6 Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve by Stephanie Skidmore and Ian D. Clark – An Historical Geography of Tourism in Victoria, Australia

6 Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve by Stephanie Skidmore and Ian D. Clark

This chapter presents an historical analysis of the evolution of tourism at Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve. It shows how Hanging Rock evolved from being a ‘special’ place of local Aboriginal clans at the time of European settlement into a significant natural/cultural tourism attraction. Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve is some 80 kilometres N.N.W. of Melbourne and lies immediately north of Mount Macedon. It is managed by the Macedon Ranges Shire Council. In terms of its physical extent, the acquisition of 22 hectares in 1993 increased the size of the reserve to 88 hectares, although the rock itself only covers approximately 9 hectares, the remaining area is comprised of the racecourse, picnic areas, and car park. Five Mile Creek, a tributary of the Campaspe River, flows through the southern portion of the reserve. With its distinctive geological formation the rock rises some 100 metres above the surrounding plain.

The rock formation is a fine example of a volcanic mamelon created millions of years ago in which lava in the central plug spilled out to form a conical shaped hill. Other nearby examples are Camel’s Hump to the south on Mount Macedon and Brock’s Monument to the east. All three are made of solvsbergite, a form of trachyte found in Solvsberget, Norway and Abyssinia [Ethiopia]. As Hanging Rock’s magma cooled and contracted it split into rough columns that weathered over time into pinnacles that can be seen today (Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society, 2012: 3).

Hanging Rock is situated within the traditional country of the Woiwurrung or Wurundjeri Aboriginal people and fell within the estate of the Gunung willam baluk (Creek dwelling people) whose country centred on Mount Macedon (Clark, 1990). Indigenous information about the rock’s use in pre-European times is sparse, but it is believed to have been used for intertribal meetings and male initiation ceremonies (Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society, 2012: 6). Archaeological surveys in the district have established a human presence in the area 36,000 years ago (Loder & Bayly, 1993: 10). One of the last initiation ceremonies was held there in November 1851 by a Wurundjeri elder from the Templestowe area (Poulter, 2011: 32-3). Today the Wurundjeri people maintain strong cultural and spiritual ties with the area (Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society, 2012: 6).

6.1 First Phase: Sight Sacralization and Naming 1844–1860

In terms of MacCannell’s (1976) first phase in the development of attractions that of ‘sight sacralization’ or ‘naming’, one Aboriginal name ‘Anneyelong’, and at least six European names ‘Mount Diogenes’, ‘Diogenes’ Head’, ‘Diogenes Monument’, ‘Dryden’s Rock’, ‘Dryden’s Monument’, and ‘Hanging Rock’ have been recorded for this site.

When William von Blandowski sketched the formation in 1855-1856, he called it ‘Diogenes Monument’ and listed directly underneath this label ‘Anneyelong,’ which is presumably its Indigenous name (see Figs.6.1 & 6.2). The meaning of ‘Anneyelong’ is not known.

Blandowski’s (1855) geological observations were published in The Star (22/9/1855). They are important as they are the earliest account of the rock:

“Dryden’s Monument” appears to us one of the most remarkable spots in the country- at least of those with which we met while traversing an area of more than seven hundred miles westward and four hundred miles northward. A careful and minute description of it, accompanied with good drawings and models would justly deserve the attention of all geologists. An almost perpendicular wall of dolorite, of a deep sombre hue, rising above the most lofty of the trees, imparts a strikingly picturesque character to the view. Approaching the Monument, the interest increases at every step, and we meet with a beautiful variety of rapidly changing scenery. At the foot of the monument, about [a] thousand pyramidal columns rise in bold relief from the surface, giving to the hill, which is about a mile in circumference at the base, a kind of gigantic porcupine appearance. These columns vary from about fifteen to thirty feet in diameter at the base, and from thirty-two to one hundred feet in height. The formation of this hill is the result of subterraneous agency, and has evidently taken place at two different periods. A naked semicircular hill was formed during the first period; and while the surface was scarcely hardened, and yet in a plastic state a second eruption occurred, and resulted in the production of the peculiar pyramidal columns already mentioned.29

Mackay (2011: 121) notes that Blandowski wants to be geologically informative, but is ‘carried away by the need to impart to the reader an intensity of his sense of being in the presence of something strange, singular and sublime in the natural world’. His choice of words intimates the latent expectation of a sublime experience, the word ‘grand’ and ‘grandeur’ often being synonymous with ‘sublime’ in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century writings.

