28 August, 2016

A fair view

In addition to its better-known hotels, for several decades during the latter half of the 19th century, Fyansford had another pub: the Fair View (aka Fairview) Hotel. By all accounts, the Fair View was aptly named. Perched atop the highest point of Herne Hill - or Fyans' Ford Hill as it was known in the early days of the colony - it commanded sweeping 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape, however its origins seem - to me at least - to be a bit of a mystery.
It was positioned - according to the 1861 geological survey map - on the north west corner of today's Hyland St and McCurdy Rd on a 30 acre block of land which extended all the way down to the banks of the Moorabool River. The earliest owner of that block of land (allotment 2 of section 14, Parish of Moorpanyal) was one Thomas B Payne, who purchased it at a government land sale on 21st July, 1847 at a cost of 70 shillings per acre, although what Mr Payne may have done with his newly-acquired property, I cannot tell.
A section of the 1953 survey map of Moorpanyal Parish showing the block
purchased by Thomas Payne in 1847. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
I do know however, that by March, 1855 the Fair View Hotel was standing on the south east corner of the allotment, but the listed owner was not Payne, instead it was James Noble Esq. alderman of the Geelong town council and possibly also a wine and spirit merchant in Geelong. It seems that being an alderman had its benefits for when he complained to council that the rates on the property were too high, the council agreed to reduce them from £400 to £300 per year.
Whilst Noble was the owner of the hotel, he was not - by 1855 at least - the occupier. That role was occupied by Mr John McInnes who in April, 1855 went into voluntary bankruptcy and was brought before the insolvency court. In the third hearing of the case on 13th June, it was claimed that McInnes had debts of £1908 2s and assets of only £293 17s. Amongst other creditors, he had refused to pay wages to his gardener/handyman Mr Powsey and was also in arrears on his rent.
Things went from bad to worse for McInnes when he was charged with having removed property - barrels of liquor - from the cellar of the hotel in the small hours of the 4th March, several weeks before he declared bankruptcy. As a result, he was indicted for "committing a fraudulent insolvency, for the purpose of defrauding his creditors" (Geelong Advertiser 31st July, 1855). After initial denials it was established that McInnes had in fact removed the liquor. To achieve this, he had the assistance of his barman and a colleague who helped him to load the barrels onto a dray and take them a short distance to the house of a Mr Steward. All these proceedings were seen or overheard by Powsey and his family who had been locked in the lower part of the hotel by the barmaid and one of the others.
McInnes was found guilty of fraud and sentenced a year's imprisonment with hard labour.
By January, 1859 Noble had decided to sell his public house which was advertised in The Argus on 31st January, 1859 in the following, glowing terms:
WOOD and RIX have received positive instructions from James Noble, Esq., to SELL by AUCTION...on Monday, January 31,
Containing 15 spacious rooms, situate on Fyans Hill, overlooking Fyans Ford and adjacent country. The hotel grounds comprise
30 acres of rich soil,
 partially laid out and cultivated. Planted with choice fruit-trees, shrubs &c., the whole securely fenced.
The property is most delightfully situated, and too much can scarcely be said in its favour. The land extends to the River Moorabool, along which it has an extensive frontage. From the river the land stretches back for some distance, forming a gentle slope, and presenting to the eye a magnificent plateau, only requiring the plough to develop its hidden virtues. The soil is of a rich character which is to be found along almost the whole course of the far-famed Moorabool. At the termination of this most beautiful portion of the estate, the land rises somewhat abruptly, and at the top of the ascent is an extensive and well-stocked fruit garden, so situated as to be nicely sheltered from the cold and unfavourable winds, whilst enjoying the genial warmth of the sun's rays. Near the garden is a building which has been used as a pottery and could be easily made available for a similar purpose. Between the orchard and the hotel is a kitchen-garden covering some acres of fine soil; and on the highest part of the land stands
The hotel, in connection with which is a roomy stable and coach-house, with other outbuildings.
The auctioneers see that it is difficult to convey to the public a correct idea of this most valuable property and would beg any who with to make a really safe and decidedly profitable investment to look a the place for themselves.
