Charming rural service centre with impressively wide main street
Yea is an attractive rural service centre set on the Yea River in a fertile valley which Hume and Hovell eulogised as "The soil produces an abundance of fine grass and both hills and lowlands are thinly covered with timber. It is our opinion that we have not seen a more agreeable and interesting country since leaving home." It has remained that way and today is notable for having one of the widest main streets anywhere in the country. It also lies at the heart of rich country notable for its dairy industry, sheep and cattle as well as fat lambs. The population of the town has remained at about 1,000 since 1901.
Yea is 109 km north-east of Melbourne via the Goulburn Valley and Melba Highways. It is 172 metres above sea-level.^ TOP
Origin of Name
Originally known as the Muddy Creek settlement, Yea was surveyed and laid out in 1855 and the name was changed to Yea after a Colonel Lacy Walter Yea who died in action in the Crimean War.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Yea Heritage Walk
There is a downloadable brochure - Yea Heritage Walk - which can be accessed at https://yea.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Yea-Heritage-Walk-Brochure-23Aug.pdf. It lists a total of 27 places of historic interest most of which are located either on the High Street (one of the widest streets in the country) or along the Melba Highway.
Of particular interest are the following buildings which have a numbered copper plate to identify them.
1. Yea Post Office
Located at 11 The Semi Circle, the Yea Post Office was opened in 1890 although there had been a postal service to the town since 1858.
2. Horse Trough
Located near the Hume & Hovell monument in the Yea Fountain Gardens opposite the Bowling Club, 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 firstly 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.”
Behind the Bills Trough is a monument to Hume and Hovell who crossed the Yea River near this point in 1824 on an expedition which was vital for the European settlement of Victoria.
3. Yea Fountain
Located on High Street at the northern end, the Yea Fountain was built using £200 which had been the prize when the town won the "Ideal Town Competition" in 1928. It is a typical Art Deco structure. Notice the stylised base, bowl and a head featuring geometric acanthus leaves supporting a water lily bowl. Yea had won the prize because it was described as being close to perfect with the mingled requirements of town planning and civic beauty.
4. Carter's Cafe
Located next door to the Shire Hall, and still possessing features which it had when it was built in 1877, this simple building was once the Commercial Bank and, during the goldrush era, it was used as the local gold buying office. It still has elements of the original facade.
5. Yea Shire Hall
Located at 27 High Street, and dominating the street, the Shire Hall was originally a single storey building and was completed in 1877. It was rebuilt by L.J. Bishop in 1894 and extended in 1923. It was renovated in 2014. The Shire Council website explains: "Since its completion, the hall has been a community hub, hosting grand black-tie balls, civic events and public banquets, gala concerts, as well as picture shows. The hall was the venue for the Farewell and Welcome Home dinners and concerts for troops serving in both World Wars. Weddings, debutante balls and many other regular community events still bring a touch of glamour to the hall."
Located at 9 Whatton Place and built in 1884, Belvoir was originally built for James and Annie McTurk-Gibson who had married in Yea in 1859. It was the first brick house built in Yea and, for many years, was the residence and clinic of Yea’s first Doctor.
7. Police Residence
Located next to the Police Station in High Street, and built in 1894 for £98/10/-, the police residence is remarkably intact . Around the back it has a three stall stable and forage store.
8. Country Club Hotel
Located at 18 High Street, the Country Club Hotel was built in 1856 and opened its doors in 1858. It burnt down in 2015 but has been renovated (with an eye to keeping its historic appearance) and opened again in 2017.
9. Marmalades - Purcell's General Store
Located at 20 High Street, Marmalades Cafe is housed in E.S. Purcell's General Store, a 128 year old building which was established in 1887. The Victorian Heritage Database notes: "Purcell's General Store at 20 High Street, Yea is of architectural and historical importance for the following reasons:
1) as a rare, intact example of a traditional country-town general store;
2) because it retains many traditional fixtures and fittings dating from the store's inception in 1887, including three large counters, and providing much of the atmosphere and ambience of a traditional country town store;
3) as one of the oldest buildings still surviving in Yea and;
4) for its association with the Purcell family, a prominent family in Yea since the 1860's, who owned and operated the store for nearly 100 years.” For more details check https://www.marmalades.com.au.
17. Beaufort Manor
Located at 111 High Street and built in 1876 for James Sanders from local handmade bricks, Beaufort Manor cost £3,000 and was a gift to Sanders' wife. In the 1890s it was used by the Yea Orchestral Society and there were times when Dame Nellie Melba sang with the orchestra. During World War II it became a school and boarding house for Ivanhoe Grammar when 130 students were evacuated from Melbourne. For more information check out http://beaufortmanor.com.au.
20. Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Located at 9 The Parade and built in 1902. The Murrindindi Heritage Study notes: "The current Sacred Heart church replaced the 1890 wooden church building. Designs for the new red brick building included plans for transepts which could be built as later additions. Construction of the church cost £2,369. The new church was formally opened and blessed by Archbishop Carr on 26 October 1902. It was designed by the same architectural firm, by then called Kempson & Conolly, of Oxford Chambers, Bourke Street, Melbourne. The firm Kempson and Conolly did frequent work for the Catholic Church in the late 19th and early 20th century."