Elsewhere, Blandowski (1855: 51) noted that ‘at the head of Five Mile Creek, is a remarkable hill called Diogenes’ Mount, commonly known to the colonists as “Dryden’s Monument”, a name singularly inappropriate, being the cognomen of a settler in the neighbouring district’.

Mackay’s (2011: 121) analysis of Figure 6.1 reveals that the engraver deliberately accentuated danger and menace in the engraving:

Diogenes’ Monument, also known as Dryden’s Mount, and today called Hanging Rock, projected a mysterious and threatening image in nineteenth century representations of the site. The so-called ‘rock’ is a small mountain near Mt. Macedon in the Woodend district of Victoria, distinguished by its dense mantle of stupendous rock crags and outcrops. In Blandowski’s engraving, titled Diogenes Monument, moonlight illuminates a surreal scene in which unbelievable rock forms locate the sense of unease generally felt by visitors to the location. The dark shadows and menacing shapes are barely alleviated by the campfire of an Aboriginal group on the hillside. Notes accompanying a letter to Blandowski from Germany suggest that the engraver intended to convey the potential danger in nature-that he saw Australia as a country close to a time when primordial forces ruled the earth.

Heckenberg (2011: 383) notes that the distant view expressed in this engraving fulfils Blandowski’s comment that minute description would interest geologists, especially with its detail of the rocks and vegetation, but the added drama provides interest for all viewers. ‘Two Europeans exclaim in wonder in the foreground as they regard the hill, columns illuminated by the light of the moon. In this image Aborigines are at home, camping in the middle ground while two other mysterious figures observe them on the right’. For Heckenberg (2011: 385) Blandowski’s scientific vision is concerned with ‘the specifities of the land, such as details of its geology, vegetation and weather and also its indigenous peoples and their activities’. In this his images contribute successfully to ‘Humboldt’s desired animated and picturesque representation’.

Mackay’s (2011: 122) analysis of Figure 6.2 is that it is invaded by a sense of threat ‘where forked lightning strikes the ground and throws into relief the extraordinary outlines of three of the mountain’s cone-shaped rocks. An Aboriginal figure reels back in horror at the spectacle; his arm raised in astonishment: the classic convention to signify he is in the presence of the sublime’.

THE accompanying engraving represents a scene presenting features of a most remarkable and picturesque character. Dryden’s Rock, Mount Macedon, is in the county of Dalhousie, Victoria, about three miles from Woodend, As will be seen, the view is peculiarly Australian in its character, and the principal object represented may be taken as a striking specimen of those numerous isolated masses of rock which at once arrest the traveller’s attention, and are to be found in several districts of both New South Wales and Victoria. This singular natural feature consists of a lofty detached mass of light coloured porphyritic felspar trap, divided by numerous joints into rude columns from 30 feet to 40 feet in height and exhibiting a concretionary structure, well displayed in large circular and funnel-shaped cavities, which are abundant throughout the mass. At the base of Dryden’s Rock, on its south-east side, there is a fine spring of water, which forms the head of a creek known as the Five-mile Creek.

Figure 6.3 shows Indigenous people sitting around a fire around the base of Dryden’s Rock.

Local historian Marion Hutton (1991) has discussed the site’s nomenclature. The first European name that was conferred on the rock was Mount Diogenes, which is often incorrectly attributed to Major Thomas L. Mitchell’s 1836 Australia Felix expedition. However, as research by Hutton has revealed, there is no evidence to support the Mitchell origin. The earliest use of the name Mount Diogenes is on surveyor Robert Hoddle’s map of 1844 (Hutton, 1991: 3). Hutton considers it likely that Hoddle, wishing to keep the continuity of Mitchell’s Greek names (such as Mt. Macedon, Mt. Alexander, and Campaspe River), was responsible for the name. Diogenes was a fifth century philosopher who reputedly lived in a tub at Corinth; when Philip of Macedon threatened to capture the city, Diogenes rolled his tub back and forth in defiance (Blake, 1977: 184).

The early settlers, however, called the rock ‘Dryden’s Rock’, in reference to the fact that from 1837 the rock formed part of Edward Dryden’s ‘Newham’ pastoral station, which he named after his natal place in Northumberland, England. In 1855 Blandowski used the name ‘Dryden’s Monument’. When Richard Daintree photographed the rock in 1858-1863, he used both names Dryden Rock and Hanging Rock. Mount Diogenes was still in use in 1874 as the name appears in a wood engraving of ‘Holiday rambles at Mount Macedon’ by Samuel Calvert published in the Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (25/2/1874). The name Mt Diogenes with Hanging Rock in brackets appears on a 1912 Geological Survey map (see Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society, 2012: 4) which confirms that the former is the official toponym for this site. A correspondent to The Argus (17/10/1917) noted that ‘Hanging Rock, or Mount Diogenes (its geographical name), does not ‘hang’, though I understand there is a comparatively small mass of rock which is so curiously balanced that it puzzles the onlooker as to how it maintains its position’.

