Portland Botanical Gardens

The Western District has many historic botanic gardens, most established from the 1850s to the 1870s when it was the thing for a town to do, if nothing else, to keep up with the neighbouring town.  For some it was scientific purposes, to acclimatise plants and sometimes animals, as with the Hamilton Botanic Gardens.  There is a sense of history walking through each garden and the tall specimen trees such as oaks, redwoods and pines whisper the tales of times past.

The Portland Botanical Gardens, like the rest of the town, ooze history.  Each botanic garden is unique in some way and Portland is no different and is unlike other gardens I have visited including  Hamilton and Geelong.

PORTLAND BOTANICAL GARDENS

PORTLAND BOTANICAL GARDENS

Land for the gardens was first marked out in 1851, but it took a few years of public meetings for the gardens to be established.  In 1853, the Honourary Secretary  remarked on the “advantages of  a botanical garden, and the study of botanical science”.

PORTLAND. (1853, August 5). Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (Vic. : 1851 - 1856), p. 1 Edition: DAILY., Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE GEELONG ADVERTISER AND INTELLIGENCER. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86412916

PORTLAND. (1853, August 5). Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (Vic. : 1851 – 1856), p. 1 Edition: DAILY., Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE GEELONG ADVERTISER AND INTELLIGENCER. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86412916

At a public meeting six months later, on February 4, 1854 chaired by James Blair, Stephen Henty proposed that a committee be formed to get the gardens up and running.

    BOTANICAL GARDEN. (1854, February 9). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved June 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71569639

BOTANICAL GARDEN. (1854, February 9). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved June 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71569639

PORTLAND BOTANICAL GARDENS c1891.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image No.  H42199/21 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/183906

PORTLAND BOTANICAL GARDENS c1891. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image No. H42199/21 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/183906

Works began in 1858, assisted by Alexander Elliot from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, however a lack of funds was slowing progress.

MUNICIPAL DISTRICT OF PORTLAND. (1858, March 5). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 3 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved July 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64570632

MUNICIPAL DISTRICT OF PORTLAND. (1858, March 5). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 3 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved July 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64570632

By November however, the gardens were beginning to take shape and the curator’s cottage was under construction.

CURATOR'S COTTAGE

CURATOR’S COTTAGE

DOMESTIC INTELIGENCE. (1858, November 3). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved July 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64509473

DOMESTIC INTELIGENCE. (1858, November 3). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved July 3, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64509473

In 1859, a letter to the Portland Guardian questioned the practice of allowing horses to graze in the gardens overnight.  “Delta” wondered why the committee could keep their horses at the gardens while “the great unwashed are warned at the gate, Dogs not Admitted”

ORIGINAL CORRESPONDENCE. (1859, May 2). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64510907

ORIGINAL CORRESPONDENCE. (1859, May 2). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64510907

BOTANICAL GARDENS. (1859, May 2). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64510906

BOTANICAL GARDENS. (1859, May 2). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64510906

If you visit the Portland Botanical Gardens, look up at the tall trees and think of those that planted them or as you walk the paths consider the hands that carved them.  The story behind these features is my favourite story about the gardens.

Table Talk. (1863, April 23). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 - 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64628622

Table Talk. (1863, April 23). Portland Guardian and Normanby General Advertiser (Vic. : 1842 – 1876), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64628622

At a meeting of the Portland Historical Committee in 1932, the secretary told the story of the Chinese prisoners and their work at the Portland Botanical Gardens.

Historical Committee. (1932, March 17). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64297702

Historical Committee. (1932, March 17). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 7, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64297702

On the wall of the curator’s cottage is a plaque recognising previous curators of the gardens from the kindly William Allitt in 1861 through to Colin Ellingworth, curator from 1982-1987.

373Andrew Callander was curator from 1922-1949.  Upon his appointment, Mr Callander set about tidying up the gardens and building a ti-tree green house for seedling propagation.

