Buninyong and District Historical Society Inc.


Reg. No. A0030085Y
Web Site http://home.vicnet.net.au/~buninhis
PO Box 98, Buninyong, Vic. 3353.


December 2006

Our last meeting of the year takes place on Thursday 20 December at 7.30 p.m. in the Court House History Centre at the Town Hall. Bring a plate of something festive to share, and we will serve the bubbly and orange juice.

Our new President, David Kimpton, will preside. He has decreed that the theme for the evening will be 'Something Quirky'. Bring along a story or event that you have collected from an old newspaper report, an oral history or a book. We will share these quirky moments as we enjoy Christmas conviviality. (I've got a great story recently collected while playing tennis for the Grenville Tennis Club!)


World League of Historical Cities Conference, Ballarat 28 October-1 November 2006

After much planning, the big conference got underway with the Ballarat Heritage Festival on the last weekend of October, auspiced by Events Ballarat. The official program included the Old Library at Buninyong, as well as the old grazing properties of Mount Boninyong and Lal Lal. We were given good publicity in the brochures prepared for the weekend. Members of our Society took part in the Workshops, which addressed the issue of Sustainable Development. Anne Beggs Sunter gave a paper on the role of Citizen Action Groups in preserving heritage, Peter Hiscock chaired some sessions, and Beth Ritchie and Neil McCracken were invited as representatives of local historical societies.

Old Library Services

I would like to extend the warm thanks of this Society for the excellent work that goes on in the Old Library in promoting Buninyong and its heritage. Michelle Coxall's bookshop is the perfect business for this historic building, and Michelle is always alert to promoting Buninyong's history. The volunteers who work in the Reading Room do a sterling job - none more than Frances Winnell and Doug Bradbry. Frances has made great strides this year in documenting the history of the Durham Lead area, whilst Doug, a retired secondary school history teacher, has been doing exciting projects with the Buninyong Primary School.

Canadian Valley Outline Development Plan

The plan was exhibited for comment in November, and we have responded favourably, for the Plan upholds the principle of separation of the three urban areas of Mount Clear, Mount Helen and Buninyong. A very well-attended public meeting was held on 21 November, when the author of the plan explained the principles. One ground-breaking part of the plan is the special attention it gives to preserving the environment of the Koala.

Opening of the Mount Buninyong-Ballarat section of the Great Dividing Trail

This section of the GDT was opened on Saturday 11 November, by Steve Monagetti. After the 8.30a.m. start, about 60 members of the Essendon Walking Club joined members of the Great Dividing Trail Association in walking from Mount Buninyong to Buninyong, and then on to Creswick for a 42 km marathon. At the opening, tribute was paid to Neil McCracken and Pat Hope for their hard work in putting in marker posts for the walk. We congratulate the City of Ballarat for its co-operation in opening up the Yuille Street section of the track.

Opening up Yuille St

An application from a resident asked the Ballarat City Council to provide access to blocks in the unmade Yuille St, below the Catholic Church. Community groups had planted out sections of this unmade road, which abuts the Botanical Gardens precinct. Our group objected to the proposal, on the grounds that it negatively impacted on the Botanical Gardens precinct and the Great Dividing Trail walk.

The issue came to Council on 13 December. Cr. Peter Innes moved an adjournment so that a compromise proposal of a track from Lal Lal Street, that would not necessitate removal of trees, could be pursued. Peter will also apply for public reserve status for the road reserve area nearest the Gardens. This could provide a win-win situation.

Gold-detecting Outing

Thanks to a local gold detector, a few of us went on a little expedition to the Stone Quarry Lead on the last Sunday in November, an excursion organised by Neil McCracken. We met at the Town Hall and then travelled a few kilometres South-West of the township, into the bush between Stone Quarry Lead and the old Green Hills road.

Barry demonstrated the technique of using a modern gold detector, and let yours truly have a go, but I am convinced that I would not have the patience demanded of a gold detector, who carefully and methododically goes over a square of ground waiting for a signal.

The gold-detecting proved an anti-climax, but we were all excited about finding the old Buninyong Natives underground mine, and some of the party were even bold enough to enter the underground cavern.

The visit did however give immediacy to an old photo donated by Stuart Skewes, which shows miners at the entrance to the Buninyong Natives Gold Mine.

