Since the Grampians and Halls Gap have been in the news this week for the unfortunate reason of a bush fire, I thought this week for Trove Tuesday, we should visit this beautiful place in Victoria’s West.
Halls Gap particularly is a special place for me because Dad has lived there for almost 40 years. So just as I grew up in Hamilton, I grew up in Halls Gap too.
Along with the history books I have collected about Halls Gap, I’ve collected newspaper articles found at Trove. But I had never searched Trove for Halls Gap/Grampians photos. Of course, I wasn’t disappointed with the results and it was difficult to narrow down the photos to share.
The Rose series of postcards, held by the State Library of Victoria, are an ever reliable source for photos of Western Victoria and there was little doubt that I would find some great photos of Halls Gap among them. It’s hard to date the Rose postcards as they are all dated 1920-1954, so most times it’s guess-work based on cars, dress and buildings. Photos such as the following from Sundial Peak, looking over Halls Gap, is pretty well impossible to date.
There were two photos of Halls Gap’s main street in the series, several years apart. The General Store in the second photo, looking almost as it does today, is not in the first photo. However, I think the first building on the right, with the Holiday House sign, still stands today.
Despite the date range on the postcards being up to 1954, and correct me if I’m wrong, there is an EH Holden parked in the main street. Holden produced the EH between 1963 and 1965. There were also two petrol stations, today there is one.
The main street 2012.
The Mountain Grand Guest House, built in 1944, still stands today. This is how I remember the Mountain Grand when I first went to Halls Gap in 1975, but it has changed somewhat over the years due to renovations.
The Delleys Bridge, named after a pioneering family, welcomes visitors from the east into Halls Gap. Since those first pioneers arrived in the valley, different bridges have spanned the Fyans Creek, one of the few access points into town, and now there is a modern bridge. The bridge in the photo is the style I’m most familiar with, except since the photo, it was widened and a pedestrian lane added. Just beyond the bridge, a road runs of to the left. Dad lived a few hundred metres down that road for many years and now still lives close by to the bridge. I have been over the bridge, under the bridge and ridden nervous horses across while fearing altercations with cars and the long drop over the side.
Just over the mountain from Halls Gap is Lake Wartook and the Wartook Valley. While Halls Gap remained untouched, this part of the Grampians suffered greatly in the fires last week and the level of damage is yet to be fully assessed.
The last of the Rose postcards was a real surprise for me. It is of the Halls Gap Bowling club that I didn’t know existed. I’m guessing from the mountain range behind, it was located on the western side of the township. I will ask a couple of born and bred locals when next there exactly where the greens were.
The Victorian Railways collection, also held by the State Library of Victoria, is another great source of Western District town photos. I just love this photo of the Pinnacle, a popular lookout at the top of the Wonderland Range. The unfortunate part about this photo is that it does not give you a feeling of how high up the lookout is. Well, I’m suffering vertigo just looking at those brave trekkers. Thankfully, the fence was later extended down the side of the lookout.
I thought they were brave until I found this photo, before the fence. The photo was dated 1910-1930 however I have found a newspaper article from 1918 that mentions the fence, so it must be closer to 1910.
The gentleman in the photo is not as daring as Halls Gap photographer, Gilbert Rogers (1880-1950). A photo in Ida Stanton’s book Bridging the Gap: the history of Halls Gap from 1840 (1988) shows Gilbert hanging from a ledge below the Pinnacle, with his camera and tripod, capturing the best views of the mountains. Crazy.
Not only do kangaroos and emus, call the Grampians their home, so to do deer, a legacy of the homesick gentry of the 19th century. This sketch from 1881 gives some clue as to how long they have roamed the mountains.
These are deer in Dad’s backyard, descendants of those in the 1881 sketch. Last Friday evening, with fires burning in the mountains three kilometres away, a stag ate fallen pears from one of Dad’s trees, oblivious.
The next series of photos are real treasures. Again, they are held at the State Library of Victoria and are from a collection gathered by Richard Holdsworth. The date range for the magic lantern slides is 1860-1930.
Finally. one of the photographers. Funnily enough the gentleman with the camera looks very much like my gg grandfather Richard Diwell, himself a keen photographer.
Halls Gap is a busy tourist town, but the Grampians fire last week will bring financial strain to the businesses there, as did the 2006 fires that burned a lot closer to the township. The town has now reopened to the public and it is business as usual, but with the fear created, thanks to sensational journalism that spread through social media, it will be hard work to get the word out that Halls Gap is safe. Now is the time to visit and support the wonderful people living there.