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Coleraine, VIC

Pleasant rural service centre at the edge of the Grampians

Coleraine is a pleasant rural service centre nestled into an attractive, fertile valley at the southern end of the Grampian Ranges.  The land surrounding the town is farmed primarily for beef and sheep. The town's importance lies in the Peter Francis Points Arboretum which is a wonderland of Australian trees including 500 eucalypt species and the Eucalypt Discovery Centre which complements the arboretum.

Location

Coleraine is located 94 metres above sea-level, 330 km west of Melbourne via Geelong and Hamilton and 34 km west of Hamilton.

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Origin of Name

The settlement, initially known as Bryans Creek Crossing, was surveyed in 1853 by Lindsay Clarke who renamed it after a town in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

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Things to See and Do

The Eucalypt Discovery Centre
Located at 69-71 Whyte Street, the Eucalypt Discovery Centre is contained in the former Wannon Shire Offices. They were built in 1946 and are listed on the Victorian Heritage Database at https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/23146. The Discovery Centre has been designed as a companion to the Peter Francis Points Arboretum. There are two Discovery Rooms. One focuses on the natural history of eucalypts in their ecosystems and the second on the economic uses to which eucalypts are put (timber, eucalyptus oil etc). There are interactive displays for children, videos, slide-viewers and a reference library. Entry is free and it is open daily, tel: (03) 5575 2222.

Peter Francis Points Arboretum
Located on Points Road, off Top Hilgay Road, the Peter Francis Points Arboretum, known as "The Points" is a 37 ha parkland situated on a hill overlooking the town. The arboretum contains over 10,000 native plants (2,200 different species) and has over 500 eucalypt species including 63 rare and endangered species. The range of soil types (from ironstone gravels through sands and loams to black clays), orientations and topography in the arboretum have enabled the growth of vegetation types from differing Australian habitats. There are spotted gum, mallee eucalypts, tall-forest eucalypts, snow gums, mallet eucalypts, brittle gums, yellow gums, ironbarks, lemon-scented gums, woolybutts, tallow woods, karri, acacias, grevilleas, banksias, hakeas, melaleucas, prosthantheras, correas, native pines, kurrajongs, calistemon, indigenous wildflowers, persoonias, dryland plants and a section devoted to small colourful natives. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Database. Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/23070/download-report for a detailed report.
There is a lookout on the eastern side of the arboretum which offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including the Grampians to the north-east.
Four walking tracks start from the shelter shed at the picnic area. If you follow the blue arrows they will take you west to the Shadehouse via the Aboriginal Plant Uses Walk (1 km) then back. The yellow arrows lead through the Grevillea Walk, on to the Shadehouse then head north-east via the lookout and back to the shelter shed (2.2 km). The orange arrows take you straight to the lookout and back (1 km). There is also a track with wheelchair access to the shadehouse via Lindner Track and return (1 km). For more information check out http://www.thepoints.org.au or tel: 0434 729 211.

Matthew Cooke's Blacksmith's Shop
Located at 91 Whyte Street, the old blacksmith's shop - with its distinctive timber structure - dates from 1888 when it was built by Matthew Cooke to replace a previous blacksmith's which was destroyed by a storm. It remained in the family until the 1980s and retains its original equipment. This timber workshop has a gabled roof and a skillion attached on the east side. The large doors of the skillion were for the access of horse-drawn vehicles and other equipment. The roof is corrugated iron with a ventilated ridge and the floor is earthen. It is open by appointment. The Victorian Heritage Database notes: "Matthew Cooke's Blacksmith Shop is of historical significance as a rare surviving examples of a blacksmith's shop. Its significance is enhanced by its degree of intactness, and the retention of relevant equipment and tools of trade. It represents a trade that is no longer practiced but has been associated with the development of the town since earliest settlement."

Coleraine Local History Centre & Museum
The local historical society have a museum display which is located in the old Coleraine Court House, adjacent the post office at 78 Whyte Street. Newspapers, files on local organisations (eg churches, schools), photographs, local cemetery records, obituaries and some local family histories are included in this collection. It is open by appointment, tel: (03) 5575 2206.

