30 November, 2016

Still standing

By the late 1850s, Batesford was a thriving township boasting a blacksmith's forge, bakery, post office, two shoemakers, four hotels, a museum and free library built by Henry Abraham Smith, two schools, three churches and a boarding house. On the outskirts of town was a pound and downstream from the town, the Hope family had erected their flour mill on the west bank of the Moorabool. A police barracks also stood west of the river, north of the road to Ballarat to service the gold escorts, whilst surrounding farmland had become popular with the many vignerons and orchardists - predominantly from Switzerland - who chose the fertile Moorabool Valley to plant their fruit.
By 1861 the population had grown to 254 people (Ian Wynd, So Fine a Country: a history of the Shire of Corio, 1986) and what began as a rough ford was now the main river crossing on the road to the goldfields and the Western District. As late as 1858 however, travellers on this busy road still relied on a timber bridge to cross the river.
An early view of Batesford looking north-west c1866-1880 by John Norton.
Image held by the State Library of Victoria
 Surprisingly perhaps, the decision to construct a more permanent bluestone bridge at the crossing in 1859 occurred with very little fuss at all by comparison with the complaints and criticisms which accompanied the reconstruction of the previous bridge in 1853. Prior to construction, there were no complaints about the condition of the timber in the old bridge, nor were there reports of flood-damage and the rebuilt timber bridge was little more than five years old when in 1858 tenders were called for the construction of a new stone bridge. Whilst I have found no official explanation for the decision to build the bluestone bridge at this time, I suspect that the construction of the Geelong-Ballarat railway line about a mile to the north of Batesford may well have been the deciding factor. According to Bettina M Blackall (On the other Side of the 'Ford: A Heritage Trail, Geelong Historical Records Centre) the bridge was designed by the Victorian Government Board of Land and Works who were also responsible for designing the Moorabool Viaduct which still carries the lien over the Moorabool River today.
A distant view of the Moorabool Viaduct, November, 2015
Commenting on the construction of the railway on 5th January, 1859 the Geelong Advertiser noted that:
...it is a mistake to suppose that railways supersede ordinary roads and bridges ; on the contrary, the more the railways are extended, the more will common roads be required. There will be less continuous traffic on the highways, but their ramifications must be extended and the tracks kept in good order.

It would seem then, that the Government was well aware of the need for additional infrastructure to support its huge investment in the new railway line and Batesford in this instance, was the beneficiary.
Prior to the bridge works getting underway however, £3,200 was also allocated "to complete the construction of the Ballarat road between Geelong and Batesford" (Ballarat Star, 16th December, 1858). Next the Victorian Government Gazette published a notice on 31st December, 1858 declaring that they had accepted a tender "For erecting a bridge over the River Moorabool, at Batesford".
The successful contractor with a tender of £ 3885, 19s, 6d was Mr David Barry who held several other contracts in the district. His bid had been selected ahead of five other tenders and the Government was no doubt pleased with its choice as construction seems to have progressed smoothly and with little disruption.
Building a stone bridge however, took time. Construction got under way in February, 1859 and on 5th April the Geelong Advertiser declared that it would be a further five months before construction was complete and gave the following assessment of the progress thus far:
The bridge will have five arches and here, as at the Viaduct, piles must be driven before the foundation can be laid, as no bottom can be got more solid than mud, without digging to an unreasonable depth. Piles have already been driven for three of the piers and the stonework has been carried above the winter level of the river. The rains, therefore, will not interfere with the further progress of the work. The appearance of the river at present would not justify to the eye of a stranger, the large dimensions and solid make of the bridge in course of construction. The water lies here and there in pools in the bed of the river, and where it crosses the direct line of the road it is dry. The raised approaches to the new bridge on either side of the river are in course of completion. There are said to be forty men employed on the work.
The solid design of the Batesford Bridge was similar to that of the bridge at Richmond, Tasmania in that none of its five arches included a keystone. The basalt used in its construction was quarried locally from the same source used to supply the material for the nearby Moorabool Viaduct.
Once construction was underway, it was elected to use rubble masonry rather than the more expensive ashlar masonry, meaning in the case of the Batesford Bridge, that the bluestone blocks were not cut to a regular width, but instead used whatever lengths were available. This being said, coursed rubble was used, meaning that although the lengths varied, the stones were still laid in regular, horizontal courses of even height.
In mid-June, further details of construction emerged:
The abutment piles had been driven to a depth of 26 feet, whilst those for the central piers were 28 feet deep. With 70 men now on site, the abutment on the western bank was almost complete with that on the east bank requiring a further two week's work. The piers had been built to a height of 10 feet above the summer water level and were 8 feet thick at the base, narrowing to 4 feet 6 inches.
Construction of the arches - each to measure 30 feet across - was just beginning, starting with that closest to the west bank. To assist in this process, a mobile crane erected on a scaffold was used to lift the arch stones into place. The underside of each arch would stand 19 feet above the summer river height and around two feet higher than the flood of 1852 - the largest recorded since European settlement. The width of the bridge was 20 feet with stone parapets rising on either side, thus preventing the kind of accidents which seemed to occur with alarming regularity on the previous timber constructions (The Argus, 14th June, 1859).
By 7th October The Argus further claimed, things were progressing so well, that the stonemasons and a number of the other men employed in the building process voted to hold a public dinner in honour of the contractor Mr Barry.
By this time the bridge must have been all but complete and if not already, then very nearly open to traffic. It was not until 2nd January however, after some small alterations to the original cost estimate, that responsibilty for the bridge passed from the contractor to the Government. Once again The Argus (13th January, 1860) was at pains to point out the good working relationship between Mr Barry, his men and the district engineer.
Batesford Bridge, Moorabool River painted by prominent Australian artist
Walter Herbert Withers, some time after his arrival in Australia on
New Year's Day 1883
One one point however, there was significant discord: the approaches to the bridge were as steep and dangerous as ever. Whilst a significant sum had been voted towards the completion of the road between Geelong and Batesford at the end of 1858, this did not it seems, include safety measures on the riverbanks at each end of the bridge or changes to the alignment of the road descending into the Moorabool Valley.
On 14th June, 1859 whilst the bridge was still under construction, The Argus pointed out that mishaps on the descent to the river had cost four lives and caused the deaths of numerous horses and bullocks and a significant loss of property. The correspondent further claimed that:
Representations have in vain been made to the Government, the Road Board, and the District Engineer. The disgraceful state of the hill remains unaltered, and most likely will do so until a coach-load of passengers, containing some man of importance, shall be precipitated into the chasm that is ever yawning at the bottom of the hill. I had no idea that this portion of the road was so dangerous as it is, and was surprised to find that, although £10,000 [a slight overstatement] is being spent to put an excellent stone bridge over the Moorabool, not a pound is to be spent in making this approach to it safe. This exhibits the most wanton disregard of public safety, and cannot be too severely condemned. There is every facility for improving and altering the road down the hill, by giving it a greater sweep, and the expense would be a mere trifle compared with the advantages to be gained.

