26 June, 2016

Four bridges and a ford: cutting a path to the new bridge

By the late 1960s it was deemed that the amount of traffic - especially heavy traffic - using the Hamilton Highway was too great for the once revolutionary Monier bridge at Fyansford. Despite its controversial beginnings, the bridge had rewarded those councillors who fought to have it built at the close of the 19th century, with over 60 years of service. It was estimated at the time of construction, that it would take 40 years to recoup the cost to the Shires of Bannockburn and Corio who had largely financed the project. Anything beyond that was a bonus and in an era when many bridges were still built from timber, had an expected lifespan of a few decades and within a few years of construction would require extensive, ongoing maintenance, it is easy to see why concrete was such an appealing building material. Stone and iron bridges were also extremely durable - the historic bridge at Shelford designed by CAC Wilson is a good example - however they were expensive to build and beyond the means of many cash-strapped shires to build. Concrete on the other hand, was cheap, durable and the way of the future.
By the 1960s, concrete bridges were the norm, however by then, technology and design had changed substantially. The bridge built to replace the now heritage-listed Monier bridge, was a modern, five span, pre-stressed, reinforced concrete structure, typical of many built across the country at that time.
Surprisingly, the current bridge has been the most difficult to research with very little detail to be found.
The earliest information I could find online, related not to the bridge itself, but to the completion of "the Geelong approach to the proposed new bridge over the Moorabool River at Fyansford". This statement appeared in the 1968-1969 Fifty-fifth Annual Report of the Country Roads Board. The work which was completed by the close of the 1967/68 financial year refers I imagine, to the realignment of the Hamilton Highway immediately to the west of the Moorabool River, through the cutting which is still in use today.
Looking west through the modern cutting at Fyansford
Prior to this, the road ran through a much older cutting, slightly to the south. This old road I suspect, originally served the ford and was cut out and perhaps somewhat realigned in the 1850s when the first timber bridge was built. Today, the remains of the old road can still be followed from the corner of Lower Paper Mill Rd and along the boundary fence of the Fyansford Waste Disposal & Recycling Centre to a point about 180m to the west where the old road rejoins the new.
Old road west of the Moorabool River at Fyansford

Soon after the bridge opened however, the road was probably the site of an accident which saw a dray tip over the edge of it, falling down a "precipice some twenty feet deep" (The Argus, 27th April, 1855). The following year, in March, 1856 tenders were called for the erection of 450 lineal yards of fencing along an embankment at Fyansford - possibly the fence which can be seen in the photo below and which may have saved the dray had it been installed sooner.
Portion of an 1859 image of Fyansford, showing the first bridge and road
leading up the west bank of the Moorabool River. Original image held by
the State Library of Victoria
In the Geelong Advertiser, 13th January, 1899, the road up the west bank of the Moorabool was still receiving criticism, described  as a "dangerous, locked in, circuitous road ...with a huge stone cliff on one side and a long stone wall on the other, where many terrible accidents...have happened".

Remains of the stone wall beside the old road
Regardless of this criticism, this remained the approach to the Moorabool River from the west until 1968 when the new cutting was made a short distance to the north.
After the new section of road was completed, construction of the bridge itself was considered. An article from The Age, 31st December, 1968 indicated that tenders were about to be called "for the completion of a bridge over the Moorabool River at Fyansford, three miles north of Geelong on the Hamilton Highway." It was expected that the bridge would be "317 feet long [with] 28 feet between kerbs [and] a six-foot-wide footway. It would cost about $300,000 and take about 2 years to build."
Finally, the Country Roads Board's Fifty-seventh Annual Report for the year ending 30th June, 1970 indicated that amongst the significant works completed for the 1969/70 financial year was the "Construction of a reinforced concrete bridge 270 feet long [with] 28 feet between kerbs to replace a concrete arch bridge over the Moorabool River at Fyansford." The item was accompanied by a photo showing both the Monier and the new bridge.
View of the Monier and current bridge, looking east, Howard Bruce, 1972,
Image held by the National Library of Australia
Strangely, the same annual report also included the following detail under the heading of "Large bridges completed in rural areas":
"Moorabool River Bridge-Hamilton Highway, Shire of Corio: a five span prestressed concrete beam and reinforced concrete bridge 320 feet long by 28 feet between kerbs plus a footway 6 feet wide."
A quick look at Google Earth suggests that the latter was probably the more accurate description.
The current bridge at Fyansford. Looking north east
 Without a tape measure and some rather risky traffic dodging maneuvers, I can't be sure of the proportions, however I can say that this most recent bridge, whilst perhaps not the most aesthetically pleasing structure, has now served those travelling along the Hamilton Highway for forty-six years and looks set to continue for many years to come.
The modern bridge from the west bank of the Moorabool River

