Geelong, Victoria’s largest provincial urban region, is 65 km. from central Melbourne across the Port Phillip and Corio Bays. It is on the Princes Highway between Melbourne and Victoria’s Western District.

Hume and Hovell, explorers, recorded the Aboriginal word “jillong” in 1824, thought to mean land or cliffs, when they came to Corio Bay. The name “Geelong” was derived from the Aboriginal word, and was given to the area by Governor Bourke in 1837 when he visited Port Phillip and also formerly named Melbourne and Williamstown.

In June, 1835, John Batman crossed Bass Strait from Tasmania and claimed treaty lands from local Aborigines. The western boundary of Batman’s treaty land included Geelong.

Seventeen months later two of Geelong’s earliest settlers, John Cowie and David Stead, came from Tasmania to the Geelong district to depasture sheep. The Manifold brothers landed sheep at Point Henry two months later. Early in 1837 a pioneer Geelong citizen, Dr. Alexander Thomson, settled at the future Geelong suburb, Belmont, and established his Kardinia estate overlooking the Barwon River.

In 1838 the shipping activities caused a customs house to be erected. It has survived as probably Victoria’s oldest building – a round portable structure – and is in the Geelong Botanic Gardens. A town survey was made and land sales were conducted in February, 1839. The Woolpack Inn (later Mack’s) was opened in 1839 and the “Geelong Advertiser” began publication the following year. St. John’s Presbyterian church was opened in 1841. The sandbar blocking access past Point Henry was successfully passed over, and cargo movements were henceforth shared between Point Henry ad the Geelong waterfront.

During the late 1840s churches and schools were established and local industries such as flour mills, tallow works and vineyards were established. The Geelong town council was incorporated in October, 1849.

In the year before the gold discoveries at Ballarat and Bendigo the first Bright and Hitchcock’s store was opened. (It became a Geelong landmark until acquired by the Foy and Gibson’s chain in 1959.) The opening of the goldfields greatly increased Geelong’s maritime activity, not least because the inland route to Ballarat was flatter than the one from Melbourne over the Dividing Range. Outwards traffic also increased with wool from the Western District pastoral properties. The rapid growth also brought Geelong’s second major retailer, Morris Jacobs, whose store was also a landmark until acquired by Myer Melbourne in 1950. Geelong’s population went from 8,000 in 1851 to 22,000 in 1853. It thereupon stabilised, not reaching 30,000 for another sixty years.

During the late 1850s some of Geelong’s notable institutions and buildings were created: Geelong Grammar School and Geelong National Grammar School (later the Matthew Flinders Girls’ Grammar) in 1858, the Town Hall, Market Square, the mechanics’ institute, and the railway connection to Melbourne was opened. In the municipal sphere Geelong’s future was curtailed like Melbourne’s, with the creation of closely adjacent road districts and suburban councils – South Barwon and Bellarine/Indented Head roads districts, Newtown borough (1858) and Geelong West borough (1875). The resulting patchwork became the obvious first candidate for municipal reform in 1993.

In 1860 the Geelong football club won its first local premiership. The year after, one of the club’s notable players, Charles Brownlow, was born. His first year as a player was 1879, and he captained the team in 1884 and coached it from 1892 to 1917. He is commemorated with the Brownlow Medal for the competition’s best and fairest player. Geelong played a pivotal role in the growth of football, and was called the Pivotonians until the 1950s when the name was replaced by the Cats. (The Pivotonians came from Geelong’s rail and port role as a pivot for Western District Commerce.)

Geelong’s third notable educational institution, Geelong College, began in 1861. It was headmastered by the father of George (Chinese) Morrison.

During the late 1860s and the 1870s woollen mills, a meat preserving works and a brick and tile company were opened. The Barwon Paper Mill was opened near Fyansford in 1878, which was also the year when serious infestations of phylloxera were reported in the Geelong district’s extensive vineyards.

The Geelong mechanic’s institute fostered a technological school in 1869, which evolved to become the Gordon Technical College (1887) as a memorial to General Gordon of Khartoum. Extension of curricula led to it becoming the Gordon Institute of Technology (1921) and expansion to a campus at Waurn Ponds (1971), later Deakin University.