As a resort for public recreation this spot is unrivalled and would put Montpellier completely in the shade were the same pains taken to display its advantages as have been expended on that favourite resort.
As a site for villa residences this spot can scarcely be surpassed; the view to the westward is magnificent, whilst the proximity of the estate to Geelong renders it more valuable.
A part of the view overlooking the Moorabool Valley from the grounds of what
was once the Fair View Hotel, August, 2016. Click to enlarge
The outcome of the auction does not appear to have been recorded, however it may well have been purchased by an investor, for only a few months later - in September - the Fair View was once again advertised for sale. This time however, the vendor was R Porter, Esq. and the property was described as having only two acres of land adjoining but with no mention of river frontage (Geelong Advertiser, 6th September, 1859).
Like their earlier counterparts, these agents were also keen to talk up the hotel's position, giving a clear idea of how impressive this location must have been in the mid-19th century:
...and for a Tea Garden is unrivalled, possessing and commanding most extensive views of the Bay, Bass's Straits, Mount Buninyong, the whole of the Barrabool Hills, the You Yangs, the Dandenong ranges, and Bellerine(sic) Hills, with Geelong and the shipping in the bay, in the foreground: and last, though not least, the beautiful valley of Fyans' Ford, with the confluence of the Barwon and Moorabool rivers.

The advert then goes on to describe the building itself as a two-storey, stuccoed brick building with a slate roof. On the ground floor was a large bar-room with cellar, four sitting rooms, kitchen, servants' bedroom, large laundry and pantry. There was also a private entrance - presumably for the benefit of the proprietor. Accommodation in the form of ten bedrooms was located on the upper floor.
In addition to the main building, there was also a 7,000 gallon capacity sealed, brick water tank and a six-horse stable.
The selling agent also made the bold claim that "by far the largest portion of the Ballarat and Western traffic passes it".
Fyansford looking across the Moorabool towards Herne Hill c1866-1880. The
buildings at the top (left) of the hill are most likely the Fair View Hotel. Image
taken by John Norton, held by the State Library of Victoria
The new owners - presumably since the 1859 sale of the property - were William and Margaret Greenwood and the hotel was by that time known as Greenwood's Family Hotel. Margaret Coates (an Edinburgh woman) was a widow whose first husband William Thustain had died two years earlier in 1854 at only 25 years of age. The Thustain's only child - an infant named John - died two months after his father. In 1856 Margaret had married William Greenwood - an immigrant from Yorkshire - and by 1862 the couple had five children.
 By July, 1861 however, the Greenwoods were looking to sell the hotel. This time, a gig-house, piggery and cowsheds were also advertised along with two acres of fruit trees and grape vines. Thorough renovations costing several hundred pounds had been conducted and "Greenwood's Family Hotel" formerly known as the "Fair View Hotel" was for lease or sale as a private gentlemen's residence.
Their attempts to sell the hotel in 1861 however, were unsuccessful and by February, 1863 they had instead, leased the property. The new tenants were the Misses Dawson who had undertaken to move their "ladies' seminary" from Newtown to the more spacious 'Fair View House'. The former hotel was now a school for young ladies. Having operated in Newtown since 1854, the Dawsons were keen to increase the size of their school and were quick to stress the "healthful" location of their new premises as well as their proximity to the centre of town. "No expense whatever" they claimed "will be spared to procure the assistance of the first masters in the colony, and every exertion will be made to ensure the happiness and comfort of the young ladies confided to their care (Geelong Advertiser, 16th February, 1863).
Despite their apparent enthusiasm, the Misses Dawson were soon on the move again. By the middle of 1865 had relocated to 'LaTrobe House' in LaTrobe Tce. On this occasion however, it may not have been a decision of their own making. In July, 1864 William Greenwood had died, leaving Margaret a widow for the second time at the age of just 37. This time, with five children to support.  Only a month before his death on 23rd June, William made out his will. Margaret along with two others was to act as executrix and all three were to be trustees of the estate. One of the two executors immediately renounced his rights leaving Margaret and another to administer the estate without him. Under the terms of the will, Margaret was the sole beneficiary and entitled to all income from the estate until hear death at which time, all incomes were to be divided amongst her children or kept in trust until such time as they reached 21 years of age.
