The Melbourne Hunt Club

Early Years of the Altona District

It is difficult to imagine what our local area must have been like over 100 years ago, what the terrain was made up of and the activities of the people living in and around the general area of Melbourne back then, which is why newspaper articles such as the following are so useful when they help to give us a small insight into that period.
“Seaford” referred to at the beginning of the article was the estate complete with homestead built by Robert Cherry in the 1870s, south of Kororoit Creek Road and north of Cherry Lake. In about 1887 Robert Cherry moved his family to a spacious home in Hawthorn also named Seaford, and leased out the Seaford estate he left behind.
One lessee was Thomas Edward Lempriere who took over the property in about 1900 retaining it as a dairy farm for about the next nine years. During his lifetime Lempriere was to become a well respected dairyman often consulted on the care of dairy herds. Assisting Lempriere in managing Seaford was Leonard George Batten, also a dedicated dairyman and it was his sister, Florence Isabel Batten, whom Lempriere eventually married at the age of 71.

Leader, Melbourne, Saturday 27 September 1902 page 16:

by Tortoise

Thursday, 18th instant, 10am, Seaford, near Williamstown, was the rendezvous for the followers of this pack. With very little delay the acting master Mr JT Lempriere, followed by a field of over 30 followers proceeded to try for a fox under the guidance of Mr Hastie, the manager of the Werribee station. We first appealed to the tussocks and reeds in the valleys, but although these coverts are said to be the lurking place of several of the vulpine herd, not one of the brown coated varmints could be found on this occasion, the cause of their absence being the excessively cold and stormy weather prevailing throughout the day, which no doubt had prompted them to seek cover in the far away hills or go to earth in the numerous sand ridges along the bay. During our search for reynard several strong hares jumped up but the pack were promptly whipped off, puss not being our quest on this occasion. We now jogged on to the Werribee Estate proper, and on reaching the big fresh water lignum swamp, a small herd of beautiful red deer were quickly afoot; riding through them a big stag was soon singled out. He swung away leisurely in a southerly direction, but suddenly finding the pack on his heels in full cry he smartly mended his pace, and the field had to ride their hardest as he tore along toward the sea, but after holding to this direction for about three miles he bore to the left and on his route passed over several paddocks, ere he swept by the Point Cook homestead, and through the homestead paddocks, still racing along we passed close by Mr Baldwin’s farm, and thence on through the cultivation paddock, and our game now galloped over a growing crop which was however, skirted by his equestrian pursuers, many of whom were by this time well strung out, owing to the terrific pace hounds were running. Eventually the stag reached Skeleton Creek, and it was found impossible to dislodge him from the boggy lagoons which abound in its vicinity, so hounds were reluctantly whipped off. We had a fast run of seven miles. During the hunt Mrs J Brandon’s beautiful chestnut hunter, Shakespeare, fell in a very trappy dug out rabbit warren, and broke its neck, Mrs Brandon escaping with a broken collar bone and a severe shaking.

After losing the deer the fern rises near the sea shore were tried without success, and as time was now flying, the kind invitation of Mr and Mrs George Chirnside to adjourn to Point Cook house was accepted, and all present were most hospitably entertained. Before leaving the acting master thanked our hosts on behalf of the Melbourne Hunt Club for their kindness, and spoke of the pleasure it was to all the members to return once more to this charming hunting country, the scene of such excellent sport for many years gone by, and he also explained the absence of so many of the leading members of the hunt, owing to the season being regarded as practically ended before the recent timely and copious rain fell and gave those with horses still available another opportunity or two to enjoy their favourite sport. Mr Chirnside however invited the Melbourne hounds to meet early next season at Point Cook, and it goes without saying that this invitation will be gladly availed of when the time comes.

The going on this occasion was splendid and, except for the regrettable accident before referred to, we had a most enjoyable day. Amongst those present I noticed, beside the acting master who was on Bobs, Mrs George Chirnside on Sylvester, and her daughter on a handsome black pony going very keenly with the leading contingent; Mrs Watt on a bay, Miss Watt on Chesney, Miss Buckley on Kangaroo, Miss L Robertson on Pilot, Miss D Lempriere on Malade, Miss M Lempriere on Foli, Miss Macmullen on Rocket, Messrs J Brandon on Beeswing, H Wood on Joker, CA Lempriere on Rumbo, TE Lempriere on Blossom, T Hastie on Tracker, WP Smith on Blueskin, G Missen, J Ross, C Baldwin, J Kerr, TH Berndt, R Taylor, L Batten, Mr George Chirnside and party driving, and several local sports whose names I cannot recall.

Some of the people named in the article were, in alphabetical order:

Batten, L – Leonard George Batten, manager of Seaford estate, employed by Thomas Edward Lempriere who later
became his brother-in-law.

Chirnside, George – Avid sportsman; trustee of Melbourne Hunt Club; supplied red deer bred for the sport at Point Cook. Married socialite Annie Ida Watson who found life at Point Cook too isolated so they leased Como in South Yarra for a period.

Chirnside, Mrs & daughter – Annie Chirnside married to George Chirnside (see entry above); daughter was Audrey Chirnside.

Hastie, Adam – Manager for George and Percy Chirnside; assisted with experiments to breed better stock.

Lempriere, CA – Charles Algernon Lempriere, brother of Thomas Edward Lempriere.

Lempriere, D – Dorothy Lucy Lempriere, daughter of John Thomson Lempriere and niece of Thomas Edward Lempriere.

Lempriere, JT – John Thomson Lempriere, brother of Thomas Edward Lempriere; died in an accident during a polo match in Geelong in 1914.

Lempriere, M – May have been Mary Lempriere, sister of Thomas Edward Lempriere.

Lempriere, TE – Thomas Edward Lempriere, lessee of Seaford estate owned by Robert Cherry.

Missen, George – Member of the Melbourne Hunt Club

Melbourne Hunt Club: Founded in the 1840s


LinkLeader (Melb) 27091902

Leader, Melbourne, 27 July 1901 page: 16

The following is an extract from an article that appeared in the Leader newspaper in 1902 which discribes the terrain around Altona at the time of the ‘Hunts’. This article is also referring to the similar participants the participated in the 1902 event.

Tuesday’s hunt started from the Williamstown racecourse gates at noon, only a moderate number of followers putting, in an appearance. A fox was soon found in the reeds close by the Kororoit Creek, and straightway set his mast for ‘Seaford’, and running past the homestead, sped on towards the Geelong railway line, the hounds allowing him no time to tarry. That he should cross the line and run northerly was our one desire, as the open country beyond might, it was felt, ensure a fast and unbroken run for miles. But at the line his courage failed him, and with a left handed turn he bolted south through Seaford and around Cherry’s swamp, it being clear to all who were acquainted with the locality that his point was now the mangrove swamp, near Altona Bay, and that by hook or crook Reynard had resolved to reach the protection to be found in that boggy and uninviting spot. Steadily the hounds worked the line through the rushes and then with a chorus of tongues swept into Altona Bay Estate, past the brown coal workings. A mile further and our fox, fast tiring, was running to view, with Rockwood and other leaders of the pack close on his brush, but at this stage the high iron fence of the Government Explosive reserve, intercepted progress, the crafty one having made good use of a small hole beneath the fence and had made the most of the time which subsequently elapsed before the hounds could find a means of ingress. The explosive reserve being forbidden ground, Mr Watson did not press the pursuit further, and as the mangrove swamp lay at the further end and us, nothing could now prevent our fox from reaching his goal, the hounds were called back and a fresh move was made to try through the timber along the seashore.

Research: Ann Cassar (ALHS 2020)


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