Mortlake (and Hexham and Ellerslie)
Interesting historic town lying to the north
of the Great Ocean Road.
Mortlake is an historic settlement of about 1200
people located at the base of Mt Shadwell, an
extinct volcano which has proven a rich source
of olivine (an olive-coloured quartz gemstone).
Mortlake is surrounded by fertile volcanic
plains and hence is located in a pastoral and
agricultural district 218 km west of Melbourne
via the Hamilton Highway and 50 km north-east of
The Kuurn Kopan Noot Aborigines are thought
to have occupied the area prior to European
settlement. Major Thomas Mitchell sighted the
district in 1836 during his Australia Felix
expedition and the Derwent Company, which
succeeded the Port Phillip Association,
established the Mount Shadwell station here in
1839. It was on this land that Mortlake would
later emerge. The Watson brothers established
the Merrang station at the same time on the
western bank of the Hopkins River and the
township of Hexham later developed on a portion
of this property (the Merrang homestead, dating
back to 1859, is still standing). By 1839 there
were several pastoral stations in the area.
The Mortlake townsite began to develop as a
point of trade for the surrounding properties.
It was surveyed in 1853 and named after a
village in Surrey, England. Mortlake benefited
due to its position on the road between the port
at Warrnambool and the goldfield at Ararat which
opened up in 1854. This early prosperity is
evident in some surviving bluestone buildings
including the Mt Shadwell Hotel (1855) and the
Mortlake Flour Mill built in 1856 to capitalise
on the needs of the diggers.
A Presbyterian church was erected in 1857 and
it operated a denominational school from the
premises. A postal service was established in
1859 within the slab store of Jonathon Pagan.
Mac's Hotel was erected that same year and a new
Presbyterian church was built in 1862. When the
Shire of Mortlake was declared in 1864 the
original Presbyterian church served as the shire
offices and a post office and courthouse were
built. An Anglican church was constructed in
1865-65 and a Methodist Church in 1867.
The railway arrived in the 1890s and the
district was opened up for soldier settlement
after both World Wars.
Things to see:
Gallery of Wildlife Art
The gallery features the works of Richard
Weatherly who paints wildlife subjects. There
are also prints and reproductions. It is located
in Connewarren Lane and is open by appointment
only, tel: (03) 5599 7276.
The History Trail takes in 20 historic buildings
of Mortlake. It was put together by students of
Mortlake High School. You can do it on foot, by
car or a combination of both. It starts at the
former Temperance Hall (1873) in Shaw St (the
Hamilton Highway) which has since been used as a
glove factory and RSL centre (you may wish to
park your car here).
On the other side of Shaw St, and slightly
further east along the road, is a building
constructed in 1892-93 as a local history
museum. Although it was initially a popular
attraction it eventually closed (the material
was donated to the museum at Warrnambool) and,
from 1910, it served as a billiards room and
recreational hall. On its eastern side is the
former post office (1864) which closed in 1912
when a new post office was built. Next is the
former courthouse which was built in 1864 and
closed in 1982. The adjacent building served as
the shire offices from 1878 until 1964. An
additional room was added in 1880 for the use of
the shire president.
On the north-western corner of Shaw St and
Church St is St Andrew's Uniting Church which
was built in 1862 as a Presbyterian church.
Cross over Church St and walk along Shaw St a
short distance to St James' Anglican Church
(1864-65) then return along Shaw St to the
Church St corner. Diagonally opposite St
Andrew's is St Stephen's Lutheran Church, built
of bluestone in 1867 as a Methodist church. This
Gothic Revival design features freestone
dressings and lancet windows (the less
enthusiastic may wish to return to their car and
drive through the next section until reaching
Willow Cottage, as outlined below).
Turn left into Church St then left into
Boundary Rd. To the right is a private residence
erected in 1857 as the town's original
Presbyterian Church. It served as both church
and denominational school until 1862 when St
Andrew's was completed. When the Shire of
Mortlake was established in 1864 this became the
shire offices until the Shaw St building was
completed in 1878.
Continue along Boundary Rd then turn left
into Mill St. To the right, on the hill, are the
remains of the Mortlake Flour Mill, built in
1856 to capitalise on the needs of hungry
gold-diggers in the region. Now in a dilapidated
state, it was constructed as a three-storey
squared rubble bluestone structure and was
initially wind-powered. New owners installed a
steam engine and a tin chimney the following
year. This was replaced by the present
six-storey square-plane stone chimney in 1861.
Slightly further along the road are two
bluestone cottages, 'Moffat' and 'Pullenboon',
built, probably, in the 1860s in connection with
the flour mill. Both are thought to have been
designed by local architect Alexander Hamilton.
Further along Mill St, to the right, is the
former Presbyterian manse (1883-84), now
Return a short distance along Mill St and
turn right into Officer St. At the north-western
corner of Officer St and Townsend St is Willow
Cottage, a residence built of bluestone in the
1870s or 1880s for a Mr McWilliam who owned a
nearby butcher's shop. Note the ornate
wrought-iron verandah. Across Townsend St is the
former Grieve and Benn's Store, a bluestone
structure dating from 1869 (John Grieve was
twice shire president).
Slightly further along Officer St are the old
stables of the Mt Shadwell Hotel on the Dunlop
St corner. The stables, originally erected in
1863, burned down twice - in 1899 and 1909. It
has since been used for boxing and ten-pin
bowling. The Mt Shadwell Hotel was the town's
first. It was built in 1855 although the present
facade dates from 1928.
Turn right into Dunlop St and proceed to
Mac's Hotel at the Webster St corner. It was
built in 1859 as a single-storey bluestone
structure but was rebuilt and extended in 1910.
Cross over Dunlop St and head back towards
Officer St. To the right is Penrose House, a
two-storey building of half-coursed, rock-faced
basalt with distinguished quoins, architraves,
cornice and central doorway. It was designed by
Alexander Hamilton in 1867.
Turn right into Officer St. To the left is
the Rose Garden, established as a fine Botanical
Garden in the early 1880s on land that had
previously been a swamp.
The last attraction is the old butter
factory. It is a reasonable distance away so you
may wish to drive south along Officer St,
turning right into Terang Road. By the Boundary
Road intersection is the old factory which was
built in 1894 and which manufactured its produce
under the trade name 'Butterfly'. Local farmers
brought their milk to the factory by horse-drawn
cart and had the cream skimmed off for butter,
some of which was exported to England. The plant
had an electricity generator by 1910 and, by
1930, produced an annual 680 kg but was bought
out and closed down in 1936.
There is a large reserve in the centre of town
which has a swimming pool, tennis courts, a
playground, picnic and barbecue facilities and a
Hexham is 15 km north-west of Mortlake along the
Hamilton Highway. It emerged on the Merrang run
which was established in 1839. The Hexham Hotel
was built c.1863 as the Woolshed Inn. It is a
two-storey structure of squared coursed
bluestone rubble and a slate roof. The stables
were originally used as a Cobb & Co changing
'Woolongoon' is a large country garden with
sweeping lawns, mature trees and wide perennial
borders. Small numbers of interesting plants
from the garden are on sale. It is open by
appointment, tel: (03) 5599 2040.
Ellerslie House Fuchsia Display Garden
14 km south-west of Mortlake, on the Hopkins
Highway, is the village of Ellerslie. The
Ellerslie House Fuchsia Display Garden, in Cook
St (behind the stone church), features over 300
varieties of fuchsia. A range of crafts and
porcelain dolls are also on display. They are
open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. from the
September 1 through to the second Sunday in May,
tel: (03) 5599 6262.