Following William's death and the departure of the ladies' school, I am unsure whether the hotel sat vacant or was once again operating as a hotel. In November, 1867 however 'Fairview House' along with five acres of garden and outbuildings was again for sale and remained on the market until the middle of the following year when Mrs Greenwood was declared insolvent.
Somehow, despite this, she managed to retain ownership of the hotel - her creditors it seems could not complete a sale either - and the pub was again advertised for sale in September, 1868, February, 1869 and April, 1871. Finally, in September 1871 she was able to transfer her publican's license to a tenant - J.C.Mogg.
Despite an advertising campaign aimed at drumming up business, by June, 1873 Mogg had removed to the Geelong Hotel in town and Margaret was once again granted a liquor license for the Fairview Hotel, Fyansford in her own name. By October the property was yet again on the market and in December she was seeking someone willing to take up a three year lease. A tenant however, was not forthcoming until July, 1875 when finally, Margaret advertised the sale of her household furniture and other effects, including a cottage pianoforte sitting, bedroom and dining room furnishings, stating that the hotel had been let.
Then, in 1876 - at the age of only 49 - Margaret also died. She was buried with her second husband William in the old Church of England section of the Eastern Cemetery. Her youngest child would only have been 14 and the eldest 19. After this date there is little mention of the Fair View in the papers. A report in the Geelong Advertiser of 23rd September, 1880 stated that after a severe storm "at the old Fairview Hotel on the Fyansford Hill, several chimneys were blown down and the roof of the building greatly damaged". It seems likely that that the hotel fell vacant after Margaret's death - if it was not already - and was never again occupied.
In July, 1881 however, it was indicated that "...the old Fair View Hotel, at the top of Fyansford Hill after being closed for many years, is about to be utilised again, but not as a public house. Mr Hotchin, the well-known butcher, of Aberdeen-street, lately purchased the building and adjoining premises for a sum of £450. The purchaser intends converting the extensive house into a slaughtering establishment." (Geelong Advertiser, 2nd July, 1881.) It is also likely that the hotel building itself was dismantled at this time as building materials which had been part of the Fair View Hotel were advertised for sale.
Like others before him however, Hotchin's butchery on the site did not last long. On 13th March, 1884, the following advertisement appeared in the Geelong Advertiser: "Part allotment 2, section 14, parish Moorpanyal, Herne Hill, containing 12 acres or thereabouts, on which is erected a new and first-class slaughtering establishment, complete with sheep and cattle pens, piggeries, boiler, water laid on, etc; also a new four-roomed brick cottage, with kitchen and underground tank."
Presumably by this time, the original 30 acre block extending to the Moorabool which had been part of the  Fair View's original grounds had been subdivided and sold, leaving the the butchery and associated buildings on the high ground at the top of the hill.
After 1884, the only other mention of the hotel was an advert two years later in 1886, calling for tenders for paper hanging and painting on the premises, site of the old Fair View Hotel, Herne Hill. Where the paper was to be hung and upon what building was not made clear. I also found no further reference to the butchery.
Looking east towards the site of the Fair View Hotel, August, 2016
Today, the site contains some modern suburban houses but is otherwise vacant. The view to the west, whilst altered by 20th century quarrying and the traffic on the Geelong Ring Road, remains broad. To the north, south and east, modern housing and the now disused Fyansford Cement Works (established 1890) obscure any of the other landmarks which may have been visible, at least from ground level.
Almost 140 years later, it seems somewhat surprising perhaps that a site with so many described natural advantages, on a busy thoroughfare did not become the site of a stately home and appears to have been unable to support a thriving business.

21 August, 2016

The Junction Hotel

During my childhood we lived on a property about half way between Geelong and Ballarat. A drive to town meant a trip to Geelong via the Midland Hwy, however our entry to Geelong was always via Fyansford rather than via Batesford. At the corner of the Hamilton Hwy and the Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd as we approached Fyansford, we would pass a small, derelict, bluestone building. I always wondered about it.
