THE WESTERN PORT COAL
MINING COMPANY, 1895
THE WESTERN PORT
COAL MINING COMPANY, 1895
Kilcunda is situated 117 kilometres south east of Melbourne, and today is a small coastal township with a permanent population of around three hundred residents. It is known for its open beaches and is a popular spot for fishing. It is also popular with hang-gliders, who can often be seen being lifted above the cliffs, depicted in this work, by the strong wind currents that are prevalent in this region of the coast.
The origin of the name Kilcunda, is believed to be from the Aboriginal term for 'an exclamation', and is reported by one authority to mean, 'Oh dear, the sticks!'
We do not know who the artist was who produced this wood engraving, however the view provided by the artist is to the south east towards Cape Paterson, which is situated eight kilometres south of Wonthaggi.
Cape Paterson, situated twenty-three kilometres south east of Kilcunda, was named by Lieutenant Grant of the 'Lady Nelson' in March 1801 after Lieutenant Colonel William Paterson of the New South Wales Corps who took a prominent part in the deposition of Governor Bligh.
Wonthaggi is but another example of a Victorian town that has derived its name from the Aboriginal. This time it is from the Woiwurung Aboriginal word meaning, 'to drag' or 'pull along'.
The history of coal and coal mining in this area of Victoria goes back to the earliest days of European settlement.
On 12 December 1826, the Corinella Military Settlement was founded, presumably to prevent French claims to the area. William Hovell, when a member of this Settlement, discovered the Rock and Queen veins of coal in the shore platforms on the beach about a kilometre west of Cape Paterson.
In 1835, Samuel Anderson, from Launceston, Tasmania settled in the area from the Powlett River to The Gurdies. (Powlett River being named after Frederick Armand Powlett, Commissioner for Crown Lands, Western Port District, and The Gurdies, after 'Hurdy Gurdy Station'.)
Anderson, the first permanent European settler in Gippsland, discovered and named Anderson's Inlet, and the Tarwin River, from the Aboriginal word 'darwhin', meaning 'thirsty' or 'fruit of creeper'.
Anderson also re-discovered Hovell's veins of coal, which he used for household purposes as well as forging.
In 1840, Captain Cole mined a few tons of coal at Kilcunda, and sent it by boat to Melbourne, and in 1858, the Victorian Coal Company commenced the first active coal mining in Victoria, approximately a kilometre west of Cape Paterson. Bullock teams carried the coal to Cape Paterson where whaleboats carried it to anchored larger vessels waiting over a kilometre out in the deep unsheltered water off the Cape.
The Victorian Coal Company ceased operations in 1864, and in 1865, Mr James Carew discovered a seam of coal at Kilcunda, which the Western Port Coal Mining Company was formed to mine.
In 1870, the Victorian Government offered five thousand pounds for the delivery of five thousand tons of Victorian black coal. This prompted the Western Port Coal Mining Company to lay a three foot six inch gauge tramway from Kilcunda to Griffith's Point (San Remo) where a wharf was built for loading the coal.
In 1883, the Western Port Coal Mining Company ceased operations after sending fifteen thousand tons of coal, which sold at sixteen shillings and three pence a ton.
After 1883, the mine at Kilcunda was opened to visitors, as shown in this wood engraving of 1895. The visitors, in this instance, appear to be only men, who are attired in clothing designed to keep out the cold - in overcoats and hats, and a number of them carry umbrellas.
In 1895, the steamer 'Williams' would drop visitors off at the wharf at Griffith's Point. The visitors would then make their way to the mine on a 'trawley made of long planks nailed to a couple of wagon frames that was hauled along the tramway by a number of horses'.
Coal mining in nearby Wonthaggi continued with the opening of the State Coal Mine in November 1909, however even this very productive mine closed on 20 December 1968.
Much of the history of this part of the Victorian coastline has its roots in the coal industry, and coastal towns, and their associated railways, harbours and wharves, developed in close proximity to the coal mines.
Left: Arthur Streeton
- Above Us The Great Grave Sky, 1890