31 December, 2017

Thomas and Ellen

The starting point in researching my previous post about 'Ingleby' was Thomas Armytage, the eldest son of George Armytage and Elizabeth Peters of Bagdad, Tasmania. Thomas was born at Hobart on 17th January, 1820 and baptised just over two months later on 20th March (Register of Baptisms in Tasmania). 
Baptismal record of Thomas Armytage taken from the Register of Baptisms in
Tasmania
online
He spent his early years in Tasmania - or Van Diemen's Land as it was then known - but in May, 1836 he and his father were amongst the earliest settlers to land at Point Gellibrand (Williamstown) with sheep, intending to establish a squatting run in the Port Phillip District. Following the abandonment of an earlier settlement at Mt Cottrell the Armytage sheep were moved to the banks of the Barwon where they were put in the care of John Charles Darke who held land in the Barrabool Hills. As mentioned in my previous post, when the explorers Joseph Tice Gellibrand and George Hesse went missing somewhere along the upper reaches of the Barwon early in 1837, Thomas Armytage was one of a number of settlers to mount a search party to look for the men. It was during the course of their search that Thomas first saw the land - not far from the present day town of Winchelsea - which he would occupy as a squatting run on his father's behalf.
By 1838, Thomas was advertising for shepherds willing to travel to Port Phillip to tend his flock on the newly established run, giving his address as Bagdad (The Austral-Asiatic Review. Tasmanian and Australian Advertiser, 16th July, 1838). Two years later in mid-1840 Thomas was advertising once again, this time seeking general staff to work on his grazing run (The Hobart Town Courier and Van Diemen's Land Gazette, 10th April, 1840) and in July he was granted an official licence by the government to depasture his stock (Port Phillip Gazette, 29th July, 1840).
During this time as he established his base, Thomas travelled between the station and his father's property at Bagdad. It was presumably during one such visit that he made the acquaintance of a widow by the name of Ellen Richardson. Ellen was an English immigrant who had arrived in the colony on the 9th March, 1841 aboard the ship Laura. It was later stated that her late husband was a businessman who had died, leaving her impoverished and with no option but to take a post as a governess and it was in this role that she accompanied the merchant George Borrodaile and his family to Van Diemen's Land. (Note: whilst I have seen no suggestion of a relationship to the Borrodaile family, I did discover that this family were related to Richardsons through a maternal line.)
Soon after her arrival, Ellen was employed by George Armytage at Bagdad as governess to his younger children and it was during this time she met Thomas (Colonial Times, 19th June, 1844). By all accounts, Ellen was an attractive woman - a point which was mentioned many times in the media - and despite an age disparity of perhaps 10 years or more - Thomas being around 20 and she possibly in her 30s - the couple undertook a secret affair. It was later revealed that a number of "letters" passed between the pair, arranging assignations in the garden or for Thomas to slip up to Ellen's room ("mind the stairs do not creek"(sic)) whilst the rest of his family were still in bed.
Whilst it later transpired that some servants were aware of the liaison, it is not clear whether Thomas approached his father or the other way around, but he soon made it clear to his parents that he wanted to marry Ellen. Unsurprisingly perhaps, George Sr did not view the match favourably. Ellen was significantly older than his son and a widow of limited means; not an appropriate match for the son of a man who no doubt saw himself as a gentleman of note (his own convict ancestry notwithstanding). Eventually however, he agreed to the match, with several conditions.
George Armytage Sr. Image held by the University of
Melbourne Archives
Firstly, Thomas would to return to Port Phillip as planned and if upon his return to Van Diemen's Land, they still wished to marry, then they could do so. Even this stipulation however was conditional upon "satisfactory answers [being] returned to some letters which Mrs. Richardson had sent home to England" (Colonial Times, 19th June, 1844). Presumably the letters would confirm her widowed status and good character.
Lastly, George Sr stipulated that Thomas and Ellen were not to correspond whilst Thomas was away. This last condition, the couple ignored. And so after staying several months, Thomas returned to Port Phillip to tend his flocks. In the meantime, Ellen who had decided even prior to Thomas' arrival to leave George Sr's employment, branched out on her own and established a boarding school for young ladies.
Despite leaving his service, George Sr was impressed enough by Ellen's teaching skills, that he assisted her by providing a house from which she operated her school, known as 'Eleanora Cottage'. The syllabus included English and French, music, dancing, geography, history, writing, arithmetic, the use of globes and instruction in both plain and fancy needlework. Drawing, singing and Italian could be taken as extracurricular subjects. The cost per student was £50 per annum including washing (Colonial Times, 16th November, 1841).
At first, all was well and the school flourished. With George Sr's patronage and his glowing endorsements that she was "very clever, and fit to teach the Queen's children in the palace (The Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser, 21st April, 1846) a number of notable citizens sent their children to be educated.
Meanwhile at Port Phillip, Thomas continued to establish his property which included around 3,000 acres adjoined by a sheep run. His home station consisted of a fenced 5 acre garden with a further 50 acres under cultivation and his stock included 10,000 sheep, 100 cattle and 10 horses as well as working bullocks (Colonial Times, 22nd November, 1842).
Life however, was far from easy as Thomas had to battle not only the elements and the isolation, but also disease and by June, 1842 he was struggling to control an outbreak of "scab" in his flock.
Scab in sheep flocks was the scourge of the Australian wool industry during the 19th century. It occurs when the animals become infested with the sheep scab mite which feeds on dead skin cells, causing intense irritation of the skin - dermatitis - which results in loss of fleece and the appearance of yellow scabs on the skin. It can cause death if left untreated. Strict control measures were introduced to stop the spread of scab and infected animals were treated by dipping in a sulphur and lime solution or some other compound which killed the mites. A second dipping was then required to kill any eggs which subsequently hatched.
Whilst not on the Barwon, this sheep wash on the Goulburn River gives an idea
of what was involved (1857). Image held by the National Library of Australia
Other control methods involved restricting the movement of animals between properties and on 11th July, 1842 Thomas posted a notice in the Geelong Advertiser warning others against driving scab-infested sheep across his property.
Sadly, it may have been this attempt to rid his flock of disease which resulted in Thomas' untimely death at the age of only 22 on 12th September, 1842 from what was described as 'typhus fever'. His final illness was indicated as being about ten days duration and later newspaper reports indicate that Thomas "died from going into water from sheep-washing after taking Calomel" (Cornwall Chronical, 29th June, 1844). Thomas was buried at the Eastern Cemetery in Geelong on the following day, the first burial in the austere Armytage-Hopkins family mausoleum. Later events reveal that upon receiving the news of Thomas' death, Ellen accompanied the family to church the following Sunday to mourn their loss (The Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser, 21st April, 1846).
The Armytage-Hopkins mausoleum at the Eastern Cemetery, Geelong,
November, 2017
Following his son's death, George Sr travelled to the property which, under the name of 'Glenmore' (the name 'Ingleby' is not mentioned prior to 1848), was advertised for sale or lease in the Colonial Times on 22nd November, 1842. Despite this, history shows that the property remained in the Armytage family with Thomas' younger brother George Jr taking up the reins.
One consequence of Thomas' death was a flurry of correspondence between various parties in Van Diemen's Land and the Port Phillip District. Firstly, in the course of winding up his son's affairs, George Sr wrote to his overseer Edward Stockdale requesting that he forward Thomas' correspondence to him at Bagdad. Before Stockdale could do this however, he received a letter from George Jr instructing him to forward only those letters which were of a business nature, keeping aside personal correspondence which "might hurt his [George Jr's] father's mind" and specifically that from Ellen (Geelong Advertiser, 9th April, 1845). This Stockdale did and after reading portions of Ellen's letters, he put them in a box.
