The founding of township of Melbourne [chapter 44 of “The story of Australia” by Martin Hambleton]

[Editor: This is chapter 44 of “The story of Australia” by Martin Hambleton. Published in The Sunday Mail, 28 April 1935.]

The story of Australia — XLIV

The founding of township of Melbourne

While John Batman was busily engaged in advancing the claims of the territory which he had so ingeniously acquired another expedition prepared to set out for the new country. This was organised by John Pascoe Fawkner, who, as a boy of 10 years of age, had been allowed to accompany his convict father in the Calcutta, one of the vessels sent with Colonel David Collins in 1803 to establish a colony at Port Phillip. He had grown up to manhood in Tasmania, through stormy times, and at length, in 1824, became an innkeeper, and in 1828 founded and edited the “Launceston Advertiser,” the first newspaper in Launceston.

Early in 1835 he made plans to establish a settlement on Westernport, and purchased a schooner called the Enterprise to take a party across the strait. When Batman appeared in Launceston in June with the story of the wonderful purchase of good grazing land on Port Phillip Fawner, who was one of Launceston’s most influential men, formed an association of five members, and on July 29, 1835, sailed from Launceston. Fawkner became so ill from sea sickness that it was found necessary to put him ashore at Georgetown.

Saltwater River

The Enterprise resumed her voyage without him to Westernport, as had been originally arranged, but as the land was found unsuitable for settlement they moved into Port Phillip, skirting the eastern shore of the bay, and on August 20 anchored in Hobson’s Bay. A boat party now explored the stream, which they saw before them, but after rowing many miles they were forced to return, as the water proved salty and unfit for drinking. For this reason they named it Saltwater River.

The next day they worked up the Yarra to the falls that then marked the head of the tide water. A rocky ledge over which the river flowed kept the water above it fresh — “the velvet-like grass carpet decked with flowers of most lovely hues, the fresh water, the fine lowlands, and lovely knolls around the lagoons on the flat, the flocks of teal, ducks, geese, and swans, filled them with joy.” They, too, had discovered the village site. The next day they brought the schooner to the desired spot, landed their stores, and put up a couple of turf huts near the river bank. On this occupation, at which he was not present, Fawkner based a claim to be considered the founder of the colony of Victoria.

Here they were discovered by John H. Wedge, a member of the Port Phillip Association, who had come over to inspect Batman’s “purchase.” He courteously informed them that they were intruding on private property, and advised them to move from the territory, which belonged to John Batman and Company. As they refused to move he brought some of his party from Indented Head to camp alongside of them. This was the real beginning of the town of Melbourne.

Fawkner himself landed on Yarra bank on October 10, and before the end of the year had opened what has been described as a “general store and grog shop.” This was the first regularly built home in Melbourne. Batman’s partners by this time were sending stock across to Port Phillip. Their hopes of establishing a monopoly in the fine country adjoining the port were not realised. Not only were their tracks quickly followed by other enterprising stock owners in Tasmania, but the Government utterly declined to recognise Batman’s land deal.

Official attitude

The attitude of the Governors of New South Wales and Tasmania respectively towards this unauthorised expansion of settlement is of some interest. Governor Arthur of Tasmania would have been pleased to add the Port Phillip coasts to the island colony; Governor Bourke issued a proclamation warning the people of Port Phillip against fixing their home there, as the land did not legally belong to them. At the same time, he assured the Home Government that it was impossible to check the natural outflow of flocks and herds to new pastures, and suggested that he should be allowed to form a township and establish some form of Government control on the southern coasts.

Naming the township

This was agreed to and towards the close of 1836 Bourke sent a police magistrate, captain William Lonsdale, with a staff of Customs officials, surveyors, &c., and a military guard, to Port Phillip, where it was convenient to establish them in a village which had sprung up on the banks of the Yarra. The Governor himself came over in March, 1837, to fix the site of the township. He named it Melbourne, after the then Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne; Collins Street, after Lieutenant-Governor Collins; Flinders Street, after Captain Flinders; Bourke Street, after himself; Lonsdale Street, after Captain Lonsdale; Swanston Street, after Captain Swanston; and Russell Street, after Earl Russell. While in the district he named Geelong, after the native hill on which it stands, and Hobson’s Bay after Captain Hobson, R.N., of H.M.S. Rattlesnake.

The Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Qld.), 28 April 1935, p. 29

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