The township of Kilmore in Victoria is situated 65km north of Melbourne CBD. Being the first inland town in Victoria, Kilmore managed to grow and maintain its prominent position until the early 1860’s. The major attraction of Kilmore is its historic streetscapes, lined with heritage listed buildings of 19th century. For the history buffs, a visit to the Monument Hill Reserve to see the watchtower erected to honour the memory of Hume and Hovell expedition, should be the starting point.
Attractions of Kilmore
Heritage Buildings of Kilmore
Including all heritage buildings of Kilmore in one article could turn out to be a mammoth task. We have included a few located at Sydney Street for our readers to get a taste of it. Powlett Street between Foote and Piper streets also has a number of mid-nineteenth century buildings associated with the early development of Kilmore
Red Lion Hotel
Red Lion Hotel was built during the 1850’s Goldrush by Irishman John Butler. John Butler was a leading Kilmore citizen, and he was elected a councillor of the first Kilmore Municipal Council. The hotel originally had a balcony, and it is from this balcony that the result of the first Council elections were announced in August 1856. In 1924, a veranda was erected, however it was demolished by a truck in October 1969. This event followed by a disastrous fire in July 1968 that destroyed the kitchen dining room and several other rooms. A dining room is built in 1969 -70.
Colonial Bank of Australasia (1882)
The colonial bank was built on the site of Union Steam Floor Mill, which had occupied site from the early 1850s. The mill was demolished in the late 1881 to make way for the new colonial bank building designed by architect George Jobbins.
Royal Oak Hotel (1858)
Royal Oak Hotel was first licensed in 1848 and probably built for William Hay. In 1858, a new building was built infront of the original hotel and in 1876 and 1887, the building was extensively extended.
Former Kilmore Post Office
Built in 1861 -62 and designed by public Works Department architect Henry Williams under the supervision of Chief Architect William Wardell, this building was influential in the design of many other Post Offices in Victoria.
Built in 1863-64 to a design by the notable architect J.J.Clark under the supervision of William Wardell of the public works department, the courthouse is part of an important early public precinct.
Whitburgh Cottage (1857)
Situated at 10 Piper Street, Kilmore, Whitburgh Cottage is Kilmore’s oldest surviving bluestone house. The building is included in the Victorian heritage register. The building was erected between 1853-57 period for William Smeaton, a local coachbuilder and blacksmith. The house remained in Smeaton family ownership for 113 years.
Kilmore Town Hall
Situated at 16 Sydney Street, the former town hall was built in 1894 and features a decorative facade with enormous Corinthian pillars.
In 1912, the site where the Grand Hotel had stood, along with two other plots were purchased to create Moore Park, named after the last owner of the Hotel, James Moore. The Park’s progress ceased until after the first world war, when veterans were employed to clear the land and plant cypress trees. The foundation stone for the war memorial was laid in 1921 and a commemorative document sealed within the monument. The site was flanked by two German trench mortars and the perimeter with a coastal defence gun. The park was called Memorial Park or Moore Park. An odd few year followed when the council allowed potato and maize to be grown here. In 1960, the park was renamed Hudson Park in recognition of George Hudson and family.
Hume and Hovell Monument
Hume and Hovell Monument is located at Monument Hill Reserve at Kilmore. This is one of the 37 monuments erected during the 1920s in Victoria to celebrate the centenary of the Hume and Hovell Expedition. Monument Hill was set aside as a public park in 1911. It was decided to re-erect an old tower from Kilmore Gaol. The directors of the Kilmore Dairy Co. donated the stone tower. Mr. James Proudfoot demolished the bluestone tower at the old gaol and rebuilt it in a similar form at the lookout. Two walking tracks lead from the monument along the ridges down to the Golf Course and through to the Cricket Ground and the Lake. Much of Monument Hill is covered in Eucalypt woodland, similar when Hamilton Hume climbed the hill in 1824.
Old Kilmore Gaol
Located at 8 Sutherland Street in Kilmore, the Old Kilmore Gaol was in operation from 1859 until 1891. On 13th October 1857, the tender of Messrs Lumsden and Co was accepted for building the first portion of the Kilmore Gaol. The authorities have been anxious to have prisoners transferred from the log building in the Government paddock which was then the Gaol. The second phase of building was also awarded to the same contractor and the total cost incurred for building the gaol was around £5000. On 29th July 1859, the Gaol was opened for receiving prisoners.
