Merino Township Settlers

South_West Victoria, Australia

Extract from:
"Historic Souvenir of the Back to Merino and Henty Centenary Celebrations",
November, 11th to 15th, 1937

Bryce's Commercial Hotel During the celebrations there will be present many who have forgotten the location of former residents and institutions known to them, therefore the following should be of interest. High Street the principal shopping centre, is now part of the system of roads under the control of the Country Roads Board. It had been surveyed on the layout of the township site to a width of three chains, the prospects evidently being that Merino would develop into a large city. In the earlier days of Council control, the road was a macadamised one made from white stone quarried from near the Tahara homestead, carted in boulders and broken on the roadsides within the town boundary. With its clean white surface it gave a good appearance. On either side of the street pine trees were planted and grew to a great height.

About the time the Country Roads Board took over this street a movement was on foot to try and induce that body to allow the residents to have gardens planted in the middle of the street to beautify; it, thus reducing the effect of its considerable width. Roads were proposed on both sides of the street in front of the business places, but efforts to obtain the residents' wishes were unavailing.

Let us start our inspection of the township in general from the Court House, which stands at the corner of High Street and Bourke Street. Until 1870 it housed the Justices in the nearby township of Digby, but was then removed to Its present site. Next to the Court House on the north side is the Post Office, a comparatively new building, built by Mr. H. KOHN, senr., in 1889. The original Post Office business was conducted by Mr. Frederick FORD In connection with his general store, transferred then to a building on the opposite side of the street. Both these old buildings were only demolished in 1936, to be replaced by modern shops now on the sites.

The Mechanics' Institute adjoining the Post Office has had additions at various times. It was built mainly through the efforts of James TAIT, who was instrumental in securing the Government grant. J. LILLIE was librarian and caretaker, and his successor was T. D. CLARKE.

Batstone's & Coulson's Shops Frederick FORD erected the first store about the year 1854. It was later carried on by his son Benjamin, then by COULSON Bros. The dwelling house adjoining was demolished at the same time as the old store, and BATSTONE's and COULSON's premises now occupy the old site. Next to this on the north side a boot shop was erected by COLEMAN, and was later occupied by J. F. CLARKE. This business is carried on by H. MALLETT. a younger son of James MALLETT, bootmaker, who arrived with HENTY in 1845. Further along was a dwelling flat, one portion occupied by John HOLLARD after SIMPSON, a saddler, left it.

Further on was a tinsmith's shop, occupied by A. MURRAY, about 1904, and later by W. WALPOLE, who moved to Portland. Both used the brick house adjoining as a residence. E. DEUTSCHER, apprentice to the latter, now has a business in Maud Street.

The brick building further north was used as a chemist's shop by CRAVEN. The vacant block near the centre of the main street is not built on owing to a difficulty in drainage. There were two shops towards the north-east corner in the earlier days, one being used by Israel MALING as a farrier's shop and the other by W. D. MELDRUM as a wheelwright's shop.

Maud Street on its north side had its two large shady trees planted to commemorate the Coronation of King Edward VII. The shop on the opposite corner was once the site of MOORE's general store; J. TAIT, auctioneer and estate agent. He was succeeded by W. BLACKBURN as bootmaker, general store and news agency. The latter form of business is still carried on in the shop built after the original was burnt in 1932. The site of the blacksmiths shop has been occupied from very early days by followers of that trade. The shop was probably built by O'BRIEN, son-in-law and successor of HILL, the first blacksmith, who performed his duties on the west side of the street. It has been occupied In succession by J. MAY, JELBART Bros., TAIT Bros. ILLINGWORTH, GUY, CARTER, ROSS, and its pesent occupant, J. GLOVER.