Hutton (1991) considers Hanging Rock is a nick-name that dates from the 1850s, and is believed to derive from the enormous boulder lying suspended and wedged between two others (this is confirmed by H. Follett in the Williamstown Chronicle 25/1/1896) (see Fig.6.4). The source of this nick name is unknown but it probably originated from early settlers and/or their employees. Hanging Rock is therefore a descriptive microtoponym for a geographical feature that is seen in Figure 6.4, and not the official name for the mountain which remains Mt Diogenes. The Australian Town and Country Journal (25/5/1889) took issue with the name, asserting that ‘the name “Hanging Rock”, however, as commonly applied to the whole mount, is an evident misnomer. It should be ‘the Hanging Rocks,’ for at nearly every 100 yards or so, tremendous boulders, many tons in weight, hang, apparently ready to topple upon the onlookers at a moment’s notice’. A columnist in The Canberra Times (1/7/1989) reported that ‘The proper name of Hanging Rock near Woodend, Victoria, is Mt Diogenes’.

Edward Dryden and Charles Peters first occupied the site in 1837 when they took up the ‘Newham run’, some 25,000 acres adjoining Woodend. In 1848 Dryden was sole lessee of the run. In 1857, a Kyneton solicitor, Thomas Lloyd James, purchased 170 acres which included the rock. Three years later James sold 100 acres including the rock to Alexander Archer, a Kyneton bank manager, and the remaining 70 acres to William Adams (Hutton, 1991). It was during Archer’s ownership that we have the first newspaper account of an organized picnic held at the rock organised by Kyneton tradesmen on Boxing Day 1864.

When more and more people started to visit the rock, for enjoyment and tourism purposes, various rocks formations were soon named. The micro-toponymy at Hanging Rock includes the Post Office, where passers-by tossed small stones into a hollow place; The Lovers Leap: a rock jutting out from the cliff; Queen Victoria’s Monument: a replica of Queen Victoria in her robes; McDonalds Look-out where McDonald, a Bush Ranger, was able to look out over the North-East between two rocks, while Morgan, another Bush Ranger, had his look-out Westerly from a hollow rock with an opening in it. The boys of that time had one Rock named The Cuss-Cuss Rock where the little native cats would spit at passers-by. The Squeeze was a tunnel from the top above Hanging Rock to the base. It meant clambering over and crawling through small spaces, until safely reaching the ground level (Macedon Ranges Tourism, n.d). Other names include ‘Alligator’s Mouth’, ‘Ticket Office’, ‘Duke of Wellington’, and ‘The Sphinx’. The Friends of Hanging Rock have produced a map and a guide with the current names.

6.2 Second Phase: Framing and Elevation 1864–1884

The second phase identified by MacCannell (1976) in the evolution of attractions is ‘framing and elevation’ which he argued results from an increase in visitation, when demand requires some form of management intervention, whereby the sight is displayed more prominently and framed off. In the case of Hanging Rock this phase began in 1864 with the first formal picnic to the rock and ended in 1884 with the Victorian Government purchasing Hanging Rock and reserving it as Crown Land.

The earliest recorded account of the rock being used for leisure purposes was on Boxing Day 1864 when a picnic was organized by the tradesmen of Kyneton. Participants were asked to bring quoits, bats and balls and were told ale, lemonade and ginger beer would be provided at the ground (Hutton, 1991: 4-5). On the day ‘a long string of conveyances of every description from the buggy to the spring cart filed off along the road preceded by the band and accompanied by an equally large proportion of equestrians’ (Hutton, 1991: 5).

In 1869, Alexander Archer sold the 100 acres (including the rock) which he had purchased in 1861 to William Adams for £550 (The Argus, 5/4/1869). Adams now owned 170 acres. In 1866 he had acquired a half-acre block on the north-west corner of the Rock, where the Coach Road joins the Woodend-Lancefield Road and built the Hanging Rock Hotel. The following year he bought some 22 acres south of the creek.

