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

APRIL-JUNE, 2003 Newsletter

Apologies for the unavoidable delay in this newsletter. – serious computer problems! Our April meeting took place on Thursday, 24 April, delayed by Easter. We had hoped to attract some new residents of Buninyong to the meeting, with a panel of speakers about the early history of Buninyong, but we had only three new faces. Still, the evening provoked some interesting discussion.

Our next meeting takes place on Thursday, 19 June, at 7.30 p.m., at the Town Hall History Centre. The Guest Speaker will be Jim Quinn of Ballarat, who will speak about the Chinese on the Goldfields. Jim is a former lecturer in Asian studies at the University of Ballarat, and has been to China several times. Please come along, and join us for a cuppa afterwards. Also members are invited to join the Committee at the Crown Hotel at 6.00p.m. before the meeting for a meal.

We are sad to record the passing of one of Buninyong's eminent citizens, Allan Bath, who died on 28 April 2003, aged 71. Allan was the son of Mavis and Don Bath of Buninyong and educated at the Buninyong State School. He worked for many years as an orderly and clerical officer at the Ballarat Base Hospital. He was a dedicated community worker, and known to many people as the Secretary of the Buninyong Cemetery Trust over many years. He received the Citizen of the Year Award in 1993 from the Shire of Buninyong.

The Cataloguing team continues to make steady progress every second Monday morning. President Neil McCracken is working hard at recording all the old place names of Buninyong and district. Pat Hope and Beth Ritchie are indexing the Holy Trinity Baptismal Register, and finding many interesting and obscure place names. Rev. Russell certainly covered a lot of territory in the 1860s! Neil has also organised for a volunteer to begin putting the Cemetery Index onto a computer database, using the Filemaker software, which we have purchased.

Our Society has asked Heritage Victoria to list Holy Trinity Church in Buninyong on its register of significant buildings. Heritage listing would help the Church Community to raise funds to restore this beautiful 1862 church, built from local bluestone.

We have renewed our membership of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, and our insurance through them. There was an alarming increase in the premium this year, with an individual fee of $7.50, and an incredible premium for over 80-year-olds, for whom the premium is $150 per annum. This is a ridiculous discrimination against our senior citizens, which apparently crops up for many community organisations. The issue was raised at the Central Highlands Historical Association meeting on 3 May 2003, and all societies have been hard hit. Bungaree mentioned that their family membership of $15 was totally swallowed by the insurance payment! This change certainly means we have to re-think membership fees.

Another subject discussed at the CHHA meeting was the impact of recent Privacy legislation - at Federal and State level – upon the activities of historical societies. We were given a lucid lecture by an officer from the Victorian Privacy Commission, and both Neil and Anne, who represented our Society, had some problems clarified. The main point is that when we collect information from people, we need to determine their attitude to sharing that information. We will incorporate a question into our family history information form. The Victorian Privacy Act basically applies to living people. Information that has been made available in the public domain - e.g. through newspapers, Public Records etc. is not affected by the legislation. So it was generally reassuring to learn that our activities are not curtailed by the legislation.

Internet Queries

Our Web site is regularly visited and much appreciated by people from around Australia and indeed, the world. We recently sent a copy of our book Three Times Blest, to Scotland.

These are a selection of recent queries:

Des Murphy from Western Australia sent a kind message about our Website, and subsequently sent an order for all our publications.

WINTER. We had a query from the USA about John Winter. We were able to provide some information for the inquirer's parents, who came up from Melbourne to collect photocopies.

DONNELLY and GLEESON of NAVIGATORS, from a descendant in Wonthaggi.

RENNIE. Jane Ritchie (nee Stanbury), born in London in 1833. Her first husband was Robert Ritchie and they had a daughter Fanny. After death of her husband, she married Richard Rennie, well-known builder in Buninyong. (Query from the great, great granddaughter of Fanny.)

UMBERS. Frank Umbers deserted ship in Melbourne around 1852 and went to the goldfields. He married under the assumed name of Frank Crowther. Was living in the Buninyong-Bungaree area in 1860s and 1870s. (Query from a descendant in Tasmania, who purchased Three Times Blest.)

