History of Stawell and

Pleasant Creek

The Pleasant Creek Court House , 1866,
now Stawell Historical Society's Museum, and Gaol

Map of Pleasant Creek

Longfield Street at Stawell in 1866 looking towards
Ararat and Melbourne

History of Stawell
 Pleasant Creek

Stawell, or as it was originally called ‘Pleasant Creek’, is situated approximately 240 kms from Melbourne, Victoria’s Capital City.
The question is often asked regarding the location of Pleasant Creek that was referred in records of Births, Deaths and Marriages that took place in there in the early years.

Pleasant Creek was the area that is now Stawell West, and was named after a small creek (Pleasant Creek) that starts in the Black Ranges a few kilometres south west of Stawell and runs through the Caravan Park and then across the Pomonal Road near Burgh Street. It continues on alongside the Halls Gap Road, through Illawarra and runs into Lake Lonsdale. 

In 1853 a small quantity of gold was discovered in Pleasant Creek by a Hut Keeper, William McLachlan who, with two others, were shepherding sheep for the Concongella Station. They were occupying a bark hut, known as Pleasant Creek Hut which was not far from the present Racecourse. At this spot William McLachlan found the first gold discovered in this area, in a cooking dish he used to pan the gold.

A gold rush did not start for another 12 months and then spread along the creek to Illawarra and to Deep Lead where alluvial gold was worked for a few years. This area was known as Pleasant Creek goldfields. In August 1857, a large alluvial gold find caused a big rush about 6 kms from the original find. Streets were established and small businesses were set up along Commercial Street. Other well-known streets were High Street, Broadway, Oxford Street, and Commercial Road. A temporary Hospital was opened in February 1859 and covered a wide area from Ballarat to the South Australian border.

In 1856 miners were pegging out claims on the quartz reefs around Big Hill in present Stawell. From this time the settlement of the Quartz Reefs became permanent. By 1858 the rush to Pleasant Creek had set in and many thousands of diggers were on the alluvial fields.

In June 1858 the Township of Stawell was proclaimed and was an area of 640 acres and was known as Stawell at Pleasant Creek. Two separate settlements existed which were about 1.5 kms apart, called Stawell (previously Pleasant Creek) and the ‘Reefs’ (Quartz Reefs). About 11 years later in November 1869, the Borough of Stawell was proclaimed.
The Quartz reefs settlement which had grown enormously and the Township of Stawell which had dwindled, amalgamated to become the Borough of Stawell. The diggings at Commercial Road, which had also dwindled, became Illawarra and Deep Lead.

The Borough of Stawell remained a borough for the next 88 years and then became the Town of Stawell in November 1989 the City of Stawell was proclaimed.
 Stawell is currently part of the Northern Grampians Shire which commenced in 1995, and was formed by the amalgamation the City of Stawell, Shire of Stawell, Town of St. Arnaud, and the Shire of Kara Kara. 

Records often show births, deaths and marriages occurring at Pleasant Creek that occurred many years after the Borough of Stawell commenced. Records indicate that residents preferred to call the area Pleasant Creek instead of Stawell.

Stawell was named after Sir William Stawell.

Around 1858 the Government ‘Board of Land and Works’ was planning new Towns in Victoria and it was decided to name them after men who had served the country.
Before this time the Stawell Township consisted of ‘Pleasant Creek’ and ‘The Reefs’ settlements, a short distance apart. The area was a thriving community and the combined settlement was named after the Chief Justice, Sir William Stawell on 10th June 1858.

A number of streets in the Pleasant Creek area were named after his relatives in England. These were Austin, Griffith, Foster, Cooper, Longfield, Leslie, Burgh and Seaby.

Sir William Foster Stawell visited Stawell only twice – a short visit in July 1865 and in October 1877. He retired in 1886 through ill health and on a trip to Europe his health deteriorated and he died in Naples on the 12th March 1889 aged 74 and was buried there in the English cemetery.
The map of Pleasant Creek shows streets that were all named after relatives of Sir William Stawell, whom the first Township was named after. All of these relatives lived in England at that time.