An afternoon in Inverleigh

Monday 28 June 2021. Today, a crisp, sunny day, and the first day of the winter school holidays, we visited the attractive town of Inverleigh, which lies on the Barwon River in Golden Plains Shire. We stopped first of all at Inverleigh Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in the greater Barwon region, whose first recorded burial dates to 1842. Our arrival at the cemetery startled a pair of grazing kangaroos, who went bounding first one way, then the other, to escape us. Next to the cemetery was a paddock where black-faced sheep were grazing peacefully.

Inverleigh Cemetery

After spending thirty minutes of so wandering about the cemetery we drove to Lawson’s Park in Inverleigh’s northeastern corner to have lunch. We have been to Lawson’s Park a number of times over the years. Sitting alongside the Barwon, it is an appealing space with a playground, picnic area and a pleasant riverside walking trail. Within the park one finds an unusual historical relic, a small green wooden building, something like an outhouse. More sinisterly, it has bars and a locked door. It is a former police cell, dating from 1888. According to the information panel attached, “almost 200 of these cells were dotted throughout Victoria at small and one-man [police] stations. They first appeared in the late 1870s and were in use until the late 1950s and early 1960s. This one dates from 1888. Cold in winter, hot in summer, they were considered very serviceable. They mainly held drunks overnight (for whom the policeman’s wife had to supply meals) or persons charged and awaiting transport to court or gaol.” Very unpleasant indeed it must have been.

Former police cell, Lawson’s Park

Next to Lawson’s Park is an impressive stone building, originally perhaps a civic building such as a courthouse, now a private residence.

Building next to Lawson’s Park

After an enjoyable picnic lunch we walked along High Street to look at the town’s lovely old buildings, with particular reference to the churches. The first church on High Street walking west from Lawson’s Park is St. Paul’s Anglican Church, which offers a single Sunday service. The church was built in 1889 and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as an important example of Victorian Early English Gothic architecture, notable among other features for its belfry and porch. It is one of the more interesting Australian churches I have come across.

The Anglican Church of St. Paul

Next we came to the Inverleigh Presbyterian Church, architecturally much less interesting, but solid and honest in bluestone. The Early English Gothic building dates from 1861.

Inverleigh Presbyterian Church

Next door to the church is Inverleigh Primary School, dating to 1865 and similarly built in bluestone. As a matter of fact it began as the Presbyterian School before being taken over by the Board of Education in 1872. Both the church and the school are listed by the non-statutory National Trust of Australia (Victoria).

Inverleigh Primary School

A little further along High Street we came to the poor cousin of the two Protestant churches, the timber Sacred Heart Catholic Church, built in 1933 reportedly in the Gothic Revival style. It’s difficult to tell really. Nevertheless it remains an attractive building with an appealing colour scheme.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Having walked about 900 metres from Lawson’s Park to the Catholic church, we crossed over the Hamilton Highway (which runs between the two sides of High Street, which function in effect as service lanes of the highway) and headed back towards the park.

Hamilton Highway

The first building of note on the south side of High Street we came across was the Inverleigh Public Hall and Former Mechanics’ Institute. Opened in 1866 and built in bluestone in the Gothic Revival style, the building is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register for its historical, social and architectural significance. A blue plaque, similar to those in London on historic buildings, was affixed to the building in 2016 by the Mechanics’ Institutes of Victoria. According to the plaque, the “Mechanics’ Institute movement began in British urban industrial centres in the early 1800s. A “mechanic” was a person applying skills and technology. During the 19th century, most towns in Victoria established a Mechanics’ Institute or Athenaeum with a library and meeting hall. Common objects were the “spread of useful knowledge” and provision for “rational recreation” in the community.”

Inverleigh Public Hall and Former Mechanics’ Institute

We continued east and shortly arrived at a building with a large aircraft wheel planted curiously in front of it. It could only be the Inverleigh RSL (Returned & Services League of Australia), housed in a bright yellow building, formerly a farmhouse. The RSL originated in 1916 as a support organisation for Australian service personnel who had fought in the First World War. The wheel incidentally formerly belonged to a B24 Liberator.

Inverleigh RSL complete with wheel assembly from B24 Liberator

With that we had come to the end of our brief but highly enjoyable tour of High Street. We headed back to Lawson’s Park, where afternoon tea awaited us. Then we returned to Torquay. It had been a top day out.

Heading east on the south side of High Street

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