17 June, 2016

Four bridges and a ford: Monier mischief

The best-known bridge at Fyansford is without doubt, the Monier bridge. Built in 1899 and opened to traffic on 16th February the following year, the saga of the bridge's construction is described in detail in many places including this webpage so I will settle for a general description here.
The story of the bridge began in 1897 when it was finally decided to replace the original timber bridge built at Fyansford in 1854. The old structure was rotten and in imminent danger of collapse. The first problem was funding. Who would pay for the new bridge? A meeting in September, 1897 discussed the topic and it was pointed out that the bridge at Fyansford not only crossed the Moorabool River, but also crossed the shire boundary between Bannockburn and Corio Shires. Should the shires pay for the new bridge?
Corio Shire were quick to point out that Bannockburn Shire residents derived significantly more benefit from the bridge than its own constituents did as the former often travelled to Geelong. Both shires however were of the same opinion that in fact the majority of traffic across the bridge was not from either shire, but rather from shires further afield who brought produce to Geelong or travelled there to do business. On the that basis, they felt Geelong also derived a significant benefit from the bridge. This was a national road which should receive government funding - oh, and while they were pressing for national road status, they should also request that the steep road out of the valley be cut down too.
Having considered these issues the shires estimated that it would cost around £5,000 to replace the existing bridge and approached the government to contribute half this sum. The government made £1,500 available.
And so a committee composed of councillors and the engineers from both shires was assembled to look into the issue. In March, 1898, Councilor Stewart of the Bannockburn Shire tabled the idea that a revolutionary new system of bridge-making patented by the Engineering company of Monash and Anderson could be employed to replace the Fyansford Bridge. It would be cheaper than a standard stone and iron bridge and once completed, the bridge would require virtually no maintenance and, being new technology, the committee felt the government may be more inclined to increase its financial contribution.
Eventually, by November, 1898 tenders were called for either a steel bridge or a concrete bridge and it was voted that the committee should approach the government to rethink its decision on funding the project. If this was unsuccessful, Corio Shire felt they should instead opt for building a cheap timber bridge or revert to using the ford. The rate payers of that shire after all, would not be significantly inconvenienced by such an arrangement.
It was estimated by the shire engineers prior to tender, that a steel bridge would cost £6,430, however, the quotes received ranged from around £8,500 to almost £11,000. By contrast they estimated that a concrete bridge built using the Monier system would cost in the order of £4,500. The engineering firm of Monash and Anderson who held the patent for this technology in Victoria submitted a tender of just over £5,000 or, including a temporary bridge to be used for the duration of the works, just over £5,300.
In the meantime, the government didn't budge on the issue of funding and instead, recommended that they take their request to the Geelong Town Council. And so discussions continued. In January, 1899 it became clear that the majority of Bannockburn councillors favoured the Monier bridge, however many of the councillors from Corio Shire unsurprisingly, supported the construction of a cheap timber bridge. Whilst various shires and the Geelong Town Council may have been prepared to provide monetary support for the bridge, it soon became clear that it was beyond their legal capacity to contribute financially to projects beyond the borders of their own municipalities. Bannockburn and Corio would have to bear the cost alone.
Finally, after months of wrangling, several changes to the bridge specifications and a number of different proposals - even including a composite steel, timber and concrete bridge - put forward by Monash and Anderson, it was agreed by both councils to accept the original concrete design and at the end of March, 1899 a contract  for £4,506 was agreed upon.
A young John Monash in 1896, not long prior to building
the Fyansford Monier bridge. Image held by Monash

In order for construction of the Monier bridge to be completed however, it was necessary to demolish the old timber bridge, so in preparation for this, tenders were called in December, 1898 for the construction of a temporary bridge for around £200.
By early May, 1899 work on the temporary structure was complete and the bridge - located downstream of the site on which the Monier bridge was being built - was ready for public use. Despite its rather flimsy appearance, it was claimed to be of a more sturdy construction than the old bridge which in any case, had been demolished by the end of that month. Despite this, a notice posted by the Corio Shire engineer AL Campbell in the Geelong Advertiser warned that those crossing the bridge with loads greater than two tons did so at their own risk.
Looking north towards the nearly complete Monier bridge with the smaller
temporary bridge in the foreground. Image held by the University of Melbourne

