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Hamilton, VIC

Important town rural service centre self-described as the Wool Capital of the World

Hamilton is located on a volcanic basalt plain in a broad and deep valley formed by Grange Burn, a tributary of the Wannon River which winds through the city to Lake Hamilton. Historically Hamilton called itself the 'Wool Capital of the World' because of the richness of the surrounding land which was also used to produce beef and dairy cattle. The result was that the town became known as the heart of the Western District of Victoria - an area of vast rural wealth and rustic sophistication. Today Hamilton has a wide range of service industries including engineering and saw milling. Hamilton has the unusual honour of being the only significant settlement in rural Victoria which did not start as a port or a mining town.

Location

Hamilton is located 291 km west of Melbourne via Ballarat and Dunkeld. It is 187 m above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

The town was surveyed in 1849 and gazetted as Hamilton in 1851. It is believed that it was named after Hamilton near Glasgow in Scotland owing to a large number of Scottish settlers living in the district.

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Things to See and Do

There are a number of important historic buildings and locations in the city. The most interesting include:

Hamilton Mechanics Institute
Located at 43 Gray Street, the Hamilton Mechanics Institute was founded in 1859 and the present building was constructed in stages between 1869 and 1903. The National Trust database records its importance "The Hamilton Mechanics Institute is a single storey rendered Renaissance Revival style building with a balustraded parapet hiding the corrugated iron roof. A shallow Doric porch marks the entrance and there is a single window on each side of the entrance, a fine Doric arcade down one side leading to the rooms at the rear and a cast iron palisade fence across the front. The two rooms at the front are separated by a wide hallway, all with fine timber ceilings and behind these is the Learmonth Memorial Hall. At the rear are the billiard room, with three billiard tables, and the room now used as the Aboriginal Keeping Place, both with timber ceilings with lantern lights above ... The Hamilton Mechanics Institute has architectural significance as a particularly fine and intact example of a Mechanics Institute in the Renaissance Revival style, which was constructed in several stages between 1869 and 1903. The Hamilton Mechanics Institute building has historical significance as a demonstration of the wealth of western Victoria and of the aspirations and commitment of the local community in raising the funds to construct such a fine building in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is significant for its strong association with the Mechanics Institute movement and the important role this played in the intellectual, cultural and social development of Victorians throughout the latter part of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century."

Hamilton Post Office
Located at 57 Gray Street, the Hamilton Post Office (1876) is an example of a large regional post and telegraph office combined with an equal measure of integrated government office. It is significant because "Stylistically, Hamilton Post Office is an impressive Italianate palazzo design, then popular in the government department and further afield, which fully embodies the mid-Victorian Renaissance mode and a symmetrical composition with restrained yet bold detail.  The weight and quality of the design is enhanced by its imposing siting and landmark clock tower.  Architecturally, Hamilton Post Office is an example of the competent Public Works Department architect, CHE Blackman (1873 to 1877) under the aegis of enduring and highly regarded Chief Architect, William Wardell.  The 1876 and 1890 elements of the Hamilton Post Office are a fine example of Victorian post office design which belong to a suite of substantial Italianate post offices constructed in between 1870 and 1878.  Displaying strong Italianate features with modest ornamentation and a broad colonnaded loggia, it is a handsome example of its type.  The landmark qualities of the large building are enhanced by the two level clock tower." Check out the Australian Heritage Database at http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/ahdb/search.pl?mode=place_detail;place_id=106135.

Hamilton Botanic Gardens
Edged by Kennedy, Martin, French and Thompson Streets, the Botanic Gardens, which cover 4 hectares, were established on the town's recreation reserve in 1870. They were created by William Guilfoyle, a hugely important garden designer who was the curator of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, and are now recognised as one of the country's most intact 19th century Botanic Gardens. The Kentucky coffee tree, Corsican pine, funeral cypress, Himalayan oak, Californian live oak, digger pine, hickory wattle and English oak are on the register of significant trees. The magnificent oak has a span of over 30 metres. There is a band rotunda (c.1900), a caretaker's cottage (1881) by the corner of Kennedy and Martin Sts, a walk-through aviary, an animal enclosure, a central pond (1883), a playground and barbecue facilities, a 1920 memorial fountain and a cannon from the HMVS Nelson (c.1860s). The gardens were classified by the National Trust of Victoria in 1990. See https://www.visitgreaterhamilton.com.au/hamilton-botanic-gardens for more details.

