Friday, June 24, 2011

Victoria's First Settlement Site Corinella (Well second maybe)

Corinella on Western Port Pay was the site of a brief convict settlement, a decade before Batman and Fawkner 'founded' Melbourne (or started arguing about which one of them did it').
Just to the east of the present town, a settlement was founded in 1826 from Sydney in response to a concern for possible French territorial claims. In that year Dumont d'Urville in command of the corvette Astrolabe examined Westernport, aroused suspicion during his scientific voyage. Authorities in Sydney had also recently received reports from explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell who mistakenly believed they had reached Westernport in 1824 (when in fact they had arrived at Corio Bay many kilometres to the west. A contingent of soldiers and 21 convicts under the command of Captain Wright was dispatched with William Hovell to assist. A small military settlement called Fort Dumaresq was established near the present-day site of Rhyll on the north coast of Phillip Island. Lack of fresh water proved a problem and the outpost was moved to Corinella then called Settlement Point.
Hovell's subsequent report claiming Westernport was unsuitable for agriculture, owing to poor soil and lack of fresh water, and the absence of any Frenchmen, led to the abandonment of the settlements in 1828. The buildings were burnt to prevent use by escaped convicts. A memorial cairn in Jamieson Street marks the site of the original settlement and another monument at the end of Smythe Street commemorates Paul Edmund de Strzelecki's exploration in 1840.

The 1826-8 Corinella was subject to extensive archaeological investigations in the early 1980s by the Victoria Archaeological Survey led by Peter Coutts. Although equivocal in its conclusions about the location and remains of the settlement, the dig established the importance of the site to Victoria's history and European settlement.
One season of excavation - I think in about 1983, is shown in some of my photos above.

1 comment:

  1. Gary,

    I think the dates are as follows

    Inital season at Hamilton's house -1981
    Second season - Iain Stuart, Denis Gojak and Daryl Mead December 1982
    Third Season - January 1983


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