Trove Tuesday: Old Roads

Old-TrackThis is a little family story about old roads. A couple of stories just for Trove Tuesday. I wouldn’t have remembered them if Inside History hadn’t organised the cloud funding of the earliest editions of the Hamilton Spectator. It was just a small entry in the Hamilton Spectator that reminded me of two stories my father told be about roads. A small entry that had been overlooked when I first searched the paper version of the Hamilton Spectator many, many years ago at their office. And which I had overlooked in searching microfilm at the State Library of Victoria. As part of the launch of the introduction of the Hamilton Spectator to Trove Newspapers I was invited to submit an initial search. A no brainer. Both my great grandfather Samuel Baulch and my two greats grandfather William Learmonth were in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the release of Crown Land in Victoria.
But it was a line about Samuel’s brother Alfred that caught my eye. G Payne and Alf Baulch of the parish of Macarthur were absent from the Local Land Board sitting in Portland on 15 September 1870.

The Hamilton Spectator, 17 June 1870, p4, c2.

Now there may be many reasons as to why these two men didn’t go to the Land Board sitting.
One may have been the difficulty of actually making the journey for Macarthur parish sits in between Hamilton and Portland and between Hamilton and Port Fairy (or Belfast). So they had some distance to travel. But the roads weren’t same as they are today.
For example, my father told me the story of how he and his father drove the truck to Heywood to pick up or deliver a load. They decided to go by the direct route – following what is now the Woolsthorpe – Heywood road. Travelling directly west from Dunmore. But there was no road and the track beyond the gate into the Dunmore forest to Ettrick was so bad that they travelled north to Myamyn and came east to Macarthur before travelling south home to Dunmore. A lot further but apparently quicker.
So the track through the stones may have been so bad that Alf Baulch was unable to attend the Land Board meeting in Portland. Certainly his older brother James paid his rent in Belfast from time to time rather than travel to Portland to do so.
Of course the first tracks which later became roads went from one run to another. For example, there was a track from Harton Hills south through Dunmore to the crossing place at Orford. But it was the track out of the Dunmore Pre-emptive Right (PR) to Macarthur that is the source of my next story. When the Heywood – Woolsthorpe road was eventually proclaimed it not only went through the forest but it also passed through the Dunmore PR. This meant that some old roads were closed and others opened. That some land became part of my grandfather’s holding and some returned to the Crown.


Certificate of Title Vol 5118 Folio 441

Years later it was discovered that the areas had been miscalculated with a consequent effect on the rates levied. My father visited the Shire Office for half a day. Without any resolution as far as I can remember. There was another consequence too. By financing the power to the Dunmore Woolshed my grandfather helped bring power to the Macarthur Butter Factory. With the changes due to the making of the Woolsthorpe – Heywood road there is now a title plan to show “transmission of electricity” across what was the old road but which is now private land.


Title Plan TP 551Y

So even just one line in a Trove search can remind me of family stories that may have so easily been forgotten!

Land – Laverton

At the corner of Landers Lane
At the corner of Landers Lane

My methodology for researching land ownership is not necessarily the only way to do land research.
Where and when we start with our research depends on the information we have or don’t have.
For our current home that is easy. We have the date. We have a place.
There is always an element of truth in family stories but often the truth is sufficiently different to make research difficult. Have I said that with enough feeling? For example, there is a story in our family that my great grandfather Samuel Baulch owned a hotel in Cavendish – some distance from his home in Kirkstall. A visit last year to the Hamilton History Centre confirmed Samuel was indeed a publican in Cavendish for a short while after the previous publican, his brother-in-law, had died. I found extra information recently when some of the Hamilton Spectator was added to Trove. Information I had missed when I visited the Spec office some thirty years ago!
If your family was here in Victoria very early on then another place to start may be at the Registrar of Titles General Law Library at Cherry Lane, Laverton. Susie Zada has written an excellent blog about using this resource. You will note, as I didn’t, that the indexes to the first series of vendor books are at the END of those books. Down the bottom.
Also, if you are going out to Laverton, think about taking the opportunity to look at aerial photographs. It may be worth looking at the University of Melbourne Map Collection first though.
I haven’t personally looked at aerial photographs. Because, until the hot rock geothermal pilot went in nearby, there was nothing to indicate that Landers’ block was hotly disputed over by the occupying squatter and the family of selectors when it was opened for selection under the 1869 Land Act.

