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Investigator – Woodstock June 2022

Woodstock – an early house in Chilwell

In June 2022 the Investigator published this article by Member and family historian, Carollyn Williams. She writes about Woodstock House – a landmark in early Chilwell. She is descended from one of the property’s owners.

The house called Woodstock stood on the south corner of Latrobe Terrace and Sharp Street, Chilwell. The original block ran from Sharp Street to Marshall Street (named for the house’s first owner). The first blocks of land in Newtown and Chilwell compromised approximately 25 acres and ran along the river bank and up to Fyans Street. Further surveys show the streets were laid out from east to west – Latrobe Terrace, Pakington Street and West Melbourne Road (later Shannon Avenue); and from south to north – Fyans Street, Noble Street and Aberdeen Street. Further subdivisions saw cross streets introduced and named after notable persons: Austin for James Austin; Marshall for Thomas Marshall of Woodstock and others after councillors. 1

Woodstock was built by Thomas Mulcaster MARSHALL (1790-1866), the original building being one of a small number of brick houses in the area, described as a bungalow and built of local brick, possibly from Chilwell or Waurn Ponds. The original house had five rooms built in a row, a fashion indicative of the time, with a stable behind. Thomas and his wife Sarah FOSTER (1792-1872) with children, Sarah, Thomas, Mary and Foster, immigrated to Melbourne from Plymouth in 1840, arriving aboard the Andromache as cabin passengers. Thomas set up as a land commission agent working between vendors and buyers in his brother’s Melbourne office. His brother John Marshall was a well-known British emigration contractor. 2,3

Like many, Thomas became insolvent during the 1840s depression and moved to Geelong 4 where he was an early settler. Thomas had some freehold land and selected land on the south bank of the Barwon River. He had to employ shepherds to protect his sheep from attacks by the aborigines. He became involved in wool buying and fellmongering. His name first appears in the Geelong rate books as living at Woodstock House in 1850. Latrobe Terrace was then known as the Government Road and Kardinia Park as The Flat. By the mid-1850s Thomas established a wool scouring works near the breakwater on the Barwon River. The area was used for tanneries, fellmongers and animal by-product industries. Many of them were located there to take advantage of the saltwater Barwon River, south of the artificial breakwater that was built in 1837 5. The rock ford was constructed to stop the tidal inflow of salt water from marshlands near the mouth of the Barwon to the fresh water river, supplying the town with fresh river water 6. When Thomas sold the house in Latrobe Terrace, circa 1853, he moved to where he had these new business interests to the breakwater area, where the suburb is now called Breakwater. The adjoining suburb is called Marshall after his sons Thomas and Foster 7.

The next owner was William HARDING (1815-1884), who arrived in Geelong from Somerset in 1841 aboard the Ward Chapman with his sister Elizabeth Harding (1821-1910), as cabin passengers. William and Elizabeth settled on a property near Winchelsea called Mount Hesse. Mount Hesse was originally established in 1837 for a fee of 10 pounds by squatting partners William Harding and John HIGHETT (after whom the Geelong suburb of Highton is named). Highett had already become a successful farmer in the new colony (helped by his brother, a successful banker) before William had moved out from England. The extent of the land was some 45,700 acres (18,500 ha) which extended from the Barwon River above the Barwon Park holdings of the Austin family.

When William arrived on the property in 1841, aged 26, with his sister Elizabeth aged 20, with no infrastructure in a vast wilderness they were a truly an adventurous pair 8. Upon moving onto the property, William erected a small two-roomed stone cottage and later, a stone skillion and a weatherboard section were added 9. William lived there with Elizabeth prior to her marriage in 1845 to neighbouring squatter Thomas AUSTIN (1815-1871) of Barwon Park. After Thomas Austin died in 1871, Elizabeth began philanthropic work commencing in 1882 with funding for the charitable hospital for incurables at Heidelberg that bears her name (Austin Hospital) and in 1886 the Austin Homes in Yarra Street, Geelong, with the view of providing homes for the female aged poor 10.

In 1851 the original Mt Hesse property was divided in two with Highett’s part of the property passing to the HOPKINS family. William Harding was ambitious and soon began to make many improvements including a stone homestead, stables, single men’s quarters and a very large woolshed. At this stage he only had a lease, and was taking on a great deal of financial risk in this very new land. Having borrowed heavily to achieve his goals, he was unable to repay his debt which is why, in 1853, he sold to William Timms 11. It is speculated that it was about this time that he purchased Woodstock in Chilwell as in 1854 he married Louisa OSWIN (1830-1899). William expanded the house and added the veranda and planted trees. William died in 1884 and, in 1900, following the death of Louisa, the house was offered for sale by the Harding family executors and was described in two lots. Lot One containing the house that was a large family residence built of brick containing 10 rooms, detached stabling and other outbuildings, erected on land having frontage of 292 feet to Latrobe Terrace, by a depth along Sharp and Marshall Streets of 338 feet. The grounds were laid out and planted with shrubs and fruit trees, and the property well situated, facing Kardinia Park, and within an easy distance of the heart of the town. Lot Two being described as a splendid building site, having a frontage of 60 feet to Latrobe Terrace by a depth along Sharp Street of 190 feet, well fenced, water laid on 12.

