28 February 2010

Daylesford: a European health resort town in Australia

Daylesford was founded in 1852 after finding alluvial gold in areas now occupied by Lake Daylesford. In 1854 Government Surveyor Fraser laid out a town plan for the Wombat Flat area and called it Wombat. A later governor, Governor Hotham, changed its name in 1855 to Daylesford after an important home he knew in Worcester. In 1859, c3400 miners were on the local diggings, including recently arrived Italian, Swiss and Chinese digging together.

Communication was essential so the first two facilities to open were the post office, in 1858, and the telegraph office, the very next year. A flour mill was opened in 1863, reflecting the increasing importance of local agriculture.

Villa Parma

Italian immigrant Fabrizzio Crippa was attracted to the area in 1855. Crippa quickly established himself as a butcher, and then a viticulturalist. And by 1864 Crippa built his gracious residence on the coach road to Castlemaine, surrounded by vines. The two-storey rendered brick building with dark stone trim, Villa Parma, reminded the lucky emigrant of an Italian renaissance palazzo.

Lavandula is a piece of sandstone rustica, a group of farm buildings constructed by Italians from southern Switzerland who came to look for gold and stayed to farm. The farmhouse is open for viewing each afternoon and gives an immediate sense of Italian rural life in 1860s Victoria. The house and gardens were recently restored.


There was a building boom in Daylesford throughout the 1860s when many of the town’s most beautiful and enduring structures were built: the Post Office, courthouse and lockup, Gold Commissioner's residence and police barracks, and nearly as many churches as hotels. Dozens of hotels! For example The Daylesford Hotel had originally been built in the early gold rush days of the 1850s and was one of Daylesford’s first licensed establishments. The present building was rebuilt in 1913 and today this huge hotel retains many of its 1900s features. The very impressive primary school was built and opened in 1874, and the beautiful town hall was built in 1882.

Daylesford Hotel

When the surface gold ran out, the old sawmills that had been established to supply the mines suddenly created employment for the ex-miners who would have otherwise had to leave.

Not long after settlement, Daylesford became been noted for health giving mineral springs and fresh mountain air, and smart men realised the need for a bottling plant and a bathhouse. Once the railway from Carlsruhe reached the town in 1880, Daylesford became the centre of a major spa resort. Hepburn Springs, only 6 ks away, drew holiday-makers and health seekers, right up and into the Inter-War period. Daylesford and surrounds account for a very large proportion of Australia’s spas. Bathe, an Australian blog dedicated to the whole bathing experience, naturally has many posts that mention Daylesford.

The Catholic Church purchased the 1860s home of the Gold Commissioner in the 1880s for its presbytery, where it became home to the priest. Then in 1891 the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne wanted a major institution for Daylesford. In 1892, the Holy Cross Convent and boarding school for girls was opened, and staffed by nuns (Presentation Sisters). The new chapel and other facilities were added after the turn of the century, but today the old convent has become an art centre and hospitality facility.

Convent (now Convent Gallery)

Most of the Victorian buildings in Daylesford survive well until today and most have been restored to their former glory. Not so with Hepburn. Hepburn Springs has predominantly Edwardian architecture due to the devastating 1906 bushfire which destroyed most buildings in the settlement.

Hepburn Springs, Edwardian bath house and spas

Some developments in the area continued in the Inter-War period. Lake Daylesford had originally been part of the gold diggings and then was used as a Chinese Market Garden with their own village, Joss House and store. By the early In 1880s council was discussing a plan to turn the area into a man-made lake and construction began in 1927.

Recently revamped with the overflow area rebuilt, a bridge across it and a new rowing berth area, Lake Daylesford is part of the scenic, peaceful, health-giving atmosphere of a “European Spa” resort. Victoria in the Country blog specifically discussed the lake in his/her post on travel advertising. Bosco Parrasio has many fine photos of Daylesford’s gardens and architecture. Daylesford Makers' Market talks about the very beautiful craft work that is a core part of this modern health resort town.

Daylesford Lake


Hermes said...

Really fascinating. I would love that Hotel. Great photos.

palace said...

The old Victorian history of the town combines well with the health-resort facilities. There are great craft markets, antique shops and wineries. But is a spa resort what young Australians want nowadays?

Andrew said...

Good question by Palace. Will young people who now would not at all be interested in Daylesford become interested as they become older? The gay and lesbian Chill Out festival in Daylesford is soon. Will young gay people be interested? Will they gravitate to it as they get older?

Hels said...

Thanks all.

The blog "Victoria In The Country" had quite a lot to say about the intensive and expensive advertising campaign to get people to spend time in Daylesford. The dreamy images and music promised sex, seductiveness, spiritual redemption and great food!

Mary Goodall noted that Tourism Victoria was currently promoting Daylesford as Australia’s premier spa and wellbeing region, (mis)spending a large proportion of Victoria's advertising budget on one town.

I am not sure. My very happy memories of Daylesford are in the early 1950s when the hotels and guest houses were full of European ex-pats, going on long country walks, taking the waters and listening to concerts at night. It had a feeling of Berlin and Vienna, during the Weimar Republic.

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Daylesford is one of many beautiful towns in Australia. My husband and I went there to visit his family and got impressed by the lovely streets and buildings!

Hels said...

I have added a link to Bosco Parrasio in my article. Katya's great snapshots of Daylesford include some lovely old architecture.

Jen said...

Hello Hels

I am studying an interior design course and am exploring the history of architecture in australia. I am wondering if you have any details of the presbyterian manse in Camp St. Daylesford?

The interest in this building is that it was my home back in 1956 as a baby.......I have since been back to take photos and visit the home before it was rennovated as a B and B. I would love to include this in my assignment. However, I would like help to clarify whether its Victorian Queen Ann or Edwardian?

Do you have any research on this building that would help me? I would greatly appreciate info. if you have it. Looking forward to hearing from you. Your sites are very informative and easy to understand. Cheers


Hels said...


I prefer not use the term Queen Anne, simply because Anne was on
the throne during the 1702-14 and the Daylesford manse was built
in 1903.

You can call it Edwardian (in all British commonwealth countries)
or Federation (in Australia) and everyone will know what you mean:
verandas with decorative timbers,
tiling on the veranda
dark red bricks
terracotta roofing tiles
chimneys and
leadlight windows

How cool to have lived there :)

Keira said...

I am compiling a book for U3A Hepburn Shire and stumbled upon your blog and story of Daylesford-Hepburn Springs.
Was wondering if I could use some Daylesford quotes of yours from it and credit your blog?

Hels said...


with pleasure. U3A is an important part of any community.

President U3A, Hepburn Shire said...

‘REFLECTIONS’ a new book about Hepburn Shire. To celebrate the 15th Anniversary of U3A Hepburn Shire, this 176 page book, with 47 pages in colour and over 200 photos, is about the people, places and events in Hepburn Shire during the years 2000 to 2015. It covers Daylesford, Hepburn Springs, surrounding villages, our environment, wellness, festivals, artists, writers, entertainers, volunteers and activists, our culinary scene and a whole lot more.

Hels said...

Thank you. I hope the book does well.