Historical Sites in Williamstown

Blunt’s Boatyard

Situated at 150 Nelson Place, Williamstown

The Blunt family’s business has been operating in the area since the 1880s. The family began boat-building in Geelong in 1858. The business moved to Williamstown c1880 and operated from a yard with shed, pier and slipway on the waterfront between Ann Street and Thompson Street. Many ‘finely built’ craft were constructed there including 24 sailing vessels. In 1925 their lease was resumed by the government for land reclamation. The current boat-yard site on Nelson Place was taken up in 1926. The site had been used from the 1858 till at least 1877 for steam sawmill operations, and from 1913 to 1926 by motor engineers.

For more information and the full history visit: www.bluntboats.com.au

Merrett Rifle Range

81 Kororoit Creek Road, Williamstown North

This was its official name after Colonel Charles E. Merrett, who sat on the Victorian Rifle Association Council from 1890 to 1946, but locals always called it by its original name, the Williamstown Rifle Range.

A rifle club certainly existed at Williamstown in 1862, and the city’s first rifle range was at Williamstown Beach, a clearly unsuitable location as the population increased and bathing became more popular.

The second site, further around the peninsula, held its first match in 1878. Various rifle clubs had their own buildings there, and the army used the rifle range extensively, especially during the wars. Sometime before the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne the name was changed to the Merrett Rifle Range. Its most famous moment was when it was used for shooting events during the 1956 Olympic Games.

The rifle range was closed in 1987, and is now a housing estate. The original clubhouse has been preserved at the centre of the estate and is a heritage listed site.

Timeball Tower

Located at Point Gellibrand, Battery Road, Williamstown

The Timeball Tower was a means whereby ships could accurately set their chronometers, since accuracy was essential for successful navigation on long ocean voyages. At precisely 1.00pm each day, the ball at the top of the tower would descend slowly down its shaft.

The Williamstown tower was built in 1849 of local bluestone. It was originally known as the Point Gellibrand lighthouse, and later served as a timeball tower from 1861 to 1926.

Many such towers were built, but they have not survived to anything like the degree that historic lighthouses have. Today, working timeball towers are extremely rare; apart from the one at Point Gellibrand there is a working timeball tower at Greenwich in London, and only three others in the world. It is undoubtedly the jewel of historic Williamstown.

Museums and Libraries

St John Ambulance Museum

Corner of Garden Street and the Esplanade

Opening Times: Thursdays and Sundays

Gold Coin Donation

Across the way from Williamstown Beach resides the charmingly quaint St Johns Ambulance Museum. In a small space you will find some lovingly assembled displays of the organisation’s contributions throughout the years. It’s an eclectic mix, from the Boer War to the Sunbury Music Festivals of the 1970’s.

Williamstown Historical Society Museum

5 Electra Street, Williamstown (inside the Mechanics Institute)
Opening Times: Sundays 2pm – 5pm

Immerse yourself in the history of Williamstown by visiting the Museum. The collection highlights this historical seaport’s maritime history, and also includes furniture, costumes, sporting memorabilia, paintings, photographs and a wide range of social history exhibits that illustrate life in Williamstown from the 1840s.

Managed by the Williamstown Historical Society (founded in 1956), the Museum is a National Trust listed building dating from 1860. It is Williamstown’s most comprehensive history outlet, offering books, booklets, brochures, postcards, souvenirs & research services.

Group and school visits are available by appointment.
Guided coach tours are also available.

For more information:
Phone: (03) 9397 1534
Website: www.williamstownhistsoc.org.au

H.M.A.S. Castlemaine

Situated at Gem Pier, Williamstown (off Nelson Place)

Opening Hours: Weekends from 10AM
Gates close to visitors at 4pm.
Admission Prices: Adults $6, Children Under 16 $3, Families $15.
Children under 4 Free.

HMAS Castlemaine is berthed at Williamstown and open for public inspection to allow visitors to explore the original World War 2 warship. Castlemaine is one of 60 Australian-built Bathurst Class corvettes to serve throughout World War 2, and is the last such vessel still afloat, having been restored by volunteers over four decades. Castlemaine is open to the public on weekends and public holidays.

Visitors can see how crews lived and worked during the war years, witness the original main engines turning over, and view a wide range of artefacts documenting Australian maritime history.

The Cannons

Located at John Morley Reserve and Fort Gellibrand.

