Mount Macedon Historical Society was formed in the 1970’s by a group of
members of the Horticultural Society, who saw a need to document the
gardens, gardeners and owners of the grand homes of Mount Macedon. For
several years the Historical Society remained as a group within the Mount
Macedon Horticultural & Historical Society, but as interest in family
history grew in the 1980’s, the Mount Macedon Historical Society branched
out on their own. Following the loss of many historical items, when the
devastating Ash Wednesday fires of 1983 destroyed the Mount Macedon
Country Womens’ Association Hall, members met in a local Church hall and a
newly established collection was, for many years, cared for in private
In Gisborne, interested residents also formed the Gisborne Historical
Society in the 1970’s. Initially a strong local interest group collected
and displayed numerous historical photographs, documents and memorabilia but were
always restricted by the lack of a suitable home. In the 1980’s,
permission was granted for the Gisborne Society to store large items in
one room of the Court House and documents and ledgers in the strongroom of
the former Shire Office, now used as the Library.
The Gisborne Court House was built in 1858. The Court of Petty Sessions
met regularly from 1858; in 1864 the Court of Petty Sessions was held
twice per week, while the County Court was held three times annually. The
Court continued to meet regularly until 1970 and then only occasionally
until it was officially closed in 1980.
Over the years, the Court House has had many varied uses:
From 1860 until 1928, the Borough Council and later the Shire of Gisborne,
occupied the south east room and held their meetings in the Court Room.
From 1860 until 1927 H.R.Dixon, followed by Dixon & Son, auctioneers and
estate agents occupied the south west room of the Court House.
From 1930 until 1985, the Lands Department occupied the south east room as
a vermin and noxious weeds office.
From 1968 until 1976, the two south west rooms were occupied by the Police
They were followed in 1977 by the Gisborne Waterworks Trust who occupied
the western rooms and met in the Court Room until 1982.
From 1984 until 1990, the Gisborne State Emergency Service used the Court
House as their headquarters.
In 1989, the Government sought expressions of interest for the future use
of Gisborne Court House. The Mount Macedon Historical Society applied and
was chosen as the most suitable future tenant. Immediately following this
announcement, members of the Mount Macedon Historical Society commenced
talks with the Gisborne Historical Society and the Gisborne Shire, with a
view to future amalgamation of the two Societies and to seek support of
the Shire for the restoration of the Gisborne Court House. The Gisborne
Shire agreed to the restoration, during which time, the Mount Macedon
Historical Society relocated it’s collection to the Court House,
continuing to liaise closely with the Shire and undertaking to restore the
internal fittings in the Court Room. Restoration of the building was
completed in 1992.
1992 the two Societies
amalgamated to form the present Society; hence the rather long title of
Gisborne & Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society Incorporated. In the
title, Gisborne acknowledges the Gisborne Historical Society, Mount
Macedon acknowledges the Mount Macedon Historical Society, Districts
indicates the surrounding areas and Incorporated to indicate our legal
status. Our society therefore accepts responsibility for the collection
and conservation of historical information relating to the area covered by
the former Gisborne Shire. Since 1992, the Society has developed and
expanded the collection and the facilities we offer to members and history
researchers. The membership of the Society has grown from 25 members at
amalgamation to an increasing number in excess of 150 at the present time.
During 1996, the Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society
created Gisborne Pioneer Park, adjacent to the Court House, by securing
Government funding and Local Government support, to provide work for
unemployed youth of the district. This project included the laying of
paving stones from a former heritage site, the building of a thirty three
metre long bluestone wall, landscaping of the area and the completion of
restoration of the bluestone lockup, the brick stables and the privy.
The Gisborne Pioneer Park was officially opened on Australia Day 1997,
with the unveiling of the inaugural plaques. Since that time, families
have continued to place family plaques on the wall, to commemorate the
work of our early district pioneers.
If you are interested in placing a plaque on our Pioneer Wall to
remember your ancestor who was resident in this district prior to 1945,
order forms may be obtained by contacting the Society in person, by phone,
by e-mail or by mail.
Make a commitment now and ask members of your extended family to share the
cost and create a focus for yourselves and your descendants when visiting
the Gisborne district. Prices for plaques are always available on application.
In 1834, John
Aitken arrived in Melbourne with others and was so impressed with the land
he inspected south of Mount Macedon, deeming it suitable for sheep
grazing, he selected a large tract of land and then returned to Tasmania.