The Commercial Hotel was not designed with such a large frontage as at present. It consisted originally of the northern half built by George NORTHCOTT. J. CAWKER, a brother of the other famous coach driver, afterwards had a lease and used to drive the coach to Portland. COBB and Co. were also connected with the business done here. G. NORTHCOTT, and then his son H. NORTHCOTT, carried on the business until C. BRYCE, father of present owner, took possession in 1895, and his son continues. A chemist's shop owned by BRYCE is adjoining. A. McKAY, a saddler, occupied the next shop, and later a bakery business was carried on in the shop by CHAPMAN, then by O'GRADY Bros. and D. CHITTICK. Now T. H. LAIDLAW and Co. Ltd., auctioneers, and P. O'BRIEN, tinsmith, occcupy the premises. MACKWOOD's former general store and EASTICK's bakery of the 70's (later occupied by D. KOHN, then by J. McDONALD, J. F. CLARKE, and finally E. DEUTSCHER) was demolished in 1935 and replaced by WISHART's store. The present site of DALE's garage and the hotel yard was used for circus, buckjumping and merry-go-round displays. It was here that "Professor" W. ROOKING and his vet. Jockey MALING ran their wild and woolly west show, with piebald Jacky to make it picturesque, about the year 1900. The long brick building with the gable ends and old verandah was built by J. HORE for Thomas MACKWOOD in 1870, and occupied as an hotel by him for many years. It was afterwards occupied by Duncan McINTOSH in 1893, then by his brother Jack. but has been closed for business for a long period.

Across the street a butchering business was carried on by Pat McCARTHY, who later moved near DWYER's cottage, now site of Goode's business. Further along the main street a dressmaking business was conducted by Miss M. McKAY, the place formerly being occupied by GARDINER, a bootmaker; adjoining was A. MAIR's house. At the foot of the hill nearly opposite the railway crossing, but on the main street frontage, Mr. Christopher COULSON had a bootmaker's and bakery shop, whilst T. MILLER lived near-by. PATTERSON's butchery business was almost opposite.

The block at the north end of the township on the west side was afterwards occupied by an early resident, W. HEANEY, who, with his wife, was engaged in a butcher's and bakery business, the former established in 1875 by J. PATTERSON. Crossing the street leading to the old-time swimming hole, the whole section was owned by M. CUSSEN. The laburnam trees he planted are still standing, and you will find that there has been little building since the early days. Before the establishment of the butter factory, now the principal source of the township's business, a creamery under control of the Merino Co-Operative Butter Factory Co. was receiving supplies of milk on a site here almost opposite the hotel. KOHN's timber yard and workshop were next, but now P. LEARMONTH and Co. Ltd. auctioneers' business absorbs these sites and also the block adjoining the bank. D. BROCK formerly conducted the business.

The site of the Bank was formerly that of a shoemaker's shop, built and used for shoemaking and saddlery by Jasper WOOD about 1850. The National Bank was built for directors of the Bank of Victoria, and was taken over by present owners in 1885.

Opposite the Bank orchard on the other side of Maud Street was the Merino flour mill, built in 1857 by James FULTON, senr., and later run by his son James. The contracting builder was WATKINS. It was the scene of activity in the early days, running night and day shifts. grinding local wheat and that from Strathkellar and Horsham districts. Owing to the climate changing, local wheat proved unsuitable for flour. HOLMES Bros. bought the business about 1896, afterwards selling it to the Masonic Lodge, and it was converted into their temple. The stock water trough in front of the old mill has been used for that purpose for over twenty years, the water being pumped by the windmill through pipes leading from the well lower down and also from the wells that supplied the mills with water. The salty taste of the water in the creek may have been one reason why the water trough was erected, as, by going under the railway bridge and down the creek about a hundred yards the site may be seen where the bore was put down to test for coal. The salt water mentioned still comes from this bore, and probably has medicinal qualities. Whilst in this vicinity you may wonder where the famous old swimming hole is, as there is little left to indicate that at one time a water fall six or seven feet deep with a water hole below it ever existed. Fish were to be caught in holes in the bank, and the pool was source of enjoyment during summer months.

