Daylesford past and present
   Lake Daylesford

Location: South west of Daylesford in an area known as Wombat Flat.
The dam wall which created Lake Daylesford was constructed in 1929 and officially opened on April 15, 1930.
   Satellite image from Google Maps.

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Swimming pool on the lake in the early 1960s




























Changing sheds in 2006. The swimming pool has been filled in.

Lord Somers Opens New Lake and Springs

Ideal That Took 37 Years To Complete

(The Daylesford Advocate Thursday, April 17, 1930)

Since 1893 a movement to build a lake in Daylesford has been sponsored. A leading article in the “Advocate” of April 21, 1896, says, “It is hoped that something definite will be done in regard to building a lake. The subject has been before the public for at least three years, and it is over three months now that Cr. Horsnell brought the matter up again. Should further delay occur it will be said that is too late to do anything in the present season.”

The article exhorted councilors to do the work so that their names would go down to posterity as the men who forged a link in Daylesford’s progress. But they did not build the lake. The schemes were allowed to drift, although Mr. Gordon, an engineer, was engaged to draw plans and specifications. The Government was asked to rebuild Leggatt’s Bridge. Three sites were chosen, and among them one which, it was stated, could be utilized by building an embankment at the rear of Mrs. Leggatt’s residence.

Mr. Gordon’s plans did not materialize. Other councilors took the matter up, and endeavored to have the lake built.

In the “Advocate” of July 3, 1897, the following paragraph appears:- “The recommendation of the committee that no lake site be surveyed was moved by Cr. Parker and seconded by Cr. Barkas. Cr. Horsnell, who is currently a strong advocate for the construction of the lake, moved an amendment that the question be deferred for a fortnight. The mayor (Cr. John Howe), seconded the amendment. After discussion it was decided to refer the matter back to the committee.”

It was then some years before the matter was brought up again.

The council at this time was composed of the following: Cr. J. B. Howe (mayor), Crs. D. Woodburn, R. C. Densem, F. W. Horsnell, J. W. King, John Nightingale, W. Barkas, J. T. Deakin ans G. W. Parker.

Councilors Trembath and Trewhella, in later years, did much to have the work commenced, but it was not until 1929 that a start was made, and the lake built. There was little opposition to the scheme in the final stages, and for years it had been an election cry. Candidates were asked to state their attitude on the subject, and very few wavered.

With the development of the springs in close proximity to the lake, the movement received an impetus, and this year more tourists made the Central Springs their rendezvous than ever before.

Included in the lake and springs scheme was the building of roads, tourists’ tracks, a parking area, and then a kiosk was built by private enterprise.

Mr. Burley Griffin, the landscape artist, has been asked to plan a beautification scheme. If it is found possible to carry this out it will set the seal on the project, which took 37 years to accomplish.

The present Borough Council has been responsible for the final accomplishment. Government aid was given and in this respect one of the greatest workers for the project in latter years has been Mr. G. C. Frost, M.L.A. When the final stages were reached, and important phases were being settled by the Council, Mr. Frost found time to attend the meetings and to offer his assistance. Through his energy Government assistance to the extent of £1500 was obtained.

The money for the lake was not taken from the general funds, but ratepayers were called upon to agree to a separate rate of 6d. in the £1. They did this with enthusiasm.

The Country Roads Board and the Council then had Leggatt’s Bridge rebuilt, and instead of the old wooden structure a splendid concrete bridge has been erected.

Three or four years ago it was intended to cut up and sell the adjoining Crown lands, and so assist in defraying the cost of the scheme. The Minister for Lands (Mr. Bailey) on inspection was definitely opposed to the proposal, and promised to make £1000 available to compensate for the refusal to allow the land to be sold.

The opening of the lake and springs was the culminating point in a long succession of public efforts, extending over the greater part of the present century, and the ratepayers of Daylesford showed their enthusiasm and approval of the scheme by the large attendance at the official opening. There were among the numbers men and women who had years ago proclaimed the policy which has since been adopted. Some of these people are spread throughout the State, and now are holding just an interest of sentiment in Daylesford’s progress. That bond is not weaker than the bonds of many of our large property holders. They were overjoyed at the success of the scheme. In the period intervening between the first movement and the present, Daylesford was fortunate enough to develop a huge flow of mineral water, and this is now undoubtedly the greatest asset which the town possesses.