In 1894 a better seafaring lane across the sandbar was created with the Hopetoun Channel. Just before the formation of a harbour trust for the Geelong port, The Australian Handbook (1903) described Geelong –


Geelong town became a city on 8 December, 1910 and electric trams began running in 1912, but the first world war and the years immediately after it were a quiet period. Between 1922 and 1925 Geelong’s future industrial growth began: three woollen mills, Cresco fertilizers and the Ford Motor Company’s vehicle plant near Corio. The Corio whiskey distillery (1928) and the Geelong Advertiser’s radio station 3 GL (1930) were opened. In 1938 one of the last Port Phillip Bay steamers, Edina, (Edina?) made its final trip to Geelong, ending a romantic period of seaside excursions and contests for the fastest trip., On the eve of the second world war the International Harvester Works were opened beside Ford, and a grain-elevator terminal was built at Corio Quay.

In the postwar years Geelong entered a glorious period of growth. Successive football premierships (1951-2) were won and local cyclist Russell Mockridge, won two gold medals at the Helsinki Olympic Games. Population growth was rapid as postwar migrants settled in new suburbs. The Shell Oil Refinery opened at Corio in 1954, and the on-rush to modernity saw retail takeovers from Melbourne and the closure of the electric-tram services. The Alcoa aluminum refinery was opened at Geelong’s pioneering landing place, Point Henry, in 1963. Between 1947 and 1965 greater Geelong’s population went from 58,400 to 101,600 persons.

The rapid development beyond central Geelong resulted in small old industrial premises becoming under-used or abandoned. The mixed-use core of Geelong, with a network of lanes for access to small subdivisions and loading yards, became anachronistic. Urban consolidation for redevelopment overtook older areas, much like inner Melbourne underwent site consolidation during the 1960-80s. Market Square was developed in 1985, adding a department store, supermarket and 95 shops. Three years later in the adjoining block to the north Bay City Plaza was built with a department store, discount department store and 82 shops. The two sites added 45,200 square metres of retail floor space to Geelong, bringing it to over 160,000 square metres.

The Geelong city council boundaries extended from Rippleside at the western end of Corio Bay, along Western Beach and Eastern Beach and ended at Eastern Park, just beyond Limeburners Point. Eastern Beach with breakwater jetties and a swimming enclosure are the most notable amenities. Easter Park contains the Botanic Gardens, which have numerous rare exotic trees, sports facilities and the Geelong High School (1910). There are several foreshore reserves, smaller reserves, Johnstone Park beside the town hall and art gallery and Kardinia Park at Geelong South, home of the Geelong Football Club since 1940.

Geelong’s commercial and retail centre runs along the Moorabool Street spine of the town’s 1838 survey. The waterfront end contains several wool-export and commercial buildings which are suitable for refurbishment. The Dennys Lascelles warehouse (1872) Moorabool Street, became the National Wool Museum in 1987. The retail heart runs along the east-west little Malop Street pedestrian mall, adjoined by the redeveloped Market Square.

Immediately south of the commercial area there are three Catholic educational institutions and St. Mary of the Angels church, the Matthew Flinders Girls’ Secondary College, the Swanston Street primary school (1871-1993), the South Barwon Secondary College (formerly Geelong Technical School, 1913) and the Geelong Hospital (Kitchener memorial Hospital, rebuilt 1922).

Beyond these institutions is Geelong South, served by a railway station near the Kardinia Park football ground, Kardinia Park also has netball courts, a swimming centre and an elderly citizen’s club. There is a neighbourhood shopping area and a reserve beside the Barwon river. Further around the river there is the industrial area of Breakwater, which adjoins Geelong East. The Breakwater railway station is near the Geelong racecourse and showground (1907).


Eastern Beach and swimming pool (on Victorian Heritage Register). (Valentine photographic booklet, c.1947.)


Eastern Beach and swimming pool (on Victorian Heritage Register). (Valentine photographic booklet, c.1947.)

Over thirty buildings and structures in the former Geelong city are on the Victorian Heritage Register. Notable among them are seven warehouse/commercial buildings, Christ Church (1843), St. John’s Lutheran Church (1841) and the old post and telegraph offices, in addition to those previously mentioned.

The median house price in Geelong in 1987 was $62,250 and in 1996 it was $104,000.

On 18 May, 1993, the Geelong city (13.4 sq. km.) was united with Geelong West and Newtown cities, three shires and parts of two shires to form Greater Geelong city (1,252 sq. km.).

Geelong municipality’s census populations were 16,613 (1861), 9,721 (1881, Geelong West severed), 14,805 (1921), 20,034 (1954) and 13,036 (1991).


Western Beach and Corio Wharves, postcard, c.1909.


Moorabool Street, showing Bright and Hitchcock’s store, (Rose view folder, c.1950).


Moorabool Street. (Valentine photographic booklet, c.1947.)


