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Bacchus Marsh, VIC

A rural service noted for orchards and market gardens, part of Melbourne's commuter belt

Historically Bacchus Marsh was an important rural service centre surrounded by dairying, mixed farming, grazing and orchards. In recent times, due largely to easy access to Melbourne, it has become part of the city's outer urban commuter belt. It is located on the edge of a scenic and fertile valley, surrounded by hills and situated by the Werribee and Lerderderg Rivers, at an elevation of 105 metres. The town's population has grown rapidly in the past three decades but it still retains many significant historic buildings and has access to some particularly beautiful state parks.


Bacchus Marsh, an historically significant rural service centre, is 57 km west of Melbourne via the Western Freeway. 


Origin of Name

In 1838 Captain William Henry Bacchus settled in the valley and gave his name to the district. At the time the valley was particularly marshy, hence Bacchus Marsh. The early settlers realising the problem drained the marshes and altered the flow of the local riverbed.


Things to See and Do

Bacchus Marsh Heritage Trail
The Bacchus Marsh Heritage Trail brochure can be downloaded at https://www.moorabool.vic.gov.au/Services-and-support/House-property-and-pets/Directory/Bacchus-Marsh-Heritage-Trail and copies are available at the Visitor Information Centre. It lists a total of 19 places of historic interest and importance around the town. Of these the most interesting are:

1. Avenue of Honour
The main entry to Bacchus Marsh, for those coming from the east, is The Avenue of Honour which stretches for 2.9 km along Bacchus Marsh Road. It is regarded as the finest elm avenue in the world. The trees were planted on 10 August, 1918 to honour those men and women from the district who volunteered to serve in World War I. It consists of 281 Dutch elms and Huntington elms - each represents a soldier. The other elms, oaks and plane trees which line Main Street were planted in 1884. It is Heritage listed and there is more detailed information at http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/places/result_detail/4957. The Heritage Register notes the significance of the avenue as "The Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour is of historic significance as a World War 1 Avenue of Honour and as one of the earliest examples of this important form of memorial planting in Victoria. The Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour is significant for its representation of the phenomenon of commemorating individual sacrifice for the World War 1 effort through the planting and maintenance of a tree in an Avenue of Honour.
"The Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour is of historic significance for the egalitarian treatment of the individuals commemorated by each tree within the Avenue. The name plaques associated with each tree are arranged in alphabetical order along the Avenue of Honour, keeping families together and symbolising the idea that each individual's contribution to the war effort was equally important, regardless of rank." There is a specific website for the Avenue of Honour. Check out http://www.bacchusmarsh.avenueofhonour.org.au.

2. Bills Horse Trough
Located outside the Royal Hotel at 200 Main Street, this is one the "famous" Bills Horse Troughs. There is an excellent website which tells the story of the troughs (check out https://billswatertroughs.wordpress.com). Here is a summary of the history of the troughs: "George Bills died in December 1927 and after providing many personal bequests, George directed the income from the residue of his estate to be used to provide drinking troughs for horses, and other animals. He said it was for preventing cruelty, and alleviating the sufferings of animals in any country. He wanted no animals to go thirsty. There were probably more than 500 troughs made and erected in Australia mostly first in Victoria then in New South Wales and, and others were funded in overseas countries England, Ireland, Switzerland [for donkeys] and Japan. In the early stages of trough supply, each was individually designed and constructed. One of the firsts was a granite Memorial trough, hewn in one piece as a memorial to George Bills. It was situated in Barton Street, Hawthorn, Melbourne; the trough has long since been removed. Later a standard design from a mould made at the Rolca Concrete Company was used and many hundreds of these troughs were supplied throughout Victoria and New South Wales. The troughs were supplied free of charge after an application to the Bills Trust by local councils. Truckloads of 10 would often leave the Rocla Factory for installation in country towns. Most of the troughs were made and supplied in the mid 1930s in Victoria."

