The Ocean Grove Township : A Seaside Retreat
In the short space of three years a new township has been added to the shire of Bellarine by the establishment of the Ocean Grove retreat, which has entered into strong rivalry with all of the watering places, for it has many advantages over the rest of the marine resorts which must commend themselves to visitors, whether they intend remaining there for a few months or only several days.
Out of a forest of wattle trees, scrub, etc., a smiling township or rather suburb has been formed, and the wilderness has been converted into one of the pleasant spots where the city and town man can comfortably retire for a while, and yet, by the facilities afforded by rail, steamboat, coach, and telephone, be kept fully in touch with the progress of daily events.
It has been not inappropriately christened "the elite watering place," as whilst it boldly faces the Southern Ocean and commands a splendid view of the white winged messengers of commerce and the great palatial steam liners of the Orient and Peninsular and Oriental Companies passing in and out of Port Phillip heads, it is in a great measure fully protected from the occasionally tempestuous winds which sweep the coast.
Persons who have not seen the Grove since its occupation as a canvas town a few years ago, when a religious camp meeting was first held on the spot, will be greatly surprised at the rapid development which has taken place, and that it has become an important settlement is evidenced by the increasing popularity of the healthful retreat. The winter census has shown an average of 136 residents, but in the summer months the Grove and its beautiful surroundings presents an animated appearance with its gatherings of holiday seekers from all parts of the colony.
There are 35 houses within the syndicate's original territory, which is strictly a temperance enclosure, and therefore guarantees what it professes to be a home of sobriety, peace, contentment, pleasure and rest. Twenty-four of the well-built tenements are regularly inhabited, the remainder being let for casual visitors on the most reasonable terms for the week, month and quarter, but since the census was taken five new dwellinghouses have been completed or are in course of construction.
The additions comprise a handsome weatherboard building of seven rooms, built for Mr Glew, a retired Brunswick brickmaker. The bricks used in the construction of Mr Glew's house were made by Mr Neilson and his men from a valuable deposit of red clay discovered within the syndicate's territory, the ornamentation in white brick being effected with bricks made at Brunswick. Messrs Corr and Young are each having six-roomed houses erected for then, and Mr R. Simpson, of South Preston, is also having built for himself a well appointed dwelling, with a blacksmith's shop at the rear, and where the necessary smithy work of the township will no doubt be effectively carried out, for Mr Simpson has won 11 first prizes in smithy competitions. Altogether about £2000 worth of work has been executed within the past four months, and additions have also been made to several of the houses erected in the Grove in preceding years. .....
[Section on the Coffee Palace ] .....
In addition to the coffee palace, there is a large house of accommodation erected for Mr Brown, where there are comfortable quarters for 25 boarders, who have also provided for their use a lawn tennis court.
The attractions of Ocean Grove are of a varied description, the beautiful stretch of beach from Point Lonsdale to the mouth of the Barwon river giving visitors an opportunity of riding or driving at low tide on the sands for a distance of ten miles. A nice drive to the beach has been formed, and a stairway constructed for pedestrians to easily reach the ocean's confines from the sand hummocks overlooking the foaming billows as they roll shoreward from Bass' straits.
Bathing houses have been provided on the sea beach and at the side of the tidal Barwon river, within handy distance of the palace, whilst there are pleasing and picturesque drives by way of Newington to the Connewarre lakes, the Wallington, Queenscliff, Clifton Springs, and other attractive localities, Cobb and Co. being prepared at all time to furnish conveyances and horses for visitors, picnicers and tourists.
One of the indications of the progress made at Ocean Grove is the extent of Cobb and Co.'s coach establishment, which commenced with an eight stall stable and which has been increased in order to accommodate 30 horses, the expenditure incurred in erecting buildings, and constructing an underground tank capable of holding 14,000 gallons of water, being over £1000. The daily coach service includes a line between Geelong and Ocean Grove, by way of the Wallington strawberry fields, one between Ocean Grove and the railway station of the same name, and a third between Ocean Grove and Queenscliff.
The postal facilities at the Grove are admirable, there being two mails a day by coach and train at 11.30 a.m. and 3 p.m. The business has increased wonderfully and ranges from about 600 letters, newspapers, packets and parcels to 1441 letters etc., per month, the correspondence in the summer months being of course greater, owing to the larger number of visitors.
When an agitation commenced for the construction of telephonic communication between Drysdale and Ocean Grove, the department required a guarantee of £45 per annum, but the large business transacted has never required any payment of the guaranteed amount, and now the Ocean Grove authorities consider the prosperity of the department so great as to warrant them asking the Postmaster-General to provide for a postal and telephonic message delivery, Miss Vere, the postmistress and telephonist, being kept well employed in the office.
At present there is a half-time State school in the township, which is held in a portion of Mr Brown's extensive boarding-house, but as the attendance of scholars has been 29 for the past two months, and 24 for the preceding two months, it is intended to request the Education department to establish a full-time school in Ocean Grove, and to erect a schoolhouse on the four allotments in Asbury and Draper streets, purchased by the department for a school site.
The streets, avenues, and parades in the Ocean Grove township have been well laid out by the Improvement Association formed in the interests of the watering place, but although they have expended over £100 of private funds some difficulty has been experienced in getting the Bellarine shire council to assist in making the new township attractive or easy of access.
Since 1888 the council have received from the residents and owners of land at Ocean Grove in rates the sum of £234, and have only expended in works there a sum of £215, and of that amount the council has received £100 from the Government in the form of municipal subsidy.
The main approach to the Parade from Tuckfield road is dangerous owing to the sharp turn necessary to avoid collision with the protecting walls of a culvert constructed by the shire council. The direct road from the Ocean Grove railway station, on the Queenscliff railway line, calls for immediate attention on the part of the Bellarine riding members.
Besides saving a detour of two miles the direct road is a well used thoroughfare between Newington and Queenscliff, and a bridge at the deep gully on the road is urgently needed by passengers conveyed from the train and from the excursion steamers between Melbourne and Queenscliff. The estimated total cost of the bridge and approaches is £300, half of which the Government have promised to pay on condition that the council contributes the other half. This the council refuses to do unless the people at the Grove guarantee £50, although the Grove is in no way liable to be saddled with an expenditure which will benefit the general body of ratepayers in the riding quite as much as it does the visitors to Ocean Grove; and the council, by insisting upon its demand, is certainly not studying the interests of the shire nor those of the ratepayers.