Guildford (including Yapeen)
Tiny settlement with a superb "Big Tree"
Guildford is a tiny settlement of about 200
people located amidst low hills on the banks of
the Loddon River. It has an attractive avenue of
Plane trees planted in 1919 in honour of locals
who fought in the First World War. Guildford is
130 km north-west of Melbourne between
Castlemaine and Daylesford.
Prior to European occupation the area was
occupied by the Jajowarrung tribe who called the
area 'Yarrayne'. The first known white men were
the party of Major Mitchell during their
'Australia Felix' expedition of 1836. Mitchell
named the Loddon River after an English waterway
associated with his birthplace in Hampshire.
Guildford was probably named after a city in
Surrey, England, which is none too distant from
the aforesaid river.
Pastoral runs were established in the
district in the 1840s but the settlement emerged
in the 1850s when goldminers flooded into the
area. The most substantial Chinese settlement of
the Mt Alexander goldfields (estimated at over
3000 though some sources say 6000) gathered
together for safety along Campbells Creek.
Hostility to the Chinese was overt and
overwhelming and there were numerous local
conflicts, some of considerable proportions.
The largest encampment was near the junction
of Campbells Creek and the Loddon River at
Guildford, though no evidence remains today.
There they lived largely in calico tents along
narrow thoroughfares dotted with Joss Houses,
tea-houses, boarding houses, tailors,
apothecaries, gambling establishments, opium
dens, herbalists, barbers, theatres, a circus
etc. All along Campbells Creek the Chinese
worked, not as individuals, but in a type of
co-operative, utilising a system of open-cut
The Guildford Arms (the town's first hotel)
opened in 1854 although it was destroyed by fire
in 1857. However, by that time, the Guildford
Family Hotel (still standing) had been erected.
A candle factory was established in 1855 and
soap was manufactured from 1857. The town's
first race meeting was held in 1856. By that
time miners had extracted much of the alluvial
gold and they began to sink shafts into the
Guildford plateaux and other local hills with
A school opened at Pennyweight Flat in 1858
and another at Guildford in 1860. An Anglican
Church was built in 1861. However, the
population fell dramatically as the alluvial
gold declined and, when Guildford borough was
proclaimed in 1866, there were just 250
ratepayers. By 1888 there were 200 people and
Guildford also served as a coach depot for
the likes of Cobb & Co for many years. Italian
families later took up residence in the area. It
is today something of a dormitory town for those
who work at Castlemaine.
Things to see:
The Big Tree
The main reason for visiting this town is 'The
Big Tree' at the intersection of Fryers St and
Ballaarat St (it is suitably signposted off the
This truly remarkable and beautifully
preserved red gum is thought to be the largest
of its species in Victoria. The girth at the
base is 12.8 metres and the height is 25.9
A plaque suggests that Burke and Wills camped
beneath its generous umbrage on their journey
from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Although this is apocraphyl Burke may well have
been acquainted with the tree as he was
superintendent of police in the Castlemaine
district from 1858 to 1860 and would have been
familiar with the terrain.
The building on the corner of the highway and
Ballaraat St is the former Farmers Arms Hotel
The former Commercial Hotel (1865) is located
at the corner of Fryers and Templeton Sts and it
now serves as the town's general store. On its
northern side are the stables and outbuildings
of a large department store that burned down in
On the other side of the road is the
Guildford Family Hotel (1856). The ruins of an
old assembly hall stand nearby on its northern
side. Next door is London House (1856) which
originally served as a store and post office.
To the rear of the modern public hall is the
old lock-up. The Catholic Church on the corner
is now private property, as is the Wesleyan
Chapel. The present post office in Templeton St
dates from 1901.
2 km north of Guildford along the Midland
Highway is the locality of Yapeen which was
known as the Pennyweight Diggings in 1852. It
later became Strathloddon, after William
Campbell's 'Strathloddon' station, then Yapeen
which is thought to be an Aboriginal place-name
meaning 'green valley'.
Chinese miners once camped in this valley
where the Munro apple was later developed. The
ruins of an 1887 waterwheel can still be seen in
Marsh House is a prefabricated two-storey
building which was imported from England and
erected in 1854 for William Mein, the son of a
pioneer European settler. Mein Sr is said to
have performed the first Presbyterian service in