Violet Town

Violet Town is on the route between Melbourne and Albury and is 150 km., north-north-east of Melbourne. It is between Euroa and Benalla and is bypassed by the Hume Freeway (and former Hume Highway) which are to the south.

Major Thomas Mitchell, Surveyor-General of New South Wales, passed through the Violet Town area in Spring, 1836, on his Australia Felix expedition. He noted in his account of the expedition that several streams and chains of ponds were crossed and one, from which flowers were growing, was called Violet Ponds. That site was one of two (the other being Mitchell town) which were surveyed in 1838 as sites for townships. Violet Ponds was chosen as a site for policing the overland route to Melbourne, particularly after the Faithfull massacre in 1838. (The police post, though, was placed at Benalla.)

Not withstanding Violet Ponds’ official township status, pastoral entrepreneurs were soon acknowledged as being competent to choose settlement places, and Violet Town became only one among many along the Sydney road. However, the surveyed site was flood prone, and a more suitable location to the south-east was settled in 1852 for the township, by when the area was being crossed by travelers to the north-eastern gold fields. It was also known as Honeysuckle, adopting the name of Honeysuckle Creek (formerly Violet Ponds, but being noted for Banksia/honeysuckle rather than violets) and the name of the Honeysuckle pastoral run.

Violet Town was at the conjunction of the Sydney road, the overland telegraph and the tracks to Bendigo and north-eastern gold fields. By the1860s it had three hotels, a Wesleyan school, bakery, several tradesmen and numerous selectors on the former Honeysuckle run. When the railway line was opened in 1873 the commercial area moved northwards from the old High Street to a few blocks away.

By then the gold fields traffic was less, and towns such as Euroa and Benalla overtook Violet Town. Until Violet Town achieved its own local government in 1895 it was part of Benalla shire (1869) and part of Euroa shire (1879).

Violet Town’s street names maintain a floral tradition: Cowslip and Tulip Streets are the main ones, crossed by Orchid, Rose, Lily and Hyacinth Streets.

When Violet Town shire was created on 11 April, 1895, it was in the midst of moderate growth. Rainfall encouraged dairying, but too much rain caused impassable roads, which the Euroa shire was hard pressed to maintain.The Australian Handbook, 1903, described Violet Town –


At the turn of the century Violet Town was probably at a population pinnacle. Wood cutting augmented dairying, but the wood was gradually cutout and rabbit infestation worsened, particularly after the years of good rainfall when rabbits were drowned in the warrens. Between 1911 and 1961the populations of the town and the shire declined, but after then the towngrew. Dwellings in the town grew from 459 (170) to 700 (1994), and the town’s population increased proportionately.

To travelers using either the Hume Highway or Hume Freeway Violet Town has been unrevealed. The town’s streets are attractively tree-lined and uncongested by through traffic: the only through vehicles are the trains. The town has generous public reserves, with a training track, golf course, bowling green tennis courts and a caravan park near Honeysuckle Creek. There are also a memorial hall, swimming pool, bush-nursing home and a library. Away to the south are the Strathbogie Ranges.


Gynasium F.C. Violet Town Premiers Vict. Assn 1908
(Image courtesy of Tony Davies, London. U.K.)

The Violet Town shire had 155,000 head of sheep and lambs and 12,000head of cattle in 1994.

On 18 November, 1994, most of Violet Town shire was united with most of Euroa and Goulburn shires and parts of McIvor shire and Seymour rural city to form Strathbogie shire. The balance of Violet Town shire was incorporatedin Delatite shire. Violet Town shire was six months short of its century.

Violet Town’s census populations have been204 (1861), 643 (1901), 444 (1966) and 598 (1991). The shire’s census populations were 2,447 (1911), 1,186 (1971) and 1,443 (1991).

Further Reading:


Benalla is a regional city on the Melbourne to Sydney Highway, 180 km. north-north-east of Melbourne. Since the completion of the Hume Freeway, Benalla can be by passed by motorists. It is between Euroa and Wangaratta.

Benalla is on the Broken River, which rises to the south-east beyond Tolmie and flows north-west to join the Goulburn River near Shepparton. During much of its journey the Broken River passes through a flood plain, resulting in multiple water courses and swampy depressions.

When pastoral overlanders followed reports by explorers Hume, Hovell and Mitchell of the Port Phillip grazing lands, they had to cross the Broken River. Alexander Mollison found a narrow stream bed and built a temporary bridge to transport stock and equipment (1837). He “broke through” the swampy river, and it thereafter became Broken River. Mollison’s route became an accepted means of access. It was marked out with some care for the purposes of an overland mail service between Melbourne and Sydney (Joseph Hawdon, 1838), and for policing of the district. An Aboriginal massacreof several members of George Faithfull’s pastoral run (1838) near Benalla provoked (attracted?) official attention to the district.

A hotel, the Black Swan, was opened at Benalla in 1840 and a post office in 1844. The Commissioner for Crown Lands for the Murray District resided in Benalla and conducted a court of Petty Sessions from 1846. A timber bridgewas built over the river in 1847. Next year a hamlet was surveyed and namedafter the Benalta pastoral run; the name is thought to be derived from an Aboriginal word meaning water holes. (The change of spelling from Benalta to Benalla probably arose form the run’s proprietor, Edward Grimes, not crossing the ‘t’ when he filled in the application for the lease of therun.)

