Portland’s History House


History House in Portland is the place to go to search for your ancestors who lived or arrived in the harbour town.  Located in the former Portland Town Hall, History House offers research facilities and a small museum.

The museum has many reminders of Portland’s early history, in particular, the Henty family.

It is not easy taking a photo of a long plough in a narrow room with a fairly ordinary camera, but I had to give it a go as this in the one and only Henty plough.  While it is famous for it being the first plough used in Victoria, its journey since those early days is interesting.


Maybe this picture does the plough more justice than my own.

THE FIRST PLOUGH USED IN VICTORIA, BY THE HENTY BROTHERS, OF PORTLAND. (1910, September 10). Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 – 1954), p. 10. Retrieved July 3, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38361343

This article from the Portland Guardian of 18 November 1935 described what happened to the plough after it left the Henty’s possession

HENTY’S PLOUGH. (1935, November 18). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING.. Retrieved July 3, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64290884

Hugh Lennon, who had the plough on display at his factory in Spotswood, was the manufacturer of the Lennon plough.  This was the plough of choice for ggg grandfather James Harman in local ploughing matches.  It was also the plough of choice for the Kelly gang when making armour.  The plough eventually returned to Portland in 1970.

The is a model of the house occupied by Joseph Henry Porter and his wife, Sarah Herbertson, in Gawler Street, Portland. Joseph constructed the model and Sarah furnished it.  I like the detail, even down to pickets missing off the fence.  Both Joseph and Sarah are part of the Western District Families Pioneer Obituary Index.  Joseph’s obituary mentioned his fine craftmanship.



While this isn’t the best photo, I had to share it.  It depicts the meeting of Major Thomas Mitchell and the Henty brothers, a significant time in the history of the Western District.  You can read more about this chance meeting in the post “Major Mitchell Reaches Portland Bay”.


Mary McKillop spent some time in Portland and an exhibit commemorates this, complete with the spires from the original Roman Catholic church in Portland.


The Portland Rocket Shed is next to History House.  The shed was built in 1886 by George Sedgewick who was the gg grandfather of Ann, a follower of this blog.  Fully restored, the shed has a display inside which includes a rocket launcher used to fire ropes to boats in distress.


For more photos, better than my own, check out ABC South West Victoria’s report on History House’s renovation in 2010 http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2010/02/17/2822431.htm.  There was also a report at the time of Mary MacKillop’s canonization http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2010/10/12/3035824.htm

3 thoughts on “Portland’s History House

  1. Great post Merryn. Turning down 1000 pounds for a plough in 1925 was a stupendous act, and the other fascinating thing is that the state government was not interested. no surprises there. The renovation of History House is very glamorous compared to when I was there last getting excellent help from the volunteers. George Sedgwick also fitted out that building when it was built as the Town Hall. His name is in a door frame there. he built 72 Gawler Street in 1897 but it couldn’t have been as cute as that modelled cottage at 42.
    When the Hentys came over on the many whale/seal boats in 1834, so did the Robertsons and other big pastoralists, because it was to grab more free land, as VDL/Tasmania had stopped doing that. They had all got rich using free convict labor in VDL too. ‘nation building’ – meh.


    • That’s a great article on the ploughing contests. It did sound like they had a good time at Hanlon’s Hotel but I think my Harmans would have headed for the closest Temperance Hotel being the Methodists they were!


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