Come take a trip with us and discover the history of Axedale. Learn the fascinating history of our town – follow the loop, hear from historical characters and interact with the environment.

Signs at each stop along the loop allow you to interact through augmented reality – collect all the Platypus stickers and add them to your in-app sticker book.

Play a game of memory with cards featuring some landmarks and characters that you will see & meet along the loop.


Meet the characters you’ll find along the loop…

The Farmer

I was a farmer on the banks of the Campaspe River before the weir to Lake Eppalock was built. I recall back in 1915, many flats along the Campaspe in Axedale were worth £20 to £50 per acre, which was no small sum at the time.

The Shire didn’t want to water the northern plains, it was the downstream irrigators who wanted to secure their water source. Lake Eppalock was only agreed to be built after an enquiry found the Lake would serve the added purpose of supplementing Bendigo’s water supply.

It was obvious to us who lived in the area that this plan would practically flood-out all the best farming land around. Twenty other landholders and myself decided to petition the Strathfieldsaye Shire council to air our grievances. We told them that the land would be affected by this new water storage, and that many of the small lease holders along the river would be forced to move.

Axedale was one of the earliest settled places in the region, and was some of the best farming land around Bendigo. We lease-holders had strong roots to the land we worked on. Even so, the Eppalock weir plan was eventually approved, and the flow of the Campaspe was interrupted forever more.

The Trader

I was a trader between Sandhurst Town and McIvor in the 1850’s. At the time there was no bridge to cross the Campaspe so the best option was to cross at a shallow pass through Axedale.

In the wet season it could be perilous trying to cross the river at all. The rising water level made even the shallow crossings extremely difficult to use safely. Worst of all was the flood of 1856. I was stranded on one side with hundreds of other frustrated travellers with no way of reaching the other side.

It was particularly bad for those of us who depended on the crossing to make a living. We demanded that a bridge be built on the Campaspe as a safe solution for the thousands of travellers making the journey from Sandhurst Town to McIvor. By 1857 a timber crossing was built, but in just two years, weathering made it decrepit, rickety, and almost useless. Thankfully a proper stone bridge was built by 1862 providing a much safer crossing. It was called Baillie’s Bridge, in honour of the Raglan Hotel’s owner.

Mrs Matilda Reilly

My name is Mrs Matilda Reilly, owner of the Raglan hotel between the years 1891 to 1911.The Raglan Hotel was founded by the Doak Family in 1852. It was Axedale’s first Tavern.

The Doak family were proud Protestants, one of many Protestant families in Axedale at the time. The Doak’s wanted the Raglan Hotel to be a place that other Protestants of Axedale could come to eat, drink, and relax in good company.

Five years later, another tavern opened directly across the road from their establishment. It was called the Campaspe Hotel. The owner of the new tavern was Patrick Drake, a Catholic. As such, the Campaspe Hotel served the Catholics of Axedale.

Us Protestants didn’t always get along with the Catholics, and it wasn’t unusual for conflict to break out between the two taverns. Insults, arguments, and sometimes-even gunshots were exchanged between patrons and the Catholic patrons of the Campaspe Hotel.

In 1877, a fire burned through the Raglan Hotel, and destroyed the much-loved ballroom. The Bendigo Advertiser reported at the time the fire seemed to be lit deliberately. While they never caught the culprit, I have my suspicions as to who it might have been…

The Stonemason

My name is David Mill. I was a stonemason in Axedale in the 1860’s. I worked on the construction of two local churches, St Mary’s Catholic Church and St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

The churches were built from the same local bluestone, even though they were built years apart. The first church I worked on was St. Mary’s Catholic Church which was finished in 1862.

Reverend Dr. Henry Backhaus had donated the land it was built on. One of the architects was William Vahland who also designed many great buildings in Sandhurst Town.

Construction of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian began in 1868. The churches divided High Street into the ‘Protestant side’ and the ‘Catholic side’. St. Andrew’s Presbyterian was built on the same side of High Street as the Protestant tavern, the Raglan Hotel. The Protestant congregation would drink there, and the Catholic congregation of St. Mary’s would drink across the road at the Campaspe Hotel.

I do recall that each tavern was sometimes even used to hold Sunday Mass, if their patrons’ church was not available.

Mr William Burrowes

My name is William Burrowes. I was the teacher at the Church of England School in Axedale in 1869. It was the second school built in Axedale.

A group of Anglican residents had held a meeting at the Raglan Hotel the year before, and decided to raise funds for an alternative to the Catholic education of St Nicholas, which was the only option for students at the time.

While the new school was under construction I held my classes at Drake Hall and taught the children in the tradition of the Church of England. To the dismay of Axedale parents who wanted their children to have a non-Catholic education, it was decided that a Catholic teacher would replace me when the new school opened.

I was retired from my job as teacher two years later. Soon afterwards, a new law was introduced that all children would receive an education that was free, compulsory, and not secular (that is, not connected to a religion).

In the end, the new school became the Axedale State School, and was the non-Catholic alternative that the Anglican families of Axedale had wanted all along.

Mr William Burrowes

My name is Reverend Dr. Henry Backhaus. I was born in Prussia, which is now called Germany. I studied to become a reverend in the great city of Rome. After my studies, I took my mission across the world – to Ireland, India, Singapore, and then to Batavia.

I came to Australia in 1846 when I was 35 years old. In 1852, I finally arrived in the Victorian goldfields. It was an exciting time. Anyone who got lucky finding gold could make a grand fortune.

I was proud to be given the honour of the Goldfields’ first Catholic priest. I was responsible for establishing Catholic places of worship in many Goldfield towns.

I bought over 5000 acres of farming land on the Campaspe River in the Axedale district. Being a ‘good Catholic’, I chose to lease the land to Irish Catholic farmers.

As part of my plan to encourage Catholic families to settle permanently in Axedale I established a Catholic cemetery. At the time, the only cemetery in Axedale provided for the Protestants of the area.

It was very important to me that Axedale was a good Catholic town, with everything a Catholic family might need.

The Visitor

I remember the Axedale Boxing Day Picnic of 1889 as if it were yesterday. It was a gathering like nothing I’d ever seen before.

It must have been some five or six thousand people who turned out for the horse racing and other festivities on the day. The best way to travel to Axedale in those times was by train. The train line ran from Wallan, through Axedale, then to Sandhurst town and back again.

The line to the Racecourse Station was used whenever special events were held, like the picnic. I recall that to transport all the out-of-town visitors they sent a dozen trains from Sandhurst Town, and one each from Eaglehawk and McIvor.

The passengers disembarked right by the racetrack, at the new Axedale Racecourse Station. This was a much more convenient station for the picnic, as the main station was too far out of town.

It was a magnificent sight, so many revellers picnicking on the banks of the Campaspe. The splendid sideshows were quite something else; a boxing tent, a merry-go-round, and even an armless boy!

Want to learn more about Axedale and its History?

For further information, or to get in contact, visit Axedale Our Town - Our Future Inc.


This project was made possible through a grant from Public Record Office Victoria