Memorial with the Clock Tower in the
Substantial rural service centre.
Camperdown is an attractive rural service centre
of 3500 people located at the foot of Mount
Leura, 193 km south-west of Melbourne on the
Princes Highway. It is distinguished by a fine
2-km avenue of elms along the main street and is
situated on the world's third-largest volcanic
plain which is dotted with volcanic cones (Mount
Leura being the largest in the local area) and
numerous lakes which have formed in volcanic
craters. The local economy is dominated by
dairying, fat lambs and cattle. There is a sales
yard in town and Bonlac milk products have a
plant, although the main works are at Cobden.
Prior to European settlement it is though
that the Kuurn Kopan Noot Aborigines lived in
the area. The first whites in the area were
probably a search party looking for missing
explorers Gellibrand and Hesse in 1837. The
first settlers in the district were John, Thomas
and Peter Manifold from Van Dieman's Land. They
took up a 100 000-acre run in 1839 called
'Purrumbete', based on the northern shore of
Lake Purrumbete. Their first hut was replaced by
Purrumbete homestead in 1842 and it is still
standing. Funds were later provided by the
family for a public hospital, a road to the top
of Mount Leura, extensions to the high school
library and the town's fine clock tower.
In 1841 George Robinson, Chief Protector of
Aborigines, visited 'Purrumbete' and submitted a
report on the relations between the Manifolds
and the local Aborigines: 'The Manifolds stated
that they did not allow the natives to come to
their huts. At first they did so and the natives
were very useful. But when they were getting
their potatoes they detected the natives
stealing them and sent them away. At another
time they lost some sheep and went to the stony
rises (see entry on
Colac) to see if they could find anything
out, when they were suddenly surrounded by
natives who gave them battle'.
On the other hand James and Isabella Dawson,
two tireless defenders of the Aborigines, later
settled on nearby 'Wuurong' farm. James wrote
Australian Aborigines: The Language and Customs
of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western
District of Victoria, Australia (1881). An
Aboriginal reserve was established on the
townsite in the 1860s.
Thomas Alexander Browne (aka Rolf Boldrewood),
arguably Australia's first novelist of any note,
passed by Lake Purrumbete in 1843 while
overlanding 1000 head of cattle to his own
property further west.
Another literary figure with more direct
connections to Camperdown was John Streeter
Manifold (born in 1915), a descendant of the
original squatters, who became a noted poet and
a composer and editor of Australian folk songs.
His far-left political views estranged him from
his family and he was forced to cut his
connection with his family's property although
the impact of the landscape on his imagination
is regarded as evident in his work.
A town known as Old Timboon began to develop
at a site about 3 km north of Camperdown in the
early 1850s. Duncan McNicol built the first
store - a crude slab hut with a canvas door.
However, the land was regarded as too marshy by
the government surveyor who travelled to, and
approved, the present townsite. After sleeping
overnight at the foot of Mount Leura he records
that he 'awoke to the musical chorus of the
magpie and kookaburra singing from a tree-belt
which sparkled in the sun as jewels set in a
seemingly endless countryside. There are miles
of fertile plains, hills and valleys surrounding
the mount - all suitable for development.' The
first house was built on the townsite in 1853
where the Commercial Hotel now stands. Postal
services commenced the following year and the
first hotel opened in 1857.
Governor Latrobe chose the new township's
name in 1854. It is said that he initially
suggested the name 'Duncan' after Timboon
settler Duncan McNicol but his companion on a
kangaroo shoot, Niel Black (see entry on
Terang), thought it a poor choice and, so,
Latrobe thought of 'Camperdown' as the Earl of
Camperdown was an Admiral Duncan who won his
title due to his efforts in a 1797 naval battle.
When James Bonwick visited the town in 1857
he recorded that Camperdown was 'romantically
situated upon the slope of that grand old
volcano, Leura...The soil is of the richest
description, and the gardens around...testify to
its goodness. I was quite surprised to find that
a population of 400 people could do with only
one public house; fortunately that one is out of
the township, else a thirstier habit would have
been long since produced'.
