History of Hobsons Bay

Prior to European settlement, the Hobsons Bay area was occupied by the Yalukit Wilum clan. A number of sites of significance to the indigenous community are located throughout the municipality, particularly along the coastal trail. Council is working in partnership with the Aboriginal community to ensure these sites are protected.
Hobsons Bay was one of the first sites of European settlement in Victoria. There are numerous places of significant heritage importance including:
  • Former Truganina Explosives Reserve
  • Altona Homestead
  • Point Gellibrand area
  • Old Laverton Schoolhouse
  • Spotswood Pumping Station (now Scienceworks)
  • Many houses and buildings in Williamstown

These places link the community back to the beginning of european settlement in Victoria and are of state significance.


Altona’s oldest building, the Homestead, was erected in 1842 by Alfred Langhorne. The Homestead still stands in Queen St, Altona.

Storage of explosives in Altona commenced in 1884, with the hulk, Sydney Griffiths anchored in the bay. In 1897 the Victorian Government purchased the Explosive Reserve, 550 acres, and in 1901 commenced with 25 magazines with 300 tonne capacities.

The first housing block, in Altona estate, sold in September 1888. The road now known as Old Altona Rd was the original and only road into Altona, constructed in 1890. The Paw Paw Sanatorium for Infectious Diseases was erected in 1882/3 and closed around 1900.

Robert Cherry, landowner and farmer, established a homestead called Seaford in the late 1880s. The name Cherry is perpetuated in Cherry Lake, formerly known as Altona Swamp. The Merton Street estate was developed in 1886.

In 1881, a coal mining company was formed and sank two bores near the east boundary of Wyndham, Maddox Rd between the railway line and Kororoit Creek Road. Between 1908 and 1919, nearly 32,000 tonnes of coal was extracted from the Altona area. The government eventually decided to develop open cut mining in the Latrobe Valley, bringing deep shaft coal mining in Altona to an end in the early 1930s.

In 1888 the railway line reached Pier Street, Altona, and two months later was extended to Altona Beach, west of Grieve Parade. In 1910, a Frenchman, Gaston Cugnet, landed his light aircraft at Altona, subsequently making several short flights to Geelong.

In 1911, a New Zealander, Joseph Hammond, also selected Altona as an airfield and made many public demonstrations of flying, including the first cross-country flight, Altona to Geelong and return. Point Cook Aero Base was established by the government, soon after.

Altona’s first hospital was established in an old house in Pier Street, just north of the railway line, in 1932. Dr Joel was mainly responsible for the hospital, which was the first community hospital to be established in Melbourne.


Laverton was referred to as ‘the new and model suburb’ in advertising materials promoting land sales in May 1886.

A new railway station on the Melbourne–Geelong line had already been constructed adjacent to the new subdivision in anticipation of the ‘masses’ expected to attend the sales. Most lots were sold for ten British pounds each, around $20.00.

Forty-two years earlier, a pastoral run was recorded in the Settler’s Directory naming Alfred Langhorne as the occupier of a property named ‘Laverton’. Although changed over the years, the basis of Langhorne’s Laverton Homestead can still be seen in the parkland opposite the Altona Pier. It is protected under the National Trust and now houses the Altona Historical Society.

In 1885, CR Staples of Staples, Wise and Company, purchased hundreds of acres from the Chirnside Estate situated in the Shire of Wyndham. By 1886, the land holdings of the estate were so substantial that the boundary was adjacent to the railway and the new subdivision. In this year, CR Staples chose the name Laverton for the new township. Several years later, the Laverton Homestead was changed to Altona Homestead to distinguish the old from the new.

The original Altona was the name of an adjoining property to the Laverton Homestead, detailed on a survey map in 1842, and subsequently the adopted name for that township.

During 1921, the Royal Australian Air Force purchased 160 acres at Laverton and in 1926 the No. 1 Aircraft Depot was moved from Point Cook to this site.

South Kingsville

South Kingsville is bounded by Blackshaws Road, New Street, The Avenue and Stephenson Street. It was originally called the Birmingham Estate and was subdivided in the 1880s, although it did not fully develop until after World War II.