By early May, with the temporary bridge open to traffic and the piers for the new bridge already completed, difficulties between the shires and Monash and Anderson began to arise as payments were delayed or smaller than expected. Supervising engineer Campbell was also deemed slow to approve the ongoing construction. Work did however continue, with the abutments almost complete by the end of June, this despite flooding on the Leigh and Upper Barwon which it was feared would damage both the temporary bridge and the partially-constructed Monier bridge. Only a couple of weeks later, on  August the temporary bridge was out of order when flood waters over topped it.
The Monier bridge under construction. Image held by the University of Melbourne

During the middle of August, the southern side of the bridge was cast with the northern side complete by October at which point shire engineer Campbell took over responsibility for the works. By December, the bridge was essentially complete, with only finishing touches remaining to be completed along with the testing required before payment to Monash and Anderson could be finalised.
Testing was conducted on 16th February, 1900. The completed, three-span bridge was 260 ft in length with the central span measuring 107 ft 6 in, standing 35 ft above water level. The east and west spans measured 67 ft 6 in each. At that time, the central span was the longest Monier span in the country. The bridge was first tested with 14 laden drays - the equivalent of 44 tons. No deflection was detected in the central arch. Next, a 16 ton steamroller was driven across the bridge with a deflection of one tenth of an inch recorded.
The Monier bridge soon after completion. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
The following day, the bridge was officially opened to traffic. There does not seem to have been a formal opening ceremony - as there was for the first bridge - a circumstance which may have arisen due to what became a protracted legal battle over costs for the bridge. The whole affair, which dragged out over many months, began with Monash and Anderson - after consultation with engineer Campbell - claiming a cost for the bridge of £6,142 and expressed a willingness to waive a claim for extra costs. The shires ordered Campbell to reassess the expenditure and then offered £4,500 plus an additional  £750 to cover extras. Monash and Anderson replied by taking the shires to court.
When the case opened in June, the shires through their lawyers disputed the terms of the original contract, claiming a "bulk sum" contract rather than one based on a "schedule of rates". If correct, then the amount of the contract was a fixed sum (in contrast to a schedule of rates), with any extra expense to be borne by the contractors. Extra costs could only be claimed if approved in writing by the shire president. Throughout the course of construction, verbal agreements for extra expenses had been made by Campbell with the assumed knowledge of the committee, however there was no written authorisation from the either shire president. The shires also made a raft of claims denying any wrong-doing on their own part and claiming Campbell's measurements were wrong and that Monash and Anderson had not made any of the additions claimed.
Looking east across the Fyansford Monier bridge, June, 2016

Eventually, the judge decided in favour of the contractors to the tune of £1902,10,0 plus costs, claiming they had acted in good faith and that the shire's actions throughout the course of construction constituted an implicit acceptance of the expenses accruing. Justice Williams also noted that the shires had probably not considered avoiding payment of the extra money until it was suggested by their legal representatives. He also reluctantly indicated that the shires would have grounds for appeal.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place. Corio Shire
Engineer AL Campbell oversaw the work of Monash
and Anderson on behalf of the shires and was required
to give evidence regarding both in court.
Image held by the State Library of Victoria

This of course was precisely what they did. Before the High Court, presided over by Justices Holroyd, a'Beckett and Hodges, the shires returned to court in February, 1902 with the judgement handed down in September that year. Inevitably perhaps and with reluctance, the judges found in favour of the shires. Justice a'Beckett...
...regretted that he had to concur in a judgement which enabled the defendant shires to escape from payment for work, of which they obtained the benefit, and done with the approval of persons believed by the plaintiffs [Monash and Anderson] to effectually represent them. The unfortunate confusion in the documents by which the rights of the contractors were to be regulated was mainly due to the defendants' [shires'] agents. As the result of the confusion, the plaintiffs had failed to secure themselves against the defence set up by the defendants in refusing to pay for anything to which a claim could not be made out under the documents.
In other words, they had no choice but to abide by the terms of the original contract.
Plaque on the Monier bridge commemorating those involved in its construction

Whilst Monash and Anderson gave serious consideration to an appeal, there was every chance they would lose and if successful, their costs would consume any payment awarded and so eventually, in April, 1903 a settlement was finally reached. Monash and Anderson agreed to accept a sum of £450. Their total losses on the bridge at Fyansford totalled more than £3,000.
Next, in April, 1906 - perhaps to the consternation of the shires who had opted for technology largely untried in Australia - it was found that the new bridge was in need of repair at an estimated cost of £200. Routine checks had discovered that the spandrel walls were bulging and that horizontal cracks had appeared at the crown of the western arch on the south side of the bridge whilst there was also a crack in the central span on the north side. The problem was rectified by the addition of steel tie rods inserted in mortar to hold outer spans. It was also recommended that the parapet be removed and replaced with iron fencing. This clearly was not done.
The Monier bridge in 1906 with the Balmoral and Fyansford Hotels to either
side and the Fyansford Cement Works at the rear. Image held by the State
Library of Victoria
It was estimated that the shires would recoup the outlay required to build the bridge after 40 years. In the end, despite its difficult beginnings, the Monier bridge at Fyansford served the people of Geelong, Fyansford and the Western District for 70 years, before it was finally replaced. Those councillors of the Bannockburn and Corio Shires who supported what at the time was a revolutionary project, ensured that the shires more than got their money's worth. Today, the bridge is open for pedestrian access, beside the modern bridge which replaced it.
The Monier bridge, 2015 viewed from upriver

