Geelong | Short History

The area of Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula was originally occupied by the Wathaurong Indigenous Australian tribe.

Early history and foundation

The first non-Aboriginal person recorded as visiting the region was Lt. John Murray, who commanded the brig HMS Lady Nelson.[ After anchoring outside Port Phillip Heads (the narrow entrance to Port Phillip, onto which both Geelong and Melbourne now front) on 1 February 1802 he sent a small boat with six men to explore.] Led by John Bowen they explored the immediate area, returning to the Lady Nelson on February. On reporting favourable findings, the Lady Nelson entered Port Phillip on 1 February, and did not leave until 12 March. During this time, Murray explored the Geelong area and, whilst on the far side of the bay, claimed the entire area for Britain. He named the bay Port King, after Philip Gidley King,] then Governor of New South Wales. Governor King later renamed the bay Port Phillip after the first governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip. Arriving not long after Murray was Matthew Flinders, who entered Port Phillip on 27 April 1802.[ He charted the entire bay, including the Geelong area, believing he was the first to sight the huge expanse of water, but in a rush to reach Sydney before winter set in he left Port Phillip on 3 May.

In January 1803, Surveyor-General Charles Grimes arrived at Port Phillip in the sloop Cumberland and mapped the area, including the future site of Geelong,] but reported the area was unfavourable for settlement and returned to Sydney on 27 February. In October of the same year, the HMS Calcutta led by Lieutenant-Colonel David Collins arrived in the bay to establish the Sullivan Bay penal colony.] Collins was dissatisfied with the area chosen, and sent a small party led by First Lieutenant J.H. Tuckey to investigate alternate sites. The party spent 22 October to 27 October on the north shore of Corio Bay, where the first Aboriginal death at the hands of a European in Victoria occurred.]

The next European visit to the area was by the explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell. They reached the northern edge of Corio Bay - the area of Port Phillip that Geelong now fronts - on 16 December 182, and it was at this time they reported that the Aborigines called the area Corayo, the bay being called Jillong.[ Hume and Hovell had been contracted to travel overland from Sydney to Port Phillip, and having achieved this they stayed the night and begun their return journey two days later on 18 December.

The convict William Buckley escaped from the Sullivan Bay settlement in 1803, and lived among the Wathaurong people for 32 years on the Bellarine Peninsula. In 1835, John Batman used Indented Head as his base camp, leaving behind several employees whilst he returned to Tasmania (then known as Van Diemens Land) for more supplies and his family. In this same year, Buckley surrendered to the party led by John Helder Wedge and was later pardoned by Lieutenant-Governor Sir George Arthur, and subsequently given the position of interpreter to the natives.

Depiction of early Geelong as a small collection of houses and paddocks by the bay.In March 1836, three squatters, David Fisher, James Strachan and George Russell arrived on the Caledonia and settled the area.] Geelong was first surveyed by Assistant Surveyor, W. H. Smythe three weeks after Melbourne, and was gazetted as a town on 10 October 1838.[ There was already a church, hotel, store and wool store, 82 houses, and the town population was 55.[ By 180, the first wool had been sent to England and a regular steamer service was running between Geelong and Melbourne. Captain Foster Fyans was commissioned as the local Police Magistrate in 1837 and established himself on the Barwon River at the site of the area of present-day Fyansford. Fyans constructed a breakwater to improve the water supply to the city by preventing the salty lower reaches from mixing with fresh water and pooling water.

The Geelong Keys were discovered around 185 by Governor Charles La Trobe on Corio Bay. They were embedded in the stone in such a way that he believed that they had been there for 100-150 years, possibly dropped by Portuguese explorers. In 189, Fyans was nominated as the inaugural Mayor of the Geelong Town Council. An early settler of Geelong, Alexander Thomson, for which the area of Thomson in East Geelong is named, settled on the Barwon River, and was Mayor of Geelong on five occasions from 1850-1858.]

1850s: Gold rush
View of Geelong. 1856 oil painting by Eugene von Guerard.
A paddlesteamer approaches busy Geelong Harbour in 1857Gold was discovered in nearby Ballarat in 1851, causing the Geelong population to grow to 23,000 people by the mid 1850s.[ To counter this, a false map was issued by Melbourne interests to new arrivals, showing the quickest road to the goldfields as being via Melbourne.[ The first issue of the Geelong Advertiser newspaper was published in 180 by James Harrison, who also built the worlds first Ether Vapour Compression Cycle ice making and refrigeration machine in 18, later being commissioned by a brewery in 1856 to build a machine that cooled beer.