Adams set about developing the area as a pleasure resort. He placed a weir across the creek to form a lake suitable for small rowing boats and other small water craft as we learn from the Kyneton Guardian of 1869 – ‘the neighbouring publicans got up a full programme of sports, among them the driving of a pair of geese harnessed to a tub, across the small lake’ (Hutton, 1991: 5). Adams also constructed a road that went almost to the top of the rock. It ‘started at the foot of the rock on the western side and climbed around the southern side into the large open area at the top of the Rock just below the final peak. It was wide enough for a cab to be driven up with safety. Ornamental trees were planted and beds of flowers laid out’ (Barned, 1985: 32). There were also ‘foot races, jumping in sacks and other amusements not forgetting music to tempt those anxious for a dance’. The entrepreneurial Adams organised sports meetings and together with the publican of the Garden Hut Hotel, Robert Walsh King, he ran the booths for refreshments and for music and dancing. Adams and King were granted temporary licences for the holiday periods and the publicity in the Kyneton Guardian was quite imaginative, as revealed by the following jingle that appeared in successive issues in 1869 (Hutton, 1991: 5):


Where are you going to spend Christmas Day? At the HANGING ROCK RESERVE, as at King’s Booth there is sure to be plenty of Music and Dancing.

Where are you going to spend Boxing Day? At the HANGING ROCK RESERVE, as the Doctor ordered Father to take us all to hear the UPSON’S CHRISTY MINTRELS at King’s Booth and says it will be better than all his medicine.

Where are you going on New Year’s Day? TO the HANGING ROCK RESERVE, as Everybody and two or three other people are going to hear the Christy Minstrels at King’s Booth.

In 1870 some 96 acres of land immediately west of Hanging Rock, which had never been privately owned, were gazetted by the Victorian Government as a reserve for recreation and water. The Woodend, Newham and Rochford Road Board (precursor of the Newham Shire Council) was instrumental in this reservation when it learned that moves were afoot to sub-divide and sell the land.

Adams must have got into financial difficulties because we find him taking out a mortgage and in 1871 he sold all but the portion with the Rock to William Anderson who already owned land south of the creek. By 1873 Adams was prepared to sell the Rock to the Government, the Newham Shire Council having initiated moves in that direction. He was willing to sell at the price he paid (£5-10s per acre) plus the value he placed on his improvements (£260). The surveyor sent to inspect reported it to be [a] ‘most preposterous valuation’ but he added ‘I must do the owner the justice of stating that the improvements that have been made in excellent taste and render the access to the summit of the Rock much easier and the place altogether more charming’ (Hutton, 1991: 7).

However, the Government considered Adams’ asking price too high, and the sale did not proceed. Adams continued to own the Rock and cater for picnics and sports. By this time people were coming from further afield, places such as Melbourne, Sandhurst (Bendigo), Kyneton, Castlemaine, Echuca and other parts of the colony. Visitors came on all public holidays – Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day – when the railways ran special holiday trains. Horse races were introduced to the impromptu programme, the local farmers competing for whips and saddles. Hutton (1991: 7) considers ‘It is an exaggeration to say that Adams laid out a race course for the purpose; he cleared a rough track among the timber for typical bush picnic races and he provided a pavilion for dancing on the flat near where the sports were held’.

On 28 December 1871, The Argus published an account of a trip by a correspondent and their friend to Hanging Rock on Christmas Day. Taking the train from Melbourne to Macedon, they ascended Mount Macedon and then walked to ‘another part of the same group, called by the map-makers Mount Diogenes, by residents in the district ‘the Camel’s Hump’, and by old hands in the earlier days the Peak.30 The last name is the best and most expressive, as, although not higher than the ground we stood upon, it is the real central peak of the Mount Macedon block’.

