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.


  1. Another great fact-filled post that adds enormously to our community history. Thanks, Jo!

  2. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at


    Thank you, Chris

  3. Hi Chris did Henri have any other children ? What where there names ‘
    Also how is the pettavel winery that operates today linked to David Pettavel, or was it just named PETTAVEL winery to honour his name

    1. Hi Chantelle,
      It's a while since I wrote this post, but from memory (and a quick look at the Victorian BDM index), Henri and Rose had 3 children born between their 1873 marriage and the birth of David at sea in 1879. Eugene born 1873, Timothy born 1878 and Marie Louise born 1875.
      The modern winery I think is a new business but it stands on the land originally purchased by Pettavel. If you have a look at the boundaries I mention above, you will see that Pettavel had his grapes on the banks of Waurn Ponds Creek on the other side of the Princes Hwy to the vineyard today.
      I hope this helps.

  4. My Grandparents ar McKim’s and still farm the land on Victoria Estate