13 June, 2016

Four bridges and a ford: the first bridge

In August, 1851, the Victorian gold rush began in earnest. Thousands flocked from the ports of Melbourne and Geelong to the goldfields of Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Creswick and beyond. By 1852, the newly-independent Colony of Victoria boasted 6.5 million sheep and the drays loaded with their wool trundled their way to markets in the major port towns of Geelong and Melbourne.
Many of those drays crossed the vast, open plains of the Western District to bring their wool to Geelong. In the opposite direction, thousands of hopeful diggers lined the tracks to Ballarat, which until 1851 was only a squatting run, not the teeming town of 20,000 it had become by 1854. In the few years since the discovery of gold, Geelong had also experienced a rapid population increase from a town of just over 8,000 in 1851 its population had more than doubled to over 20,000 by 1854.
And along with the floods of people coming and going, there were those who provided the supplies they needed to live on. Carters like the young Henry Mundy (Henry Mundy: a young Australian pioneer, Les Hughes, 2003) could do quite well for themselves carrying supplies. For those who were willing to risk a stint in the lockup - see Mundy's description - there was also money to be made by slipping an extra barrel or two on the wagon to supply the sly-grog shanties which proliferated on the goldfields.
All of this meant of course, that the traffic flow across the ford at Fyansford increased substantially. Not only was it a key crossing point on the Great Western Road leading from Geelong to the Western District and Portland Bay, but the ford also provided an alternative route for those heading to the goldfields. They could join the Geelong-Buninyong Track at the Eureka Hotel (at the modern day intersection near Gheringhap) or travel via Inverleigh and Shelford, following the track to the west of the Leigh River to Buninyong.
By November, 1853, according to the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer it was rumoured that the ford at Fyansford was to be replaced by a bridge. The rumours, as it turned out, were true and in January, 1854 tenders were called for the construction of a timber bridge on stone abutments over the Moorabool River.
Original timber bridge across the Moorabool River at Fyansford, c1866-1880.
Image held by the State Library of Victoria
Surprisingly however, the advent of a bridge at Fyansford, was not as far as I can tell, accompanied by the usual degree of community outrage over the degraded state of the existing facility - in this case, the ford and the roads leading to it. Nor, unlike the building of the Batesford Bridge, can I find any call for tenders for the Fyansford Bridge in the Victorian Government Gazette of the day.
Regardless, the bridge was built during 1854 and officially opened on the 1st September that year by the Mayor William Baylie with Captain Foster Fyans in attendance as guest of honour. The ceremony began with mounted troopers leading a procession of local notables to the bridge which was decorated with a floral arch at each end. Once at the bridge, the company halted and Mayor Baylie christened the "Fyans Ford Bridge" in deference to Captain Fyans with a bottle of champagne. Those present then crossed the bridge before returning to attended an outdoor banquet which was accompanied by the usual toasts and speeches.
As can be seen from a number of contemporary photos, as per the specifications outlined, the bridge was a timber structure supported at each end by bluestone abutments and in between by timber piers. In a significant change from the past, the new bridge was located around 350m downstream from the site of the original ford, however looking at various websites as well as the information board located near the bridge site, there appears to be some confusion as to the location of the timber bridge. The board along with the websites claim that this first bridge was located on the site of the current bridge.
Having looked at the existing bridges, this claim stuck an odd not as I had previously noted that the the north east corner of the Monier bridge (more of which later) contained several rows of bluestone blocks which did not seem to fit with the rest of its construction.
Bluestone blocks next to the Monier bridge
Furthermore, a quick search of the undergrowth on the west bank immediately upstream of the Monier bridge, revealed two piles of cut stone situated close by the Monier bridge - surely the remains of the bluestone abutment belonging to the original bridge. This was effectively confirmed when after a little more research I located an entry on the Victorian Heritage Database titled "Fyansford timber bridge ruin". There was no further information other than a place marker located - as I expected - slightly upstream of the existing bridges.
Pile of cut stone on the western bank of the Moorabool
So, based on the above details and having looked at the few available photographs and sketches, I believe that the original timber bridge was located slightly upstream of the two present bridges, in such close proximity to the Monier bridge that perhaps (I have not seen plans for the Monier bridge) the abutment of the timber bridge on the east bank was later used in the construction of the second bridge. The alignment of the first bridge however, was at a more acute angle which left the abutment on the west bank further upstream than that on the east.