The Hanging Rock lies about four or five miles from Woodend, about due north from Mount Diogenes, whence we had over looked it. It is a hill of about 300ft. high, and of irregular conical shape. A little way up from its base it is surrounded by a threatening looking rampart of grey trap rook, which in some places rises to a perpendicular height of 40ft. or 50ft. The massive wall of rock is fissured by crevasses to its foundation, and a rude columnar structure is thus imparted to it, the separate blocks at their tops weathering off into ragged pinnacles by which the ruined fortress character of the whole is much enhanced. These blocks are again divided in places by horizontal bed lines, and in all of these joints there is sufficient moisture to nourish the tree ferns, musk bushes, and various rock plants, which give a beautifully verdurous appearance to the old grey ruin. A path winds up the hill, up the grassy slope at, the foot, up between two towering rock walls, beneath an enormous boulder which lies jammed in between them, forming the cyclopean gateway of the fortress, up the tree-covered slope, which is found again within the outer rampart, till it is finally lost amidst the various rock masses which crown the top of the hill. The Hanging Rock is the great place for picnic parties for the whole district. On holidays people come to it from Kyneton, Kilmore, Lancefield, Woodend, and all the neighbouring places, and custom to them never stales its infinite variety. When we reached it, about 2 o’clock in the day, we saw scores of vehicles standing about amidst the trees, hundreds of saddle horses hitched up to the fences, many picnic groups disposed about here and there on the grass, two dancing booths resounding with music, refreshment tents, crowds of promenaders up and down the rock, men and boys on horseback riding harum-scarum races through the timber, here a group watching pole-vaulting, or getting up a footrace, or playing quoits–altogether a great spontaneous gathering of many hundreds of people in the most delightfully picturesque spot to be found, and all evidently enjoying themselves to the last degree. The great holiday musters at the Hanging Rock have a character of their own. There is no organisation, no general arrangement; each party provides for itself, and acts as it pleases. And I may say that I never saw in Victoria, or anywhere else, equally large gatherings where there is so little disorder, irregularity, or unpleasantness of any kind as at those.

After dinner we nearly all went up the Rock, stooped under the massive gateway, climbed up the last slope, and sat crowded, about 20 of us, on one of the highest rocks, over-looking the country around us with our glasses. I at once meet the deprecatory feeling of the reader by repeating my declaration that I don’t for a moment meditate writing any more description. I only mention the fact that we spent a good deal of time watching the view all glowing with light and life in the bright sunshine. To many of us the prospect was a familiar one. We knew the occupants and the histories of many of these homesteads scattered there in the agricultural country outspread beneath us. To those to whom it was new and strange there was enough in the view itself to make it a delight. Having stayed there for a time, we were led away by a proposal made by some of the frequent visitors of the rock, that we should go down by one of the crevices. Of course, seeing there was no escape, we at once agreed, and said it was the thing above all others that we wished to do. However, we did not contest priority, and gracefully allowed some of the others to go first. When it came to my turn to descend, I followed the example of the others, and, turning my back to the way we had to go, lowered myself into a very narrow orifice between two rocks, letting myself down as easily as possible till I reached the hard bottom. I then stood in a narrow fissure that had some time opened in the enormous mass of rock, and remained as a joint between them of a few inches in width, and of what extent upwards and downwards you could not see. The path beneath your feet was steep and slippery; the sides at points closed in upon you, as though you must be inevitably jammed a step or two further on; the walls seemed to close in above you, and to exclude the light and make the air most oppressive. There was in your favour the knowledge that others were going on ahead of you, although how they did so you could not see, and a pleasing stimulus was supplied to your squeeze downwards by the certainty that, in the worst case, it was hopeless to attempt getting back, And so in one way or the other, by holding your breath, narrowing your chest, and edging yourself through the tightest pinches, and by gradually working downward, you at length emerged into the daylight, and found yourself in a bed of tree ferns and musk trees at the foot of the great rock rampart I have before described.

[T]o all people who wish on a holiday or on a day they have set aside for an excursion to escape from all the conventional scenes of holiday resort; who are wearied of Brighton beach and Mordialloc, and even don’t wish to climb up Ferntree Gully anymore; who desire to find a place of interest, variety, picturesque beauty, fresh and unworn, with all the charm of the genuine country still about it. To all such people I wish to give my strongest recommendations to pay a visit to the Hanging Rock. They may have prejudices against Australian scenery; they may believe that it possesses no elements of beauty, diversity, grandeur; that it displays nothing but the unbroken monotony of endless forest or endless plain; that it is parched in early summer, wanting in freshness, and entirely destitute of the picturesque. Well, let them go to the Hanging Rock, and reconsider their judgment after they return. And whatever their judgment as to this may be, I am still sure of this, that they will agree that at the least as a place of picnic resort there is none to rival this one.

In saying this I am perhaps showing an ill return for the welcome I received. Should the Melbourne people ever flock to the rock in one-tenth of the numbers that they do to places not more accessible and not to compare with it in attractiveness, it would be soon spoiled as a gatheringplace for the local residents who now visit it so frequently. But having so much enjoyed my own trip, I wished to point out to the holiday-keepers of Melbourne what points of interest they leave altogether unvisited; and while they complain of want of variety, what varied resources they have which they wholly neglect (The Argus, 28/12/1871).

The Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (23/4/1872) published an image (see Fig.6.5) of the approach to Hanging Rock. It is of interest as it shows tourists on various points of the rock.

In 1874, the Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers published another article on the Hanging Rock, and was critical of the fact that the rock was in private hands:

It will be hardly credited, but this piece of rich natural magnificence, that belongs of right to the whole people of the colony as a sight to look upon and marvel at, has been bartered away by a blundering Lands department for a few paltry pounds; and the Government of the day are too parsimonious to re-purchase it, though it can be re-bought for a very reasonable amount. It is hardly necessary to say that the place is resorted to by visitors in search of natural beauties and by picnic parties’ innumerable at holiday times. About Christmas and New Year the grass is trodden down to the bare earth in all directions. People clamber up the hill in thousands, and explore the labyrinths formed by the complication of rocks that cover the sides of the hill. It is known far and wide throughout the colony as one of the most remarkable natural curiosities we possess in the way of scenery, and yet it is allowed to remain in private hands, though its purchase at the present time is a very easy matter.

In 1876, Adams finally severed all connections with Hanging Rock by selling out to William Anderson, a Melbourne warehouse owner; but Anderson was not interested in promoting a tourist attraction and leased the grounds to successive owners of the Hanging Rock Hotel for this purpose (Hutton, 1991: 7).

By this time, the sporting farmers of the district, many of them involved in breeding horses, wanted more horse racing and a better place to do it. They thought a nice little race course could be made on the reserve east of the Rock so they worked hard through the winter of 1877 to achieve this result, then published the sports programme for New Year’s Day 1878 in the newspapers. … On New Year’s Day 1880, the Hanging Rock Cup made its appearance on the programme- ‘Of 15 sovereigns, twice round the course and a distance’. It seems fitting that the winner of the first Cup was Edward Dryden’s aged horse ‘Commodore,’ though it has to be admitted there were only two horses in the race (Hutton, 1991: 7,9).

On 17 February 1877, The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil published the following account of ‘The Hanging Rock’:

Of all the places of holiday resort for pic-nic purposes open to the choice of the pleasure-seeker, there is none at once more interesting, picturesque, popular, and readily accessible than the Hanging Rock, which lies some four or five miles from Woodend. Its situation and surroundings are interesting and picturesque. All around its stretch farm clearings cutting the forest into alternate squares, like the white and black squares of a chequerboard. Away to the north and east lie bold hills scattered in groups, or linking themselves into regular chains of ranges, some covered with farm holdings, others dark with the almost unbroken forest. To the south rise high and dark the sombre masses of the Mount Macedon range, and in the middle of the crowning ridge stands up bare and rugged, the rocky, roughly fissured cone of Mount Diogenes.

The Hanging Rock itself is a hill of rudely conical form, from 300ft. to 400 ft. in height, and crowded in its upper part with an enormous mass of rugged trap rocks, broken and riven and weathered into the most fantastic forms. The shape most affected is the pinnacle, but in places the rock solidifies into a wall of perpendicular precipice, rising to 50ft. or 60ft. In other parts it resembles the rough cyclopean masonry of an earlier world. The path generally followed up the hill passes under the foot of a frowning, lofty, overhanging cliff, on the broken face of which rockferns and musk bushes struggle for life. It then ascends between the walls of an enormous portal, formed by an immense boulder of some scores of tons in weight, lying jammed between the side walls of rock. Beyond this the path climbs up a grassy ascent, out of which stand up strangelyshaped crags, some scooped and hollowed out by the weather into mere shells, others crowned with great toppling boulders, only held in place by vast wedges of rock. And amidst all grow graceful white gum trees, with their clean white stems and green drooping foliage, casting delicate, gently waving shadows on the grey surfaces of the lichen-grown rocks. Above this rises the second cone or citadel of what seems a grey defaced ruin, of such antiquity that all trace of form is lost. The strange shapes of the rocks and the curious alliances of stone and tree everywhere arrest attention. Here there is a singular hollow in a vast crag, out of which something like a wild petrified head of the earlier ages of the world seems to look. Then another rock is split in two, the split suspending and being kept open by great stones, which have fallen into it, and showing large orifices, through which the eye ranges out and gets charming views of the surrounding country enclosed in the rough rock frame. The most difficult and perpendicular part of the outer rampart is riven with deep crevices, which extend down low into the heart of the hill. To go down one of these is one of the correct things to be done by all visitors to the rock, and the journey is worth the squeeze and the difficulty it involves for the sake of the queer sensation given to the passer by finding himself in a mere crack between immense flat walls, formed by an enormous rock, which had once divided, and might— horrible thought — again close.

