Bellarine Historical Society Inc

...preserving the history of the Bellarine Peninsula

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Clifton Springs

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Situated 13 miles (20 kms) from Geelong on the Bellarine Peninsula, Clifton Springs today is home to a large number of retired people as well as a growing, younger population who commute daily to Geelong and Melbourne.

Early records, particularly those of the Geelong Advertiser, show the main area as being from Glenholme Road (now Beacon Point Road) to the foreshore. Clifton now reaches towards the Portarlington Road and extends to Beacon Point itself.

Farms in the area were owned by many pioneering families with some of the prominent names being:-

BarrandDanielsEldredA. Herring
LennoxN. MartinT. RyanC. Smith

The pioneering Lennox family landed at Point Henry in 1849 and drove sheep for Miss Drysdale on her Coriyule property, while property at the bottom end of Jetty Road above the cliffs was owned by R. G. Hall.

Around the 1860s three homes were built in close proximity to Clifton Springs. A major landholder was Mr. S. L. Allnutt, and a frequent visitor from across the bay was Lord Brassey, the then Governor of Victoria.

When the St.James Church of England in neighbouring Drysdale was built, and the foundation stone laid on 18th October 1871, Messrs. Eldred, Barrand, S. L. Allnutt and W. Thompson (of Springs Road) were closely associated with the construction.

In December 1870 a report was published regarding the discovery of springs on "Clifton", the property of Mr. Thomas Bates (Jnr) whose father had come to Geelong from Tasmania in 1837. Thomas Bates (Jnr) and his siblings followed in 1840, and in 1865 the Thomas Bates (Jnr) family moved to the Bellarine Peninsula. His father joined him in his later years and Thomas Bates (Snr) died at "Clifton" at the age of 84.

The existence of Springs in the area had been known for some years and around 1870 their medicinal value was submitted to rigid chemical examination, and summarised as containing magnesia, seltzer, sulphur, soda and iron. Clifton Springs boomed with several steamers, including the "Kangaroo" and "Jaffa" running excursions from Geelong and other places as well as visitors coming by road.

Being close to Geelong, Clifton Springs became a popular resort and many trade and church picnics were held in the area where a pier and salt water & sulphur baths had been build. Other buildings included a Boiler House, Bottling plant, Kiosk, and Manager's Cottage in the vicinity of the popular Picnic Dell.

Bath House, Clifton Springs

Clifton Springs - Bath Houses, with long pier in the background.
[Photograph #564 : The Bellarine Historical Society photograph collection]

About 1871, Mr. Thomas Bates leased the land about the Springs to Mr. Levien, a large landholder at nearby Murradoc, who created a real pleasure ground.

A well appointed hotel was built above the Springs, with 20 bedrooms, sitting, dining & drawing rooms, private rooms, a billiard room, private and public bars, culinary and servant's quarters, and all requisite accommodation pertaining to a first-class establishment, involving expenditure of more than £3500.

Staff quarters were separate and located near the bowling greens of today, and the area contained about 20 wooden floored tents for emergency use. Regular coach services by Cobb & Co. from Portarlington and Drysdale existed, as did postal facilities. A notice which was at the Drysdale Railway Station until a few years ago, stated "Change here for Clifton Springs, Portarlington and St. Leonards.

Invalids seeking treatment in the waters of the Springs were conveyed up from the beach in horse-drawn vehicles or pushed in wheelchairs.

In the hey-days of the Springs, visitors looking out over Port Phillip Bay faced crystal clear waters, with low tide exposing the cleanest of white sand for a distance of about 200 yards along the foreshore.

A newspaper article of 1933 refers to the huge quantities of shell-grit being sent away annually off the foreshore, one firm sending 20,000 bags in 12 months, and it was common to see up to 50 men at work on the beach bagging the grit. Three boats were engaged in taking the shell-grit direct to Melbourne, while a large quantity was despatched by road and rail.

There is every indication that an earlier jetty had existed in the area prior to the pier erected in 1872, and used mainly for the dispatch of flour, bran, and pollard from the nearby Bellarine Mill. This mill, the first on the peninsula, was built about 1854 and destroyed by fire in 1861. Bullock wagons and horse drawn drays worked from the mill to the jetty. Today's Jetty Road was then known as Mill Road, and the Bellarine Mill is historically linked to the Clifton Springs foreshore.

The first Clifton Springs Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1921 and a second built in 1926. It was remodelled about 1957 as the Clifton Springs Country Club and became the Clifton Springs Community Centre in 1977 when the building was purchased by the Shire of Bellarine.


Hotel, Clifton Springs

The original Clifton Springs Hotel - destroyed by fire in 1921.
[Photograph #1083 : The Bellarine Historical Society photograph collection]

A great deal of information on the early history of Clifton Springs and its people is held in the files of the Bellarine Historical Society.

[From Noel & Shirley Lindsay, Members of the Bellarine Historical Society]

Record Sources for Clifton Springs

  • Photographs : Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre; various private collections.
  • Maps & Plans : Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre.
  • Newspapers : Geelong Advertiser Indexes - Bellarine Historical Society & Geelong Historical Records Centre; Geelong Advertiser on microfilm - Geelong Historical Records Centre; various local newspapers - Bellarine Historical Society.
  • Miscellaneous Documents & Advertisements : Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre; various private collections.
  • Bellarine Shire Council Records : Geelong Historical Records Centre.
  • More recent Council Records : City of Greater Geelong.
  • Cemetery Records : (Drysdale/Bellarine Cemetery) Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre.
  • Land Records : Registrar of Titles, Melbourne; Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre.


Brownhill, Geo. H. Illustrated Guide to Geelong And District, Facsimile edn., Deakin University Press, Geelong, 1990.

Campbell, A. J. Tourist Guide to Geelong and Southern Watering Places, Henry Thacker, Geelong, 1893.

Drysdale Fire Brigade : The First 50 Years : 1944-1994, Drysdale, 1994.

Hourn, F.C. (Eric). United Services Home : A Drysdale Romance, F.C. Hourn, Indented Head, 1991.

Richardson, John. Clifton Springs : Past - Present, 2nd reprint, Bellarine Rural City Council, Drysdale, 1985.

Richardson, John. The Lady Squatters : Miss Anne Drysdale and Miss Caroline Elizabeth Newcomb : 'Boronggoop' and 'Coriyule', Bellarine Rural City Council, Drysdale, 1986.

Wynd, Ian. Balla-wein : A history of the Shire of Bellarine, Shire of Bellarine, Drysdale, 1988.

Wynd, Ian. Geelong The Pivot : A Short History of Geelong and District, Cypress Books, Mont Albert North, 1971.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 May 2009 03:11  

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