No doubt the site of the new crossing was not appreciated by William Bohn, owner of the Swan Inn on the west bank of the Moorabool who now found his business at a distance from the main road and on the opposite side of the river to the growing township. On the east bank however and in prime position on the new line of road, Charles B. Dawson took advantage of the realignment to establish a new public house - the Fyansford Hotel. By July, 1854 he was calling for tenders for the erection of a two-storey brick building which remains in operation to the present day.
The Fyansford Hotel
On the opposite side of the new road and at about the same time, a second hotel - designed by Walter Ferrier for James Roger Miller - was also under construction. In addition to its role as a public house, the Balmoral also did duty as the post office, a polling station and was even used to accomodate the proceedings of an inquest in 1882, into the death of George Webb, a local farmer who was found drowned in the river. Unlike the Fyansford, the Balmoral Hotel operated only until 1895 when it was sold to Mr Henry Wilks who operated the premises as a boarding house.
During the 20th century, the old Balmoral Hotel underwent significant renovation and was for a time converted into two flats before being purchased in 1972 by John Heard who in turn converted the former hotel into an art gallery. Since 1988, the building has been home to reception centre, Truffleduck at Balmoral.
The former Balmoral Hotel, now Truffleduck at Balmoral
In addition to the new hotels and the bridge, the surrounding roadway was also upgraded. In the weeks prior to the opening of the bridge, the "hills...on each side of the river" were "cut and improved and the road metalled" (Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 18th August, 1854) whilst an additional, 71 chains of road was constructed near the new bridge.
A look at the few early maps to which I currently have access and the length of road indicated (almost 1.5km), shows that this wasn't just a minor diversion to redirect the track from the ford. The distance indicated corresponds to the distance via Hyland Street from the top of The Deviation - or Fyansford Hill as it was then called - to the cutting on the opposite side of the river.
Looking at an 1850 map of Geelong and surrounds published by James Harrison however, I was surprised to see that it marked the original road to the ford as following a curved path from the western end of Autumn Street, south past the future site of the cement works, before descending directly down the hill to the ford, which at its steepest included a drop of some 55m over a distance of only some 330m amounting to an average gradient of around 17%. This seems rather unlikely, so perhaps the the line was a general one rather than the line of the surveyed road.
Fyansford, 1859 showing the new line of road with the bridge in the distance.
Image held by the State Library of Victoria
The new road, which I gather from maps and photos followed the current alignment, included a descent of 51m, but extended over a distance of around 610m, yielding a gradient of only around 8%, but still more than steep enough for a bullock dray to negotiate.
Work on the new road appears to have continued well after the bridge was opened to traffic. In April, 1855, the lack of fencing along the steep road led to a serious accident as reported by The Argus on 27th April, 1855:
A serious accident occurred on last Saturday night to a dray, at the Fyans Ford Hill. The new road, which is not fenced in on either side, and is very narrow, runs close past a precipice of some twenty feet deep. Being rather dark, and there being no fence to save or direct the cart, the driver had allowed the wheel to go too close to the edge of the cliff, when suddenly the cart overturned and fell to the bottom, being smashed to pieces among the broken stones. Strange to say, the horse was not much injured, otherwise than with wounds only skin deep; the driver escaped also with very slight injury.
Which section of the new road this was I cannot tell, however the following month, a contract was announced in the Victorian Government Gazette (18th May, 1855) for the "erection of about 400 lineal yards of stone wall, along the side cutting west of Fyansford" whilst in March the following year tenders were called for "450 yards of fencing along an embankment at Fyansford".
A pencil drawing by Samuel Thomas Gill overlooking the timber bridge at
Fyansford, soon after its construction and showing the realigned road. The
Swan Inn can be seen upstream to the right whilst the Fyansford Hotel is
 yet to be built. Image held by the State Library of Victoria

Nor was the new road the only safety concern as by 1859, the new bridge - still a mere five years old - was deemed unsafe. On 19th October, 1859 The Argus reported that:
...some of the pier piles having given  way, it was deemed advisable to send for chains to bind the four centre piers together. The longitudinal beams of the roadway present anything but a straight line to the eye, and the hand-rails correspond in their curves to the lines of the aforesaid beams, showing unmistakably that something has given way. The bridge is only a wooden one, built upon a rather insecure construction...
By early December £133 8s 6d had been allocated by the government for repairs to the bridge, but barely twelve months later it was reported in the Geelong Advertiser that flooding had washed away a temporary bridge installed for use whilst timber bridge was (once again) repaired.
And so it continued. The timber bridge across the Moorabool at Fyansford served the town and those travelling between Geelong and the Western District for 45 years until 1899 when the decision was finally made to replace it.