Benalla was fortuitously placed on the Sydney Road which led to several north-east gold fields. It also received traffic to and from Shepparton (today’s Midland Highway). The surrounding land was suitable for wheat growing,orchards and vines, as well as grazing. By 1863 Benalla had two National school and a Catholic school, Methodist, Anglican and Catholic churches,a mechanics’ institute and five hotels. The Black Swan Hotel included theCobb and Co. coach office. In 1873 the railway line through Benalla to Wodonga was opened, and ten years later the branch line from Benalla to Yarrawonga was opened. The Benalla shire was proclaimed 23 August, 1869.
The Australian Handbook, 1875, described Benalla –


Benalla on the Melbourne side of the river was the main township, andhas been known as Benalla West. The first primary school, Benalla West (1851)continues to function, and a secondary college (formerly a technical school,1962) is next to it. Several churches, a convent and school, the Friendly Societies Recreation Reserve, the Agricultural Society’s show ground andthe Botanic Garden are in Benalla West. The placement of the railway station on the other side of Broken River, however, drew Benalla’s commercial activity to that area. In 1941 an air-training school was opened at Benalla east,and during the postwar years the former air-training site became a migrantholding camp and a Housing Commission estate.


Benalla Post Office, c.1909.
(Image courtesy Tony Davies, London. U.K.)

Benalla v’s Collingwood Cricket Match, 1909
(Image courtesy Tony Davies, London. U.K.)

Benalla became a regional centre, particularly with a number of private secondary schools (Trinity Girls’ School and North-East College) and with the opening of a State high school in Benalla east in 1913. Between 1901and 1947 Benalla’s population increased by about nearly 90% to about 5,000persons. The Australian Blue Book described Benalla in 1949 as –


Benalla has succeeded in attracting secondary and tertiary industries.Early examples were the State Electricity Commission’s regional office (1924)and a clothing factory (1945). Textile and garment making became a major employer (323 employees, 1981), along with electrical transformers, food and beverages, and timber products. Regional government offices were built in 1960.

Benalla’s postwar urban growth was acknowledged by the shire’s central riding being formed as a separate borough on 1 September, 1948, the forerunner of the city proclaimed on 26 May, 1965. Another indicator of postwar change was the closure of an eighteen-kilometres branch railway line to Tatongin 1947.
One of the striking aspects for motorists entering Benalla from the Melbourne direction is the rose gardens beside the highway, a short distance before crossing Lake Benalla (1974) and the nearby regional art gallery (1975).The lake, formed by a weir across the Broken River, is adjoined by extensive parklands and recreation facilities. Other recreation facilities include two golf clubs and the State Gliding Centre at the aerodrome. Benalla city had 26,000 square metres of retail floor space in 1991-2, compared with 2,000 square metres in Benalla shire. Most of the city’s retail space isin shopping strips in Benalla east.

The rose gardens, the annual Rose Festival (1967) and the gallery have added tourism to Benalla’s local economy, with the further benefit of proximity to the north-east and Goulburn regions and to eastern alpine snow fields.The gallery holds the Ledger collection of Australian paintings.

Benalla shire (1869) originally included the Euroa district, extending south-west to Longwood. Euroa shire was severed in 1879 and other minor severances occurred between then and 1906. Before amalgamation in 1994 the Benalla shire contained Baddaginnie, Devenish, Glenrowan, Goorambat, Lima, Tatong, Warrenbayne and Winton. The shire’s main agricultural output was sheep and lambs (286,000 head, 1994) followed by meat cattle (41,000 head, 1994) and small quantities of dairy cattle and cereals (8,000 ha.).

On 18 November, 1994, Benalla city and shire, Mansfield shire and part ofViolet Town shire were united to form Delatite shire.
The median house prices in Benalla have been $59,600 (1987) and $86,250(1996). The median personal income of Benalla residents aged 15 years ormore in 1996 was $250 a week, compared with $231 for the region and $290for Victoria.

Benalla’s township census populations have been 557 (1861), 2,711 (1901), 4,949 (1947), 8,260 (1961) and 8,582 (1996). In 1947 the Benalla shire had a population of 8,461. After severance of the Benalla township area the shire’s census populations were 3,728 (1966) and5,519 (1991).

Further Reading:

  • Dunlop, A.J., “Benalla Cavalcade: A History of Benalla,” MullayaPublications, 1973.
  • Kaden (ed.), “Benalla and District Guide and Business Directory”,n.d. (1947?).


Greta is a rural district in north-east Victoria had four village centres, all containing the name Greta at some time. The original Greta township on Fifteen Mile Creek is now Greta West, and is 22 km. east of Benalla and six kilometres south of the Hume Freeway. It is in undulating, lightly forested land.

It is thought that the name was inspired by the Greta River, Cumberland, England, which was the setting for one of Sir Walter Scott’s popular novels, Rokeby.

When gold was discovered in Beechworth and north-east Victoria in 1852 the route to the diggings passed through the Greta district and across the Oxley Plains. A road north of Greta would have had to negotiate the Greta Swamp (later drained), and Winton Swamp (now Lake Mokoan). The Greta township was surveyed on Fifteen Mile Creek, south of the Greta Swamp, in 1852. During the 1860s the Greta district was subdivided for farm selections. A police station was located at Greta, and the district later obtained some notoriety as “Kelly country” although the outlaws mostly kept to the hills and ranges to the east and south.

In 1867 a Catholic school was opened at Greta and by the early 1880s there were five schools in the district, Greta, Greta South, Greta West, Hansonville and Fifteen Mile Creek. Farming included cereals, cattle grazing and dairying.

The opening of the railway through Benalla in 1873 took much of the traffic away from Greta, and the village economy was thrown back on the custom of local farmers. Methodist and Anglican churches were opened in 1878 and 1890, and a public hall in 1916. In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Greta –


All the former centres of settlement are on back country roads. Two of the five schools remain, named Greta Valley and Fifteen Mile School Camp. Greta has two churches and a hall.

Greta had district census populations of 339 (1911), 326 (1933) and 297 (1961).

Further Reading:

Ellis, S.E., “A History of Greta”, Lowden Publishing Co., 1972.