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William Fred Salmon, accountant, founder of the Eastcott orchard at Tarneit in the early 1890s, was one of several men associated with the Chaffey Brothers failed attempt to establish an irrigation settlement on the Werribee River. The Chaffey’s were later associated with the early irrigation settlement in Mildura.
In the 1890s, George Chaffey formed a company which took up land on the Werribee River. Here the company erected a pumping plant, and planted avenues of pepper trees and gums along the boundaries of the irrigation blocks. The pump could lift from 1,500 to 2,000 gallons per minute. However, the small irrigation settlement did not develop and the company went into liquidation.
According to a 1908 article in the Werribee Shire Banner * on the Eastcott orchard, Salmon planted three acres of peaches in 1893 which by 1908 were “now to be seen in a rich dressing of fruit blossom”. Salmon used the original pump from the Chaffey settlement. This plant, according to the article, was “only used to supply the requirements of one landholder, W.F. Salmon… (but was) equal to supplying fully 20 settlers along the river frontage”.
Werribee Shire rate records confirmed that by the late 1890s, W.F. Salmon, a Queen Street accountant, owned an orchard and dwelling on 9.5 acres in part of Allotment B of Section 1, Parish of Tarneit. This land along the Werribee River was part of several allotments owned in 1851 by James Austin.
At the turn of the century and until about 194, Salmon’s land was described as in the Irrigation Colony with a dwelling on 9 or 10 acres. From 1905, Salmon was described as an orchardist as well as an accountant.
The 1908 article told how Salmon had “added to his orchard trees, and today there are over 40 acres under fruit trees”. The proprietor, “who has business interests which demand his attention elsewhere” had made Richard Edwards his orchard manager. By 1908, the orchard contained peaches, apricots and apples, with vegetables grown between the rows of fruit trees. The produce from Salmon’s “irrigated orchard” was “easily disposed of locally, at Footscray and Melbourne”.
There was a long and detailed description of the orchard “pleasantly situated in one of the numerous picturesque bends of the Werribee River, and the natural beauty of the native timber has been considerably enhanced by the planting of loquats, chestnuts and other trees along the river bank”. A “novel feature of this orchard extension” was “centred on a corner which is below the flood level – a common practice in parts of England”. This was the use of “entwined willows branches – erected as a barrier to catch river silt in flood time”. Asparagus had been planted in this soil and was “yielding the enterprising owner a rich return”.
The article concludes by saying that, “This plantation is one of the most interesting garden orchards in Victoria, and furnished ample evidence of the great possibilities of fruit and vegetable production in a district which possesses the extra advantages of being near the metropolitan markets”.
By the post-First World War years, Salmon’s orchard was identified as “Eastcott” and covered 49 acres in Sections I and VII. The valuation of the property rose steadily and by 1925-26, W. F. Salmon of Essendon’s 50 acre orchard was valued at £200. The Eastcott orchard was shown on a 1933 Army Ordnance map stretching along the old Austin River front allotments.
Orchards were developed in other parts of the municipality from the First World War era, and particularly during the inter-war years. Fruit was successfully grown for the Melbourne market in the Werribee South irrigation settlement from about 1912. By 1929, W.H. Edwards was growing apricots, peaches, plums, apples and quinces. By this time about 200 acres were under fruit trees, Mr Thomas’ 30 acre orchard being perhaps the largest. The 1933 Army map shows several orchards in the Werribee South area.
Tarneit,” Wyndham History, accessed June 13, 2021, https://wyndhamhistory.net.au/items/show/439.