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Skipton, VIC

Small town known as "The Home of the Platypus"

Skipton is a small rural service centre which, historically, was surrounded by huge properties owned and run by wealthy graziers. It is no accident that the main attraction in the district is Mooramong, an impressive set of rural buildings which were the home of silent-screen star Claire Adams and her husband Donald 'Scobie' Mackinnon until gifted to the National Trust in the 1980s. The town is located on Mount Emu Creek which flooded in 2010-2011 causing considerable damage to the town.

Location

Skipton is located 167 km west of Melbourne via the Glenelg Highway and 52 km south-west of Ballarat.

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Origin of Name

Skipton was named after a town of the same name in Yorkshire, England. Appropriately, the name comes from Old English - "Scip-tun" meaning "sheep town"

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Things to See and Do

St Andrews Presbyterian Church
Located at 48-50 Montgomery Street, St Andrews Presbyterian Church is a tuck-pointed bluestone Gothic Revival church. The Victorian Heritage Database describes the church's distinctive features as: "dressed with Waurn Ponds limestone, comprising nave, chancel, and bell tower with spire. It was built in 1871-72 to a design by architects Davidson and Henderson of Geelong. The style has been identified as Low and Mixed Gothic. The building also features a slate roof, and a square bell tower ornamented with a (kangaroo?) gargoyle to each corner. Internal features include two rows of cast iron columns that define the central aisle, cast iron railings to the gallery, timber fretwork arches and timber joinery, pews and pulpit. A vestry was added in 1926. An honour board affixed to an interior wall dedicated to local soldiers killed in World War I was probably installed in the early 1920s. Contributory elements to the site include the perimeter bluestone fence, iron gates, and mature plantings, including Monterey Cypress." For more detailed information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/1024.

Mount Emu Creek Bridge
Located on Montgomery Street and built in 1877 this bluestone bridge replaced earlier bridges which had been destroyed by floods in the creek. It remains as an important example of the early history of the town.

Skipton Court House - now Skipton Historical Society Museum
Located at 33-35 Montgomery Street, the Skipton Court House is an unusual example of a very early portable building, one of the few remaining from the goldrush era. It was originally constructed at the government camp at Fiery Creek in 1856 and moved to Skipton in 1867. The exterior of the building exhibits the early method of construction with horizontal wall boards dropped between studs and held in place with cover strips. The building may have originally had a canvas roof. Check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/1025. Today it is used by the Skipton Historical Society as their museum. For more information tel: (03) 5340 2186.

Seeing Platypus in Mount Emu Creek
There is a simple technique for seeing platypus in the wild: be silent and visit the creek either in the very early morning or at dusk. Ask around the town for the best places along the creek where platypus usually have their nests.

Bills Horse Trough
Located on the Glenelg Highway on the eastern side of the Mount Emu Creek, the Bills Horse Trough is one of many scattered throughout Victoria. The story is fascinating. George Bills, born in Brighton, England, in 1859, emigrated to Australia and established a wire mattress business and when he died in 1927 “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 in 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.”

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Other Attractions in the Area

Mooramong
Located 5 km west of the town off the Glenelg Highway at 635 Mooramong Road, and only open to group tours by appointment, Mooramong is now owned and run by the National Trust. There is a very detailed history of the property at http://www.skiptonaustralia.org/292551453.
It is a beautiful station complex which dates from 1873 when it was built to a design by Geelong architects, Davidson & Henderson. It was significantly altered after 1938 by North American (she was from Canada) silent-screen star Claire Adams and her husband Donald 'Scobie' Mackinnon who provided an Art Deco interior to the Victorian facade.
Scobie met and married Claire Adams in London in 1937, spent a year touring the world on an extended honeymoon, and arrived in Skipton in 1938. "Soon after she arrived at the property outside Skipton she started to transform the main residence into a hacienda-style stately home. She also arranged for the building of what was, at the time, the largest privately-owned pool in the Southern hemisphere.
Claire and Scobie adored each other all their lives. At their request their ashes were buried together under a headstone tucked back from the manicured lawn that surrounds the pool that was the scene of so much fun during their lives.
The reason we know so much about Claire and Scobie is because Claire used part of her substantial personal fortune (inherited from her former husband)  to purchase cameras and film."
The couple's furnishings remain and the residence is surrounded by attractive gardens and a nature reserve which is home to western basalt grasslands flora including kangaroo grass, wallaby grass, spear grass and herbs. Claire Adams bequeathed the property to the National Trust in 1982.
You can watch an extract from Mooramong – A Private Hollywood, a documentary narrated by Rachel Ward, at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1505363/?ref_=vi_nxt_ap
Farmstay accommodation (both Stockmans and Overseers Cottages as well as Rouseabouts Quarters) is available. For more information check out https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/mooramong or tel: (03) 5656 9889.

