29 November, 2017


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

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

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