Melbourne 1856, a photo is taken on the Richmond side of the Yarra River looking south. Yes, on Punt Road, 3km from the centre of Melbourne. It shows the river and the punts (boats) used to cross before there was a bridge.
The punt for horses and carriages is on the far (south) bank. There are several small punts for pedestrians on the north bank awaiting business. On the south side of the river Punt Road rises sharply with cultivated land on both sides.
There is a large house on the east and several small wooden buildings.
The river was narrower at that time than it is now and possibly slightly displaced from its present channel. Before the late 1890s the river looped a little north from this point into what is now Gosch’s Paddock and then south into what is now the Botanic Gardens lagoon before winding north west again towards the city. On either side of the river before Princes Bridge were large shallow lagoons.
Take a look at the hill across the river that is now Punt Hill, South Yarra. It’s covered in one of Victoria’s first commercial vineyards. Growing conditions were likely perfect with north facing slope, ideal climate, plentiful water.
The property was owned and developed by the Ogilvy family, who named it Airlie Bank after their family estate back in Scotland.
Roll on a few years to 1860 and a young Swiss immigrant, Hubert De Castella, was developing a large property in Coldstream, Yarra Valley. 200 acres of vines were planted and these vines were at least partly grown from cuttings sourced from the Airlie Bank vineyard in Melbourne.
Multiple awards for the wines followed, both in Australia and Europe. In researching the names Punt Road and Airlie Bank stood out as a way to celebrate the land’s links back to those wine pioneering days well before federation.