By the time the bridge was complete and ready for handover in January, 1860, the issue of the approaches was still outstanding as The Argus (13th January, 1860) was once again keen to point out:
As usual, however ... the approaches to the bridge have not been protected. Although it has been open now for months, there is nether fence nor wall on either side to prevent a vehicle or horse from going over. It is, and always will be, dangerous until this is done. Nothing has been done, either to diminish the danger of that dangerous hill leading to the ford on the Geelong side ; the declivity is still as great, the road still as narrow, the turn at the bottom still as sharp, and the huge drain as deep and hungry-like as ever, still yawning for more human victims. Perhaps some day a great catastrophe may draw attention to this dangerous road, and the district engineer or surveyor may find himself in a very uncomfortable position ; he has had warning enough already, in the number of lives sacrificed. But it is strange that the inhabitants at the ford and persons using the road do nothing to get it improved.

The five-span bluestone bridge at Batesford, November, 2016
And so it continued until April, 1860 when local MP Peter Lalor of Eureka fame, took the community's grievance to the Commissioner of Roads and Bridges, arguing for realignment of the road. Finally, in a letter from the Commissioner dated 12th April, Lalor was assured that the issue would be addressed "as soon as the Road Engineer [could] spare the time to prepare specifications.
Despite this, it was a further eight months before a contract for £791, 12s, 6d was awarded to George Scithers to complete the "alterations at East-hill, Batesford" (The Argus, 15th December, 1860), and not a moment too soon it would seem, as it wsa stated only days later that the road was in a bad state due to recent rains.
Eventually however, Batesford had its new, flood-proof stone bridge (presumably with an improved approach, although I can find no further mention of the realignment), which continued to carry traffic across the Moorabool River for more than a century. It survived its biggest test in 1880 when the largest flood ever recorded hit the Moorabool River, submerging the town of Batesford, leaving only the spire on the Catholic Church above water. Dozens of residents had to be rescued by boat from the rising floodwaters which rendered virtually every home and business in the town uninhabitable. When the water receded however, Barry's bridge was intact.
The modern Batesford Bridge which today carries traffic on the Midland Hwy was constructed in 1971. Unlike other modern bridges in the region, I can find little information either about its construction or its specifications, other than a mention in the country Roads Boards's Fifty Eighth Annual Report for the year ending 30th June, 1971 which noted that the bridge was one of a number which used a new technique of driving steel H piles into the ground to the required depth to provide support for the piers upon which the bridge would sit.
Two pairs of concrete piers support the three spans of the deck - also concrete - with the abutments constructed from concrete and stone.
The 1970s concrete bridge on the Midland Hwy at Batesford, November, 2016
Today, the bluestone bridge built by David Barry still stands next to the Batesford Hotel but is only used as a service road. The majority of the traffic now uses the two-lane concrete bridge built in 1971.



26 November, 2016

Which Bridge?

By the end of 1848, the Moorabool River crossing at Bates' Ford - as the area was by then commonly known - had its new bridge. The wool clip could be conveyed to Geelong, travellers could pass in safety and pedestrians could cross the Moorabool without fear of falling through rotten timbers and pitching into the river below; for a while at least.
According to one local source (History of Batesford: 1842-1941, held by the Geelong Historical Records Centre) the new bridge is said to have stood in the same position as the the historic bluestone bridge stands today. That this is likely to be substantially correct is supported by an 1850 reference to the bridge and the public house being "not more than fifty yards apart" (The Argus, 22nd June, 1850). The premises in question would have been the Marrabool Inn which stood where the Batesford Hotel does today and even now the distance between the hotel and the stone bridge is almost exactly 50 yards. Like its predecessor, the 1848 bridge was a timber structure, but other than this, I have managed to find little extra detail.
Batesford Hotel and the 1859 bluestone bridge, looking west. November, 2016
In addition to the new bridge, there were also roadworks. On 26th December, 1848, the Geelong Advertiser reported that  the government had decided to "open and make certain parish roads...viz:--From North Geelong to the bridge over the Moorabool River at Bates's Ford, being part of the Great Western Road."
Prior to this, in 1840 works had been undertaken to realign the eastern approach to the river. Whether this line of road crossed the river at Manifold's Ford or via the original timber bridge is not clear, but the road followed a similar alignment to the modern Midland Hwy across the river flats at Batesford. The route from Geelong at that time was probably more track than road and followed a path which meandered across Bell Post Hill and down into the valley (see map in previous post). The alignment proposed in 1848 followed the modern line across Bell Post Hill, approaching the river via what is now the Old Ballarat Rd at Batesford which is little different to the 1840 or the modern alignment, further confirming perhaps the location of the 1848 bridge on or very near the bluestone bridge.
So for the time being, Bates' Ford had a reliable bridge. Two years prior to the construction of the bridge, the land to the east of the Moorabool had been auctioned by the government. The purchaser of allotment 10, section A, Parish of Moorpanyal, was George Hope. This 468 acre parcel of land stretched from the banks of the river, eastward to today's Geelong-Ballan Rd and included the sites of both Manifold's and Bates' fords, the Marrabool Inn and - from 1848 - the new bridge.
As a local landholder, Hope was no doubt well aware of the importance of the river crossing and, seeing a business opportunity, in 1850 he arranged for the subdivision of this block into town and small farm allotments. After an extensive advertising campaign the "Village of Batesford and Estate of Hopeton" was offered for public auction by T Horsbrugh at 12pm on the 18th July. The auction was well attended and many blocks were purchased. Any unsold land was advertised over the following months as "for sale by private bargain".
The original subdivision of Batesford Township by George
Hope. Image taken from Batesford and its Early Families,
Bettina Blackall, 1991
The following year, on 21st February, a second auction was held, followed by further subdivision and a third auction on 26th August, 1853. By this time of course, the gold rush was in full swing and business was booming. Batesford however, was once again having trouble with its bridge.
In late May, 1852 floods had yet again hit the Moorabool River. This time, the water reached the highest level seen since European settlement. In the newly-established town of Batesford, houses built in the wake of George Hope's auction, were inundated and people forced to take to their roofs to escape the rising floodwaters (The Argus, 25th May, 1852). After the water receded, the bridge which was less than four years old, was found to be in a very bad state. The Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer reported on 25th May, that the bridge was "so shattered and ill conditioned by the late inundation, as to be extremely dangerous."
The response from government was typically slow. It was not until January, 1853 that tenders were called for the erection of a new - timber - bridge. According to the local publication Batesford - an historical background (Jennifer Warner, Geelong Historical Records Centre), the new bridge was a composite through truss structure designed by Charles Rowand. For unexplained reasons however, no tender appears to have been accepted. Instead, construction got underway immediately using day labour.
At this point however, things become a little unclear and there is some doubt as to whether the 1848 bridge was replaced completely or instead, was extensively repaired. If the latter was the case - and I tend to think it was - then the "third" Batesford bridge must have been located on the same site as the 1848 bridge. Regardless, it was not until September (Warner claims) that the works were completed and in the meantime, reports began to appear in the newspapers expressing the concerns and frustrations of the community as they waited for completion of the works:

22nd January (Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer) "The [Batesford] bridge is very rough, and not too safe; its centre happens to present a cavity, the decent(sic) into, or ascent out of which gives the bullocks and their drays an awkward shaking." 
28th March (Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer) "BATES' FORD BRIDGE--This unique specimen of colonial engineering is shaped exactly like a W, or a man drawn up by a cramp in the stomach. At present it is impassable, for months past it has been only dangerous. A small platform is thrown across the river for the benefit of pedestrians, equestrians, and quadrupeds, which platform half a day's rain would wash away. Via Bates' Ford, communication with the Leigh, Buninyong, Ballarat, &c, is carried on by means of a PLANK. Hear that, ye Board of Commissioners of Roads and Bridges." 
9th May (The Tasmanian Colonist) "the Government at last showed a disposition to repair parts of the roads leading to the Western diggings. They have contented themselves with patching up one bridge, that of Bate's Ford, leaving other parts of the route in a most disgraceful condition." 
14th July, 1853 (Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer) "the broken-backed [bridge] at Batesford" 
3rd August, 1853 (Geelong Advertiser and Inelligencer) "There is one comfort for Geelong--it can scarcely be worse treated. We get little from the Melbourne Government, and are likely to get little more...
...We could wander on the banks of the Barwon, like an unquiet spirit on the shores of the Styx, and mark the ruin and the desolation there, and, turning towards Melbourne, ask, in the name of the 25,000 people why "the bridge is broke and can't be mended?" Of     course La Trobe laughs at it himself, and enjoys the fun of turning Geelong into a "galanti show" for fifteen months. He makes split-stuff of us for laughter, and carries on a wholesale business in the joke line at our expense....
...Across the Moorabool there is a bridge, evidently intended for a steeple chase, or kept in its present state out of compliment to the chamois hunters of Switzerland, having precipitous peaks, and two gorges represented by the letter W--this form being the best adapted for the transit of horses and bullock drays in the Western District.
The impetus acquired in the first descent carries the object to the next apex, where, if it could be made to turn over, we should have a correct idea of a centrifugal railway. This bridge is intended to prevent people crossing, and answers its purpose admirably. Undoubtedly, during the present winter, his Excellency has saved many valuable lives by preventing people adventuring on the Buninyong road, which probably they would have done but for this "chevaux de frise".
People blame the government, in the case of the Barwon bridge, for not repairing what is undone. In the case of the Bar [Point Henry sandbar], the government is blamed for not doing that which for years they had promised, and still promise to do, without doing. With the Bates Ford bridge, the blame is for doing badly at first, and worse afterwards. Nor is this all. The wallet is not yet emptied. There is another grievance, growing with years, heedlessly passed by, and jeeringly encountered.
The Melbourne Government is aware that there are such places as Buninyong and Ballarat, and that the traffic thither is carried on along a line of road beautifully diversified by bog, swamp, and morass, existing in primitive punity impassable to anything except birds, will-o'-th-wisps and Jack-o'-lanthorns(sic), and which has proved fatal, probably, to one mailman and two horses. This is the trunk line to the Western gold fields, and affords a prime subject, illustrative of centralisation, and the transcendent humbug employed to maintain a specious prosperity in one place. Assuming to be a fact, that which was stated in the Council, promulgated from the from the Bench, echoed by the Melbourne papers, and recently used as an argument against the reduction of the license fees, viz., that the proceeds of the gold fields are expended in police, and on roads to and from the gold fields, we maintain, upon this ground alone, that we have been robbed of a hundred thousand pounds during the last eleven months...
The comments from March and May suggest that the it was eventually decided to repair the old bridge, as perhaps does the use of day labour. Indeed an illustration produced by Engineer Rowand (see below), showing both the new and old structures together, may perhaps indicate a composite structure. Of course, if the bridge was being repaired, a separate means of crossing would be required and this was perhaps the purpose of the "plank" which was in use during March when the bridge was said to be impassable, although how long it was used is uncertain.
An illustration from 1853 taken from Batesford - an historical background
(Jennifer Warner, Geelong Historical Records Centre) which purports to show
both the old and "new" bridges and indicates normal river height and that of
the 1852 flood
Clearly, progress was slow, with the bridge still in a state of disrepair by July and seemingly still retaining its distinctive "W" shape as late as the beginning of August.  However, with the works presumably drawing to a close towards the end of that month, tenders were called to metal the Batesford Rd (The Argus, 22nd August, 1853); a road which by then was carrying thousands to and from the goldfields as the last article was keen to convey. Amongst those travelling across the bridge at Batesford, were two well known artists. One was the famous landscape painter Eugene von Guerard, who crossed the bridge on his way to the goldfields on 11th January, 1853. He described crossing the Moorabool by a very unsound wooden bridge". He did not however, stop to make a sketch - at least not one which has survived. The second artist - Henry Winkles - however did stop to draw what he saw.
His sketch was made "circa 1853" at "Bates' ford near Geelong". Winkles was an English artist, engraver and printer, who trained in both England and Germany as a draughtsman before coming to Australia. Shipping records show that he arrived in Melbourne in October, 1852 on board the Mobile from where he travelled to the goldfields to visit his son. During his time there he drew what he saw around him, making many sketches of the everyday life of the diggers. His stay in the Colony of Victoria was relatively brief, lasting a little over a year and by December, 1853 he was back in Melbourne, ready to depart for England on the appropriately-named Great Britain.
Sketch of the Bates' Ford Bridge c1853 by Henry Winkles
Whilst it is possible that he stopped at Batesford to make his sketch at any point during this time, the bridge shown in his illustration appears to be straight, definitely nothing like the warped and misshapen structure described prior to its being rebuilt. It is also worth noting the pile of timber lying near one end of the bridge, implying either construction or demolition of some sort. For this reason, I am inclined to think that Winkles sketched the new - or newly refurbished - bridge, perhaps on his way back to Melbourne to take ship for England.