 Ellen, meantime was well aware that the letters she had written to Thomas may fall into the hands of her hitherto generous benefactor and former employer George Armytage Sr with whom she had had a falling out over upkeep of the cottage in which she ran her school (The Colonial Times, 19th June, 1844). Concerned no doubt for her reputation and that of her school, Ellen wrote a number of letters; one to Mr Harrison (presumably James Harrison, editor of the Geelong Advertiser), another to a Mr Lloyd, a third to Edward Stockdale and a fourth to Solomon Austin, whom she knew from her voyage to Australia.
She requested that Stockdale collect a letter from the Geelong Post Office which she had mailed on the very day news of Thomas' death arrived, however Stockdale discovered upon enquiry that Lloyd had already collected the letter. She also asked that Solomon write to his brother Josiah at Port Phillip where the Austins were neighbours of the Armytages and request that Josiah retrieve any correspondence Ellen had sent to Thomas from his personal effects.
And this presumably should have been an end to it, however whilst Stockdale passed most of the letters on to the servant of Josiah Austin, he held several back, placing them in a wooden box. Then, some 17 months after Thomas' death, whilst George Jr was in Port Phillip, Stockdale rediscovered the remaining letters whilst searching through boxes and handed them to George who in turn handed them, unread by him, to his parents (The Austral-Asiatic Review. Tasmanian and Australian Advertiser, 29th June, 1844). It was claimed by Stockdale that he retained the letters for his own amusement because he considered them "curious".
Reading between the lines however, the "missing" letters were just the beginning of Ellen's problems. By October, 1843 it seems that rumours were circulating about her character, many of them it was later alleged, traceable to George Armytage Sr. With the arrival of the letters carried by George Jr in February, 1844, his father perhaps felt justified in the claims he was making and spoke to a number of the parents whose children attended Ellen's school, which by this time she had moved to the town of Brighton. As a result of so much rumour swirling around the small community, unsurprisingly, Ellen's student numbers began to decline rapidly. George removed his own children during 1843 and by May 1844 the last of the students departed and what had been a thriving school closed finally in September, 1844 (The Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser, 21st April, 1846).
By this time however, Ellen had been pushed too far and felt the time had come to take measures to obtain compensation for her loss of income. To that end, she took George Armytage Sr to court, suing him on eight different counts. Amongst the statements attributed to Armytage were comments such as [he] "could tell [witness] something about Mrs. Richardson...which would make her cap rise from her head", that Ellen was a "vile woman", that he had in his possession letters written by Ellen which "would be a disgrace to any woman upon earth" and that "the commonest prostitute would never have written such letters". He was also alleged to have shown the letters to a school parent saying "I hope that (meaning the letter) will convince you of the character of the woman" whom he claimed was "diabolical".
Most damaging perhaps to Ellen's reputation was the allegation attributed to George's wife Elizabeth, that "we lost our son through her". During a conversation it was indicated that Thomas died "from going into water in sheep-washing after taking Calomel". "Yes" replied Mrs Armytage "but it was she caused him to take the medicine" (Cornwall Chronicle, 29th June, 1844). What is perhaps not clear now, but was common knowledge in the 19th century was that "Calomel" was a mercury-based compound used to treat syphilis.
Elizabeth Armytage, mother of Thomas and wife
of George Sr. Image held by the University of
Melbourne Archives
As mentioned earlier however, newspaper reports at the time of his death indicate that Thomas died of Typhus, a bacterial infection spread by the bite of some species of ticks, fleas, mites and lice, some of which may perhaps have been present on the sheep he was dipping/washing in the Barwon to treat the scab mite in his flock. Also unheard of now and perhaps not so well-known then is that Calomel was used in some cases to treat Typhus. Is it perhaps possible then that Thomas either contracted the typhus whilst dipping sheep, took Calomel and continued working, or (perhaps more likely) developed symptoms whilst working the sheep then went to Geelong where he was treated with Calomel for his typhus? I guess we'll never know, but after an illness of around ten days duration Thomas died at Geelong.
A bottle of Calomel
Finally on 17th June, 1844, over a year and a half after Thomas' death, the Court hearing got underway. It ran for three days, with multiple witnesses called for both sides and involved much convoluted legal argument, contradictory witness statements and much impassioned speech. In the lead up to the case however, things had turned nasty. On 5th June, notice of Ellen's death late the previous month, appeared in the Launceston Advertiser. It was of course false. At the same time, threatening letters were sent to some of the witnesses due to give evidence. The case attracted huge public interest and newspapers around the country were of course, keen to provide every sordid detail. It was the civil case of its time.
From their numerous accounts of proceedings it appears that Ellen's legal council - Mr Macdowell - gave a performance worthy of the best modern barristers, questioning motives, casting doubt upon defence testimony, inveigling information from witnesses and defending his client's reputation. It was suggested that Solomon Austin had been intimate with Mrs Richardson during the voyage from England, he later making offers of marriage which it was alleged Thomas had dismissed with a sneer saying that "he [Solomon] could not succeed while such a man as himself was in the way" (Cornwall Chronicle, 29th June, 1844).
Ultimately it was found that the infamous "creeking" letter (alluded to above) was not written by Ellen, but was rather a forgery perpetrated by George Armytage Jr. The jury found for the plaintiff (Ellen) on six of the eight counts and awarded her £1,250 damages. Armytage was ordered to pay costs.
Undeterred however, Armytage moved for a mistrial and a second hearing was set down for 19th March, 1845. Further evidence in the form of more letters (possibly those retained by Stockdale for "his own amusement") was presented and under cross-questioning by Macdowell, George Armytage Jr broke down on the witness stand and had to be taken from the court. Once again, the jury found in favour of the plaintiff, however damages were reduced to the much smaller total of £300 and it was found that the letter in question was not a forgery but was written by the plaintiff herself. By August, the matter remained unresolved and this time it was Ellen's council who moved for a third trial on the basis that the verdict was defective on several points. It was also alleged during the course of the trial that one of the jurors had expressed biased views prior to the case commencing (The Tasmanian and Austral-Asiatic Review, 22nd May, 1845).
The third hearing finally concluded on 20th March, 1846 with two counts found in favour of the defendant but a further three in favour of the plaintiff with Armytage required to pay damages of £500 and there, finally, the matter rested (The Observer, 24th March, 1846).
It would be tempting at this point to imagine that Ellen Richardson was able to salvage her reputation and her career, settling down to a life without further controversy, however this was far from reality. Whilst she did once again establish a seminary for young ladies in Hobart Town, in 1848 she was once again in the papers when she and an auctioneer by the name of John Charles Stracey (with whom she had stayed during her previous court appearances) absconded to Sydney under false names. Posing as man and wife they boarded a ship for London. They were apprehended at the last minute and Stracey was charged with attempting to abscond with £6,000 - the proceeds of sales. Ellen was also arrested and in true form, once released had the arresting officer charged with false imprisonment (The Britannia and Trades' Advocate, 16th March, 1848).
Whilst her companion was deported back to Hobart to face charges (and his deserted wife), Ellen appears to have remained in Sydney where she continued to pursue various legal matters before - as far a I can tell - disappearing from the record by 1849. Whilst there was no happy ending to this tale, it is tempting to wonder what might have ensued had Thomas lived to old age.