The Gables
Located opposite the Botanic Gardens, at 69 French Street, the Gables was offered for sale in 2020 for $1,500,000. It is a building recognised as one of the finest residences in Victoria's Western District and, as the Victorian Heritage Database (see https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/26581) notes: "a fine example of the Queen Anne style house and for its historical associations with Harold Learmonth (1863-1933) of Peter Learmonth & Co., stock and station agents and auctioneers, a prominent Hamilton townsman and mayor. [i] It was probably designed by the leading society architect, Walter Butler. He was active in the area at this time and associated with the Learmonths. [ii] The house is an important foil to both Eildon, now the Napier Club building, designed by Ussher and Kemp in 1904 and Myrniong, designed by Butler (or Henry Kemp) in 1906. All three architects were closely associated. [iii] Notwithstanding the verandah, it is a very English version of the Federation style and hints at the Arts and Crafts movement in its detailing." It was built in 1908 and can be seen in great detail on the website https://federationhome.com/2017/03/21/three-federation-beauties.

Hamilton Tuberculosis Chalet
Located at 14 Tyers Street, the Hamilton Tuberculosis Chalet, as the Victorian Heritage Database (see http://vhd.heritage.vic.gov.au/search/nattrust_result_detail/69706) notes: "is a stylish, dynamic design, a rare example of the influence of the celebrated European modernists of the 1920s and 30s in Victorian architecture. The design also directly expresses its function, with the originally open sun room facing in a northerly direction, providing a well ventilated, sunny space at the time being the major form of treatment of TB. The dynamic forms, with a long horizontal frontage, which curves around into carefully contrived angled and intersecting elements, creates a striking and appealing composition. It is one of the most distinctive works by Percy Everett, Chief Architect of the Public Works Department between 1934-1953, who was responsible for a large number of distinctive institutional buildings in this period.
Historically, the Chalet is important as one of the few structures remaining in Victoria specifically built for the treatment of TB, once a common and often fatal disease. It was built in the late 1940s as part of an Australia-wide campaign to combat the disease, the main cure for which was rest and fresh air. Combined with the introduction of an effective antibiotic in 1947, this campaign was quickly successful in virtually eradicating the 'white plague', ironically making the building redundant."

Hamilton Gas Holder
Located at 2-16 Craig Street, the Hamilton Gas Holder might seem like an unlikely attraction. But, when you read the Heritage Council's Statement of Significance (see https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/27212 for greater details) it is easy to understand its importance in the history of the state. "This 1870s gas holder, which survives on the Gas & Fuel Corporation site in Craig Street, has state significance as a substantially intact and rare survivor. There are almost no other surviving examples of these industrial structures, which were once common throughout metropolitan Melbourne and in major Victorian country towns. By 1985 the North Melbourne Gas Holder was the only one surviving in the metropolitan area. One survives at Bendigo and other country gas holders may survive at Horsham, Warrnambool and Ararat. (i) The Hamilton gas holder dates from October 1877 when the Hamilton Gas Company called for tenders. (ii) Work began at the end of 1877 and the town was first lit by gas on 11 May 1878. (iii) The provision of gas and street lighting represented a major step forward in municipal development." A fascinating remnant of a time before electricity.

Napier Club
Located at 34 Thompson Street, the Napier Club was originally built as Eildon, a two-storey, red brick residence and surgery for Dr David Laidlaw. Built in the Federation Queen Anne style in 1904 it was purchased by the Napier Club in 1939. The Napier Club was fascinating. As the Victorian Heritage Register explains - it was "an exclusive women's club whose membership largely comprised the wives of graziers and leading townsmen and is associated with many of the prominent Western District families, especially the founding members Mrs AJ Simpson, Mrs. AG Stewart, Mrs T Robertson, Mrs AC Mercer, Mrs LEW Carty and Mrs MN Mackinnon. The club has been one of the main social organisations of its kind outside Melbourne." The Register describes the building as one of the finest "Federation Queen Anne houses in Victoria. It is an asymmetrical two storey house with the diverse array of gables kept to the first floor eaves line." Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/4660/download-report.

