As news of John Batman’s wondrous discoveries of the lands encompassing the western sector of Port Phillip Bay spread, so began the influx of squatters, John Pascoe Fawkner being amongst the first . . .
Whilst Batman and the Port Phillip Association were documenting, corresponding and formalising their findings with the British governance; squatters packed their belongings, together with their livestock, and headed for Port Phillip – the new land of promise and riches . . .
As Batman’s camp at ‘Ballarine Point’, Indented Head witnessed the arrival of the newcomers heading towards the Yarra River where John Batman had pronounced ” . . . this will be the place for a village . . . “, they themselves were forced to relocate to the northern extremity of Port Phillip Bay to ensure the claim that Batman had achieved during his voyage to the formally unknown region in the May and June of 1835; was not misappropriated. Little did they all know, that that would be the consequence of the very near future . . .
Batman’s Hill was thus established on the banks of the Yarra River, on a rise of an approximate 18 m high hill, overlooking the river, just downstream of the ‘Falls’:
” . . . Batman [Henry] and his family, the uncouth Buckley and the white and black retainers of the Association were housed in various shanties clustered together about the spot where Bourke and William Streets now form their junction. A house of rough-hewn logs, the crevices plastered with clay, was soon afterwards commenced for Batman on the slope of the hill which bore his name — until it was levelled to make a railway-station yard — and this house later on acquired the additional dignity of a brick chimney built by William Buckley, who had learned the trade of a bricklayer about half a century before . . . “
Source: Excerpt – “A History of the Colony of Victoria from its Discovery to its Absorption into the Commonwealth of Australia in Two Volumes” – Volume I – A.D. 1797 – 1854 – by Henry Gyles Turner – published 1904 – pp 126
John Batman and his family arrived on the 19th April 1836, with Caroline Newcombe as their children’s governess. The farm on ‘Batman’s Hill’ was quickly taking form, the timber home which was transported from Van Diemen’s Land built; the land cultivated and gardens established. Though unconfirmed, it seems prudent that the farm had been established prior to the arrival of Batman and his family.
The family resided on ‘Batman’s Hill’ for three years during which time John Batman’s health, deteriorated rapidly. Though the founder of Melbourne and Victoria pleaded with the governance to award him some compensation for the personal cost of the exploration he had borne, for the costs associated with establishing his home and property – NOTHING was granted him.
A transcript of the description on the drawing below of ‘Batman’s Hill’ and home describes:
“Batman’s Hill and House on the Yarra with distant views of Mt Macedon shipped by him in 1836. Brought from Launceston in the ‘Mary Cuthbert’. Captain Robertson who took a log by the felling of a mountain ash. The House is now standing 1863 proving the ability of the colonial timber. The chimneys were built by the celebrated Buckley who deserted from Governor Collins detachment that came out here in 1802 to form a settlement & but abandoned the scheme as unfit for a colony. Took his course for Van Diemen’s Land and founded Hobart Town so named after the then Colonial Secretary Lord Hobart. So much for his judgement of the country then some mistake . . . “
Meanwhile . . . other squatters throughout the colony were granted land – some for free – some for the minimum price of five shillings per acre as per a Government Order issued on the 14th February 1831.
There is no disputing that ‘Batman’s Hill’ was established PRIOR to the governance establishing where a future township would be sited or if there would be one formed at all !! It was John Batman who had foreseen this site as a township. The original layout of the settlement as depicted on the first maps of 1837, clearly shows Batman’s Hill was already established with buildings, gardens and cultivated land. It was sited on the perimeter of the proposed town, not within the town, however, the governance still found it prudent to refuse Batman’s pleas. It is interesting to note that it was not until the March of 1841 that Governor Gipps introduced regulations to restrict the sale of ‘valuable’ land to more than 5 miles (8 km) from a surveyed township. He also restricted water-frontage to one mile (1.6 km) per four square miles of area. The regulation was rescinded in the August of 1841. Remembering that when John Batman arrived in 1835 there was no settlement, no settlers – the governance had no knowledge of this region – yet they took claim to all he that had achieved and built. It is inconceivable to think that this situation actually transpired.
Melbourne, Port Phillip,
12th March, 1839.
To the Hon. the Colonial Secretary, &c. &c. &c.
Sydney, New South Wales.
SIR,—I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 24th January last, respecting my letter to the Right Honourable the Secretary of State, applying to him to purchase the land at the minimum price, that I have made improvements upon, and where I now reside and have done so upwards of three years.