    THE PORTLAND LIFEBOAT. (1926, January 7). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64252901

THE PORTLAND LIFEBOAT. (1926, January 7). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64252901

PORTLAND BOTANICAL GARDENS.  Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.  Image no.  H32492/1655 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/64772

PORTLAND BOTANICAL GARDENS. Image Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. Image no. H32492/1655 http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/64772

PORTLAND BOTANICAL GARDENS.  Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/66929

PORTLAND BOTANICAL GARDENS. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/66929

At one time both croquet and tennis were played at the gardens and there were often tensions between the two groups and any other group that hoped to share the space.

TABLE TALK. (1876, November 3). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63336790

TABLE TALK. (1876, November 3). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENINGS.. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63336790

THE LAWN TENNIS GROUND AGAIN. (1887, September 2). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65410048

THE LAWN TENNIS GROUND AGAIN. (1887, September 2). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65410048

375

CROQUET LAWN

Croquet won out and is still played today.  The tennis courts were converted to rose gardens.  The rosary was first proposed in 1930 but it was 1931 before there was further action.

pbg10

Borough Council. (1931, April 13). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 5, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64294863

Borough Council. (1931, April 13). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 5, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64294863

378

376

“Wandering Willie’s Wife” visited the Portland Botanical Gardens in 1926 and felt compelled to write a letter to the editor of the Portland Guardian on the subject of a nameless lifeboat on display in the gardens.  Could it have been the lifeboat, captained by James Fawthrop, used to rescue  survivors from the wreck of the  S.S. Admella ?  Why wasn’t there a name plaque?

pbg8

THE PORTLAND LIFEBOAT. (1926, January 7). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved July 10, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64252901

Three years later, “Wandering Willie’s Wife” wrote to the editor again, prompted by the announcement that a “tablet” with the story of the  lifeboat Portland would be placed beside the boat.

OUR LETTER BOX. (1929, May 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 - 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64269425

OUR LETTER BOX. (1929, May 16). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved July 4, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64269425

The lifeboat is now removed from the elements and is housed in the Portland Maritime Discovery Centre.

030

LIFEBOAT PORTLAND

ABC Southwest broadcast a story about the Portland Botanic Gardens in March 2009.  The story, including audio and better photos than my own (excluding the wonderful historic photos I found at Trove) can be found by following the link http://www.abc.net.au/local/photos/2009/03/26/2525642.htm

A BILLS HORSE TROUGH (Portland Gardens)

A BILLS HORSE TROUGH (Portland Gardens)


11 responses to “Portland Botanical Gardens

  • iODyne

    the lifeboat not much bigger than the trough installed by those wonderful Bills, and how lucky the Portland curator was, in getting a stone cottage while the Ballarat Gardens founder and his poor family lived for 10 years in a TENT.
    This vegetarian thinks that those bloody Hentys were so busy I wonder they had time to torture their sheep, and oh the hypocrisy of referring to the poor Chinese as ‘celestials’ while taxing them for daring to exist.
    Thanks MR for another great Hamilton story.

  • Margaret Munro

    Excuse me, who was “Wondering Willies Wife”, ? Margaret

    • Merron Riddiford

      Hi Margaret. The name was a pseudonym used by an unknown person, presumably a woman, that wrote to the Letters to the Editor of the Portland Guardian regarding the lifeboat. It sound like she wasn’t a resident of Portland. Merron

  • Pix Elaine Barling

    Thanks Merron for another great article.
    Cheers

  • Lorraine

    Great blog Merron. It brought back memories of spending afternoons mucking around in the gardens while my Nana played croquet.

  • Jackie van Bergen

    Great story, and beautiful gardens. Makes me want to go there next time I visit my parents in Port Fairy.

  • Margaret O'Bryan

    From the newspaper articles it would appear that the Chinese made an outstanding contribution to the Gardens which is still visible today. What a great idea of the gaoler and Mr.Allitt, certainly a win,win situation.

    As gaol records are usually able to be accessed. (Portland Family History would know if these are available) how about a plaque to Mr.Allitt and the Chinese gardeners?

    Thanks for a good story, its also a feel good story, and at this stage with the tenuous relationships in the colony quite heartening.

    Margaret.

    • Merron Riddiford

      Thank you for your comment Margaret. Mr Allitt certainly showed compassion and ingenuity and his contribution and that of the Chinese prisoners certainly should be recognised. Certainly something to follow up.

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