29 November, 2017

'Ingleby'

George Armytage was born in 1895 at Ticknall in Derbyshire, England and migrated to Sydney in 1815 before moving to Tasmania the following year where he established a farm at Bagdad about 30km north of Hobart. George continued to increase the size of his property and also worked as a blacksmith. His community standing was such that he held minor government posts such as pound keeper and district constable, expanding his business interests with the purchase of a hotel.By 1835 when John Batman landed at Port Phillip and signed his historic "treaty" with elders of the Wurundjeri Tribe, George was looking to expand his land holdings. According to his own later recounting of events, in the first week of May, 1836 he sailed aboard the brig Henry to Point Gellibrand (Williamstown) in the newly settled Port Phillip district where he landed a small flock of sheep. Upon  his arrival, he established a partnership with Charles Franks (Bride, 1898, Letters from Victorian pioneers: being a series of papers on the early occupation of the colony, the Aborigines, etc.) who it seems arrived soon after. Whilst the newspapers do not record the passage of Armytage, they do show that the Henry departed for Port Phillip on 27th April with 700 sheep (30th April, 1836, Bent's News and Tasmanian Three-Penny Register) and again on 11th of May (12th May, 1836, The Sydney Herald). The papers also show that Franks sailed from Launceston aboard the Champion on 16th May (The Cornwall Chronicle, 21st May, 1836), with a flock of his own sheep and his overseer George Smith.
An early view of Point Gellibrand from Brighton Beach showing shipping
in Hobson's Bay, by Charles Norton. Image held by the State Library
of Victoria
Whilst Armytage returned to Hobart, Franks along with Smith and Armytage's shepherd (probably named Flinders), travelled overland with the stock to establish a sheep run at Mt Cottrell on the Werribee River. By 2nd July they had reached the intended site of settlement and began erecting yards to hold the stock. Within days, Smith returned to Point Gellibrand to collect extra supplies. Upon arriving back at the run on 8th July however, he found an upturned cask of flour, no campfire and no sign of Franks or Flinders. Unwilling to remain, he rode for help, informing other settlers in the region of his fears (Rogers, Thomas, 2016, Victorian Historical Journal, Vol 87, pp117-133).The following day, a party of 23 men including Thomas Armytage, the 16 year old son of George and other recognisable names such as Gellibrand, Wedge, Thomson and Batman arrived at the campsite to begin a search (Convincing Ground: Learning to Fall in Love with Your Country, Bruce Pascoe, 2007). A letter from Thomas Armytage to his father confirmed the deaths and indicated that the men had been killed by blows to the back of the head, inflicted it was thought by tomahawks. He also  stated that he and a Mr Malcolm had found the bodies of the missing men  (The True Colonist Van Diemen's Land Political Despatch and Agricultural and Commercial Advertiser, 22nd July, 1836). These accounts are somewhat at odds with George Armytage's own description in which he indicated that his son Thomas upon arriving to help build the yards on the day the killings occurred, was the sole discoverer of the bodies (Bride, 1898, Letters from Victorian pioneers: being a series of papers on the early occupation of the colony, the Aborigines, etc.). News of the deaths reached Hobart within days. On 21st July, the Launceston Advertiser reported that confirmation of the deaths of Franks and Flinders had come with the arrival of the Adelaide that same day, following earlier reports they were missing. While they decided what to do, the Armytage flock was combined with those of Judge Pedder and Mr Darke. Sir John Lewes Pedder was the first Chief Justice of Van Diemen's Land (1824-1836) who oversaw the establishment of an independent Supreme Court in that colony. In addition to his official role, Pedder also joined the speculators investing in Port Phillip where he held the lease to a 15,000 acre squatting run in the Western Port District (Australian Dictionary of Biography). Mr Darke was John Charles Darke, an English settler in Van Diemen's Land, an explorer and surveyor who, upon failing to find secure a permanent position with the survey department, moved to the Port Phillip District where his uncle (John Helder Wedge) was surveying land for the Port Phillip Association.
Upon his arrival, Darke took up land along the Barwon River in the Barrabool Hills, however he did not remain long in the district and by 1838 had moved on to South Australia. During his brief occupation of land along the Barwon, rather than run his own stock, he grazed the flocks of a number of Tasmanian speculators as they, like the Armytages, searched for land on which to establish their own runs (Australian Dictionary of Biography).
View of the Barrabool Hills from Fyansford Hill, May, 2016. Looking towards
the land probably occupied by John Darke
The next significant event in the eventual establishment of the Ingleby run was the disappearance of the explorers Joseph Tice Gellibrand and George Hesse whose deaths and final whereabouts have been the topic of much discussion over the decades since their disappearance and which I will look at in a future post. Suffice to say, that by the end of March, 1837, grave fears were held for their safety. Several search parties were mounted in an attempt to find them, one of which was a group of five which included John Cowie, David Stead, Captain Pollock, Mr Roadknight and Thomas Armytage. It had been the intention of Gellibrand and Hesse to follow the Barwon to its confluence with the Leigh and then follow that river upstream to a station belonging to Captain Swanston, however it appears their guide - a man by the name of Aiker - missed the crossing point and in doing so, led the party further up the Barwon. Realising his mistake, Aiker informed the others of his suspicions, but they refused to heed his advice to turn back. Aiker left them and returned to Pollock's station. Gellibrand and Hesse were never seen again.The search party, including Thomas Armytage, traced the course of the river to the point where Aiker had left the two men and followed their tracks for a further few miles before all trace was lost. In doing so, Armytage formed a favourable impression of the land through which they were passing and upon his return it was decided that a run should be established near the spot which the group camped on the first night of their search. It was this sequence of events which led to the establishment of the run which the Armytages named 'Ingleby'. Unlike some of the early speculators in the district, the Armytage family were successful in their squatting endeavours and by 1849 their run was estimated to extend to some 26,840 acres on which the Armytages grazed 100 head of cattle and 10,000 sheep (The Argus, 19th January, 1849). Life for the settlers however could be difficult. In June 1842, Thomas was battling an infestation of the parasite responsible for sheep scab in his flock (Geelong Advertiser, 11th July, 1842). Ten weeks later, he was dead (see my next post). His next eldest brother - George - took over the management of 'Ingleby' and for the time being, their father remained in Van Diemen's Land, making trips back and forth at intervals to visit his son and his land holdings at Port Phillip. At 'Ingleby', George faced his own battles. In early November, 1845 it was reported that gale force winds destroyed huts and part of the woolshed (Geelong Advertiser and Squatters' Advocate, 8th November, 1845). Despite such setbacks however, in 1846, George sent 112 bales of wool to London (Port Phillip Patriot and Morning Advertiser, 17th February, 1846) and by 1847 according to the Victorian Heritage Database, things were going well enough that his father decided to relocate from Bagdad to 'Ingleby', although the Colonial Times of 18th May, 1849, shows George Senior, his wife Elizabeth and children Eliza, Sophia, Emma and Felix taking passage aboard the steamer Shamrock for Port Phillip, so perhaps the family were a little later in following.
The paddle steamer Shamrock, 1841. Image held by the National Library of
Australia

