Keilor Historical Society Inc.1990

Highlights which exemplify the features of Keilor Region.

Harrick's Cottage, Open Day 2009

Photo left: Bust of William Taylor.

William Taylor
William Taylor was to establish in Australia an extensive pastoral empire which annually exported wool to the London sales.

Born in 1818 to a Glasgow merchant family, William Taylor, after some experience in a merchant’s office, sailed on the Culdee for Melbourne. With Duguld McPherson, a fellow passenger, he set up a sheep station near Geelong. Four years later they moved to Longerenong in the Wimmera to a larger station of 206,000 acres. Taylor retained an interest in this property until the mid 1850s but it was Overnewton where he settled permanently. He bought land in Keilor and district in 1849 where he owned approximately 13,000 acres.

In 1849 he married Helen Fisken, the daughter of Scottish settlers who farmed a property between Ballan and Ballarat. The Taylors named the property Overnewton after a locality near Glasgow. They built a six room colonial style homestead overlooking the river valley and ten years later enlarged their home considerably.

In addition to the Overnewton estate William Taylor owned a town house in East Melbourne, a property in Williamstown, land in Queenscliff and Cranbourne, an estate in Scotland and pastoral properties in New South Wales and Queensland. After his death in 1903, the Taylor family retained the house and about 200 acres of the Overnewton land while selling the remainder of the property

Pastoral Properties


Overnewton was a family home, the hub of William Taylor’s pastoral empire and a working property. The estate was largely independent with its own water supply from a nearby creek (Taylor’s Creek) which had been dammed to create several lakes. A pipeline carried water to a storage tank holding 80,000 gallons at the house.

Overnewton produced its own meat and vegetables for the household while earning a valuable export income from its sheep. The outhouses included stables, woolsheds, haylofts, shearing sheds and quarters for the seasonal workers who joined the permanent staff for harvesting and shearing.

New South Wales
Euston on the Murray near Robinvale
Salisbury Downs approximately 270kms NE of Broken Hill
Bootra 40kms east of Salisbury Downs
Garnpung approximately 120 kms NE of Mildura
Manfred approximately 190 kms NE of Mildura
Ariool location not known

William Taylor purchased Euston on the Murray in the early 1860s soon after paddle steamers first sailed on the Murray. As the paddle steamer service extended to the River Darling, so a large area of western New South Wales was opened up for sheep farming; the wool clip was exported through river ports such as Wilcannia and Bourke. Initially the wool was taken to Adelaide but after 1864 the quickest route was via the new railway line from Echuca to Melbourne.

These properties were mostly located in remote areas where supplies were often taken in by camels, two tons of goods was considered a small load and communication with Overnewton was by telegram

Salisbury and Bootra
A telegram in the Taylor archive written on 31 March 1892 from the Bourke office of the Agency, Land and Finance Co of Australia Ltd to William Taylor states:-

Referring to your wires of 30th… we are now telegraphing you as per enclosed copy. The camels were to have been ready to start tomorrow evening but as we know the boring tools (for Salisbury) are of importance we have arranged for them to be delayed until Monday by which day the tools should be here.

As regards flour for Bootra – the camel proprietor does not care to send a team for so small a quantity as 2 tons especially as his men do not know the track to Bootra. We could therefore only arrange for the Bootra stuff to go to Salisbury

The Taylor archive includes a list of the goods ordered for the shearing season at Manfred of 1888 consisting of grocery items, stationery, cutlery and equipment for the sheds and dining rooms. Everything was ordered in bulk; selected items from the list are:-

2 tons ration sugar
1⁄2 ton salt
5 cwt white sugar
5 cwt rice
3 cwt dried apples
56 lbs sago
56 lbs pearl barley
56 lbs oatmeal
28 lbs pepper
3 cases colonial vinegar
2 cases Zarns tomato sauce
9 boxes raisins
6 boxes currants
3 cases Snowflake baking powder
2 cases herring (kippered)
1 box painkiller

5 quires grey mids letter paper in 1⁄2 sheets
5 quires lined foolscap
2000 blue Bankers envelopes
1 quart Stephens writing ink
1 Letter book 14 inches by 9
1 dozen lead pencils
1 box sealing wax
1⁄2 ream blotting paper