Hamilton Racecourse Grandstand
Located at 429 Henty Highway, the hugely impressive and elegant Grandstand is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register which describes it as "The grandstand was designed by Robert Cooper Bagot and supervised by architect William Smith. The main structure is post and beam with heavy timber posts and bracing and a timber top plate at the rear. At the front a bluestone ashlar wall supports cast iron columns in four bays with a wrought iron lattice beam above. The rear and side walls are of corrugated iron on timber framing. The plates are supported on timber trusses with a basement level below. The roof structure consists of web trusses made up from wrought iron angle members joined with rivets at plate gussets. The hipped corrugated iron roof is shaped in a graceful double curve with generous eaves all round. The eaves are further supported by curved iron brackets springing from the posts and columns. Octagonal ventilator turrets in timber with ogee roofs and flagpoles are placed at either end of the ridge." For more detailed information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/14252.

Correagh
Located at 70 Rogers Street, "Correagh is a rural property, located just outside the town of Hamilton, with an early bluestone house and detached kitchen wing and a nearby stable building. The main part of the house and the stable were built c1855 by Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh, the Police Magistrate of Hamilton, then called the Grange. Fetherstonhaugh (1803-1892) was an educated Irishman of some means who migrated to Victoria in 1852 with two of his three sons." The Victorian Heritage Database goes on the describe the homestead as "situated at the top of a hill, with views north-east towards the Grampians. The house is a single-story building with walls of coursed random bluestone rubble and with an M-shaped corrugated iron-clad roof." Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/29871 for more details. It is not open to the public.

Myrniong
Located at Kent Road and Macarthur Street, Myrniong was built in 1906-1907 as a country residence for wealthy Melbourne businessman Leslie Jenner. It consists of a large house, manager’s residence and stables. The main house, which is constructed of tuck pointed red brick, half timbering and rough cast, is dominated by a complex roof of asymmetrical composition, consisting of hips, gables, tower-like elements, dormers and tall chimneys. The grounds, inspired by the ‘gardenesque’ style of garden design, contain several remnant elements such as brick fences, brick and stone walls and a cast iron arbour. It is now part of the Hamilton and Alexandra College. For more detailed information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/4661.

Hamilton Art Gallery
The Hamilton Art Gallery at 107 Brown Street is considered one of the state's most impressive provincial galleries. The collection has over 9,000 works of art and includes a series of engravings by 18th century English satirist William Hogarth and watercolours by 18th century English artist Paul Sandby. There is a strong collection of 19th and 20th-century Australian paintings with works by Tim Storrier, Arthur Streeton, S.T. Gill, Lloyd Rees and, of local interest, Wannon Falls by Louis Buvelot. The collection also includes ceramics, furniture, silver, tapestries and artefacts from Tibet, India, Nepal, China and Japan. It is open Monday to Friday from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm. For more information, tel: (03) 5573 0460 or check out http://www.hamiltongallery.org.

Hamilton History Centre
The Hamilton History Centre is housed in the old Mechanics' Institute (1865) at 43 Gray Street. It is primarily a research facility with "an extensive collection of books, records and local historical documents. Our resources are open to the public for research in genealogy or local history." It is open from 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm Sunday to Friday tel: (03) 5572 4933 or check out https://hamiltonhistorycentre.org.au.

Church Hill - St Andrew's and Christ Church
The corner of Gray and McIntyre Streets is known as Church Hill - it is the location of both St Andrew's Presbyterian and Christ Church Anglican Church.

