27 July, 2016

Two von Guerards for the price of one!

Whilst it was easy enough to find the locations from which 19th century landscape painter Eugene von Guerard made his two famous Geelong paintings - View of Geelong and Mr Lewin's hut on the Barwon River, finding the location of some of the informal sketches he also made during his time in the region was a little trickier.
Whilst von Guerard spent many hours sketching the river from several vantage points along the Barwon Valley through what would become the suburbs of Highton and Newtown, he also took his sketchbooks to some more out-of -the-way locations. Places that I've seen too.
Most recently, I paddled up the river from Baum's Weir to the bridge at Merrawarp Rd - a section of the river I've paddled many times before. My main aim on this occasion was to take some photos of a couple of locations I was fairly sure von Guerard had visited a little over 160 years before me. Surprisingly for a July afternoon, we headed out in short sleeves on a sunny, windless afternoon, but with the river flowing somewhat higher than the usual summer levels, paddling upstream required a little more effort than normal.
Our first stop, was not far from the Geelong Ring Road where - as you head upstream - the river sweeps around three right-angled bends in succession, to form a large "U" shape beneath the Barrabool Hills. It is here that we think von Guerard's made two of his sketches. Neither, as far as I'm aware, was ever developed into a painting, however even in sketch form, they give a good impression of the height and dramatic appearance of the Barrabool Hills at this point.
Whilst I was certainly not the first person to take in this particular view, neither for that matter was von Guerard. In 1848, the landscape painter, squatter and later civil servant Charles Norton painted a very similar view to that of von Guerard's sketch. The watercolour, titled View from front door "Carlsbadt" on the Barwon, was one of a number of watercolours and sketches of the area completed by Norton between 1847 and 1849. For this short space of time, he occupied a squatting run on the Barwon which he named 'Carlsbadt' after the town in Germany in which his father was born. I can find no mention of 'Carlsbadt' on the maps or in newspapers from the era, but from context assume it must have been situated on the north bank of the Barwon, immediately to the west of the Fyansford township reserve, on land originally held by the Mercers on behalf of the Port Phillip Association.
View from front door "Carlsbadt" on the Barwon, 1848 by Charles Norton
Similar view to the above sketch, July, 2016, but taken from midstream
Soon after his arrival in the district, Norton married Susan Meade - governess to the children of then Superintendent La Trobe. In 1849, during their time at 'Carlsbadt', a daughter - Joanna Kate - was born to the couple. Her birth was registered at nearby Fyansford. This same year however, with the run proving unprofitable, (as as was the case with an earlier property held by Norton in the vicinity of Clunes) Norton advertised his stock (sheep) for sale as he intended leaving the district. By 1850 he and his family had moved to Melbourne where a further two sons were born. A longer biography of his career can be found at Design and Art Australia Online.
'Carldsbadt' near Geelong, sketched by Charles Norton, 1848. Image taken from
the State Library of Victoria
Some five or six years after Norton's departure from 'Carlsbadt', on the 13th March, 1855 von Guerard, with sketchbook in hand, took in the same view.  His vantage point however was not the same as Norton's from his front door, or mine from midstream. Instead,  he chose to perch on the steep slopes above the east bank of the river to make his sketch of the view before him. To find that spot, I needed to do the same. After two visits and some precarious climbing I felt I had come as close to von Guerard's vantage point as was possible.
Eugene von Guerard sketch looking south to the Barrabool Hills near
Fyansford, 13th March, 1855
A similar view to von Guerard's sketch as it appears today. 25th July, 2016,
possibly somewhat altered by the building of the Geelong Ring Road in 2009
The peaks were all there, the fence still followed the same line over 160 years later.  The only things which didn't quite match were the proportions of the double peak at the centre of the sketch; that and the presence of the Geelong Ring Road where von Guerard sketched two men on horseback, no doubt following a long gone track (although not one which shows on any map I've found). The profile at this point appears to have been eroded away somewhat, but as far as I can tell by comparing historical images on Google Earth, this was not the result of excavations for the Ring Road, so any erosion must be from an earlier date.
Next, as I traversed this section of the bank, I noticed that I could see not one, but two von Guerard "sketches". The second sketch (actually made earlier the same day), took in the hills a little further downstream from those shown above. Upon first seeing it, I had quickly recognised the location of this sketch, but had assumed it was made from a point near to the closest bend in the river to the hills. Looking across the Barwon from this more easterly perspective however, I realised that what I had thought was another hill, was actually the tip of the promontory around which the river flows and that this sketch must have been made from a very similar view point to the other with the two drawings effectively being a continuation of the one scene.
A second von Guerard sketch of the Barrabool Hills and Barwon River from a
similar perspective
A similar view to that sketched by von Guerard, 26th July, 2016
The angle and elevation of the above comparison photo is slightly different to that of the sketch as any lower perspective today is obscured by trees, however it was clearly from this part of the river that von Guerard made both his sketches. The relationship of the two drawings can be seen in the panoramic shot below.
The Barrabool Hills, 25th July, 2016. Click to enlarge
Finally, whilst there are several other sketches drawn by von Guerard on his various visits to Geelong, in my next (and probably final) post on these sketches I will look at an elusive little waterfall on the Moorabool River.

