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Merino, VIC

Historic country town created as part of the great 'Australia Felix' pastoral lands of western Victoria

Merino is a tiny town located between Hamilton and Casterton. Its historic significance is that it was once part of the huge land holdings of the Henty brothers but was broken up for soldier settlers after World War I. Today it has a number of interesting, and very unpretentious, public buildings and a handsome Avenue of Honour down the main street.

Location

Merino is located between Hamilton and Casterton, 345 km west of Melbourne and 49 km west of Hamilton.

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Origin of Name

Merino was named after Merino Downs, a property which was settled by the Henty brothers, Edward and Frank, on 3 August, 1837. Frank Henty named his property because he stocked it with Merino sheep.

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Things to See and Do

Heritage Photographic Collection
Located in the Town Hall at 10 High Street are a collection of historic photographs of the district and the town which offer an insight into a small Victorian country town from the 1850s to the present day.

Heritage Precinct
The Victorian Heritage Council notes of the town, that it is "laid out in the standard grid pattern, with High Street being the main commercial and civic street. The main civic buildings are clustered together, the Court House (moved in from Digby in 1870), the Police Barracks (former), the Mechanics Institute and the Post Office all stand near the corner of Burke and High Streets. The streets running parallel to High Street, ascending up the slope of the hill contain most of the early residences, the school and the religious buildings. The industry of the town was also located in the centre, often adjacent to the creek, such as the brick Flour Mill, built in 1857.
"Unlike most towns of this size, Merino has a main carriageway running through the centre of the road reserve, with service roads on both sides, and plantings between the main and service roads. These are mainly part of the World War One Avenue of Honour, planted in 1932 to replace the street trees (Radiata Pines). They are supported by the war memorial, dating from 1918, located in the centre of the town on the corner of Maud and High Streets. The churches are located high on the hill overlooking the town, and are outside of this precinct ...
"The Merino Heritage Precinct is of historic significance as a township dating from the early 1840s, as one of the chain of small settlements between Portland and Casterton, which developed as the major centres in the area, and for representing the emergence of various aspects of agriculture, especially closer settlement, soldier settlement and dairying in the area ... The architectural significance of the town lies in range of buildings constructed from local materials over a long period of time, ranging from the fine religious buildings through to the humble timber cottages which remain.

Of particular interest are:
. Avenue of Honour, High Street median strip, Merino
. Flour Mill (former) and Quercus robur (English Oak), 2 Maud Street, Merino
. Bank of Victoria (former), 5 Maud Street, Merino
. Catholic Church and land, 29 Maud Street, Merino
. State School (former), 58-60 Annesley Street, Merino
. Timber House, garden and fence, 23 Annesley Street, Merino
. Merino Court House, 4 High Street, Merino
. Merino Post Office (former), 8 High Street, Merino
. Merino Public Hall, 10 High Street, Merino
. Brick Cottage and garden, 20 High Street, Merino
. Merino Hotel, 30 High Street, Merino.

Check out http://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/52937/download-report for more details.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Ghost of the Stockman Heritage Trail

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History

* The Jardwadjali people are thought to have occupied this area prior to European settlement.

* The first Europeans were the party of surveyor Thomas Mitchell which passed through the area during the Australia Felix expedition of 1836. Mitchell then headed south and encountered the Henty brothers at Portland.

* Mitchell's reports of good pasturage encouraged Francis and Edward Henty to move inland in 1837 and establish Merino Downs station on 3 August.

* In 1854 a general store and a post office were established.

* By 1855 lots of land were offered for sale.

* During the 1850s a saddlery and a private school were established in the town.

* In 1856 the Farmers Arms inn was built.

* 1857 saw a flour mill built in the town.

* An official Post Office was built in 1858.

* In 1860 the Merino Freemasons Lodge was formed.

* By 1864 a Roman Catholic Church, Our Lady of Immaculate Conception, had been built.

* In 1867 the foundation stone for the Church of England was laid.

* A Presbyterian Church was dedicated in 1868.

* In 1870 the Court House at Digby was moved to Merino.

* By 1874 the population of the district was over 2,000.

* In 1884 a railway line between Branxholme and Casterton passed through Merino.

* The Merino Cooperative Butter Factory was opened in 1885.

* In 1907 a manual telephone exchange was established in the town.

* After World War I the area was opened up to soldier settlement.

* In 1930 the Merino Mechanics Hall was completed.

* It was not until 1955 that Merino was connected to the electricity grid.

* The Butter factory was closed in 1867.

* The railway line was closed in 1977.

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Visitor Information

There is no visitor information in Merino. The closest is Portland Visitor Information Centre, Lee Breakwater Road, tel: 1800 035 567.

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Useful Websites

There is a very detailed history of the town, and notes on its importance, at http://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/52937/download-report.

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