17 September, 2017

Victoria and Albert

Seidel's farm - the subject of my last post - was not the only vineyard sketched by Eugene von Guerard during his travels in and around Geelong and the surrounding districts. During one of his stays in the area he also visited (and of course, sketched) what was, even then, one of the region's best-known vineyards: Pettavel's Victoria Vineyard.
Undated sketch of Victoria Vineyard by Eugene von Guerard looking south
west across Waurn Ponds Creek from what today would be private land to
the west of Cochrane's Rd, Waurn Ponds (click to enlarge)
David Louis Pettavel was born in 1817 at Boudry in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel. He arrived in the Port Phillip district in 1842 on the Platina  and was amongst the earliest in a string of Swiss vignerons to migrate to the Geelong region in the mid-nineteenth century, encouraged to do so by Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe.
In 1842 Pettavel along with Frédéric Breguet - another Swiss immigrant - established the earliest vineyard on the Barwon River at Pollocksford. As foreign citizens, they could not purchase their own land, instead leasing 25 acres from squatters William Haines and John Highett (John Tétaz, 1995, From Boudry to the Barrabool Hills: Swiss vignerons in Geelong). They called their vineyard Neuchâtel.
David Louis Pettavel
In order to overcome this obstacle to land ownership, Pettavel and Breguet took the step of becoming denizens, a process requiring them to petition the governor who in turn sought the permission of the Secretary of State in London. They were amongst only 20 in the country ever to do so before 1849 when new law allowing naturalisation rendered the process obsolete (Wegmann & Rűegger,1989, The Swiss in Australia, ).
Meanwhile, with vines planted, the first wine production and sale of grapes occurred in 1845 or 1846 according to the above sources. The partnership between Breguet and Pettavel did not last long however and by 1848 Pettavel was going it alone. On 1st March he purchased 585 acres, 3 roods of land at Waurn Ponds at a cost of £1 per acre. Today, the land Pettavel purchased is bordered by the line of Pettavel Rd to the west, Drayton's Rd to the east and Reservoir Rd to the south, running all the way to Waurn Ponds creek on its northern boundary. He named his property Victoria Vineyard.
Looking south west across Waurn Ponds Creek from Cochrane's Rd to the
north-facing slopes of David Pettavel's land
Some years after its establishment, an article in The Age, 18th May, 1863 claimed to describe how Pettavel came to select the land on which the vineyard stood:
The circumstance which led to the formation of the Victoria Vineyard, on the Colac road, is very singular. When Monsieur Pettavel was on the road to Pollock's Ford, he camped on the ground where the Victoria vineyard now flourishes; it was at that time a dense forest. During the night he dreamt that he was planting vines on that hill, and when the partnership at Pollock's ford, was dissolved seven years afterwards, the dream was fulfilled. The solitude of the wilderness has given way to splendid vineyards, and substantial dwellings, where peace and plenty reign supreme.
Pettavel planted his vines at the northern end of his block where they were best situated to take advantage of the sun. He did not just plant his vines and hope for the best however, instead he took an experimental approach to their cultivation. A report in The Leader of 16th April, 1864 indicated that he was testing a number of different types of manure, using different spacing and arrangement of vines and experimenting with a variety of grapes. Pettavel also wrote on the subject of viticulture, sharing his accumulated knowledge on the subject with other vignerons. For the 1861 harvest, Pettavel imported a screw press from his native country to better extract the juice from his grapes.
He was also well known for his extensive use of local labour, employing many in the district, especially those who were newly-arrived from Switzerland. Of those Swiss who came to Victoria, skilled vine dressers and workers willing to fill the gap in the labour market created by the onset of the gold rush in 1851 were particularly encouraged. A number were members of the extended Pettavel family, including aunts, uncles and cousins bearing familiar names such as Tétaz, Marendaz and Barbier.
Victoria Vineyard grew to include 45 acres of vines and nearby, alongside Waurn Ponds Creek, Pettavel built the homestead where he lived with his wife Esther Keanan whom he had married in 1847. The house was an eight-roomed stone structure with dormer windows across the front and a sizeable cellar measuring around 12 metres by 9 metres located beneath it. The cellar was divided in two with one room housing the wine press and the other holding casks.
During harvesting, the vineyard employed as many as 30 men and at its height produced around 23,000 litres of wine. This was in addition to the sale of fruit - much of which was sent to the goldfields of Ballarat - and fruit trees.
By 1851 Pettavel was advertising 10,000 assorted fruit trees and vines for sale at the "Victoria Vineyard and Nursery". On the list for sale were 34 species of apples as well as pears, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries, figs, mulberries and strawberries (Geelong Advertiser, 27th June, 1851). The following year, he had doubled his stock for sale (Geelong Advertiser, 4th June, 1852) and by 1854 that figure had tripled to 30,000 trees (Geelong Advertiser, 8th May, 1854).
In about 1857 he paid a visit to his homeland, no doubt taking the opportunity to acquaint himself with any advances in the techniques of wine-making. Upon his return to Victoria, he established a second vineyard, also on the Colac Rd but a few kilometres closer to Geelong. This he called the Prince Albert Vineyard.
Prince Albert Vineyard. Image taken from Wegmann & Rűegger, 1989,
The Swiss in Australia
In keeping with his policy of employing extended family members, he set up his nephew Charles Tétaz to run the Prince Albert Vineyard which grew in time to be as large as Victoria Vineyard and as he had done there, he also had a sizeable house built on the property. Tétaz had arrived in the colony in 1852 along with various other family members including his brother Henri François who died in an accident with a dray only a few years after their arrival.*
It was at the Prince Albert Vineyard that Pettavel entertained British royalty in the form of the Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria who travelled to Australia in 1867, touring the district and paying a visit to the Austins at Barwon Park where he went rabbit shooting.
Pettavel died on 22nd June, 1871 at 52 years of age. His funeral was one of the largest seen in the district at that time with both Swiss and English settlers turning out to pay their respects. The cortege travelled fro the Victoria Vineyard to Geelong's Eastern Cemetery with many joining the procession along the 14km route. According to the Geelong Advertiser of 26th June, 1871 "every corner of Moorabool-street was crowded with spectators, and the cortege reached from the outskirts of the town to the Eastern cemetery. Altogether, the remains of the deceased when they reached the cemetery, were followed by eighty-two carriages, buggies, and carts, the aristocratic carriage following the market cart, besides a large number of horsemen and visitors...the pall bearers were...Mr Montandon, Mr Dunoyer, Mr Frey, and his first partner as a vigneron, Mr Breguet, senior. Altogether there must have been five or six hundred persons present."
The grave of David Louis and Esther Pettavel,
Eastern Cemetery Geelong, Old Church of England
Section, Grave 133
Following David Pettavel's death, the property passed to his nephew in Switzerland, Henri Louis Pettavel. In 1872 Henri arrived to take on the running of the vineyard and the following year, he married his cousin Rose Cécile Marendaz. The Victoria Vineyard did not stay long in the family however, and by 1878 Henri was looking to sell. Throughout June that year, the property was advertised for sale in the Geelong Advertiser as a "splendid vineyard property fronting the Waurn Ponds and Colac Road."
By April the following year, the property had been sold and Henri held a clearing sale preparatory to returning to Switzerland with his family (Geelong Advertiser, 7th April, 1879). During the voyage, Rose gave birth to their youngest son David Louis. Their return to Switzerland was not permanent however, as registry records show that Henri died at Springvale in 1929 at the age of 77, predeceasing Rose by some seven years.

