The Founding of Mt Martha House



Welcome to Mt Martha House,

We would like to pay our respects to the Boon Wurrung and Bunnarong elders and peoples past, present and future on whose land this house is built, overlooking traditional waters.

From earliest times the Ngruk Willam clan who had a semi-permanent camp at Chchingorurke, now known as the Briars, seasonally came down to this part of the coast, and fished off the rocks, caught eels from the estuary as well as the lagoon which existed on South Beach. Their shell fish middens line the coastal rocks and cliffs.

They would have walked or sat in small groups along the cliffs and watched with some trepidation the arrival of white man with their strange boats, guns and ways on 26th April 1802 when Captain Matthew Flinders first sailed past Mt Martha on his way to Moorooduc, or Schnapper Point, now known as Mornington.

Mount Martha was named by Lieutenant John Murray in 1802 after Captain Lonsdale’s wife Martha. They came aboard the HMS Rattlesnake on 29 Sept 1835/6, bringing Captain Lonsdale to be the resident Magistrate for Melbourne. Mount Eliza was named after Eliza Batman, wife of John Batman one of the founders of Melbourne.

Mount Martha was situated on Hobsons Bay, which was named after Captain Hobson who first charted Port Philip Bay and reported back to Queen Victoria. In 1851

Mount Martha was included when the colony of Victoria was separated from NSW.

By 1844 the 6000 acres of the Mount Martha run, on the Road to the Heads, also known as The Nepean Road, was the station of Capt. James Reid called Chingorurke, was sold by to A.B. Balcombe. Now known as The Briars. It was sold to AB Balcombe.  Balcombe’s Bridge over Balcombe’s Creek was first built in 1850 and at the current entrance to Hopetoun Avenue was where the mail coach and other coaches turned off for Mount Martha.

By 1854 Mount Martha was part of the Parish of Moorooduc in the county of Mornington.

Visitors came to Mount Martha from Melbourne or other areas usually arriving at either Snapper Point pier (since called Mornington) where the paddle steamers Weeroona, Ozone and Hygeia called on their trips around the Bay.

The railway was opened in 1889 bringing visitors from Melbourne for 6 shillings return.

The mount itself was covered with scrub, and forests of coastal mana gum, she-oaks and plentiful wild flowers and orchids, the early settlers having introduced rabbits and hares. The mount was covered with trees which were felled with the timber being taken down Park Rd (Hearn Rd) to the rocks below and loaded onto boats for firewood in Melbourne and for lime burning.

Mr Andrew McCrae and his wife Georgiana were at the McCrae Homestead.

Mount Martha House has had several different names, being built as Mount Martha Coffee Palace, which then changed to Mount Martha Hotel.   There was another Mount Martha House in the village which then became Maryport.  “The House” as it is locally known has been used by locals, holiday makers, government departments and local government.  It has been a much loved home to many.  Some have died here and some have never left.  These have been seen, heard and felt by many who were sceptics, but when mobile phones and modern printers failed to work the sceptics became believers.  You judge for yourself as you move around the building hearing its many stories.

It is the people who have made Mount Martha House what it is today.  You will hear many stories about the House’s use and personal accounts from people who grew up her, lived her and above all loved the building.

In 2018 the House is being renovated, bit by bit, with as much attention as possible to detail.  The building and grounds are bound by what was here in the 1880’s and not by what we want today. Imagine staying here in small bedrooms with no heating, candles and kerosene lights, probably an outhouse for toilets and so the big heavy skirts and jackets worn by the ladies in the era would have kept them warm against the cold winds. We know from pictures that the furniture was beautiful lead lighted cupboards and beautiful pictures and hangings were brought from Melbourne.  There were two kitchens at the rear as well as some cellars which have been filled in.

Ladies were not allowed to go to the beach, but when the beach boxes first came, ladies bathed discreetly from South Beach and men below Watsons Road.

Please move towards the front door and into the main entrance hall to station no 2 situated on your right.    It is best to use your earphones as you listen to the other podcasts around the front of the House.  This is a Heritage Victoria listed building, owned and operated by the Mornington Peninsula Shire and many rooms are hired by members of the public, so please remember some rooms may not be open to the public.