So, after more than a year of frustration, delay and criticism, I assume from the crashing silence in the newspapers that Batesford finally had a bridge which was - if not state of the art - at least functional once again.

22 November, 2016

Whose ford?

For some time I have avoided approaching the topic of this blog post, partly because of more pressing subjects, but also because I knew it was going to be a complicated subject. Boy was I right!
From the earliest days of European settlement, the Moorabool River crossing at Batesford was vital to the economy of what would become the Colony of Victoria. As squatters spread out across the plains to the west and pushed north to establish vast sheep and cattle stations, the ford enabled the squatters to move their stock and their wool clips between their stations and the port at Geelong.
With the arrival of the gold rush in August, 1851, the river crossing along with the newly-established town of Batesford witnessed the passage of thousands of diggers making the journey to Ballarat and beyond, hoping to strike it rich on the fabled goldfields of Victoria.
In addition to being an important river crossing, the land around Batesford was also one of the areas first settled when the Port Phillip district was established in 1836. Amongst the earliest settlers to arrive in the district were the Manifold brothers Thomas, John and Peter who - they claimed - were the first to land sheep at Point Henry near Geelong during September and October, 1836. From there, they travelled with their stock to the banks of the Moorabool where they took up land either side of the river from its confluence with Sutherland's Creek to a point below where the township of Batesford now stands. Here they built a slab hut and established a ford. One local source informed me that the Manifold's Ford was situated very near where the two road bridges stand today, giving the settlement its earlier name of Manifold's Ford. A moniker which stuck until about 1845.
By April, 1839 however, the Manifolds had become concerned by the encroachment of other squatters and increasing government regulation and decided to leave the district, moving further inland away from the more closely settled areas. At this time they relocated north west to Lake Purrumbete, leaving the land they had occupied, open for settlement by others.
Underneath the modern road bridge, at or near the site of Manifold's ford,
November, 2016
In the absence of the Manifolds, those eager to establish themselves, moved into the area. One of the earliest was George Russell who, acting on behalf of the Clyde Company, occupied land on the west bank of the Moorabool where he set up a base for his operations. His tenure however was also short-lived as in 1839 when the first land in the Parish of Gherineghap was thrown open for sale, he was outmanoeuvred by John Learmonth and his sons. The Learmonths were shareholders in the Port Phillip Association (later the Derwent Company) who were also eager to acquire land for grazing purposes. They purchased much of the land between the Moorabool and the Barwon, including that land on which Russell was squatting. In the following years, Dr John Learmonth, son of John Senior built his homestead 'Lawrence Park' on the banks of the Moorabool north of the ford. Russell had no choice but to leave, so he packed his belongings - tents, huts, stockyards and all - and removed himself further to the west where he established a base on the Leigh River.
With the Learmonths occupying the west bank, by 1839 another family - brothers by the name of John and Alfred Bates - moved onto the vacant land left by the departure of the Manifolds on the east bank of the river. According to a section of an 1840 survey map reproduced in Ian Wynd's book So Fine a Country: a history of the Shire of Corio (1981), the Bates brothers established their base just under a kilometre above the current river crossings.
Rather than use the ford favoured by the Manifold's however, the Bates established a second crossing at a point around 200m downstream which they considered easier. It was this second ford which ultimately gave its name to the town of Batesford and which became the road for those passing through the district, however this state of affairs did not last long.
The 1840 survey of the road from Geelong to Buninyong proposed a change in the alignment of the road and the point at which the river was crossed. On the map (see below) a dashed line indicates the proposed road whilst "the road now used" is marked by a heavy solid line. When overlaid on Google Earth, the proposed road follows a path quite similar to that of today's Midland Highway, crossing the river at or near Manifold's Ford whereas the existing road in 1840 veered south west off the present line of road at the bottom of the Batesford Hill. From there, it crossed the river a few hundred metres downstream from the current bridges - probably at Bates' Ford - before turning north west, crossing the Midland Highway in the vicinity of today's Blackall Rd and following a parallel path a short distance north of the highway. (Note: Contrary to the 1840 map, Wynd indicates that the Manifolds' crossing was situated "further downstream than the present bridge" and whilst he doesn't specify how far, I suspect this is a case of confusion with the later Bates' Ford.)
Add caption
Like the Manifolds however, the Bates did not remain long in the district. By 1843 after suffering two years of low rainfall, a rise in labour costs and a reduction in commodity prices, they declared their insolvency and retreated to their father's Station Peak Run at the You Yangs, leaving only their name behind.
At the Moorabool River crossing meanwhile, it seems that the new road laid out in 1840 was soon adopted. This is probably best confirmed by the establishment in 1843 of a public house. It was at this time that Charles Ruffle opened the Marrabool Inn (later known as the Derwent Hotel) on the east bank of the river, on the site which is still occupied by the Batesford Hotel to this day. His inn would have been perfectly situated on the new line of road to make the most of traffic passing across the river.
Whilst crossing the river either at Manifold's or at Bates' ford was relatively easy in good weather, when river levels rose, it could be a different prospect entirely, a fact illustrated on 19th September, 1842 when the Geelong Advertiser reported that four bullocks "were drowned at Manifold's Ford on the Marrible". The article also stated that "the only way in which travellers can take their horses across, is by towing them by ropes passed round trees on the brink of the river."
An illustration by Charles Norton dated 1848 and titled "Batesford in time of
Flood". Image held by the State Library of Victoria
Given the importance to the colonists of the crossing on the Moorabool, it is no surprise that a bridge would quickly become a necessity. The first mention of such a structure in the newspapers was in 1847 when an existing timber bridge was seriously damaged by floods. Various modern sources suggest that this bridge was erected either in or prior to 1846, although no-one is sure. Commenting on the bridge prior to the 1847 floods, the Geelong Advertiser and Squatters' Advocate (28th May, 1847) stated that "this erection has been repeatedly patched in former years, but is now in such a precarious state, that the first flood will probably carry it away altogether" implying that the bridge had been standing for quite some time prior to 1846. This would seem to be a reasonable assumption as timber bridges across the district often lasted around ten years before rot became a problem.