SWINGLE. John James Swingle was employed at the Lal Lal Iron mine in the 1880s. (Query from Queensland.)

GODFREY. Horatio Nelson Godfrey came from Tasmania and worked as a blacksmith in Warrenheip St. Buninyong between 1870 and 1875.

If anyone has any information about the above, please contact us.


Anne Beggs Sunter

When the British Government claimed New South Wales as a British territory in 1788, it declared Australia terra nullius (unoccupied land) and vested all land in the Crown. Initially the Governor was instructed to set aside some lands for public purposes - roads, townships, government buildings, churches, health and recreation, burial grounds and to make grants of land to government officials and men of capital.

The concept of land set aside for the public good had developed over a long period in England. The right of villages to pasture their animals, to gather firewood and peat, and the right to take fish. Navigable rivers were seen as a common resource, and very early in Australia, in 1804, a regulation decreed that all land within 3 roods of navigable rivers should be reserved as public land.

Victoria, known initially as the Port Phillip district of NSW, was settled illegally by squatters from Tasmania in 1836-7, and overlanders from Sydney, who simply occupied an area of land as their 'run'. The Learmonth Brothers established their run at Buninyong in 1838. At first the original occupiers of the land, the Aboriginal people, were totally disregarded. But orders came from London in 1839 to establish a small number of Aboriginal reserves, under the management of public servants called Protectors. One such protectorate was established on the Loddon River, at Franklingford near Daylesford, where 64 square miles were set aside. This experiment failed, and was abandoned in 1849.

Such philanthropic aims did not fit the mood of early Port Phillip, which was simply 'a camping ground for profit'. The British government faced this reality, and asked the squatters to pay 10 pounds a year as a lease on their runs. Some idea of the scale of these squatting operations can be gained when we consider that in 1844, just four squatters occupied 7.7 million acres, carrying 1.2 million sheep.

Victoria was gradually surveyed in the 1840s-50s, divided into counties, then parishes on the English system, each Parish of 25 square miles. The European Enlightenment sense of order and science projected its grid on the land, irrespective of landscape features. The surveyors marked out townships in neat squares or rectangles, often having to deal with settlements that grew like topsy before the surveyors arrived. Buninyong began to develop as a settlement in 1841, but the first surveyor did not arrive till 1848, when Mr Malcolm sketched the emerging settlement, showing the Presbyterian chapel and school of the Reverend Thomas Hastie.

Early in 1850 surveyor James Malcolm arrived to survey the township of Buninyong, one square mile in grid pattern, completing his job in June. He named the streets of Buninyong after local squatters, naming the main street Learmonth Street -the old Portland Bay road. 1 The first sales of land in Buninyong took place in Melbourne on 9 May 1851. Even at this very early stage, some land was set aside for public purposes -for example an area for a cemetery.

From April to September 1853, Mr Dawson, Government Surveyor, was camped at Buninyong, working on marking out the Geelong-Ballarat road and extending the survey of Buninyong. There were seven in the party - "Mr Dawson the governor, Tom the cook, (an old convict), West the horse driver, Walter Woodbury from Manchester and Joseph Everard from Leicester as chainsmen, Charles Scott from Plymouth as flagman, and William Baird, a Scotsman, whose job was to carry the theodolite when Mr Dawson was not using it". (Walter Woodbury's correspondence, 20 June 1853, copy held by Buninyong and District Historical Society.) They marked about four miles a day, and camped in three tents on the outskirts of Buninyong, having an Aboriginal family as neighbours. The Society has an early photo of a group of men in
the Buninyong Rangers. It looks very like the survey camp which Woodbury describes.

According to Walter Woodbury, Buninyong had five public houses in August 1853, and only 20 houses. He wrote to his mother
"So that you can have some idea of the work we have been about I have sent
you a small plan of the township which consists of 9square miles: the mile in
the centre is the one which was laid out 2 or 3 yearsago and the rest is the land
we have surveyed".