Memorial plaque in the grave of David Louis and Esther Pettavel commemorating
David's nephew Henri François Tétaz
The property meanwhile, was purchased by Philip McKim and remained in that family for a further 60 years. Over subsequent years, the property passed through various hands. In the mid-1950s the house was gutted by fire and suffered further fire damage in 1969. According to From Boudry to the Barrabool Hills: Swiss vignerons in Geelong, the vineyard and buildings had been dismantled by 1983 and by the 1990s, a new homestead had been built on the site of the old house which was owned by K.J. Lyons. Since this time, the property has changed hands a number of times, most recently according to real estate data, in 2003. The original 585 acre block purchased by Pettavel has been subdivided over the years and put to other uses, but today the south west corner (the land extending from the Princes Hwy to Reservoir Rd and bounded on the west by Pettavel Rd) once again operates as a winery.
In 2001, Mike and Sandy Fitzpatrick established Pettavel Wines on this block, operating as a winery and restaurant until 2011 when mounting debt saw the business close. The property was eventually sold to the Scotchman's Hill Winery and re-opened to the public as The Hill Winery. Today the venue still operates as a winery and function centre under the name Mt Duneed Estate and in recent years has hosted concerts for A Day on the Green.
The Prince Albert Vineyard, remained in the Tétaz family until 1897 when, suffering from poor health, Charles moved to Colac to be near other family members. He died there of Bright's Disease on 28th August, 1897 and was buried at the Highton Cemetery.
The vineyard itself was allowed to run down and the house - similar to that built at Victoria Vineyard - was much altered, with the upper storey and a verandah being removed. By 1983 only ruins and the large, two-roomed cellar remained.
In 1975 on a part of the original property in Lemins Rd, Bruce and Sue Hyett established a second Prince Albert Vineyard, growing pinot noir grapes. They harvested their first vintage in 1978. In 1998 the vineyard gained organic certification and today continues to operate under the current owner David Yates.

*Whilst the above plaque gives Henri's year of death as 1856, Geelong Cemeteries Trust gives his date of death as 12th April, 1857 with his burial taking place at the Eastern Cemetery two days later. The letter written by his brother Charles informing his family in Switzerland of his brother's death indicates that Henri died on Tuesday 13th April, 1857 and was buried the following day. I could not find a record of his death in the Index of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