21. St. Luke's Anglican Church
Located in Pelissier Street and built in 1868, this cement-faced Gothic church of three bays was designed by Albert Purchas with a sanctuary and vestry added in 1907. It cost £600 and an additional £200 was spent on furnishings. It has an impressive small pipe organ which is listed in the Victorian Heritage Database as: "The organ in St Luke's Church was built circa 1900 by the Positive Organ Company, London. The organs of this firm, founded by Thomas Casson, were built to a number of standarised designs allowing for the simulation of pedal and solo effects from a single-manual instrument. The St Luke's organ was in St James's Anglican Church, Thornbury between 1917 and 1969, but its early history remains unknown. Following two subsequent moves, it was installed at Yea in 1982. This organ is a rare and unaltered example of an early Positive Organ (opus 168) notable for the excellence of its voicing and the ingenuity of its design." For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/69453.
22. Lee Gow's General Store
Located on the corner of Station and Anne Streets, and built in 1889, this simple building was once owned by Lee Gow, a well-known Chinese resident, who advertised his store as "your dear old friend Lee Gow". The Murrindindi Heritage Study notes of the building "Taking advantage of the fact that trains passing through Yea would stop there for twenty minutes, Lee Gow sold confectionary, fruit and vegetables, small goods and soft drinks. During the 1980s the building was occupied by a French restaurant (Le Beret), and in the 1990s by the Kirby Family Antique and Second Hand Goods."
23. Scots Presbyterian Church
Located at 31 Station Street the Murrindindi Heritage Study notes "The Scots Presbyterian Church at 31 Station Street was built by L.J. Bishop in 1923. The foundation stone was laid on 16 December 1922 and it was officially opened by the Rt. Rev. John McKenzie on 12 July 1923. Funds were largely raised through bonds, with the final payment made in 1939. Harvey Blanks writes that this was 'partly as a result of a £500 legacy from Mrs Officer'. The Oregon pine seats (built by T. Watson) and part of the pulpit from the original church were moved to the present church. The first minister of the new church was the Revered Horatio Augustus Eugene O'Sullivan, who had begun his term at Yea in 1921. Local families have donated various items of furniture, stained glass and there have been minor alterations over the years ... The total cost of the Church was £2,600. The original church had been used as a school at different times."
Located at 35 Station Street (on the corner of Mary Street) this large Federation style villa is the most impressive building in the street. The Murrindindi Heritage Study notes "In 1952 it was purchased by medical practitioner, Ralph Reginald Pilkington. It was then sold to other medical practitioners, Charles George Sargent Hosking and Dorothy Pryde Paterson on 20 May, 1964. It is known locally as 'the doctor's house'."
25. Railway Station
Located at 14 Station Street and built in 1889, the Yea Railway Station "complex represents the most intact example of a small group of Gothic styled Railway Station buildings built in the late nineteenth century." The Victorian Heritage Database notes: "The station represents the most picturesque design of railway buildings prepared by the Railways Department. It features polychromatic brickwork, decorative barge-work and a jerkinhead slate roof. The entrance porch includes detailing consistent with the Tudor style featuring shallow and angular pointed openings to the windows. The walls are pierced with blind slit windows, and the verandah columns are finished with foliated capitals." For more details check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/1262.
26. Yea Butter Factory
Located in Rattray Street, this huge building was first incorporated in 1891 as the Yea Dairy Co. Ltd. Butter Factory. The Victorian Heritage Database notes: "The building gains significance from its continuous usage which has occurred without the need to make extensive alterations to the original building. Architecturally the red brick building is a well maintained, carefully detailed prominent industrial building with unusual styling reminiscent of a European castle. The use of papapets, rare in an industrial building, and its siting on a small rise on the outskirts of Yea, add to this impression. One of only two such elaborate buildings built during this period, both the Yea building and the Euroa Butter factory are architectually significant for the level of design and the workmanship of the building, unusual in an industrial building erected at such an early phase of the industry while the financial outcome of such a high level of investment was still in doubt." By 1905 it was producing 24 tons of butter a week. When it closed in the 1980s it became a cheese factory. For more information check out https://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/69456.
Yea Wetlands Discovery Centre
Located a short walk along High Street is the Yea Wetlands Discovery Centre. It is a combination of natural bushlands and floodplain wetlands. The Franklin Track, which departs from the Discovery Centre, passes across a cable suspension bridge. The wetlands are home to platypus and native water rats. The wetlands are also home to koalas and native birds. There are interpretative signs which describe the aquatic mammals and explain how the local Aborigines used the wetlands. The Discovery Centre promotes itself as a sustainable building with the website pointing out that "including passive solar design and northern orientation; radial sawn, sustainably harvested timber; rain water harvesting for use in toilets; photovoltaic solar panels; double glazing; open-able windows for natural ventilation and overnight air-purge; low VOC materials for clean indoor air." Check out https://yeawetlands.com.au for more information.