The Harding goods and chattels were also for sale:

Household furniture and effects, phaeton, 3 ponies, harness, etc., immediately after the freehold properties, comprising drawing and dining room suites, sideboards, tables, wardrobes, chests of drawers, single and double bedsteads, piano, wash stands and ware, pictures, fenders and fire irons, garden and carpenter's tools, kitchen utensils, 3 ponies (well recommended), harness, phaeton (nearly new), single seated buggy, and a large lot of sundries.13 

 It seems the property was purchased by William’s second son Thomas Harding (1860-1905), a stock agent who died at Woodstock in 1905 14. Thomas’ widow Jane nee WHITELAW (1857-1940) offered the property for sale in 1906 in a number of lots. The lot containing the house having a frontage of 112 feet 6 inches to Latrobe Terrace, by a depth of 203 feet 15.

The house was purchased by William FRANCIS (1848-1932) who had married Ellen ASHMORE(1849-1931) in Geelong in 1872. They were living at ‘Ellsinor’ on the north corner of Latrobe Terrace and Sharp Street – literally across the road from Woodstock House. William was for 20 years the spinning master, timekeeper and pay clerk at the Victorian Woollen Mill and later known as the Excelsior Woollen Mill No 2 16. He was for 60 years a lay preacher and Sunday School Superintendent at the Noble Street Methodist Church. William also conducted, together with Mr J COOK, a wool scouring business at Marnockvale (near Balyang Sanctuary) on the banks of the Barwon River. For 15 years he represented the South Ward of the Newtown and Chilwell Council, was a foundation director of the Geelong Permanent Building Society and a foundation member of the Bareena Bowling Club. William was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1926 and presided in the Magistrates Court. William Francis was my great grandfather.

Woodstock was described as having five rooms across the front and as many more rambling out the back. The timber fittings were of cedar. It contained a cellar and stables. There were thirteen outer doors which had to be checked each evening, a task Ellen would undertake with her lamp. A long low verandah was on the front of the house, a circular drive, pine trees, a hot house and a fine display in the garden beds. The drive of fine gravel was kept raked although there was no entry to the front drive because of a wide stone gutter on Latrobe Terrace. The house also contained a schoolroom. A separate laundry contained wooden troughs, a mangle and three coppers. The wood was kept in a “wood house” beside the laundry and there were huge underground water tanks.

“Woodstock”, 428 Latrobe Tce, Chilwell (Newtown)

The Francis family made their own laundry soap, grew tobacco, and fruit and vegetables. There was a mulberry tree and plenty of nasturtiums from which they made capers. The kitchen had a big dresser, which contained willow pattern china. Here white ceramic hot water bottles were filled to warm the beds. The drawing room had dark green and cream linoleum, with a striking twisting design, on the floor. The room contained a piano, numerous occasional tables with lots of bric-a-brac and large jars of pampas grass and peacock feathers. There was a handsome overmantel with vases, a horsehair sofa and cedar chairs. The floor also had cream sheepskin rugs. The stable housed the horse for the jinker and also a cow which provided the family with milk. William purchased the paddock beside his father Joseph’s (1803-1878) house at 30 Sharp Street to graze the horse and cow. The cow knew its own way up Sharp Street and after milking in the morning would wander up to the paddock to graze.

Sunday was a busy day for the family due to their commitments at the Noble Street Methodist Church. Most Sundays after church, William’s family, who all lived locally, would congregate at Woodstock for afternoon tea and perhaps listen to some tunes on the piano. Sometimes some of the grandchildren would take a ride with an adult in the jinker to the wool scour where the dry wool was rolled up ready for pressing the next day.

William’s wife Ellen predeceased him in 1931 and following his death in 1932 two of their daughters Eva and Laura lived at Woodstock until 1943 when it was then sold for £1050.00. The house then fell into disrepair and was condemned and by 1953 it was demolished to give way to flats that still bear the name Woodstock.


[1]Seaton, G. (1983) Model borough: an introduction to old Newtown and Chilwell. City of Newtown: Geelong.
[2]Elliot. H. (2012) Marshall family notes. Available from https://www.ancestry.com.au/
[3]Rushen, E. (2020), John Marshall: Lloyd’s Reformer, Shipowner and Emigration Agent. Anchor Books: Australia
[4]Port Phillip Insolvencies. Available from https://portphillippioneersgroup.org.au/pppg5m.htm
Marshall. Available from https://www.victorianplaces.com.au/marshall
[5]Breakwater. Available from https://www.victorianplaces.com.au/breakwater
[6]Elliot. H. (2012) Marshall family notes. Available from https://www.ancestry.com.au/
[7]Mt Hesse History.Available from http://www.mounthesse.com/en/the-farm/history/
[8]Barwon Blog. One thing leads to another: Mt Hesse Estate.Available from [9]http://barwonblogger.blogspot.com/2015/05/one-thing-leads-to-another-mt-hesse.html
[10]Australian Dictionary of Biography. Austin, Elizabeth Phillips (1821–1910). Available from http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/austin-elizabeth-phillips-1522
[11]Mt Hesse History. Available from http://www.mounthesse.com/en/the-farm/history/
[12]Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1929), Monday 19 March 1900, page 3
[13]Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1929), Monday 19 March 1900, page 3
[14]Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1929), Tuesday 6 June 1905, page 1
[15]Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1859 – 1929) Mon 23 Apr 1906 Page 3
[16] In circa 1892 the Victorian Woollen was suffering from a decline in sales and was put up for sale. It was purchased by Godfrey Hirst and re-named Excelsior Woollen Mill No2. It is today the site of Godfrey Hirst Carpets at the corner of Swanston Street and Barwon Terrace.

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