During its life time Gaol made news due to prisoner escapes including that of bush ranger Allan Lowry. After its decommission part of the gaol was leased by Kilmore Diary Company Limited for their Butter Factory at a rent of £30 per year. Company later purchased the Gaol for a cool £300. As a part of the alteration to suit the needs of the Diary plant, the stone walls around the goal were pulled down and the Kilmore council agreed to purchase the stones broken up into 2.5inch metal for road building purposes.
The Gaol changed a few hands thereafter. The bluestone walls and the exterior appearances are the only original and the inside was renovated many times.
History of Kilmore
Prior to the European settlement, the people of Nira Bulok clan (cave dwelling people) occupied the Kilmore region for 30,000 or more years. This clan was one of the nine clan groups that comprised the Taungurung people whose vast area covered much of central Victoria from Campaspe River in the west, High Country in the east, below Benalla in the north and to the top of the Great Dividing Range in the south. Taungurung and the adjoining clans formed an alliance called the Kulin Nation where the tribes shared similar language, custom, ceremony, and moiety. Taungurung was also related to the quarries of Mt William situated west of Kilmore. The volcanic rocks of Mt William were highly priced by aborigines for making axes. By the mid 1850’s these quarries were abandoned by aborigines as settlers took over their land. In late 1854, naturalist William Blandowski described these quarries as ‘’present an appearance somewhat like that of deserted goldfield and convey a faithful idea of the great determination displayed by the aborigines prior to intrusion of the white races’’. These axes were traded all along Australia on barter system. An explosion at a mill owned by Allen, an early settler which happened in the 1850’s frightened the few remaining aborigines who camped near the mill in an area called O’Deas paddock, and then after aborigines deserted the town.
The area around Kilmore came to the attention of authorities when in 1824, explorer and bushman Hamilton Hume and sailor and navigator Captain William Hilton Hovell made their epic journey from Hume’s Appin property at NSW arriving at Corio Bay believing it to be Western Port Bay. The party passed east of Kilmore township on the 13th of December 1824 and ascended the hills to survey the landscape before them. On 22nd December, the exploration team crossed the Kilmore Gap, the only natural low pass in Southeast Australia.
Henry brothers settled in Portland and John Batman formed the Port Phillip Association to further investigate the region. This led to the colonisation of Victoria and the settlement of Port Phillip District now known as Melbourne in 1835.
Lady Jane Franklin ( 1781 – 1895) was the wife of Governor of Tasmania, Sir John Franklin. They arrived in Hobart from England in 1837 and returned to England in 1843. While in the colonies, Lady Jane Franklin probably was the first European woman to travel overland from the newly settled town of Melbourne to Sydney in 1839. She kept a diary of the trip and recorded that on the 8th April 1839, her party arrived at Mercer’s Vale, later called Beveridge and then travelled north to what is called Kilmore. Her party travelled over the eastern part of Hidden Valley Boulevard, according to her description of the terrain. She also writes that they passed through green’s outstation now known as Green’s Pinch, a few hundred metres north of Kilmore – Broadford turn off. As a result pioneer settlers were encouraged to travel overland and settle the areas opened by this early exploration. (Kilmore heritage society, from the interpretative boards of Kilmore Creek Trail)
The Kilmore Creek area was first settled in 1837 by squatters who overlanded stock from Sydney to the newly established towns of Port Phillip.
Overlander from NSW Charles Bonney is credited with the discovery of Kilmore. It is assumed that around 21 March 1837, Charles Bonney reached Kilmore with the flocks of sheep then returned to Sugarloaf Station. Bonney drove his sheep to the Kilmore station and occupied it ‘shortly after’ 14 June 1837. Like all overlanders, he was under pressure to occupy the run he had selected because, if he failed to reach it in time, another party would take it over. It is sensible to assume that Charles Bonney is the first European settler of Kilmore by occupying the area in June 1837. Kilmore had three water streams: Kurkuruk Creek, Ryan’s Creek and Kilmore Creek. The track that Bonney made to Melbourne in March 1837 became the principal road between Melbourne and Sydney. Bonney Squatted at Kilmore only until 17th January 1838.
