Street, 1895. Image held by the
Victorian State Library
And this view of the south face of the school taken in 1895, less than a year before his departure was probably what Cuthbertson had in mind when he penned the following short verse:
Strong tendrils of the ivy plants
That mantle on our wall of gray,
That brighten as the sunlight slants
Across the hills at dying day,
You image well the hearts of those
Our sons who do not break or bend,
But fight until the battle-close,
And die or triumph in the end.
Cuthbertson spent about 15 years in retirement before his sudden death on 18th January, 1910 as a result of an overdose of the barbiturate Veronal - a sleeping aid. At the time he was staying with a friend in Mount Gambier.
Four years after Cuthbertson's death in 1914 when Grammar moved to its present site in Corio, one of the newly opened boys boarding houses was given his name. Cuthbertson House or "Cuthy" as it is known stands overlooking the ovals and Limeburner's Lagoon as a lasting tribute to one of the school's most influential masters.
Cuthbertson House, Geelong Grammar School. November 2012
Cuthbertson House foundation stone, November 2012
For those interested in reading more of Cuthbertson's Barwon Ballads and School Verses the book can be downloaded in PDF and a variey of other formats or read online through the California Digital Library here.

03 November, 2012

"The school of the Barwon"

In my previous post, I looked at the early days of Geelong Grammar and at the old school building in Maud Street, Geelong. Aside from its relative proximity to the Barwon and the probable use of bluestone from quarries along the river in its construction, the school has close historical ties to the river which date back formally to 1870 when boys from the school took up rowing. In these early years, they made use of the Barwon Rowing Club's boats, honing their skills in preparation for taking on the best that the Melbourne public Schools had to offer. In 1873 and realising the talent amongst the school boy rowers, Barwon held scratch four races in which both Grammar and Geelong College took part with Grammar winning the event which did not go unremarked in the newspapers of the day.
The current crop: a Grammar crew on the Barwon January, 2012
In 1874 Grammar formally established its own rowing club and bought its first boat. The following year saw the arrival at the school of James Lister Cuthbertson - a master who would come to define rowing at Geelong Grammar and significantly influence the Victorian School Boys Head of the River - the longest-running school boy rowing event in the world. The Head of the River dates back to 1868 and was first held, not on the Barwon, but on the Yarra River between Melbourne Grammar and Scotch College in Melbourne.
Geelong first competed against the Melbourne schools in 1874 but did not contest the Head of the River until the following year. It was another three years before they took home the title, winning for the first time in 1878. These early races were all held on the Yarra River in Melbourne, however in 1879, following Grammar's win the previous year, the race was held for the first time on the Barwon River in Geelong. From this time the race moved back and forth between the Barwon and the Yarra until 1948 when it moved permanently to Geelong. This continued until 2001 when the race moved to the Olympic standard course at Nagambie.
Until 1900, the Head of the River was contested by coxed fours in boats of varying styles (for details see Wikipedia), however after this date the race was contested by crews of eight. This would have been well received by Cuthbertson who spent much of his 20 year teaching career at Grammar, lobbying the collective headmasters of the public schools for just such a move.
Grammar crew on a very rainy Barwon. Training isn't always sunshine and picnics
Hired by the school in 1875 "Cuthy" was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1851. He studied for the Indian Civil Service at Oxford but had a change of career plan when he failed one of the required exams. Possibly encouraged by the fact that his father managed the Bank of South Australia in Adelaide for a time, he came to Australia where he took up the position of master of classics at Geelong Grammar. He returned to England in 1882 to complete his degree at Oxford which he did in 1885 and then returned to resume his position at Grammar.
In addition to his academic duties, Cuthbertson enjoyed the outdoors and was a keen bushwalker, often spending his weekends taking groups of boys hiking at Mt Moriac, the You Yangs or the place he spent the most time - the Barwon.
During rowing season he would often head out on a Friday with a crew of four or eight boys and they would row downstream, sometimes staying over night at one of several popular camping spots such as The Willows (which as far as I can tell was on the river in the vicinity of the St Albans Homestead), Campbell's Point (extends prominently into Lake Connewarre from the north bank), Cormorant (can't pin this one down, but would guess downstream of Campbell's Point) or at Barwon Heads. Once at the Heads, Saturday would be spent lazing on the beach or hiking in the surrounding area before the long pull back upstream to Geelong. It was perhaps these extended training sessions along with Cuthbertson's passionate interest in rowing and in his students which saw Grammar become the strongest school in the APS between the years of 1878 and 1895, winning the Head of the River no less than 12 times in this 18 year period including a run of six consecutive wins between 1885 and 1890.
Looking towards Campbell's Point (right) from Ash Road, Leopold
Following the death in 1895 of his much respected colleague and headmaster, John Bracebridge Wilson, Cuthbertson acted as principal for the remainder of the year. A new appointment was made early in 1896 but it soon became clear that he would not enjoy the same relationship with the new principal that he had with Bracebridge Wilson and he agreed to leave, however he maintained close ties with the school until his death in 1910.
To the present date, Geelong Grammar has won the Head of the River no less than 33 times, a record surpassed only by Scotch College who have held the title on 40 occasions and are the current champions.
James Lister Cuthbertson is remembered today by the school primarily in the senior boys boarding house at the Corio campus which bears his name and in the Cuthbertson Health and Wellbeing Centre, but he was also, a poet of note whose published works are contained in the volume "Barwon Ballads and School Verses." Some of those verses will be the subject of my next post.

