Heywood District Pioneers & History

A rural settlement on the Fitzroy River in south-west Victoria, Australia

Heywood, originally called "Second River" and then named Heywood, after Heywood in Lancashire, England, was established as a rural settlement on the Fitzroy River, or second river north of Portland, the Surry being the first river, in the south-west corner of Victoria, Australia.

View an 1842 sketch map of the area showing Inns, tracks & early settlers, or a map of the pastoral runs or articles on Heywood pioneers.

The first European to traverse the area appears to have been Major Thomas MITCHELL who when he left the Glenelg River in August 1836, headed east and looked out from the top of a hill which he named Mt. Eckersley overlooking the site of the current township of Heywood.

"Portland Guardian" (Vic.) Monday, 23rd September 1901.
SIR, - In your obituary reference of the 12th inst. to the death of the late Mrs. James Wiggins there is a misleading statement, which I venture to correct. Referring to the position of the Grange Inn, you state that it "stood about the spot were Major Mitchell crossed on his journey to Portland in 1839." Major Mitchell did not go to Portland in 1839, and it was only by accident that he visited Portland about the middle of September in 1836, being then on his return journey to Sydney. After exploring the Glenelg River to its outlet, one of his camps was on a heath ("The Major's heath,") not far from Milltown, his attention was drawn to a high hill (Mt. Ecelesey) on the south. He rode to its summit, from where he saw what appeared to be the coast line. After riding about 20 miles through heaths and dense forests and crossing two water courses, which he named the Fitzroy and Surrey, he came out on the beach about two miles north-easterly from Portland, and from there rode round to investigate what appeared to be tents or rocks, and was surprised to find Messrs Henty Bros.' whaling station, established about two years previously, and it was doubtless from information obtained that led to Messrs Henty's securing the far-famed Merino Downs and Muntham country, which is similar to portions of Retreat, Cashmere, Wando Vale, etc., traversed by Major Mitchell on his journey south down the eastern side of the Glenelg River. Major Mitchell subsequently crossed the Grange Burn, probably about the spot above referred to, and camped at " Lake Neville "- now Dooling Dooling.-I am, etc.,
Survey Camp, Hotspur, Sept, 14.

In late 1839 Surveyor Charles James TYERS commented that the land about the Fitzroy River was fit for grazing and cultivation with a good supply of water available throughout the year. He also commented that its distance from Portland made it suitable for the location of a township.

The Fitzroy River crossing followed the usual pattern in that an Inn was established near the crossing, in this case by Samuel EVANS who obtained a licence in 1839 and established the "Bush Inn" or "Bush Tavern on the Second River", the Surry being known as the First River. This crossing was on the main route north to "The Plains" on the Glenelg and Wannon rivers, which were settled by the HENTY brothers in 1837.

Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic.) Saturday 4 February 1843
VALUABLE SERVICES.-We unintentionally omitted to notice last week the attack of some natives upon the drays of Francis Henty Esq., as they were proceeding to the stations from Portland, at some distance beyond the Second River, by whom they were robbed of property to the amount it is said of about 20. We mention the occurrence, not so much to bring the subject under the notice of the Government, as to express the deep obligation we conceive the settlers must be under to Mr. Edgar for the valuable services he is constantly rendering to their servants, and the safety his establishment must afford to their property from native depredation while on the road in the vicinity of the Second River. The frequent mention of Mr. Edgar's name, in connection with searches made after lost property-in pursuit of maurading natives-the communicating information to the authorities of depredation committed, all the valuable assistance he is constantly affording, both publicly and privately, the inhabitants of the district, raises Mr. Edgar's character above ordinary praise.

The first settlers in the area were the squatters and the first Pastoral Runs around Heywood and their occupiers were...