28 August, 2017

Seidel's Farm

Last year, I looked at a number of the works of the 19th century landscape artist Eugene von Guerard who sketched and painted a number of locations along the Barwon River. With assistance, I was able to identify the locations from which von Guerard produced a number of his pieces. In addition to those drawings we studied, von Guerard also sketched another scene overlooking the Barwon, this time upstream from Geelong not too far from Ceres.
The scene which caught his eye on the 18th March, 1854 was a vineyard in the Barrabool Hills, owned by German immigrants Alwin and Bernard Seidel, vignerons who arrived in the district on a wave of Swiss chain migration which saw members of extended families settle on the fertile banks of the creeks and rivers around Geelong. The Swiss vine-growers were encouraged to come to Australia by Lieutenant-Governor Charles La Trobe whose wife Sophie de Montmollin was Swiss. La Trobe had spent time in Switzerland prior to their 1835 marriage and subsequent arrival in New South Wales in 1839 and would have been well-acquainted with Swiss wine production.
The Seidels it seems, were also acquainted with von Guerard as he mentions in the diary he kept of his time on the gold fields that he was travelling with "Seidel" - possibly one of the brothers. Clearly, he spent time visiting with them at the farm after his return from his gold-seeking adventures.
The Seidel's vineyard, was established in about 1849 (Geelong Advertiser, 2nd February, 1861) around a kilometre east of Ceres on Barrabool Road. Facing north east, it was situated high above the Barwon, looking out across both the Moorabool and Barwon Valleys. Today, the site lies just to the west of the Ceres/Highton exit from the Geelong Ring Road and whilst much has changed, the view is still commanding.
Looking towards the You Yangs from a position a little to the
east of Seidel's Vineyard
Initially known as the Ceres Nursery (later the Ceres Vineyard), the Seidels grew fruit trees - plums, apples, apricots and peaches are all mentioned - as well as grapes. A report in the Geelong Advertiser of 2nd February, 1861 indicates that the brothers may have farmed side by side rather than together. It states that "the Ceres Vineyard and nursery [is] the property of Alwin and Bernard Seidel, of which the former brother cultivates seven acres of vines and six of orchard and the latter six acres of either."
That they were there at all however is a testament to their determination. Ten years earlier, their fledgling nursery was completely destroyed when on 6th February, 1851 the Black Thursday bushfires struck the district. The family were lucky to escape with their lives but - undeterred - rebuilt their home and replanted their orchard and vineyard. After the outbreak of the Victorian gold rush in August, 1851, much of their fruit was taken to Ballarat for sale.
1854 Sketch of "Seidel's farm" by Eugene von Guerard. Click to enlarge
The Seidels retained ownership of the vineyard until 1863 when Alwin was declared insolvent and the property sold to Mr Louis Kitz for £1,356 (Geelong Advertiser, 5th March, 1863). Despite this setback, Alwin remained on the property as manager for some years.
In what is perhaps a testament to the vineyard's success - or perhaps just its proximity to Geelong - the vineyard was visited by the Governor of Victoria Sir Charles Darling, on his first tour of the district following his appointment. The governor spent over an hour on the property whilst Louis Kitz showed him sights and elaborated on the finer points of wine-making before inviting him to sample the produce (Geelong Advertiser, 9th December, 1863).
 By 1870 however, Kitz in turn had moved on and the property was sold to another pioneering vigneron - Alexander Belperroud, originally the owner of the Berramonga Vineyard located further upstream near today's Merrawarp Road. Belperroud renamed the property Sebastopol and began getting things in shape. The Geelong Advertiser of 7th June, 1871 reported that:
Mr Alexander Belperroud from seven acres has made 25 hhds, as against 4 hhds last year, when his vineyard was in a neglected condition he having only just taken possession.
His tenure however was also short-lived. Barely more than a month after the above article was penned, Belperroud's wife Mary died and by 1874 with his own health beginning to fail, he sold the vineyard and retired to a cottage at nearby Ceres where he died in July the following year.
Alwin Seidel died on 13th September, 1910 at the age of 88 and was buried with his wife Augusta (died 1895), in the Old Methodist section of Geelong's Eastern Cemetery the following day. His burial details record his name as Gustuv Alwin Seidel.
I am uncertain what became of Bernard, however an elderly man of that name died after he was involved in an accident with a police officer on a bike in Melbourne in 1903.
Today, little remains of the original farm buildings which are privately owned. The Victorian Heritage Database describes the remnant structures thus:
Intact cellar. There are also a concrete lined dam/water storage pond, a brick-lined cistern and an area of ruins. The cellar is rectangular, measuring approx 9.5 x 5m. It is entered through a standing sandstone porch, through double timber doors, of which one side remains in situ. Ten steps lead down into the cellar, which is of sandstone construction, with a barrel vaulted roof. There are two roof windows opening to the north. A further two windows in the south side of the vault are blocked but may once have been open. They are now covered on the outside by a stone pavement. There is a shallow niche in the west wall and what may have been another roof window, or a vent, above this. This window/vent is also blocked. A very old ivy bush is growing on the north corner of the porch. There may also have been a structure above the cellar but, if so, it has been removed. There is an area of stone pavement and a concrete slab to the south of the cellar. To the north are the cistern and an area of scattered building stone, bricks and concrete. The dam is located to the south, between the cellar and the road.

One final point of interest is to note that almost a year to the day after the date on von Guerard's sketch of Seidel's farm, he made another two drawings. Like the earlier sketch, these works took in the Barrabool Hills and were the subject of one of my earlier posts. The photo below was taken from a similar position to that from which von Guerard sketched the view looking south along the Barwon. The site of Seidel's farm - which cannot be seen for the intervening hills -  lies over the hill a mile south of the power line seen to the right of the photo.
The view close to the location on the Barwon from which von Guerard
sketched the southerly aspect of the hills.
When compared to the above sketch of Seidel's farm, the central hill in the above photograph is most likely the north face of the dark shaded hilltop to the left of the farmhouse.

30 July, 2017

Fred Kruger

From the earliest days of European settlement, artists recorded the environment in which they found themselves and often their sketches, paintings and later photographs included the creeks and river systems of the regions they visited or in which they lived. This was also true of the Barwon River catchment. In the earliest days of settlement, artists such as George Alexander Gilbert, Samuel Thomas Gill, Charles Norton, Louis Buvelot, Eugene von Guerard and a host of others, recorded their surroundings and in the process created some of the region's best known artworks.
By 1879, a noted landscape photographer by the name of Fred Kruger had established himself in Skene St, Newtown and was rapidly becoming known about Geelong. In November he was invited to photograph the opening of the new Corio Bay Rowing Club boat shed, located near the Yarra Street Pier (Geelong Advertiser, 29th November, 1879). The following month, he was commissioned to photograph both the exhibits and the building when the newly-erected Geelong Exhibition Building hosted an Industrial and Juvenile Exhibition, boasting some 30,000 exhibits.
Geelong Exhibition Building, Fred Kruger (1882), Image held by the
State Library of Victoria
Over the course of the next eight years, Kruger contributed greatly to the photographic record not only of Geelong, but the entire region, including the Barwon, Leigh and Moorabool Rivers. So who was Fred Kruger?
 Johan Friedrich Carl Kruger was born in Berlin, Germany on 18th April, 1831 to a working-class family and as a young man, went into business as an upholsterer. By April, 1863 when his wife Auguste Wilhelmine Elisabeth Bauman and their three year old son Hans arrived in Victoria on the ship Macassar, Kruger had already settled in Rutherglen where he was a partner in his brother's furniture business which had operated since 1854. Soon after their arrival, a daughter was born to the couple and Kruger became the sole owner of the business which he sold before moving to Taradale where he established himself as a cabinet maker.
The births of two sons were registered at Taradale in 1866 and 1867 but the family did not remain long in the area, instead moving to Melbourne where Fred established a photography business in Carlton, later moving to Prahran then Preston. He soon developed a reputation as a landscape photographer, winning awards both internationally and in Australia as well as receiving acclaim for his photos of indigenous Australians.
Auguste and Fred went on to have a further six children, all born in Melbourne however at least five of their nine Australian-born children died as infants in their first year of life. Then, some time during the late 1870s or early 1880s Kruger and his remaining family moved to Geelong where they lived in Skene St, Newtown.
During his time in Geelong he took numerous photos of local scenes, travelling also to surrounding towns including Queenscliff, Point Lonsdale, Ballarat, Werribee, Winchelsea, the Otways and many places in between.
The Leigh River, near Inverleigh, Fred Kruger, 1882. Image held by the State
Library of Victoria
In order to make a living, Kruger accepted commissioned work both from the government and local landowners who wanted a visual record of their estate. He is also known to have taken photos of the Barwon in flood as well as shipwrecks off the coast at Point Lonsdale, as images of such events were popular with the buying public.
Kruger's 1881 Photograph of the paper mill at Fyansford. Image held by the
National Gallery of Victoria
I suspect, but do not know, that Kruger's photo of the paper mill may have been taken not long after extensive flooding hit the region. Kruger's photo above shows the ana-branch which connects the Barwon (left) to the Moorabool (right) a short distance above the confluence of the two rivers. Between the river and below the ana-branch is the almost completely denuded Redgum Island. In my image below, the course of the now tree-lined ana-branch runs through the middle of the shot with the lines of the rivers just visible to either side as an indentation in the trees.
A similar view of the paper mill taken May, 2016. At the time, I had no idea
I was standing so close to the spot where Kruger stood some 135 years
ago to take his photograph
In addition to a number of photographs taken near Batesford and the now non-existent town of Viaduct on the lower reaches of the Moorabool, Kruger also visited both Lal Lal Falls and the nearby Moorabool Falls in 1882, perhaps on his way to Ballarat.
The Moorabool Falls on the Moorabool River near Lal Lal, as seen by Kruger
in 1882. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
Moorabool Falls, April, 2012
On the 15th February, 1888, after contracting peritonitis, Fred died at the home of his son in the Melbourne suburb of Surrey Hills. His wife Auguste lived a further 25 years, dying at Preston in 1913. Over the years, his photographs have remained popular and as recently as 2012, the National Gallery of Victoria who hold a large number of his photographs, hosted the "Fred Kruger: intimate landscapes" exhibition. An earlier exhibition was held in 1983. Many of his works can also be found in digital format across the Internet.