Newspaper records also indicate that George Senior and his family spent some years living in Barwon Tce, South Geelong, between about 1850 and 1853. It was at this address in August, 1850 the announcement of the marriage of his eldest daughter Eliza Ann to John Rout Hopkins was made. Hopkins held the lease for 'Wormbete', the run neighbouring 'Ingleby' on the Barwon (The Argus, 5th August, 1850). A shadow was cast over the family however, when only a few days after Eliza's marriage, her youngest sister Emma died at the age of ten. She was buried in the family grave at the Eastern Cemetery, Geelong with her older brother Thomas.
By 1859/60, George Senior had built an impressive new home on the site of a property he had purchase from former police magistrate Nicholas Alexander Fenwick. The building, which still stands in Pakington St, Newtown, he called 'The Hermitage' and probably warrants a post of its own.
At 'Ingleby' meanwhile, George Junior was also in a position to build a new residence, replacing an earlier stone house with a two-storey bluestone construction, designed by Geelong architect Edward Prowse.

 
Ingleby homestead, 1970. Image taken from the John T Collins Collection
Held by the State Library of Victoria
George Junior remained at 'Ingleby' and along with his father, began purchasing the land on which they squatted. The squatting license for the Ingleby run was cancelled on 29th October, 1861 (Spreadborough & Anderson, 1983, Victorian Squatters) and the following year, substantial land purchases were made in the names of father and son as well as other family members. In 1882-3 significant additions were made to the property in the form of a large woolshed and other outbuildings which were designed by the architect AT Moran (Victorian Heritage Database).
The break up of the Ingleby Estate began with the death of George Junior in London on 22nd January, 1892, leaving a large inheritance to be divided between his four sons. The section including the Ingleby homestead passed to his son Oscar Ferdinand Armytage who also held nearby 'Ripplevale' at Birregurra.
 Ingleby stables, 1970. Image taken from the John T Collins Collection
Held by the State Library of Victoria
Oscar remained in the district and in addition to running 'Ingleby', served long stints on the Winchelsea Shire Council, however in the five years leading up to 1911, he spent much of his time managing business interests in England. He also reduced the size of the estate with land sales occurring in 1910 and - more successfully - in 1911 when 'Ripple Vale' and parts of 'Ingleby' were sold at auction (The Horsham Times, 23rd May, 1911). In May that year, along with his family, Oscar made another extended trip to England, taking up residence at Sparkford in Somersetshire. 'Ingleby' was leased for three years to EH Lascelles (The Horsham Times, 9th May, 1911). By February, 1912 however Oscar had been struck down by a terminal illness which led to his death around five months later on 3rd July.
Following Oscar's death, the family remained in England for some time. Edward Oscar, the only son of Oscar and his wife Louisa, served with the Black Watch Regiment at Flanders during the First World War where he was seriously injured (The Colac Herald, 10th July, 1916). Following the war, Edward and his mother returned to 'Ingleby' at the beginning of 1920 (The Australasian, 24th July, 1920) however their tenure was short and on 19th April, 1923, The Argus reported having sold the property, consisting of the homestead, outbuildings and 4,150 acres of land fronting the Barwon River to Mr Phillip H. Lock of 'Airlie', Warrnambool. Less than a month later however, Lock had on-sold the property to W.O. Read of Colac (The Age, 17th May, 1923).
Google Earth with overlays showing the approximate area of the original
squatting run (white); land purchased from the crown by the Armytage
family (pink);  the current extent of 'Ingleby' and 'Ingleby Woolshed' (yellow).*
The line of the Barwon River is shown in blue.
Following the Second World War, like many of the other original squatters' properties in the district, 'Ingleby' was compulsorily acquired by the government and subdivided under the soldier settlement scheme, designed to provide employment for soldiers returning from the war. The block including the homestead was sold to Harold Fowler (descendant of Dan Fowler and previous owner of the Sunnyside Wool Scour at Breakwater). At this time, the woolshed and outbuildings, located on the opposite side of the Barwon, became part of a separate property.
The land including the Ingleby homestead on about 339 hectares (840 acres) then passed through the hands of a number of owners over the years. According to various real estate websites, it sold most recently in 1997 for a figure of a little over $1 million. By contrast, on the opposite side of the river, the woolshed and almost 80 hectares (196 acres) of land, now known as 'Ingleby Woolshed' sold as recently as 2014 for $1.8 million. The realestate.com.au website shows a number of photos of the buildings here.
Whilst the association of the Armytage family with 'Ingleby' may have ended, a number of family members can still be found to the present day.

*Measurements for the squatting run taken from Spreadborough & Anderson, 1983, Victorian Squatters; purchased land taken from Victorian Survey maps, current property boundaries from the land.vic.gov.au website

06 November, 2017

A Ramble Along the Barwon

In my previous post I looked at the Geelong identity who was William Stitt Jenkins. From 1853 to 1876, the Poet of the Pivot, the Bard of the Barwon or even the Water Poet as he was variously called wrote about anything which caught his attention; politics, religion, teetotalism - especially that. Another subject dear to his heart was water; access to it, the quality of it, the lack of it, the health benefits of it, the dangers of it, even the pleasure of living and walking by it.
The poem below was published in the Geelong Advertiser of 23rd October, 1861 and gives an interesting insight into Jenkins' life, his home, his opinions and his view of the Barwon River. On the latter, he was well positioned to comment. By March, 1861 Jenkins and his family were living in Noble Street on Newtown Hill, a location which commanded some of the best views in Geelong.
According to a retrospective published in the Geelong Advertiser (21st July, 1928), there were only three houses on the south side of Noble St between Shannon Ave (then known as the West Melbourne Rd) and the river when Jenkins lived there. One was the historic 'Chesterfield' (221 Noble Street today), next was Stitt Jenkins' house - a five roomed cottage on a one acre block - and the last was a bigger home closer to the river at the end of the street.
From his doorstep, Jenkins could see the Barwon Valley laid out below him and he would often sit on a large, flat rock which he had positioned in front of his house. On the rock - unsurprisingly - he had inscribed a line or two of verse which invited passersby to have a rest and enjoy the view. Taking inspiration from the scenery spread out before him, Jenkins would also sit there to write his many poems and letters. The poem below may well have been one.

