In the beginning

Melbourne stands on the home of the Kulin people, an alliance of several language groups of Indigenous Australians, whose ancestors had lived in the area for an estimated 31,000 to 40,000 years. They were hunter-gatherers from three tribes: the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung and Wathaurong.

s. State Library Vic

The Torquay district is part of the area the Wathaurong tribe lived. They gathered for ceremonies, celebrations and trade. These were important social gatherings where political and family alliances were reinforced and grievances addressed. With the arrival of Europeans, the Torquay district soon became a new type of meeting place, dominated by the settlers and their interests. The settlers were attracted by the rich pastures and the ocean, many of the same sites that Aboriginal settlers had long inhabited. Competing with white settlers for land and food caused hardship, illness and conflict resulting in the decline of the number of Wathaurong people.

European arrivals

The charge to settle Port Philip was led by businessmen from Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), including John Batman, his partner John Wedge and rival John Pascoe Fawkner. They arrived in 1835 with limited supplies but unlimited enthusiasm for making money. Geelong was established not long after with more squatters arriving, landing their stock at what became Williamstown or at Indented Head, but from 1836 increasingly at Point Henry.

Prior to 1855, the lands of Australia were held to be the property of the Crown, as represented by His Majesty’s Government in London. Occupation of them, except by purchase or free grant was not authorised Legislation was introduced placing the “squatters” under the control of Commissioners of Crown Lands. An annual fee of £10 for each licensed run was charged irrespective of the size of the run. The legislation and its enforcement varied over time until 1846 when squatters possessed the right to lease for fourteen years the land they occupied. Others couldn’t purchase any part of that lease. At the end of the lease those occupying licensed runs had the right of pre-emptive purchase – the right to buy a square mile (640 acres) for one pound per acre.[1]

Settlers expansion

Some of the original Geelong land holders began to look around to increase their holdings. They began to occupy land that was further south which had previously been rejected as not suitable for their needs. Alexander Thomson, Geelong’s first settler, encouraged German

Andrew Tomson, Torquay History
Dr Andrew Thomson source GHRC

settlers, Lutherans from Prussia to emigrate. Ten families arrived in 1848, each was allotted an acre of land of which most families increased their holding over time. They were vine-dressers and in time became vignerons and market gardeners at Germantown. Other German migrants arrived in later years initially settling in Germantown (Grovedale) then moving to areas like Connewarre, Spring Creek, Freshwater Creek, Jan Juc.

Spring Creek

The settlement originally known as Spring Creek initially formed part of Spring Creek or Springs Station Tooyoung-e-warre, owned by Henry Tait from 1841-42.  James Tait

Connewaree, Torquay History, Tait
Tait’s Connewarre Milking Shed

purchased Connewarre Lakes Station in 1849[1], his milking shed still standing today on the site.

Other early settlers included:

  • Elias Harding[1] held the Mt. Pleasant run from 1840
  • John Goodall, who was transported to Tasmania before settling on the mainland and selecting a pastoral run on Spring Creek called Iron Bark Forest in 1843 in partnership with William Elton.
  • Joseph Gundry[1] purchased Ironbark Forest and Pollock’s Plains in 1844
  • Robert Zealley[1] purchased South Beach Run in 1851 after running the pastoral license at Pullemere or Bullen Merri in 1848.

The large blocks sold in the 1840s and 50s to a small number of pastoralists were split into smaller allotments suitable for farm properties in the 1860s. Part of Joseph Gundry’s pre-emptive right at Bellbrae was taken up by William Bell around 1864. By 1899 the land had been acquired by D. Cyril Lewis in 1899 who then sold the property to John Calvert Bell (no relation to William Bell) in April 1905[2]. Addiscot Homestead built around 1912 still stands today.

Puebla, land sales, Torquay History

By the mid 1860s, Section 65 in the Spring Creek area had been subdivided into 25 allotments.

Puebla, Spring Creek, Torquay history

The largest landholder was J. Follett, with 86 acres in the northern portion, the remaining smaller lots immediately south of Follett’s land had been acquired by T. Frivett, A.G. White, James Noble and F.E. Gilbert.[3] Until this time, the settlement of Spring Creek was largely an agricultural area also known as an ideal fishing location. Spring Creek was regularly visited by fishermen and picnickers from Geelong. Felix Rosser fished at Zeally Bay and built a hut near the present Bowling Green.