This does of course raise the question of why, if a bridge had existed for several years, there was need for a ford as well. Perhaps the bridge was not suitable for heavy drays and it may well have been easier to move stock via a ford which also provided them with water. Strangely, whilst both fords are mentioned regularly, I can find no description prior to 1847 of exactly how the river was crossed and whether a bridge may have been involved.
So, if an earlier bridge existed, how old was it? I could find no mention of such a structure at either Bates' or Manifold's ford prior to the 1847 floods, however as I trawled through TROVE looking for clues, I came across an intriguing snippet. In 1841, the government established a committee to investigate the possibility of using indigenous workers to fill a labour shortage in the colony and as a result, various squatters across the district were called upon to share their experiences. One who gave evidence was William Roadknight, one of the earliest squatters to arrive in the Geelong region who stated "I have been in the habit of employing the black natives upon my establishment, from June, 1836, up to the present time ; they assisted me in 1836, to build a bridge over the Marraboul River ; this was the first bridge erected at Port Phillip" (Port Phillip Patriot and Melbourne Advertiser, 30th September, 1841).
Although he doesn't specify where on the Moorabool he built his bridge, a little more digging revealed that it could well have been at or near the future site of Batesford. On 14th May, 1836 - some months before the arrival of the Manifolds - Roadknight and his three sons sailed on the Vansittart from Van Diemen's Land to Port Phillip and landed at Point Gellibrand (Williamstown). From there they, along with their shepherds and stock, travelled overland to Bell Post Hill where they camped for some time before taking up land on the Barwon River near Ceres. Could the first timber bridge at Batesford have been built by William Roadknight in 1836? Whilst I can find no other mention of a bridge in the ten years to 1846, this could certainly explain why in 1847 the existing bridge was in need of urgent repair, however any bridge built by Roadknight (perhaps in his capacity as a representative of the Port Phillip Association) would by necessity, have been rudimentary.
Corduroy bridges such as the one built at Clarendon on the Midland Hwy were a common means of crossing rivers in the early days of settlement, but these were generally low-lying structures. From context, the bridge of 1847 may have been as much as 20 feet above the riverbed (see below). Nor can I find any source which indicates exactly where the bridge was situated, other than to say it was close to "the ford" which from context was probably Manifold's Ford (History of Batesford 1842 - 1941, Geelong Historical Records Centre).
Regardless of either the age or location of the first bridge, the warning as to the condition of the bridge proved prophetic. In July, 1847 the river did flood and whilst the bridge remained standing once the floodwaters receded, it did not last long. On 24th August an attempt was made to cross the bridge with a loaded dray, but due to the rotten state of the timber, the structure gave way and sent both dray and bullocks plummeting to the river below. Fortunately the only serious damage was to the bridge which was rendered unusable. The following month on 17th September, it was reported in The Melbourne Argus that the bridge was undergoing repair and would be open again in a few days time.
Despite the repairs, it was clear that a new bridge was necessary and the local community approached the government to plead their case for a replacement. Rather than wait upon the vagaries politics however, local subscriptions to fund the bridge were taken up across the district from those who would benefit most. A new bridge was needed before the beginning of the wool season or the squatters would be unable to get their produce to market.
Image of a dray-load of wool crossing the Campaspe River in 1864. Image held
by the State Library of Victoria
Ultimately, the government did come to the party and by January, 1848 the Office of the Superintendent of Bridges was calling for tenders for the construction of a replacement timber bridge at Batesford. At the end of February the contract to complete the job was awarded to a Mr Wayman of Melbourne (Sydney Morning Herald, 23rd February, 1848) who was also the contractor for the Barwon Bridge which was being built in Geelong. Progress on the bridge at Batesford however was frustratingly slow and in the meantime, travellers were forced to use the old bridge which remained in a precarious state.
On 8th July thGeelong Advertiser reported a narrow escape for a woman and her children whose dray ran off the edge of the old bridge, plunging some 20 feet to a - fortunately - dry riverbed below. On this occasion, the bullock driver, not the bridge was considered to be at fault, but by September, things had gone from bad to worse. Work was not progressing and the contractor Mr Wayman, despite payments of £184, was insolvent. To make matters worse, the Geelong Advertiser (21st September, 1848) claimed that "this most necessary public work is about to be discontinued immediately, and is not to be resumed until after Christmas. This arrangement, or rather disarrangement, takes place in consequence of the working contractors of the Marrabool bridge having orders from Mr Lennox, to proceed instantly to complete another bridge within 40 miles of Melbourne."
Regardless of who was to blame for the lack of action, Bates' Ford was stuck with an incomplete bridge for which "the piles had been driven down, and some of the timber put in position" (Batesford - an historical Background, Jennifer Warner, Geelong Historical Record Centre) but which remained unusable. A solution was finally found when James Girvin was contracted to complete the work for a further £307, bringing the total cost of construction to £491. (Note: for those interested, correspondence regarding Girvin's contract to complete the bridge can be found online at the Public Records Office of Victoria's website in the VPRS 19/P1 series, Inward Correspondence, Superintendent of Port Phillip, 1839-1851.)
And so work once again got underway, but by October, and with the new bridge still unfinished, flooding again hit the Moorabool and the complaints once again began to mount:
 "no later than yesterday, the bridge over Bates' Ford, is said to have had no less than three feet of water on it. To add to the increasing danger of passing it under such circumstances, it is represented to have a hole in the very centre, which if not as Shakspeare says, "quite so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door" is nevertheless sufficient to engulph(sic) any person of ordinary dimensions, or to encircle in its capacious embrace, a very considerable portion of the body of a horse! In the mean time, we may remark that the new bridge progresses so slowly as to render the period of its final completion a matter of much more speculation than certainty" (Geelong Advertiser, 17th October, 1848).

