10 July, 2016

Digging up the past

As a result of my snooping around Fyansford whilst researching my most recent blog posts, I discovered the old line of road which was used perhaps until the late 1960s when the present cutting was made as I described in my last post. In the process, I also began to wonder about the history of the two quarries between which both the new cutting and the old road passed.
Unlike the larger, better-known Batesford Quarry which for many years supplied limestone to the Fyansford Cement Works, these two smaller quarries excavated an outcrop of bluestone (basalt) dating back to the Pliocene Epoch which is believed to be around 2 million years old. The flow extends from the basalt plains to the west.
Map of the Geelong region showing the geological composition. Map created
by the University of Melbourne, Department of Geology, 1925. Image held by
the State Library of Victoria
An initial search of the newspapers didn't turn up much information about the quarries themselves, however I was more successful with The Stepping Stone: a history of the Shire of Bannockburn by Derek Beaurepaire (1995). According to the book, both quarries were located in the then Shire of Bannockburn and the smaller quarry to the south of the Hamilton Highway was the older of the two, owned in the 1920s by Ludwig Carl Wilhelm Nichterlein.
Ludwig was born in South Australia and moved with his family to Natimuk in Western Victoria, before settling in Fyansford where in 1913, he was elected as both secretary and treasurer of the local branch of the People's Liberal Party. By 1916 he was a committee member at the Fyansford School, however he does not appear to have married until late in life and had no children. More controversially, Ludwig was also a shareholder in the Fyansford Cement Works which came under heavy criticism in parliament during World War 1 for the fact that nearly half of the company's shares were owned by people of German birth or who were born in Australia to German-born parents.
Despite this, Ludwig was able to establish himself in the quarrying business during the 1920s and was joined in partnership by Frederick Kayler-Thomson who also acted as manager of the quarry. The following notice in the Daily Commercial News and Shipping List  of 26th November, 1936 may reflect the beginning of the partnership:
Fyansford Quarries Pty.Ltd., Regd. 17th Nov., to take over as a going concern the business of Fyansford Quarries. Capital £5000. Regd. Office, Fyansford. Subscribers: Ludwig Carl Wilhelm Nichterlein, Frederick Kayler-Thomson
As far as I can tell, the quarry supplied crushed stone products such as screenings, road metal and sand, employing upwards of 20 men, 14 of whom were "spallers" whose job was to break the stone into pieces small enough for crushing. The following webpage shows two photos of Nichterlein's quarry, taken before 1970, but towards the end of the quarry's lifetime.
The quarry remained in family hands until the 1980s with Bill Kayler-Thomson taking over from his father Frederick who died in 1956 and was buried at the Western Cemetery. Ludwig died in 1942 at the age of 74 and was buried, in the Grovedale (originally Germantown) Cemetery with many other German immigrants and descendants who settled in the area.
The grave of Ludwig and Dorothea Nichterlein, Grovedale Cemetery
According to Beaurepaire, Ludwig's share in the business passed eventually to his nephew Hugh Collyer who finally sold the business in 1988, however I can find no trace of Collyer in the records.
In 1994 a license was obtained to operate the defunct quarry as a landfill site, with an estimated capacity of 1,000,000 cubic metres and a lifespan of 30 years. Today, it continues to operate in this capacity as the Fyansford Waste Disposal & Recycling Centre.
Looking south west across the site of Nichterlein's quarry, now landfill site
(compare this photo to one of those in the link above, taken from the same position)
The second bluestone quarry, situated opposite Nichterlein's quarry, to the north of the Hamilton Highway opened several decades later than the former. Originally known as Mobile Quarries, for the large mobile plant used to extract the bluestone from the ground, it was opened in 1951/2 by Messrs Strickland, Martin, Richardson and 'Digger' Dietrich who also acted as manager. Like Nichterlein's quarry, it produced crushed rock products such as blue metal, toppings, crushed rock, screenings and sand.
An aerial view of the Fyansford Cement Works with the as yet untouched
 Mobile Quarry site in the foreground. Photograph taken by Charles Daniel
Pratt, 1926, Image held by the State Library of Victoria
In 1960, the quarry was sold to business partners Chisholm and Lockyer and became known as Geelong Quarries. At this time, the plant was upgraded, enabling the extraction of 200 tons of rock per hour. Employing 50 men, the quarry now used both a mobile and a fixed plant with Len Vautier acting as manager. The Victorian Government Gazette shows that the company was contracted to supply rock to the Victorian Railways, the Queenscliff Buoy Depot and the Queenscliff foreshore throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
The former Mobile Quarries, later CSR Limited Quarry north of the Hamilton
Highway at Fyansford 
For unspecified reasons, according to the Victorian Government Gazette of 8th January, 1975 an application by the quarry for an Extractive Industry Licence was refused (a prior licence was granted in 1971) and then in 1976 the company was sold to Farley & Lewers (Beaurepaire, 1995).  A subsequent licence was granted in April, 1978, however the company was sold once again in 1981, this time to CSR Limited (Beaurepaire, 1995). In August, 1984, two licences held by Geelong Quarries Pty Ltd were transferred to CSR Limited who, according to Beaurepaire, overhauled the plant and increased its output, reaching a record production of 5,100 tons per day, however increasing mechanisation saw the number of employees steadily decline over the years. The following link shows several aerial photos of the quarry taken towards the end of its working life by the Bonacci Group in about 2007/2008 (note the partially completed section 2 of the Geelong Ring Road which opened in December, 2009).
Following the eventual closure of the quarry, plans were drawn up for the redevelopment of the site as a residential community as per the 2008 Fyansford Quarry Masterplan. A description of the requirements for developers looking to implement the plan can be found here whilst the illustration of the intended development of the quarry as per the Fyansford Quarry Masterplan is shown below:

Fyansford Quarry Masterplan from the Urbanplan website
After the original purchasers Moltoni Group ran into financial difficulties, both the quarry and the former Fyansford Cement Works land on the east bank of the river were purchased by ICD Property who are currently developing the land on the east bank of the river as the first stage of the Gen Fyansford project. Development at this site appears to be well underway with a number of houses currently in the process of erection.
View from Fyansford Hill looking over the Gen Fyansford housing development.
The bluestone quarry on the west bank can be seen in the far distance
For the present however, the old Mobile Quarries site on the west bank of the Moorabool remains undeveloped.
A panoramic view of the former Mobile Quarries site. Click to enlarge


  1. Great research.. always interesting to find the history of places as well as people.

  2. Thanks yet again, Jo. You have gone a long way to answering a question I posed a while back on my Fyansford.com site (Cementies Quarry ~ Batesford page). I truly appreciate your detailed research approach.

    1. Hi John. Glad it was helpful! I've had a look at your questions and if i come up with any answers I'll definitely let you know! At the moment I'm chasing Mr von Guerard around Fyansford, Highton and Newtown.

    2. Very much appreciated Jo; particularly if you come across anything to do with Fyansford street-name origins...

    3. Thanks John, I'll keep an eye out. I've also sent you a separate message via your webpage.

  3. A very interesting read thank you. Bill kayler-thomson was my grandfather so it was great to learn that bit of history.
    Just to add to the history of fynsford my grandfather bill married ellen degoldi whos father owned the fynsford hotel. Again thank you for the read and your research