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Captain Hepburn Memorial Park

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Corner of Creswick-Newstead Road and Corringarra Road, Smeaton VIC 3364

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  • Memorial park
  • Undercover area
  • Wooden sculpture of Captain Hepburn
  • Information sign
  • Picnic table
  • Bench seating
  • Rubbish bin
  • Bills Trough
The Captain Hepburn Memorial Park in Smeaton celebrates the life and accomplishments of early settler, Captain John Stuart Hepburn. 

This park features a rotunda, a carved sculpture of Captain Hepburn, picnic table, bench seat, a Bills trough and an information sign. 

Captain John Stuart Hepburn

Captain Hepburn was an accomplished sea Captain turned pastoralist, who undertook an overland journey to the Port Phillip District in 1836 before returning to settle at Smeaton Hill in 1838. Here he raised a family, built a gorgeous manor, and contributed a great deal to the community. 

Captain Hepburn hailed from a village named Smeaton in East Lothian, Scotland, after which he named his Australian home (a stunning building which still stands today). 

The Hepburn family has retained strong family traits over many generations, usually being quite tall with fair complexion, wavy hair and blue eyes. They are known throughout history as being courageous, energetic, and passionately devoted! Captain Hepburn was no exception. 

Born in 1803, Captain John Stuart Hepburn began his life at sea at just thirteen years old when he set out on an East Indiaman as a cabin boy. This was the beginning of an impressive career at sea, where progressed to become the master of a brig named Alice. 

The Hepburn family cemetery in Smeaton, Victoria

Captain Hepburn's private family cemetery is situated not far from his homestead, and is now managed by the National Trust. This picturesque little cemetery enjoys a beautiful setting surrounded by the dramatic hills of Smeaton, and is accessible by the public via a scenic walk from Estate Lane. 

Other pioneer memorials in Smeaton

There are two other pioneer memorials in Smeaton - one being located near the Cumberland Hotel and the other just a little further down Corringarra Road from this park. 

Wooden sculpture of Captain Hepburn

A wooden statue of Captain John Hepburn stands within a rotunda at the park. The statue was carved during the 175th anniversary celebrations in honour of his settlement of Smeaton. 

A plaque is set at the base of the statue and displays the following text: 

175th anniversary of his arrival in Smeaton 1838-2013

Information sign at the Captain Hepburn Memorial Park

A beautifully presented information sign stands at the park and displays a collection of fascinating historical photographs along with the following text:

Captain Hepburn - Founder of Smeaton 1838

"I was never sea-sick, but I had been for years sick of the sea, and was beginning to think seriously of turning settler" - Captain John Stuart Hepburn 1800-1857

Seaman turns squatter

Early Victorian explorer and pastoralist Captain John Stuart Hepburn was born in Whitekirk on the east coast of Scotland in 1800. After 21 years at sea on a voyage from Van Diemen's Land to Sydney in 1833 and as Master of "The Alice", Hepburn met John Gardiner, an ex banker, who talked Hepburn into joining him in a pastoral business. 

In October 1836, Hepburn joined Gardiner "in a Port Philip speculation, to take a number of cattle to that place, overland", and in places followed the fresh tracks made by Major Mitchell's expedition from Portland.

Returning in 1838 he settled Smeaton Hill Run in country near the landmark of Koorootyngh, better known locally as Mount Kooroocheang, on the ancestral lands and traditional hunting grounds of the Dja Dja Wurrung people. Hepburn named it after Smeaton in Scotland situated just to the south of Whitekirk. 

Settling home

In 1849 Captain Hepburn built Smeaton House, designed by architect John Gill, which was one of the first substantial homesteads in Victoria built in the style of a regency mansion and still stands today. 

Hepburn and his wife Elizabeth were the first Europeans to settle in the district and here they raised ten children, eight of whom were born at Smeaton Hill Estate. A successful squatter, Hepburn remained the largest landholder in the district. At its height his estate was 33,000 acres. 

The rich soil on the volcanic plain proved very productive and the township of Smeaton became widely known for its wheat, oats, potatoes and dairy. Many of the early Scottish farming families still reside in the district today. 

Gold and grain

Gold was discovered in Smeaton in 1851 and the rushes soon followed. Later deep lead gold mining on the nearby famed Berry Leads, Victoria's richest deep lead system, continued on and off until 1940.

The discovery of gold greatly increased the population of the town and at its peak Smeaton supported seven hotels, two banks and a variety of other businesses, of which only the Cumberland Hotel, that once serviced the Cobb and Co coaches, survives today. An important enterprise in the town was Anderson's Mill, which was begun in 1861 and finally closed in 1957.

Smeaton settled swiftly following the initial gold rushes. The first Smeaton district land auctions that unlocked the land were held on 14 of July 1856. Five years later, in 1861, the first town allotments were sold. Today Smeaton is again primarily an agricultural community, sustaining two seed and grain processors. 

The rotunda houses the wooden statue of Captain John Hepburn that was carved during the 175th anniversary celebrations in honour of his settlement of Smeaton. 



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