Only the day prior to the above article, perhaps even as the flood waters were receding, things took a fatal turn when a drayman walking across the bridge after leaving the Marrabool Inn, lost his footing in a hole in one of the timbers, fell into the river and drowned. Sadly, the new bridge was within days of being "passable, if not finished...and may God grant that no more lives be lost even in this short space of time. Indeed, between men being tripped into the water, drays upturned, and bullocks almost strangled in their yokes, or suffocated in the (many of which accidents happened in the course of last week) it is matter of much surprise and thanksgiving that more lives have not been lost" (Geelong Advertiser, 19th October, 1848).
Finally, in November, 1848 the long-awaited new bridge was opened to traffic and the following month, Governor La Trobe at whose command the new bridge had been constructed even took time out from a visit to Geelong, to come and see the structure. For the moment at least, Bates' Ford had its bridge.





01 November, 2016

The Clyde Hotel

My previous posts looked at the Railway Hotel at Bannockburn and the Separation Inn which stood on the road from Geelong to the Ballarat diggings during the gold rush. The picture would not be complete however, without also taking a look at the Clyde Hotel.
According to early survey maps from 1856 and 1865, the Clyde was located on the south east corner of what is today the Midland Hwy and Maude Rd leading to Russell's Bridge. Some more recent sources place the hotel diagonally opposite on the north west corner. As far as I can tell, this is incorrect.
The hotel of course derives its name from the Clyde Company, whose representatives - chiefly George Russell - were amongst earliest settlers on the Moorabool River.
George Russell, c1852. Image held by he State Library of Victoria
Initially the company leased vast amounts of land between the Moorabool and Leigh Rivers from the government and then from 1839 onward began purchasing sections of that land in the names of various shareholders. In 1853 (title deed dated 15th August, 1853, Victorian Government Gazette, 12th October, 1853), George Russell purchased section 15 B in the parish of Wabdallah. This 522 acre block was adjacent to a further three blocks (allotments A, B and C of section 16) which he had purchased the previous year and made a substantial addition to several thousand more acres in the Parish of Gherineghap, purchased mostly in the 1840s and including the site upon which the Separation Inn was built.
Russell's interest in these land purchases was to a large extent speculative. Within a year of having purchased section 15 B, Parish of Wabdallah he hired a surveyor - Matthew Biddle - who subdivided much of the land and laid out two "new townships", one in either parish. Each town was to be named after the parish in which it was situated and both were arranged as a series of one acre allotments along the Geelong-Ballarat Rd, with increasingly larger blocks stretching away to the banks of the Moorabool River.
The site of Wabdallah Township had been carved out of the southernmost portion of section 15 B and included the future site of the Clyde Hotel. As per my last post, late in 1853, George Williamson had taken on the license of the Separation Inn, a little over 3.5 miles closer to Geelong, however I suspect this was never intended to be a long term arrangement. A message from Williamson to George Russell, penned on 15th May, 1854 and reproduced in the Clyde Company Papers states the following:
I may mention that the House I was expecting from Germany, & which I spoke to you of, has now arrived and lies piled up on the Beach at Geelong. I should wish to see you about it, as you will recollect promising me a site for it; and if you will be good enough to let me know what day you are likely to be at home I shall make a point of meeting you.
[Endorsed by G.R.: 'G. Williamson, Separation Inn, May 15th/54….answd; no wethers at present; site can be bought by auction']
Clearly it had been Williamson's intention to build his own hotel for some time, although perhaps he had not envisaged having to purchase the land to do so, however, buy the land he did.
In a series of advertisements, the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer first promoted the sale of what it termed "that well-known lovely spot Russell's Rich Flat", noting that there would be no private sale before auction (25th March, 1854). This it seems however, was merely media hype as was the declaration by the same newspaper on 29th May, that some blocks had already been sold at the exorbitant price of £230 per acre.
An insert on the survey map produced by Surveyor Matthew Biddle c1854 for
George Russell (Clyde Company Papers), with the blocks purchased by
Williamson highlighted in yellow.
The rest of the allotments would definitely have to go to auction the following day it claimed, however the records of sale in the Clyde Company Papers show that only purchases at auction were made (no private sales) and the record shows that the largest single purchaser of town allotments at Wabdallah was George Williamson who paid £372 for his 11 allotments - a figure closer to £34 per acre! With his land now purchased, Williamson wasted no time in erecting his new hotel (although whether this was the pre-fabricated building referred to in his letter to Russell is not clear). By 7th November, 1854, the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer proudly announced the opening of Williamson's new premises with the following advertisement:
CLYDE HOTEL–CLYDE HOTEL–To Travellers on the Ballarat Road – GEORGE WILLIAMSON, late of the Separation Inn, begs to inform all persons visiting Ballarat, that he has opened that commodious and elegant Hotel, known as the Clyde Hotel. It is situate on the Government Road, at a more convenient distance from Geelong, being five miles from the old Separation Inn, and about half way between that place and the Muddy Water Holes.The long experience of Mr Williamson on this road, enables him to guarantee all the comforts of a first-class English Hotel. No expense has or will be spared in making the culinary department second to none in the colony. The proprietor flatters himself that one trial of the wines, spirits and other liquors will induce the traveller to remember the Clyde Hotel with satisfaction..The Stabling is large and commodious and being under the immediate superintendence of the proprietor will be found to combine perfect safety coupled with the most reasonable charges.

