Geelong Historical LocationOsborne House, Geelong, Victoria, Australia.
Osborne House was built in 1858 for local squatter, Robert Muirhead, who named the mansion after Osborne House in the Isle of Wight, England. Muirhead lived at the house until his death in 1862, with the house being sold the following year after the death of his wife. The house was leased for a number of years, then sold in 1878 to James Francis Maguire.
Located on Swinburne Street, the original 1888 subdivision plan of St Helen's estate had it named Maguire Street.
In 1900 the State Government of Victoria purchased the house as a country residence for the Governor of Victoria, although it was never used as such. The Geelong Harbour Trust later purchased the house in 1905 for 6000 pounds.
Then in 1913 the Navy took up offer to use the house as a naval college. After Improvements were made, the college was opened by the Governor General, Lord Thomas Denman on March 1 1013, with Prime Minister Andrew Fisher also present. The college housed 28 cadets, 4 petty officers, and 10 seamen, together with the professors instructors and domestics. It was considered as a permanent location for the naval college as it was close to rail transport and had safe anchorage in Corio Bay, but the college was
relocated to HMAS Creswell at Jervis Bay in 1915.
During World War I Osborne House was used as a military hospital, and between 1919 and 1924 was used as a base by the Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service for the J-class submarine. The Geelong Harbour Trust took control in 1929, with a caretaker being the only resident. In 1937 the Shire of Corio council purchased the house for use as shire offices.
Between 1939 and 1945 the Department of Defence took over the site as an army training centre. In 1945 the Shire of Corio regained control of Osborne House, with the Shire purchasing adjoining land in 1947, and remodelling the offices in 1966. The amalgamation of the Shire into the City of Greater Geelong in 1995 saw the house lay empty. Currently, Osborne House is only used for storage of historical records and artefacts.
Proposed Future Use
Known as the Geelong Marine Industry Project, the $100 million Osborne
House precinct plan aims to transform the area into the state's primary
location for recreational boat servicing. The project will include centres for
servicing and maintaining recreational boats, along with associated
manufacturing and boat sales industries.
The G21 Geelong Region Alliance has said there will be 373 jobs created
during construction and an additional 900 permanent flow-on jobs in related
sectors. The city council and G21 have been clearing the precinct plan with
State and Federal departments for private capital. The city, in its latest
update, said the plan would need to attract a private developer prepared to
invest more than $100 million. It has said that historic Osborne House would
remain open to the public. The Osborne House precinct master plan was
signed off by the council early last year after public consultation.
How should this development be viewed?
For there to be progress things have to change. Yet, Osborne House has a very significant
part to play in the history of Geelong. It is of concern that this history is being ignored in
redevelopment plans. Emails to council, associated organisations and individuals to
express concerns have not even been acknowledged. No-one wants to see Osborne House
neglected, but, at the same time, we should not see commercial interests erase the
memories associated with this historic landmark.