Once municipal councils were formed from the mid-1850s, citizens petitioned the government to set aside land for recreational purposes. Thus the Buninyong Botanical Gardens reserve, Hastie's Springs, and the Highland Ground (later Royal Park). With commendable foresight, local citizens asked for a Mount Buninyong Reserve to be set aside in 1866.

By the late 1840s squatters were pressing for some security over their holdings, and by the 1847 Gipps Regulations, they were able, after five years of occupation, to purchase 320 acres (the pre-emptive right) for one pound an acre. Squatters pressed to purchase as much land as they could, especially after the gold discoveries of 1851. Between 1855 and 1859, the Learmonths paid 75,000 pounds for 20,000 acres at Ercildoun.

The development of the goldfields in the 1850s created not only pressure to survey new towns, but also to make land available for agriculture. This was one of the cries of the militant miners' associations, formed from 1853. The miners wanted reform of the goldfields administrative system, an end of the hated gold licence (huge in comparison to the squatters' annual licence fee), the right to vote and the right to purchase land. Their anger boiled over at the Eureka Stockade in December 1854, when 30 diggers gave their lives for the cause.

A Royal Commission of 1854 looked at the issue of land, and recommended that squatters be given only an annual license in areas close to settled areas, but with rights to compensation for improvements. Another Royal Commission after Eureka recommended the scrapping of the Goldfields Administration, the introduction of a Miner's Right and access to land.

The Miner's Right, for one pound a year, gave the holder the right to dig for gold and to build a home and develop a garden on a piece of land called a Residence Area. In this way, miners and their families settled the country towns of Central Victoria. Eventually these residence areas were incorporated into the system of legal land title.

Land around Ballarat was opened up for farming purposes from about 1856, especially around Mt. Buninyong and Mt. Warrenheip, were 80 acre lots of rich volcanic soil were put up for sale in
1858. In 1862 Victoria introduced the Torrens system of land titles.

From 1860 the Victorian Govt. passed a series of Selection Acts, allowing members of the public to buy land to farm. The first of these was the Victorian Land Act 1862 (Duffy Act) which put 10 million acres of the best land in Victoria into the hands of the squatters.

On 20 Feb.1866 Narmbool and Cargarie were proclaimed open for selection (Govt. Gazette, 1866, p. 451) The most successful act in actually putting people on the land was the Grant Act of 1869, which saw land made available for selection, prior to survey, from 1870. This Act also safeguarded the rights of miners to take up land around the goldfields. Under Section 58 of the Grant Land Act of 1869, areas were set aside in Mining Districts called Goldfields Commons. In Ballarat there was the Ballarat East Goldfields Common, a Chepstowe and Cargnham common, and near Buninyong was the Buninyong United Town and Goldfields Common, as well as an area for Durham Lead, Napoleons, Black Lead and Whim Holes, Morrisons (Borhoneyghurk) and Steiglitz. The Goldfields Commons were primarily intended for miners and their families, and the area usually included mine workings, plus forested country and some pasture. The area was exempt from selection. Thus the common provided those with Miner's Rights with access to mining areas, timber and grazing for their stock.

A common at Morrisons was gazetted in 1861 and took in an area of 11,000 acres ( 4452 ha). By the 1880s pressures were building up, with farmers wanting to select land in the common area. But a core of the Common remained as Crown land, and is now known as the Borhoneygurk Common, an area of Crown land managed by the Department of Sustaniability and the Environment. It is lightly timbered with regrowth after nineteenth century mining, and encloses the remains of the old Dolly's Creek Diggings. In fact many of the state forests in Central Victoria would have been part of Goldfields Commons.

The early surveyors, especially Robert Hoddle, had not been very keen on the idea of setting aside land for public recreation and for aesthetic purposes. The arrival of local government councils cemented public assets such as Botanical Gardens, and citizens began to campaign for specific projects. In 1857 a public campaign led by the Ballarat Star saved the Lal Lal Falls from being sold into private hands.