01 November, 2012

The old Light Blue

The next couple of posts I intend to write are of interest to me for several different reasons, not least of which is that they closely involve my alma mater - Geelong Grammar. Not however, the Grammar of today, spread far and wide across Geelong and the state of Victoria, but rather Grammar in its earliest days as a school.
Initially catering to only 14 boys, the Geelong Church of England Grammar School was established in 1855 in Villamanta Street, Geelong West with the support of the then Bishop of Melbourne, The Rt Rev. C. Perry. The following year it moved to Knowle House in Skene Street, Newtown before relocating once again in 1858 to its purpose-built campus in central Geelong.  The new school and its grounds were located on the block of land bounded by McKillop Street to the north, Maud Street to the south and Moorabool and Yarra Streets to the west and east respectively - perfectly situated on a ridge line overlooking Corio Bay to the north and the Barwon River to the south. The town centre was nearby with both the bay and the river providing easy access to a variety of sporting and recreational activities - an aspect of education which the school has always considered an important addition to academic pursuits.

Geelong Grammar School, 1862 showing the front entrance facing
Moorabool Street. Image held by the Victorian State Library
And they did not take long to take advantage of the river's proximity when in 1870 boys began rowing with the Barwon Rowing Club. By 1874 the school had established its own rowing club on the banks of the Barwon and before long were competing with the best.
The school building itself was built by the architect firm of Backhouse and Reynolds in 1857 whose design won a competition for the contract. The brief for the building was that it must cater for 525 pupils and include a residence for the headmaster.  Their building was a quadrangular construction in the Tudor Gothic revival style with the master's quarters contained in the south wing and amenities located in the east. A single story wing faced north with the main entrance off Moorabool Street.
The building is repeatedly described as bluestone and concrete-rendered, however the picture above and another from about 1914 appear to show a bluestone finish with sandstone dressings on the north wing, rather than a rendered finish. By contrast the sections of the building which remain today (the south and east wings) are definitely concrete-rendered. Whether only part of the building was rendered or this was added later, I don't know.
Also unknown (by me) are the origins of the building materials used to construct the school. This is somewhat of a contrast to many of the historic buildings around Geelong and along the Barwon, however given the date of construction and the sourcing of materials for other buildings from this period, I would hazard a guess that the bluestone was quite quarried somewhere along the Barwon.
This image of the school taken some time after 1914 also appears to show
bluestone with dressed sandstone on the north wing. Image held by the
Victorian State Library
 Like much of the original building, the first occupants are long gone. The first headmaster was the Rev. George Oakley Vance who resigned in 1860 when the school closed as a result of funding issues. It had only been in its new premises for two years, however one of the masters - John Bracebridge Wilson - who had joined the staff in 1858 managed to keep the student body together, teaching 40 students in rented premises until, in 1863 with 58 day students, 2 boarders and Bracebridge Wilson as its principal, the school reopened at its McKillop Street campus as the grammar school. Presumably to avoid a repeat of earlier problems, the new-look Grammar saw a number of changes. A restructuring took place which also included the drawing up of a new constitution. This change in direction was driven by a new group of trustees including prominent Western District names such as Chirnside, Armytage and Manifold as well as that noted Geelong citizen and owner of Sladen House - Sir Charles Sladen.
Over the latter half of the 19th century, the school continued to build its reputation and by 1911 had outgrown the Moorabool Street campus. The decision was taken to sell both this campus and land which had previously been earmarked as a potential school site in Belmont and move to 400 acres of land on the banks of Limeburner's Bay in Corio.
The move took place in 1914 and the old building and grounds were sold to the Geelong City Council who had planned to use the building as a town hall - a plan which never came to fruition. Over the following years, the grounds were gradually subdivided and sold and in 1916 the west wing which included the main entrance was demolished. The north wing and quadrangle area were put to use as a factory whilst the remaining south and east wings became the private hotel called Dysart.

The remaining south wing of the school (facing Maud Street) in 1930 known as
the hotel Dysart. Image held by the Victorian State Library

In 1954 the building was sold once again, this time returning to its educational roots, when it became the Reformed Theological College, in which capacity it still operated in 1986 when I sat my HSC German oral exam in the building.
According to the Victorian Heritage Database, the north wing was demolished in about 1960, leaving only the east and south wings which the Theological College occupied until 1999 when they relocated to another former Geelong Grammar campus at Highton.
This remaining section of the building comprises 47 rooms including three bathrooms, a large kitchen as well as living and dining rooms. After the departure of the Theological College, it was sold once again, passing through the hands of a number of private owners before most recently being put on the market in June, 2011 by its owner of ten years, Norm Lyons - a local businessman.
The former Geelong Grammar in October, 2012
The sale of the property finally took place in May, 2012 and settlement is due to occur some time within the next few weeks (November, 2012). The buyer is an undisclosed local investor who, the agent stated, plans to renovate the property and continue its use as a private residence. A subsequent article in the Geelong Independent of 7th September suggested the building will be developed into student apartments. The sale price was undisclosed but is believed to be somewhere in the vicinity of $2.45 million.
Going once! Going twice! Going three times! Sold!