08 June, 2016

Four bridges and a ford: the ford

Over recent weeks I have spent a bit of time looking at and for photos and paintings of Fyansford and the area around the confluence of the Moorabool and the Barwon Rivers. Some shots were taken from The Deviation looking west, others were taken from the cutting on the Hamilton Highway looking east towards The Deviation. Often they showed the Moorabool River crossing - whatever it was at that time - so I thought I would take a look at the history of the various crossings. Some details will be familiar to most, but perhaps not all...
First things first. As the name suggests, the Moorabool River crossing at Fyansford was originally a ford. Long before the arrival of white settlers however, the people of the Wathaurong tribe inhabited the area. It was they who first used this shallow point on the Moorabool as a ford. Their name for the area was Bukar Bulac; "the place between two rivers".
In the earliest days of European settlement, the new arrivals often made use of the tracks and fords used by the indigenous population so it is not surprising that Captain Foster Fyans - recognising it as a key location - chose this place to make camp upon his arrival in the district in 1837 to take up the role of police magistrate. As I mentioned previously, Fyansford did become an important location, providing access for the wool-growers of the Western District, to the ports and wool markets of Geelong.
Then, as European settlement spread out across the Moorabool to the west, traffic on the Great Western Road (later the Lower Western Road and now the Hamilton Highway), increased. As the squatters expanded their flocks, dray-loads of wool needed to be carted to the port at Geelong. To aid the passage of these drays and the path of other travellers, the ford was reinforced with earth and rocks.
1847 sketch by Charles Norton, looking upriver across Fyans' Ford. Image held
by the State Library of Victoria
To this end, in 1842 Mr John Atkins with his business partner Robert Nalder Clarke built an inn on the west bank of the Moorabool and was offering to make a substantial contribution towards upgrading the ford if other locals were prepared to contribute as well. Atkins' inn - originally known as the Fyanstown or Fyans Ford Inn and later as the Swan Inn/Hotel - was well situated to take advantage of the passing trade crossing the ford before following the track south to the current line of road as the sketch below shows:
1847 sketch of Fyansford and the Moorabool River, showing both the ford and
the Swan Inn. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
It also gives a good idea of where the ford was actually located, namely around 350m upstream of the current bridge. This is confirmed by the 1861 geological survey map - Quarter Sheet 24SE Geelong - produced by surveyor Richard Daintree. Looking at the minutes from a City of Greater Geelong council meeting from 24th September, 2014, I am not revealing any long lost secret here. The  minutes mention a plan "To promote the original track to the ford through appropriate interpretation", indicating that the site of the ford it well-documented. When we will see the interpretive signage however, is probably anyone's guess.
Rather than wait for council, for my own benefit, I recently went for a wander along this section of the river to get an idea of where the ford was and what it looks like today. There is no obvious sign of where it was located and whilst it is quite shallow along this stretch, it is worth remembering that in the 1840s, the upper reaches of the Moorabool had not been dammed as they have today, so water levels may have been different.
General vicinity of the ford at Fyansford, May, 2016
Whilst all trace of the ford may long-since have gone, on the west bank of the river, until a few short weeks ago, John Atkins' Swan Inn still stood; derelict but intact, until the evening of 22nd April, 2016 when a fire - believed to be a deliberate act of arson - gutted the main building. What remains of the Swan Inn can still be seen from various points around the town.
The Swan Inn, February, 2015
In 1842 when Atkins and Clarke selected the site for their inn, they chose a prime position on the track to the ford. The flats nearby were used to hold some of the region's earliest horse races as well as other sporting matches. After only a handful of years however, the original owners, were forced to sell up having overstretched themselves financially. According to The Stepping Stone: A History of the Shire of Bannockburn by Derek Beaurepaire (1995) the early 1850s saw the property used by the Mercer family as the base from which to administer their property which extended to the west. They used the name 'Fyansford House'.
 In 1856, the inn passed to William Bohn who undertook repairs and opened the property as the Swan Inn. It was during this time that Bohn was suspected of being complicit in the 1858 death of his wife. After Bohn, the property was owned by Mr Hopeton, owner of the Fyansford flour mill at which time it went by the name of 'Swanville'. Next the property passed to the Synot family who used the name 'Riverside'. In general the hotel had a successful history, by the 1860s, boasting what were said to be "charming gardens" stocked with fruit trees, ornamental plants and a generous kitchen garden.
The Swan Hotel 1860, drawn by Samuel Calvert. Image taken
from the State Library of Victoria
Changing times during the 1950s however, saw the inn finally close its doors for the last time, being converted instead into a farmhouse. By this time of course, the ford near which the Swan was built was long gone, replaced in 1854 by a bridge which would be located around 350m downstream of the ford, leaving the hotel at some distance from the new road which was formed to carry traffic from the bridge to the Western District.

