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Romsey, VIC

Quiet rural town on the edge of the Melbourne urban sprawl

Romsey is a quiet rural town now on the edge of the urban sprawl of Melbourne. It is characterised by a very wide, tree-lined Main Street and, because of its proximity to Melbourne, has become a popular destination for daytrippers leading to the opening of cafes and chic shops.

Location

Romsey is located 65 km north of Melbourne via the Melbourne-Lancefield Road.

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Origin of Name

The settlement was probably named after the town of Romsey in Hampshire, England. By 1860 the local post office was named Romsey.

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Things to See and Do

Sidney Seymour Cottage
Located at 20 Palmer Street, the Sidney Seymour Cottage, previously known as Barton, was one of the first dwellings near Five Mile Creek. It was built of prefabricated moranti doors around 1856. The Victorian Heritage Register records: "The importation of prefabricated buildings to Victoria reached its peak in the early 1850s, due to the huge demand for accommodation and local labour shortage during the gold rush period. In the early 1850s, hundreds of prefabricated timber houses arrived in Victoria from Britain, Singapore, India and Hong Kong. It is unknown how Seymour obtained this large quantity of door panels, but it is likely they arrived with a large consignment of prefabricated houses.
The single-storey cottage consisted of three small bedrooms and a sitting room entered from narrow central passageway, and had another bedroom and a large kitchen. The partitions between the rooms have since been removed, but beams and ceiling trusses convey this original layout. The house features a coved ceiling, original twelve-paned double-hung sash windows, and has roof shingles under one part of the verandah. The hipped roof is clad with corrugated iron, and there is a verandah on three sides of the building, with a small skillion addition on the fourth side. The kitchen retains a large brick fireplace and bread oven. The most unusual aspect of Seymour Cottage is that it is constructed using Singapore-manufactured meranti doors, and there are variations in the height of the panels and horizontal rails within each door." Check http://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/4334 for more details. The cottage can be inspected on the fourth Sunday of each month between 11.00 am and 2.00 pm. Check https://romseylancefieldhistorical.com.au/info-centre/gallery/13-articles/gallery/our-area/23-barton-seymour-cottage for details.

Presbyterian Church 
The Uniting (formerly Presbyterian) Church is located in Pohlman Street. The Gothic bluestone church was built in 1865 at a cost of £800. The bluestone was quarried locally on Peter Mitchell's property. He was the secretary/treasurer of the church for 50 years. The bell tower was added in 1873 with interior renovations, particularly the church's stained glass windows, being completed in 1880. The vestry was added in 1976. For more information check out https://www.macedonrangesunitingchurch.org.au/romsey.

St Paul's Anglican Church
Located at 31-33 Chauncey Street, St Paul's Anglican Church dates from 1871 and Romsey House was built the same year as the Romsey Hotel. The church's Memorial Gates were erected by the family of Charles F.D. Thomson who died, aged 22, in New Guinea on 21 February, 1943 during World War II. For more information check out http://www.lancefieldromseyanglican.org/history.

Romsey Mechanics Institute
Located at 122 Main Street and built in 1884. The very detailed and informative Romsey Mechanics Institute website explains the history of this particularly impressive building: "In 1875 the foundation stone for the 1st Romsey Mechanics Institute was laid and a wooden building was erected at a cost of two hundred pounds. This building comprised a hall with a large stage, capable of seating 250 people, and two other rooms, one of which was a Library for the education and enjoyment of the local community. In 1884 work began on a new, more spacious hall in front of the above building at a cost of one-thousand, two hundred pounds. Local landowner and baronet, Sir William Clarke laid the foundation stone on 29th May 1884.
"The hall quickly became the social hub of Romsey, with most entertainments held there. As well as providing the library service the Institute’s rooms were used for numerous meetings by local groups. Over the following years the main hall of the Institute conducted a wide variety of events as diverse as theatre and weekly balls to roller-skating and boxing.
"On the 6th of July, 1904 a fire caused serious damage to the wooden structures of the building and much of the Institute was re-built and enlarged to its present size. Once again the Institute became the social focal point of the greater Romsey area with the usual dances, balls, theatre and the new craze “the picture show man”. Later the northern upstairs room was divided to provide a projection room and moving pictures became a regular weekly occurrence (even today you can see running sheets of some of the 1930s and 1940s talkies pencilled on the walls in the projection room)." Check out http://www.romseymechanicsinstitute.com/ for more detailed information.

Walking Around Romsey
There are two pleasant walks around Romsey which are designed for healthy exercise. One is 2.5 km and takes around 30 minutes and the other is 4.4 km and takes around an hour. The maps can be downloaded at http://www.mrsc.vic.gov.au/See-Do/Swimming-Sport-Fitness/Sport-Fitness/Walking-Running-Cycling/Walking-Routes-Maps.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Romsey to Lancefield Cycle Track
The Romsey to Lancefield Cycle Track starts at the Lions Park Reserve in Romsey, covers a total distance of 15.9 km, has an elevation of 151 metres and takes about an hour. The brochure, with map, which can be downloaded and printed at https://www.visitmacedonranges.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Romsey-to-Lancefield-Return.pdf describes the route as "Running parallel to Melbourne - Lancefield Rd on the Federation Trail, this ride mostly travels along a dedicated shared path for cyclists and pedestrians. As you leave Romsey’s main street, the trail becomes a well formed granitic sand surface and the surroundings transform from classic Australian architecture to expanses of rolling farmland. Enjoy a meal in Lancefield or treat yourself post ride with lunch at one of Romsey’s cafés or restaurants."

