Buninyong and District Historical Society Inc.

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


March 2007

Buninyong hosted the Australian Cycling Championships on the 11-14 January 2007.
The cyclists loved the course, but some locals found the road closures very inconvenient!

2007 opened with our meeting on Thursday 15 February at 7.30 p.m. in the Court House History Centre at the Town Hall. This is just a few days before the Buninyong Gold King Festival on Sunday 18 February.

Our next meeting will take place on Thursday, 19 April, at 7.30 p.m., when our guest speaker will be Erica Nathan, who will speak on the History of the Moorabool River.. Her book Lost Waters, is shortly to be published by Melbourne University Press.


In this year's Australia Day Honours two local citizens were honoured - Topsy Nevett of Mount Helen, and Robert Knowles of Clarendon. We particularly rejoice at Topsy's gong, because she has been a great worker for the Buninyong Gold King Festival since its inception., as well as many other community organisations such as Tidy Towns. Topsy is a member of the Fisken family, and was Shire President of the Buninyong Shire, carrying on a great family tradition.

In Memorium Carmel Beggs (nee Prunty) died on Christmas Day 2006 at the age of 91, one of the last of the family of Daniel and Cecelia Prunty of Clarendon, farmers and stalwarts of the local Catholic Church.. She was buried at the Clarendon Cemetery after a requiem mass at St. Mary's Clarendon, said by her godson, Father Gerard Prunty.

The Mount Buninyong CFA celebrated its75th anniversary in February. Great to see John Scott from Scotsburn ready to celebrate, as he approaches his 90th birthday. In an article in the Courier on 31 January 2007, John recalled fighting his first fire with a beater and a rake!

Planning Matters

An application by Roadcom was advertised during the Christmas holidays, for a proposed 108 unit subdivision opposite Buninyong Golf Club. The application attracted much interest locally. A meeting of concerned citizens was held, and a number of objections to the proposal lodged. This Society objected on the grounds that it would negatively impinge on the character of the village, and was against the principles of residential development laid down in the Canadian Valley Outline Development Plan.

An application to open up the unmade section of Yuille St. near the Botanical Gardens was also opposed, but Ballarat City Council finally approved the application on 24 January, noting that the Great Dividing Trail has to be safeguarded, trees planted, and Cr. Peter Innes promises to pursue an application to preserve the Gardens' end of the road reserve from development.

During the current severe drought, which has seen Lake Wendouree dry up completely, the Buninyong Gong has also suffered dramatically, falling to the lowest level locals can remember. Significantly, Hastie's Spring has stopped flowing, but Coleman's Spring has continued, although it has been salutary that individuals have been seen exploiting the Spring by filling tankers for sale to desperate gardeners.


Jan-March 2007

Bradshaw, Edward Buller

- from a great, great grandson in Perth.

Chapman, Thomas and Elizabeth

- buried at Buninyong 1908-12. Bootmaker, believed to have lived in Herriott St, Buninyong. Although not in rate book

Fanchi, Dominico and his wife Elizabeth (nee Buckle)

- had a farm in Platt's Road, Scotsburn in the nineteenth century.

Logan, Jane

- in Buninyong from 1849 to 1864,when she died in the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum, according to family information

Mitchell, Thomas

- butcher of Durham Lead

Paynter, John Bateman

- solicitor, Buninyong, 1860s. Query from Scotland

Purves, Thomas

- Chemist in Buninyong, 1870s, when he was also Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths. His sister Janett Purves married Thomas Mitchell of Durham Lead, who became a butcher, and Janett became a leading member of the Durham Lead School Committee in the early years of the twentieth century. We have a photo of Mrs Mitchell unveiling the Durham Lead School War Memorial in 1917. Sadly the school was destroyed by fire in 1929, and the photo is the only evidence of an important war memorial.

Shinkfield, Robert

- miner at Magpie after jumping ship in 1853. Following earlier enquiry.


- interest in tracing relatives

Trestrail - Elizabeth Richards (nee Trestrail)

- of Cornish origin, was a publican at Grenville in the 1880s.

If readers know anything about any of these names, and can help, please contact the secretary a.beggs-sunter@ballarat.edu.au

Durham Lead

Our collection of material on Durham Lead has been growing rapidly, thanks to the dedicated research of Frances Winnell. She has located a copy of the Durham Lead School Pupil Register, and copied it into a database for our computer.

By an amazing coincidence, Stuart Skewes got access to the Minutes of the Durham Lead School Committee from 1911 to the closure of the school in 1942. He gave us a typed copy for our records. In addition we have a number of photos, and interviews with long-time residents of the area.

Gold King Festival, 18th February 2007

It was a fiercely hot day! In our drought affected year, the thermometer climbed to around 30 by 10.00 a.m. The Lions Fun Run was dispensed with very early, and the Ecumenical Church Service at De Soza Park came off beautifully, before 10.00 a.m.

From then the temperature rose and rose, and it became difficult to stand in the sun. So the people who participated in the Procession showed enormous commitment to the Buninyong community! In spite of the heat, it was an excellent procession, with strong support from community groups such as the Buninyong Primary School, the Pre=School, Scouts, Lions, Riding for the Disabled and of course the CFA.