A courthouse, the Leura Hotel, a school, a
police station, a survey office and a store were
all being erected in 1859 and a Presbyterian
Church was established in 1860. A Bible
Christian Church was completed in 1862 and St
Paul's Anglican Church in 1864. The first post
office, constructed in 1863, is still standing.
A regular coach service from Geelong to
Warrnambool commenced in the 1860s, stopping at
Camperdown en route. The early 1870s saw Cobb &
Co commence a regular service between
Warrnambool and Camperdown
Garnet Walch visited the town in 1880, noting
a population 'of about 2000'. Another late
19th-century visitor, who was charmed with
Camperdown, was English novelist Anthony
The railway arrived in 1883 and a cheese
factory opened in 1891 at a time when the area
was dominated by a few large landowning graziers
who controlled the factory while the smaller
landholders tended to supply the milk. A large
cooperative dairy factory was established in
1914. Camperdown became a municipality in 1952
and a town in 1959.
A craft market is held in Finlay Ave on the
first Sunday of each month from 9.30 a.m. to
3.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5593 1177. The Leura
Festival is held in the last week of February
and a heritage day is celebrated on the first
Sunday in November.
Things to see:
Tourist information is provided by Fragrant
Cottage (see subsequent entry) in Manifold St.
It is open weekdays from 9.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.,
Saturdays from 9.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and
Sundays from 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., tel: (03)
Camperdown & District Historical Society
At 241 Manifold St, between Gibson St and Brooke
St, is the Camperdown Museum which is housed in
the former Oddfellows Hall, built in 1896. It
houses a collection of Aboriginal artefacts,
farm and domestic implements, photographs,
clothing and maps. The museum is open Tuesday,
Friday and Sunday from 2.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m.
There is a small admission fee, tel: (03) 5593
Heritage Walk 1 - Manifold St West
Outlined below is a walk taking in the town's
heritage buildings, starting with Manifold St
(the Princes Highway). The main street features
a 2-km plantation of elm trees which were
established by school children in 1876. This is
known as Finlay Ave to honour A.G. Finlay and
his son who donated the trees.
From the museum, cross over to the northern
side of Manifold St. At the intersection with
Harrison St (on the north-eastern corner) is the
masonic lodge hall (1867).
Walk east to the corner with Bath St where
you will find the Hampden Hotel (1910). On the
other side of Bath St is the mechanics'
institute (1890). Within the plantation is a
stone cross which functions as a memorial to
Daniel Curdie, the first shire president and the
town's first medical practitioner. It is said
that he was also well-respected by the local
Continue east along Manifold St, passing the
State Bank building (1905). The bluestone
building at the Church St corner was built in
1863 as the town's first post office building
which is still used for its original purpose.
Its telegraph office transmitted the first news
of the Loch Ard shipwreck in 1878, during which
54 people died (see entry on Port Campbell).
Heritage Walk 1 - The Clock Tower
Opposite the post office, in the central
plantation, is the Boer War Memorial. Just to
its east, at the intersection of Manifold,
Church and Pike Sts, is the town's centrepiece,
in the form of an excellent 35-metre, red-brick
Gothic-style clock tower with a mansard roof. It
was erected in 1896-97 with 1000 pounds
bequeathed from the estate of Thomas Manifold
(the third son of John Manifold, the first
European settler in the area) who was killed in
a hunting accident in 1895. The tower was
designed by local architect, Michael McCabe.
The clock itself was made in England. It is
rewound once a week by means of a hand-operated
crank. The chimes initially sounded every
quarter of an hour 24 hours a day but complaints
by residents of the nearby Leura Hotel saw a
device installed in 1907 to silence the chimes
from 11.00 p.m. to 6.00 a.m. except those which
occur on the hour.
The tower is open on the first Sunday of each
month when it is possible to climb to the top
(via 95 steps) and enjoy the views. Group
bookings are available by appointment, tel: (03)
Heritage Walk 1 - Courthouse/Fragrant
Opposite the clock tower, on the southern side
of Manifold St (at the corner with McNicol St),
is the town's former courthouse. Built 1886-87
this solid and distinguished High Victorian
building features some outstanding polychromatic
brickwork. It currently houses Fragrant Cottage
which offers a range of patchwork and specialty
needlework, furniture, countryware and gifts. It
also functions as the town's tourist information
centre and it is open weekdays from 9.30 a.m. to
5.00 p.m., Saturdays from 9.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
and Sundays from 11.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., tel:
(03) 5593 3390.