20 July, 2016

Finding Fritzwilhelmberg

Following on from my last post, I thought I'd look some more at the works of 19th century landscape artist Eugene von Guerard. As mentioned, his iconic painting View of Geelong was based on an earlier sketch made from the home of John Highett - 'Highton House', located in what is now Montpellier Park, Highton.
Another of his better known paintings of the Geelong region which also hangs at the Geelong Art Gallery is Mr Lewin's hut on the Barwon River. Like View of Geelong, this painting was also developed from an earlier pen and ink sketch, in this case, completed some time before 1860. Unlike some of the sketches however, finding the location of this one did not prove so difficult. A short trip down today's Deviation Rd will provide a very similar perspective to that of the painting.
With a little research however, we were able to determine exactly where von Guerard was when he made the initial sketch. At the bottom of the original piece was the annotation "view from Fritz Wilhelmberg, Hern Hill". Who or what was Fritz Whilhelmberg?
At this point, it was TROVE to the rescue. In the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer of 9th January, 1855, I found a birth notice. Mrs F. Bauer had given birth to a son at her residence - Fritz Wilhelm Berg, Herne Hill. Another quick search of the 1953 survey map for the Parish of Moorpanyal revealed a double block of land purchased by Frederick Baner(sic), on the hill directly above Deviation Rd and perfectly positioned to be the location where the sketch was made. An earlier 1888 survey map clearly gives the name as Bauer, so "Baner" must surely be a mis-transcription of "Bauer" on the later map. A German name.
A section of the 1953 survey map of the Parish of Moorpanyal showing the two
blocks of land purchased by Bauer. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
A little more digging revealed that Frederick Bauer - a German immigrant - had indeed built a house in this location in 1854. It was here that his son Friederich (Fritz) Wilhelm Bauer was born the following January. Frederick Bauer was an importer and merchant who opened a large ironmongery store in Ryrie St, Geelong, also in 1854 - a business he ran until 1862 when financial difficulty forced him to sell the business. At this time he left the district and headed north with his family to Queensland. In 2010, a book detailing his life was written by Peter Croker titled Bauer's road to Bloomfield: the trials and triumphs of a 19th century entrepreneur.
Original sketch drawn by Eugene von Guerard, over looking the Barwon
Valley below Herne Hill