Once again however, it is necessary to untangle a little truth from advertising fiction. Whilst the Clyde Hotel was certainly more commodious than the Separation Inn, to say that it was 5 miles further up the road is somewhat of a stretch as my measurements put its distance closer to 3.5 miles beyond the Separation Inn and some 5 miles distant from the Muddy Water Holes (aka Lethbridge).
Despite the claims of "perfect safety", the Clyde was not immune to some of those problems which routinely plagued public houses - especially those houses frequented by travellers.
Barely a month after the above advertisement, it was reported that William Buckley, a passing traveller had arrived at the Clyde and, under the influence of alcohol had retired to bed after complaining of being ill. The following morning he was found dead. In September, 1855 a horse was advertised as stolen from the hotel, with a £2 reward offered for its return. So much for safety!
The Clyde also hosted its share of inquests. In April, 1858 John Stacy, a teamster left the Clyde perfectly sober - after only three small glasses of liquor - but was fatally injured after falling from his dray and being run over. His fellow teamster took him to the Clyde where he died the next morning (The Age, 10th April, 1858). In November, 1867 a similar incident occurred when Walter Bolger, who had stopped at the Clyde was run over by his dray which was loaded with flour from the nearby Clyde Mill.
Regardless of such unpleasant events, the Clyde Hotel does seem to have been considered the hotel of choice in the region for public events. On New Years Day, 1856, Williamson was responsible for hosting a race meeting, with a variety of events to suit most horses. Meetings in relation to the Wabdallah Farmers' Common were held at the hotel along with public rallies at which political candidates for the region put their case. On 27th June, 1857 according to the Ballarat Star, the hotel was even favoured with the presence of Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of the Colony of Victoria, who stayed two nights whilst on his way to and from a visit to the goldfields at Creswick.
By the beginning of 1858 however, Williamson had had enough and he put the Clyde on the market with the following extensive advertisement appearing in both the Ballarat Star and The Argus on 25th February:


There is no doubt that by comparison with the Separation Inn, the Clyde Hotel was a cut above. In addition to the high-profile patronage, it had taken less than four years for the Clyde to have cornered the coaching market if its bold claim can be believed. Certainly, the famous Cobb & Co. service changed its horses at the Clyde, although whether other carriers such as Estaffette, Criterion or the Washington Express (aka Little Go) did likewise is less clear.
Regardless of which line of coaches was chosen, travelling to the goldfields could be a risky prospect. Accidents were common and not even Cobb & Co. were immune. On 3rd March, 1858, The Argus reported on a coaching accident in which a Cobb & Co. coach leaving the Clyde Hotel, tipped down an awkward embankment after the horses were spooked by a bullock dray. A woman was injured, requiring treatment in Geelong and the driver hurt his wrist. The coach's arrival in Ballarat was delayed until 10pm.
Whilst the flow of traffic to the goldfields continued unabated throughout the 1850s, by the end of the decade, things were about to change. Perhaps it was the anticipated arrival of the Geelong-Ballarat Railway which encouraged George Williamson to put his property on the market. From 1862 onward, the line would pass less than 3/4 of a mile to the west of his hotel with a station built at Leigh Road the following year; a circumstance which would significantly affect the level of traffic on the road passing his hotel.
Bannockburn Station (originally the Leigh Road Station), built in 1863 after
the opening of Geelong-Ballarat Railway in April, 1862. Photo taken April,
2012 at the 150th anniversary celebrations of the line's opening
A quick sale however, was not forthcoming for Williamson and by March, 1859 a tenant - Benjamin Hall - was found to run the hotel. A mere two months later however, the Clyde was once again advertised for sale, this time for sale by private contract (Geelong Advertiser, 13th May, 1859). Eventually, a purchaser was found and by September, Williamson was holding a clearing sale.
Despite the change of proprietors, Hall remained as the publican for several more years before finally moving to Ballarat to run the Farmer's Hotel in September, 1862 (The Ballarat Star, 6th September, 1862). From this point, until April, 1864, I could find no mention of a licensee for the Clyde, however there were various references to James Thomas Bushell of the Clyde Hotel throughout 1863, before a publican's license was granted to Thomas Howe in April, 1864.
On 11th September, 1865 however a sale of all the goods, stock, furniture and livestock associated with the Clyde was announced in the Geelong Advertiser, the entire inventory itemised room by room, item by item. The reason given was the insolvency of James Bushell. (Who incidentally had made a number of land purchases in the parish the previous year.) Then, on 7th December 1865, Thomas Howe published his intention to transfer his publican's license for the hotel to John Henry Jones. From this, I am led to suspect that whilst I found no mention of the sale of the hotel itself, Bushell was the property owner and Howe his tenant. Consequently, when Bushell became insolvent, Howe had to go.
From 1865 onward, John Henry Jones - familiar to those who read my post about the Railway Hotel in Bannockburn - became the licensee and at some point, the owner of the Clyde. In December of the same year, he also purchased two blocks of land from the government. The blocks were allotments 5 and 7 of section D, Parish of Wabdallah. Both were situated on the Ballarat Rd with allotment 7 located on the south west corner of the Ballarat Rd-Clyde Rd intersection - the site said by some recent sources to be the location of the hotel. Could this land purchase by Jones be the reason for the apparent confusion as to the location of the hotel?

