HISTORY OF THE CHAFFEY TRAIL

In 1847 the Jamieson brothers were granted a licence to take up land for pastoral use.

In 1858 this site was officially named Mildura.

George and William Benjamin (WB) Chaffey were developing an irrigation settlement in Ontario, California when they heard of Victorian Cabinet Minister Alfred Deakin’s visit to the region. Deakin was appointed by the Victorian parliament to visit America on a fact finding mission.

The Chaffeys’ model irrigation settlement impressed Deakin, who in turn impressed them with the potential for irrigation from the Murray River in Australia.

The Chaffey’s brothers subsequently came to Australia and after protracted negotiation, in 1887 purchased the then defunct pastoral lease and created the Mildura Irrigation Colony. The indenture was signed on 31 May 1887 between the State Government and the Chaffey brothers.

The Chaffey’s adapted the plan of Ontario to the present site of Mildura. They developed a series of steam-driven pumps to lift water from the Murray River, first into King’s Billabong then subsequently to various heights to irrigate up to 33,000 acres.

The Chaffey brothers wanted to make Mildura a vibrant community.

Their plans included many visionary concepts : an agricultural college was needed and to finance this one property in 15 was designated as college lease land now providing funding for schools. Prominent locations were made available for churches and facilities for clubs were encouraged. Parks and town transport were considered – together this gave us the picturesque centre plantation of Deakin Avenue, surely one of the finest thoroughfares in Australia. Lanes and streets were laid out in all the town planning making Mildura the beautiful place it is.

Thanks to the Chaffey brothers you can now trace the development of Mildura through the Chaffey Trail.

THE CHAFFEY TRAIL SITES

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The Mildura Station Homestead

The homestead is an accurate reconstruction of the first home built in Mildura circa 1847 and is built on the site of the original “Mildura” pastoral lease and station established by the Jamieson brothers in 1847. It was here that the Chaffey vision for the irrigation colony evolved. The re-creation consists of the homesteak, outbuildings, the wool-shed and rose garden. Open seven days from 10am-4pm.

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Mildura Homestead Cemetery

Mildura’s earliest cemetery includes graves of some early pioneers and members of the Chaffey family. Antonia Chaffey, great grand daughter of W.B. Chaffey, has designed a commemorative garden beside the burial site of the mother of the Chaffey brothers, Ann Maria and W.B.’s first wife, Hattie Schell, as well as four infants. The gardens comprises a granite sculpture and observation seat.

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Rio Vista House

Built in 1890 by W.B. Chaffey, the Rio Vista mansion is Spanish for “River View”. It is being restored to its original condition. The comprehensive restoration program has included replacing ornate timberwork on verandahs, reinstating original doorways and staircases, and returning the drawing room to its original décor with recreation Victorian wallpaper and original colour schemes. Built in Queen Anne style, the house features original furniture and fittings such as Italian marble fire places and Victorian leadlight and stained glass windows. It overlooks the Murray River and parklands and is part of the Mildura Arts Centre. Open seven days from 10am – 4.45pm.

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Lock 11 and Mildura Weir

In its natural state, the Murray River was quite different from the regulated river we see today. Locks were established along the Murray in the 1920s to provide a constant level for both irrigation and navigation by paddle steamers. Construction of the Mildura Lock and Weir began in 1923 and finished four years later. When Lock 11 was built, an island was formed which you can cross at the lock and visit during the day. The Mildura Weir is the only one on the Murray River where the lock and weir are separated by an island. Time your visit so you can see the PS Melbourne pass through the lock, which it does several times a day. Hugh King Drive, Mildura. Open seven days.

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Mildura Wharf/Port of Mildura

Climb aboard a paddle vessel on the Murray River to experience what 19th-century travel was like. The Murray River was an important means of transporting people and goods to and from the area prior to the construction of the railway and opened up the settlement of Mildura. Built in 1892, the wharf still accommodates working vessels, and is a mooring site for a number of historic paddle boats. Daily cruises and special charters depart from the wharf. Hugh King Drive, Mildura.

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Mildura Grand Hotel

Originally the Mildura Coffee Palace, the Mildura Grand Hotel dates back to the very early days of the irrigation settlement. The fountain at the Grand, the only remaining relic of the Chaffey offices, was brought to Mildura on the paddlesteamer Gem together with another fountain that originally stood in the front of Rio Vista House. Today the Quality Hotel Mildura Grand offers seven different dining experiences as well as comfortable accommodation overlooking the Murray River. Cnr Seventh Street & Deakin Avenue, Mildura.