16 June, 2017

The Deviation revisited

Several years ago I looked at a little of the history of Deviation Road, Fyansford then, whilst researching a recent post I came across further details which revealed the politics behind what became a 22 year battle to have the road constructed. Here's what I found:
Prior to 1933, the most direct way to travel from Fyansford to Geelong was via Hyland St up the steep, 1 in 10 grade of Fyansford Hill. Hauling drays up the hill required the harnessing of extra horses, just to make the climb and the heavy braking by vehicles travelling downhill caused damage to the road's surface. The steep incline was also susceptible to erosion during bad weather.
Aerial image of the Cement Works and Fyansford Hill prior to the construction
of Deviation Rd, dated (incorrectly) as 1939. Image by Charles Daniel Pratt,
State Library of Victoria
By 1911, an alternative route was being promoted by Councillor McCann of the Corio Shire, one which was slightly shorter but most significantly had a gradient of only 1 in 20. The total cost, including land purchases, was estimated at £1,500 (Geelong Advertiser, 30th November, 1911). The benefits would include easier access for Geelong to the bluestone and sand deposits in the Fyansford area whilst the journey would also be significantly easier for travellers and companies bringing produce into town. By February, 1912, the shire engineers of both the Shire of Corio and City of Geelong were in agreement that the project would be a significant improvement on the existing road. The surveyor for the Shire of Newtown and Chilwell agreed.
By April, 1914 (Geelong Advertiser, 30th April, 1914) four prospective routes had been proposed. The first was merely an upgrade of the existing route up Hyland St, whilst two other options also saw the road rerouted from the end of Fyansford Rd (now Autumn St) at the top of the hill. The fourth and preferred scheme, not only provided breath-taking views of the valley, but also provided the most direct route between Geelong and Fyansford as well as eliminating the need for several right angle turns. It was also the most expensive route, now estimated at £7,000.
At this point, the outbreak of war intervened and it was not until 1919, that the required land had been purchased and the route pegged out. As always seems to be the case when multiple parties are involved however, progress on building The Deviation stalled. On 2nd June, 1921, the Geelong Advertiser reported that Corio Shire was (understandably) reluctant to carry the sole cost of construction. In November 1923, Geelong West Council objected to the financial burden of the project (to be divided amongst various shires and councils) which it saw as having little benefit for its own town (Geelong Advertiser, 1st November, 1923).
By July, 1924, the longer, more picturesque route from the end of Aberdeen St had been accepted as the preferred option and on 4th July, the Geelong Advertiser published the below map of what the new road would look like. (Note also, "Valley Rd" descending from the top of proposed Deviation to the river below. Traces of this older road can still be found today.)
Proposed deviation from Fyansford to Aberdeen St, Newtown (Geelong Advertiser,
4th July, 1924)
By this time, suggestions were circulating that day labour in the form of returned solders from the First World War could be used to build the road, keeping costs to a minimum.
As with many major projects, politics was also a burning issue. In July, 1924, a stoush was brewing between the Nationalist Member for Barwon Edward Morley - in whose seat the road lay - and Labour Member for Geelong, William Brownbill. The latter was deemed guilty of a breach of etiquette when he intervened in the matter, approaching the acting chairman of the Country Roads Board to discuss funding and the use of day labour for the project.
A young William Brownbill. Image taken from the
Parliament of Victoria website
By 1925 steps were being taken to secure finance which would allow the extension of Aberdeen St past Minerva Rd to the top of the proposed deviation, however objection to even this measure was raised by one Louis Melville Whyte of 'The Heights', subject of one of my recent posts. Whyte - some of whose land had been compulsorily acquired by the CRB - was now being levied by the
Newtown and Chilwell Council who had stepped in after the CRB declined to build the extension, to contribute to the cost of building the new road. He argued successfully (see the above post) that as a previous, rather than current owner, he could not then be charged for construction of what he claimed would be an under-utilised dead end road (Geelong Advertiser, 12th August, 1926).
Regardless, progress did continue, albeit slowly. In May, 1926 it was reported that the line surveyed by the CRB for The Deviation in about 1914 was about 18 feet south of the line of Aberdeen St, which if not fixed would have left a kink in the road once it was finally constructed (Geelong Advertiser, 24th May, 1926).
A further hurdle was faced by the unfortunate surveyor for Newtown and Chilwell Council who, when needing to take the new levels, was confronted by an angry bull. The council resolved to have the unnamed owner remove the animal whilst the surveyor was on site (Geelong Advertiser, 6th July, 1926). The issue with Whyte was finally resolved in his favour with the council ordered to pay costs in August, 1927 (The Age, 23rd August, 1927).
And so it continued. By the middle of 1930, construction still had not begun as wrangling over finances continued. In June, the shires of Bannockburn, Corio, Geelong, Geelong West and Leigh sent a deputation to the Minister for Works, asking the government to undertake the project, once again citing local employment as a benefit, however the government were unimpressed with the lack of funding offered by the respective councils (The Age, 25th June, 1930).
During August, the councils continued pushing to have the earthworks for the project funded from the Government's unemployment fund. By early 1931 however, these issues were sorted and 80 unemployed Geelong men were selected to begin work on 9th February. A few months later, an article in the Weekly Times (11th April, 1931) noted that workmen had discovered numerous fossils ranging in size from tiny shells to the bones of "huge beasts".
In May the following year and with construction well under way, beautification works were being undertaken in the form of tree planting. On the 14th June, commemorative trees (does anyone know where?) were planted by Alderman William Brownbill, the mayor of Newtown and Chilwell and the President of the Shire of Corio.
Finally on 28th April, 1933 a short paragraph in The Age noted that "the new Fyansford deviation road, which has been formed with cement penetration, has been opened to traffic."
The Deviation, 2016 from Button Hill, Fyansford
Finally, after 22 years of delays, politicking, legal proceedings and financial wrangling, Deviation Rd, Fyansford was completed. Today, it remains the main entry point to Geelong from the Hamilton Hwy and still provides one of the most scenic views of the Barwon River; a view which has been painted, sketched and photographed from the earliest days of European settlement.