A section of an 1865 survey map of the Parish of Wabdallah, showing the
location of the Clyde Hotel and the blocks of land (not marked) purchased by
John Henry Jones. Image held by the State Library of Victoria

Over the next several years, Jones' name appeared in the newspapers in relation to the usual array of thefts, untimely deaths and community events hosted by Jones and his wife. I am led to suspect however, that Bushell may not actually have left the Clyde. On 23rd April, 1870 the Geelong Advertiser published a death notice, stating that James Bushel(sic) had died on 21st of the month of pleurisy at the Clyde Hotel. He was 37 years of age.
Another issue of note, concerns a legal wrangle between Jones and the Bannockburn Shire Council over the erection of a tollgate on the Geelong-Ballarat Rd in 1868. Whilst he appears to have had no issue with the erection of the gate, Jones took exception to a proposed fence which his lawyers claimed risked debarring him from parts of his property. His proposed solution was a gate, which he felt the council should pay for. The council for their part decided he should have his gate, but that they would not be paying for it, and that it seems was the end of the matter.
By 1871, as I described previously, Jones was in the process of renovating the Eureka Hotel at Bannockburn which he re-branded the Railway Hotel. After some issues sorting the transfer of licenses, he then became the licensee of the Railway Hotel. Whether he also retained a separate license for the Clyde I am unsure, however in June, 1871 the hotel was the venue for the meeting of the Moorabool Ploughing Match Committee. The following year at the April licensing meeting, a new license was issued for the Clyde. This time the licensee was Charlotte Upjohn - John's mother-in-law, the mother of his wife Emma.
Sketch of an 1875 ploughing match near Kyneton, similar to those held in
the Moorabool Valley and other locations across the district. Image held
by the State Library of Victoria
This arrangement lasted only a year or so and by May, 1873, the Clyde was advertised to let. I found no further mention of a license, however Jones was indicated as the landlord during 1874 when Emma and Charlotte were witnesses in court to a case of concealing the birth of a child. The case was dismissed based on medical evidence, but reading between the lines could perhaps have been a miscarriage or an abortion.
On a somewhat lighter note, in July, 1875, Jones and his wife hosted a sumptuous dinner for about 70 locals at the Clyde, following a staging of the Moorabool Ploughing Match. The repast, which by all accounts exceeded the excellence of previous years, was served in the "spacious dining-room", with guests treated to a meal of "viands, fowl, vegetables, and pastries". Many toasts were drunk, speeches made and the festivities concluded with a ball which saw the guests dancing until daybreak (Geelong Advertiser, 22nd July, 1875).
It is at this point however, that the trail goes cold. I found no further licenses for the Clyde nor mention of it trading beyond 1875. Whilst no longer in business, the building did remain standing and was occupied by the Jones family as a farmhouse. Disaster struck however some time before 9am on 19th July, 1883 when the timber hotel building caught fire. By the time it was discovered, the building was so well alight that no attempt could be made to save it and it was completely destroyed. Fortunately perhaps for the family, they were away at the time - Mrs Jones in Queenscliff and Henry and their son in Melbourne (Geelong Advertiser, 21st July, 1883).
The site of the former Clyde Hotel, October, 2016
The building was insured and by early August, the claim had been settled, however this was the beginning of a difficult period for John Henry Jones. By 1885 he was insolvent and by the end of the year, his wife Emma had died. Consequently, as described in my post on the Railway Hotel (see link above), he was unable to obtain a license for that hotel.
Despite these trials, by April, 1887 he had been cleared of his insolvency and was again the licensee of the Railway Hotel. According to his will, at the time of his death on 11th May, 1891, John was a gentleman, living with his son Willie Herbert at Leigh Road. William Flahive - by then the proprietor of the Railway Hotel - had mortgaged the property to Jones who had little in the way of assets having sold most of his goods and chattels after selling the hotel. There was no mention of the land on which the Clyde had stood, from which I presume it had passed from Jones' ownership some time after his declared insolvency in 1885.
Today, the site is an empty field, overgrown with weeds and grass. There is no sign that one of the most popular hotels on the Geelong-Ballarat Rd was built there at the height of the gold rush. The township of Wabdallah, drawn up by surveyor Biddle never eventuated. Its proximity to Leigh Road (Bannockburn) and the arrival of the railway taking travellers off the road, coupled with the fact that the largest source of fresh water was the Moorabool River over a mile away, probably helped to seal its fate.
Google Earth image showing the site of the intended town of Wabdallah. Faint
lines still denote the boundaries of some of the surveyed blocks.
For the sake of clarity, it is worth mentioning that a second attempt was made to establish a township named Wabdallah. In 1863, only a year after the opening of the railway line, changes began to occur at Bannockburn. The original town had been gazetted and built on the west bank of Bruce's Creek, in the Parish of Murgheboluc. From 1862 the train line passed a little less than a mile to the east, across the creek - in the Parish of Wabdallah. Naturally, settlement began to drift towards the train line. New land adjoining the line and directly opposite the station was surveyed. The name given to this "new" township was Wabdallah. The original settlement on Bruce's Creek became known South Bannockburn. Today the blocks surveyed as Wabdallah form part of central Bannockburn, including the site of the Railway Hotel.  In 1872, more town blocks were surveyed on the opposite side of the line, close to the station at Leigh Road. There was no mention of Wabdallah, instead the township took on the name of the station around which it now clustered, a moniker which was used until the beginning of the 20th century when the town took on the name always used by the shire: Bannockburn.