Buninyong Identitites make the Courier's List of Ballarat's Greats.

The Courier (12 December 2006)r published a list of Ballarat's 100 great citizens. A committee of citizens (which included Anne Beggs Sunter) met over a number of months to refine the list and argue the merits of inclusion. Thomas and Somerville Learmonth made the list as pioneering white settlers and fine wool breeders. They were also influential in the establishment of the district's first school and church. Peter Hiscock made the list for his visionary direction of Sovereign Hill over a 22 year period, ensuring it developed into a tourist destination of world standing. Robyn and Andrew Ferry of Narmbool also made the list for their contribution to the environment and their philanthropy, both to the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery and through their gifting of their property to Sovereign Hill to be used for environmental education.


Oct-Dec 2006


Richard Chapman and his wife Julia Brennan were living at Clarendon in 1865 when their daughter Mary was born. His wife Julia died in 1895. Richard died in 1918 and according to family memory was then living 'in a cottage in the grounds of the Buninyong Primary School', which sounds like the old brick police residence.


From a descendant of Rev. Hastie in NSW, wonderful personal information and photographic evidence as well as letters.


From Mount Mercer.


An enquiry from South Gippsland, from the family who own the former Kildahl farm, wishing to be put in contact with descendants in New Zealand.

McGill, Francis

Irishman perhaps the first employee in the district when he and wife Anne became servants of the Yuille Brothers in 1840. Daughter Anne reputed to be the first white child born in the locality on 6 January 1841. (Does anyone have a counter-claim?) Francis ended his life in Buninyong as 'mein host' at the Caledonian Inn in Waarenheip Street We are very grateful to Shirley Jones for sending us a copy of ther excellent family history, There Was A Time; Chronicles of a Railway Family. ( published 2004) This family history gives a very good life of Francis McGill and his family, and some lovely insights into lefe in Ballarat East in the early twentieth century.


Irishman Nathaniel McGRATH arriving in Melbourne in 1852. Ann Elizabeth McGRATH arriving in Melb in 1857. They married in 1859 in Buninyong, settling and raising their family; he worked in the mines.


Thomas and his wife arrived from England in 1853 and settled at Grenville, where five more children were born. Thomas worked in the mines and also as a gardener. When his wife died in 1882, he married again in 1884, and died at Grenville in 1899. We recently helped a Pattenden descendant in England with a photo of the location of the Pattenden orchard, still marked by some old fruit trees on the opposite side of the road to the Grenville Recreation Reserve. Thanks to Mike Colvin of Grenville, we gathered some interesting oral history. Karen in England was delighted with the information and the photo of the old Pattenden farm.

Clifton Villa, Buninyong, in 1868, photo courtesy of Sally Hall, 2006

Clifton Villa - A strong candidate for Heritage listing.

Clifton Villa is one of the most important early residences of Buninyong from the 1850s era, and we were thrilled to receive this early photo of the house illustrated in this newsletter. . It dates from 1859, and according to family memory was based on a design from the Newman family of Bristol in England. It is a distinctive house, as the early photo in this issue shows. Most interesting are the distinctive brick twist chimneys.

The house was built from the plans of Edward Newman, an English chemist from Bristol who was attracted by the Victorian gold rush. Very early he took up practice in Ballarat as a chemist, and by 1859 he established his profession at Buninyong. He employed Thomas House of Scotchman's Lead to build the house.

The Coleman-Sutherland Study of 1983 (Buninyong's first heritage study commissioned by the Shire of Buninyong) recommended this site for inclusion in the National and State Heritage Registers. The study recorded the building as " an unusual and highly intact residence in Buninyong and a fine example of pattern book Gothic architecture." (Coleman-Sutherland Study, p. 73) The study commended particularly the decorative timber barge boards and the chimneys.

Later the house was owned by the grocer George Whykes. He had a large family and added a ballroom onto the house for entertaining purposes.


Thursday, 21 December, at 7.30p.m. General Meeting, 7.30p.m., Court House History Centre.

Cataloguing every second Monday morning, resuming February 2007, at 9.00a.m.

Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival 12-20 January 2007

Buninyong Gold King Festival, third Sunday in February 2007

Back To top of page