William Rutledge who arrived from Ireland to NSW in 1829 at the age of 23, made his money in many of the land deals he undertook in NSW before eying Port Phillip. By then he was also the director of a Commercial Banking Company in NSW. An area of around 5120 acres west and around Kilmore Creek were taken up as the Willowmavin special survey by William Rutledge, now known as founder of Kilmore and gazetted it as the town of Kilmore in 1841, making it the first inland township of Victoria. T.H.Nutt marked out and surveyed Rutledge’s special survey of 5120 acres on the Sydney Road. Rutledge named it, ‘Kilmore’, after the civil and ecclesiastical parish of County Cavan in Ireland near his family home in Ireland. The meaning of Kilmore is ‘’Great Church’’. From April 1841, T.H.Nutt was employed by the Government to carry out many surveys including Rutledge’s.
On 1st September 1841, this advertisement appeared on Port Phillip Gazette.
‘’KILMORE SPECIAL SURVEY
THIS LAND, selected by William Rutledge Esq., on the high road between Melbourne and Sydney is now to be thrown open for purchasers and the proprietor has instructed Mr POWER to offer the same to public competition on THURSDAY, 16th September. Terms most liberal.
To those acquainted with the colony all comment on the splendid estate must be superfluous; the acknowledged judgment of the proprietor has been more than ordinarily displayed in the selection of this spot, which to see is to admire ; and beautiful as is the scenery the profit derivable from the rich arable soil is not to be overlooked ; the prospect is extensive ; a constant supply of pure water from three different creeks passes through the grounds ; the great Sydney road, which is perhaps the most striking feature in the estates, (and the present and only practicable line of which has been rigorously adhered to) has induced more than one party to offer large sums for town allotments, some of which have already been sold at the rate of £100 an acre.
The fact of its being the last stage from Sydney to Melbourne, is also in its favor. But in order to explain to the newly arrived immigrant the advantages possessed by Kilmore, it may be necessary to advert to the circumstances of its having been purchased from the Crown under the recent regulations, and the power of selection accorded by the Crown having been judiciously acted on, cheap and good land can now be offered on terms too renumerating to be overlooked. The property is divided into A TOWNSHIP, consisting of allotments containing in general one acre, but varying in price to suit purchasers. They possess the advantage of close proximity to the Sydney Road, and to the well-known water holes where Mr. Bonney and others were accustomed to camp before Melbourne arose. Who knows but Kilmore may one day outstrip its older rival?’’
The surveyed town blocks were slowly established as businesses trading as overlanders and travellers between Sydney and Port Phillip. The depression of 1841 effectively stopped land sales for two years. During this period, Rutledge did let some of the smaller allotments to Irish farmers with an option to purchase later.
On those days Kilmore was two days good weather travel from Melbourne. Kilmore came into prominence as a stopping place and service centre for horsemen, farmers and landowner of surrounding districts. In September 1841, the first hotel at Kilmore, The Kilmore Inn was opened at the Junction of Sydney Road and Foot Street by licensee Francis Anderson.
First overland mail from Melbourne to Sydney began in December 1837, under overlander Joseph Hawdon, who won the tender. Hawdon employed convict servant John Conway Bourke. Bourke claimed the credit for using Kilmore as a route instead of Mt Macedon as part of the original run. The mail route went from Kilmore via William Hamilton’s Glenarousa Station to John Clarke’s Inn at Mitchellstown where it crossed Goulburn River.
The first Post Office at Kilmore was opened on 1st February 1843. Then licensee of Kilmore Inn, Henry Morris was listed as Postmaster. Stables were soon setup for coach horses, and hotels and shanties were built to accommodate travellers and new residents.
Growth of Kilmore from a Hamlet to a village began in 1846. Melbourne Argus on 22nd September carried this news,
‘’The proprietors of the special survey at Kilmore, have granted a site on that estate for a Presbyterian church, in connexion with the Free Church of Scotland. A respectably and numerously signed petition, praying for the establishment of a courthouse, and Police establishment at Kilmore, has lately been forwarded to his Excellency the Governor.’’