A RAMBLE
A week of anxious care is o'er,
I reach again my cottage door,
And free am I to work or play
This afternoon of Saturday.
Say, shall I in the garden dig,
Or ride? Alas! I have no gig;
Nor horse, nor ass, nor yet a cow!
Quite poor enough, you must allow.

Yet, not so poor; I have a wife
To cheer and comfort me through life.
And children more than two or three.
The childless, rich may envy me.
And then behold my humble cot,
Perched on a sweet romantic spot,
With seat of wood and one of stone,
There rest ye by the rhymer's home.

Part of Euguene von Guerard's painting "View of Geelong" 1856, showing the
site  of Jenkins' cottage, yet to be built. I believe "Chesterfield" is to the right of
 the bright green field. Jenkins' cottage would have stood somewhere to its left.
Original painting held by the Geelong Art Gallery
Lo. There the faithful wall-flower blows;
The China moss and monthly rose,
The proud geranium, ivy old,
The lily and the marigold,
The honeysuckle, sweet is there,
The fragrant wattle scents the air,
And groves of green and azure sky
Together joint to charm the eye.

I see afar the glimmering sail
Of thy white mill, O, Riversdale,
And mill, and vale, and stream, and lake,
One bright harmonious picture make.
I hear the hum of busy bee,
The magpie chatters on the tree,
The eaglehawk is soaring high,
He wants my chickens, so do I.

Riversdale Flour Mill on the Barwon at Chilwell, 1866. Image taken by
John Norton, held by the State Library of Victoria
But leave the chickens and our home,
And come with me awhile to roam
Over the hills and far away,
To spend, in peace, our holiday.
Leave we awhile the cares of life,
Escape from envy's jealous strife,
Let wrangling men say what they will,
It harms me not on this green hill.

Free from the strife and dust of town,
By river side we wander down,
Then cross the bridge and soon, I wean,
Enter the "Garden of the Queen"--
A lovely spot where waters meet.
Sure Paradise was ne'er more sweet.
See flower-decked sod and glittering pool
Where Barwon joins with Moorabool.
Queen's Park, 1866, showing Queen's Park Bridge and looking towards the
confluence of the Barwon and Moorabool Rivers. Image held by the State
Library of Victoria
See Fyansford in beauty lies,
See hills on hills majestic rise,
And tow'ring clouds together throng
To crown thee verdant Buninyong,
Survey awhile the orphans' home!
Once more by river side we roam,
The gallant boats glide swiftly by,
And all around is peace and joy.

The Protestant Orphanage, Herne Hill c1873. Image taken by Thomas J.
Washbourne, held by the State Library of Victoria
Blow balmy breezes through the dell,
Still tinkle thou melodious bell,
Flutter ye insects 'mid the grass,
Aglow, O sun, o'er mountain pass.
Ye herds, your lowing cattle bring,
Ye rural maidens sweetly sing,
And dance ye children on the green,
And sight more glorious ne'er was seen.

But, lo, what doleful sights are these?
What Goth or Hun hath felled these trees,
And borne the timber clear away
On some unhappy bullock dray?
See, here a forest monarch stood!
What Vandal hand has fired the wood
What Lord Tom Noddy has been here
Some brainless dolt, to all is clear.
View across Queen's Park towards Newtown Hill, 1878, by Fred Kruger
showing the extent of deforestation. Image held by the National Gallery of
Victoria, a gift of  Mrs Beryl M Curl, 1979
But come away, and let it pass
(Meanwhile I'll write him down an ass)
And let us hide from mortal eye,
Where Buckley's falls leap foaming by.
Behold those most fantastic trees,
Where sighs the mournful evening breeze,
How drear those huge mis-shapen rocks,
Worn by the torrents ceaseless shocks.
A sketch made c1855 by artist Eugene von Guerard from Buckley Falls
again looking back towards Queen's Park and Newtown Hill. Image
held by the State Library of New South Wales
Which boils and bounds from shore to shore,
And rushes on for evermore.
What careth the wild mountain stream
for Lord or Bishop, King or Queen?
The black man came and passed away
Before the white man's conquering sway.
When both are to oblivion gone
The river shall go rolling on.

Why start you now, and trembling shake?
You say you fear some awful snake;
Ah, fear it not, but sit you down,
The snakes, dear friend, are gone to town.
There they in holes and corners lurk
To do their most unholy work,
And spit their venom, when they can,
On those who serve ungrateful man.

But see, the fast declining day
Warns us, my friend, to best away!
The pelicans go shrieking by,
And all things tell that night is nigh.
The dragon flies with ceaseless hum,
With merry crickets singing come.
And, see, along you ancient log,
To serenade us, comes the frog.
Moonrise over the Bunyip Pool and Buckley Falls, November 2012
The water-rat peeps from his hole,
And see the bat and miner mole;
And now from every rock and tree
Burst forth the night's wild melody.
The laughing jackass hoarsely brays--
"The man that has seen better days,"
The owl exclaims "too-whit--too-who,"
And says--poor sinners, off you go."

Alas, how dark and drear,--but, soon
Appears the ever glorious moon.
And gilds each hill and vale with light.
And reigns the radiant queen of night,
While in the vault of heaven on high
Bright hosts of stars now deck the sky.
Great Lord, who ruleth night and day,
From this green sod to Thee we pray.

We reach the bridge, we cross the stream,
Again the rhymer's home is seen:
There bathed in moonlight, see it stand,
An emblem of the happy land.
Our ramble o'er, within we jog,
The kettle singeth on the hob.
Rejoice with us o'er day well sped.
Good night--we now are off to bed.

WILLIAM STITT JENKINS
Geelong Advertiser, 23rd October, 1861

In addition to observing the industries and sights along the Barwon, Jenkins also makes mention of the Saturday half holiday which he had been instrumental in establishing in Geelong. In referencing snakes, he might well have been alluding to his - probably fairly numerous - detractors whom I suspect found his methods of campaigning on local issues somewhat tiresome.
Regardless of Jenkins' personal crusades and contentious public life, the Barwon was clearly a favourite location where he spent enough time to gain an understanding of not only his built surroundings but also of the flora and fauna, expressing his interest in the latter as well as his dismay at the extent of the deforestation which had occurred along the river within a mere 25 years since the arrival of European settlement.