Somewhere along the line I heard that it was once a hotel. Recently, whilst doing some Fyansford research, I came across an article about the Junction Hotel near Fyansford. Finally! Some information! Time to do a little digging.
Derelict bluestone building at the junction of the Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd and
Hamilton Hwy. The latter can be seen to the left of the building
The earliest newspaper references I found to the Junction Hotel under that name were from 1872. By contrast, several later accounts of the property indicated that the hotel dated back to the gold rush era of the 1850s, however I'm not sure that this is really true. In the first years after European settlement, the land on which the hotel was to be built formed part of the holdings of the Port Phillip Association and according to The Stepping Stone: a History of the Shire of Bannockburn (Beaurepaire, 1995) Section 6 on which the hotel was later built, was owned by Captain Charles Swanston. The intersection at which the hotel was built is an old one, but possibly not as old as the gold rush. The Great Western Rd (now Hamilton Hwy) is one of the earliest roads in the colony and appears on most early maps. The road connecting it to the track to Buninyong (today's Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd) does not appear on any of the maps I have seen prior to the 1861 geological survey series of maps. It may however have been under construction by November, 1856, when I found a notice in The Age awarding a contract for the construction of over a mile of the "Ballaarat road near Fyansford".  It does seem likely however, that an informal track may well have existed - as was usually the case - before the formal road was constructed.
Perhaps it is also telling that I can find no mention of the junction itself or of a building there during the 1850s or most of the 1860s. The earliest mention I did find was the following excerpt from the Geelong Advertiser of 26th September, 1869 which indicates that the premises first operated as a hotel in that year, well after the initial gold rush years of the 1850s:
Samuel Hasell applied for a certificate authorising the issue of a beer license and colonial wine license for a house at the junction of Lower Western and Geelong and Ballarat roads, near Fyansford. Mr Martyr supported the application. Mr Charles Wyatt of Frogmore, lodged an objection to the opening of the house, against which Mr Hasell placed a memorial signed by a large majority of the inhabitants in favor of the license. Application granted.
I can find no further mention of Samuel Has(s)all in connection with the Junction Hotel, however it appears that some time earlier, in 1862 he was the proprietor of the Swan Hotel - also on Mercer land - on the banks of the Moorabool River at Fyansford (Victorian Government Gazette, 88, 25th July, 1862, p1291).
The hotel itself, was a single-storey, weatherboard structure built on stone footings, although whether built by Hassall or another I do not know. Regardless, Hassall did not remain long and by 1871, the Junction Hotel had a new owner; Mrs Elizabeth Wensor (nee Hooton), a widow whose husband had died some two years earlier. Elizabeth and her husband Joseph had arrived from England some time prior to 1854 with their sons Joseph and Eliada. Four more children were born to the couple in the Barrabool/Modewarre area. Two boys - both named Charles - do not appear to have survived infancy. The two youngest children - daughters named Elizabeth and Christiana - would not have been more than 9 and 7 years old at the time of their father's death.
Within a year of moving to the Junction Hotel, Elizabeth married again. Her second husband was Charles Keen, a widower whose wife of only four years - Charlotte - had died the previous year. Between them, Charles and Elizabeth ran the Junction Hotel for the next twenty-six years, however from this time forward it was Charles whose name appeared as the licensee for the hotel.
The Junction Hotel, Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd. Image held by the Geelong
Historical Records Centre
I can find little detail about Charles' life prior to his marriage to Elizabeth, although his obituary indicated that he served with the Royal Navy and he may have been the Charles Keen - occupation stated as 'groom' - at Duck Ponds (Lara) during the latter half of the 1860s. In 1872, soon after becoming the licensee for the Junction Hotel, he was advertised as the contact point for details of a local stallion being put up for stud.
From 1883-1894 Charles served on the Bannockburn Shire Council, often concerning himself with the state of the bridges in his immediate neighbourhood at Fyansford, Pollocksford and Baker's Bridge along with other issues pertaining to Fyansford and surrounds.
Finally, in November, 1898 after twenty-six years, the Keens called it a day. The following month, a clearing sale was held on the property and the license - but not the ownership of the hotel - passed to the Tyers family who held the lease until 1910. At this time, the hotel was situated on 250 acres of land.