  • "Fitzroy Lestrange" - Charles SAUNDERS, Sep 1841
  • "Fitzroy River" (or "The Cave Holes") - David Edgar, Jan 1842
  • "Mt Eckersley No 1" (or "Bell's Farm") - John BELL, 1843
  • "Ettrick" - William LEARMONTH, Aug 1844
  • "Mt Eckersley No 2" (or "Hunter's Farm") - Colin HUNTER, 1845
  • "Oakbank" - Donald CAMERON, 1845
  • "Drumborg" - Francis SCOTT, 1846

1850 : Thomas BILSTON offered the "Bush Inn" and his pastoral run for sale in "The Argus" of Tuesday, 28th May 1850...

"The Argus" Tuesday, 28th May 1850
Mr. BILSTON, the present Proprietor of the Bush Tavern, is disposed to sell his Premises on very reasonable terms. In addition to the Publican's License, Mr Bilston holds a Squatting License, with a run containing from twelve to thirteen thousand acres, admirably adapted for all kinds of Stock.
A small lot of Horses and Cattle will be sold with the House and Station.
This inn has long and justly been considered by all travellers, as one of the best, in every respect throughout the Portland Bay District. The situation could not be surpassed, for all the Settlers must of necessity pass this house on their way to and from the Township. It has hitherto paid the Landlord well.
Applications as to terms, &c. must be made to Mr. Bilston, on the premises, or to S. G. Henty, Esq, merchant, Portlaud, For the information of strangers and parties at a distance, is is proper to state that this is a roadside inn, and has been established for upwards of nine years, and has always commanded an extensive and lucrative business, being situated on the main line of road leading to Portlaud, from which township it is distant about eighteen miles.
N. B. -Connected with this inn, there is an extensive Cultivation and Grass Paddock, both of which are well fenced with post and rail. The house is commodious and in excellent repair.

1857 : James Bonwick recorded in 1857...

Heywood is the township upon the Fitzroy. An hotel was established here by Mr. EVANS as early as 1839, but for many years it has been conducted by Mr. BILSTON, who succeeded Mr. Edgar. I found comfortable quarters there. The township was formed some four years since, at the time of Township Mania. It is situated on the usual uninteresting flat of the region round, and ingenious Dutch contrivances are adopted to prevent an entire swamping. Two hotels, a fair store, and a few huts form the city of Heywood. It is not a very enlightening neighbourhood. No school existed there, and no religious services have been held in the township.

On Black Thursday, in 1851, the fire reached this inland resting place, and a few moments were sufficient to consume everything. Some articles of clothing were rescued and thrown into the waterhole of the creek; but even there the raging flames reached them, and burnt all that appeared above the edge of the water. A dray was consumed in the road. The poor, terrified children were placed for safety beneath the bridge. But even from this refuge they were driven, by the fire reaching and burning it. The neighbouring forests were filled with smoke and flames, the shifting wind occasionally showing huge columns of the roaring element, or bringing down a perfect tempest of fire.

Mount Eckersley is three miles north of Heywood. The base is of more compact basalt than the top. A half circle of hills seems to bound an ancient crater, in the centre of which a cone arises. The red earth in the immediate neighbourhood is very rich; beyond it is covered by the sterile clay and gravel. About three miles to the south-west of Heywood the limestone crops out, and gives a beautiful patch of land to the farmer. There are caves with alabaster stalactites, and some really very choice and valuable marbles.

Heywood History Resources

  1. Gwen Bennett "Watering Holes of the West", A study of hotels, inns and breweries in the City of Portland and former Shire of Heywood, Victoria, Australia, 1997
  2. James Bonwick "Western Victoria, its Geography, Geology and Social Condition." The Narrative of an Educational Tour in 1857.
  3. Noel F. Learmonth "The Portland Bay Settlement", 1934
  4. Noel F. Learmonth "Four Towns and a Survey", 1970
  5. Vanda Saville "Dear Friends, Drumborg-Greenvale, heart of the Shire of Portland", 1977
  6. Vanda Saville "Tapestry, Within of the Shire of Portland", 1979


Daryl Povey