26 October, 2017

The Poet of the Pivot

Towards the end of 2012 I posted about James Lister Cuthbertson, school master at Geelong Grammar, rowing coach and poet whose passion for the Barwon was often reflected in his verses. However, before the arrival of "Cuthy" in 1875, there was another poet who occasionally cast an eye towards the Barwon.
The gentleman in question was William Stitt Jenkins; a temperance advocate, staunch royalist and frequent contributor to the columns of the Geelong Advertiser, The Age, The Argus and The Ballarat Star. William - or W. Stitt Jenkins as he styled himself when writing to the Advertiser - was an English migrant, born at Whitehaven on 30th June, 1812, who had arrived in the country in or around 1853. Before his ship had even reached port, he had already put pen to paper, crafting a ditty titled "Penned off Cape Otway" which was published in the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer, 22nd March, 1854.
William Stitt Jenkins. Image from the National Trust
Whilst I cannot find his name on the usual shipping records, I can deduce that his wife (Elizabeth neƩ Goforth) and at least three daughters - Evangeline, Victoria and Isabella - as well as a son Llewellyn must also have come to Australia. Sadly, their 15 year old daughter Evangeline died two days after Christmas in 1853 and was the first of a number of burials in what became the family plot at the Eastern Cemetery. A fourth daughter - Mary Jane - was born to the couple in 1854, however her death was also registered the following year.
Jenkins worked as a storeman  at Dalgety's in Geelong following his arrival and was quick to become involved in the public affairs of his adopted town. It was he who it is claimed first referred to Geelong as a "commercial pivot" (Geelong Advertiser, 23rd May, 1922) and thus was born the 'Pivotonians' moniker which has stuck to the present day. The name I now suspect, came from a store which Jenkins owned for a brief time in 1854 soon after his arrival in Australia and possibly between stints at Dalgety's (Geelong Advertiser, 4th December, 1854). The store was called The Commercial Pivot Hay and Corn Store and was located on Keera St near the Crown Hotel in Ashby (Geelong Advertiser, 3rd October, 1845). The Crown was situated on the corner of Keera St and La Trobe Tce (now The Esplanade) on what is today the Hertz car rental site. Predictably, Jenkins advertised his wares in verse. The venture was short-lived however and by December 1854 the business had closed.
As a devout Christian and strong advocate for the Temperance Movement (he went so far as to write to Queen Victoria, asking her to take the temperance pledge!), Jenkins' efforts were central to the acquisition of land for the Temperance Hall, built in 1858-9 on the corner of Little Malop St and Aitchison Place, the site now occupied by the Geelong Performing Arts Centre.
Portion of a 1927 photograph by Charles Daniel Pratt showing the old
Temperance Hall in the centre. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
Of particular interest to Jenkins were the youth of Geelong and in predictably vociferous fashion, he was instrumental in obtaining the use of a meeting hall and establishing a local branch of the Band of Hope - a Christian charity group first established in the United Kingdom which was devoted to educating children and young people about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
In the name of public entertainment and the betterment of the working classes, Jenkins also advocated for the establishment of a local version of the Penny Reading Movement which staged readings and performances at the indicated cost. In addition, he established the Recreative Society with the aim of providing evening concerts for the entertainment of the public (Geelong Advertiser, 16th June, 1859), no doubt with a view to turning their attention from the lure of Geelong's many public houses, however as with many of Jenkins' ventures the Society appears to have struggled for patronage.
By 1858, his credentials as - if not a poet, then at least a writer of verse - were well established, as was his propensity for commenting in the media on issues of local importance. On the 16th December, 1858 The Age referred condescendingly to "no less important a personage than the "celebrated" Geelong rhymer W. Stitt Jenkins", going on to describe his "admirable" - but in their opinion, no doubt misplaced - "zeal". In fact this seems to have been the attitude of many in the public arena - especially newspaper editors - towards Jenkins' frequent literary crusades which often attracted some rather strident criticism. On the 17th December, 1859, Jenkins was moved to write to the editor of the Geelong Advertiser, that "I shall not any more, Mr Editor, trouble myself to notice any further abuse with which I may be favored..."
Of particular interest to Jenkins - and indeed most of Geelong - as the 1850's drew to a close, was the issue of water. For years Geelong had struggled to secure a clean, reliable water supply in the face of a disinterested and obstructionist Melbourne government (for further details see this post).
Presumably wanting to bring attention to the issue, Jenkins wrote a poem which was published in the Geelong Advertiser of 4th April, 1859, bewailing the townspeople's plight and using such phrases as:
We oft used to visit your capital plan
Of mixing us water and mud in the dam.
The mud still remains, we are sorry to say,
But the water, your honors, has all gone away,
The dam in question was of course (Governor) La Trobe's Dam, now Johnstone Park. Mention was also made in the poem of Mr Gray whose water tank stood in the Market Square and was at the time, the main commercial water source for the town, pumped from a polluted Barwon River. In order to ameliorate the situation Jenkins began agitating for the installation of public drinking fountains for both man and beast, however his endeavours were met with the usual lukewarm response.
Johnstone Park, 1930. Site of the former La Trobe Dam, looking north east
across what is now Johnstone Park. Image by Charles Daniel Pratt 1930-
1940. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
On the 9th December, 1859 he wrote to The Age berating his fellow citizens for their failure to support a fundraiser he had organised in an attempt to raise money for the installation of the suggested fountains. In all, Jenkins claimed to have spent around £12 in staging the event which only raised around £6, leaving him to contemplate how to cover the rest of his costs and no closer to realising his ambition of providing water to the good citizens of Geelong.
By 1860 Jenkins had raised enough money to erect a number of fountains in central parts of Geelong. A drinking fountain/trough suitable for both man and beast was erected "on the south side of the railway bridge in Mercer-street" (Geelong Advertiser, 12th February, 1861) or in today's terms, somewhere near the corner of Mercer St and Railway Terrace, adjacent to Johnstone Park. The fountain contained a memorial to Captain Cook on one side and a poem and advertisement for the Geelong Total Abstinence Society on the other. It's life at that location however, was short-lived. Much to the disgust of Jenkins, it was torn down and unceremoniously dumped in the nearby railway reserve in 1867 by what he referred to as a "semi-military horde" (Geelong Advertiser, 18th October, 1867). The horde in question was probably the local division of the Victorian Volunteer Rifle Corps, although why they would have had cause to dismantle the fountain is unclear.
According to the Victorian Heritage Database the above fountain (which it claims was for animals only) was re-erected at the Market Square in 1879, however various contemporary articles from the Geelong Advertiser show that more than one fountain was erected by Jenkins. The Argus (27th March, 1860) noted that "One or two small fountains for persons to drink at have latterly been erected in different parts of the town, and there is a rather superior one of Barrabool stone, just about being finished in the Market Square."
An 1890s photo showing the fountain situated at the roadside on Moorabool St
with the gardens and the Exhibition Building occupying the Market Square
 site behind. Image taken from a brochure titled "Do You Remember?"
published by Solomons Pty. Ltd. in 1944, held at the State Library of Victoria