5. Border Inn
Located at 139 Main Street, the Tudor-style Border Inn (1851), was why the town came into existence. It was the first coach service offered in Victoria as it became the first coach stop on the road to the Ballarat gold diggings. Bacchus Marsh developed around this important traffic.

6. Court House
The Bacchus Marsh court house at 123 Main Street was built of local sandstone in 1858-1859. It was designed by Samuel White of the Public Works Department. The court house is still in use. It is listed on the state Heritage Register. For more information check http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/places/result_detail/47.

7. Police Station and Old Lock-Up
Located at 119 Main Street, the sandstone Police Station and Old Lock-up was built by the Public Works Department in 1857. The Heritage Register notes that "This masonry is unusual in being finished to a fair face and then picked over to give an unusual if crude effect. It is also unusual in that the interior is lined in timber heavy sawn planks for walls and floors." For more information check out http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/places/result_detail/48.

8. Simon's Garage and Peter Carey's Home
Located at 4-6 Grant Street, Simon's Garage was the first motor garage in rural Victoria. In 1948 the business was purchased by P.S. Carey, the father of the author Peter Carey, and Peter lived upstairs as a child.

11. Express Office and Printing Works
Located at 8 Gisborne Road is the original section of the Express office which was built of handmade bricks in 1865 for the printery and book binding works of George Lane. The Express newspaper was first published in 1866. There is detailed information and a statement of significance on the Victorian Heritage Database. Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/44. It notes that: "George Lane established his printing works sometime between 1860-66. The original shop, constructed of handmade bricks with a gabled shingle roof with a pair of skylights, remains at the rear of the existing property. Between 1868 and 1876 this building was added to at the front of a two-storey brick shop front with a rendered facade and a gabled corrugated iron roof. The building had two sash windows above and a large shop window and double glazed doors below. It is believed that the doors were taken from Leahy's Farmers Arms Hotel at Hopetoun."

12. St Andrew's Presbyterian Church
Two of the town's three churches stand opposite each other at 12 and 19 Gisborne Road. Located at 12 Gisborne Road, St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, built of bluestone and sandstone in 1865. It is now a Uniting Church but was a Presbyterian Church when it opened.

13. Holy Trinity Anglican Church
The Holy Trinity Church of England, which was built of local sandstone in 1877, is at 19 Gisborne Road. This was the town's second Church of England church. The first church was notable for having Andrew Scott, who later became the bushranger known as Captain Moonlight, as a lay preacher. It is known that he conducted services in the original church. "The Bishop of Melbourne offered the well-spoken newcomer a plum post as a lay preacher in the Bacchus Marsh settlement. At the time, worshippers there were still gathering each Sunday in a building known as the Iron Church, one of many pieces of prefabricated infrastructure imported during the Victorian gold rush. In archival photos, it looks like a corrugated-iron shed, unflatteringly supplemented with a steeple. According to the archivist at Bacchus Marsh’s present-day Holy Trinity Church, Scott attracted generally close to 100 parishioners each week. In 1869 after being implicated in cattle theft, Scott was abruptly banished to the isolated mining town of Mount Egerton with the remains of the Iron Church sold for scrap in the 1870s to make way for a stone chapel." Captain Bacchus, who founded the town and died in 1849, is buried in the graveyard.

14. St Bernard's School and Convent of St Joseph
Located on Gisborne Road, St Bernard's School was built around 1900 although there had been a Catholic school in the town since 1851. The Convent was occupied by the Sisters of St Joseph, an order of nuns founded by Sister Mary Mackillop. There is a museum in the building and it can be accessed by tel: 0407 671 954.

15. Blacksmith's Cottage and Forge
Located at 100-102 Main Street is the Blacksmith's cottage which was built by Vere Quaile around 1851. The timber section of the cottage dates from 1851 with the stone front room added in 1866. They are both associated with a local history museum and book barn which are open on weekends. The Classical Revival blacksmith's forge was built in 1877 by Hugh Meikle. There is more information available at https://www.cottageandforge.com which has details about opening times and a calendar of events.

