The name comes from two brothers, Alfred and John Bates, who in 1837 settled at a spot where the Moorabool River was readily forded. Within a couple of years the Bates brothers left the area, and Dr. John Learmonth acquired a large area of land in the Batesford locality. He built the Laurence Park homestead in 1842, to be replaced by a more permanent building in 1845. It is on the Register of the National Estate.
In 1846 a wooden bridge was built over the river at Batesford, and in 1848 the Travellers' Rest Inn was built from timbers recovered when the bridge was washed away. There were several small and large landowners at Batesford and in 1854 one of them, George Hope (an 1839 squatter) subdivided part of his holding for a township and small farms on the east side of the river. In 1853 a Catholic school was opened and an Anglican school was opened the following year. Both the Catholic school building and teacher's cottage are privately preserved.
The Batesford countryside is generally flat to undulating with good soil, suitable for small-farm agriculture. Orchards and vineyards were planted, and the Moorabool Valley had over twenty Swiss vignerons until the phylloxera disease devastated the industry in the 1870s.
During 1858-62 Batesford was the site of major bridge works. The road bridge was replaced with a five-span structure, considered to be one of the finest of its kind. A larger railway bridge costing over one million pounds, with nine basalt piers, was built a short distance upstream. During construction a temporary township of Moorabool housed the workforce. Nothing remains of it, although it is now recorded as a rural locality. During this time Batesford had its peak population.
In 1903 The Australian Handbook described Batesford as -
Batesford has five structures on the Register of the National Estate: the inn, Laurence Park, the five-span bridge and the Innisfail and Lynnburn homesteads (1850s). Other buildings, including the Presbyterian church (1857), add to the built landscape. The river valley has market gardens, and the area has become suitable for rural and residential living, with close proximity to Geelong, The Idyll vineyard is at Moorabool.
Blackall, Bettina M., "Batesford and its Early Families", Tracery Resources, 1991.
Wynd, Ian, "So Fine A Country: A History of the Shire of Corio",
Shire of Corio, 1981.
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