TMWW specializes in local history relating to Torquay families and property in the area. We have extensive knowledge of the town development from a fishing and rural community to the birthplace of iconic surf brands,
A Brief History of Torquay
The Wathaurong people inhabited the lands around Torquay for centuries before the first Europeans began establishing pastoral runs in the area during the mid-1840s.
John Stokes established his pastoral run in 1836 and was soon followed by Elias Harding, James Tait, Robert Zealley, Henry Tait, Joseph Gundry and Dr Alexander Thomson. They were the pastoralists who took up land during the 1840s before the 1850s land sales in the area.
During the 1860s, the area became popular as a fishing, holiday and picnic destination, particularly after the first land sales in 1866. The location was called Spring Creek, but the actual township was named Puebla. Settlement began to occur when further Puebla township allotments were advertised for sale.
By the end of the century, the town population had increased, and postal deliveries were becoming confused with several other Victorian towns called Spring Creek. It was decided to change the town name to Torquay after the popular holiday resort town in England.
In 1891 the Joseph H Scammell hit the Point Danger reef during a storm and sank. The main anchor stands on the foreshore of the front beach, pointing to the place of sinking as a stark reminder of that night. Another smaller anchor stands at Fisherman’s Beach.
A loose-bag postal service was run from the Mount Duneed Post Office on horseback with the mailbag kept at the Palace Hotel for locals to collect and deposit their mail. Misdirected mail caused concern for the community; consequently, the town changed its name to Torquay. An official post office was established in 1897 when Alf Payne was appointed the postmaster when his store opened in Gilbert Street.
In 1900 a primary school was opened using the newly built hall until a permanent school building was opened in 1910. Other town facilities started to pop up, including electricity, churches, a bowling green, tennis courts, and a golf course had been established over the next twenty years.
Roads were improved and bridges built as cars became a popular choice of transport, making the town more accessible to holiday-makers.
World War 2 came to Torquay in the form of 5,000 Light Horsemen camped just out of town for a few months, and the United States military camped at Taylor Park. A devasting bush fire swept through the town in 1940, destroying most of the houses and some businesses, town hall and Sunday School. A local fire brigade was established after the fire.
Community organisations started to form after the war. Football regrouped after the war and became successful in the 1960s. The cricket club also started.
The Torquay Surf-Lifesaving Club was officially founded in 1945, although a lifesaving club dates back to 1922. It is the oldest Surf Life Saving club in Victoria.
The first surfing contest at Bells Beach was organised by Vic Tantau and Peter Troy and held on the Australia Day weekend in January 1961. The competition changed to Easter in 1962. It is now the longest-running professional surfing event in the world, attracting the world’s best surfers every Easter.
One of the world’s great surf brands Rip Curl, started in 1969 in a Jan Juc garage before moving to an old Torquay bakery. Quiksilver started in Torquay soon after. Bells Beach surfing competition and the surfing manufacturing industry located in Torquay changed the town’s culture from a fishing and farming town to one with a booming surfing industry.
The rolling hills of Torquay are rapidly changing from fields to huge housing estates as families look for an alternative lifestyle.