Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Berwick Quarry and the Wilson family

The Back-to Berwick Quarry Re-union was held on Sunday, March 29th 2009 at Wilson Botanic Park in Berwick. Past quarry workers met to reminisce and there were guided tours of the Wilson Botanic Park. A plaque, commemorating 150 years since quarrying commenced on the site, was unveiled by Les McDonald and Margaret Rossell. Les worked at the Quarry from 1947 to 1967 and Margaret is the President of the Friends of Wilson Botanic Park. Well known Shire of Berwick/City of Casey identity, Neil Lucas, was the M.C. on the day.

View of the Back-to Berwick Quarry from the top of the Amphitheatre.

The quarry was on land owned by the Wilson Brothers, William (1830-1907) and James (1833-1910), who purchased around 630 acres from the Crown in 1854. This land was bounded by the Princes Highway, Lyall Road, Hessel Road in the west to Harkaway in the North. Their sister, Anne (1827-1909) house kept for them. Initially they lived in tents until they built a small one room house, which was later extended and became Quarry Hills. The brothers grew wheat, potatoes and later went into dairying. When William married Euphemia Brisbane in 1859 the land was split diagonally with William’s land fronting the Princes Highway and James’s land facing Harkaway Road. James married Anne Lindsay in 1858 and Anne Wilson married James Buchanan, M.L.C., in 1859.

The basalt quarry at Berwick opened in 1859 when William Wilson gave contractors the right to remove stone. However the quarry expanded after 1874, with the building of the Gippsland railway line to Sale as it provided ballast for the line. Once the line was completed in 1877 William’s son, William Jnr (1860-1936) (pictured below) saw an opportunity to carry on the quarry, so he leased the quarry from his father and quarried stone for road making. William Jnr would drive one loaded dray carrying approximately two cubic yards or 2½ Imperial tons and lead another horse and loaded dray when he delivered the stone to local Councils. He established two crushing plants driven by a Marshall Steam engine. A spur line to the Berwick Railway Station was established in 1890.The rail trucks could convey ten cubic yards of rock and the railway allowed the product to be conveyed anywhere in Gippsland for the re-ballasting of the railway lines and road building. The quarry closed at the end of the First World War and the plant and the railway line was sold to a Cranbourne sand company. The Berwick Shire occasionally obtained stone from the quarry and had installed a small crushing plant for this purpose. In the late 1930s the quarry was leased by George and Ted Daniel. The Daniel brothers had been working a quarry at Lysterfield and when they took over at Berwick they installed a diesel powered crusher plant with a weekly output of 500 cubic yards of crushed rock. Daniel Brothers supplied the Shires of Berwick and Cranbourne. Due to various factors, by the late 1940s more capital was required and the quarry was sold to Bayview Quarries. Roy Ross, the owner of Bayview, installed an electric plant which crushed up to 1,000 cubic yards per day. In 1966, Bayview sold its interests to Boral, who operated the quarry under the company Albion Reid P/L.

During all this time the quarry itself was owned by members of the Wilson family and when it closed in 1978 the owner, George Wilson (1918-2003) and his wife Fay, donated the 50 acre quarry site to the residents of Berwick for use a public park. The park was to be named Wilson Park in memory of George’s father, also called George (1867-1943) and his grandfather, James. Other land was purchased by the Council from the Andrews family who were descendents of William Jnr and his wife, who was also his first cousin, Annie Buchanan.

Aerial of the Berwick Quarry, before the development of the Wilson Botanic Park.

Work on the Park commenced in 1988, and the City of Berwick aimed to beautify the landscape, provide a place for relaxation and recreation and to create a botanic park with a collection of plants for botanic study. The final plan included an inner and outer trail loop one which focussed on the lakes and the other on the magnificent views, with all the trails being accessible to unassisted wheelchair users. After much work the one hundred acre (40 hectare) Park was officially opened on July 26th, 1992, by the Governor General Bill Hayden. Other features in the Park include a children's playground, a lookout tower, bird hide and Amphitheatre. There is an active Friends group, the Friends of Wilson Botanic Park, who support the Park in many ways - from staffing the visitors centre, fund raising, acting as tour guides, undertaking planting , watering, weeding and other plant handling activities. The Friends were also responsible for the organisation of the Back-to Berwick Quarry Reunion.

Anniversary Lake, Wilson Botanic Park.

1 comment:

Geniaus said...

Really enjoyed reading this comprehensive report - I will be posting a link to it from my blog http://geniaus.blogspot.com