City Hall. (Valentine photographic booklet, c.1947.)

Further Reading:

  • Billot, C.P., “The life of Our Years: A Pictorial Chronology of Geelong”, Lothian Publishing Co., 1969.
  • Brownhill, Walter Randolph, “The History of Geelong and Corio Bay, 1955, With Postscript 1955-1990” by Ian Wynd, The Geelong Advertiser Pty. Ltd., 1990.
  • Willingham, Allan, “Geelong Region Historic Buildings and Objects Study”, Vol. 2, Geelong Regional Commission, 1986.


Werribee, about 27 km south-west of Melbourne, is midway on the Princes Highway to Geelong.It is situated on the Werribee River, which has its headwaters north of Ballan.

Early pastoral leaseholds included members of John Batman’s Port Phillip Association. Rural amalgamation began in the early 1850s, shortly after a village reserve was surveyed.

The village was named Wyndham, apparently at the suggestion of the owner of the new village inn, Elliott Armstrong, who knew Sir Henry Wyndham, a soldier who had distinguished himself at Waterloo. The name Werribee had already been given to the river, however, and overtook Wyndham as the town name (1884) and the shire name (1909). Werribee is though to be derived from an Aboriginal word for spine or backbone, which describes the strong visual curve of the river over the nearly treeless plain.

Rural amalgamation around Werribee was massive. Thomas Chirnside was attracted to the open plain’s suitability for grazing and its proximity to the Melbourne markets. By 1863 he controlled more than 28,300 ha. in the Werribee district. W.J.T. (“Big”) Clarke of Sunbury also had a substantial holding in the district. Pastoral dominance reducedthe number of smaller holdings as they were bought up by Chirnside in the1860s. The town grew relatively slowly, but steadily. A railway line wasopened between Newport and Geelong in 1857, with a station at Werribee.A Church of England school, opened in 1855, was replaced by a National schoolin 1861, the year in which a Catholic church was opened.

On 10 October, 1862, the Wyndham Road District was proclaimed, and wasreplaced by a shire council on 11 March, 1864. The shire extended from Footscrayto the Little River, and northwards to the Melton Reservoir. The area was276 square miles, or 715 square kilometres. It contained the places nowknown as Balliang, Exford, Hoppers Crossing, Laverton, Little River, Manor, Mambourin, Mount Cottrell, Tarneit, Truganina, Werribee South/Point Cook, and Wyndham Vale. The shire also included Altona until it was severed on 29 May, 1957, to form a separate shire. The name change to Werribee shire occurred on 15 December, 1909, and proclamation as a city took place on 20 March,1987. On 15 December, 1984 when Victorian council boundaries were restructured,the name was changed back to Wyndham, and a small part in the north was transferred to Melton shire.

Between 1860 and 1890 Werribee had two centres of gravity, the township and the Chirnsides’ Werribee Park. Thomas’ brother, Andrew, joined him in1875 in acquiring land around Werribee, ultimately enlarging the holding to over 37,600 ha. By 1878 the brothers had completed the building of theWerribee Park mansion, about three kilometres south of the Werribee township and 500 metres east of the Werribee River. The dry, rain-shadow property was augmented by wind-pump wells, and it became the site of coursing, hunt-clubs, elaborate annual picnics and a volunteer troops encampment for colonial defence. The Chirnside Battery’s drill ground was south-west of the mansionon a flat beside the river. In 1884 Thomas Chirnside donated land for St.Thomas’ Presbyterian church.

The suicide of Thomas, the Laird of Werribee Park, in 1887 and his brother’sdeath three years later resulted in the property being divided between Andrew’stwo sons. A second mansion “The Manor” was built by the son whoinherited the property north of the township.

By 1881 about one-quarter of the shire’s population lived in Werribee township. Apart from hotels the principal recreational venues were the racecourse(1879) and the mechanics’ institute (1883). The Australian Handbook, 1893, described Werribee as –

Shortly after the Werribee Park estate came in the sons’ hands, land taxes persuaded them to bring in tenant farmers. The cleared grazing land was readily converted to cropping and dairying. During the early 1900s some tenant farmers became freeholders, and all told about 130 farmers were living on land that had recently been a family sheep walk. In 1892 the Melbourneand Metropolitan Board of Works acquired 3,580 ha. from the Chirnside estate for the metropolitan sewage farm, the site later being named Metropolitan Farm..

The Werribee township formed a progress association in 1910, to quicken the pace of change and improvement of amenities. Reticulated water was suppliedby the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission until 1929, when the YanYean supply finally connected.