Three Churches
The town has three churches of historic interest: Holy Trinity Church of England (1865) at the corner of Church and Henty Streets (see https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/13944 for details), St Andrew's Presbyterian Church (1892) at the corner of Church and Winter Streets (for more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/23072), and St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church (1888) in Read Street (see https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/23143 which notes: "By 1889, the current St. Joseph's had been constructed. The building is in the Gothic revival style using red brick and cement dressings typical of the period. It was designed by H. Kohn of Merino and built by George Rowe. Many local tradesmen were used to complete the fittings of the building. A timber porch was added in 1937, originally used to house a baptismal font and confessional.").

Holy Trinity Church of England
The Victorian Heritage Database notes of the church: "Built to a design by Hamilton architect James Henry Fox, the church is in the Gothic Revival style with a nave of four bays, a south aisle added later and subsequently altered, a vestry and a polygonal apse used as a chancel. The building's foundations are bluestone and the walls constructed of the local freestone with mouldings, quoins and other architectural details in dressed sandstone quarried from Tahara. The chancel was built in 1877 as a memorial to Rev. Dr Russell and in 1887 the height of the tower was extended and a set of eight carillon bells installed from John Warner & Sons London.
"The west wall includes five simple lancet windows with early stained glass and a ventilator above shaped as a nimbus with timber louvres. The windows were donated by Samuel Pratt Winter in memory of his cousin Benjamin who had died at Murndal in 1844. The three windows in the chancel The Nativity, The Crucifixion and The Resurrection were a memorial to Rev. Dr Russell donated by local merchant George Trangmarand manufactured by Melbourne firm Ferguson & Urie. The symbolic oriel windows were by Ferguson & Urie. The brass lectern, installed in the church in 1879, was presented by Samuel Pratt Winter as a memorial to Rev. Dr Russell. Designed and engraved by the Rev Roland Herbert Cooke of Yorkshire, brother of Cecil Pybus Cooke, it features carvings of prophets and evangelists and is decorated with large agates from Bombay, bluestones from Switzerland and Derbyshire spa purple stones. The organ by Meadway & Slatterie of Melbourne was installed in 1921." Check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/13944 for greater detail.

Adam Lindsay Gordon Monument
Located on the Glenelg Highway, at the eastern edge of town, is a cairn which commemorates Adam Lindsay Gordon, a 19th-century poet who rode in the town's Great Western Steeplechase prior to his suicide in 1870. Two of his poems are based around the race: 'The Fields of Coleraine' and 'Banker's Dream'. The monument marks the spot where he rode in the Great Western Steeplechase. The inscription on the cairn reads: "In memory of Adam Lindsay Gordon the great Australian poet who rode in the Great Western steeplechase, distance about four miles & crossed the road at this point, first run in 1858. The great sportsman was a contestant in this famous event for five years 1862 - 1866. Concerning the race he wrote "On the fields of Coleraine there`ll be labour in vain before the Great Western is ended. The nags will have toiled and silks will be soiled and the rails will require to be mended". Erected 1950."

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Other Attractions in the Area

Konongwootong Reservoir
Located about 10 km north of town on the Harrow/Edenhope Road, Konongwootong Reservoir was built in 1926 to supply water to Casterton and Coleraine. It is a popular trout fishing spot with picnicking facilities and is suitable for canoes, kayaks and electric power boats. For more information check out http://www.wannonwater.com.au/in-your-community/recreational-areas.aspx.

Konongwootong Massacres
The reservoir is the site of two major massacres of the Gunditj Aboriginal people which occurred in the 1840s. In March 1840, a posse of settlers chased Gunditj warriors to the Fighting Hills area near Casterton, seeking vengeance for the theft of a flock of sheep. [It is always worth remembering that the settlers had taken the traditional food away from the area and the sheep were simply a logical alternative.] It was estimated that 41 Gunditj men and boys killed. One settler was wounded by an Aboriginal spear. In April that year Konongwootong was the site of the Fighting Waterholes Massacre as the settlers once again attacked the Gunditj people. The natural amphitheatre acted as a trap, with an estimated 30 men, women and children surrounded and murdered. Some members managed to escape and made their way south.
Wannon Water, who now manage the reservoir, established a Quiet Place in 2014 to recognise the traditional history of the area. Designed to encourage contemplation by visitors, the area features a walking path, interpretative signage and three stone benches at the top of a natural amphitheatre with a view over a small wetlands area. The project was a collaboration between Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation elders and staff, Gunditjmara Nation elders, the Department of Sustainability and Environment and Wannon Water.