St Andrew's Presbyterian Church
Located at 29 McIntyre Street, this impressive bluestone Gothic Revival church, with its enormous spire and spacious interior, is recognised as one of the largest Presbyterian churches in rural Australia. It is a reflection of the strong Scottish influence of the district's early European settlers. The original services were conducted in Gaelic. It replaced an earlier church which was built in 1857. It dates from 1907 and is constructed of square coursed, rock faced basalt with Mount Abrupt freestone dressings and is notable for its impressive spire. It was designed by well known Western District architects, Clegg and Miller.

Christ Church Anglican Church
Located at 22 Gray Street, Christ Church is an unusual companion building to the impressive St Andrew's Presbyterian Church over the road. This duo of churches gave rise to the name "Church Hill". The church's website points out "The present Church building is the second to be built on this site. The Foundation Stone was laid on 29th November 1876 by the Right Reverend Samuel Thornton, first Bishop of Ballarat. The Rector of the Parish at the time was the famous Diocesan Archdeacon, the Venerable Theodore C B Stretch. The completed building was opened for public worship on Sunday 18th August 1878.  The Hamilton Spectator of the day said that it "saw the opening of the finest church that has yet been erected in the Western District, an edifice that, should nothing unforeseen occur, be a prominent landmark for many years to come; the grandest example of architectural skill that our town possesses, and as one of which the inhabitants of Hamilton feel justly proud." For more information check out https://hamiltonanglican.org.au/anglican-church-hamilton/christ-church-hamilton.

Sir Reginald Ansett Transport Museum
Located on the corner of Ballarat Road and Riley Street (on the shore of Lake Hamilton), the Sir Reginald Ansett Transport Museum is a celebration of the famous Ansett airline company, a hugely important part of Australia's aviation history. The website explains: "The museum is based on the Ansett company’s first aircraft hangar. Its displays include a Fokker Universal aircraft, similar to the one used on the first Ansett flight in 1936, and the 1928 Studebaker. Other memorabilia includes documents from the early days of the Ansett empire; the company’s first prospectus which sets out the capital required and proposed development of the company; and a complete set of flight attendant uniforms." After an unpromising start Sir Reginald Ansett switched his base of operations to Hamilton in 1931. With local money he launched Ansett Airlines from Hamilton in 1937. It is open daily from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm, tel: (03) 5571 2767. For more details check out http://ansettmuseum.com.au.

Lake Hamilton
Located off Rippon Road, Lake Hamilton is a 38 ha lake at the north-eastern corner of town which is surrounded by 25 ha of parkland. It was created in 1977 by damming the Grange Burn. It is a popular venue for fishing and water sports including water skiing (restricted from Tuesday to Thursday), boating, swimming, sailboarding, fishing rowing and canoeing. There is a boat ramp. A walking-cycling track surrounds the lake and, at the end of Rippons Road, there is a beach, playground and picnic-barbecue area. It has an impressive community of birds and attracts bird watchers. For excellent images of the lake check out https://www.visitgreaterhamilton.com.au/lake-hamilton. Also check https://www.sthgrampians.vic.gov.au/Page/Page.aspx?Page_Id=2588.

Monivae
'Monivae' is a two-storey bluestone mansion located just off the Hamilton-Port Fairy Road 2 km south of Hamilton. This homestead was built in 1877 on a property originally owned by the first police magistrate of the Hamilton district, Acheson Ffrench. The Victorian Heritage Database notes: "Designed as a very conservative interpretation of the Italianate style and completed in 1877, Monivae is a two-storey, symmetrical villa set within a substantial garden at the end of a straight drive. The bluestone for its construction was quarried on site. The cast iron and patent metal columns of the verandah were imported from Melbourne. The architect was a local, the English-born William Smith, who was also the town clerk of Hamilton. The owners were Scottish-born James Thomson (1823-1910) and Christina Thomson, nee Armstrong, and their family of eleven children and they were directly related to the Learmonth family of Prestonholme ... The excellence of the building's construction and detailing indicates the calibre of the architect as much as the wealth of the owner. James Thomson was a pastoralist who had bought the run from Ffrench's distressed estate." For more detailed information check https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/23059.