The same day, the Geelong Advertiser noted the fountain in the Market Square had been officially turned on the previous day and on 28th March it provided the following physical description:
It is built of Barrabool stone, in pretty large blocks, and consists of one basin, and two small ones for cattle and other animals which basins are supplied through a lion’s mouth, while for those who experience human thirst there is a bubbling fountain running over an artificial rock. At present in the absence of drinking cups, the water which is tolerably clear, is either imbibed as it wells up, or is diverted into the eye of the passer by, by small boys who have evidently practised that kind of sport at the pump spout.”
In typical fashion however, the fountain was controversial from day one. Inscribed on the back by a person unknown to either newspaper was the inscription "whosoever drinketh of the water which I give unto you shall never thirst." The Argus was keen to point out that "the Barwon water is not by any means proverbial for promoting longevity, nor for quenching thirst, and a much less impious invitation would have suited the purpose better" whilst the Advertiser felt that "from the motto to the inevitable literal application is just the one step from the sublime to the ridiculous".
1934 photo of the fountain erected by William Stitt Jenkins on Moorabool St
near the Market Square. Image held by the State Library of Victoria
Nor was this the only problem. Within two months of its opening, the Market Square fountain had been vandalised and days later, "Mr Jenkins's dog-troughs" were "completely destroyed" (Geelong Advertiser, 1st June, 1860). I can't help but suspect the vandalism was at least in part, the response of some in the community unhappy with Jenkins' particular form of zealotry, none-the-less, the fountain at the Market-square survived, unlike its counterpart in Mercer St.
By 1875 the fountain was dry and in need of repair and in 1878 a petition before the Geelong Town Council asked that "the fountain in Moorabool-street be repaired, and that the name of the late Mr W. Stitt Jenkins who had died a month earlier, be inscribed on the base of the fountain as a mark of their respect (Geelong Advertiser 1st October, 1878).
By 1910 moves were afoot to change the Market Square frontage on Moorabool Street after a deal was done between the Geelong City Council and Mr Julius Solomon who built new premises for his Solomons Department Store which opened on the site in 1913. At the time, there was concern that the Stitt Jenkins fountain should be "redressed and moved to a conspicuous location" (Geelong Advertiser, 5th October, 1910). Two years later on the centenary of Jenkins' birth his son-in-law Rudolph Johan Frederick Steel, wrote to the Geelong Advertiser reminding the community of the contributions Jenkins had made to the town including the implementation of a Saturday half-holiday, the establishment of Queen's Park as a public reserve, the building of the Queen's and Prince Albert Bridges (today's Queen's Park and Prince's Bridges respectively), the purchase of land for the Temperance Hall and the establishment of the Free Library in what was originally the Geelong Chamber of Commerce building on Moorabool St (Geelong Advertiser, 4th July, 1912). Like others, Steel was concerned that some would see the fountain scrapped and instead felt it should be "renovated a little and placed in one of our parks in a prominent position..."
On 28th July, 1912 the fountain was dismantled and put into storage at the City Hall depot (Geelong Advertiser, 28th December, 1912), its fate presumably still uncertain. By December, 1914 however, it had found a new home in Johnstone Park, about 100m from the fountain erected on Mercer St.
More recent photograph of the Stitt Jenkins fountain, in Johnstone Park.
Today, the  sandstone has deteriorated even further. Image taken from the
Victorian Heritage Database
And this is where the sadly deteriorated remains of the fountain can still be found today. At the current time however, the site is inaccessible due to works being undertaken to upgrade the park.
Also high on Jenkins' list of priorities was the establishment of the Geelong Free Library and to this end, he was instrumental in securing a site from which it could operate. First however, the usual public debate ensued as to the the location, the type of building (pre-existing or purpose-built), the cost, the type of library most suited, indeed, the need for a library at all. One punter even suggested a competition, with the winning design to be approved by a committee. The matter was finally settled in 1875 when the purchase of the former Chamber of Commerce building on the east side of Moorabool St was eventually negotiated.
The Geelong Free Library after 1875. Photograph by John Henry Harvey.
Image held by the State Library of Victoria
By 1876 however, only a few short years after Geelong was eventually connected to a reliable water supply, Jenkins had had enough. In poor health and disheartened at the lack of support for his many causes, Jenkins and his wife left Geelong for Melbourne. In his own words, he left Geelong "quietly, sadly, and alone, heart-broken at the miserable apathy of most of its inhabitants", however he was not entirely bereft of sympathy and support as a bank draft to the value of £50 was forwarded to him by the mayor; a token of esteem from a number of his remaining supporters in the town (Geelong Advertiser, 17th June, 1876).
As he attempted to establish a new life in Melbourne, he took a position as a clerk in the Lands Department, however his health does not appear to have improved and on 1st August, 1878 William died. He was buried two days later in the family plot at the Eastern Cemetery in Geelong. Later that year, the Lands Department granted a gratuity of £12 - equivalent to one month's salary - to his widow Elizabeth (Votes & Proceedings of the Legislative Assembly, 1878).
The Stitt Jenkins' family grave at the Eastern Cemetery, Old
Church of England Section, Grave 536, October, 2017
A marble plaque placed on the headstone at the time of William's death reads:

"Let him alone, let no man move his bones"

A REQUEST
When I am gone. When I am gone,
Then bear me to the lonely spot
Where birds with lullaby of Song
Shall warble fond Forget me not.

When I am gone. When I am gone,
Let no vain sculptures mock the dead;
But one umbrageous tree arise
To wave its branches o'er my head

When I am gone. When I am gone,
Let none approach in garb of woe, 
Who cared not for the living man;
What care they for the dead below.

When I am gone. When I am gone, 
Too late will tears bedew the sod;
Give me to earth and go your way,
And leave me to myself and God.

One last poem; a parting shot at his detractors from the Poet of the Pivot.
Yet even in death, Jenkins managed to cause a stir in the media. The content of his will was widely circulated in newspapers across the country when it emerged that it had - of course - been written in verse. And then, in a final twist - through no fault of his own - Jenkins' character was once again called into question in 1912 when media comment on plans to move his fountain from the Market Square went awry after a supporter, quoting the verse on Jenkins' grave inadvertently substituted the word "scriptures" for "sculptures". A local reader styling himself "Churchman" was quick to inform the Geelong Advertiser (29th June, 1912) that he felt the phrase "vain scriptures" was an insult to the good Christians of Geelong. This in turn led to a hue and cry from Jenkins' supporters, explaining the mis-transcription, at which point "Churchman" quickly withdrew his assertion that the best place for the fountain was on the scrap heap!
Elizabeth survived her husband by a further 15 years. She died in Melbourne in 1893 and was buried with William and many of their descendants in the family plot.
I will look a little more at Jenkins' poetry in my next post but will finish this one with an assessment of Jenkins published in the Geelong Advertiser on 10th May, 1920, almost 42 years after his death:
He composed a few really good poems, but he made the mistake of writing too much on trivial themes, and thus exposed himself to jibes of Melbourne jokers about "Sleepy Hollow" and its poet laureate. As to the suggestion that his poems should now be collected into a volume, I am afraid it comes too late, for a new generation of Geelongites has arisen that knows nothing about him, and is not interested in his work or personality. But although perhaps of not much value in the main as poetry, such a book would be of some historical interest, as Jenkins commemorated in verse almost every outstanding event in the annals of Geelong.