In 1904 the State Government acquired land for closer-settlement farms,and the Commission’s irrigation improvements brought about successful settlement eight years later. It ushered in a community of Italian market gardeners,as well as orchardists and poulterers. The State Research Farm (now the Animal Research Institute) was begun in 1912. Soldier settlers took up farms after the first word war, and in 1925 the area was renamed Werribee South.

The Werribee Park mansion and 404 ha. of land was sold to the Catholic church, and became the Corpus Christi seminary for the training of priests.Some of the grounds were let to Italian farmers. Both the Chirnside sons left the district, moving to Brandon Park, Waverley,and to Chirnside Park. During the inter-war years the township’s population increased by about one-third, to a little more than 3,000 persons,sufficient to patronise a picture theatre (1928) and for the opening ofa higher elementary school 91923). Shortly after the second World War The Australian Blue Book, 1949, described Werribee shire as –

The township had four hotels, four churches, two savings banks and branches of two others, market yards and an agricultural and pastoral society. The cooperative milk factory was the only large industry that had been attracted.

Post war population growth was at first mostly in the eastern (Altona) end of the shire. Werribee township’s rapid growth began in the 1960s, thepopulation more than doubling between 1961 and 1971 to over 12,000 persons. The township acquired additional recreational facilities, new churches and denominational schools, two more State primary schools and a district hospital.I ts growth had been acknowledged by the construction of the Maltby By Pass, taking the Melbourne to Geelong road out of the town’s centre.

A new suburb adjoining the Melbourne side of Werribee, Hoppers Crossing,was commenced. It grew rapidly, acquiring a drive-in shopping centre in 1981, along with pre-school facilities and State and church primary schools.Four years after the Hoppers Crossing shopping centre the Werribee Plaza,about three times as big (39,000 sq. metres), was opened, but actually onthe edge of Hoppers Crossing. This left scope for the strip shopping centrenear the Werribee railway station to be enlarged and for a village shoppingcentre to be built on the other side of the railway line.

The Corpus Christi seminary closed in 1973 and the Werribee park property was sold to the State Government. The mansion and outbuildings have beencarefully preserved along with the formal gardens. A zoological park, theState Rose Garden and the State Equestrian Centre have been included inits grounds. The closure of the seminary did not herald the diminution ofthe Catholic community. The St. Andrews church had two active school campusesand a third one under consideration in the mid 1990s, and the McKillop secondarycollege was opened.

There is a linear park along the Werribee River, and elsewhere watercourses drain into swampy basins which are being made into recreationalwetlands. In addition to these large spaces there are ball-game courts andovals on two other reserves.

House prices in Werribee have been below the metropolitan median pricebetween 1987 and 1996, resting at about 80%. A survey of children on povertyin 1997 showed that 38% of Werribee children were in families on welfarebenefits or classed as working poor. It was not as well off as Altona (29%),but considerably better than the metropolis’ highest figure of 61% in Footscray.

The census populations of Werribee township andits immediate environs were 366 (1871), 693 (1901), 2,301 (1911), 3,348(1947) 8,228 (1966) and 12,872 (1971). The shire’s census populations were1476 (1871), 7853 (1933) and 16,114 (1954). Altona was severed in 1957 andthe new shire’s census populations were 13,689 (1961), 30,246 (1976) and72,230 (1991).

Further Reading:

  • Allom Lovell Sanderson Pty. Ltd., Werribee Park Metropolitan Park Conservation Analysis, 1985.
  • James, K. N. (ed.) Werribee: The First One Hundred Years, Werribee District Historical Society, 1985.

Melbourne city

Scope and Boundaries:

Melbourne’s central city area has traditionally been defined as the “Golden Mile”, which is the checker-board survey by the government surveyor, Robert Hoddle, who in 1837 fixed a township of six blocks by four blocks. The boundaries were Spencer, La Trobe, Spring and Flinders Streets.

The “Golden Mile” sufficed until the postwar years for defining Melbourne’s commercial and retail heart. During the 1960s town planning surveys extended the northern boundary to Dudley Street, the Queen Victoria Market and Victoria Street. Shortly afterwards notions of a central business or activities district pushed the boundaries of the “central area” into East Melbourne, down St. Kilda Road, beyond Flinders Street and across the Yarra River to Southbank and beyond Spencer Street to Docklands. Postcode boundaries have not mirrored these expansions, and the Queen Victoria Market is in the West Melbourne postcode.

Continue reading “Melbourne city”