22 July, 2013

Branching out - life at The Leigh

After the recent posts on the local bushrangers, I figured it was time to visit some of the places mentioned in their travels and in particular, the little town of Shelford came to mind. Located on the Leigh River about 17km upstream of the confluence with the Barwon, it was originally known as The Leigh.
The Leigh River, Shelford
The area first saw European settlement when George Russell for the Clyde Company, established Golf Hill nearby in 1839. By 1842, Russell had purchased the homestead and when the Clyde Company was dissolved in 1857-1858 he purchased the central Golf Hill freehold.
Golf Hill, copyright The Australian Heritage Photographic Library
Over the years, the homestead grew from a timber shack to a small brick cottage built in 1846 and designed by local surveyor and architect Alexander John Skene. By 1867 at the time of Russell's wife's death a weatherboard drawing room extension was in the process of construction. This part of the building remains today, however the brick cottage was demolished to allow the construction of the current two-storey bluestone mansion in 1876.
Russell eventually expanded the property to an area of about 28,000 acres - around two fifths of the original holding. He died at Golf Hill in 1888 and it passed to his bachelor son who ran the property with the aid of his youngest sister, Janet. After the death of her brother, Janet, along with her husband John Biddlecombe, took over the estate and established one of the best Hereford studs in the country, channelling much of the profit from the business into acts of philanthropy - not unlike another widow - Elizabeth Austin - whose pioneering husband established his property Barwon Park not too far away at Winchelsea.
The majority of the Golf Hill land was eventually sold for subdivision into soldier settlement blocks following the Second World War.
Plaque showing the original subdivision of Golf Hill and the nearby
Shelford Estate into solder settlement blocks
Amongst the contributions to the township made by George Russell was the Presbyterian church, which opened on the 8th December, 1859 and was built on Russell's land, not far from the front gate of his property on the Leigh Road (now the Shelford-Bannockburn Road). Its spire is still clearly visible today from the banks of the Leigh.
Shelford Presbyterian Church established with the assistance of George Russell.
Reproduction rights held by the State Library of Victoria
By this time, Shelford not only served the local district but formed part of the chain of staging points for the mail coach running from Portland to Geelong - the same held up by Owen Suffolk and his band in 1851.
It was also in this year that a bridge was first built to cross the Leigh. This earliest bridge was a timber construction which was replaced in 1873/1874 by a wrought iron box girder bridge which still stands today. It is one of only a small number of this style of bridge surviving in Victoria.
The newly-built bridge over the Leigh River at Shelford. George Russell's
Presbyterian Church can be seen to the right behind the bridge. Reproduction
rights held by the State Library of Victoria
In more recent years, a modern concrete bridge was built alongside and now carries all vehicular traffic whilst a section of the old bridge is open to foot traffic only.
The Shelford bridge of 1874 in July, 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment