Ocean Grove is a seaside resort town overlooking Bass Strait. By road, it is approximately 100 kilometres south west of Melbourne.
In 1991 the permanent population of Ocean Grove was 8153 however during summer the town services about 40,000 people including those in holiday homes, resorts and caravan parks.
The township area of Ocean Grove covers about 20 square kilometres of the coast on the Bellarine Peninsula, bordered to the west by the Barwon River, to the east by swamps and a native bird sanctuary, and to the south by Bass Strait.
The main shopping area of Ocean Grove is located in The Terrace between Presidents Avenue and Hodgson Street. This section of The Terrace is now a one-way street running west to east.
Early History of Ocean Grove
The following is a Contextual History from The Ocean Grove Corner Store by Susie Zada.
The establishment of Ocean Grove as a settlement was unique not only for the Bellarine Peninsula, but also for the Port Phillip district.
Most of the towns on the peninsula were established in the 1850s, however attempts during that period to establish "Kingston on the Sea" by the landowner William Bonsey failed. Bonsey’s land was used for grazing and collecting wattle bark until the 1880s when the land was sold, subdivided and eventually became the settlement of Ocean Grove.1
Ocean Grove’s development was unique because it was instigated by religious visitors from America. ‘Rev. W. Osborne, a Methodist minister, had established a model religious settlement in New Jersey, USA, which he called Ocean Grove.’2 Osborne and the Rev. Inskip had been on an unsuccessful missionary tour to India and then arrived in Victoria.
A tent mission was set up in Royal Park in Melbourne and later moved to Point Lonsdale on the Bellarine Peninsula at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay.3 All histories of Ocean Grove suggest that Osborne was keen to establish a permanent camp in the area, and felt that Bonsey’s land would be a suitable site. These histories also state that on ‘3 Sept. 1887. The Methodists purchased the entire 549 acres from the Bank of N.S.W. ...’4
No evidence has been found that the Methodist Church purchased the land, however a Covenant was place on the land :
The Covenant contained in Instrument of Transfer No 230036 in the Register Book that no part of the above Land shall be used for the Manufacture or Sale of Malted Spirituous, or Vinous Liquors.5
On 3 September 1887, Charles Henry James and James Grigg purchased 572 acres of Bonsey’s land.6 James and Grigg surveyed and subdivided the land into 2,500 blocks bearing the same covenant. Streets were named after ministers, dignitaries and ‘places associated with the Methodist Church’, and the Ocean Grove Coffee Palace was ‘built for the Methodist and Temperance Society’.7
It is possible that the covenant, street names and Coffee Palace have led to the assumption that the Methodists purchased the land. What is certain is that Grigg and Kimberley, Agents for the owners James and Grigg, marketed the new subdivision to the Methodist community.8
The Coffee Palace was the site of the first Church service at Ocean Grove on 1 Jan 1888 and at following meetings, the landowners ‘offered ... portions of land for church, school, and house sites, also for ministers’ sanatorium and park etc. together amounting to about eleven acres’.9 This item from official Methodist Conference records seems to confirm that the land had not been purchased by the church, but a smaller portion of eleven acres was offered to them for their use.
Trustees were appointed by the church for this land and records of the meeting on 12 July 1888 referring to the erection of a new Wesleyan Church show :
Main Resolution. That the lowest tender, that of Messrs. Nielson and Guille, be accepted. (£487-15-6).10
Church records for 1897 identified the resignation of Mr. Guille whose ‘failing health had forced him to resign as Church Keeper.’11
The name Guille is unique in the area and also in Victoria at that time. It is reasonable to assume that the Guille referred to in the tender to erect the church, and the Mr. Guille who resigned due to ill health were the same person or from the same family.
In September 1888, a Martin Guille purchased lot number 155 on the plan of subdivision Number 1855.12
This is the location of the present Ocean Grove Newsagency and documentary evidence shows that Martin Guille was the first owner and proprietor of the same corner store.
- Ian Wynd, Balla-Wein : A history of the Shire of Bellarine, Shire of Bellarine, Drysdale, 1988, p. 107.
- Alix Townsend, These Friendly Shores : A personal history of Ocean Grove, A. Townsend, Ocean Grove, 1988, p. 9.
- Helen & Cliff Prowse, Ocean Grove : A Century of Christian Witness 1888-1988, The Ocean Grove Uniting Church, Ocean Grove, 1988, p. 12.
- Certificate of Title issued to Martin Guille, 7 September 1888, Registrar of Titles Victoria, Volume 2074, Folio 414769.
- Certificate of Title issued to Charles Henry James and James Grigg, 3 September 1887, Registrar of Titles Victoria, Volume 1946, Folio 389059.
- Townsend, loc. cit.
- Prowse, op. cit., p. 12.
- ibid., p. 13.
- ibid., p. 14.
- ibid., p. 19.
- Certificate of Title issued to Martin Guille, loc. cit.
Record Sources for Ocean Grove
- 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 : (Leopold/Kensington 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.
Edwards, Ronald G. The History of Ocean Grove, Limited edition., The Edina Press, Lower Ferntree Gully Victoria, 1952.
McKeown, Gil. The Grove That Grew : The History of Ocean Grove, Gil McKeown, Ocean Grove, 1983.
Millis, Peter. Ocean Grove Primary School No. 3100 : Centenary 1891-1991, Ocean Grove Primary School, Ocean Grove, 1991.
Prowse, Helen & Cliff. Ocean Grove : A Century of Christian Witness 1888-1988, The Ocean Grove Uniting Church, Ocean Grove, 1988.
'Souvenir of the Opening of the New Ocean Grove Post Office', booklet, Post Office : Public Relations Office, Victoria, 1979.
Timbury, Cheryl. The Little Church of St Peter : Ocean Grove, Cheryl Timbury, Ocean Grove, 1996.
Timbury, Cheryl. St Peter's Anglican War Memorial Church : Ocean Grove, 100 Years of Worship 1888-1988, St Peter's Anglican Church, Ocean Grove, 1988.
Townsend, Alix. These Friendly Shores : A Personal History of Ocean Grove, A. Townsend, Ocean Grove, 1988.
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.
Zada, Susie. The Ocean Grove Corner Store, unpublished Conservation Study, Ocean Grove, 1996. Three copies only, held by Susie Zada, Ocean Grove Library and the Geelong Historical Records Centre.