Mount Buninyong was declared a Public Reserve in 1866, although as early as 1860 citizens of Buninyong were expressing concern to Council about the de-afforestation of the area:
"It is the duty of this Council to take steps as deemed expedient for the purpose of securing not only the whole ofMount Buninyong, but all the timbered land within three miles of the municipality."

A report to the local Council in 1866 states that because of the scramble for 20 acre lots at Mounts Warrenheip and Buninyong "care should be taken that the recreative areas of the mounts be not alienated and the district be thus deprived of its two most health giving summer resorts". The reserve was for 247 acres after the Assistant Commissioner for Crown Lands wrote a report in 1865 advocating the need to place restrictions on timber harvesting because the removal of large trees had caused the understorey to disappear.

By the 1898 Land Act the Government gained power to purchase private lands. This power would be used to procure lands for closer settlement, and particularly for soldier settlement following World War One and Two.


Thanks to Stuart Skewes of Ballarat, we have some more information about the former big house on the hill as you drive up Learmonth Street towards Mount Buninyong. The two-storey brick mansion was built in the late 1850s, for Samuel Bradshaw, a businessman involved in the grocery trade. It later passed to the Seal and Salmon families, and eventyally to the Nicholls family. Everyone remembered it burning down in the 1960s, but could be no more precise than than. Now, thanks to Glen Skewes's diary, we have the following entry:

17 January 1964 - 'Black Friday for Buninyong. Strong north wind blowing at 12.45 a.m. Fire broke out opposite Harry Nicholls house, raced up the stubble and caught the cypress hedge. The fire then went to the 18 roomed, two storey brick house of Harry Nicholls which burnt to the ground. Mrs Nicholls' Austin car was also burnt, but was the only thing that was insured. Fire raced across the paddock into Golins, Noacks 25 acres, across Attwoods into Kerr's, Stick Jaw Daveys, Paddie Fitzgeralds and was halted at Nash's lane. It also burnt through Ogilvies. The fire burnt back against the wind on the Midland highway and into Golin McDonalds house paddock, same was saved after a battle. Cause of fire - a suspected cigarette thrown from a passing car.'

Stuart Skewes recalls watching the fire as he stood on the corner of Warrenheip and Herriot Streets Buninyong, outside the bus shelter. He and Anrian Mckee were watching the black smoke rise in the sky as they discussed the death of Marilyn Monroe. Soon after Glen Skewes came home exhausted from fighting the fire and thought it would burn all the way to the sea. The next day Stuart went to have a look at the aftermath, finding that the fire was stopped on the decline just before Paddie Fitzgeralds dam.

The Courier of 18 January 1964 has a photo of the burnt out shell of the house on the front page.


A CURIOSITY - the Buninyong-born Birdman

The following item comes from Carol Battishall in New South Wales.
From Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 4 December 2002, p. 50

A well-known figure in Sydney during the 1960s and 1970s was the Birdman of Kings Cross. Owen Lloyd would play his home-made phono fiddle, accompanied by a flock of budgerigars, cockatoos and parrots, and his dog. Owen Rutherford Lloyd was born in Buninyong in 1907, son of a miner who worked in the area. Leaving Ballarat at the onset of the Depression, he travelled round the Outback, developing his special affinity with birds. During World War Two, he worked for the Army in its entertainment section, and ended up at Kings Cross in 1960. He died in 1987, leaving many descendants.

The newspaper cutting about Lloyd has been added to our Biographical Files. Thanks to Carol, who has given us so much information about the Coleman family.



19 June Buninyong and District Historical Society Meeting, 7.30 p.m.
Jim Quinn on the Chinese on the Goldfields.
21 August Buninyong and District Historical Society Meeting, 7.30 p.m.
Frank Golding and Anne Beggs Sunter on 'Orphans and Orphanages’.
4-5 October
CHHA History Expo, Aquinas Campus, Mair St, Ballarat, Australian Catholic University (All weekend)
16 October Buninyong and District Historical Society AGM, 7.30 p.m.