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 neé 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.

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.