The Hanging Rock is on holidays frequented by large crowds of people, some of whom come from the surrounding neighbourhood, and some from remote parts of the colony. On last Christmas Day, for instance, there was a large pic-nic party of nearly 100 persons from Melbourne, and two large parties from Sandhurst. But these were nothing in number compared with the numberless parties congregated from the well-peopled districts of Newham, Rochford, and Lancefield, who had driven in buggies and light carts, or ridden or walked to the spot. These were scattered on all the slopes and on every shady spot. Vehicles dotted the hill-sides, and horses were tethered to every convenient tree. A fine clear cold spring rises at the foot of the rock, and affords an abundant supply of water. It is humiliating to add that a place so well suited to serve as a holiday resort to thousands of people, and thus to be a great public benefit to the community, was sold by the stupid short sighted policy of the Government some years ago. The department found the allotment on its plans, and in strict accordance with the genuine of routine offered it for sale. It was sold, we believe, at or near the upset price of £1 an acre, and the effect is, that a place at which very large numbers of people crowd in the course of a year, and which is as a natural object of great picturesque interest, unique in the colony, can only be visited by the permission which, it is only right to say is freely accorded of its proprietor. Of late years he has made a small charge for admission to his paddock, which is, of course, perfectly legitimate. But few can visit the spot without a feeling of indignation at the imbecility of the Government, which, for something less than £100, permitted the alienation of what ought to have been reserved as public property for public recreation and amusement.

At this time there was mounting agitation for the Government to repurchase Hanging Rock for the public. Some of this agitation can be seen in the article in The Australasian Sketcher. Anderson allowed public access but made a small charge on public holidays. The site was becoming more and more popular and there were murmurings that it was shameful that it had ever been sold. Fearing that public access might be denied altogether in the future, the people of Newham urged its Council to request the Government to act. With the support of neighbouring shires, a deputation was planned but in the end the Minister, the Hon. Albert Tucker, came to see for himself and he indicated that the Government would be prepared to purchase about 70 acres. After negotiations with Anderson 71 acres were purchased for £1417-12-6, and added to the existing Crown Land reserve and the whole was reserved by Order-in-Council of 25 November 1884 and gazetted a few days later (Hutton, 1991: 9,11).

6.3 Third Phase: Enshrinement 1869 and Beyond

MacCannell (1976: 45) has identified ‘enshrinement’ as the third phase in the evolution of attractions. ‘When framing material that is used has itself entered the first stage of sacralization (marking), a third stage has been entered. This stage can be called enshrinement’. In the case of Hanging Rock this would most likely refer to the facilities and other activities that are available to the visitor at Hanging Rock, such as picnicking and horse racing and the concerts that are staged at the rock, activities that don’t necessarily involve any interaction with the nucleus, that is the rock, itself, other than having it provide the location or setting for the activity.

After the Government’s reservation of Hanging Rock, in August 1885, a Racing Club was organized. Management of the reserve, however, continued to be a problem for the Newham Shire Council. The Lands Department had ordered the Council to ensure that the local community had unrestricted access to the water in the reserve; however, this led to defilement of the spring and other degradation. In an attempt to manage this, the gates were re-hung and left unlocked. In 1891, regulations were drawn up allowing an admission charge for vehicles on 12 days a year – a vehicle with 1 horse 1/-, 2 horses 2/- and a rider on horse 6d.

By 1891 the racecourse had been allowed to deteriorate with fallen timber making the ground dangerous, so the Council decided to hold a working bee and placed an advertisement in the Kyneton newspapers asking for volunteers (Hutton, 1991:11). The advertisement read as follows:



A LARGE number of the inheritance of the district having volunteered to give one or two days’ labour on order to clear the racecourse of all dangerous timber now encumbering the ground, it has been decided that a MONSTER BEE SHALL BE HELD ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16th. All those having the popularity, welfare, and improvement of this beautiful and attractive spot at heart are cordially invited to co-operate in this splendid work, and are respectfully requested to assemble on the ground (in the straight) at eight o’clock a.m. Every man to supply his own tools. Several bullock and horse teams have been promised, but the services of more can be utilised.

Remember the day, WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16th, 1891

By order, JAMES REES, Shire Secretary.

Woodend, August 31, 1891.

(Source: Hutton, 1991: 11)

This advertisement and the community response confirms that the community has always been an important factor in Hanging Rock’s history and played a vital role in it becoming a major regional attraction. With the races and other significant events visitor numbers began to increase.