Hamilton Pastoral Museum
Located on Hiller Lane, the Hamilton Pastoral Museum which occupies a 2.5ha site. Historical buildings at the museum include St Luke’s Church which contains items relating to local Lutheran history, an historic cottage, National Bank, Drik Drik Post Office, Byaduk Automatic Exchange, Blacksmith, Myaring Woolshed, Warrayure School rotunda, Coleraine Lock-up and Old Penshurst Police Station. Other sheds display horse drawn vehicles, threshers, the Deutscher Foundry, extensive collections of tractors, stationary engines, headers, the sheep and wool industry, household, fashion and a Saddler & Bootmaker Shop. It is open by appointment and on the last Saturday of each month from 10.00 am - 2.00 pm. There is an admission fee, tel: 1800 807 056. Check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Hamilton-Pastoral-Museum-Inc-318134051628635.

Big Woolbales
Located at 230 Coleraine Road, the Big Woolbales were once a cafe and museum but the cafe and museum closed in 2013. The Woolbales were designed by architect, Neville Cowland and opened in 1989. They consist of five linked structures resembling giant wool bales. Each wool bale has the same dimensions - 10 metres long by 7 metres wide and high. Historically the bales housed wool-related displays such as historical memorabilia, including farming and shearing equipment, wool scales, old horse harnesses, wool presses and weaving looms, along with wool samples and rural clothing.

Community Parklands
Located adjacent to North Boundary Road, the 203 ha Community Parklands (sometimes known as Parklands Reserve), is an attractive area of the city which has been dedicated to conservation and education. The easiest access point for the general public is at the northwest corner of the Hamilton Institute of Rural Learning. The Parklands contain a 1.9 metre predator-proof fence topped with electric wire; Western (Basalt) Plains grasslands which have been listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act; remnants of Western (Basalt) Plains Grassland are usually dominated by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra), with sub-dominant grasses such as wallaby grasses (Danthonia spp.) and spear grasses (Stipa spp.). In open patches between the Kangaroo Grass tussocks there is a variety of perennial herbs, particularly composites. woody plants are generally absent, except for occasional scattered trees and shrubs; and, most importantly, a 100 ha area where the critically endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot has been reintroduced. It is so critically endangered that there are only five sites in Victoria where it still runs wild. Since their introduction in 1991 the community of bandicoots has increased dramatically. Visitors can walk through the enclosure and try to spot the endangered creatures.
The Community Parklands also contain a sporting complex, a water reserve, picnic-barbecue facilities, at least 95 species of native wildflowers and other flora and at least 90 species of native birds. It has been noted that "The remnant of woodland species found along the nature trail is a rare example of the type of vegetation typical to Hamilton prior to white settlement. Species include Sweet bursaria (Bursaria spinosa), Silver banksia (Banksia marginata), Hedge wattle (Acacia Paradoxa), Drooping sheoke (Allocasuarina verticillata) and Swamp gum (Eucalyptus ovata)."

