History of Gisborne and Surrounds
The township of Gisborne sits nestled in the Jackson Creek valley, only 40 minutes from Melbourne. Henry Howey selected the area, including the river flats that the township now occupies, in May 1837. As a result the Gisborne locality was first referred to as 'The Flat', then 'Travellers Rest', after the first building in the area. A shepherd's hut was built on the site now marked by the historical cairn bearing Howey's bust.
Several years earlier in 1835, John Aitken arrived in the Port Phillip District from Van Diemen's Land. He was so impressed by the potential of the land for sheep grazing that he selected some 20,000 acres surrounding what is now known as Mount Aitken.
In 1840 John Carre Riddell and his cousin Thomas Ferrier Hamilton bought the land that Howey had selected. The naming of the nearby township of Riddells Creek marks Riddell's role in the early history of the area.
During the 1840's the area was known as 'The Bush Inn' after the hotel of that name. The town really started to flourish with the discovery of gold near Bendigo and provided a welcome resting-place for diggers travelling along the Mount Alexander Road.
Gisborne was named in May 1851 in honour of Henry Fyshe Gisborne, a Crown Lands Commissioner for the Port Phillip District. Gisborne's sister city in New Zealand was named after a cousin of Henry Fyshe. The establishment of the Gisborne Botanic Gardens featuring New Zealand native plants and an impressive Maori statue celebrates this relationship.
The Village in the Valley retains much of its rich heritage. It also has some of the most extensive continuous parkland of any town in Victoria. The beautiful deciduous trees that line the roads into town enhance the 'village feel'. The restored Gisborne Courthouse, lockup and stable built 1858, provide a glimpse of Gisborne's role in the gold rush days. The Mechanics Institute, Macedon House, Telegraph Hotel, the old Hay and Corn Store, historic churches and schools are significant reminders of the past.
With the arrival of the railway in 1861, the small settlements at New Gisborne and Riddells Creek flourished. The railway stations are still used and remain largely unchanged. At New Gisborne, the Whistle Stop Tavern retains its slate roofing and its original external character.
In 2000, a replacement fountain was erected on the site of the original concrete structure of 1901, at the intersection of Hamilton & Aitken Streets. The beautiful antique fountain adds a new vibrancy and focus for Gisborne.
Come and share the beauty that is the Village in the Valley. Take advantage of the delightful touring routes through Riddells Creek, New Gisborne and Gisborne South. Enjoy the scenery, history, food and wine of the region. You'll be surprised at what you discover so naturally close.