16. Maddingley Park
Located on Grant Street near the Railway Station, Maddingley Park was established in the 1860s. Today it is an ideal place for children to play and for families to have a picnic. When it was first opened it had a sundial, a lake, a boathouse, a large fountain and a cable tram.

It also mentions the:
Chicory Kiln
Located in Taverner Street is a chicory kiln built in 1885. Chicory was grown on the river flats around the kiln from the 1880s by a man named Pearce. The roots of this white, parsnip-like plant, were roasted in the kiln before being ground and used as a coffee additive. Note the old advertisement on the wall for Dr Morse's Indian Root Pills.

The Manor
Located at 28 Manor Street is a two-storey brick residence which was built between 1846-1847 for retired military officer and magistrate Captain William Bacchus, after whom the town is named. The stuccoed masonry around the windows is a dominant feature of the design. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/places/result_detail/50) with extensive notes which include the observation that "In 1846-47 Captain Bacchus erected a substantial and imposing house of a scale which reflected an image of a suitable dwelling for a country gentleman. Captain Bacchus’s occupation of the Manor House was however, short-lived. In February 1849, Bacchus died at his home, having resided in it for about only two years. Following his death, the house passed into the ownership of his son William Henry Bacchus ... The Manor House built in 1846-47 is of architectural significance as one of the earliest surviving substantial houses in Victoria and for its distinction as an example of a Victorian Regency style residence. It is distinguished by a high level of craftsmanship in its joinery and stonemasonry."

Located at 37-41 Grant Street is 'Millbank', built of locally-quarried stone c.1855 for William Grant. The polychromatic brick wings were added later. The outbuildings - a primitive slab dairy and shed - are considered rare survivals of vernacular construction techniques. The Victorian Heritage Register (http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/places/result_detail/46) notes: "In about 1855, a freestone house with shingle roof was constructed on high ground to the south of the site, surrounded by a garden of about one acre and overlooking the Border Flour Mill. This mill was built in the late 1840s by James Young and John Lyle, to the east of Grant Street (then Maddingley Road) on the Werribee River and was acquired by W. and H. G. Grant in about 1869. The property hence acquired the name, Millbank." It adds that the house's significance is "as a relatively intact example of an early stone and brick homestead. It is amongst the earliest homesteads constructed in the Bacchus Marsh area and its substantial character suggests that an architect may have been involved in the design and construction of both the original house and the bichromatic brick addition. The main house, although progressively altered, survives with much of its early architecture and materials intact, such as roof shingles and decorative treatments. "The Millbank garden is of aesthetic and scientific (horticultural) significance for its simple rural homestead layout featuring pairs of English Elms, Monterey Cypress, Bunya Pines, both of outstanding form and landmark quality that dominate the skyline, and a Stone Pine and four Pepper Trees. The Pepper Tree south west of the house is amongst the largest and finest in Victoria, and is of outstanding size (trunk circumference and canopy spread), and an impressive structure and form displaying a wide symmetrical canopy."


Other Attractions in the Area

Djerriwarrh Bridge
The Djerriwarrh Bridge, over the Lerderderg River, is located 5 km east of town on a disused section of the Western Highway. Head east out of town along the Avenue of Honour then continue east when you reach the Western Freeway. As you go up the hill there is a turnoff on the left which leads to the bridge which was built in 1858-59 of local sandstone. The Victorian Heritage Register (see https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/162931 for greater details) records that "The old Ballarat Road Bridge over the Djerriwarrh Creek west of Melton, built 1858-1859, is significant as a rare and highly intact example of a bridge built to accommodate gold-rush traffic, and for its unusual design and materials. The Djerriwarrh Bridge is architecturally significant. It is one of Victoria's oldest bridges of any type, and a rare intact 1850s road bridge. It is a notable and scarce example of a round or Roman arch bridge in Victoria. It is a rare sandstone masonry arch bridge in Victoria. The Djerriwarrh Bridge is historically significant for its association with the internationally significant Victorian goldrush, and as a rare surviving example of a place built to accommodate 1850s gold-rush traffic ... The bridge retains tool marks associated with its quarrying."