This area had a chequered history, being initially part of the Shire of Wyndham, later renamed Werribee, then from 1941 part of the City of Footscray, and finally from 1996, part of Hobsons Bay.


Spotswood, although it was referred to as ‘Spotiswoode’ for some time, was formerly known as Edom back in the early 1800s. The area was renamed in honour of George Spotswood due to his long term residency in the area. He was born in Little Nelson Street in 1840, and later moved to Hudsons Road, Spotswood.

The beginning of manufacturing in Spotswood was represented by a land sale back in 1847. JS Spotswood arrived in 1839 and purchased 119 acres to be used as a dairy farm. The price for this land was 26 shillings per acre.

Still standing today is the Spotswood Pumping Station. Construction began on the building early in 1894 by local contractors Garnsworthy and Smith. It was said to be ‘the key to sewerage works’. Between 1901 and 1914 new buildings were added and new machinery was installed. The Pumping Station is situated near today’s Scienceworks.

Other early Spotswood industries were the Ammunition Works and in 1889 the Victorian Canning Works were established by E.A. Clark and Son.

In 1916 the British Imperial Oil company moved to a 15-acre site in Spotswood after protests about its closeness to the Pumping Station were dismissed.

Spotswood’s first state school was opened during 1890.

Today, Spotswood is still home to a mix of commercial and industrial businesses, as well as being a popular residential area due to its proximity to Melbourne CBD.

It is best known for its tourist attraction, Scienceworks, which is visited by thousands of families and school groups every year. Find out more about Scienceworks at its website.

Spotswood is bounded by the coastline to the east, municipal boundary to the north, railway line to the west and the southern boundary is the railway spur to the south of Burleigh Street.


Williamstown is the oldest continuous settlement on the shores of Port Phillip. It was named in honour of King William IV, by Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of New South Wales, in 1837.

Captain William Lonsdale, as Police Magistrate and servant of the New South Wales Governor, arrived in Williamstown on 10 October 1836. The official Government daily record began on this date.

Lonsdale decided that his courts, military barracks and gaols should be located on the site of Melbourne with Port Gellibrand, at Williamstown, as the natural port. The first land was officially sold by auction on 1 June 1837.

By 1838, small vessels, mainly from Tasmania, had landed 55,000 sheep, several hundred horses and 2,000 passengers at Williamstown and Geelong. In 1839, the first pier was built at Williamstown, close to the present Gem Pier.

In the 1840s Williamstown consisted of about one hundred buildings, including two hotels, 10 mercantile stores, two retail shops and offices for the harbour master and customs officers. Migrant vessels, mostly via Sydney, arrived during this decade.

In 1848, the Time Ball Tower was built. It was to be used first as a lighthouse and secondly, to advise vessels in the bay of correct time to enable them to set their chronometers (clocks) for correct navigation purposes.

After the separation of the Port Phillip District from the Colony of New South Wales and the creation of the Colony of Victoria, Williamstown was granted municipal status in 1851 and the first Council was elected in April 1856. During this period, the first government-owned railway to Williamstown was constructed and opened for business on 13 January 1859.

By 1861 Williamstown had 13 slips for boat repairs and building, and pier accommodation for 40 vessels. In the following years up to 1900, many major industries were established including freezing works, railway workshops, woollen mills, gasworks, glassworks, petroleum repacking depot and sewerage works.

In 1864, the town boundaries of Williamstown were expanded to take in Newport and Spottiswoode, later to become Spotswood. Piped water from Yan Yean water supply arrived, allowing more rapid growth. Williamstown was proclaimed a city in 1919.


Seabrook is the most recently developed suburb in Hobsons Bay, with most of its residential expansion occurring during the late 1980s and 1990s. The population of the area mirrors this recent development, with considerable numbers of families and young couples.

Development of the area dates primarily from the 1980s. Rapid growth occurred from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. The population more than doubled between 1991 and 2001. Growth slowed considerably from 2001, with only a slight increase to 2006, a result of some new dwellings being added to the area.  The population in 2006 stood at 4981. Over the last 20 years, the neighbourhood areas of Altona Meadows and Seabrook have been home to new and forming families.