Visitors to the Court House were down on previous years, but we did have some interesting local visitors, and we signed up a new member in Colin Price. Colin told us of his colourful naval career during World War Two as an artificer, and gave us a copy of his reminiscences for our collection. He is descended from Gillies family who settled at the foot of Mount Buninyong in the 1870s.

It was also good to see Frank Lowden, full of stories of his childhood in Buninyong, and Don Ogilvie joined in the conversation. Bob Skewes was on duty as a volunteer, and shared some of his knowledge of old mine sites. Bob has recently moved back to Buninyong and will be a great asset to our Society.

Mount Helen Heritage

Mount Helen was a farming area with tracts of bushland until the 1950s, when Buninyong began to develop after a long stagnant period. There had been a small siding on the Buninyong-Ballarat railway line called Green Hill flag station from 6 August 1895, on the rise of the hill known as Mount Helen. Locals identified the area as Green Hill, which was the name of the school and church.

Corbett & Scott established the first real estate office in Buninyong in Warrenheip St. in 1957. In the rate records new entries appeared for homes in Eddy Ave, Moss Ave and along Geelong Road. People were attracted to the area for its pristine natural environment - bushland, koalas, birds and views.

In the 1960s the developer B.E. Hayden purchased a large area of bushland between Mount Helen and Mount Clear, which it called the Helen View Estate. It was the development of this estate that helped bring the name 'Mount Helen' into popular use. By 1968 Hayden's was advertising the first release of land on the estate, with 'a glorious view from every block'. The estate was promoted as overlooking the new Ballarat Institute of Advanced Education (forebear of the present University of Ballarat ) which was being built on 260 acres of prime farmland. Local names were given to the area - Nevett, Fisken, Darriwell etc.

Pressure to develop the area north of the township was building. A development strategy for the township of Buninyong was commissioned by the Shire in 1977. This recommended that the ridge lines around the township be guarded from development, and that a green belt remain between Buninyong and Mt. Helen.

Local authorities began to take a more co-ordinated attitude to planning by 1982, when an important Land Conservation Council report was published. This prompted Martin Westbrooke to begin a campaign to reserve 70 hectares of redundant water reserve land for an educational reserve, which became the Union Jack Reserve, formally gazetted in 1986.

The tertiary institute fuelled development. At first it was residential, with staff members buying land and building houses nearby. Environmental scientist Dr Pat Prevett monitored the local koala population, and warned in 1988 that the population was under threat because of loss of habitat due to continuing residential development.

Then in the 1990s came the push to develop the technology park, with green fields appropriated for developments such as the IBM Centre, the State Data Centre and Green Hill Enterprise Centre. Residents had to fight to try to stop a motel, shops and a caravan park. Then the University embarked on the destruction of the remains of the old Buninyong-Ballarat railway line, with a new development for the Victorian Ambulance Service in 2003. Another piece of natural habitat has gone in the name of 'progress', and little now remains of the railway, apart from a brick culvert over the creek, which is in bad repair.

The problem for the last remnant of bushland at Mt. Helen was that the former Shire of Buninyong zoned it as residential back in the 1960s and that zoning was continued by the Ballarat City Council. The Buninyong Residents' Association, in 2003, sought re-zoning of the land, unsuccessfully. In 2005, the developer Roadcon gained approval to develop an 87 lot housing subdivision in Darriwell Drive, which is bizarrely named 'Sanctuary'.The Buninyong Ward Residents' Group launched a determined bid to save this bushland for the Koalas in 2003. The Ballarat City Council was swayed by the arguments of locals, and said it would protect the site. However Roadcom took the Ballarat City Council to VCAT, and won approval to develop the site.

The developers have been using the symbol of a Butterfly to promote their development. An English tourist came into the Buninyong Tourist Information Centre in 2006 and asked where was the butterfly reserve, which she would like to visit. So sad to explain to the visitor that the 'Sanctuary' sign actually promoted a real estate development that would result in the removal of much of the local butterflies' habitat!

This 'Sanctuary' development in Mount Helen has been a matter of great sadness and anger to local community groups, including the Buninyong and District Historical Society.

We remain committed to fighting for the protection of the natural and built heritage of our beautiful locality!



Thursday, 19 April General Meeting, 7.30p.m., Court House History Centre. Erica Nathan to speak on the History of the Moorabool River

Every 2nd Monday morning Cataloguing, starting from Monday 5 March, at 9.00a.m. We work for two hours, then take coffee at a local cafe. Helpers always very welcome!

1st Sunday of each month Court House open from 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.

4-5 May Buninyong Film Festival

Sunday 20 May Excursion. Explore Old Railway Lines and Racecourses. Meet at the Lal Lal Railway Station at 1.00 p.m., to explore the old Lal Lal Racecourse Line, and the Bungaree Race Course Line. Examine the economic and social impacts! A chance to view the good work undertaken by the Lal Lal Falls Reserve Committee of the Moorabool Shire. Put the date in your diary!
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