Hamilton Institute of Rural Learning (HIRL)
Located in the Community Parklands at 333 North Boundary Road, the Hamilton Institute of Rural Learning (HIRL). The Greater Hamilton website (https://www.visitgreaterhamilton.com.au/hamilton-institute-of-rural-learning-hirl) explains: “The Hamilton Institute of Rural Learning (HIRL) is a multi-purpose precinct that showcases sustainability values in its buildings, gardens and parklands. The building was designed by students from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and is made out of mud-brick with a soaring high galvanised roof supported by reclaimed power poles … HIRL is the gateway to the Eastern Barred Bandicoot and native grasslands/bush enclosure. Encompassing an indigenous food garden, children’s native play garden, red gum carvings, nature trail, veggie garden, picnic areas, and Creative Arts Centre. 
Gardens. Volunteers at HIRL pride themselves on planting, fostering and maintaining a wonderful collection of native flora. With beautiful manicured gardens surrounding the main building area as well as having a veggie garden open to the public. Growing lots of different native plants, HIRL also has an indigenous food garden which lets visitors learn about the food that indigenous people living within the Greater Hamilton area would have utilised. The garden is very maintained after by the team of volunteers and open to the public to walk through and experience. A children’s native play “walk through” garden has also been established at HIRL, developed to provide children with a sensory experience. The garden is designed with paths, walking stones and logs for children to meander on throughout as they develop an awareness of the joy of native plants and discover the garden animals. There are multiple picnic areas spread throughout the gardens for visitors to use.
Nature Trail. The HIRL nature trail takes a walker through the native bushland surrounding the HIRL reservoir. Take in the 12 informative signs displaying magnificent paintings of the local flora and fauna. The walk around the reservoir in its beautiful natural bush land takes a little over half an hour and along it you will see native birds and wildlife, as well as the native plants representative of the western district bushlands and grassy plains. 
WetlandsA sanctuary for native wetland plant and animal life, the HIRL wetlands delivers the environment and natural spaces for native flora and fauna to thrive. Visit the wetlands to experience a traditional, native Australian wetland garden and listen to the melody of nature’s creatures. Meander through the bushland and try spot the many species of birds and frogs that call this area home and keep an eye out for a bandicoot during your walk – not all of the bandicoots stick to their enclosure!"
The Institute is open on Mondays from 9.00 am to 1.00 pm., and from 10.00 am to 2.00 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and at other times by prior arrangement, tel: (03) 5572 3699.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Nigretta Falls Reserve
Located 17 km north west from Hamilton on the Upper Wannon River, the Nigretta Falls tumble for about 15-20 metres over red rocks. They are a popular tourist attraction offering visitors outstanding scenery and good fishing, as well as picnic-barbecue areas, a playground and there a stairway which leads to a deep pool for swimming. There is a viewing platform near the car park. Check out https://www.visitgrampians.com.au/products/nigretta-falls and https://www.world-of-waterfalls.com/waterfalls/australia-nigretta-falls for more information.

Wannon Falls
Located 19 km west of Hamilton, via the Glenelg Highway, the Wannon Falls are clearly signposted off the highway. The sign at the falls explains: "The Wannon Falls were created by lava flows that surged upstream to the Wannon River and is probably between one and two million years old." They are known as a punchbowl waterfall because the water drops 30 metres into a plunge pool. The falls are particularly impressive after rain and can be little more than a trickle during drought.

Byaduk Caves
Located 22 km south of Hamilton on the edge of the Mount Napier State Park, the Byaduk Caves were formed by lava from Mt Napier. There is a viewing platform and a short walk around the caves. The excellent Humble Trail website offers a detailed explanation (check http://www.humbletrail.com/listings/byaduk-caves): "Volcanic activity from Mt Napier has formed 4 large and distinct lava tubes in the area. This hidden gem calls for a unique adventure as you descend down into a dark circular dome known as “Harman’s One”. Feel the cold, moist air fall over you as you disappear into the darkness of the cave; a flashlight and brave soul is essential for this one. The larger Byaduk cave continues 20 metres below the surface and opens into an 18-metre wide, 10-metre tall chamber. A short walking track links the 4 cave structures for viewing from up above but only “Harman’s One” is accessible without any climbing gear. Even still, the access track is steep, slippery and covered in large rocks but it is doable. Stalagmites, stalactites and bent-wing bats feature inside the Byaduk caves and lush ferns and moss on the outside."

Mount Napier
Located 21 km south of Hamilton, Mount Napier is a prominent local landmark which lies in the Mount Napier State Park. It is a recent volcanic formation having been produced by an eruption only 32,000 years ago. It has a scoria cone overlaid with a lava shield There are excellent views from the summit but it can only be reached via a strenuous 4 km walking track which passes through volcanic features, a Blackwood forest and stands of Manna gum trees. The view extends from the Grampians to the coast (on a fine day) south of Budj Bim. See https://www.visitgreaterhamilton.com.au/mount-napier-state-park for more details.

Cavendish
Located 28 km north of Hamilton, Cavendish is an attractive village beside the Wannon River. Europeans arrived in the area c.1840 and the town, which began to develop in the late 1840s, was originally known as Wilton. The town's historic buildings includes the school (1852) which has continuously operated on the original site on the corner of Barker and Churnside Streets, the Wannon Store (1868), the old police cells (1862), which are diagonally opposite, and the Bunyip Hotel which was established as Waddell's Inn (1842). There are two walks along the banks of the Wannon River. One starts behind the police cells and heads east. The other starts behind the Bunyip Hotel and heads west.

Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape Tours
Lying 60 km south of Hamilton is Heywood and the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape where the local Gunditjmara Aboriginal people, unlike many Aboriginal groups, were not nomadic hunters and gatherers. Rather they constructed an extraordinary aquaculture system across the creeks and marsh beds of the Mt Eccles-Tyrendarra lava flows and wetlands. Thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans they built stone houses and trapped fish and eels as part of a complex and sedentary lifestyle. It is now recognised as one of Australia's earliest aquaculture ventures.
Budj Bim Tours offer three guided tours led by local Indigenous guides which inspect the remnants of this settled lifestyle - circular stone dwellings and elaborate fish nets used to capture the creatures living in and around Lake Condah.
* Tyrendarra Tour - is a 2.5 hour tour looking at different types of fish and eel traps at Tyrendarra.
* Lake Condah Tour - is a 4 hour tour looking at the waters of the Gunditjmara country, the animals that inhabit the lake and stone huts that are still around today at Lake Condah.
* Budj Bim Tour - is a 6 hour tour to a variety of Gunditjmara sites. Visitors experience the culture, landscapes and food of the Gunditjmara.
The Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation and Budj Bim Tours of Heywood help organise tours to explore the remains of stone house sites and eel traps, as well as highlighting the Aboriginal culture and their way of life. Tel: 0458 999 315 or check out https://www.budjbimtours.net. The tours office is located at 12 Lindsay Street, Heywood.

The Treatment of Aborigines in the Area
Prior to European settlement the district lay on the border of three Aboriginal tribal territories - the Gunditjmara of the south, the Tjapwurong of the north and the Bunganditj of the west. The area received good rainfall and supported an abundance of animal and birdlife. This resulted in the local people being more sedentary and consequently they built stone weirs and a complex of waterways on the shores of the lakes and swamps.
William Thomas, in 1844, encountered a camp "which contained between twenty and thirty huts, well built and capable of holding ten or twelve people; numerous and well-constructed dams were in these creeks, their nets were of the first rate and they are said to have worn straw hats of their own manufacture".
This stable lifestyle also meant that the local people strongly resisted the European invasion as it deprived them of traditional tribal lands and food sources. The Aborigines responded by killing the sheep and the Europeans duly responded with violence although details of the murders and massacres are unavailable. It is recorded that in just one incident, about 40 indigenous men, women and children were surrounded and shot after they made off with 127 sheep. Not surprisingly no action was taken by the government.
There were numerous incidents - one resulting in the death of one shepherd and severe head injuries to another. Retaliation by the squatters followed and a government report noted that the squatters "are determined ...to exterminate this hostile tribe". The journal of an early visitor notes that the property owned by the Wedges was "a spot celebrated for the maltreatment of natives".
It was partly this conflict which led to the appointment of Foster Fyans as crown lands commissioner of the Portland Bay district. He and 16 border police were employed to suppress Aboriginal resistance.
When Governor La Trobe visited the Grange in 1841 he noted the extent of interracial violence and appointed Acheson French as police magistrate to the area. A constable and a detachment of mounted police, to be based at the Grange, were appointed and convicts from Portland erected a hut for the magistrate and barracks for the troopers on the site of the present courthouse and police station on Martin and Thompson Streets in Hamilton.
An Aboriginal reserve was established in the area. It was intended to protect the indigenous people. Violence and brutality appear to have continued unchecked until Governor La Trobe ordered Fyans, all his border police and a contingent of native police to the Grange in September 1842. The police presence, the effectiveness of the native trackers and the effects of European diseases, and killings marked the end of large-scale Aboriginal resistance in the district. On the subject of disease one contemporary noted "The Natives are diseased to a frightful extent all over this part of the Country and they are dying very fast ... A few seasons are fatal to them as this has been, and they will cease to exist in the Country". In fact the indigenous people were reduced to about 300 people by 1900 but they have since won every land rights battle because of their evidence of continuous settlement of the district.