After retiring,  Charles and Elizabeth lived at 79 Lloyd St (now Clarence St), Geelong West in a house known as 'Brighton Cottage', however Charles did not have long to enjoy his retirement. He died at his Lloyd St home on 19th March, 1899 and was buried in the "new general cemetery" (Western Cemetery) with his first wife. He was 69. His will, made out only five days before his death, appointed Elizabeth his executrix and with the exception of two bequests of £100 to be made to his brother and sister in England, his sole beneficiary.
The Keen family graves, Geelong Western Public Cemetery, Church of
England section, Row 1, Graves 0908 and 0909. August, 2016
Elizabeth lived a further fourteen years, deriving income from the rent on the various properties she owned outright or in consequence of her inheritance from her husband. She died on 15th August, 1913 at the age of 90. Under the terms of her own will, her sons Joseph and Eliada and daughter Elizabeth were to inherit the Junction Hotel, whilst her grand daughter Elizabeth Eaton was to maintain her grandmother's grave and in return would inherit 'Brighton Cottage'. Her remaining daughter Christiana was to inherit one shilling.
Elizabeth was buried on the 18th August, in a plot adjoining that of Charles and his first wife Charlotte. Not long after her death, the hotel itself was lucky to survive a grass fire which burnt out much of the surrounding land. The hotel and a cottage on the neighbouring Frogmore Estate were only saved from burning after a significant effort by locals.
Following the expiration of the Tyers' lease on the property, it was next leased by members of the Gugger family. The Gugger name has a long association with the Fyansford district. The family were amongst the earliest of the Swiss vignerons to arrive in the area from the Canton of Neuchatel, encouraged to settle in the district by Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe whose wife was Swiss. Their tenure as licensees however lasted only until 31st December, 1917 when the Junction Hotel was was de-licensed after a decision of the licensing board to reduce the number of hotels in the district (Public Records Office of Victoria, Index to Defunct Hotel Licenses (1847 - 1932)).
Entry for the Junction Hotel, PROV, Index to Defunct Hotel Licenses (1847-1932)
As a result of the closure, Joseph Wensor as trustee to his mother's estate was awarded £250 and Frederick Gugger as licensee was awarded £65. After the hotel's closure, it became a private residence known as 'Junction House' and at some point the Guggers took ownership of the property where they remained until 1922. At this time, the property was advertised for sale as the Gugger brothers were leaving the farming game.
The Geelong Historical Records Centre holds a letter written about the Junction Hotel by Norm Gugger, a descendant of the Gugger family who occupied the hotel. In it he indicates that the hotel was built c1850, that it closed in 1922 and that Charles Keen was a councillor in Geelong however I suspect that the passage of time has somewhat blurred the truth.
The Junction Hotel, Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd. Early 1900s with various
members of the Gugger family standing in front of the hotel. Image held by
the Geelong Historical Records Centre
Of Mrs Wensor he said that she was the first person in Fyansford to have conducted Sunday School classes, which she took in her parlour and attributed to her the following words of wisdom "Land lords advice to his customers. Drink moderately, act wisely, be good company, use good language, go home quietly."
She is also claimed to have lived by these words of advice:
When some people ask for credit
To refuse them gives me pain
But when they owe a sixpence
They never come in again
So the rule I have adopted
And enforce this rule I must
for cash I give good measure
But find I cannot trust.
From the 1920s onward, I can find no further mention of 'Junction House', other than noting that it remained in private hands until 1980 when the main hotel building was demolished by order of the Bannockburn Shire Council following a ruling by the Housing Commission. There was some objection at the time, however the then Shire Engineer Ken Middleton indicated that the building was in such bad condition, it was not worth saving.
Following the 1980 demolition of the original hotel building, a new house was built on the premises and all that remains today is the little bluestone outbuilding about which I had always wondered and some of the stone foundations of the main building.
Derelict bluestone outbuilding at the site of the former Junction Hotel, August 2016
I still do not know what the function of the building was, however it was not part of the main hotel building and may instead have been a stable or other outbuilding. The four pairs of large horseshoes still attached to the outer walls making a miss-aligned "S" shape may also be an indication of function and perhaps may also give an indication of Charles Keen's interest in horses.

