Points of Interest Category: Town Centre & Info
Longitude: 147.079999 Latitute: -37.966058
Metres above Sea Level: 22 m
Area: 151 km² Perimeter: 80.8 km
View Stratford’s Statistics & Demographics
With the Princes Highway passing right through the centre of the township of Stratford, many travellers would be forgiven for overlooking its outstanding beauty and charm. The historic township is situated directly on the banks of the stunning Avon River. During the warm Summer months the river offers a cool haven with its crystal clear and beautifully warm waters. The river’s pebble base changes the character of the river from the faster flowing water of the shallows to the beautiful, warm, irresistible waters of the deeper pools. Perfect and safe swimming for children, adults and pets to enjoy.
The Avon River begins its life on the south eastern slopes of Mount Wellington, approximately 664 m above sea level, ending is 122 km journey at Lake Wellington. Lake Wellington forms part of the massive Gippsland Lakes and river system which joins ocean (Bass Strait) at Lakes Entrance.
The lovely parks and reserves provide public amenities, some with shaded and expansive lawn areas, play equipment for the children, picnic and barbecue facilities; whilst the wide streets provide ample parking for large vehicles, caravans, boats and trailers. The town centre features, cafés, eateries, supermarkets, a variety of retail outlets and fuel.
The town abounds with walking & riding tracks, beautifully maintained parks, art trails, boutique shopping & eateries, wide tree-lined streets, monuments and points of interest. The views overlooking the river flats across to the mountain range are breathtaking.
The Avon River is perfect for swimming, kayaking, fishing and 4WD along the pebbled banks. We even saw some holiday makers panning for gold !! Wildlife abounds with frogs, fish, pelicans, lizards (the Gippsland Water Dragon is stunning), turtles, birdlife . . .
Prior to European settlement, the Brayakuloong Clan of Gunai-Kurnai people roamed the Gippsland area enjoying the rich source of foods including edible plants, birds, fish, shellfish. The aborigines had developed many ingenious methods of capturing their dinner. They promoted the growth of grass lands to encourage a food source, the grazing kangaroo, they made dams in small streams to capture fish; one way ducks were caught was:
“ . . . down the river to Lake Wellington [Gippsland] . . . The gins had an ingenious system of capturing the ducks. They moved along under water, leaving nothing but their nostrils visible above the surface, and they were thus able to approach the unsuspecting birds. As opportunity offered they seized them by the legs, drew them quickly under water, and held them until they were drowned. When they had secured as many as they could hold in one hand they returned to land.
– Source: The Book of the Bush by George Dunderdale written 1898 pp 164
Devastatingly, where the tribal lands of the Gunai-Kurnai country once supported many thousands of Aborigines, the massacres of the 1840’s and 1850’s together with poisonings and diseases transmitted, the numbers reduced to less than one hundred . . . noting that the first explorers could have never navigated and survived this country without the help of the Aborigine.
“Mr Tyers had been for many years a naval instructor on board a man-of-war, understood navigation and surveying, and, it is to be presumed, knew the distance he had travelled and the course to be followed in returning to Port Philip; but there were valleys filled with impenetrable scrub, creeks often too deep to ford, and boundless morasses so that the journey was made crooked with continual deviations. If a black boy like McMillan’s Friday had accompanied the expedition, his native instinct would, at such a time, have been worth all the science in the world.”
– Source: The Book of the Bush by George Dunderdale written 1898 pp 179
The township of Stratford is positioned roughly in the area where explorer, Angus McMillan, first found, crossed and named the Avon River in 1840. He and Captain Lachlan MacAlister would acquire the ‘Bushy Park’ and ‘Boisdale’ runs respectively in that very same year. McMillan’s ‘Bushy Park’ run formed the northern boundary of the pastoral land which would become known as the ‘Stratford Run’ – set up by William O’Dell Raymond in 1842, and, presumably, the origin of the name of the future township. Interestingly, he would also acquire another huge run which followed the Avon River all the way down to Lake Wellington where he began building the beginnings of his homestead ‘Strathfieldsaye‘ – which survives until this very day . . .
Eventually a small settlement began to grow on ‘Gippsland’s Oldest Road’, at the point where travellers, goods and stock traversed the Avon River. The road ran through WO Raymond’s ‘Stratford Run’. It is presumed that the naming of the ‘Stratford’ run was based on the town of Stratford in England, which is located on the Avon River. Stratford, England is famous for being the birth place of William Shakespeare. Uncannily, WO Raymond opened the ‘Shakespeare Hotel’ c 1848 – perhaps in honour or this famous writer ??? The hotel was sited on the original roadway that once lead from Omeo to Port Albert. Remains of an old bridge can still be seen here, as well as that of the bridge that was severely damaged in the floods of the 1950’s which claimed the life of a local 32 year old mother of five. Sadly, nothing remains of the historic ‘Shakespeare Hotel’ . . .
The township of Stratford was surveyed in 1854. The plan dated 1855 shows the original foundations of the town located on what is now known as Merrick Street, which runs along Blackall Creek. The buildings included the Shakespeare Hotel, Duncan’s Store, some Stockyards, a Tannery, Catholic Church, Hobson’s Garden, the original roadway, subdivided lands, etc. The ‘Stratford Run’ was cancelled in the June of 1867. Interestingly, the centre of town is now positioned a few streets to the south, on the Princes Highway – also known as Tyers Street.
The railway reached Stratford in 1888. The original railway bridge, measured 110 m in length and was built on timber pylons. The many flood events that have occurred since required the bridge to extend to a massive 274 m in length – thereby catering for the ever changing characteristics of the Avon River !!
In fact floods have tormented the town since early settlement as the Avon River floods regularly and quickly. Clearing of the banks, draining of the swamps, floods and bush fires have resulted in tremendous erosion, causing the diversion of the course of the river and the destruction of many a bridge. The first bridge to cross the river was constructed in 1854. It survived flood events until 1870 when its destruction necessitated traffic to be ferried via punt and then a temporary bridge until a new bridge was completed in 1874. Floods would claim this and two subsequent bridges until the current concrete and steel bridge was completed in the June of 1965 . . .
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