The councillors who welcomed the Governor today are those who brought the schemes of their predecessors to fruition. In the intervening period that band of men whose work we cherish have passed on, but there are some even among the present councillors, who have worked for many years with the one end in view, and saw their labors crowned with success today.

Probably one of the most interested of the former residents was the Rev. T. Pollard James, who was born in Daylesford, but is now stationed at Mordialloc. He recalls the time when the movement created much enthusiasm in the Borough, and then would die, only to be renewed with greater vigor than before. Since then he has spent 17 years in the Methodist Church work in Western Australia.


The streets of Daylesford were gaily decorated with bunting when the Governor (Lord Somers) accompanied by Flight Lieut. Denny, arrived by car punctually at 12.30 p.m. The Borough Band played selections outside the Town Hall, and the Boy Scouts under Scoutmaster Thorsen, were present in a body. After inspecting the Scouts, His Excellency was welcomed in the Town Hall by Borough Councillors.

The Mayor, in his welcome to His Excellency, said that the people had not had the honor of welcoming a Governor for many years. They were pleased that His Excellency was visiting Daylesford, for they were sure he would not have a complete knowledge of Victoria or of Australia unless he had visited the Spa Center of Australia. The people were enthusiastic with the resources of Daylesford and would continue to develop them.

The development of the mineral water, he hoped, would go on to such a great extent that Governors would not come in the future as a duty, but as a pleasure.

They had every confidence that the time would come when the spas would reach the standard of the Continent. The people had agreed to tax themselves to the limit, to develop the town. The lake which His Excellency was going to declare open had been planned by the people, to his knowledge, for twenty-five years.

He was sorry that the time at the disposal of the Governor would not permit of him being shown all that Daylesford had to show.

His Excellency expressed his gratitude for the hearty welcome given him. He thought when he first came to Victoria that is was a small place, capable of going over in a short time. That was not so; he had since realized how much more he had to see. He appreciated coming to Daylesford, even for a short time. The rush, however, spoiled the whole thing. He visualized the time when a previous Governor would drive up leisurely, and stay in one of Daylesford’s hospitable homes, meet the people who were wrapped up in the development of the town.

One of his great interests was to see how the people were rebuilding the old mining towns on a much surer foundation. After the hectic times of the old mining days, he hoped those new foundations would be stronger and that the spa of Daylesford would be as great, or greater than, those on the Continent. (Applause.)


Luncheon was served in the foyer of the Rex Theatre, by Mrs. E. E. Mann, of the Central Café. There were present His Excellency the Governor, the Mayor of the Borough, Judge Woinarski, the Hon. Russell Clarke, M.L.C., Mr. G. Frost, M.L.A., Flight-Lieut. Denny, Mr. J. M. Reed, I.S.O., Mr. E. E. Russell representing the Railway Commissioners, the President of the Glenlyon Shire (Cr. Quine), all councillors of the Borough of Daylesford, and Comr. Nevin, of the Daylesford Waterworks Trust.

The tables were decorated with blue delphiniums, marigolds and autumn leaves. Palms and clusters of Easter daisies added charm to the foyer and made a pretty setting. The Governor’s table was decorated with autumn-tinted Virginia leaves.


After the toast of The King, the toast of His Excellency the Governor was proposed by the Mayor (Cr. Crockett). He thought that to all in Victoria the name of Lord Somers was familiar as Governor of the State. He had carried out his important duties to the satisfaction of the people and with very great credit to himself. They admired Lord Somers as a Governor, but more so because he was human. He had sympathized with the disabilities of Australia and had tried to look at those disabilities as an Australian would. Lord Somers had taken a great interest in the Boy Scout movement, and many boys would look back with pride and pleasure on the day when they had Lord Somers as their chief.