In 1849, when Governor Fitzroy of NSW proclaimed the counties of NSW dividing the territory into districts, counties, hamlets and parishes, Kilmore became part of the County of Dalhousie in NSW. In March 1850, Kilmore was appointed a place for holding of Courts of Petty Sessions. Kilmore was one of the first townships outside Melbourne to have a courthouse built in 1849. Kilmore was growing and the 1851 Victorian census listed the population of Kilmore as 2064. The Goldrush of 1851 made Kilmore the major administrative centre between Melbourne and the goldrush towns. By 1856, a branch of Oriental bank was established at Kilmore. In May 1855, Kilmore’s first newspaper, ‘The Kilmore Standard of Freedom’ was established. Country Courthouse was constructed on Hamilton Street in 1857, which was burned down in 1862. A new courthouse was erected in 1863 beside the Post Office.
The resident minister for Roman Catholics in Kilmore, Rev. Charles Clarke established a catholic school in 1849. A Catholic Girls School was established at a rented premises in 1851.The first Church of England School opened at Kilmore in March 1850 and was given Government assistance the following year. In November 1857, Bridget’s survey school was opened. Several schools had been operating in the district from 1841 until 1868, when the education department was advised that the system be changed owing to too many schools existing at that time. In 1874, Kilmore State School was established at its present site. The Catholic sisters of Mercy Opened their school, and St Joseph’s ladies’ college at the present site of Assumption College in 1875. The Maris brothers opened Assumption College for boys in 1893 at the present site of Kilmore international school. In 1914, owning to the lack of space for the boys, The Sisters and Maris brothers exchanged schools. The Kilmore International School was established in 1990 in White Street. The courthouse was built in 1863 and Police Barracks in 1893 to the west of Kilmore Creek.
On 1st July 1851 newly created colony of Victoria came into existence separating from NSW. In the first Victorian election of 1851, Kilmore district had two seats due to its concentration of population. The United Boroughs of Kilmore, Kyneton and Seymour were dominated by Kilmore township, while the United Counties of Talbot, Dalhousie and Anglesea were dominated by the Rutledge’s Kilmore Special Survey. Gold was discovered in Victoria in 1851 and Kilmore was well positioned to take advantage of the gold discoveries at Reedy Creek, McIvor, Beechworth, and Bendigo.
Foundation stone for Kilmore Hospital was laid on 17th March 1859 and began functioning from 1860. Kilmore East Railway station then known as Kilmore Railway station was opened on 18 April 1872. By using Kilmore East and the Gap in the Great Dividing Range, the railway traversed part of Hume and Hovell’s original route to Westernport. The positioning of the railway line outside the Kilmore township adversely affected the town. The only silver lining was that much needed crown land became available at Kilmore East and Wandong. Kilmore Railway Station was renamed Kilmore East on 1 October 1888 when a new railway station was opened at Kilmore with the town’s name.
In 1872 when Railway came through Kilmore East many businesses located at Kilmore suffered due to the reduction in traffic using the Melbourne to Sydney Road through Kilmore. Moreover the growth of Shepparton and Benalla created new opportunities for people outside Kilmore and this reflected in the number of voluntary sales advertised in the papers on those years.
Kilmore Railway Station was opened on 1 October 1888 along with the first section of the Heathcote branch line. Kilmore Railway station was closed to passengers in August 1965. The line through Kilmore closed to all traffic in November 1968.
The municipality of Kilmore was proclaimed on 4 July 1856. It became a Borough in 1864. Kilmore shire was formed on 24 December 1874 after the amalgamation of Road Boards of Willomavin/Moranding and Road Boards of Glenburnie/ Bylands. By 1914, Kilmore Shire had a stable population of around 2000. In November 1994, Kilmore shire was united with a major part of Seymour rural city, Pyalong shire and most of Broadford and McIvor shires to form Mitchell shire.
Kilmore didn’t change much over the years, but Melbourne’s urban sprawl has begun to swallow this beautiful township. There is a dire need to protect its heritage streetscapes from new constructions for future generations. 2016 Census puts Kilmore’s population at 7,958. Kilmore is serviced by a V Line on the Seymour line.
The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924), Tue 28 Mar 1882, Page 3/ AN ESCAPE FROM GAOL.
The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954)Fri 30 Dec 1864/ Page 4 /ESCAPE OF A BUSHRANGER FROM THE KILMORE GAOL.
Kilmore: Those that came before by Heather Knight
Kilmore on the Sydney Road by Maya V Tucker