31 May, 2017

Aussie Rules and the first Australians

As highlighted in my post about the Barwon Football Club from 2011, Geelong and the Barwon have long had a connection with Australian Rules Football (AFL) and last weekend, I noticed another connection in the media.
Round 10, 2017 was the AFL's Sir Doug Nicholls indigenous round. According to the AFL website, the indigenous round is aimed at "recognising and celebrating indigenous players and [their] culture" and is named after indigenous footballer, advocate for reconciliation and the first Aboriginal person to be awarded a knighthood - Doug Nicholls.
To mark the occasion, each club wore a jersey bearing an indigenous design relevant to the club and its history. This year, the jumpers worn by the Geelong Cats told the story of the Wathaurong people, the traditional owners of the land surrounding Geelong, the Bellarine Peninsula and beyond, extending north west to Ballarat and east as far as Werribee. The design on the jumpers was created by artist Nathan Patterson of Iluka Design, an indigenous artist born in the Northern Territory but now residing in Torquay.
Guernsey worn by the Geelong players during the 2017 indigenous round
The jersey, designed to have a strong local focus, features a meeting place as the central design with the sun rising behind the You Yangs. In the Wathaurong language, Kardinia means "the first ray of light". In front of the You Yangs, the Barwon River flows to the sea.
Over the decades Geelong has had nine players of known indigenous heritage play for the club at VFL/AFL level. Of those players however, only one - Allen Christiensen - was raised in the Geelong region.
In recent years, the Geelong Football Club have developed a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) which aims to promote inclusiveness, respect and other cultural values amongst all club members for both the wider community and in particular indigenous Australians. To this end, they are involved with the local Wathaurong community as well as the larger indigenous population across the country, developing programs to both educate and promote the reconciliation message.

14 May, 2017

Installing art on Redgum Island

Last Sunday, along with a number of other community members, I attended an event on Redgum Island at Fyansford to acknowledge the installation of a new artwork.
Sunday morning's event
For those who don't know, Redgum Island is the piece of land which lies at the confluence of the Moorabool and Barwon Rivers. It is divided from the rest of the land between the two rivers by a small ana-branch - a rivulet of only a few hundred metres which branches off the Barwon below Buckley Falls, joining the Moorabool to the south of Fyansford Common.
This little island has been significant to generations of locals for thousands of years. The original Wathaurong inhabitants referred to the area as "Bukar Bulac" the place between two rivers. They set up eel traps along the ana-branch, fished in the rivers, harvested the native flora and hunted along the riverbanks. With the arrival of European settlers, the island was used for farming, with extensive clearing The the native vegetation taking place.
In 1885, the island formed part of a 17 acre block of land which was purchased by William Francis Ducker, a former mayor of Geelong, businessman and one of the main backers of the neighbouring Barwon Paper Mill. The land continued to be used for farming purposes until as recently as the 1980s and whilst little of the original flora has survived, one of the spectacular River Red Gums for which the island is named did and can still be seen today at the northern end of the island.
The large River Red Gum at the north end of Redgum Island
In the early 1980s, after protracted negotiations between local council and the Geelong Environment Council largely driven by Tony Woolford, a land swap was arranged which saw Redgum Island pass into public ownership. It was Tony who then became the driving force behind The Friends of Buckley Falls group who for the last thirty years have been responsible for the revegetation of the riparian strip along the Barwon from the Geelong Ring Road to Queen's Park. In recent years, the lower reaches of the Moorabool River have also become part of their brief. Over the years, the members of the Friends of Buckley Falls have spent many thousands of hours planting, weeding, cleaning up and reclaiming the land along the banks of the two rivers, including Redgum Island, which today bears little resemblance to the farmland it once was.
This aerial shot of Fyansford c1920s shows most of Redgum Island lying
between the two rivers towards the bottom right of the picture. Image held by
the State Library of Victoria
The artwork which was the focus of our attention on Sunday is a collaborative effort conceived by the Friends of Buckley Falls and the City of Greater Geelong and designed by Mark Trinham and Glenn Romanis of Concept Design, Sculpture and Paving. The dry stone wall was erected by David Long and landscape design was undertaken by Gill Mexted.
Carved from a single piece of reclaimed River Red Gum timber, the seat and pole reflect elements of the flora and fauna found on Redgum Island. The birds represented are the Lorikeet and the Swift Parrot which rely on the River Red Gums and other plants found along the rivers for food and shelter. The leaves of the gum also form part of the sculpture. The accompanying seat shows two of the endangered species of native fish - the Southern and Yarra Pygmy Perch - which are found in the two rivers.
The artwork on Redgum Island
The basalt plains which are so dominant in the landscape through which both rivers flow, are represented by the basalt dry stone wall which partially encloses the work and by the paving which surrounds the wooden structures. The pavement, constructed from basalt and slate depicts a map of the region. Both the Moorabool and Barwon Rivers are shown flowing to their confluence with Redgum Island nestled between them.
A sign at the site provides a more detailed description of the installation and the surrounding environment:
The island and the art. Click to enlarge
For those who wish to visit, the art installation is only a short walk from the carparks on Fyansford Common (crossing the footbridge over the Moorabool, then that over the ana-branch) or from the end of the walking track on Lower Paper Mills Rd. A slightly longer walk from the lower carpark at Buckley Falls (about 1km) or from Queen's Park Bridge (about 1.7km), crossing the Barwon opposite the Queen's Park Golf Course takes in views of the river and The Deviation on Fyansford Hill. After crossing the bridge a short detour across the grass to the northern tip of the island will bring you to the remnant Red Gum whilst the path leads to the artwork and the bridge over the ana-branch.

