Explorers of the District
1803 - Charles Grimes
On the 3rd February 1803, New South Wales Surveyor-General Charles Grimes and his party rowed up the left hand stream of the Yarra River. This branch of the river later became known as the Saltwater River. They were forced to stop due rocks blocking their way. North of this point there was fresh water where the natives made traps to catch fish. Grimes then proceeded by foot across the rocky flat plains that was later to become known as Albion before being renamed North Sunshine. He noted the land was very bad, full of stones and very few trees. The party returned to a flat area south of the rocks where they camped for the night. The location of this site could possibly be where the locality of Grimes Flat is now known.
Ref: Solomon's Ford - Valantyne J. Jones
1824 - Hume & Hovell
Hamilton Hume & William Hovell under the instructions of Sir Thomas Brisbane, the Governor of New Wales they were to penetrate through the interior to Bass Strait.
Hume & Hovel and their party passed through the district on the 15th December 1824. On their return trip on the 19th December 1824 they camped in the nearby area what has become known as the Talyors Rd and Sydenham Rd intersection.
Two monuments have been installed in the district to celebrate this expedition including one the corner of Ballarat Rd & Station Rd, Deer Park and the other on the corner of Talyors Rd and Sydenham Rd. Both monuments have been relocated due to road widening works. The later has since be moved to the Keilor Plains Railway Station, East Esplanade.
1835 - John Batman
In 1835 John Batman came across Bass Strait looking for grazing land, and his party boated up the Maribyrnong River and walked through the grasslands that would later become a core section of St Albans. He described the plains along the Maribyrnong (Saltwater) River as beautiful sheep pasture, and stock grazing was indeed one of the pursuits of the earliest European settlers to the area. The prognosis for the sheep industry was well judged, because in 1836 there were 27,000 sheep and only 200 Europeans in Victoria. The latter did increase to 500 in 1837, but it was no contest, as by then the sheep already numbered 100,000.
However, more pertinent to local historians should be the mapping of Batman’s journey along the Saltwater River against present-day landmarks. Anderson (1984:31) writes that the party:
“… crossed Sunshine North to the vicinity of the junction of Furlong Road and the Bendigo railway [i.e. near Ginifer Station], and then curved away into St Albans proper and back towards Keilor, passing near or over the site of the St Albans East Primary School, and along approximately the line of Stenson Road to the Maribyrnong River again”’
John Batman would have to be one of the most famous names of early Melbourne settlement to be associated with the St Albans area, brief as it was. It’s a wonder that his sojourn ‘in our backyard’ has not been promoted more vigorously as a local historical fact to be recognised and commemorated in some way.
Ref: "St Albans Settlers from 1905" by Joseph Ribarow 2018