Mr Lewin's Hut on the Barwon River, Eugene von Guerard, 1860
Slightly below von Guerard's view, Barwon Valley, 20th July, 2016
Today, 'Fritzwilhelmberg' still stands as one of Geelong's historic homesteads. Over the years however, it has undergone substantial renovation and had several name changes. In 1881, it was extensively modified according to the design of local architect Joseph Watt. In addition to 'Fritzwilhelmberg', it was also known as 'Malboona', 'Atlantis Heights' and finally the name it bears today - 'Raith'. It remains privately-owned and most recently, was sold in December, 2015 for an undisclosed sum.
'Raith'. Image taken from Property Price History
It seems likely then, that von Guerard was visiting with the Bauers when he made his sketch of the valley below. He is known to have spent time in Geelong on several occasions during the 1850s. Indeed, in 1854 he spent several weeks in the area. On 4th April, 1854 he drew a view of the Barwon immediately downstream of Queen's Park then, almost three weeks later on 24th April, he penned another two sketches, one looking roughly east towards Lake Connewarre as discussed in my previous post and a second looking upriver in a westerly direction.
The view west from above Levien's farm, 24th April, 1854, Eugene von Guerard
This sketch is noted as being above Lewin's farm. Lewin - von Guerard spelt the name according to his Austrian-German pronunciation - was actually Benjamin Levien who from 1846 ran a punt across the river only a few metres downstream from where the Queen's Park Bridge now stands. In addition to the punt, in 1849 Levien also opened an inn nearby - unsurprisingly known as the Punt Inn - which he ran for several years.
The buildings in the foreground of the above sketch are described as "Lewin's farm" and probably represent Levien's house which may or may not still have been operating as an inn by 1854 (the last reference to the inn I could locate in the newspapers was in 1852).
Confusingly however, the sketch and subsequent painting called Mr Lewin's hut on the Barwon River was made at 'Fitzwilhelmberg' which is around 900m upstream from the buildings indicated as Lewin's farm in the sketch dated the 24th April. Given the later date of the painting - 1860 - had Levien perhaps taken possession of the hut upstream by that time, or was there some confusion or slip of the memory between the drawing of the two sketches in 1854 and the completion of the painting in 1860? The original sketch made from 'Raith' does not mention Levien/Lewin or give a name to the hut in the foreground, yet the painting does. It is also possible I am informed, that the painting may not have acquired its name until a later stage - perhaps it was a curatorial decision during an exhibition of the painting - meaning that the confusion may not have arisen until quite some time later. As can be seen above, the sketch (re-combined here by George Hook) incorporates a wider view than the later painting and it is on this larger sketch that the attribution "view from Fritz Wilhelmberg, Hern Hill" is written. Perhaps the original attribution was lost when the size of the sketch was reduced.
Finally, just to muddy the waters a little further, by the mid-1870s, Benjamin Levien had purchased the Bauer's former home 'Fritzwilhelmberg'. "Mr Lewin" was now the owner not just of a hut, but of a substantial house.