Wannon Falls
Located 16 km south-east of Coleraine, via the Glenelg Highway, the Wannon Falls fall 30 metres over basalt lava into a deep plunge pool. They can be very impressive, particularly in winter. The flow may become a trickle during times of drought. There are several viewing platforms and informative signs provide details of the geology and the fauna and flora of the area. There is a very detailed, and personal, description of the falls at https://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/waterfalls/australia-wannon-falls.

Nigretta Falls Reserve
Located 25 km south-east the Nigretta Falls are on the Upper Wannon River via the Nigretta Road which runs off the Glenelg Highway. There is a picnic-barbecue area, a playground and a stairway leading to the base, where deep pools provide secluded swimming and fishing spots. Check out https://www.visitgrampians.com.au/products/nigretta-falls for more information.

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History

* Prior to European settlement, the Gunditj Aboriginal people lived in the district.

* The first Europeans to reach the area were the party of surveyor Thomas Mitchell which passed through in 1836.

* Mitchell met the Henty brothers at Portland and his reports of good pasturage encouraged them to move inland in 1837. The Hentys took up 28,000 ha of land to the west of present-day Coleraine.

* The first white squatter on the land was James Bryan, a brother-in-law of the Hentys. He arrived in 1839 and built a home near the present showground.

* In 1840 the Whyte brothers took over the run which was broken up into smaller estates in the 1840s.

* The dispossession of the local indigenous people led to a massacre of some 30 Aborigines occurred on one of these properties. They were allegedly shot with bolts, nails and gravel loaded into a cannon.

* A second massacre occurred about 10 km north of Coleraine where Konongwootong Reservoir is now located.

* In 1845 the Koriote Inn opened in the settlement.

* A general store opened in 1847.

* The township of Coleraine emerged on Bryans Creek. Initially known as Bryans Creek Crossing it was surveyed in 1853 by Lindsay Clarke who renamed it after a town in Northern Ireland.

* A post office opened in 1854.

* A school opened in the town in 1855.

* By 1857 James Bonwick observed that "The tribe is nearly extinct".

* Coleraine became famous as the home of the Great Western Steeplechase which was first run in 1857. This race followed a circuit through the town, over gardens and paddock fences. Noted poet Adam Lindsay Gordon was a regular and distinguished rider in the event prior to his suicide in 1870. Two of his poems are based around the steeplechase: 'The Fields of Coleraine' and 'Banker's Dream'.

* A flour mill operated in the town from 1858 to 1890.

* An Agricultural Society was formed in 1864.

* The Land Acts of 1864 and 1865 enabled the break-up of the enormous estates of the Western District pastoralists for closer settlement, although the process was slow.

* In 1866 both Anglican and Presbyterian churches were opened.

* A Mechanics Institute was opened in 1869.

* The Coleraine State School was established in 1878

* The railway arrived in 1882.

* Beautician Helena Rubinstein, who later founded a remarkable cosmetics empire, was a Polish immigrant who arrived in Australia at the age of 18 in the late 1880s. She initially lived with and worked for her uncle at his grocery shop in Coleraine.

* A cheese factory opened at Coleraine in 1892.

* The local dairying industry received a boost with compulsory subdivision of land in 1910.

* More stations were subdivided in 1923 for British Army officers.

* A bush nursing hospital was established in 1930.

* The railway line closed in 1977.

* The Black Saturday bushfires destroyed large tracts of land in 2009.

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Visitor Information

Coleraine Tourist and Exhibition Centre in the old railway station (1882) at 27 Pilleau Street. It is open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. daily, tel: (03) 5575 2733.

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Useful Websites

The most useful website can be found at http://www.visitgreaterhamilton.com.au/towns/coleraine.html. There is a downloadable brochure. Check out http://www.visitgreaterhamilton.com.au/towns/NewFiles/coleraine_town_brochure.pdf.

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