The Geelong Hospital was opened in 1852, and construction on the Geelong Town Hall commenced in 1855. Development of the Port of Geelong began with the creation of the first shipping channel in Corio Bay in 1853. The Geelong to Melbourne railway was built by the Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company in 1857 Rabbits were introduced to Australia in 1859 by Thomas Austin, who imported them from England for hunting purposes at his Barwon Park property near Winchelsea. One of Geelongs best known department stores, Bright and Hitchcocks, was opened in 1861, and the HM Prison Geelong built using convict labour, was opened in 186.

In 1866 Graham Berry started a newspaper, the Geelong Register, as a rival to the established Geelong Advertiser. When this proved unsuccessful, he bought the Advertiser and made himself editor of the now merged papers. Using the paper as a platform, he was elected for West Geelong in 1869. In 1877 he switched to Geelong, which he represented until 1886, and served as Victorian Premier in 1875, 1877-1880, and 1880-1881. On the Market Square in the middle of the city, a clock tower was erected in 1856, and an Exhibition Building was opened in 1879.

1860s: The Sleepy Hollow
Exhibition Building and Market Square Clocktower in 1879. (both since demolished)The gold rush had seen Ballarat and Bendigo grow larger than Geelong in terms of population. Melbourne critics dubbed Geelong Sleepy Hollow,[ a tag that recurred many times in the following years. A number of industries became established in Geelong, including Victorias first woollen mill at South Geelong in 1868. In 1869 the clipper Lightning caught fire at the Yarra Street pier and was cast adrift in Corio Bay to burn before finally sunk by artillery fire. Improvements to transport saw Geelong emerge as the centre of the Western District of Victoria, with railway lines extended towards Colac in 1876, and to Queenscliff in 1879. Construction of the Hopetoun shipping channel began in 1881 and completed in 1893.

The Geelong Cup was first held in 1872 and Victorias first long distance telephone call was made from Geelong to Queenscliff on 8 January 1878, only one year after the invention of the device itself. Geelong was also the home of a prosperous wine industry until the emergence of the grapevine eating insect phylloxera vastatrix in 1885, which killed the industry until the 1960s. Between 1886 and 1889 the central business districts major banks and insurance companies erected new premises in a solid and ornate character.[ The existing Geelong Post Office was built during this time and the Gordon Technical College was established. Further industrial growth occurred with the Fyansford cement works established in 1890.

The town became known as the Pivot in the 1860s owing to its being a central rail and shipping hub to Melbourne, Ballarat and the western district.

1900s: A city develops
Opening of the Geelong tramway in 1912, Moorabool St, Geelong.The town of Geelong officially became a city on 8 December 1910. The city gained a number of essential services, with electric light supplied by the Geelong Power Station starting in 1902, the Geelong Harbour Trust was formed in December 1905,] and the Geelong Waterworks and Sewerage Trust formed in 1908. Electric trams began operation in 1912, travelling from the city centre to the suburbs until their demise in 1956. The first of many stores on the Market Square was opened in 1913, and the first Gala Day festival was held in 1916.

Geelongs industrial growth accelerated in the 1920s: woollen mills, fertiliser plants, the Ford Motor Companys vehicle plant at Norlane, and the Corio whiskey distillery were all established in this period. The Geelong Advertisers radio station 3GL (now K-Rock) commenced transmission in 1930, the Great Ocean Road was opened in 1932, and the T & G Building in 193.

By 1936 Geelong had displaced Ballarat as Victorias second largest city.

The steamboat Edina leaving Geelong on its final journey on 21 June 1938.In 1938 one of the last Port Philip Bay steamers, Edina, made its final trip to Geelong, ending a romantic period of seaside excursions and contests for the fastest trip. The Eastern Beach foreshore beautification and pool was completed in 1939 after almost 10 years of work.

On the eve of World War II the International Harvester works were opened beside Ford at North Shore, a grain elevator at nearby Corio Quay, and the Shell Australia oil refinery.

Post-war period
Eastern Beach in 1950Government housing was constructed in the suburbs of East Geelong, Norlane, North Shore and Corio from the 1950s to provide accommodation for the growing workforce. The banks of the Barwon River burst in 1952, flooding nearby Belmont Common.

