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Geelong’s “Official” Beginning

The name of Geelong was not the land we live on, but the inner bay. The land from the hills or downs to the water, we call Geelong, was called Iranmoo (also spelled Iramoo). ‘Geelong’ was approved as the official name in April 1838 by the Governor of New South Wales, Sir George Gipps. Approval of the name was written in a letter by the Colonial Secretary of New South Wales, Edward Deas Thomson. It was noted in the letter that Geelong was of Aboriginal origin. Governor Gipps favoured protocol in naming new places was to prefer the name given by the natives. See the original letter to Port Phillip’s Police Magistrate William Lonsdale.

In February,1838 the name of Geelong was submitted to Governor Bourke for approval as the name of the new township (copy of original letter attached). Bourke’s opinion was Geelong was an appropriate because “… in all cases where names are to be given, His Excellency wishes as far as possible to adopt those already used by the natives, and to avoid the use of names already appropriated in other countries.”

Letter from Deas Thomson written April 5 1838 from the Colonial Secretary’s Office
                                     Colonial Secretary's Office 
Sydney, 5th April, 1838

With reference to your letter of the 8th February last, requesting that names might be given to the two districts already appointed in the county of Bourke, I am directed by the Governor to inform you that in all cases where names are to be given, His Excellency wishes as far as possible to adopt those already used by the natives, and to avoid the use of names already appropriated in other countries.
The name of Geelong is therefore to be retained as well as Melbourne, the latter having been already fixed.

I have the honour to be,
your most obedient servant
Deas Thomson

The Police Magistrate
Port Phillip

Once Geelong was officially recognised as a town it was possible to sell land, but a town plan was needed to show the town’s layout and indicate where the land was for sale.

Robert Hoddle was the man who gave structure and organisation to both Melbourne and Geelong. He and his assistant, Henry Wilson Hutchinson Smythe, worked together to formulate a plan for Geelong in March 1838. This work began one month before the official permission to use the name of Geelong was granted.

Smythe surveyed the town under Hoddle’s directions and followed Hoddle’s clear directions of the town beginning 100 metres from the Waterline in the north and extending to Fisher’s property on the Barwon on the south. Hoddle stipulated a location was required for public offices which Smythe complied with. It was in this act, that space was provided for a Customs Reserve of the waterfront on both side of the main street which was Bellarine Street. The existing and future customs facilities were important structures that required space near the shore. The map’s legend show the positions of other important public buildings.

Fresh water wasn’t the only problem facing Geelong, it was also the cliffs that stopped easy access between the water and the land. 

VPRS 8168/P0002, FEATR570; GEELONG TOWN; HODDLE ROBERT; 1838-01-01 – 1838-12-31
Picture of Smythe’s plan
https://www.geelongaustralia.com.au/common/Public/Documents/8d97c1c5405a0b1-thematic6sep20218lr.pdf page 659
HODDLE; 1838-01-01 – 1838-12-31. Note the plan is signed by Hoddle on August 21st 1838.

After the name of Geelong was officially granted, and before land in the township was released for sale, the New South Wales Colonial Secretary advertised the granting of pasturage licences on June 11th, to take effect from the 31st of December, 1838.

 Pasturage Licences were issued to prevent the unauthorised occupation of Crown Lands.

The first advertisement for the sale of Town Land was in the Government Gazette issued by the Colonial Secretary in Sydney. The sale was in Sydney and the plan of land to be sold could only be viewed in Sydney. Before the sale, Geelong’s population was estimated at 545 people.

Here is the advertisement for the sale of land
Sale of Land 1838
Source https://gazette.slv.vic.gov.au/view.cgi?year=1838&class=general&page_num=1048&state=N&classNum=G373&searchCode=7611365

Land sales for both Geelong and Melbourne first occurred on February 14th, 1839. Sales taking place – in Sydney, made it difficult for local Geelong settlers to attend and Sydney investors to know the value and features of the landscape. Of the 53 lots, thirty-two were bought by Sydney residents, eight by Melbourne and ten by Geelong. Geelong residents bought land on the Barwon and others bought land on the bay. Land sales didn’t relate to an increase in population. It made available land scarce as the owner/speculators lived elsewhere. An increase in population was needed to increased trade and money for the Government.

It was from this humble beginning that the town of Geelong began to grow and develop.

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