02 June, 2016

Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow!

As I was searching through TROVE hunting for maps suitable for my last blog post, I came across an interesting map which I had not seen before. It was dated 1st September, 1857 and showed the course of the Barwon including surrounding subdivisions and the holdings of major land owners/squatters in the area to a point several kilometres south of Winchelsea. This in itself was of interest, however, what caught my attention was the depiction of a "reservoir and aqueduct for supplying Geelong with water".
What had I found?
I should have remembered as I have read about it before, but had not seen it in map form.  This was one of several options put forward to supply the town of Geelong with a clean, reliable water supply - something which was desperately needed by the 1850s.
A full description of the woes of Geelong's early water supplies would require a significant amount of time and blog space and in any case, the whole story of Geelong's aqueous history is addressed in Leigh Edmonds' book Living by Water: a History of Barwon Water and its Predecessors, 2005 which can be downloaded from the above link. Here however, I will look briefly at not only what happened, but what might have happened.
As I have mentioned in the past, the first step in securing a water supply for Geelong was the breakwater built by Captain Foster Fyans with the aid of convict labour in 1841. This stopped the flow of salt water back upriver from Barwon Heads and dammed the flow of the river, resulting in higher water levels between Breakwater and Buckley Falls.
For several years, this was the extent of Geelong's water supply. The water from the river was either collected directly (free of charge) by the local citizens or was pumped from the river and distributed by private contractors. Joseph Griffen installed a pump near Moorabool St in 1841 and a little later, William Jewell erected a tank on the riverbank near Yarra St from where water-carriers could fill their casks.
William Jewell's pump by the Barwon River. Image taken from Sand, Fireworks
and Boxthorn: the History of Breakwater and Area
(William Smith, )
In 1850, William Gray erected a reticulated system which pumped water from the river through metal pipes to the Market Square and to the Waterfront via a holding tank located near the north west corner of Moorabool and McKillop Streets. The system was not without its problems which were further complicated by wrangling with the council and a rapid population increase following the outbreak of the Victorian gold rush in 1851.
In 1852, the council established the Geelong Water Company whose brief was to secure a water supply for Geelong from some point above Buckley Falls. The engineer hired to undertake the study recommended a 4 foot high dam, located above the falls, however public subscription for the scheme was lacking and the company quietly folded.
Illustration of the Market Square by S.T. Gill (1857), clearly showing Gray's tank
and a water cart waiting to fill up. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
At about the same time, another public company - described in The Argus of 10th February, 1853 as the Geelong Junction Water Company - entered the arena. Backed by none other than William Gray, it was claimed that by October that year, the company would be ready to supply water from above Buckley Falls to the suburbs of Ashby, Kildare, Chilwell, Little Scotland and New Town (sic). The water, it was stated would be pumped from a reservoir on the hill "immediately over Levien's Punt", however by 1854 the scheme was still not up and running and council held concerns that the company would provide a virtual private monopoly over water supply in the town for Gray and a small number of associates. Once again, the plan was abandoned.
In 1852, the colonial government had allocated £800,000 for the construction of water supply schemes for Melbourne and Geelong. £600,000 was to be spent on a dam at Yan Yean to supply Melbourne, with the remainder to be spent on Geelong.  In 1855 it established the Geelong Water Commission to look into the state of the town's water and to recommend a more extensive supply scheme.
In his report submitted to the Commission in February, 1857, engineer Henry Millar came to the conclusion that water taken from below Inverleigh was unsuitable as sediment from mining activities along the Yarrowee/Leigh River near Ballarat had so polluted the water that it rendered the lower reaches of the Barwon unusable. Instead, his favoured option was the construction of a reservoir on Wormbete Creek - a tributary of the Barwon running through 'Wormbete Estate', established by Henry Hopkins in 1837. It was the map of this proposal which I had discovered on TROVE.
What could have been. An 1857 map showing a proposed reservoir located
on Wormbete Creek, designed to supply Geelong with water.
Image held by the National Library of Australia
This scheme which the Commission presented to the government was estimated to cost £362,430 and would run from the reservoir through pipes to Geelong, supplying a potential population of 50,000 with 190 (50 gallons) of water per day. The government however, immediately made it known that this expense was unacceptable and advised the Commission to consider a cheaper option. It was revealed not long after, that the £200,000 allocated for Geelong's water scheme had been spent instead on Yan Yean.