The following year, he shipped merino sheep from Tasmania to Dromana,
where his ship went aground, and with help from the Aborigines, he rescued
many of the flock and overlanded them to this district. John Aitken
developed the property “Emmeline Vale”, named after his wife Emmeline and
it was here that they reared six children as well as producing some of the
finest merino wool in the Colony.
Mount Macedon forms the southern end of Victoria’s Great Dividing Range.
Rising to 1000 metres, it is the most prominent feature of the Macedon
Ranges. It was named Mount Macedon on September 30th 1836 by Major Thomas
Mitchell, Surveyor General of New South Wales who ascended it and wrote in
his diary, “from the top of the mountain, Port Phillip Bay and a few of
the buildings of Melbourne can be seen”. Major Mitchell also noted the
“high quality and size of the timber on the side of the mountain.” For a
time the name Mount Macedon was applied to the much larger Mount Macedon
Police District with its headquarters at Carlsruhe and its borders
reaching from Keilor in the south, the Murray River to the north and the
South Australian border to the west.
From the late 1830s many pastoralists began taking up large tracts of
land in the surrounding districts, arriving from both Tasmania and New
South Wales. The first recorded settlers in this district were Hill who
settled the “Turitable Run” on the South side of Mount Macedon, Stainforth
in the area around the present Rosslynne Reservoir, Barbour and Matson at
Bullengarook and Aitken and Howey who settled around the area later named
Henry Howey selected land from near the present town of Riddells Creek
through Gisborne to Mount Macedon and he also bought land at the first
land sales in Melbourne where his name remains on the property, on the
corner of Collins and Swanston Streets. Howey then returned to Parramatta
to bring his wife, six children and some staff members to settle in this
district. However, their small vessel the “Sarah” was wrecked on the
ninety-mile beach en route to Gisborne. In the township of Gisborne, his
name is perpetuated in Howey Street and in the Howey Monument where his
bust overlooks Howey Reserve
John Carre Riddell and his cousin Thomas Ferrier Hamilton arrived in the
Colony in 1840 and bought at auction, the land and much of the stock that
the late Henry Howey had selected. These cousins married sisters and for a
time, lived together at “Cairn Hill”, Riddells Creek. Later, T.F.Hamilton
built “Elderslie” on Barringo Road, New Gisborne, where they raised a
large family. The Hamilton family also built the homesteads of “Glen
Drouitt” on Glen Drouitt Road and “Lilliesleaf” on Brougham Road, Mount
Blanche, one of the Hamilton daughters, married another early settler,
Thomas, son of Ross Watt who called his property “Rosslynne”. In Gisborne,
Blanche became the first female Shire President in Victoria. Together with
her small daughter Betty, Blanche instigated Wattle Day in Victoria, when
in 1912, they handed out sprigs of wattle in Melbourne suburbs to raise
funds to build a branch of the Church of England, now known as the
Childrens’ Hall in Station Road, New Gisborne. In that first year they
raised £3000. Blanche Ross-Watt also formed the Gisborne Red Cross Branch,
within a few days of the outbreak of World War One.
In the late 1830's, William Robertson took up land on the Barringo Creek
where he built the “Wooling” homestead together with extensive orchards
and gardens. There he also built Victoria’s first saw mill which provided
much of the timber needed in the development of the new Colony. Many other
mills were established throughout the mountain ranges, taking advantage of
the high quality and plentiful timber that could be milled locally.
Robertson’s mill provided the building materials for dwellings both
locally and in Melbourne, for fencing requirements, for lining the gold
mines and for sleepers and railway stations in the construction of the
Melbourne and Murray River Railway. The numerous sawyers and splitters
employed at the many mills in the district, lived in huts built in the
forest. Other settlers found employment in utilising timber by-products,
by establishing eucalyptus distilleries and charcoal retorts, as these
industries required little capital to establish. Brick and tile making
became a successful Macedon industry in the early days of the development
of the district. Some locals also tried their luck with slate and gold
mining in both Macedon and Bullengarook, but with limited success.
The first public building in this district, built in 1840 was called the
Travellers’ Rest Hotel and the little village that sprang up around it,
was also known by that name. The Inn and the village soon changed their
name to the Bush Inn and remained so until the town of Gisborne was
officially named in 1851 by Robert Hoddle in memory of Henry Fyshe
Gisborne, a former Commissioner of Crown Lands.