13 August, 2016

Button hill: the women of the Barwon Paper Mill

In 1876, the Barwon Paper Mill commenced construction on the banks of the Barwon River at Buckley Falls. Much has been written about the mill and its history and I looked at it briefly in the post From rags to riches or just milling around. One aspect of the mill and its history however, has always interested me: Button Hill and the women whose labour gave the rising ground to the north east of the mill its name.
View of the paper mill and the Barwon from the edge of Button Hill
As I recounted briefly in the earlier post, the 40 different types of paper produced at the mill were made not from wood fibres as is most commonly the case today, but rather from a vast array of fibrous products. These included straw, grass, bags, rope, yarn, recycled paper, books, woolpacks, sailcloth, reeds and especially rags with different fibre types being used for different paper products. Before they could be used for paper however, the rags and other cloth products underwent several stages of processing and it was the early stages of this process which were deemed "women's work".
Firstly, the rags had to be cleaned and this process began with the removal by hand of any attachments such as buttons, fastenings and ribs from women's stays after which the rags were sorted. This work was undertaken by girls and women known as "ragpickers". It was by all accounts, not a pleasant job. An article in the Geelong Advertiser (25th August, 1880) described the work as "anything but clean and in no way agreeable".
Over the years, there were various reports of inquiries into the treatment of and conditions endured by ragpickers. A 1914 inquiry heard that rags for the mill were sourced from a variety of places and came in a variety of qualities. The majority of rags, claimed the mill's representative, came from clean sources; off cuts from drapers, tailors, white workers and shirt factories, however this was a limited supply which was also sought after by "flock-makers" who used the rags to make "flocking" for stuffing saddles, mattresses and other products. This meant that the mill had also to use dirty rags and it was the sorting and cutting of these rags prior to cleaning which concerned the commissioners investigating conditions in 1914 (Geelong Advertiser, 11th February, 1914).
A woman working in the rag sorting room at the Barwon Paper Mill, 1876-1923.
Image taken from the JH Harvey collection, Sate Library of Victoria
Once the rags had been stripped by the ragpickers, they were sorted and sent to a second room where they were chopped into tiny pieces by the "devil" a machine whose main feature was a wheel fitted with knives which rotated at a speed of around 200 rpm. This was a filthy procedure which generated significant amounts of dust, and whilst respirators were made available for the women who worked at this job, they did not use them. Nor it seems did they even wear head coverings. Despite this, the company claimed there was no adverse effect on the women's health (Geelong Advertiser, 3rd March, 1890).
As might be expected with this type of machine in an era before occupational health and safety was a serious concern, there were accidents. And some of them were serious. On 26th September, 1907 the Geelong Advertiser carried an article describing an incident in which "A young woman named Ada Bailey, aged 23...was the victim of a shocking accident". Whilst using the "teasing machine" her hand was caught by a piece of rope and dragged "into the knives". Her hand was severed at the wrist before the machine could be stopped and she was taken to Geelong Hospital suffering from shock and blood loss.
The "devil" or chopper at the Barwon Paper Mill (1876-1938), image from the
JH Harvey collection, State Library of Victoria
After chopping, the pieces of rag were placed in a "willey" or willow machine - similar I believe to those used in woollen mills - which shook and beat the small pieces of rag, "teasing" them to remove dust and separate the cloth fibres from each other.
Small particles of dust in the air were carried upwards through a flue and vented through the roof. The remainder of the debris was shaken free by placing the rags in a rotating, conical "duster" which shook any remaining dust onto a wire grating where it was collected in bags and burnt. The separated fibres were then sent to boilers for further cleaning.
And the remuneration for this dirty, unpleasant work? In 1909 when the wages at Victorian paper mills were debated in parliament, it was claimed that one third of men were earning 30s per week or less. Women of all ages it was stated however, earnt no more than 13s 9d per week.
Whilst the pay scales of the employees were decidedly unequal, the numbers of men and women working in the mill were roughly the same with women and girls again part of the paper-making process in the final stages of the process where they worked in the folding room, sorting the cut paper and checking it for quality.