Heritage Walk 1 - Manifold St East
On the same side of Manifold St, just to the
west of the courthouse, are the two-storey
Italianate shire hall (1885) and the National
Bank building (c.1913).
Cross over McNicol St to the Leura Hotel
(1902), built on the site of the town's first
public house (1857). Continue east along
Manifold St. At no.159 is the former Commercial
Bank building (c.1901). At no.153 are the former
Stansmore livery stables (1910). This was one of
the largest such businesses in the Western
District of Victoria.
At the corner of Manifold and Leura Sts is
the Commercial Hotel (1907) which was erected on
the site of the town's first dwelling (1853).
Cross over Manifold St, taking in the 20-metre
obelisk which is the town's World War I Memorial
Just to the west, on Manifold St, are the
offices of the Camperdown Chronicle (1874) which
is still in operation today.
Walk east again, crossing over Cressy St. On
the corner is the former Thomas' garage
(c.1920). A little further east, at 96 Manifold
St, is the former Bible Christian Church (1862).
The manse sits adjacent.
Heritage Walk 2
For those wishing to extend their walk the next
section (2 km) takes in heritage buildings on
the northern side of the highway.
Return west along Manifold St and turn right
into Cressy St. Just past Tait St, at no.24, is
'Tea Pot Cottage' (c.1870), built for one of the
town's earliest butchers. At the next
intersection turn left into Ower St.
Heritage Walk 2 - The Camperdown Buggy
At 28 Ower St is the Camperdown Buggy Museum
which features a collection of some 20 traps and
buggies which date back to c.1880. All are from
the local area. There is also a hobby horse from
1820, an early bicycle and a 1912 street cab
which once worked the streets of Camperdown. It
is open most days and admission is by donation.
Ring prior to visiting, tel: (03) 5293 1119.
Heritage Walk 2 Continued
At the western end of Ower St turn right into
Pike St. At the end of Pike St is the town's
railway station (1883).
From here walk east along Jones St, turn left
into Cole St then right into Paton St. At the
T-intersection turn left, heading south along
Church St. To the right is St Paul's Church of
England (1864) and the adjacent bluestone
vicarage. The church features some outstanding
stained-glass window work. On the northern side
of St Paul's is the church hall, built in 1896
from a legacy left by the estate of Thomas
Manifold, which also funded the clock tower. The
hall served as an Anglican school from 1904 to
1923. On its northern side is the former school
hostel and teacher's residence (1904).
Return south along Church St. At no.20, by
the Fergusson St intersection, is a late
Victorian villa known as 'Malahide' which was
built c.1890 to attract a doctor to the town.
Church St will return you to the clock tower
on Manifold St.
Heritage Walk 3
The following walk (approximately 3 km) takes in
heritage buildings on the southern side of the
Start from the clock tower, heading south
along McNicol St. To the left are some old gas
lamps, which were in use until electricity
arrived in 1908, and a bluestone building which
was erected in 1857 as the stables for the Leura
Hotel. It is the oldest extant building in town.
Turn left into Scott St. To the right, at
no.43, is 'Penzance' (c.1859) which was
originally the home of early shopkeeper James
Tait. At 29 Scott St is the elegant residence
known as 'Kinross' (1905).
Continue east along Scott St to the Curdie St
intersection. On the north-east corner, at 3-5
Curdie St, is the old bluestone three-storey
flour mill (1868) which became a produce store
in 1889. The complex has been converted into
luxury apartments and a restaurant.
Head south along Curdie St. Just across Scott
St, in the central plantation, is a manna gum
which is a rare survivor from the forest which
existed on this site prior to European
Turn left off Curdie St into Campbell St. To
the right, at no.9, is 'Keeyuga' (1902). This
three-storey residence, with Gothic
ornamentation, was the home of local architect,
Michael McCabe, who designed the town's clock
tower and Catholic Church.
Turn right into Adeney St with the Leura Oval
to the left. At 18 Adeney St is a rustic-style
cottage dating from c.1870.