General equipment
4 boxes best turkey stones
1 dozen American brooms
9 Bass brooms and handles
1 dozen bent sewing needles
1 1/4 cwt sewing twine
2 dozen 5m Butchers knives (good quality)
6 dozen knives and forks
4 dozen forks only
3 dozen pannikins
1 dozen each Billies 2, 4, and 6 quart
3 dozen tin spoon
6 dozen tin plates
1 1⁄2 dozen tin plates assorted
1 1⁄2 dozen Buckets (2 sizes)
2 drums castor oil
2 drums Stockholm Tar
1 cask lamp oil

Darr River Downs approximately 60 kms north of Longreach

Taylor held this property from 1888 in partnership with his brother-in-law, Archibald Fisken, and with Andrew Rowen.

Wool Sales
Bales of wool were transported from the properties by wagon, camel train, barge, paddle steamer and rail to Melbourne where they were dispatched between September and the following January to Gooch and Cousens of the Australian and Good Hope Wool Warehouses, London Wall, London in readiness for a series of colonial wool sales which began at the end of March. Wool from the Australian states, New Zealand, Cape Province and Natal was auctioned at these sales.

Ships left Melbourne at frequent intervals and in five weeks in September and October 1888 Taylor sent 692 bales valued at 10,871 pounds from his Euston Station divided between four ships. In the following year a total of 442 bales worth 9,208 pounds from Salisbury Downs was transported to London in ten different ships between September and January.

Overnewton produced about 130 bales annually.

Report on wool from Salisbury Downs
On 2 April 1897 Jacomb, Son and Co. wool brokers of 61 Moorgate Street, London reported on their examination of wool from Salisbury Downs which had been sold on 25 March. Taylor had sent 276 bales to that sale, fewer than in previous years. Possibly the clip had been reduced by the drought which had adversely affected the inland stations in the mid 1890s.

Two comments from the report are;-
On careful examination of these wools on day of sale we found they opened up generally in bright fairly dry conditions
The classification of the clip as usual was thorough and practical. The skirting and the removal of seedy parts of the fleece and stained bits had been efficiently carried out.

William Taylor's Community Work
William Taylor took part in many facets of community work. He was a MLC for the Southern Province for two years 1864-1866; chairman of the Keilor Roads Board 1863-1868 and President of the Shire of Keilor 1871-1894 with the exception 0f 1882-3 when he was overseas. He continued as a councillor until 1902.
When he resigned from the presidency of the shire council, David Milburn, a fellow councillor proposed that an address should be drawn up and entered in the Minute Book;-

to express the gratitude of the councillors for the able and urbane manner in which he has conducted the business during his whole tenure of office both financially and otherwise

The motion was seconded by Councillor Malcolm Ritchie.

He was a Justice of the Peace from the 1860s and involved in hospital and school councils. In the Taylor archive there are examples of cards by which he could recommend treatment at the Women’s Hospital for those whose financial circumstances prevented them from seeking medical attention:-

I beg to recommend ----- residing at ------, who from personal knowledge of her circumstances I know is unable to pay the ordinary fees for Medical Attention as an OUT PATIENT* at the above Institution

*or Midwifery or Inpatient
Honorary surgeons and physicians were available for consultation in the afternoon.

A railway for Keilor?
In July 1892 when a route for the proposed railway extension to Bulla was under discussion William Taylor called a meeting in the Keilor Shire Hall which was reported in the Essendon Gazette:-

for the purpose of urging upon the Government the desirability of constructing the railway to Bulla, from Newmarket via Keilor instead of the line from Essendon to Bulla

Those who had seen the irrigated orchards of Messrs. Milburn and Goudie could testify to the results and the carriage of fruit and vegetables would be a great source of revenue and hundreds of acres awaited this treatment provided there was a means of carriage to the Melbourne market

His proposed route ran through West Essendon crossing Keilor Road, Niddrie near Hoffmans Road. He also felt that it would be a cheaper route as landowners along it would make gifts of land.