Pykes Creek Reservoir
Pykes Creek Reservoir is located 18 km west of Bacchus Marsh. It was completed in 1911 and named after an early European settler. The recreation facilities are open from 8.00 am - 8.00 pm daily. It has an attractive picnic area which is also used for boating, swimming and fishing. There are no camping facilities.

Werribee Gorge State Park
Werribee Gorge State Park (575 ha) is located 8 km west of Bacchus Marsh. Its highlight is a steep-sided gorge which reveals a great deal about the area's geological history (a sea bed covered by glacial debris then lava), making it a popular destination for school excursions. Before you visit you should download the brochure and map at https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/werribee-gorge-state-park.
There are four walks in the park:
* Werribee Gorge Circuit Walk - 10 km - 4.5 hours. A challenging walk with steep sections, a section with a cable handrail and some rock scrambling. The walker is rewarded with excellent views along the gorge rim.
* Short Circuit Walk - 5 km - 2 hours return. A shorter version of the Werribee Gorge Circuit Walk which heads to the river and to Meikles Point Picnic Area
* Falcons Lookout - 3 km - 2 hours return. Walk to Falcons Lookout with excellent views over the gorge.
* Centenary Walk - 4 km - 2.5 hours return. Combines views across the gorge and a walk along a section of Myrniong Creek.

Long Forest Fauna and Flora Reserve
Located 12 km east of Bacchus Marsh, the 600 ha Long Forest Flora and Fauna Reserve is the only naturally occurring section of mallee south of the Great Dividing Range and easily accessible from Melbourne. There was a time when mallee scrub was common in the area but it was slowly replaced by eucalypt forest as the climate cooled. The reserve is unusual because, unlike much of the surrounding flora, it lies on a bed of shale and sandstone which resisted the incursion of eucalypts. 
This area was first mapped in the 1830s by a surveyor who described it as 'barren forest hills'. There was an unsuccessful attempt to mine gold and, at the end of the 19th century, timber was cut for milk factories at Bacchus Marsh. With subdivision proceeding 245 ha was set aside in 1981 in recognition of the site's ecological rarity and in recent times that has been expanded to 600 ha.
The dominant species in the reserve is bull mallee although blue box can be found along Coimadai Creek and grey box and yellow gum on drier sites. The reserve also has turkey bush, fragrant salt-bush and some rare orchids. There are about 200 species of birds, as well as kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, echidnas, gliders and possums. Birdwatching, nature studies and bushwalking are all popular in the reserve. 
The best access points are at the Canopus Circuit and the Happy Valley Trailhead Car Park. Before exploring check out https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/long-forest-flora-and-fauna-reserve.
There are five trails through the reserve:
* Djerriwarrh Track - 3 km - 90 minutes return - walk down to Djerriwarrh Creek from Long Forest Road.
* Old House Track Circuit - 3.5 km, 2 hours - a walk from the Happy Valley Trailhead to Coimadai Creek.
* Happy Valley Track - 4 km, 2 hours return - a walk from the Happy Valley Trailhead to Coimadai Creek via a blue box tree flat.
* Coimadai Circuit - 4 km, 2.5 hours - a walk from Canopus Circuit Trailhead to Coimadai Creek.
* Happy Valley Trailhead to Canopus Circuit Trailhead - 8.5 km, 4 hours - a long, pleasant loop walk.
* Moonah Track - 1.5 km, 45 minutes return - walk through woodlands down to Djerriwarrh Creek.