I herewith forward according to your request, copy of the letter addressed by me to the Right Honourable the Secretary of State, also copy of memorial forwarded through General Bourke applying for a grant of the above mentioned land, but which I found could not be acceded to, but that in all probability I might be allowed to purchase it without competition, and therefore applied accordingly.
I also have the honour of transmitting to His Excellency’s further information, a plan of the land and the improvements thereupon, as it was on the arrival of the Government here and as it is now.
I beg further to remark that I have imported at very considerable expense and trouble from Van Diemen’s Land and Sydney, upwards of one thousand fruit-trees of every description, which are now in a highly flourishing state and from which I anticipate much benefit to the Colony.
His Excellency will I trust perceive my case at the present moment to be one of greater hardship than it was prior to the present date, in consequence of the increase in the value of land at the settlement, thereby rendering me incapable of purchasing if such land is placed up to Public competition and from the various documents produced explanatory of my situation, I may perhaps venture to hope that His Excellency will take all the circumstances of my case into his most favourable consideration.
I have the honour to be, sir,
Your obedient humble servant,
(Signed) JOHN BATMAN.
Captain Lonsdale’s letter to the Governor, in response to the above, dated “Melbourne, 6th May, 1839′” concluded with:
“I beg to return your Excellency’s letter as you desire and the two plans, and to add that after a protracted illness Mr. Batman died last night.”
And thus concluded the governance’s negotiations. With John Batman dead, they no longer had to bother with this troublesome nuisance.
It was to John Batman’s great misfortune that he had happened to find, site and invest in an area of the colony that was to become the capital city of Victoria, Australia.
The result was that John Batman lost his health and wealth.
→ He lost his life, dying on the 6th May 1839, at the young age of just 39.
→ His wife and eight children were left homeless and penniless.
→ Immediately upon his death, the Government moved their Offices into his home on ‘Batman’s Hill’ !!!
The following extract describes:
” . . . Down Collins-street once more, we pass the primitive wooden cottage residence of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, whose family of fine daughters were already all married–Mrs. D.S. Campbell, Mrs. R. Russell, Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Hutton–excepting the youngest, then a school-girl, afterwards married to Nantes, of Geelong, D.S. Campbell’s partner. Then came Craig and Broadfoot’s stores, and Alison and Knight’s flour mills. At the end was pretty green Batman’s Hill, which has since been remorselessly sacrificed for the great railway terminus. Batman’s original wooden house on the southern slope was, after his early death, occupied as the Government offices by Mr. La Trobe, and this homely tenement did such high duties for no small subsequent term . . . “
Source: Excerpt – “Personal Recollections of Early Melbourne & Victoria” – by William Westgarth – published 1888
As is plainly depicted on the above drawing of Melbourne dated 1839, “Batman’s House” is already noted as the ‘Superintendent’s Office’ . . .
What a Scourge on Melbourne’s History !!!
During 1839, ‘Batman’s Hill’ was used as a grandstand for Melbourne’s first horse race and was the location of the first cricket match played by the founders of what was to become the MCC (Melbourne Cricket Club).
Following the government occupation, the foot of the slopes were converted to tanning pits and melting works.
In 1847 the government used the western slope to construct a powder magazine and sometime later, the hill housed navigation beacons and a hospital.
The government offered the land to the east of ‘Batman’s Hill’ to the ‘Melbourne, Mount Alexander and Murray River Railway Company’ in 1853. Upon the collapse of the said company, the government took over the railways, completing the railway from Melbourne to Echuca in 1858, which included the Railway Station located on Spencer Street, Melbourne (now know as the Southern Cross Railway Station). Increase in demand lead to the need to expand the freight sheds.
The contract to remove ‘Batman’s Hill’ was signed in November 1863.
All physical memory of the founder of Melbourne was thus erased. They demolished his home, his farm, his outbuildings, and finally, the beautiful hill that once housed his dream. Even the chimneys built by the very first white settler of Port Phillip, William Buckley, were eradicated.
It is inconceivable to comprehend how Australia has, and continues, to demolish its history whilst other countries, honour and protect it at all costs !!!
John Batman’s dream became a conglomeration of ugly railway freight sheds and industry . . .
A stately city — mark her lofty towers,
Her league-long streets with myriad lights agleam;
Here wealth and pride exhibit all their powers —
Is this the “village” of John Batman’s dream?
Source: Excerpt – ‘The Open Road in Victoria being the Ways of Many Walkers’ – by Robert Henderson Croll – published 1928
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