one of the few stops on the little used overland route between
the settlement of Melbourne and the thriving township of Geelong,
the inn struggled for survival. Passing trade was scarce,
with many travellers preferring to use the busy sea route
rather than the rough, stony track across the plain. The surrounding
area could provide little support, being occupied only by
the few squatters who had settled the area bordering the Little
River in the late 1830s.
many years, the Traveller's Rest comprised the complete settlement
at Rothwell. There was a regular turnover of licensees during
those first years, and hardship and tragedy shadowed many
of those who tried their luck, culminating in 1851 when the
Traveller's Rest burned to the ground.
1852, the township of Rothwell was officially proclaimed.
That same year, planning of a railroad began to link the settlements
of Geelong and Melbourne, with the original route planned
to follow the line of the road with a station situated at
Rothwell. The planning of the railway created much excitement
in the township. The land was surveyed and divided, roads
were planned, and many large and small allotments were sold
surrounding the site of the Traveller's Rest.
surveying of the railway line progressed, it became clear
that the planned route through Rothwell would be unsuitable
due to the unstable nature of the ground in the area. In fact,
the section of the road to the south-west of the Inn was known
locally as "The Glue Pot", becoming an almost impassable
quagmire following heavy rain. Later
that year, construction of the railroad began at Geelong,
following a revised route north of the Rothwell township.
1853, a licence was granted to William Perrin for the rebuilding
of the hotel. The Rothwell Inn opened that year on the same
site as the original Traveller's Rest.
1856, the railway line was completed to Little River, with
the original station built on the Geelong side of the river,
north of the line. With the arrival of the railway, a new
township began to form around the station. Two new hotels
would arrive that same year, the Station Peak Terminus Hotel,
situated near the station, and the Bowling Green Hotel, on
the Werribee side of the river, south of the line. With competition
from the new township, Rothwell again began to struggle to
survive. To make matters worse, the completion of the railway
line through to Williamstown in 1857 reduced the appeal of
Little River as a destination for day-trippers.
the following years, the fortunes of both towns would continue
to wax and wane. The arrival of the railway in the early 1860s
brought with it not only passengers and goods, but also a
steady stream of new arrivals from the large towns eager to
fulfil their dreams of a life on the land. This presented
a tantalising opportunity to budding entrepreneurs who, with
varying degrees of success, split up and sold small parcels
of land to prospective farmers.
the towns began to boom, construction of schools, churches
and bridges followed in order to support the growing population.
The construction of a grand bluestone Railway Station on the
Werribee side of the river, completed in 1864, reflected the
expectations for the prosperity of the new town. In 1867,
the new township became known as Little River.
before long the ever-present threat of drought, flood, fire
and pest had taken their toll, and many of these new farmers
left the land with their dreams shattered. By the late 1860s,
the populations of Rothwell and Little River had dwindled
1923, the closure of unmade and unused roads signalled the
end of Rothwell as a township. In 1958, the Rothwell Inn was
again destroyed by fire, but this time there would be no reconstruction.
As Rothwell passed into history, the township of Little River
continued to thrive, becoming a small but active rural town.
the township of Little River retains its agricultural origins,
but continues to evolve, as new arrivals once again flock
from the cities with dreams of a rural lifestyle. The ruins
of the Rothwell Inn remain standing, silhouetted against the
You Yangs in the distance, as a silent reminder of the rich
history of the area.