Responding, His Excellency said they all tried to interpret their duties in this world as best they could. If he had interpreted his duties as Governor to the satisfaction of the people he was a happy man. In his four years of life in Australia he had seen recurring seasons of depression, and he hoped that before his departure in June next year that he would see at least one good Australian season. He had visited the northern area four times, and saw the hardships the people had to face. Seasons of hardship, however, enabled one to see exactly what people were made of. The Australian people showed a determination to put things right. The people of Daylesford might have decided, for instance, to wait for some beneficent providence to push them forward, but he was glad to see that they did not. The community spirit of Daylesford said that they must go on. That was the spirit that would inspire future generations and prepare the way to prosperity. They would look back and say, “What has Cr. Crockett done” in his time it would be said the spirit of progress had been shown, and as a result we have a heritage of prosperity. The times of depression would pass and help to pass the quicker by the determination of the people to develop their resources. He thanked the Mayor for his kind remarks, but he was sure, if he had made a complete hash of his job, the mayor would not have had the face to say so. He thanked them for the kindly welcome which he appreciated to the full.

Cr. Trewhella in proposing the toast of Parliament, said that there was not a time in history of the state when wisdom, prudence, sound government, judgment, and economy was more required. The Victorian Government had not taken sufficient interest in the tourists’ resorts of the State. They were grateful for all that was done, and particularly by Mr. Reed of the Tourist Committee but when the Government’s work in New Zealand was considered it was seen how far Victoria lagged behind. There were 80 per cent, of the mineral springs in Victoria in the Daylesford district. They were only a small community and had to tax themselves to the utmost to cater for the demand. Something would have to be done in the near future, to develop the springs. He thought His Excellency would agree that this was the only part of this world where they got something for nothing, and if they got the power to tax the people who used the water, namely the visitors, they would be able to make the place a veritable paradise. If, however, this was not possible, they may be permitted to give a long lease so as to enable private enterprise to build a hydropath.

Hon. Russell Clarke responded. He was sure they would all agree that the present Government had acted wisely in calling Parliament together to deal with pressing problems as quickly as they could, so was the Legislative Council. Every member was anxious to cure the evils of unemployment as quickly as possible.

He saw with pleasure the fine avenue of trees at the approach to Daylesford. It was splendid that the people of Daylesford saw far enough ahead to plant beautiful trees in the streets and in the gardens. The springs were absolutely wonderful. They were health. They were as good as any in the world. Every word that Cr. Trewhella had said in regard to State development should be published far and wide. He apologized for the absence of Hon. W. Angliss.

The toast of the Borough Council was proposed by Mr. E. E. Russell. He could see the wonderful improvements in Daylesford. For 25 years the people had striven to build a lake as an additional tourist attraction and today their ideal had come to fruition.

The mayor responded. The people as a whole, he said, were wholeheartedly behind the council in its policy of progression.


After the lunch the party left for the Botanic Gardens, where the Governor expressed admiration at their rare beauty. He was disappointed that he had not more time at his disposal to explore them more fully.


On a raised platform at the lake bank the Governor declared the lake open. A vast crowd thronged the banks and he was introduced by the Mayor (Cr Crockett).

His Excellency said he would like to think that the building of the lake had been delayed for 25 years so that he might be given the opportunity of opening it. The people of Daylesford and the Borough Council had shown a great spirit in developing the town in a period of depression. He had just seen a wonderful garden on the top of Wombat Hill and the view was magnificent. He had tasted four samples of the mineral water, and they were different from those he had tasted before, which as a rule were something like that which one preferred not to taste. Daylesford’s however, were quite palatable. If he did not blow up on the way home he would take away a very pleasurable and lasting impression of Daylesford. The development of this great asset was of great value to the State. The people of the district had the opportunity of giving valuable service to the State and the Commonwealth. If they stood together they would continue that same great service. Everything was in Daylesford’s favor – a high elevation, beautiful scenery and there was an abundance of mineral water. Should the desire for progress be maintained he could see a future for Daylesford second to none, and as Governor of the State he was pleased to identify himself with the movement. He hoped that the time would come, and not in the too distant future, when Daylesford would be covered with hydropaths. He declared the lake and springs open.


At the new bridge the Governor praised the work which the Country Roads Board had done to develop the State. He had many opportunities of seeing the roads constructed by the Board, and it was pleasing to know of the co-operation between the Board and the Borough Council. This co-operation would be a great aid in the development of the springs, and of great benefit to the State.