Melbourne’s laneways

Image courtesy State Library of Victoria
Image courtesy State Library of Victoria
This is not a story of my family home but of my volunteer home – the Genealogical Society of Victoria. This is a story about the GSV’s home in the lower basement, or cellar, of 257 Collins Street in Melbourne.
Sometimes I am so engrossed in searching for stories amongst the books and memorials of various archives and family history societies that I neglect to look at the family history around me.
So it was a year or so ago I was in one of Melbourne’s small laneways off Flinders Lane. That day Flinders Lane was closed to vehicle traffic. As I had my coffee I watched a very large crane load an equally large and heavy duty truck close by with several combination safes.
I never thought more about it at the time. Should I have? Yes.
Should I be viewing my surroundings with a family history frame of mind? Yes.
I had never given much thought as to why there was cellar beneath the car park at 257 Collins Place before. If questioned I may have replied that the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney added it when they redeveloped the block in the early 1970s. But 257 Collins Street has been a bank premises for a very long time – from the 1840s and right through the Victorian gold rushes.
257 Collins Street
257 Collins Street

This summer the Carlton Clydesdales will again be delivering kegs to Melbourne’s hotels. Will this be more a show than an imitation of how beer was delivered in the early days of Melbourne’s settlement?
I grew up on a farm where the front door was rarely used. All the action on the farm went on out the back. It wasn’t until I looked at the parish plan for Melbourne that I paused to think. City businesses operate the same way.
Parish of Melbourne map
Parish of Melbourne map

There were no laneways as I know them. Just allotments facing Collins Street but also running right the way through to Flinders Lane. Next time I walked out the back door of the GSV I crossed Flinders Lane and turned around. The rear view of 257 Collins Street is quite different to the front view. Firstly, there is access to the carpark, not directly from Flinders Lane but from a laneway off Flinders Lane.
Lassi map
Lassi map

What had Governor Bourke intended when he visited Port Phillip with surveyor Robert Hoddle in 1837?
Bourke and Hoddle laid out Melbourne with wide streets and wide footpaths.
Image courtesy State Library of Victoria
Image courtesy State Library of Victoria

However, Governor Bourke recognized that if there was to be no encroachment onto the footpaths then lanes were required behind the buildings facing these wide streets and footpaths. So he requested that there be lanes between the streets. Flinders Lane between Flinders Street and Collins Street for example.
Even so, the blocks were quite deep and at just under half an acre quite large.
With an ever increasing population outstripping the ability to provide accommodation for them. For those fortunate enough to acquire land in one of the early Melbourne sales there was the opportunity to lease portions requesting the lease payment up front. Then the purchaser had the balance of the purchase price to be paid to the government by the due date.
So it was that Michael Carr leased portion of Allotment 15 Section 4 – the allotment on which the GSV is located.
Michael Carr had arrived in Port Phillip in November 1835 and operated the Governor Bourke Hotel in Little Flinders Street half way between Market and Queen Streets – on land he also purchased in the first Melbourne land sales.
It is interesting to note that the first person who leased part of the block from Michael Carr was the brewer Oliver Adams. He didn’t stay long before moving to the fledgling Geelong.
So how did a brewer and a publican get their supplies delivered to each in Flinders Lane? Not from carts coming down Collins Street but from carts coming down Flinders Lane as Governor Bourke had intended.
However, Michael Carr had a problem accessing Flinders Lane. Having leased the rear of his block he had no access to Flinders Lane for supplies. So he retained a carriage access or laneway which remains today as Flinders Way.
Furthermore, the two sub allotments became separated over time – the one part facing Collins Street and the one part facing Flinders Lane. The divisions can be seen quite clearly across Flinders Lane.
It was not until the CBC acquired the two in the late 1960s that Michael Carr’s allotment became one again. Well almost. The laneway is now the property of the Lord Mayor of Melbourne. What is interesting to me is that the laneway hints at how deliveries were made to Oliver Adams’ brewery and other businesses in Flinders Lane.
Often when I am walking about in Carlton and Fitzroy I come across a grate in the footpath. These grates can be lifted to give access to the cellar in the adjoining hotel. The grates also give light to these hotel cellars.
Where were the supplies to a publican, or a brewer, kept? Not at street level as this was valuable retail area. But in a cellar. The MMBW maps of Melbourne (accessible online from the State Library of Victoria) indicate that most of Flinders Lane had cellars, including the rear, at least, of 257 Collins Street.
MMBW-Sewerage (State Library of Victoria)
MMBW-Sewerage (State Library of Victoria)