19 October, 2017

'Lawrence Park'

The Learmonth family of squatting fame first arrived in Australia in the 1830s when Thomas Learmonth Senior established himself as a merchant in Hobart Town. In April, 1837 his sons Thomas and Somerville were amongst the first squatters to take up land in the newly-established Port Phillip District of New South Wales. As members of the Port Phillip Association (later the Derwent Company), they occupied land along the Barwon River up to its confluence with the Leigh River, beating out their competition in the form of the Clyde Company under the management of George Russell.
With their preferred land on the Barwon unavailable, the Clyde Company instead set up operations along the Moorabool River, north from Fyansford and west across to the Leigh River at Shelford. However, the Port Phillip Association once again got the jump on the Clyde Company when the first land sales were held for the parish of Gherineghap in February, 1839.
The Association disregarded the gentleman's agreement which prevented squatters from purchasing the land on which other land holders were squatting. Outbidding their rivals at the Sydney auction, they snapped up much of the land from Fyansford to the future site of Gheringhap along the Moorabool where George Russell was squatting and along the Barwon as far as Bruce's Creek.  Their success however, came at a cost. Philip Russell (half brother of George and shareholder in the Clyde Company) was able to force the sale price up to 28 shillings per acre. The Russells meanwhile, quickly stripped the land of the improvements they had made - huts, stockyards, tents, even a wool shed - and retreated to what had until then been their outpost on the Leigh River.
Google Earth map showing the boundaries of the 1839 land purchases of the
Port Phillip Association and the Learmonths as shown on the Gherineghap
Parish Survey Maps
Amongst the members of the Port Phillip Association was Thomas Learmonth Sr who is widely reported to have taken up the land after purchase before passing it to his youngest son Dr John Learmonth. In addition, the parish survey map shows that 611 acres west of Batesford was also purchased in John's own name. Meanwhile, his brothers Thomas and Somerville had headed north early in 1838, establishing first the Boninyong Estate, then the property known as Ercildoune.
In 1845 John began building a homestead on the property to replace an earlier building which according to the book The Stepping Stone: A History of the Shire of Bannockburn, Derek Beaurepaire (1995) had accidentally burnt down during an attempt to smoke out a swarm of bees.
By 1846 along with his wife - Alicia Macwhirter - John was living at the property which he called 'Laurence Park' (later 'Lawrence Park') after his father Thomas Learmonth's estate at Falkirk, Scotland. It was here that three of their ten children were born. In January that year, Alicia gave birth to a daughter who died two days later (Geelong Advertiser & Squatters' Advocate, 10th January, 1846). A second daughter followed in 1849 and a son in 1852.
In January 1854 however, John, his wife and their children (eight at that time) boarded the ship Kangaroo and headed back to Britain. 'Lawrence Park' was advertised to let as house and garden (Geelong Advertiser & Intelligencer, 7th March, 1854). It would seem perhaps that the lease was not taken up as the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for the Learmonths indicates that after John's departure, his brother Andrew managed the property on his behalf from 1854-1855. By 1856 the property was once again up for lease, this time advertised "to be let for five years, with possession on the 1st April, the House, Garden, and Vineyard at Lawrence Park, Bates Ford, the property of Dr. Learmonth, together with about 200 Acres of fenced land" (The Argus, 30th January, 1856). John Learmonth and his family did not return.
'Lawrence Park' 19th September, 1971. Image from the J.T. Collins
Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria
Like John, all of the Learmonth brothers were essentially speculators who eventually returned to their native Scotland. By 1867, 'Lawrence Park' which had been tenanted for some time was in the hands of neighbouring land owner George Hope of 'Darriwill' who soon on-sold the property to settler George Hill who for a time had been a tenant of the Hope family (The Leader, 23rd February, 1867).
The Hills were Scottish immigrants who had arrived in Australia in April, 1853 as assisted immigrants aboard the ship Confiance. With George on the voyage was his wife Sarah, and their young children James, Philip and George Jr. In the following years to 1870 a further seven children were born to the couple.
At the time of the Hills' arrival, the house was described by the Melbourne Leader on 23rd February, 1867 as:
possess[ing] historical interest, on account of its comparative antiquity; the walls are as massive as those of many a castle; the stone, probably, was found hard to work, but whatever the reason, the building has a rough and rather primitive appearance, although roomy, extensive and lofty.
After purchasing the property however, the Hills undertook extensions, adding a south wing during the 1860s and today, the Victorian Heritage Database gives the following description:
an h-shaped colonial vernacular building with gabled roofs. The earliest part is brick, that is, the north wing and middle section of the H. The south wing constructed in the 1860s is of random rubble. There are verandahs on the north and east sides. The house has been altered over the years and little remains internally of the original features. The only section in original condition is the upper level of the stone wing. A steep, narrow timber stair leads up to it. The overall condition of the building could be described as good, although the soft early bricks are deteriorating at floor level.
George ran the farm until his retirement in 1889 when he held a clearing sale and let the property to tenants (Geelong Advertiser, 4th April, 1889), retaining ownership until his death in 1909 at which time it was purchased at auction by his son Phillip. George and Sarah (died 1901) are buried in the Church of England section of Geelong's Western Cemetery in adjacent plots.
Grave of George and Sarah Hill, Western General Cemetery, Church of England
Section, Row 1, Graves 1249 and 1250
Philip in turn ran the property with his own family before retiring to Geelong in his later years. Philip died in 1931 and was buried next to his wife Mary Jane, not far from his parents. Newspaper notices suggest that his son George continued to,manage the property after his father's death until 1933 when the property was auctioned by the estate trustees (Geelong Advertiser, 14th October, 1933).  In August the following year, a clearing sale was held on the property (The Argus, 11th August, 1834) however presumably a sale was not negotiated as the lease of 'Lawrence Park', Gheringhap was listed in The Age, 18th April, 1934 and by 1940 Garry George Hill, son of Albert Alexander - Philip's younger brother - was running the property. Along with his wife Ella, Garry made a number of appearances in The Weekly Times during the 1940s and 1950s, promoting the benefits of the district and showcasing the prosperity of 'Lawrence Park'.
Photograph of members of the Hill family at the Geelong Sheepdog Trials,
Geelong Advertiser, 31st August, 1949, captioned " Mr. J. Pettitt (right),
Chairman of the Sheep Dog Trials committee, with Mr. and Mrs. G. G.
Hill, Mr. M. Hill and Miss D. Hill from Batesford"

 The couple had four children but it was their younger son Ian James Hill who was noted as still being in residence in 1995 (The Stepping Stone: A History of the Shire of Bannockburn, Derek Beaurepaire (1995). Ian had married Sheila Pilkington in 1953 in Melbourne but I imagine that it was on the property at Batesford that the family made their home.
Today, the property remains in the Hill family, with the current addressee listed as G M Hill and the house built by John Learmonth in 1845, then extended by the Hill family still stands as a reminder of the earliest days of European settlement in the Port Phillip District.