Saturday, 30 January 2021

Langwarrin Estate and Donald Larnach

Langwarrin Estate, owned by Donald Larnach, was sub-divided and put up for sale in 1888. We have some information on Larnach's Estate from Roy Scott who wrote a book The Early History of Langwarrin in 1966. Mr Scott tells us that Donald Larnach purchased 733 acres of land in the Parish of Langwarrin at auction on December 21, 1860. He later acquired several 1,000 acres and eventually had 7,400 acres, which he called Langwarrin Estate. The run was 5 miles by nearly 3 miles and 15 miles around the fence bounday and it also had 35 miles of inside fences that created mile square paddocks. Larnach did not live on the property but paid visits to his station. He was a banker and director of note in N. S. W. banks, in England and Sydney (1).  Donald Larnach was born on Caithness in Scotland in 1815 or 1817 (2) and came out to Australia at a very early age (3). In 1845 he married Jane Elizabeth Walker, the daughter William Walker, in Sydney (4). He obtained a position of commanding influence in the mercantile and financial world of Australia, and having acquired great wealth, he returned to England and settled in Sussex, of which county he was high sheriff in 1882 (5). Donald was the Managing Director of the Bank of New South Wales and was also President of the Associated Banks in London (6). Larnach died of pneumonia on May 14, 1896 in London (7). The Age estimated that he would leave an estate worth between £2 million and £3 million pounds, as it was, it was valued at a 'mere' £600,000, still serious money at the time (8)

Donald Larnach's two sons, Harold and James, looked after the property along with an overseer, Robert Connal. He also employed Tom Feltham (7) who was his full time fencer for a number of years, because that 15 miles of boundary fence took 9,000 posts and 18, 000 rails, each 9 feet long, and and the internal fences required 21,000 posts, with six strands of plain wire or 210 miles of wire. This was obviously an expensive property to maintain and Donald became concerned about the amount of money being spent so in 1880 he made an unexpected visit to his run, to see where his wealth was going and none coming, and found a kangaroo hunt was arranged and all invited to imbibe. He sacked his two sons and hands and the sons left for New Zealand (10).

We will let Roy Scott to tell us about the sale of Langwarrin Estate -
Before long the great landboom, as it was called, started and Larnach was selling the paddocks, the south end ones, during the late 1880's and here it may stated the town of old Langwarrin came to pass, this was a boom town known to few, the township proper was 40 acres, all building blocks, the shops faced the main road, butcher, baker, bootmaker, saddler, grocer, hay and corn store and a boarding house where land buyers could stay in comfort, sales were held regular and the 4 horse coaches would come put through Frankston, via Robertson Road [sic], stop at the "Lookout Hill" where there was a lovely view to Western Port, also the estate, then the coach went on to the town, where in a large seated marquee the blocks of all sizes were sold at auction and often sold again and again at following sales held there, while this land boom was on, till early 1893 when it folded as quickly and the land boom burst, the Banks closed their doors and what then was known as the gay 90's, for the big slump followed... people lost blocks, many going back to Larnach again. The town closed up: in 1895, an English family named Pearce came here and bought all the township blocks, got the streets free, pulled the shops down and built their house with them, all except the boarding house, which was opposite, he bought for a song and the old house stands today. The last of the Pearces, Jack and his mother left here in 1925 to live in Frankston (7). 

The Pearces are the source of the name Pearcedale and you can read about them here. Another interesting thing he mentions is "Lookout Hill" on Robinson's Road. This "Lookout" later known as Mount Grand View, was built all of timber, well known to old timers.....Finally it was burnt down and 4 main uprights were visible in 1920 (11).

The sale was well advertised with numerous advertisements in the newspapers, subdivison plans and this advertising material designed for the sale of Langwarrin Estate, lithographed by Troedel & Co.

Langwarrin Estate, looking south east from Mt Grandview, 1888.
Troedel & Co Lithographers. 
State Library of Victoria Image H2000.180/291a

Langwarrin Estate, view looking north west, 1888
Troedel & Co Lithographers. 
State Library of Victoria Image H2000.180/291b

Advertisement in the Weekly Times of January 7, 1888 for the Langwarrin Estate.

There were also various plans released of the land for sale, which was the finest orchard land in the Colony. The State Library has three of these plans.

Langwarrin Estate sale, February 18, 1888

Langwarrin Estate sale, March 3, 1888 

Langwarrin Estate sale, April 21, 1888
State Library of Victoria

(1) Scott, Roy The Early History of Langwarrin (The Author, 1966), p.11. 
(2) The Age, May 15, 1896, see here says he was born in 1815 and The Argus of  May 15, 1896, see here, in 1817.
(3) The Age, May 15, 1896, see here 
(4) The wedding notice was in The Weekly Register of Politics, Facts and General Literature on September 6, 1845, see here. New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriages list the following children - William born 1846, James in 1849 and Sydney in 1852. Roy Scott also mentions a son called Harold and reports of the contents of his will also mention 'a daughter'.
(5) The Age, May 15, 1896, see here 
(6) Launceston Examiner, December 20, 1883, see here.
(7) The Argus, May 16, 1896, see here. Short obituary in The Age, May 15, 1896, see here and The Argus of  May 15, 1896, see here
(8)  The Age report was on May 15, 1896, see here. Contents of his Will was reported on in The Argus, July 6, 1896, see here.
(9) Scott, op. cit., p. 12
(10) Scott, op. cit., p. 13.
(11) Scott, op. cit., p  13 & 14.

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