Mt Widderin Caves sometimes called Skipton Caves
The Mt Widderin Caves are located on Mt Widderin station 6 km south of Skipton, just off the Lismore Road. The main cave is 58 m long, 19 m wide and 9 m high. There is a  200-metre walk which leads to a subterranean lake. These caves were formed when lava cools leaving an outer crust which forms a tunnel. The lava continues to flow through this tube. Thus they are also known as lava tubes (like the ones at Undara in far North Queensland) and are reputedly the largest lava tubes in Victoria. They are no longer open to the public. Check out https://www.mindat.org/loc-205.html  and http://www.skiptonaustralia.org/292551455 for more information.

Snake Valley
Located 28 km east of Skipton is the tiny village of Snake Valley. It is worth visiting because (a) the Royal Hotel is a charming rural hotel which dates from 1856 and (b) the Presbyterian Church at 954 Linton-Carngham Road is a lovely old bluestone church - Carngham Uniting Church - dating back to the 19th century which has impressive stained glass windows and an organ which is listed by the Victorian Heritage Database which describes it as "A two-manual organ of 11 stops, of lavish quality, built in 1893-4 by Fincham & Hobday, remaining in a remarkable state of originality, retaining its polished blackwood casework with double facade of ornately diapered pipes, tubular pneumatic action, tonal scheme and pipework. It is among the earliest Fincham instruments to survive retaining its pneumatic action which was first introduced by the firm in the previous decade, and the sole example known to remain utilising sliderless windchests." See https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/69554 for details.

Ballarat-Skipton Rail Trail
The Ballarat–Skipton Rail Trail runs 57 kilometres along the old Skipton railway line from Ballarat, south-west through Haddon, Smythesdale and Pittong to Skipton. The total length of the trail is 63 km including a section from Ballarat railway station to the trailhead. One major landmark on the route is the historic timber Nimmons Bridge at Newtown - this is on the 17 km Smythesdale to Linton section. There is a very major description of the stages of the rail trail at https://www.railtrails.org.au/trail?view=trail&id=145. Bikes can be hired at Linton Bike Hire.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Wathaurong Aborigines.

* The first European in the area was Alexander Anderson who took up land at the Bamgamie station in 1838.

* A townsite was surveyed in 1852 on a crossing over Mt Emu Creek where tracks from Geelong and Melbourne met.

* Land sales followed the establishment of a townsite and 25 people were recorded in the village in 1854.

* A Presbyterian church was opened in 1857. That year saw the opening of the local Court House.

* Novelist Henry Kingsley worked as an overseer on a pastoral station in the district in 1857.

* Skipton post office opened in 1858.

* Skipton became a major centre for sales of pure wool and the first rural show in the Western District of Victoria was held here in 1859. That year saw the establishment of a local pastoral association.

* The Skipton Hotel was also built in 1859.

* A school was opened in 1864.

* Work started on a Methodist Church in 1865. 

* The local rural show moved to Ballarat in 1873.

* A Mechanics Institute was opened in 1880.

* The Roman Catholic Church was consecrated in 1897.

* Victorian premier from 1955 to 1972, Henry Bolte, was born at Skipton in 1908.

* The railway from Scarsdale arrived in 1918.

* Cypress trees were planted in the town in 1914-1918.

* Russell Hall was built in the town in 1918.

* A bush nursing hospital was opened in 1925.

* In 1931 the local footbridge was destroyed by floodwaters.

* In 1963 the Victorian Premier, Henry Bolte, opened a new hospital.

* The Skipton and District Historical Society was formed in 1984.

* The railway to the town closed down in 1985.

* In September, 2010 and in 2011 the town was hit by severe flooding.

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Visitor Information

There is no Visitor Information Centre in Skipton but the Ballarat Visitor Information Centre, 225 Sturt Street, Ballarat, tel: (03) 5337 4337 has information. It is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm seven days a week.

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website. Check out http://www.skiptonaustralia.org.

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