The old store across the street on the south side of the National Bank was also one of the early places of business, being built and occupied for many years by M. CUSSEN. He had several sons, one of whom, Leo, obtained one of the highest positions in the State, that of Chief Justice CUSSEN. Later traders were McINTYRE, SILBERFELD, and HEAZLEWOOD. Further down the main street was a general store built by John LILLIE and later it changed hands many times; some of its occupants were:- B. FORD, SILBERFELD, GRANT and McEWAN, ROTHERY, and now its present owner, O. A. KELLY.

On the block adjoining LILLIE's store a blacksmith's business was carried on by HILL, who was the first blacksmith in the township. John O'BRIEN, a son-in-law of HILL's, succeeded him in the business. but later established a business next to NORTHCOTT's Commercial Hotel. James GARDINER also ran a blacksmith's shop in close proximity.

A new building to serve solely as Post Office was on the next block. It was a four-roomed building with large windows and a verandah which was partly closed. The postal lobby was at the left end of the verandah. Formerly the house was occupied by Dr. INVERARITY, and afterwards was used as a police residence, the gaol and brick stables being at the back. The early postmistresses were Miss DAVIS, Mrs. CHADWICK in 1886, and Mrs. CORTEEN, who took over duties in the next office next to the Mechanics' Hall. Mr. G. COX's store was built on one corner of the original post once block, and when the old office was demolished, that up-to-date shop, now occupied by E GOODE, hairdresser and fruiterer, was erected in 1936.

A butcher's shop in the centre of the township was built in the earliest days by DOLMAN, and was afterwards carried on by William ENSCOE for nearly half a century. Then J. W. MURRELL, LIVINGSTONE, and present owners, P. WILSON and Sons, occupied the shop. The small cottage now used as a milliner's shop was the residence of the builder of the present shop and attached residence.

Adjoining the butcher's shop residence is the one-time saddler's shop, first used for that purpose by FRANCIS, and later by G. NORTHCOTT. In 1890 R. McINROY secured this business, and B. TAIT, the former's apprentice, continued on with the new proprietor. In 1900 R. McINROY built a more up-to-date brick shop with dwelling attached. B. F. TAIT now carries on the same business in this shop. The fruit shop was built at the same time and has been conducted ever since by a daughter of R. McINROY. FRANCIS' shop has been used as a barber's shop by DOWLING, PARKER and R. JONES, and later as a store by A. BLACKBURN.

Meldrum's Carriage Works The Railway Hotel has not always had its present name; it was generally known as the Farmer's Arms. The original slab edifice was built by Captain CLARKE in the year 1857. It has seen many proprietors, including T. ROSS, George Yarra BILSTON, Mrs. CLARKE (second wife of Captain CLARKE), and many other occupants, and present owner, R. McFARLANE. After many alterations and additions the building presents a modern appearance. The buildings used as tea rooms by McDONALD's was originally a hardware shop owned by the partnership firm of KOHN and CAMPBELL, contractors and joiners, and built in 1873. The workshop stood on the other side of the railway. When cut off by the railway in 1882 the owners shifted elsewhere, and the shop facing High Street was used by W. D. MELDRUM as a coach painting shop. MELDRUM's business established in Merino in 1869 has had many alterations and additions, and now the older and also the more modern garage businesses are being carried on as MELDRUM's garage, by his son and grandson.

HANDBURY's butter factory buildings at the south end of High Street were built on the site of the old shingle roofed building called the "Pig and Whistle," built by Jas. TAIT and used as a store. It was later used as an office by John LILLIE, a local carrier; GUY also had a blacksmith's shop on the west frontage; also E. LOFT, M. BIRD, C. BREBNER had a blacksmith's shop which HANDBURY later turned into stables. The site of the railway residences and the open space at the back of same used to be the local cricket ground, and near the two ancient gum trees that grew behind the railway station the local sports meetings of the earlier days were held. J. E. HANDBURY and Sons started their butter factory enterprise in 1916.

Source : "Historic Souvenir of the Back to Merino and Henty Centenary Celebrations",
November, 11th to 15th, 1937


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