Other Attractions in the Area
There is an excellent and detailed brochure which can be downloaded at https://yea.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Cheviot-Tunnel-Brochure-23Aug.pdf. It explains the history of the Tallarook-Mansfield railway line and provides a map and detailed information of how to inspect the tunnel. It notes: "The historic Cheviot Rail Tunnel is a key feature of the Tallarook to Mansfield Rail Line which operated between 1883 and 1970. Being the only tunnel on this line, and made using handmade bricks using local clay, which remain in excellent condition today it has tremendous heritage values. The Tunnel was constructed to pass trains across the Black Range at McLoughlin’s Gap roughly half way between Yea and Molesworth. Built under tender by Kenny Bros. as part of the Yea to Cathkin section at a cost of £88,661/2/11 the work was delayed by accidents, floods and several industrial disputes. The tunnel was constructed from an estimated 675,000 handmade bricks using local clay. This was sourced from Quinlan’s pit in a nearby paddock just west of the Tunnel. Some steel hooks that held lanterns in emergencies still exist near the four indented safety alcoves. These are located at regular intervals along the eastern wall." It is 201 metres long and can be accessed via the Great Victorian Rail Trail - of which it is part.
Great Victorian Rail Trail
The Great Victorian Rail Trail runs from Tallarook, through Yea, to Mansfield. It is a total of 137 km, mostly flat, and can be accessed at various points along the way. The excellent website (which has maps and detailed information about various legs of the journey) is located at https://www.greatvictorianrailtrail.com.au/. It explains that “The Great Victorian Rail Trail is Australia’s longest continuous rail trail, with Victoria’s longest rail trail tunnel at Cheviot. The trail spans 134 kilometres from Tallarook, through Trawool, Yea to Molesworth and Yarck to Cathkin and Alexandra. Located less than one hour from Melbourne, the trail travels through beautiful countryside following the heritage classified Goulburn River at Tallarook and passes through the Trawool Valley, classified by the National Trust for its scenic beauty. You can take a ride through the historic 201 metre long Cheviot Tunnel and explore the old Alexandra Station with its Timber Tramway and Museum. The rail trail meanders through farmland, crossing over Lake Eildon at the Brankeet Arm, on its way to the Victorian High Country, Mt Buller and neighbouring Mt Stirling. You could choose to begin or end your journey at the Information Centre in Mansfield. With plenty of Australian wildlife out and about it’s your chance to get up close to echidnas, wallabies, kangaroos and native birds in their natural surroundings. Towns and villages along the way offer unique experiences and places to explore, including historic landmarks and buildings, art galleries, museums, food and wine, shopping and markets.”
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Waring Illum Balluk group of the Taungurung First Nation people.
* The first Europeans in the area were the party of explorers William Hovell and Hamilton Hume who crossed the Yea River near the site of Yea in 1824. Their favourable report of the grazing land led to the settlement of Victoria.
* The first settlers in the district were overlanders from New South Wales who arrived in 1837. Peter Snodgrass licensed the Murrindindi Run in that year.
* Most of the good land on the Goulburn River had been taken up by 1839.
* Yea developed on the Murrindindi run.
* John Cotton established Doongallook Run west of Yea in 1843.
* The first town was known as Muddy Creek. It was established by 1855.
* The first sale of town lots occurred in 1856.
* The Yea River was called Muddy Creek until 1878.
* The town was surveyed and laid out by Thomas Pinniger, a government surveyor, in 1855 with town lots going on sale at Kilmore in 1856.
* Gold was discovered in the area in 1859 and a number of smaller mining settlements came into existence at this time, including Molesworth. Yea grew as a service centre to the diggers.
* A school was established by the Anglican and Presbyterian churches in 1859.
* A road board was established in 1869.
* An Anglican church was erected in 1868 and Yea became a shire in 1873, at which time the population was about 250.
* The floods of 1870 washed away roads and bridges in the district.
* When the gold ran out, the town survived on the back of farming and timbergetting.
* The railway from Tallarook arrived in 1883. It required over 20 bridges.
* Yea was promoted as something of a tourist centre in the 1890s with trout being released into King Parrot Creek to attract recreational anglers.
* A butter factory was built in 1891.
* There was a proposal in 1908 to submerge the town under the Trawool Water Scheme but it never went ahead.
* By 1911 the town's population was 1126.
* Electricity was connected to the town in 1922.
* The Yea Fountain was officially opened in 1928. That year saw the town win the Victorian Tidy Town award.
* The area experienced a severe flood in 1934.
* A hospital was opened in 1947.
* A swimming pool was opened in 1956.
* The area around the town experienced a major bushfire in 1969.
* The railway closed in 1970.
* The town was flooded in 1973.
* A number of houses were lost in the Black Friday bushfire of 2009.^ TOP
Yea Wetlands Discovery Centre, 2 Hood Street, tel: (03) 5797 2663.^ TOP
There is a useful and interesting local website. Check out https://www.discoverdindi.com.au/destinations/yea-surrounds.^ TOP