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History

* Prior to European settlement the townsite lay roughly on the border of three Aboriginal tribal territories, belonging to the Gunditjmara of the south, the Tjapwurong of the north and the Bunganditj of the west. Other sources claim it is Kuurn Koapan Noot land.

* Thomas Mitchell passed through the Western district in 1836 during his Australia Felix expedition. 

* In 1837, on the basis of Mitchell's good report of the interior, the Henty brothers moved their livestock inland from Portland.

* European settlers were in the Hamilton region by 1838 or 1839.

* In November 1839 Lieutenant C.J. Tyers, the government surveyor, recommended a townsite for development.

* The indigenous people strongly resisted the white invasion as it deprived them of traditional tribal lands (the basis of their entire culture) and food sources. In one incident, about 40 indigenous men, women and children were surrounded and shot after they made off with 127 sheep. No action was taken by the government.

* When Governor La Trobe visited the district in 1841 he noted the extent of interracial violence and appointed Acheson French as police magistrate to the area.

* Convicts from Portland erected a hut for the magistrate and barracks for the troopers on the site of the present courthouse and police station on Martin and Thompson Streets.

* Governor La Trobe ordered all his border police and a contingent of native police to the Grange in September 1842.

* The Grange Inn was established by the town's first constable, George Green, in 1843.

* The economic depression of the early 1840s saw the removal of the constable and mounted police.

* In 1844 a blacksmith set up shop and a postmaster's position was created.

* A Court of Petty Sessions was established at the old police quarters in 1846.

* A small store opened in 1847 or 1848 and some shanties and businesses began to appear by the ford over the Grange Burn, including a shoemaker's (1849).

* The town survey commenced in 1849.

* A boarding house opened in 1851. The town site was named Hamilton in that year.

* The first town allotments in the Western district were sold at Hamilton in late 1851.

* In the 1850s many German Lutherans moved into the area from South Australia, settling mainly at Tarrington and Byaduk.

* A school opened in 1852.

* The town's second inn was established in 1853.

* The commissioner of crown lands for the Portland Bay District moved his offices to Hamilton in 1853.

* The 1854 census noted 230 people on the townsite, including three storekeepers, a butcher, an innkeeper, a doctor, a tailor, a saddler, along with stonemasons, builders and carpenters.

* The third and largest hotel, the Victoria, was built in Gray Street in 1855.

* A small wooden Catholic chapel was built in 1857. A more substantial Anglican church was completed in that year.

* A Presbyterian church was opened in 1858.

* Two steam-powered bluestone flour mills were opened in the 1850s.

* The introduction of local government in 1859 saw the improvement of infrastructure particularly roads and the water supply. 

* An official post office was built in 1859, the year saw the establishment of the Hamilton Courier newspaper.

* In 1860 the Hamilton Courier newspaper became the Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser.

* The 1861 census recorded 1197 people living in 243 dwellings in the town.

* Hamilton became a borough in 1863.

* A hospital was built in 1864.

* A mechanics' institute  was opened in 1865.

* The railway from Melbourne via Ararat arrived in 1877.

* The railway was extended to Portland in 1878.

* The 1881 census recorded 2967 people.

* The 1880s and 1890s saw the flour mills close as wheat-growing declined in favour of pastoralism.

* A rabbit-preserving industry and a butter factory were established in 1892.

* The population in 1901 was 4024.

* The borough became a town in 1928.

* In 1936 Reginald Ansett flew commercially from Hamilton to Melbourne.

* Hamilton became a city in 1949.

* By the 1950s a Pastoral and Veterinary Research Institute had been established.

* In 1994 Hamilton became part of the Southern Grampians Shire.

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Visitor Information

Hamilton and Grampians Visitor Information Centre, 86 Hamilton Place, tel: (03) 5572 3746 or 1800 807 056.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out https://www.visitgreaterhamilton.com.au. Also check out https://www.visitgrampians.com.au.

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