30 April, 2017

Hanging ten at 'The Heights'

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently attended a "paranormal investigation" at 'The Heights', a National Trust property in Newtown, overlooking the Barwon River. Did we communicate with spirits? Well, I remain unconvinced, however as I also said, various people present claimed to have heard the word "white" issue from one of the electronic devices in use.
To anyone with knowledge of the property's history, this is potentially very significant. Could the word in fact have been "Whyte"? You see, WHYTE was the surname of the man who in 1889 married Minna Ibbotson, daughter of the businessman Charles Ibbotson for whom 'The Heights' was built on "Newtown Hill" in 1854.
Louis  Australia Whyte was the second husband of Minna Elizabeth Ibbotson of 'The Heights' in Newtown. He was a keen amateur sportsman and in 1894 became Australia's first amateur golf champion and throughout the 1880s and into the 1890s he competed in a number of tennis championships across Victoria and New South Wales, also winning two titles in that sport.
He and Minna married in England in 1889 and it was here that their only surviving son - Louis Melville - was born in 1890. Within two years, as a family of three, they returned to Australia where they lived at 'The Heights'.
Louis Australia Whyte. Image taken
from the Tennis Archives website
In June, 1892, a stillborn child - a younger brother for Louis - was born to the couple. Neither birth nor death was registered, however cemetery records show that a stillborn male child given the Whyte surname was buried in the Ibbotson grave at the Western Cemetery. On 18th July The Argus published a birth notice announcing the birth of a stillborn son to the wife of Louis A Whyte at 'The Heights' the previous month on 27th June.
Despite the loss, life continued at 'The Heights' with both Louis and Minna regularly involved with the local community. On the 9th November, 1892, Louis spoke at a banquet to celebrate the recent election of a new mayor - Cr J.R. Hopkins (Geelong Advertiser, 10th November, 1892).
In September, 1907, Louis and Minna hosted an event to which they invited members of the Barwon Heads Golf Club - of which Louis was then president - to play on the private course which he had established on the grounds at 'The Heights'.
All was not well however. For many years Louis had suffered from what was at the time of his death, described as "insomnia and neurasthenia". Whilst the term neurasthenia is not generally used today, during the 19th and early 20th centuries it was a common diagnosis for stress, depression and a variety of nervous conditions probably including post traumatic stress disorder as shell-shocked soldiers were also diagnosed with the condition. In many circles it was considered to be a disorder suffered predominantly by the wealthier classes and was sometimes referred to as "Americanitis".
As a result of his ongoing mental health issues, on 3rd April, 1911, Louis took his own life. The subsequent inquest found that he had died from a single revolver shot to the head and that his body was discovered by his son who upon being unable to raise his father's attention, had gained access to Louis' bedroom by breaking a window.
The Geelong Advertiser of 7th April, 1911 reported that Louis' funeral was a large one with the cortege consisting of the hearse, two mourning coaches and 30 vehicles. He was laid to rest at the Western Cemetery.
Following his death Louis' widow Minna and their son - commonly known as "Lou" - remained at 'The Heights'. Like his father, Lou was educated at The Geelong College (1900-1908) and was also a keen sportsman. In 1919 he spent six months in Hawaii. Here, at Waikiki Beach he learnt to surf. Upon his return to Australia he brought with him four redwood longboards which he acquired from Duke Kahanamoku, the Hawaiian man credited with introducing the sport of surfing to the world. Two of those boards can be seen today at the Australian National Surfing Museum in Torquay. This afternoon, I went for a visit:
Timber surfboards brought to Victoria by Louis Whyte
in 1919, located at the Australian National Surfing Museum
Swim suit (left) worn by Louis Whyte, Australian
National Surfing Museum
On his return to Australia, Lou took his newly-acquired boards to Lorne where the photo below was taken in 1920, in the process, bringing the sport of surfing to Victoria.
Louis Melville Whyte. Image taken from the Victorian Collections website