Torquay history, land sales

Due to the urging of Harry Rudd, a regular weekend fisherman, a survey was undertaken of the land south of the allotments sold in the 1860s for a township to be known as Puebla, after the Parish within which the area was situated. The survey included the land stretching from Anderson Street to the recreation reserve at the mouth of Spring Creek and eastwards towards the foreshore. This township of Puebla was gazetted on 1 May 1885.

first land sales, Torquay history

The first land sales were held at Henry Bannister’s Auction Mart, Geelong on September 14, 1886. Early land buyers included James Follett, Andrew White, A.G. White, Pearson, Harry Rudd, Felix Rosser, J.W. Taylor and his brother, H. Taylor, and particularly John Longville Price who owned several allotments. House building within the township subdivision began soon after the sales were formalised including Harry Rudd’s corrugated iron house and the Taylor brothers’ pre-cut two-roomed shacks.[4] In 1888, James Follett opened his Pioneer Coffee Palace in Bell Street (opposite the camping ground), which had been designed by the Geelong architect, Joseph Watts.[5] Others whose name became associated with the establishment of the Torquay township included Richard Parker, Edward Pearson, James Munday, William Bell and William Pride.

With the construction of a new road from Mount Duneed by 1888 came further land sales. In January 1888, the Spring Creek Estate (comprising eight allotments initially subdivided as part of Section 65 in the 1860s) was offered for sale. This soon followed in February 1888 by the sale of White’s Paddock to the immediate north of the Spring Creek Estate. In subsequent years, J. Follett’s 86 acres to the north of the White’s Paddock was offered for sale as the Puebla Estate. The selling point on the poster was that the small township would “become one of the most frequented and popular of our Watering Places with all the advantages of Sea and River Bathing and Boating, Fishing, Shooting”

A Coast Railway Line and Railway Station was also proposed to the west of the main road (Surf Coast Highway) to cater for the influx of tourists. Recreational pursuits for the holiday makers had already been considered with golf grounds developed on a Government Reserve now known as Taylor Park. The development of the Bowling and Tennis Clubs.

In 1892, after lobbying from the Spring Creek (Torquay) Improvement Association the township names of Puebla and Spring Creek were replaced with the name of Torquay, after the English township. The name change was approved by the Post Master General’s Office after support was given by both the South Barwon[6] and Barrabool[7] Shires. It is conjecture as to whether James Follett (born Somerset) or Colonel J. L. Price were responsible for the suggested name. Strangely it was not until 13 February 1952 that the township of ‘Torquay’ was gazetted.

By 1915, a road had been constructed adjacent to the reserved foreshore land. Initially known as Ocean Parade, the name had been changed to The Esplanade by c.1920. Further development occurred after the Great War, with the greater availability of the motor car and opening of the first section of the Great Ocean Road in 1922.

[1] Billis R. V & Kenyon A.S (1932) Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip
[2] Wynd, Ian (1922) Barrabol, Land of the Magpie
[3] Puebla Parish Plan, c1875, State Library
[4] Pescott, J (1985) South Barwon 1857-1985
[5] Geelong Advertiser, 10 January 1888
[6] Geelong Advertiser, 2 December 1891
[7] Geelong Advertiser, 31 December 1891




South-east from Paraparap, the Government laid out a township, straddling Spring Creek and occupying land in the parishes of Puebla and Jan Juc; the actual township allotments were south of the creek in Jan Juc parish. The Gundry family bought much of the township of Jan Juc which was situated in the parish of that name. The town was surrounded by small allotments ranging from 4 to 26 acres in size. Apart from two, the small allotments to the north of the creek were bought by members of the Gundry family, mainly on the day of the first sale in July 1864. The small allotments south were purchased mainly at the first sale by J. Gundry, W. Beagley, W. Cook, J. Musgrove and G. Cunningham. Only a few of the township lots were sold at this time and some were not sold until the 1880s – J.W.Roberts, T.Musgrove, J. Gundry and W.P.Carr were the chief buyers…..

Source: Wynd, Ian (1992) Barrabool Land of the Magpie

TORQUAY Map 1886 – 1967

Source: National Library Australia