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THE HISTORY OF HANGING ROCK


HANGING ROCK — SOME HISTORY, SOME LOCAL COLOUR

 PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK DESKTOP

Major Mitchell named Hanging Rock - Mount Diogenes which is also shown in earlier books and on some surveys as Drydens Rock.

On July 4th, 1861 the railway was opened at Woodend. Farming was well in progress in the district so produce was soon carted to the new rail head. Additionally, the Gold Miners to the North had to have provisions carted to them from the Lancefield, Romsey and Rochford areas.

Hotels sprang up along the roads and Mr. W. Adams built the Hanging Rock Hotel in the eighteen-sixties. It was erected on the North West side of the crossroads on the Lancefield/Woodend Road 1 mile south of Newham where he owned the land thereabouts. (Now the crossroads of Coach & Colwells Roads.) The Hotel was later run by Mrs. Hall, then Geo. Thorburn.

Mr. Adams went to considerable expense to develop the Rock as a pleasure resort. He placed a weir across the Five Mile Creek to make a lake several acres in extent on which rowing boats were available. Swans and other birds were imported. The lake was in the corner of the Reserve nearest the division fence below Maxted Drive. A road was constructed to almost the top of the Rock on the South Western approach and climbed from the foot to a large open space above the Hanging Rock, wide enough for a carriage to be driven up in safety. Ornamental trees and garden beds were planted alongside the drive.

Mr. Adams laid down the first Racecourse on the Western side of the Rock where Race Meetings were held in true traditional bush picnic style.

Various rocks were soon named, the Post Office: where passers-by tossed small stones into a hollow place. The Lovers Leap: a rock jutting out from the cliff, Queen Victoria's Monument: a replica of- Queen Victoria in her robes.

McDonalds Look-out where McDonald, a Bush Ranger, was able to look out over the North-East between two rocks, while Morgan, another Bush Ranger, had his look-out Westerly from a hollow rock with an opening in it.

The boys of that time had one Rock named The Cuss-Cuss Rock where the little native cats would spit at passers-by.

The Squeeze was a tunnel from the top above Hanging Rock to the base. It meant clambering over and crawling through small spaces, until safely reaching the ground level.Big Squeeze at Hanging Rock

 

 

 

 

 

Bottom of the Squeeze

 

A popular place for picnics was on the flat above the Hanging Rock. (A location now known as 'Stonehenge'.) Before the steps were placed in position, it was quite an effort to climb up under the Hanging Rock by hanging onto rocks, tree roots etc.

In 1866 the Rock was re-purchased by the Government with a Water Reserve on the South Eastern corner. (In 1857 William Anderson had selected the part of the Rock which later became the Picnic Ground.) A fence was said to run over the top of the Rock from North to South with gates put in and charges made to enter. This led to arguments with Gatekeepers, so the Government was persuaded to regain the land.

The area of 71 acres 1 rood 1 perch on which the Hanging Rock is situated was re-purchased from Mr. William Anderson in the year 1884 for the sum of 1,417 pounds, 12 shilling, 6 pence. This area together with an adjoining area of 176 acres 3 roods 28 perches was then reserved by order in Council on 25th November 1884 (with notification published in the Victorian Government Gazette of 28th November 1884) as a site for recreation and for affording access to water.

The Reserve was then controlled by the Council of Newham and Woodend until 1959, when at the request of the Council, three members of the Hanging Rock Race Club were added to the Committee Management.

The earliest evidence in Departmental records of the Reserve being used as a Racecourse is a letter in 1883 from Council requesting the reservation of the Crown Lands portion as a Racecourse. A sketch plan dated 1876 from a local resident and a petition in the same year, contained a statement that:

"The Reserve was for so many years, so used (i.e. for Recreation) by the people of the district, and considerable improvements were made up on it. A Racecourse was laid out on it, cleared and fenced and the place was rapidly becoming a very popular place of resort, as many as 7,000 persons having been present at our New Year's Sports".

It would then appear that the Reserve was used as a Racecourse between 1883-1886. The Course was laid out facing the creek on the Southern side of the Rock but in 1909 shifted to its present site. Several local farmers kept horses or ponies and trained them themselves.

The first sports meetings were real Highland gatherings with "Tossing the Caber", "Throwing the Hammer", foot races etc. Later a dance floor was erected. Bagpipes were plentiful too, and after some years a String Group came to play at the events from Kyneton.

Sandy McDonald of Meeniyan — formerly a Newham boy, told of how Jesse Shelton always won the "catching the greased pig", by holding its tail in his mouth and "climbing the slippery pole" by firstly dusting his trousers with sand. Sandy also told of a "Carlie" a Highland gathering that some of the elderly people had one night.

Special trains ran from Melbourne to Woodend on Rock Race days and 'Big Four in Hand' drags which held 40-60 passengers would be driven out to the Rock and later back to the train. At one stage, it was thought a Railway line to connect Lancefield with Woodend via the Hanging Rock would be an advantage. A big luncheon was held with members of Parliament present to discuss the route and other possibilities which ultimately didn't eventuate.