Louis Whyte and friends with their boards at Lorne, 1920. Australian National
Surfing Museum
Lou's other passion was motoring and where his grandfather Charles Ibbotson had once stabled his horses, Lou now parked his cars. His 1957 Daimler can still be seen in the stables at 'The Heights' today.
As a member of the social elite, Lou was no doubt considered a highly eligible bachelor, however it was not until 1936 at the age of 46 that Lou secretly married his partner of 15 years Ella Layton Wyett (known as Marnie). As described in a piece written for Vic News, magazine of The National Trust of Australia (Victoria), Lou and Marnie only announced their marriage in 1938 after the death of Lou's mother Minna who strongly opposed any romantic match for her son.
Grave of Minna and Louis Australia Whyte, Western Cemetery
Unsurprisingly, there were no children born to the couple who lived the remainder of their lives at 'The Heights'. Instead, with the assistance of  architect Harold Bartlett, they turned their attention to the old house which Lou inherited from his mother and which over the years had undergone various additions leaving it dingy and somewhat ramshackle. The makeover of the house undertaken by Bartlett and the Whytes, saw 'The Heights' redesigned as a modern, fashionable home of the 1930s, light and open where the original house had been dark and enclosed. At the same time, the interior was transformed by the noted interior designer Reg Riddell and the garden underwent a transformation at the hands of Marnie.
Over the years however, the land surrounding the house which was originally purchased by Charles Ibbotson was variously subdivided, sold, donated or compulsorily acquired for various purposes. One of the earliest pieces of land to go was a section which was acquired in the 1920s by the Country Roads Board with a view to building an extension to Aberdeen St which at that time stopped at Minerva Rd. This work was a precursor to the construction of Deviation Rd which, after a protracted battle, was opened in 1933. Contemporary newspaper reports indicate that Lou instituted legal action which culminated in the Supreme Court when the Newtown and Chilwell Shire Council endeavoured to have him pay part of the cost of construction of the road as a neighbouring landholder. Lou argued - successfully - however, that as the land had been compulsorily acquired, the council who by then had charge of construction, could not expect to claim costs from him as the previous owner.
Louis Melville Whyte in later years. Image taken from
the  website of The Geelong College
Not all "The Heights'" land was acquired under such controversial circumstances however. As a former pupil of Geelong College, Lou was no doubt keen to support his old school. According to the College's website he both sold and donated a total of around 49 acres of land extending between Minerva Rd and the Barwon River to the College beginning with an initial purchase of 15 acres in 1945. In 1960, the site opened as the junior school campus of Geelong College.
Over the years, various parcels of land were sold and today, all that remains of Ibbotson's original purchases is the 1.13 hectares upon which the house and outbuildings stand. Lou and Marnie lived the remainder of their lives at 'The Heights'. Lou died on 10th April, 1975 and was buried the following day in the lawn section of the Western Cemetery. Marnie survived her husband by only a few months, dying on 18th September, 1975. She was buried with Lou the following day. Their grave is marked by a simple plaque.
Grave of Louis Melville and Ella Layton "Marnie" Whyte, Western Cemetery
(NB note the misspelling of "Layton", spelled "Leighton" on the headstone)
Following Marnie's death 'The Heights' passed to the National Trust and today, is open to the public, providing a unique glimpse into a significant piece of Geelong's past and the life of the Ibbotson and particularly, the Whyte family. It is also interesting to note a number of the street names which now surround 'The Heights' and which stand on what was once land owned by Charles Ibbotson and the Whytes. Names such as Ella Close, Layton Crescent, Louis Court, Melville Avenue and of course, Whyte Court.

10 April, 2017

Things that go bump at 'The Heights'

Over the years, my most popular blog post has transpired to be one in which I looked at ghosts. In "...landlord to a ghost..." I took a look at which of the old houses along the Barwon were believed to be haunted. As it happens, most of the oldest buildings claim to have acquired a ghost or two over the years. 'The Heights" in Newtown is no exception and it was there on a recent Saturday evening that I was invited to act as a volunteer whilst 'The Heights' played host to a "paranormal investigation".
We arrived just on dusk and along with a further four volunteers proceeded to get things ready for the arrival of the living guests.
Our hosts for the evening - Paranormal X-Files - also arrived to set up an array of electronic equipment including infrared cameras, digital thermometers, spirit boxes, an Ovilus and REM pods. If you don't know what this equipment is or how it claims to work, a quick check on Google will set you straight.
A REM-POD similar to that used at 'The Heights'
Eventually, as darkness descended and with all the guests in attendance, we were divided into two groups and set off to investigate. Our group remained in the house where our investigation took us from room to room in search of spirits. At various points the equipment glowed as various coloured lights flashed and an array of electronic noises issued forth. After 3/4 of an hour the group concluded that they may have made contact with a spirit called "Ian" and some guests indicated that they had "felt" a temperature change, a "presence" or been "touched". Two unaccountable knocks were heard in reply to the investigators three knocks and the word "white" was also heard.
At this point, we exchanged places with the other group and all trooped outside to investigate the cold room under the water tower and the stables. Once again the equipment flashed and screeched and people reported temperature changes. Whereas the other group claimed to have been told to "GET OUT!" of the stables, we were not.
The night ended with a joint discussion of what had been seen, heard and felt and the guests were escorted through the darkness to the gate.
So, if ghosts really were present at 'The Heights' who were they? So far I have been unable to find anyone named "Ian" who had an association with the property however the word "white" is a little mcore interesting when one considers the history of the place.
'The Heights' is a pre-fabricated timber building which was purpose made in Germany, shipped to Australia and assembled at "Newtown Hill" for local woolbroker, merchant and pastoralist Charles Ibbotson in 1854. I have mentioned both Ibbotson and the property not only in the post about ghosts mentioned above, but also speculated that the European landscape painter Eugene von Guerard may have paid a visit to Ibbotson and 'The Heights' during its construction whilst he was staying with Frederick Bauer - owner of 'Fritzwilhelmberg House' (now 'Raith') - not far away in Newtown. It was Bauer, a German ironmonger who ran a business in Ryrie St, who was responsible for the erection of 'The Heights'.
The original building erected by Bauer consisted of 14 rooms. Verandas were also added then stables (1855), a groom's cottage (1856-7), water tower (c1860) a bluestone stable complex (1862) and in 1875, a billiard room. Towards the end of the 19th century, a dovecote was also built. According to the National Trust who now own the property, the original garden was designed by Scottish gardener Robert Hughes in the 1860s.
'The Heights' 1866, image held by the State Library of Victoria
'The Heights'' first owner, Charles Ibbotson was an Englishman, born in Derbyshire, England who migrated to Sydney in the 1830s. He and his wife Maryanne Dickens were married in Sydney in 1850 and moved to Geelong not long after. Whilst 'The Heights' was erected in 1854, the surrounding land was not purchased by Ibbotson until the mid-1860s. The original purchaser was Duncan Hoyle who bought allotment 3, Section 10 of the Parish of Moorpanyal at a government land sale in July, 1847 (Geelong Advertiser and Squatters' Advocate, 23rd July, 1847), allotment 5, Section 10 in December, 1847 (Port Phillip Gazette and Settlers' Journal, 11th December, 1847) and may well have purchased the neighbouring allotment 2 the previous year (Sydney Morning Herald, 6th February, 1846) as he is listed on survey maps as the original purchaser. 'The Heights' sits in the middle of allotment 2 but appears to have been built on around 2 acres of land already owned by Ibbotson at the time.
In addition to his business interests in Dalgety & Co. Woolstores, Ibbotson sat on a number of boards and committees including the council of the Borough of Newtown and Chilwell, where he served a term as mayor. He was supportive of efforts to bring the railway to Geelong and was a member on the committee of management of the Botanic Gardens. On 16th December, 1863, he chaired the meeting which established the Geelong branch of the Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, whose aim was to introduce familiar and productive species of plants and animals from around the world to the Colony of Victoria (Geelong Advertiser, 17th December, 1863). On 22nd July, 1867 it was reported in The Argus that a shipment containing "a number of larks, thrushes, sparrows, chaffinches, and other birds" had arrived for Ibbotson who is widely attributed with having introduced several such species to Victoria, releasing them from 'The Heights'.
Towards the end of 1866, not long after purchasing the surrounding land from Duncan Hoyle, Ibbotson - then the mayor of Newtown and Chilwell - hosted members of the council and the press to a meal at 'The Heights', showing off his newly-acquired land and outlining his plans to develop it (Geelong Advertiser, 22nd November, 1866). This included planting the slopes stretching down to the river with vines, fruits and vegetables.
In 1882, Ibbotson's wife Maryanne died after an extended illness and was buried at the Western Cemetery, then, after also suffering a long health battle Ibbotson died the following year on 20th October and was buried with his wife.
The Ibbotson grave in the Church of England Section, Row 1. grave 1515
His estate was divided amongst his two sons and four daughters, with 'The Heights' passing to his youngest daughter Minna Elizabeth.
Although the Victorian birth, death and marriage records do not appear to show it, the Geelong Advertiser recorded on 4th November, 1887 that Minna married James Burnett. It did not indicate where the ceremony took place. The marriage however was short-lived as James died at the Grand Hotel, Spring St, in Melbourne on 6th January, 1888 at the age of 39.
By June that year, Minna had placed 'The Heights' on the market. Advertisements throughout May and June indicate that "upwards of 80 acres" of the property was to be offered for sale by tender (Geelong Advertiser, 1st June, 1888). According to a later report in the Geelong Advertiser of 16th June, the property was snapped up amidst keen interest by a Melbourne syndicate who intended to subdivide the property. Although it is not made clear, the land sale presumably did not include the house and land immediately surrounding it as this remained in the possession of the family for decades to come, with significant areas sold to the Geelong College and St Joseph's College in later years.
Not long after the death of her husband, Minna must have travelled to London as it was here on 28th September, 1889 that she married her second husband (The Argus, 31st December, 1889). Not long after, they returned to live at 'The Heights'.
This gentleman went by the name of Louis Australia WHYTE ...