When gold was discovered in the 1850’s at Forest Creek, later known as
Castlemaine and at Sandhurst, later named Bendigo, a village sprang up at
Middle Gully, now known as Macedon.Middle Gully provided inns, beer
houses, coffee tents, blacksmiths’ forges and stores, to supply the needs
of the weary travellers heading north to try their luck at the gold
on their way to the goldfields had to endure muddy tracks and toll gates
at Keilor, Keilor Plains and Gisborne, before negotiating the dreaded
Black Forest notorious for bushrangers, between Macedon and Five Mile
Creek, later named Woodend.
After the opening
of the railway in 1862, the townsfolk of Gisborne found that they were
very disadvantaged because they had to pay a toll to go to and from the
railway station. After lengthy, heated discussions with the authorities,
the tollgate was moved from near the bridge over Jacksons Creek, to a point
further along Mount Alexander Road so that the townsfolk could travel
freely between the town and the Gisborne station.
Gold from the diggings was transported to Melbourne by an armed Escort,
first privately owned, but later operated by the military and police.
Teams of horses were changed at Carlesruhe, Macedon, Gisborne and Aitken’s
Gap, with gold being stored over night in the Police Barracks, on the
south side of Jacksons Creek, Gisborne. In one week in 1851, over one ton
of gold was conveyed through Macedon and Gisborne on route to Melbourne.
During the gold rush of the 1850’s, Gisborne flourished, boasting a
brewery, two wine saloons, eight hotels, grocery, grain and hay stores,
harness makers, blacksmiths, butchers’ shops and many cottages and tents.
The local area continued to flourish until the construction of the railway
from 1858 to 1861 brought many workers, together with their families, who
camped nearby. At the villages of Middle Gully, Upper Macedon, Riddells
Creek and New Gisborne, hotels, shops, churches and schools were built in
close proximity to the new railway stations, to meet the needs of the
The timber industry had so denuded the entire mountain ranges, that in
1872, the Government saw the need to establish the Macedon State Nursery,
to encourage replanting of the mountain and to supply seedlings to all
parts of Victoria. This nursery employed many of the former timber
industry workers. A great number of the trees that were propagated at the
nursery were of the English varieties with which the landowners were
familyar, hence the unique character of many of the early avenues in the
Gisborne streets and in the early Mount Macedon gardens.
In order to take advantage of the “pure mountain air” and to escape the
hot summers of Melbourne, many wealthy businessmen purchased substantial
areas of land on which to build large homes at Upper Macedon. Each spring,
members of staff from their Melbourne homes, were sent by train, often
bringing with them, horses and milking cows, to prepare the hill stations
in readiness for the families to follow. These families were conveyed from
the Middle Gully Railway Station by horse drawn and later motorised taxis
that met the arrival of each train.
With the development and increasing popularity of the motor car, the
Melbourne wealthy were able to travel greater distances than Mount
Macedon, so many of the larger homes, and some smaller ones, were
converted to guest houses. This area then developed as a popular tourist
resort and remained so until after World War Two, when many blocks were
subdivided and some guesthouses and homes were destroyed by fire, some
suspiciously. During this former tourism boom, the residents of Macedon
provided the gardeners, caretakers and domestic staff for the guesthouses
and large private residences on Mount Macedon. Following the closure of
many of the guesthouses, former domestic workers were forced to seek
employment further afield, although many of the gardeners were retained on
the large properties or found work at the State Nursery.
Following the opening of Melbourne International Airport, this area became
the preferred place of residence for many airport and airline employees
who chose to take advantage of the quality environment of the Gisborne and Mount
Macedon area. Many former Melbourne residents have also chosen to
semi-retire or retire to this district. In recent years, with the growing
popularity of boutique bed and breakfast accommodation, development of
wineries, quality food outlets, nurseries and art and craft galleries,
Gisborne, Mount Macedon & Macedon have again become much sought after. The
beauty and tranquillity of the district and the ease of travel, being
adjacent to an excellent freeway, enables visitors to find natural beauty
and clean air just 45 minutes from Melbourne.
The redevelopment of the reserves at Stanley Park Waterfall, Sanatorium
Lake and the Memorial Cross at Mount Macedon gives an opportunity for both
recreation and adventure. Picnic reserves, walking trails, rock climbing
and the proximity to the mysterious Hanging Rock, make the area attractive
to young and old alike. In spring and autumn, many visitors flock to the
area to enjoy the glorious private gardens and floral displays that are
regularly open to the public, while monthly local markets at Gisborne and
Woodend are always well attended by both locals and visitors alike.
Today the local communities strive to preserve the “pure mountain air”
that brought so many of our early settlers to this beautiful Gisborne and
Mount Macedon district, while at the same time sharing with visitors, the
area’s tranquillity and ever-changing beauty.