Attractive rural centre on the Goulburn River.
Seymour is a substantial small town of some 6900 people which is situated by the Goulburn River at an elevation of 141 metres. It is located on the Goulburn Valley Highway, 97 km north of Melbourne via the Hume Freeway. The town functions principally as a service centre to the army base at Puckapunyal and to the agricultural hinterland.
Prior to European settlement the area was occupied by the Natrakboolok people who continued to camp and hold corroborees on the townsite into the 1860s.
The first white men in the area were explorers Hume and Hovell in 1824. More critically, Thomas Mitchell's party passed by to the north of the townsite in 1836. Overlanders followed in his wake, arriving in 1837 with their cattle. By 1839 much of the land in what would become Seymour shire was taken up.
The overland mail route from Melbourne to Sydney was established in 1838. It followed Mitchell's route and so crossed the river at a point to the north (see entry on Nagambie). However, in 1839 it was found that 16 km could be saved by fording the river at a site to the south which became known as the 'New Crossing Place' (the future townsite of Seymour). Thus hotelier John Clark moved his business from the 'Old Crossing Place' at Mitchellstown and set up a punt service and a crude inn at the new ford. A blacksmith set up shop later that same year.
The government regarded the new location as a more promising townsite than Mitchellstown and so carried out a survey in 1841. A police paddock was established that year and in 1843 Thomas Mitchell named the hamlet after British parliamentarian Lord Seymour, of the house of Somerset which spawned Jane Seymour, the third wife of Henry VIII. Town allotments went on sale in 1844.
As traffic on the Sydney Road increased a second hotel emerged. It was located on the western bank of the river but this side of the village never really developed. It initially housed the first post office and was besieged by bushrangers in the late 1840s (they again harried the town in the 1860s). Faced with competition, John Clarke built a two-storey stone hotel in 1848, known as the Royal and it now forms the rear (and larger) portion of today's Royal Hotel.
Seymour's first schoolhouse was built in 1846. By the following year there was a flour mill, along with stores and tradesmen's shops. When the goldrush era began in 1851 traffic on the Sydney Road greatly increased to the town's benefit and the population began to increase. Small farms emerged around the settlement, adding to the prosperity of Seymour which had a population of 138 in 1854.
A national school and the first church (Methodist) were built in 1860. In 1863 Seymour was declared a town. That year witnessed the construction of an Anglican church, the first bank and the first bridge over the Goulburn. By 1865 the population had increased to 450 and Seymour continued to grow in the era of free selection which began in the 1860s.
The arrival of the railway in 1872 had a profound impact on the town. It made Seymour the goods receival centre for the district and, being at an important rail junction, it became a railway town with workshops and an administration centre providing employment and economic activity. Consequently the town started to expand demographically, commercially and geographically with the 'new town' developing around Station St.
The association of the area with army training camps really began in 1904 with the establishment of a troop of Light Horse at Seymour. The rail connection, local terrain, good water supply and agreeable property owners made the area a convenient assembly point for military trainees who met annually for field exercises and official inspection. Thus when Lord Kitchener came to Australia in 1910 to advise the government on military matters he inspected a major encampment at the racecourse and recommended it as a permanent military training area. When World War I arrived a few years later that permanent camp was set up and, in 1920, Seymour shire became the chief military area in the state. This ultimately led to the establishment of the Puckapunyal camp in World War II.
The Seymour Alternative Farming Expo is held in February at the Kings Park Showgrounds, the Rafting Festival in March and the Seymour Show in October.
Things to see: Tourist Information
The town's information centre is located in the old courthouse which was built in 1864. It is located in the historical precinct at the corner of High and Emily Sts and can furnish a walking guide of the historic precinct. It is open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5799 0233. Within the building is an art gallery , tel: (03) 5792 3285.
Adjacent the courthouse is a log lock-up (1853), originally built beside the river. A typical gaol of its period, it is made of rough-hewn logs stacked 14 high and crossed at the corners with a heavy door and lock. It was used as a temporary holding pen for those awaiting trial and was relocated to this site in 1994.
Over the road is the old post office which was built in 1872-73. It now contains an art gallery and licensed restaurant. Adjacent, at the Emily and Robert St corner, is the Prince of Wales Hotel (1863).
Turn left into Tallarook St. To the left are the police offices, built as a residence for the chief superintendent of police in 1880. Slightly further along, on the same side of the road, is the old primary school (1860). Almost opposite, at Tallarook and Edward, is the old free library (1875). It is now home to the local historical society.
Return to Emily St and turn left. To the left is the old Methodist parsonage (1860s). Adjacent is a BP service station. To its rear is the old Anglican rectory (c.1863), now privately owned.
Walk along to the north-eastern corner of Emily and Manners St where you will find The Royal Hotel which dates from 1848. The middle section of the hotel was built in 1852 and the front in the 1890s. The upstairs ballroom was once a centre of community activity.
The original hotel is now only a part of the larger Royal Hotel. It was here in 1941 that the artist Russell Drysdale set his famous painting The Cricketers. If you look at the painting you can see the similarity but then you will notice that Drysdale's pub was named Moody's Hotel. In fact this was the name of the hotel at the time when Drysdale was painting his famous work.
Next to the Royal Hotel is the first shire hall (1872), currently derelict. Beside that is an automobile wreckers which was built in 1872 as the Bank of Victoria. A few doors along is the Town and Country Hotel which was erected in 1865 as the Canadian Hotel. The original verandah was removed and replaced in 1939.
The Terminus Hotel at 28 Station St is a two-storey red brick building erected in 1897 to replace the original hotel which was erected in 1873 to capitalise on the arrival of the railway in 1872.
The old railway station (1872) is located in Station St and has recently been subject to major restoration work.
Railway Heritage Centre
The Seymour Railway Heritage Centre is located off Victoria St. It is primarily a restoration workshop and hence has limited visitor facilities, but those interested in seeing restored steam and diesel locomotives are welcome. The centre is attended on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends. The steam trains only run on a very occasional basis but they are available for charter, tel: (03) 5799 0515.
Picnicking and swimming can be enjoyed at Goulburn Park, which is located on the riverbank off Progress St.
Somerset Crossing, established in 1969, is a family winery which produces shiraz, cabernet/merlot, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling and ports. It is situated at the western edge of town at the corner of Emily St and the Old Hume Highway, by the Goulburn River. The cellar is open Friday to Sunday and public holidays from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5792 2445.