19 March, 2017

Paddling the Barwon - Part 2

In the first part of this post, I gave brief descriptions of the sections of the river which I have paddled up to this point in time.
On the Barwon, January, 2013

Below is a table giving details of the various points along the river from which it is possible to launch small water craft such as kayaks and the type of access involved. I have also included links to a photo of each location.

Access Points
Approximate GPS Co-ordinates
Distance to next access
Bell’s Bridge, Inverleigh-Winchelsea Rd, Inverleigh

S38 º 6.792’
E144 º 3.787’


Access from the north bank via dirt track about 200m downstream of Bell’s Bridge
Hamilton Hwy, Murgheboluc

S38 º 6.654’
E144 º 8.459’

Steep bank access. Entry via 400m grassed laneway to the north bank behind “please shut the gate” sign opposite Murgheboluc Public Reserve, Hamilton Hwy, Murgheboluc
Pollocksford Rd, Gnarwarre

S38 º 8.627’
E144 º 11.206’

Access from the east bank via a rutted track to a small weir about 150m north of the bridge
Dear’s Lane, Stonehaven

S38 º 8.427’
E144 º 14.713’

Steep bank access via dirt track from the end of Dear’s Lane, Stonehaven
Merrawarp Rd, Barrabool (Ceres)

S38 º 8.496’
E144 º 15.750’

Steep access to the south bank adjacent to the west side of the bridge via rough access track (approx. 200m)
Track off Gully Rd, Ceres

S38 º 8.749’
E144 º 16.081’

Access via shallow bank. Entry via 550m gravel track from Gully Rd, however permission is required
Cnr Cyril Synot Dve and Degoldi’s Rd, Fyansford.

S38 º 8.946’
E144 º 17.995’

Access via 200m gravel track to parking area. River entry from concrete-paved slipway or timber deck
Moorabool River west bank, Fyansford Common, Fyansford

S38 º 8.672’
E144 º 18.691’

Access to the Moorabool about 450m upstream from the confluence with the Barwon via a paved slipway. Portage of around 150m required from nearest parking
Fyans Park boat ramp, Cnr Gairloch and West Fyans St

S38 º 9.389’
E144 º 19.280’

Concrete ramp access adjacent to parking
Marnockvale Rd, Newtown

S38 º 9.893’
E144 º 19.970’

Access via timber deck adjacent to the Geelong Canoe Club facilities
South Geelong

S38 º 9.930’
E144 º 21.261’

Access either from the deck at the rowing sheds (north bank) or ramp access from opposite bank (access via Barrabool Rd)
Gun Dog Lane, Breakwater

S38 º 10.906’
E144 º 21.861’

Upstream access from timber deck adjacent to road bridge (west bank). Downstream access from the west bank below the bridge
Wilson’s Rd, St Alban’s Park

S38 º 12.076’
E144 º 23.140’

Access from the bank adjacent to the Geelong Water Ski Club at the end of Wilson’s Rd
Lake Connewarre

S38 º 14.217’
E144 º 25.776’

S38 º 12.927’
E144 º 28.922’


(5.2km from Tait’s Point)
Access via concrete-paved boat ramp or pontoon, end of Stacey’s Rd

Shallow bank access via steep track from the end of Brinsmead’s Lane
Barwon Heads

S38 º 15.922’
E144 º 29.795’

S38 º 15.774’
E144 º 30.475’

S38 º 16.884’
E144 º 29.682’

Access via boat ramp, River Parade on the west bank

 Boat ramp access from carpark

Beach access from either side of the river at Barwon Heads/Ocean Grove

Of course, there are other locations from which it is possible to launch small craft, however they either do not have close enough vehicle access, are on private property or there is another suitable access point with better facilities nearby. For example, it is possible to launch from the decks near the bridge at Queen's Park, but the boat ramp at Fyans Park is within 1km of the bridge and provides easier access to the river.
River access points plotted o Google Earth. Click to enlarge

The first part of this post can be found at Paddling the Barwon - Part 1Happy paddling everyone!