Checking paper quality at the Barwon Paper Mill, (1876-1938), image
from the 
JH Harvey collection, State Library of Victoria
In order to find out more about the rag-picking process and with the permission of the mill owner, I took a walk out onto Button Hill to have a look. As I alluded to above, the hill derived its name from the buttons and other fastenings removed by the ragpickers. These presumably worthless items were discarded on the hill beside the mill which came to be known as Button Hill.
Looking south west from Button Hill towards the mill complex, August, 2016
Today the area is a large, overgrown, grassy paddock with little indication of its former purpose, however with some careful observation, we were able to locate a number of buttons, fastenings, metal objects and some scraps of material - all presumably discarded during the cleaning process.
Selection of buttons, fastenings and scraps on Button Hill, August, 2016
I don't believe that a detailed archaeological study of the site has ever been undertaken, but it would be interesting to know what these seemingly very ordinary buttons can tell us about the types of rags used. A couple of the buttons I found were stamped "EXCELSIOR" and "BEST SOLID EYELET". As far as I can tell, these were most likely buttons from men's pants. All the buttons were quite small and plain which is not surprising as I expect that any item of known value would have been removed prior to the clothing being consigned to the rag bag. Everything possible was recycled. Nothing was wasted.
Most of the buttons we found were metal, some were magnetic although most were not and may have been brass. There was one ceramic button, similar to those used on men's work shirts and a portion of a mother of pearl shell button. A third button may have been made from shell or a type of stone. All of these materials were commonly used in buttons during the 19th and early 20th centuries. There was also what appeared to be part of a shirt stud, commonly used on men's shirts instead of buttons as well as scraps of metal, leather and hessian.
The one thing I could not find whilst researching the role of women at the Barwon Paper Mill however, was a single account of the mill given by the women who worked there. There were numerous descriptions of what the women did and the conditions under which they worked, but I still do not know who they were.

01 August, 2016

Fyansford's forgotten falls: a lost von Guerard

My previous three posts identified the locations along the Barwon River of several sketches made by 19th century landscape painter Eugene von Guerard during his visits to Geelong during the 1850s. Some were developed into oil paintings which became well-known works of art such as View of Geelong and Mr Lewin's Hut on the Barwon River. Others, such as his sketches of the Barrabool Hills appear to have remained just that - sketches. Whilst the locations of these and other illustrations depicting scenes on the Barwon at Buckley Falls were easy enough to identify, there was one sketch which had both George Hook and I scratching our heads.
The scene portrayed was a narrow waterfall beside an elevated road, upon which two loaded drays were travelling. The first clue as to the fall's location came from von Guerard's own notes which indicated that the scene was the "Moorabool Valley and new [road] to Ballarat near Fyansford. 14 March. Geelong." (My translator was unsure of the 5th word and from context the year was 1855.)
So, this spot was near Fyansford on the Moorabool River, not the Barwon.  But where? I had never seen such a fall along the lower reaches of the Moorabool. I was aware that a section of several kilometres along the river had been diverted during the 1980s to facilitate works at the Batesford Quarry. Could the waterfall have been in this section? Perhaps.  I had only ever seen the newer diversion, not the original watercourse.
von Guerard sketch of the Moorabool Valley
If this was the case then where was the"new road" which appeared in the sketch? Survey maps of the area mostly indicated that the only surveyed road between the Lower Leigh Rd (Hamilton Hwy) and the Leigh Rd (Midland Hwy) was today's Fyansford-Gheringhap Rd. The 1861 geological survey map marked some roads running to the river (which I doubt were ever made), but none of them crossed or ran alongside the river. Could the "road" have been a track on private land?  If so, why describe it as a new road? To me this implied a newly made public road. Furthermore, this land west of the Moorabool was considered grazing land. The geological survey was yet to be undertaken in 1855 when the sketch was made and the quarry was decades away. There were river crossings at Batesford and Fyansford but no mention of another between the two.