Reluctantly, the Commission suggested that water pumped from above Buckley Falls to a holding basin could be implemented for £64,848, but reinforced the unacceptable quality of the water. Next, claiming that the Commission had failed to act, the government appointed a select committee to again investigate Geelong's water woes. The Commissioners promptly resigned en masse.
In June, 1858, the select committee unsurprisingly recommended that a supply should be secured from above Buckley Falls, indicating that the Wormbete Creek option was too expensive. An alternative suggestion that Geelong be connected to the Yan Yean scheme was also rejected. And there things sat.
At the beginning of 1859 two government experts were sent to report on the findings of the Select Committee. Rather than support one of the existing alternatives however, they suggested a fourth option - a reservoir collecting water from the springs and creeks around Mt Buninyong and Mt Warrenheip, which would supply both Geelong and Ballarat. Water from the reservoir could be piped to Geelong along the same line as the Geelong-Ballarat Railway which was under construction at that time.
Again, nothing was done. As the colonial government floundered under pressure from the rapidly increasing population, Geelong council took matters into their own hands and established yet another committee to look into the water issue. In addition to considering the options recommended by the select committee and the government experts, they considered a fourth option; one which would see water collected, not from the Barwon catchment, but from the watershed above Stony Creek in the Brisbane Ranges - a tributary of the Little River.
The scheme would see a reservoir built north of Anakie which would store up to 1,000 million gallons (3,785 megalitres) behind an earthen wall. Water would then be carried via an open channel and a series of pipes to a reservoir at Anakie before being piped to a distribution reservoir at Lovely Banks from where it would be distributed to Geelong residents.
What might have been. An 1867 map outlining plans for the Stony Creek
reservoir, pipes and channel. Note also, the intended channel from Wallace's
Swamp as well as a proposal to divert water from the Werribee River into
the system and a proposed pipe to carry water to Steiglitz. Image held
by the National Library of Australia
Finally, after 14 years of wrangling, the £42,572 contract to build Geelong's water supply was signed in May, 1866 and work got under way. Before construction was even completed however, there were problems; first with money and then with design. Concerns that the capacity of the dam may not be adequate in 1870 saw work begin on a channel draining water from Wallace's Swamp north of the dam, however this work was later abandoned. Then, in 1871, the dam wall began to subside and it was discovered that the foundations upon which the wall had been built were unstable. Various measures were considered and it was decided to lower the dam wall and reinforce it.
This had the effect of reducing the capacity of the dam to a mere 168 million gallons. To compensate for this, a second reservoir was built further down the creek. The Lower Stony Creek Reservoir as it was known, was constructed in the space of 18 months between 1873 and 1874. This new reservoir had a capacity of 120 million gallons, however, with a larger catchment area, its annual capacity was estimated as closer to 232 million gallons. It cost £17,000 to build but because of differences in elevation, could not use the original channel and pipes. As a result, it therefore required a separate pipe costing a further £12,000 to carry its water to the basin at Anakie.
The dam wall of the Lower Stony Creek Reservoir, built 1873-1874 from a
combination of cement, sand and rock it was the first cement dam in Australia and
only the third of its type in the world
 Plagued by delays, cost blowouts and technical problems due to poor workmanship, corner cutting and the use of substandard materials, the system was not without its problems. In addition to the subsidence of the main dam wall, a tunnel under the embankment also leaked, there were fears that the spillway - built on soft clay - would erode as well as issues with leakage from the aqueduct and tunnels carrying water to Anakie which required remedial work. Then, as the system was at last ready to come on line and the service basin at Lovely Banks filled up, poor brickwork caused one of its embankments to develop leaks, requiring it to be drained in order to fix the problem.
Eventually however, despite all the setbacks and delays, on 11th September, 1873 the first water flowed to the Geelong Infirmary and Benevolent Society, with the rest of the town progressively coming on line in the following months. After more than twenty years of political wrangling, Geelong finally had its first reliable, reticulated water supply.
Today, the Stony Creek Reservoir - along with two additional reservoirs built in 1914 and 1918 - still form part of the Barwon Water supply system, also receiving water from the upper reaches of the East Moorabool River. The Lower Stony Creek Reservoir was decommissioned in 2001, with the water from the East Moorabool and the upper reservoirs instead channelled via a new pipe to the Sheoaks Diversion Weir.