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Psyche Pumps/ Kings Billabong

Psyche Pump Station was built in 1891 by the Chaffey Brothers to meet the needs of the irrigation settlement. Water was pumped from the Murray River to Kings Billabong and then distributed throughout the area via a series of channels. The steam-powered pump was replaced in 1959 by an electric pump. The original pump house still stands at Psyche Bend, complete with the restored original pump, and is the oldest pump configuration of its type in the world. The steam-powered pump operates on key holiday weekends and can be accessed via the Psyche Pumps Nature Walk, which follows the Kings Billabong Nature Walk, ending at Psyche Pumps.

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Chateau Mildura

In 1888 the Chaffey brothers planeted 150 acres of wine grapes on their Belar Avenue property ‘Chateau Mildura’ commencing the region’s wine industry. Chateau Mildura became part of Mildura Wines, then later Mildara Wines specialising in the production of brandy and sherries until the late 1990’s. In 2002, the property was purchased by a local horticulturist who has taken the historic complex back to its original purpose of table wine production. It houses a museum containing a unique collection of wine related items. The Chateau is open daily from 10am – 4pm. 191 Belar Avenue, Irymple.

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Merbein Chaffey Links

The Starting from the Merbein Rotary Lookout at the top of the white cliffs, which are a unique geological feature and the district’s highest point, to the right are Victoria’s first Government owned irrigation pumps, at the left is Pioneer Plantation passing the distillery/winery that was established by WB Chaffey in 1913 and where he sadly collapsed and died in 1926. The original Mildura Distillery is heritage listed. The sandstone walk takes you to Chaffey landing. Grape spirit was once loaded from here on to paddlesteamers. Forbes Drive, Merbein.

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Langtree Hall

A  privately owned museum has a stunning collection of district memorabilia. Originally situated in Langtree Avenue, the Langtree Hall was Mildura’s first public hall built in 1889. It was a venue for many important events in Mildura’s early history.

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Mildura Club

WB Chaffey was the longest President of the Mildura Club being President during the time of the Club’s three homes, overseeing the erection of the current premises which he opened  as Mayor of Mildura in 1920.

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Big Lizzie

Apart from its size, the most amazing feature of Big Lizzie are the ‘dreadnaught wheels’, designed by Frank Bottrill to allow it to carry heavy loads across sandy terrain.  Arriving in 1917, it first worked in the Merbein area carrying wheat and wool. Later, it was used to clear land for the Red Cliffs First World War Soldier Settlement.

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MAP

The Chaffey Trail

Trace the story with a self guided tour of key heritage sites and buildings of the region

 1. Mildura Station Homestead
278 Cureton Avenue (GPS Co-ordinates X=606,800  Y=6,218,427)
Mildura Station Homestead precinct is a reconstruction of the property the first Mildura Station established by the Jamieson brothers in 1847, and later purchased by the Chaffey family. Open daily. For more information contact Mildura Arts Centre Phone: 03 5018 8380

2. Mildura Homestead Cemetery
Cureton Avenue (GPS Co-ordinates X=606,873   Y=6,218,742)
Mildura’s first cemetery includes graves of early pioneers and members of the Chaffey family.

3. Rio Vista
199 Cureton Avenue (GPS Co-ordinates X=606,790   Y=6,217,569)
Rio Vista Historic House is one of Mildura’s most important heritage buildings, and maintains a commanding presence as part of Mildura Arts Centre and was the home of WB Chaffey and his family. The Spanish named ‘Rio Vista’ translates to ‘River View’, reflects the Californian influences found in the Queen Anne style house. Open daily 10am to 5pm. Closed Good Friday & Christmas Day. Anzac Day open 1pm to 5pm. Free Entry. Phone: 03 5018 8330

4. Lock 11 & Mildura Weir
Hugh King Drive (GPS Co-ordinates X=607,372   Y=6,217,741)
The Chaffeys’ shared vision and desire to have water permanently accessible for irrigation and river transport was fulfilled through a series of locks and weirs along the Murray. Lock 11 commenced construction in 1923 and was completed in 1927.

