In addition to their acquisitions in the Moorabool Valley, the brothers looked further afield. In 1851 they took up the lease for the Native Creek No. 3 squatting run immediately to the east of the confluence of the Barwon and Leigh Rivers. The 4,000 acre property extended to the east of the Native Hut Creek and south across the Barwon. To distinguish it from the two similarly named runs to the north, it was also known as the Barwon Native Creek or Leigh's Native Creek Run and even Native Creek (Teesdale).
|Native Creek No. 3 during Dr Robert C Hope's time, 1857. Image held by the|
State Library of Victoria
On the opposite - west - bank of the Leigh River to the Hope's new station, a blacksmith named William Lawson had built an hotel in 1843. Lawson's Horseshoe Inn was located on the neighbouring Weatherboard Run - held by the Derwent Company - at a convenient fording point between Native Creek No. 3 and Weatherboard. Within years, others settled in the area and the township of Inverleigh soon sprang up, with the first land sales being held on 5th December, 1854. Robert Hope was amongst the first land purchasers in the newly formed town.
During 1855 and 1856 the Hopes also began to buy the land they had previously leased as part of their Native Creek No. 3 Run, with Robert's name appearing on the titles. In the parishes of Murgheboluc and Carrah, north of the Barwon he purchased around 25 blocks of land, comprising almost 4,200 acres. The blocks ranged in size from the 640 acre pre-emptive selections in both parishes to several 14 acre blocks on the outskirts of Inverleigh. The land was divided roughly down the middle by Native Hut Creek and included over 1.6 miles (2.6km) of Barwon River frontage west of its confluence with Native Hut Creek.
|Extent of land purchased by the Hopes at Inverleigh outlined|
At the same time as they purchased the land which comprised 'Barwonleigh', the family also invested in the local community. On the north bank of the Barwon, somewhere near the middle of the river frontage, Robert Hope built a flour mill. According to an article in the Geelong Advertiser of 10th December, 1856, it was a watermill which was fed from a channel almost one mile long, stretching back up the Barwon [to the edge of his property]. The article spoke in glowing terms of the benefits the mill would bestow on the surrounding districts and described it as one of the largest and most powerful in Victoria.
|Carrah Flour Mill|
NOTICE--To the Farmers of the Colac Road, Mount Pollock, Gnarwarre, and Modewarre district--Wilson and Elliot, of the "Carrah Mills" (Dr Hope's station), Inverleigh, beg to inform the farmers of the above district that they have completed their bridge over the Barwon, close to the mills, and are buyers of good wheat at the highest market price.Whilst Elliot sold out of his part of the business in 1863, his partner Wilson continued to run the mill for a further ten years until 1873 when he in turn sold to David Reid, an experienced miller who already operated a mill in Belmont who was to take over operations from 1st October.
Wheat stored for grinding free of charge.
It is probably worth remembering that at around the same time as the Carrah flour mill was under construction, a second mill on the banks of the Moorabool River opposite Robert's 'Lynnburn' property was also in the process of erection, serving a similar purpose for the people of that region.
Robert it seems, lived with his family on the Native Creek Run for several years. Shortly after his arrival, a son - James - was born at "Leigh" in October, 1851, however the child died only a few weeks later and was buried at the Eastern Cemetery; the earliest burial in what became the family plot.
|Plaque on the Hope family grave, Eastern Cemetery, Geelong|
|Robert and Catherine Hope's plaque on the family grave|
|The Hope family grave, Eastern Cemetery, Geelong|
I am unsure how much time the Hopes spent in residence at 'Barwonleigh' as opposed to their other residences, however the original homestead - a four-roomed bluestone structure - is believed to have been built around 1851 and extended over the years to include 15 rooms plus a ballroom built in 1919. In 1886 however the Barwonleigh Estate which had been in the family for almost 35 years was sold when Thomas moved to Geelong and then Melbourne to concentrate on his medical career. On Tuesday, 23rd March a gathering of local citizens was held at Warrington's Inverleigh Hotel to provide a fitting send off for the esteemed doctor.
Following the Hope's tenure at 'Barwonleigh', the property passed through a number of hands, beginning with Lewis Robertson who then sold the property within a few years to brothers WC and JR McCracken. By November, 1892, the property was again on the market but appears instead to have been leased to John Calvert whose lease expired in 1897 when the property sold to Dr Harry Leigh Atkinson, a practitioner from Bendigo. Harry - a Scottish immigrant - was an innovator in the use of plaster of Paris to treat broken bones and also contributed to other areas of medical practice.
In addition to his medical interests however, he was also an investor - in the local gold mining industry as well as in property. Despite extensive land purchases however, Harry - unlike the Hopes who tended to occupy their properties - remained living in Bendigo, preferring instead to install managers to run his vast estates.
At the time of purchase 'Barwonleigh' was said to include 8,200 acres of freehold land, however Atkinson significantly increased the size of the property, adding a further 16,000 acres of land - originally part of the Austins' holdings, stretching almost to the outskirts of Winchelsea. During his ownership, he left the day to day operation of the property in the capable hands of his son-in-law Alfred Featherstonhough Kelly who with his wife Amelia - Atkinson's eldest daughter - lived on and managed the property until Alfred's death on 9th December, 1915.
|Shed near the riverbank at 'Barwonleigh', November, 2014|
The end result - which would not have been too different for 'Barwonleigh' itself had probate been granted - was that the majority of the land was broken up into smaller farms by the Closer Settlement Board and sold off. The remaining 7,700 acres passed to Amelia Kelly - widow of Alfred - who once again expanded the property, this time by around 2,000 acres.
Amelia lived the remainder of her life at 'Barwonleigh' until hear death at the age of 88 in 1959 after which the property passed into the hands of her daughter Margaret and son-in-law Reginald Campbell.
On 1st March, 1965 disaster struck when the homestead was burnt to the ground. Only a small section of the original building including one room survived. The following year however, the Campbells opted to rebuild, adhering as closely as possible to the original plan.
|'Barwonleigh' 1977 after rebuilding. Image courtesy of the John T. Collins|
Collection, State Library of Victoria
And it would seem likely that the future of the estate may be secure for some time yet with a further two generations of the family already assured and who - if they choose to take over the reins - will become the 8th and possibly 9th generations to take the helm.
One final consideration is of course the fate of the Carrah Mill. There is no mention of it in the newspapers past 1874 when David Reid took up the lease and it seems likely that it suffered the same fate as many small mills across the country as cropping trends changed and technology moved on.
Today, the remains of the mill building constructed by Robert Hope on the north bank of the Barwon, stand as a striking ruin against the skyline, but are no longer a part of 'Barwonleigh'
|Ruins of the Carrah Flour Mill built in 1856 by Dr Robert Culbertson Hope.|
24th April, 2016. Click to enlarge