Dairy cows first arrived in Australia in 1788, when the First Fleet landed in New South Wales. Two bulls and seven cows made the long trip from England and escaped into the nearby bushland not long after they arrived! The nine animals survived, and after six years they had become a herd of 61.
Australia’s first dairy farmers adapted quickly to their new environment, making butter and cheese during spring and summer – when cows produce most milk – and preserving these products with salt for autumn and winter. The dairy industry quickly grew. By 1800, through breeding and importing, Australia had a population of 322 bulls and 712 cows.
With two cows and two calves, John Fawkner arrived in what would become Melbourne in 1832. Ideal dairying conditions around Port Phillip Bay helped the herd to grow, and within a year there were 155 cattle in the district. By 1891 there were almost one million dairy cows in Australia. The gold rush brought thousands of people to Australia. With its collapse, many were offered government pastoral leases on the outskirts of inland towns and dairy farming continued to spread. By 1900 there was hardly an Australian township, even in the outback, that did not have its own fresh milk.
John Edward (Ted) Charles (1880 – 1958) was an early dairyman in the Torquay who ran his cows on Duffield’s property that spanned from Charles Land to Torquay Road. Ted was born in Windermere, near Ballarat, to farmers Robert and Euphemia Charles. The first record of Ted in the area was in 1907 when Ted and his brother were farming at Jan Juc (now Bellbrae) with some other members of the extended Charles family.
Ted married local girl Mabel Duffield and in 1911 and moved next door to Mabel’s parents on Geelong Road, Torquay after Thomas Duffield purchased the allotment from John William Duffield. Ted, then grazed his cows in Duffield’s paddock (where they lived) as well as on the public reserve that he would lease. He was often contacted by the Trustees of the Torquay Reserves about his wandering cattle.
Duffield’s had a shop in Anderson Street where they also milked cows and ran a milk round which they later sold to Ted. As well as the retail milk round, Ted was very interested in all community work around Torquay as was his son Keith, both were members of the Torquay Improvement Association. Ted was also a member of the Board of Management of the Presbyterian Church.
In 1931 Ted and Mabel inherited Thomas Duffield’s property on Geelong Road. He also owned part of the land where the Torquay Golf Club stands today where he grazed his cattle. Ted demonstrated strong negotiating skills when the golf club wanted to purchase his property for their expansion at the end of the 1940s. This land was adjacent to the land he leased from the Torquay Reserves.
In recognition for his community work and the value of his dairy business to the community, Charles Lane, Torquay was named in his honour.
Ted died in 1958 and was buried in the Bellbrae Cemetery.
John Stewart, History Matters, Vol 1, No 4, Issue 004, 2016
Australian Electoral Rolls – ancestry.com
Baines, J.A. Tombstone History, Bellbrae Cemetery. “Investigator” v14 (1) 1979 : p39-41
Baines, James A., Compiler, 1939 The History of Torquay
Barrabool Rate Books. Geelong Heritage Centre
Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria. https://online.justice.vic.gov.au/bdm/indexsearch.doj
Probate documents, J.E. Charles. Public Record Office, Victoria
South Barwon Shire Council minutes 5 Oct 1937 – 21 Dec 1943 and 18 Jan 1944 – 15 Oct 1946 Microfilm Reel 1133, Geelong Heritage Centre.
South Barwon Shire Council minutes 19 Nov 1946 – 20 Jun 1950 Microfilm Reel 1134, Geelong Heritage Centre.
South Barwon Shire Council Rate Books. Geelong Heritage Centre.
Torquay Improvement Association Inc. 100 years … a short history 1889-1989