On Tuesday 8 January, the historic Carngham Station Homestead was destroyed by bushfire. Sadly, Carngham Station is no stranger to fire. The original homestead burnt down in 1918, the cause believed to be a log rolling out of the fireplace. A new homestead was built by the 1920s. The station is currently used for cropping and Angus cattle, but has a rich history dating back to 1838 when James D Baillie settled there.
Carngham. “Carngham”. New house 1920’s, H94.200/249
Carngham is one of the oldest townships in the state. It is located in central Western Victoria, 30 kilometres west of Ballarat. The Caringum Balug clan of the Wathaurung are the traditional owners of the land surrounding the Snake Valley/Carngham district. This is an example of a squatter naming the station after the Aboriginal name of the locality where the homestead was situated.
In 1843, Philip Russell and cousin Robert Simson arrived in Port Phillip. They became business partners and for £950 bought 3,500 sheep from the insolvent Baillie estate, including the 30,000 acre Carngham Station. In 1851, Russell, his brother Thomas and Simson bought Barunah Plains station, west of Geelong. Simson and Philip Russell soon withdrew from Barunah, but three Russell brothers based in Britain went on to establish Thomas Russell & Co, which operated at the Geelong station. Philip’s two first cousins, Philip Russell and George Russell were also early pioneers in Victoria, so he was continuing the tradition of what became a Russell farming dynasty.
Both Russell and Simson married in 1851. They designed a cottage to accommodate both couples at Carngham. In 1853, the partnership with Simson dissolved and Russell took over Carngham.
Russell held the South Western Province seat in the Legislative Council between 1869-75 and 1880-86. He was also a prominent Presbyterian and in 1880 decided to build a church at Carngham. Each year he paid £100 into a fund set up by his trustees. By 1890, the fund had amassed £1,300. The foundation stone of the church was laid after Russell’s death on the jubilee of his arrival in the colony. By the turn of the century, however, the population was dwindling.
Russell had three sons and it was James who inherited Carngham after his death. When James died, the property was passed down to his son Philip.
The Library holds manuscript material relating to Carngham Station including Philip Russell’s papers, station books, the farm diary of Robert Simson, and the journal of Annie Russell, Philip’s first wife.
You can search for relevant material from the Manuscripts Collection on the catalogue, using the words Carngham Station manuscripts. Manuscript material needs to be pre-ordered for use. Orders can be placed by phone on 8664 7009, or in person by heading to the La Trobe Information Centre on Level 3 of the Library building.
Written by Sarah Ryan
Librarian, Australian History & Literature Team
(Editor’s note: When we first published this post on 11 Jan 2013, we indicated that Carngham Station was being used for horse breeding and cattle and sheep farming. We have since receiving advice that our information was outdated – at the time of the fire, the station was being used for cropping and farming Angus cattle. We have amended our text accordingly. Our thanks to station manager Glenn Bird for contacting us with this correction)