Return a short distance along Adeney St and
turn left into Barkly St. To the right, at
no.12, is another Victoria-era cottage (c.1880)
with a letterbox matching the design of the
Continue west along Barkly St to the Leura St
intersection where you will find St Andrew's
Presbyterian (now Uniting) Church and its
bluestone manse. A section at the rear of the
church is from the original 1860 Presbyterian
church. The rest dates from 1901.
Continue along Barkly St to no.46 where you
will find the two-storey townhouse 'Barkly
Cottage' (c.1865) which was initially the home
of squatter William Adeney.
Turn left into McNicol St. At the end of the
road, cross over Brooke St and enter Dodds St.
At no.6 is the bluestone house known as 'Cole's
Cottage' (c.1865) which was originally the home
of squatter Francis Cole.
Walk to the end of Dodds St and turn right
into Wallis St. In the second block, to the
right, is St Patrick's Catholic Church (1900),
designed by Michael McCabe who was also
responsible for the town's clock tower. It has
since been extended. The presbytery dates from
Continue along Wallis St and turn right into
Walker St and you will come to Victoria Square.
An Aboriginal reserve was located here in the
At the end of Walker St, cross over Brooke St
and walk along Campbell St to the intersection
with McNicol St. On the south-eastern corner, at
11 McNicol St, is 'Gilgae', a grand Edwardian
home built in 1907.
Head north along McNicol St back to Manifold
St and the clock tower.
Mount Leura and Mount Sugarloaf
Mount Leura, at the south-eastern corner of
town, formed some time within the last 20 000
years. It consists of solidified lava which
emerged from a vent in a volcanic crater.
Although it is not of great height, Leura is the
largest such cone in the area and it offers fine
views of the surrounding landscape which, with
its many crater lakes and cones, constitutes the
world's third-largest volcanic plain.
Drive to the end of Lawrence St then turn
into Mount Road which leads to a carpark near
the summit (313 m above sea-level) from whence
there are views over the crater and Mount
Sugarloaf which stands adjacent to the
south-west. Sugarloaf, which features a
near-perfect conical shape, was purchased in
1970 by the National Trust to prevent it being
further damaged by quarrying.
The Panorama Trail leads from the carpark,
past a lookout and information site, around the
crater of Mt Leura and up Mt Sugarloaf. The
information site has a landmark turntable and
information boards outlining the area's
geomorphology. To the north-west are the
sandstone ridges of the Grampians mountain
range; to the north are Mount Meningoort (250
m), Mount Kurweeton and the bulk of Mount
Elephant (420 m) with the Central Grampians in
the distance; to the west are Mount Shadwell
(300 m) and Mount Noorat (340 m); to the east
Lake Purrumbete, Lake Corangamite and Mount
Porndon; and, to the south, on a clear day,
views extend as far south as the Southern Ocean.
Plans have been developed for more walking
tracks, another carpark lower down Mt Leura,
picnic facilities, further information boards
and an education centre providing information
and recreational activities related to the
vegetation and geology and the natural and
cultural history of the site and region. An
extensive revegetation project is also under
way. It is intended to remove most
non-indigenous plant species and restore some of
the pre-colonial flora.
Camperdown Botanic Gardens
Camperdown Botanic Gardens feature an arboretum,
picnic/barbecue facilities and a lookout over
nearby Lake Bullen Merri (to the south) and Lake
Gnotuk (to the north). Designed by William
Guilfoyle, the gardens contain some rare
examples of Himalayan oak and a statue of
Scottish poet Robbie Burns. This statue was
brought to Australia having once stood at
Tydenham Castle, near London. There are picnic,
barbecue, toilet and playground facilities, and
a kiosk, tel: (03) 5593 1253.
There are several ways of accessing the
Gardens which can be accessed off the southern
end of Park Rd, to the west of the town centre.
The most direct route is to turn west off Leura
St (the Cobden Rd) into Fenton St. After 600 m
cross over Bowen St and continue west along Park
Lane for 1.3 km until you reach the fork in the
road. Take the branch on the right. This road
leads across Park Rd then straight through
Camperdown Caravan Park to the gardens. There
are other ways of getting onto Park Rd.
