Alfred Payne (1867-1949) was born in Moorabool, Victoria, the third of nine children to James and Clara Payne, née Buist. Both parents arrived in New South Wales from England in the mid-1850s as teenagers. James was an agricultural labourer and Clara, a domestic servant. They were married within a couple of years and moved down to Melbourne before settling at Cargarie near Meredith. James obtained some land which he farmed and ran some cattle, to supplement the income he also worked as a carpenter.

st. heliers guest house 1910
St. Heliers, Toquay 1910

Alfred (known as Alf) grew up on the farm and became very skilled with manual operations on the farm. He was a butcher in Geelong when he met and married in February 1886 Elizabeth Dunbar who was working as a domestic servant in Geelong. The couple moved to Torquay in the early 1890s, lived at St. Heliers where Alfred worked as William Bell’s groom. William Bell was the proprietor of the Geelong Times, an Alderman and Geelong Mayor three times. Alfred’s work on the farm provided him with knowledge of all aspects of the management of horses and the care of the stables themselves. When the opportunity came up to look at another venture, Alf jumped at it. The occasion was in 1896 when the Wilson Estate subdivision created Gilbert Street with twenty-two blocks for sale. After considering the opportunity Elizabeth and Alfred purchased five allotments on the northern side in 1897, followed by another two allotments in 1899, thereby owning seven of the nine allotments on the north side of Gilbert Street. Before the end of the year they had built a three-roomed house with a store in front. When the Post Office moved from the Palace Hotel in Bell Street to Alf Payne’s premises, he built an addition just for it. His store was the first General Store to open in Torquay, and it also served as the local booking office for Cobb & Co., official carriers of the nation’s mail since 1863.

wilson estate torquay map
Gilbert Street Sales

To provide fresh meat to his customers, Alf applied in 1897 to South Barwon Council for a slaughtering license, for sheep only, on his premises at Torquay. He is likely to have been the first butcher in town.

Both Alf and Elizabeth were literate, and they were keen that a school be built in Torquay for their seven children. They signed the 1896 and1899 school petitions.

A fire broke out at the store in 1913. The residents rallied to save the buildings, but it was only the outhouses that were saved. The family moved to premises across the road until a new home and shop could be built. Alf decided to retire in 1915 sold the business to Harold Bray of Geelong West, his wife became the postmistress.

Alf and Elizabeth stayed in Torquay; they had accumulated an extensive property portfolio owning most of the land from the Torquay Road halfway down Bristol and Zeally Bay Roads. They moved to “Wares Villa” in Bristol Road, and Alf took up gardening as an occupation.