But were they cellars in the manner I think of modern day cellars? Were they entirely below street level?
When I look at the building on the Swanston Street side of the GSV carriage access, or laneway, it seems to me that there is a foundation of bluestone underneath what would have been the bluestone walls of the cellar. This cellar has windows above the ground. Certainly to give light.
Window in Bluestone Wall
Window in Bluestone Wall

But the windows aren’t all that far above the level of Flinders Lane. Just far enough that the cellar ceiling would be high enough, or low enough depending upon your perspective, to have a loading dock above at the level of a cart or wagon used delivering or loading supplies. Probably not says my brother. It was more likely to have been done manually.
Window in Bluestone Wall
Window in Bluestone Wall

Nevertheless, it seems that Governor Bourke’s intention to keep the streets and footpaths wide and uncluttered is still the case. The purpose of Flinders Lane as a delivery access remains. Possibly with the same difficulties for complex deliveries. And our laneways seem to be a consequence of Governor Bourke’s recognition that to keep a clear front entrance requires more a complex network of landways to service all the buildings facing the main streets.

Victoria Land Titles – Introduction

An old Broadwater home
An old Broadwater home

Almost always I have found family stories in Victorian land titles.
So where should one start looking?
Certainly not by searching current online databases for family historians. Most of the interesting family stories remain buried in files, memorials and research notes in either the Registrar General of Titles’ General Law Library of land titles at Laverton or at the Public Record Office of Victoria (PROV) in North Melbourne or maps at the State Library of Victoria.
In this blog I outline my personal methodology to search Victorian land titles for my family stories.

I generally start by purchasing the current land titles for the parcel of land I am researching. But before that I start finding what the current title may be with a Google search. But before I go further the following is a brief outline of my methodology:

  • Search for the address of the land on Google Maps (I am currently boycotting Bing Maps as they include Fitzroy North in their database but not the more important and relevant Fitzroy)
  • Using the Google Maps information, search for the address of the land on Landata’s Lassi map
  • Search the original parish map
  • Purchase the current computer title online
  • Purchase earlier computer titles back to the first computerised title
  • Search for earlier cancelled Torrens titles at the Public Record Office of Victoria
  • Search for the Application Note relating to the conversion of the old title to the Torrens Title at the General Law Library
  • Search for when and how the Crown Grant was acquired (remembering for some very early grants this information will be in NSW records)
  • Having started with the current title and worked backwards to the Crown Grant, start with the Crown Grant and work to the current title
  • Confirm information found by searching other sources alluded to in the land records. These may include probates, insolvencies and BMD information but may also include less common sources such as those for divorces, neighbouring landholders and dowers.

Now this methodology hasn’t been applicable for each piece of land I have ever searched but it is where I start out. Nevertheless, I shall use two parcels of land to illustrate how my methodology works.


Not all land information is offline. Indeed the best place to start a Victorian land search is online with a Google search for the location of the property I am researching.
For example, one of my homes was at Broadwater in South West Victoria. Now, but not for a long time, I can see a Google Earth view of my old home.

Satellite View My Old Home
Satellite View My Old Home

A property in a town or city is a little simpler to locate on Google Maps. For example, the Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV) is at 257 Collins Street, Melbourne.

Satellite GSV
Satellite GSV


Finding my parcels land on Google Maps often makes it easier to find them on Landata’s Land & Survey Spatial Info (Lassi) map. This map can be accessed directly or from the link under Other Access at the bottom of Landata’s home page at
Now, be warned, this map pre existed Google Maps so behaves in its own manner and for its own peculiar requirements. That is, the Lassi map doesn’t always work in the same way as Google Maps do.
For my old home I first searched for Dunmore Lane, Broadwater and then refined this to 503 Dunmore Lane. By building, refining and refreshing the map I can display the parishes and allotments that are relevant to the parcel of land. The current title covers several allotments across three parishes

Lassi My Old Home
Lassi My Old Home

Similarly, I searched Lassi for 257 Collins Street, Melbourne. This time I built the map to include the Application Note numbers as well.

Lassi GSV
Lassi GSV


There is another map collection that is always useful in my land research. This is a map of the parish that shows the parcel of land at the time the Crown Grant was granted. In this case I was able to download the parish maps from PROV by searching within VPRS 16171 for the name of the parishes concerned.

Search within VPRS 16171
Search within VPRS 16171

For my old home I downloaded Banangal, Broadwater and Clonleigh parishes.

Parish Plan My Old Home
Parish Plan My Old Home

For the GSV I downloaded Melbourne South parish.

Parish GSV
Parish GSV

Parish plans are also generally available online from the State Library of Victoria.
I now have two parcels of land for which I can order the current titles. How I do this I shall describe this is a further blog.