Driving into Portsea on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, the striking avenue of enormous Cypress Pines greets you – a wonderful haven on those hot Summer days . . . It is not until one digs very deep that one realises that they were planted by the very first settler – in the vicinity of the very first hotel, also built by this very first settler – namedly, James Sandle Ford c 1870.
Though a beautiful structure, historically so important, and a landmark to the entire area – in somebody’s infinite wisdom – the ‘Nepean Hotel’ was demolished c 1971 . . .
The reasoning ??? – though undocumented, one could only presume it was to subdivide the valuable land upon which it stood. The actual location of the hotel is also not formally documented, however, we deduce this as the approximate location from the evidence we have on hand. Also unclear, is the build date, nonetheless, we can ascertain that the hotel was established by 1872 from extracts from the following article:
” . . . About twenty minutes’ sail from Queenscliff, across and near the entrance of the Bay, brings us to the Sanitary Station, where the Government have erected a jetty within the boundary of their own land, but not available for landing passengers, being only used when vessels are in quarantine. About half a mile further on, at a low sandy beach, we were landed by a boat sent from the hotel. This is objectionable, but preparations are now being made for the immediate commencement of a jetty by private enterprise . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Illustrated Sydney News & New South Wales Agriculturalist & Grazier (NSW) – Article “Portsea, Sorrento, and London Bridge Rocks” – published 11th May 1872
The following extract provides an insight into the significance of the Ford Family to Portsea, and the infrastructure they built – which gave birth to the town:
” . . . My grandfather, James Sandle Ford, with his wife and several young children settled at Portsea in the fourties and named it after Portsea, a suburb of Portsmouth. At that time is was open well grassed country without tea-tree. After getting a home together my grandfather began to rear cattle and horses. The cattle he sold as meat to the shiploads of early settlers who landed in the adjacent quarantine station where they had to stay till granted a clean bill of health before proceeding up the bay to Sandridge. Aftcr weary months on board ship they must have enjoyed fresh meat and eggs and butter from the dairy of my grandfather. The horses were driven in large mobs to Melbourne to be sold.
My father Alfred Ford was born in Portsea in 1850 and he lived most of his life there till his death in 1928. He often told us of his first visit to Melbourne at the age of 11 years, when he rode on horseback with some of his fathers stockmen who were taking a mob of horses to be sold. When they reached the city they had great trouble in getting the horses safely across the ford at the Yarra where Princess Bridge now stands. My father spent some of his time fishing at this ford.
From the cottage in which he lived my grandfather built the present Nepean Hotel which has been added to and increased. It remained in his family for many years being kept by himself, a son and a son in-law. For some years it changed hands. About 30 years ago it again came into the family being bought by a son-in law John Cain whose daughters still own and conduct it. John Farnsworth who afterward married a daughter of James Ford and died there last year, and whose son became a coach proprietor, was the contractor and builder who erected the Nepean Hotel and houses owned at present by Mrs O’Hara (previously owned by Mr Ross Cox) and Mr Le Souef (originally built for Dr Robert son of St Kilda, father of Dr. W. Robertson, of the Department of Agriculture). My grandfather reserved the beautiful block of land in front of the Nepean Hotel for a park, and also built at is own expense, the first portion of the Portsea pier which extended to where the steps now are, but was then deep enough to permit vessels such as the Golden Crown to load and unload their cargoes. He also built sea baths, several piles of which are still standing, and bathing boxes.
My father received his first education in a building which stood where some of the bungalows at Marshalls Hotel now stand. The late Walter Knight, father of Charles, Jack and Archie, was also a scholar there. My father was sent to school at Dromana later to finish his education. Later a school conducted by the late Mr and Mrs Hiskins was erected between Portsea and Sorrento where children of both places were taught. About 40 years ago a school was erected in the grounds of the quarantine station but it was not very satisfactory. When the quarantine station was closed during an epidemic the teacher stayed in quarantine and taught the children of the station hands. The few children who went from Portsea had to sit on a form outside the fence and receive their instruction – as well as the cane – from the mistress on the other side. The present State school, built at Portsea about 17 years
ago, is really its first school.
The Lime Kilns
Until all the limestone was taken from the ground lime burning was for many years the main industry. At one time my father had about 20 Chinese quarrying for him. The stone was burnt in kilns and sent to town in lime crafts. As a child I remember going for our daily mail to the Nepean Hotel, whither it was brought by coach from Dromana. It had been brought by another coach from Mornington where it had arrived by train. As there was not a post office, the post mistress had a room at the Nepean Hotel. There was then not even the small wooden store which was afterward built by Mr Roberts and later bought by Mr W H Goss, who enlarged it and had the post office transferred to where it now is.
My father told us that 60 years or more ago Portsea was the holiday rendezvous of men of letters learning and law from the city. Some of there descendants even to the fourth generation are still regular visitors. Before the death of the late Dr Fitchett, there were four generations of his family there on holidays together. More than 40 years ago Portsea became a garrison town. Barracks and fort were built and guns now long obsolete and dismantled were its pride and joy. For many years a company of permanent soldiers consisting of about 80 men and officers was stationed there. They were called the Victorian Permanent Artillery. Many had served in British regiments and it was a great delight to us children to see them march to the pier headed by the band which was sometimes stationed at Portsea. They wore navy uniforms well tailored with white helmets and white gloves. Once a month they boarded the little Mars or Vulcan to attend a full dress parade at Queenscliff. For many years now the barracks and fort have been deserted and left in charge of one gunner . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Argus’ (Melbourne, Vic) – Article “More Portsea Memories” – by B H McKernan (Grandson of James Sandle Ford – founder of Portsea) – published 24th February 1934
– Within Close Proximity to the Town Centre – obtain Directions here
– Facilities available at Portsea include:
Sorry, no records were found. Please adjust your search criteria and try again.
Sorry, unable to load the Maps API.
- Off Street Parking
- Sealed Road