The large Armstrong cannons (1864) in John Morley Reserve on The Strand were placed in the years after the Crimean War, to repel a possible Russian naval offence. This never came, and the two mighty guns have never been fired in anger. There are two further Armstrong guns within Gellibrand Fort. As people picnic and walk their dogs nearby, the guns point dutifully out to sea, still awaiting the attack of the Tsar’s warships.

Williamstown Town Hall

104 Ferguson St, Williamstown 3016

Built in the Greek Revival style of the 1920s and situated just 15 minutes from the CBD, the Williamstown Town Hall is an inspired location for a range of functions including formal dinners, conferences, expos, weddings, ceremonies, fundraisers as well as cultural and civic events.

Choose from two premier settings the majestic Ballroom or more intimate Supper Room.

The Ballroom can seat up to 800 guests seated in traditional theatre style or 450 around tables in cabaret style. The elegantly tiled foyer sets the perfect atmosphere for relaxed, pre-dinner drinks. A feature leadlight window entices guests into a grand ballroom with ornate high ceilings, wood panelling and parquetry floors.

The Supper Room can hold up to 110 guests and is ideal for cocktail parties or more traditional, intimate occasions. As the supper room ajoins the ballroom, hire availabilty is strictly limited. Please contact the venues team for further information.

Accessed through a garden courtyard, the Supper Room provides a picturesque, old-world setting.

For more information or bookings please contact:

Marcus Cassidy-Anderson
Venues Services Officer
9932 1000

Fort Gellibrand

Located alond Battery Road, Williamstown (a continuation of Nelson Place)

This Defense, later used as an army training camp, commenced in 1855 during the Crimean War, to guard against a possible Russian invasion. It was still in use sixtey years later for training new soldiers for the Great War.

From the 1850s to the turn of the century a series of coastal defensive works were built in the Colony of Victoria in response to a perceived threat of attack from hostile warships. The battery in front of the Lighthouse had been constructed in 1855. In the early 1860s the strategy for the defence of the port of Melbourne was based on a number of shore batteries inside Port Phillip Bay. The area known as Fort Gellibrand is dominated by the earthworks and gun emplacements of the only remaining battery from four nineteenth century batteries at Point Gellibrand. These batteries were in turn part of a system of shore defences which stretched from the Point across Hobsons Bay and along the foreshore to Point Ormond. New batteries were built at the Cricket Ground, at the end of Breakwater Pier, and at the Fort. The small stone building, thought to be, once designated as an artillery store at the fort dates from this period.

The technology of artillery was developing rapidly in this period and the batteries were changed to accept, and protect from, new types of guns. Improvements were made to the Point Gellibrand batteries in 1871. Convicts from the hulks moored offshore were employed on these works and accommodated in an old military barracks at the Fort. The buried central magazine at the Fort dates from this period. The most expansive period of building of shore defensive works in the State was the late 1880s and early 1890s. By this stage the primary defences of Port Phillip were located at the heads, but Fort Gellibrand batteries were also upgraded in this phase. Most of the nineteenth century fabric that survives at the Fort today dates from this period, including the gun emplacements, earthworks, front magazine and drill hall and attached residential wing. The batteries have retained up to the present their original commanding view over low level clear open space to the Bay.

The importance of the Fort batteries declined from the 1890s, but they were used for practice up until the 1920s. Commonwealth activity resumed from the 1930s to the late 1940s with the adaptation and use of the site for use as an artillery proof range. A number of buildings were added to the area around the Drill Hall during this period.

The Fort Gellibrand site also contains historic fabric from the period when convict hulks were moored off Point Gellibrand. From 1854 five prison hulks were moored just offshore. Treatment of prisoners on the hulks was harsh. In Inspector General of Penal Establishments in Victoria John Price was attacked at Point Gellibrand by convicts from a working party and died of his injuries. The brutality of the hulk system was given as a reason for the attack in subsequent Government inquiries. Some of the convicts from the hulks were employed in quarrying and building activity in a number of bluestone quarries along the shoreline, producing both mass stone and finished stone for government projects within the reserve and buildings in the town of Williamstown. A convict barracks was located in the area of the later Fort. One obvious area of shallow quarrying remains visible to the south west of the Fort. The current road along the shore is thought to follow the line of the tramway built by the convicts to facilitate movement of stone. Convict quarries elsewhere along the shore in front of the Fort and elsewhere at the Point, have since been filled in.