Lake Bullen Merri and Lake Gnotuk
Lake Bullen Merri and Lake Gnotuk sit adjacent
each other 4 km west of town inside a twin
volcanic crater known as a maar.
Despite their proximity their water levels
differ by about 30 metres. Bullen Merri, at the
higher elevation, is 3 km wide and reaches a
depth of 66 m. Gnotuk reaches a depth of 31 m
and is almost as wide as Bullen Merri. As its
base is below the water table Bullen Merri is
fed by underground springs. While its water is
able to seep into Gnotuk, the latter has no
outlet and evaporation has caused a build-up of
salinity. Thus, while Bullen Merri's water is
generally brackish, Gnotuk's is salty, although
Bullen Merri's salinity is also increasing owing
to evaporation (the perimeter of the lake is
receding at the rate of 15 cm a year). Some of
Bullen Merri's problems (erosion, land slips,
eutrophication, sedimentation and loss of
wildlife) arise from the clearing of dense
vegetation from its foreshores and a large-scale
revegetation project is currently under way.
Bullen Merri's beauty inspired noted
Victorian artist Eugene von Guerard to paint
Bullen Merri in 1858. It is still a migratory
bird habitat and breeding ground for native
fish. Visitors may be lucky enough to see
kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, falcons, goshawks,
kestrels, parrots and waterbirds.
Bullen Merri is an excellent fishing spot and
a popular location for swimming, power-boating,
watersking and sailing. There are picnic,
barbecue and playground facilities and a boat
The Lakes are on Lake Bullen Merri Rd. The
most direct route is to turn west off Leura St
(the Cobden Rd) into Fenton St. After 600 m
cross over Bowen St and continue west along Park
Lane for 1.3 km until you reach the fork in the
road. Take the branch on the left which is Lake
Bullen Merri Rd. It leads past a turnoff on the
left to North Beach on Lake Bullen Merri and on
past another turnoff on the right to the golf
club and a recreation park which lies between
the two lakes. Small boats can be launched from
the North Beach but there is a concrete ramp, a
normal swimming area, a fenced swimming area for
children, yachting and angling clubs at South
Beach Reserve which can be reached by turning
off the Camperdown-Cobden Rd, south of
Antiques and Bric-a-Brac
The Mammoth Mart is located at 261 Manifold St (tel:
03 5593 1277) and David Stevens Antiques is at
206 Mainfold St, tel: (03) 5593 3477. Silver
Nickels is at 14 Church St, tel: (03) 5593 2174.
Timboon House and Craigieburn
Timboon House was built in the 1850s as 'Lake
Inn' on a nascent townsite known as Old Timboon.
As this land proved too marshy settlement
shifted south to the present site of Camperdown
and the hotel ceased to operate in 1859. It is a
two-storey bluestone building with the original
verandah now removed and is one of the oldest
surviving inns of the Western District. The
house is privately owned but can be seen from
the roadside. To get there head north off the
highway along Old Timboon Rd, at the western
edge of Camperdown, then turn left into Old
'Craigieburn' is another remnant of old
Timboon. This was the cottage of early settler,
storekeeper and pastoralist Duncan McNicol. It
features six rooms and was built of squared
basalt rubble between 1851 and 1853. It is
located on Depot Road - an extension of
Meiklejohn St which also heads north off the
Princes Highway on the western side of
Lake Purrumbete is situated within an ancient
volcanic crater. It is considered an excellent
fishing venue and there are plenty of pelicans,
black swans, native ducks and other water birds,
along with barbecue and picnic facilities, a
boat ramp (on the south-western shore) and a
caravan park. To get there head east along the
Princes Highway for about several kilometres and
turn right into Lake Purrumbete Rd which is well
signposted from the highway.
Dry Stone Walls
Another feature of the area is the dry stone
walls which were erected in the late 19th
century by British immigrants. The object was to
clear the fields of stone, demarcate boundaries
and erect a barrier to rabbit infestation. They
can be seen adjacent the highway en route to
North-west of Camperdown is Lake Bookar which is
popular with windsurfers. There is a picnic
reserve on the western shore. To get there head
north-west along the Princes Highway for 5 km
then turn right, heading north along the road to
Darlington for about 9 km.