Mansfield, Victoria

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Mansfield, a rural township and former shire, is 130 km. north-east of Melbourne. It is at the end of the Maroondah Highway, between Lake Eildon and Mount Buller.
During the 1840s settlers occupied land west of Mansfield and by the end of the decade occupation had spread eastwards. In 1850 a station holder, Alfred Chenery, built a blacksmith's forge near the intersecting boundaries of four pastoral stations at Fords Creek. It became a convenient stopping place, and the following year land was set aside there for a surveyed township. It was first named after Mount Battery, about 4 km. to the east, but proving to be unpopular it was replaced by Mansfield in 1856, at the prompting of a local station manager who apparently had fond memories of Mansfield, near Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire.
By 1856 gold had been discovered at the Jamieson River, and in 1861 it was discovered at Woods Point. The most suitable route for transporting mining machinery was through Mansfield. Small amounts of gold were also discovered around Mansfield.
A school was opened in 1858 by the Anglicans and Free Presbyterians, who built churches in 1865 and 1866 respectively. Mansfield was proclaimed a shire on 31 December, 1866, by when the township also had two hotels, a court house a steam flour mill and a hospital.
In addition to sheep grazing, Mansfield had dairying (butter factory opened in 1893) and cultivation for oats, potatoes and fruit.
About 25 km. north of Mansfield, near Tolmie, a party of Mansfield police were searching for the Kelly gang in October, 1878. When two of them camped at Stringybark Creek they were bailed up by the outlaws. One of the police made a break for freedom and was killed. Two other police who returned to the camp were also killed. A monument to the three policemen was erected the following year at the intersection of Mansfield's two main streets. The monument stands at the front of a wide central plantation which runs down the main commercial street.
In 1891, after more than a decade's lobbying, a branch railway line was opened from Tallarook to Mansfield. The line provided improved access for agricultural products to the Melbourne markets. In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Mansfield -

 

Until 1919 the Mansfield shire was confined to the northern pastoral regions. The mining towns along the Jamieson to Woods Point road were in the Howqua shire, and Woods Point had been a borough between 1865 and 1894. In 1919 part of the Howqua shire was added to Mansfield shire, increasing its area by half. As well as adding mining areas to the shire, Howqua had large forest areas.
About fifty kilometres east of Mansfield is Mount Buller, and during the 1920s the Ski Club and local interests began to open it up as a tourist resort. The postwar development of the Mount Buller snow resort has added substantially to Mansfield as a tourist destination or as a stopover. Westwards, the development of Lake Eildon as a boating and recreation site has also brought tourists to Mansfield. In 1964 the State tourism authority began promoting Mansfield as the Gateway to Leisureland.
Mansfield has also benefited from horse-riding holidays in the hills to the east. "The Man from Snowy River" was filmed east of Mount Buller in 1982. The main shopping street has been enlarged by several new groups of shops. The railway station has been converted to a tourism and information centre.
Mansfield has State primary and secondary schools and Catholic and Steiner primary schools. The former shire offices are a district office for Delatite shire. The court house (1879), the former police stables (1886), the police memorial and the railway station are on the Victorian Heritage Register.
The main street, Highett Street, is named after William Highett, who was a squatter on the Maindample pastoral run. He came form Tasmania with his brother John, who grazed stock near the Dandenong Creek and named the Melbourne suburb of Highett. John Highett later settled at Geelong and named his property Highton, now a Geelong suburb, after his family's farm at Weymouth, England. His son, Francis, built Highton Manor at Mansfield in 1896, which has been converted to a motel and restaurant.
The district's residential property market is buoyant. In 1987 the median house price was $59,000 and in 1996 it was $82,125.
On 18 November, 1994, Mansfield shire was united with Benalla shire, Benalla city and part of Violet Town shire to form Delatite shire. In addition to the places already mentioned the Mansfield shire contained Bonnie Doon, Merton, Merrijig and Tolmie.
Mansfield's town census populations have been 385 (1871), 1,110 (1911), 1,323 (1947), 1,956 (1971) and 2,178 (1991). The shire's census populations were 2,344 (1871), 3,800 (1891), 4,275 (1966) and 8,471 (1991). The increase in the last twenty-five years indicates the trend to rural/residential living in districts outside the township.

 

 

Further Reading:

Gillison, Joan, "Colonial Doctor and his Town," Cypress Books, 1974.

"The Mansfield Valley: 150 Years of History," Mansfield Historical Society, 1993.


External Links:

 Accommodation  OLA Handbook

 


See also

Eildon | Alexandra | Maindample | Alexandra | Bonnie Doon


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