Merrimu Reservoir
Lying to the north of the Long Forest Fauna and Flora Reserve is the Merrimu Reservoir which is the water supply for both Bacchus Marsh and Melton. There is a recreational area with picnic, barbecue, toilet and playground facilities. No camping is allowed. Check out https://www.srw.com.au/recreation/locations/merrimu-reservoir for more information.

Lerderderg State Park
The main formation associated with this 14,250 ha park is the rugged 300-metre gorge carved by the Lerderderg River. There is a diversity of flora and some early gold mining relics. Before visiting the park check out https://www.parks.vic.gov.au/places-to-see/parks/lerderderg-state-park.
Walking trails of varying length follow the river and some old water races cut by gold miners. Notably from O'Brien's Crossing. There are good sandy riverside beaches and bush camping is permitted away from main roads. You can fish in the river or explore some 4WD tracks in the dry season (October to May). Roads within the park are often crude and may be unmanageable in wet weather. 
To access the southern section follow Lerderderg River Road for 9 km north of Bacchus Marsh to the Mackenzies Flat Picnic Area where you can swim or take a walk to Grahams Dam - 3 km, one hour return beside the river. 

Brisbane Ranges National Park
Brisbane Ranges National Park (8,718 ha), to the south of Bacchus Marsh, is noted for its extensive native flora (notably wildflowers in spring), its birdlife, its koalas, its bushwalks and bush drives and its easy proximity to Melbourne. 
There are 619 native plant species in the park (one-fifth of all species in Victoria). Many of them are rare (this is the only place to see the Brisbane Ranges Golden Grevillea and the velvet daisy-bush is rare) or are remote from their usual habitat. In spring the wattles, hakeas, bush peas, varieties of orchids and grass trees abound.
It is also possible to see Eastern Grey kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas, possums and gliders and over 170 bird species, including the yellow-tufted honeyeater, white-throated nightjar and rainbow bee-eater. The park reputedly contains Victoria's greatest density of koalas. They live in the park's mana gums.



* Prior to European settlement the area is thought to have been occupied by the Kurung First Nations people. 

* Kenneth Scobie Clarke was the first European to settle in the area. In 1836 he transported sheep and other livestock from Van Dieman's Land for the Great Lakes Pastoral Company. He took up land between the Werribee and Lerderderg Rivers.

* The town is named after Captain William Henry Bacchus who occupied the valley when Clarke headed west in 1838. 

* In the late 1830s the valley was considered as a site for settlement by retired military officers. Two townsites were surveyed: Maddingley to the south of the Werribee River and Lerderderg to the north of the Lerderderg River. 

* In 1850 a Post Office was opened in the town

* The Border Inn (built in 1850 and still standing) became a coach stopover for those travelling from Melbourne to the goldfields. It was the first coaching stop on the route and arguably the first coaching service stop in the state. 

* Bacchus Marsh began to emerge when gold was discovered at Ballarat in 1851. 

* The Bacchus Marsh Road District Board was established in 1856.

* Bacchus Marsh Shire became a municipality in 1871.

* Chicory, a coffee additive, was grown and roasted locally from the 1880s. 

* The railway reached the town in 1887.

* By 1890 the railway had reached Ballarat.

* A factory making concentrated and preserved milk opened in 1890.

* Until 1915, stibnite, an ore of antimony, was excavated in a mine that was one of the country's major antimony producers. 

* Brown coal has been mined here since World War II.

* Novelist Peter Carey was born in Bacchus Marsh in 1943. 

* In 1994 the town became part of the Shire of Moorabool.

* By 2018 the town had a population of over 22,000.


Visitor Information

Bacchus Marsh Visitor Information Centre, 215 Main Street, tel: (03) 5367 7488. Open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm Monday to Friday, 10.00 am - 4.00 pm Saturday and Sunday.


Useful Websites

There is a local website with information about events and activities in the area. Check out https://www.visitbacchusmarsh.com.au.

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