15 July, 2016

View from a hill

A couple of months back, I was contacted by a PhD student from Federation University who was undertaking some interesting research. He was on the trail of the famous European landscape painter, Eugene von Guerard.
Eugene von Guerard 1870-1874, by John Botterill,
Image held by the State Library of Victoria
Born in Vienna in 1811, Johann Joseph Eugene von Guerard arrived in Australia in 1852 to try his hand on the goldfields of Ballarat, however after failing to strike it rich he returned to doing what he knew best - drawing and painting, spending thirty years in Australia recording his surroundings. As he travelled across the country, von Guerard carried a sketchbook in which he made rough drawings of what he saw - the bustle of the goldfields, snippets of life in the Australian bush, expansive landscapes. A number of these sketches formed the basis of some of von Guerard and Australia's most important 19th century landscape paintings. Many of these paintings and the original sketchbooks have survived to the present day and their contents include a number of depictions of the Barwon, Moorabool and Leigh/Yarrowee Rivers.
Perhaps the best-known von Guerard painting of the Barwon River is View of Geelong which was purchased in 2006 by the City of Greater Geelong for $3.8 million and now hangs in the Geelong Art Gallery. Another well-known von Guerard painting, which hangs at the National Gallery of Victoria is titled Warrenheip Hills Near Ballarat and purports to show Mt Warrenheip in the background of a scene through which a small river is flowing - the Yarrowee.
Until recently, the exact location from which the original sketch upon which the painting was based, was unknown. Enter postgraduate student George Hook whose "thesis focuses on fidelity to nature issues in the paintings of leading nineteenth century Australian landscape painter Eugene von Guerard". By consulting a number of people with expertise in geology, art and the local region and undertaking some good old fashioned leg work, Hook was able to pinpoint the location of the rocky pool where von Guerard stood to make his initial sketch.
Warrenheip HIlls Near Ballarat, Eugene von Guerard, 1854, showing a little-
seen part of the Yarrowee River. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
As it happens, I had come across his research earlier this year whilst researching some of my "Making Tracks" posts when I discovered this article in the Ballarat Courier describing the find and a more detailed account in a blog post by Historic Urban Landscape Ballarat.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, I had also been following in von Guerard's footsteps. As I was later informed, a number of the photos I had previously used in my blog were taken from similar vantage points to some of the sketches made by von Guerard over a century and a half ago.
And so an extended discussion began between myself and George. Could I identify the location of any of the several sketches made by von Guerard of the Barwon River and one intriguing sketch of a part of the Moorabool Valley? Well, in several cases, yes I could, in general terms.
The first sketch to catch my attention was a broad panorama with the annotation (in German) "above Geelong looking towards Lake Connewarre". From which point is it possible to see both Geelong and Lake Connewarre? Well, on a clear day, from what is now Montpellier Park; one of those places I had stood to take photos of Geelong and the Barwon River. I hadn't really noticed previously, but yes, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the lake and even the faint outline of the Bluff at Barwon Heads. After some more discussion on the issue however, I had to rethink my original idea.
Could the view toward Lake Connewarre actually have been sketched from somewhere closer to Newtown? In retrospect, the angles of the river work better from there and some more discussion leads us to suspect that the sketch may actually have been made from somewhere near 'The Heights', the homestead erected for local businessman Charles Ibbotson in 1854, overlooking the Barwon River. Whilst this is speculation, it is quite possible that von Guerard may have met Ibbotson - perhaps through a mutual acquaintance. In April, 1854 when the sketch of Lake Connewarre was made, von Guerard also made sketches from the newly-built home of Frederick Bauer, a German ironmonger who also owned a property overlooking the Barwon River and who is attributed with having erected 'The Heights' for Ibbotson - more of whom later.
Above Geelong looking towards Lake Connewarre, Eugene von Guerard, 24th April 1854
The Lake Connewarre sketch was one of a number made from various elevated positions along this stretch of the Barwon by von Guerard who also spent time at the home of noted local businessman and land owner John Highett. It was here - across the valley from Ibbotson, that Highett built his home, 'Highton House' - later known as the Montpellier Hotel - the footings of which remain today. (In another odd coincidence, I find myself for the second time writing a post on this location on the same day that the peloton of the Tour de France pedals into Montpellier, France.)
Footings of 'Highton House'
Naturally, whilst staying with Highett, von Guerard drew his surroundings. Today, looking north east, it is still possible to see the same view recorded by the artist in an 1855 sketch which was worked into a pen and ink sketch in 1859 and which also bears more than a passing resemblance to the iconic 1856 painting View of Geelong.
Undated sketch from 'Highton House'
1855 sketch of Corio Bay, the You Yangs, the Barwon River and Geelong
The same view worked in pen and ink and dated 1859
View of Geelong, 1856
And the same view 155 years later in July, 2011 complete with von Guerard clouds!
In addition to these sketches, von Guerard made others which take in this same view but from other locations as he spent time at the homes and properties of various prominent Geelong citizens. Not all the locations however, were as easy to identify as this famous vista, requiring a little more detective work and even more leg work, uncovering some interesting local history in the process. Perfect fodder for my next post...

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