5. Mildura Wharf / Port of Mildura
Hugh King Drive (GPS Co-ordinates X=607,501   Y=6,216,885)
River transport played a very important part in the opening up of the settlement of Mildura.  The Mildura Wharf was completed by 1892 and then extended in 1899 and three additional levels were added to accommodate vessels at various river heights. Daily river cruises available. Phone: 03 5023 2200

6. Mildura Grand Hotel
Cnr 7th Street & Langtree Avenue (GPS Co-ordinates X=607,218   Y=6,216,945)
Mildura was established as a temperance colony and the Grand Hotel was originally the Mildura Coffee Palace. The Chaffey offices next door were later demolished to make way for the expansion of the Grand. The fountain is the only remaining relic of the Chaffey office. Phone: 03 5023 0511

7. Psyche Pumps / King’s Billabong
Psyche Bend Road (GPS Co-ordinates X=613,423   Y=6,208,964)
To create an irrigation settlement, pumps were needed to lift water to the height of the land. Visitors to Psyche Bend can experience the original pump house, reconditioned pumps, steam engine and boiler house. King’s Billabong is a wetland reserve and bird sanctuary with bird hides. Psyche Pumps open Tuesday & Thursday from 1pm to 4pm and Sundays 9:30am to 12pm.  For operating days and times Phone: 03 5018 8380

8. Chateau Mildura
Belar Avenue (GPS Co-ordinates X=610,854   Y=6,210,248)
In 1888 The Chaffeys’ established Chateau Mildura and the local wine industry planting 150 acres of wine grapes on the property. Still operating, the Chateau also houses a Museum dedicated to the local and Australian wine industry. Open daily 10am – 4pm. Phone: 03 5024 5901

9. Merbein
International Drive (GPS Co-ordinates X=599,612   Y=6,218,500)
Starting from the Merbein Rotary Lookout at the top of the white cliffs, which are a unique geological feature, walk to the left through the Pioneer Plantation along Blandowski Walkway. Pass the distillery/winery that was established by WB Chaffey in 1913 and where he sadly collapsed and died in 1926. Descend down the walkway to the internationally recognised scientist’s campsite of 1857, locally known as Chaffey Landing.

10. Langtree Hall
79 Walnut Avenue, Mildura
A  privately owned museum has a stunning collection of district memorabilia. Originally situated in Langtree Avenue, the Langtree Hall was Mildura’s first public hall built in 1889. It was a venue for many important events in Mildura’s early history.  Cost of Admission $6 Adults & $5 concession. Open Wednesday and Friday & Saturday 2 – 4pm.  Phone: 0427 113 090

11. Mildura Club
Cnr Deakin Avenue & Ninth Street, Mildura
WB Chaffey was the longest President of the Mildura Club being President during the time of the Club’s three homes, overseeing the erection of the current premises which he opened  as Mayor of Mildura in 1920. Tours available: Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10am-12 noon. Cost: $10 includes a beer/wine/soft drink or Tea/Coffee in the historic bar. Bookings essential. Phone: 03 5023 1006

12. Big Lizzie
Barclay Square, Calder Highway, Red Cliffs
Apart from its size, the most amazing feature of Big Lizzie are the ‘dreadnaught wheels’, designed by Frank Bottrill to allow it to carry heavy loads across sandy terrain.  Arriving in 1917, it first worked in the Merbein area carrying wheat and wool. Later, it was used to clear land for the Red Cliffs First World War Soldier Settlement.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Mildura Visitor Information Centre

The Chaffey story begins with a wonderful interpretation and film about the Chaffey brothers at the centre.

You are invited to view the informative video production of the “Chaffey Trail” in the theatrette, detailing the history of irrigation in the region and the Chaffey brothers.

Open 7 days showing every half hour commencing at 9.30am with the last film screening at 4.30pm. 

Mildura Visitor Information Centre
180-190 Deakin Avenue, Mildura
Phone 1800 039 043 or (03) 5018 8380

Chaffey Trail Reference Group

Cr. Mark Eckel  Chairman

Barbie Cornell  Mildura & District Historical Society / Langtree Hall
Max Whiting  Merbein & District Historical Society
Lance Milne  Château Mildura
Glenn Miller  Mildura & District Historical Society
Lyn McKenzie  Paddleboat and Wharf area
Jeff Galasso  Murray Goulburn Waters, Lock & Weir
Bob Walton  Educational Representative
Sue Kelly  Mildura Rural City Council Library Service
Peter Wharton  Psyche Pumps Management Committee
Julie Jewell  Mildura Rural City Council, Project Officer, The Chaffey Trail

This website was developed with permission from and in conjunction with the Mildura Rural City Council.
Developed by the Chaffey Trail Reference Group.

The Chaffey Trail
For further enquiries and updates, please contact the Chaffey Trail Project Officer on (03) 5018 8311,
or email chaffey.trail@mildura.vic.gov.au