So, was there a road near the Moorabool at Fyansford which would have been considered new in 1855 when the sketch was made? Well, yes. There was. In 1854 the first bridge at Fyansford was built across the Moorabool River. It was erected several hundred metres downstream from the original ford and at the time of its construction, the road leading out of the valley on either side of the river was redirected to the new crossing point and upgraded - a new road near Fyansford. A road furthermore, which was heavily plied by diggers heading to the goldfields of Ballarat or the pastures of the Western District.
It was probably no co-incidence that it was this same section of road to the west of the river which immediately came to mind when I first saw the sketch. I envisaged von Guerard positioned with his back to the river and looking up to the road rising out of the valley to the west.
But where was the waterfall? Could the site have been a gully running into the river beside the road at this point, rather than a fall on the river itself? An initial visit to the cutting did not immediately reveal the likely site of a gully, but much has changed since 1855. Both the Monier Bridge (1900) and the current bridge (1970) were built on sites downstream of the original bridge. By the 1920s, the land to the south of the Hamilton Hwy was Nichterlein's bluestone quarry and the Lower Papermills Rd had been built in the 1870s, a narrow gully could easily have become the victim of 160 years of development.
Modern cutting on the Hamilton Hwy at Fyansford, June, 2016
And there things might have stayed except that on a subsequent visit to the site, I noticed an old section of road rising up the valley, roughly parallel and a short distance to the south of the present road. I soon decided that this was the route of the original section of road formed in 1854 when the first bridge was built. Finally perhaps, a remnant from von Guerard's day.
I then discovered that in 1854 this road passed by a dangerous drop which according to The Argus of 27th April, 1855 (a mere five weeks after von Guerard made his sketch) was the scene of an accident which saw a horse and dray, along with its driver, plunge down a "precipice some twenty feet deep" next to the "new road" which was "not fenced in on either side, and [was] very narrow".
So, I now knew that the road out of the Moorabool Valley at Fyansford had passed by a steep drop of about 20 feet (or 6 metres), however as indicated during my conversations with George Hook, the height of the falls as estimated from the sketch may have been closer to 8m - perhaps even 10m. All this however was academic if the falls themselves could not be found. Imagine my excitement then when, on a subsequent visit, about 100m up the old line of road I heard the sound of trickling water!
Upon investigating the source of the noise, I discovered a channel - no more than a drain today - which ran beside the highway for some distance before dropping a short distance to a rocky crevice through which water was flowing.
Rocky channel from above the crevice
At this point, the water flowed over a natural rock formation, however the height of the drop was nowhere near the expected 8-10m, instead it was closer to 4m and the water was falling not onto the ground, but into a drain which was located just inside the fence of Nichterlein's former quarry (now the Fyansford Waste Disposal and Recycling Centre). From what I could see, it consisted of natural rock walls enclosed by a bluestone wall several metres in width and height. The floor was concrete and the collected water escaped via a large underground pipe at the bottom of the wall.
Drain in a corner of the old quarry
From above, it was difficult to determine angles. I needed to be down below, looking up as von Guerard had been. Time to visit the tip!
To cut a long story short, I was - reluctantly - allowed access to look at the site from below with just enough time to snap a few photos and ask a couple of questions. No, the manager didn't know when the drain was built, but assumed it was done when the site was a quarry and when OH&S and environmental concerns were unheard of. The pipe leading from the drain ran underground to the front of the property where, as he later showed me, it emptied into a culvert which runs under Lower Papermills Rd and drains into the river.
The extent of the fall today, viewed from the top of the bluestone wall
So, had I found another "missing von Guerard"? Well on balance, probably. Comparing my photos of the site at the tip to the sketch, there were certainly similarities, however it was also clear that quarrying had removed the majority of the high ground to the left of the waterfall whilst the height of the drain significantly impaired the view of the falls from below. Nor was it possible for me to establish what the original ground level was. Perhaps before the installation of the drain, the fall had been much greater. In addition, there were several places where boxthorn and other weeds growing over the rock face obscured some of the natural features, making comparison harder.
von Guerard's sketch and a photo taken from inside the quarry for comparison
In general however, the lines were the same as those of the sketch. In the photo I took, the cutting is out of shot to the right of the picture but is still present at the site. I have searched for photos which might include the site in the hope of getting a better idea of the original ground level, but have so far been unsuccessful.