Geelong continued to expand with Corio, Highton and Belmont growing at such a rate that in February 1967 Geelong accounted for 21 per cent of private home development in non-metropolitan Victoria.[ Private vehicles became the citys major mode of transport. The first parking meters in the city were introduced in 1961, new petrol stations were constructed and the citys first supermarket, operated by Coles, opened in 1965.[ Industrial growth continued with a second cement works operating at Waurn Ponds by 196 and the Alcoa Point Henry aluminium smelter constructed in 1962.

Federal Government policy changes on tariff protection led to the closure of many Geelong industrial businesses from the 1970s. The woollen mills closed in 197 and hectares of warehouse space in the city centre were left empty after wool handling practices changed.[ The Target head office opened in North Geelong, Deakin University was established at Waurn Ponds in 197 and the Geelong Performing Arts Centre opened in 1981. Later, the Australian Animal Health Laboratory was opened in 1985, and the National Wool Museum in 1988.

Market Square, the first enclosed shopping centre in the city was opened in 1985, with neighbouring Westfield Geelong (formerly Bay City Plaza) opened in 1988. The Pyramid Building Society, founded in Geelong in 1959, collapsed in 1990 leaving debts of A$1.3 billion to over 200,000 depositors, and causing the Geelong economy to stagnate.] On 18 May 1993 the City of Greater Geelong was formed by the amalgamation of a number of smaller municipalities with the former City of Geelong. The Waterfront Geelong redevelopment started in 199 designed to enhance use and appreciation of Corio Bay and in 1995 the Barwon River overflowed in the worst flood since 1952.

21st century
Westfield Geelong construction works in 2007
Redeveloped Waterfront Geelong (Steampacket Quay)In 200, Avalon Airport was upgraded to provide for interstate passenger travel, providing a base for the low-cost airline Jetstar to service the Melbourne and Geelong urban areas. Geelong expanded towards the coast with Mount Duneed becoming a residential area and plans for a new neighborhood known as Armstrong Creek were developed by City of Greater Geelong. Construction begun on the Geelong Ring Road in 2006. The ring road is designed to replace the Princes Highway through Geelong from Corio to Waurn Ponds and opened in 2009.

More than A$500 million worth of major construction was under way in 2007. Major projects include the $150 million Westfield Geelong expansion works, involving a flyover of Yarra Street, the citys first Big W store and an additional 70 new speciality stores; the $37 million Deakin Waterfront campus redevelopment and the $23 million Deakin Medical School; the $50 million Edgewater apartment development on the waterfront; a number of multi-million dollar office developments in the CBD; and a new $30 million aquatic centre in Waurn Ponds.

Major developments within Geelong are advocated by the regions formal alliance, G21 Geelong Region Alliance. The City of Greater Geelong and four other local municipalities form part of the alliance which identifies the Geelong regions priorities, advocate all levels of government for funding and implement the projects. G21 developed The Geelong Region Plan - a sustainable growth strategy which was launched by Premier Brumby in 2007. It is the approved strategic plan for the Geelong region. In addition, major projects such as the Geelong Ring Road Connections, Duplication of the Princes Highway West have obtained funding due to the combined efforts of the regions municipalities. As at November 2011, there are 13 Priority Projects for the Geelong region.

The Victorian Government announced the relocation of the Transport Accident Commission headquarters from Melbourne to Geelong in October 2006, which created 850 jobs and an annual economic benefit of over $59 million to the Geelong region. The construction of the $80 million Brougham Street headquarters was completed in late 2008. In November 2008 Ford Australia announced that its Australian designed I6 engine would be re-engineered to meet the latest emissions regulations and that consequently the engine manufacturing plant would be upgraded.

A change to the city skyline is occurring with a growing number of modern apartment towers on the Waterfront and central business district planned or under construction. On 10 July 2008 approval was given for a $100 million twin tower apartment complex of 16 and 12 floors to be built on Mercer St in the citys Western Wedge. The towers will become the tallest buildings in the city, taking the title from the Mercure Hotel. Further highrise developments is planned as part of the City of Greater Geelongs Geelong Western Edge strategic plan.] A $17 million 11 level apartment tower has also recently been proposed to be built next to the Deakin Waterfront Campus.

In 2012 a design competition was run for the City of Geelong by Deakin University and Senia Lawyers. The recipient of the prize and winning design entry was JOH Architects and their design titled "The Sea Dragon".

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Geelong | Short History | Last Updated: 2014-06-16

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