Mintaro Homestead
Located at Monegeetta, 7 km south at 2137 Lancefield-Melbourne Road, is Mintaro Homestead (1882), often claimed to be a smaller replica of Melbourne's Government House. It was built in 1882 by grazier Captain Robert Gardiner. It is described by the Victorian Heritage Council as an Italianate mansion. Gardiner died a few years after the mansion's completion, but his initials remain painted on the ceiling in a front room. For a number of years at the turn of the 20th century, the mansion was run by the Methodist Church as "a home for wayward girls". It was then bought by a doctor - and later sold to Percy Rae in the 1930s. During World War II, the house was taken over by the army. The family was evicted with two weeks' notice. When the army moved out in 1945, the Raes found the drains had been seriously damaged, probably by tanks that were driven around the grounds. Moisture ran riot underground, causing one end of the house to drop. An archway in the upper promenade was badly cracked, and the army paid £320 in compensation. It was auctioned in 2012 for $3 million. 
When arguing for its importance the Victorian Heritage Database described it in all its glory: "The Mintaro homestead is a two storey rendered brick Italianate building with a two-storey loggia running across the front and a part way along two sides. The entrance porch on the north side has free-standing Doric columns and is surmounted by an impressive three storey tower with a belvedere. The two storey service wing to the west is lower and simpler in form. The elaborate and remarkably intact interiors are notable for their variety of surviving original finishes, including hand painted and printed wall and ceiling papers, painted stencilling and wood graining. Elaborate plaster mouldings and ceiling roses are present in many rooms as are marble fireplaces, light fittings, venetians, curtain rails and door and window furniture. All the plasterwork and joinery is marbled, wood-grained, gilded, stencilled or hand-painted and these are integral elements of the overall decorative schemes. All the different elements have been very creatively combined into interior schemes, with each room presenting a unified, richly decorative whole. The spectacular entrance hall features fluted Scagliola columns and Minton encaustic tiles. Opening off the entrance hall are the former drawing room, dining room, morning room and library, all with marble fireplaces and elaborate and largely intact decorative schemes. Three of the four large bedrooms upstairs retain their original wallpapers, with beautifully matched schemes with botanical and classical themes. Other notable intact areas are an original bathroom and a butler's pantry. Outbuildings comprise a small brick detached toilet, a brick stable and coachhouse, a woolshed and another shed which was once a working horse stable. The mansion is enclosed by a designed landscape providing a dense screen and windbreak on three sides. The original decorative gardens around the house have been largely lost, but the property retains a number of outstanding or rare species, including a very rare Ulmus 'Viminalis', Hesperocyparis benthamii, Hesparocyparis macnabiana, Pinus roxburghii, and six Juniperus virginiana, all only known in a few other locations."

Clarkefield
Located 15 km south of Romsey in the tiny hamlet of Clarkefield is the historic and elegant bluestone Coach and Horses Inn (1857) which has a number of bluestone outbuildings to the rear. It is located at 50 Station Street, tel: (03) 5428 5391 or check out https://www.clarkefieldcoachandhorsesinn.com. It is rumoured to be haunted ... if you believe that sort of thing. An Irish goldminer was reputedly shot outside the hotel; a Chinese man was found hung in the stables; a female child was found in a nearby well - she had been murdered; and guests have claimed that footsteps have been heard in the night, paintings have flown about, there have been cold mists and there has been an apparition of a girl.

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History

* Prior to the European settlement the district was home to the Wurundjeri people  who were a sub-group of the Woiwurung Aboriginal people. 

* The first Europeans arrived in the area in the early 1850s.

* A post office was opened in the Royal Mail Hotel in 1858.

* The post office was named Romsey in 1860.

* The school was built around 1865. The Presbyterian Church was opened that year.

* The local Anglican church was consecrated in 1871. That year saw Romsey Shire created.

* The Mechanics Institute was opened in 1875. 

* The arrival of the railway to Lancefield in 1881 meant improved access to the Melbourne markets.

* A butter factory was opened in 1882.

* By 1903 the predominantly rural area was producing wheat, barley, oats, peas, hay and potatoes.

* The railway closed down in 1956.

* In 1970 the completion of the Tullamarine Freeway converted the town into commuter belt.

* Residential subdivisions occurred in the area in the 1980s.

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Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Information in Romsey. The closest is Woodend Visitor Information Centre, High Street, Woodend, tel: (02) 5427 2033.

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Useful Websites

There is useful information on the Macedon Ranges website. Check out https://www.visitmacedonranges.com/village/romsey.

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