Looking Back- September 2022

By Leo Billington

Isn’t it marvellous where historical information comes from?

It sometimes comes along when least expected.

Earlier this month, an award-winning Warragul-based residential estate development was brought to my attention. Its name – Waterford Rise in Warragul which won the 2020 Best Residential Development Award by the Urban Development Institute of Victoria (UDIA). The 1365 lot, master planned subdivision, was launched for sales in 2013.

Aerial photograph of Waterford Rise Warragul
Aerial photograph of Waterford Rise Warragul

Situated on the western edge of Warragul, the development was undertaken by a group of local businessmen who 20 years ago purchased farming land on the fringe of Warragul with a dream of creating a new residential community within the Baw Baw Shire.

Twenty years ago, is perhaps young history, however, there is a strong historical link between this farming land and our local community.

Two farm lots were purchased to provide the ground for this subdivision. One farm was owned by Mora and Jack Strachan. The other was owned by the Kestle family.

Morwell Railway Station Master`s house
Morwell Railway Station Master`s house
(visible near some trees to the left of the skins buyer shed)

Roughly located in the middle of the Strachan farm was a house, shifted from Morwell. It was once the Morwell Railway Station Master’s house, located in a space, which these days, is between the former underground subway and the railway station.

Unfortunately, this house and associated farm shedding, was demolished to make way for significant earthmoving before subdivision infrastructure works could commence. It has been quite a search to obtain a picture of this house on its Morwell site, but luck prevailed.

One former Morwell resident, when in his early teens, was earning a shilling or two delivering newspapers in the early 1950’s. His morning paper round would start by first delivering a paper at this house.

The Kestle property was part of a larger farm, part of which is still owned by this family. Ethel Maude Kestle [nee Smartt] married William James Kestle. Their son, John Mannell Kestle, married Elizabeth Jane Penaluna. Elizabeth was a sister to William Henry Penaluna.

Title records confirm that William Henry also purchased land in this location in 1924, and this remained in his estate after his death until transferred to his children. For some years, William Henry owned farm land next to his nephew’s wife, Ethel Maude.

Some descendants of John and Elizabeth Kestle have since remained with the farm.

Looking Back 202209 Boolarra Pub
The still standing, former Settler’s Arms Hotel in Boolarra

William Henry Penaluna’s name is also mentioned on early title records applicable to this land. William Henry (widely known as WH), established and operated the first hotel in Boolarra – The Settlers Arms. Apparently, WH accumulated his wealth to enable investments down Warragul way. In June 1919 during a sitting of the Licensing Court, WH’s hotel was described in glowing terms as ‘a wooden building of 14 rooms, and had good stabling.’ (Morwell Advertiser, June 20, 1919.)

According to Constable Edwards to the Court, “Mr. Penaluna (Selectors' Arms) did not encourage Drinking and was not dependent on the business. William Henry Penaluna, owner and licensee said he had owned the property for 30 years. He thought the business of the township would increase as the Roads Board was making new roads into the hills.”

WH was also known as a lover of animals and a keen judge of good quality. He possessed great knowledge in stock matters and his advice and assistance was widely sought and freely given. A good horse always took his eye, and over many years, he owned some of the best entries in Victoria. He also bred a number of race horses with which he had a measure of success.

WH was also a Morwell Shire Councillor – 1906 to 1909 in Morwell’s first Council, then 1918 to 1924 representing the Boolarra Riding. He re-appeared as a Councillor in 1933. Some of his adversaries during these years were Councillors James Radburn, Eugene Kneebone and Dave Latter, all of whom campaigned for improvements to roads and bridges throughout Boolarra and the wider hinterland area.

WH was a busy person, entrepreneurial in spirit, community minded, perhaps even single minded when he championed his beloved town, Boolarra. Born in 1853 in Cornwall, England, WH passed away in 1941.

It is ironical that two pieces of our local history, once “sat” where the 2020 Best Residential Development Award by the Urban Development Institute of Victoria (UDIA) nomination was created.