In 1897, The Australasian reported on a visit to Hanging Rock:

A pretty excursion and one within easy reach of Melbourne is to the Hanging Rock, Woodend. There is a service of four trains daily. The time taken to Woodend is two and a half hours. Five miles from Woodend and second only to Macedon itself is the Hanging Rock. This isolated peak rises to a height of four hundred feet above the surrounding country and easy access is gained to its summit by well graded paths along its sloping sides. Its comparatively flat crown is strewn with gigantic boulders, evidently the result of volcanic action in some distant age. Fanciful resemblances are traced in these rocks to well-known personages or animals for us. Thus we have among others, Gladstone’s Head; Berry’s Head; the Whale’s Mouth and the Alligator’s Jaws (Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society, 2012: 5).

The Council had formed a committee from within its own ranks, to deal with matters to do with the Rock Reserve such as maintenance, rabbit control and necessary improvements when funds were available. For example in 1896, the dam was repaired to resuscitate William Adams’ ornamental lake and in 1900 a carriageway was made up to the first plateau, thereby restoring the latter’s old driveway. To mark the end of the 19th century and the inauguration of the Australian Commonwealth, on New Year’s Day 1901, triumphal arches were erected over each of the five entrance gates and a 40 foot flagpole was placed in the saddling paddock and another in pride of place on top of the Rock – the socket of which can still be seen on the summit (Hutton, 1991: 15).

The New Year’s Day races continued to grow in popularity:

On New Year’s Day 1902, the great day was becoming a popular outing for the family with newspapers estimating attendance of ten to twelve thousand people. Everything on wheels was pressed into service to convey them from the Woodend station. Kyneton was cleaned out of vehicles, so an enterprising Brunswick carrier Herbert Bradford, took to bringing his drays a few days early, to camp on the reserve and spell his horses ready for the hectic day. A special train carried the race horses to Woodend, and landowners allowed them to be led to the reserve across their properties along the route of the Five Mile Creek (Hutton, 1991: 15).

The races on New Year’s Day 1911 were particularly special as the Governor and his wife were in attendance along with the Minister for Lands. The following account from The Age (2/1/1912) gives a picture of the picnic scene at the Rock the previous day:

From early morning there had been vehicles on the road. First came vans, spring carts, then wagons lumbering along drawn by horses from the plough. Whole families had to be crowded into the wagon and so had the provisions. Scarcely had the horses been unhitched and tethered and the wagons unloaded, than the drags dashed into the area, whips cracking, drivers shouting, the picnickers laughing. The vehicles crowded the centre of the race course and then overflowed on the other areas of the reserve. Last of all came the hooting motors carrying visitors from Macedon and places more distant. The sun bathed the scene in brilliance as it flicked the caps and colours of the jockeys. The warm light rested on the white table cloths spread unevenly on the ground, covered with poultry, sandwiches, fruits, jams, sweets or other picnic fare. The light made the blue smoke from the big boiler where all came for their supply of hot water, look more blue as it curled amongst the trees. Of the many thousands of people there, only a meagre proportion took the racing as the most important part of the day’s outing. The last race was not run until after 6 o’clock and it was not till the late moon rose its shining face above the Camel’s Hump that the last picnickers drove slowly away from the grounds.

There were 20,000 people there that day and every year that scene was repeated (Hutton, 1991: 19). The increasing use of the motor car gradually changed the mode of transport and eventually the appearance of the picnic ground on race days. For example, New Year’s Day 1925 ‘was a record year with hundreds of cars parked under trees; dozens of side shows and the band gave a lively atmosphere’ (Hutton, 1991: 19).

Other major events at Hanging Rock included sports meetings or Highland gatherings which saw caber tossing, hammer throwing, and foot races. Later a dance floor was erected. Special trains ran from Melbourne to Woodend on Rock Race days and ‘Big Four in Hand’ drags or coaches which held 40-60 passengers would be driven out to the Rock and later back to the train. At one stage, it was thought a Railway line to connect Lancefield with Woodend via the Hanging Rock would be an advantage and although there were discussions between members of Parliament the train line never eventuated (Macedon Ranges Tourism, n.d).

In terms of management interventions, Hutton has noted that little information exists to assist with a reconstruction of the site’s management history. In the 1920s a caretaker’s cottage was built. The caretaker’s wife used to serve refreshments to visitors to the reserve. Petrol rationing during the Second World War resulted in the temporary abandonment of the annual horse race meetings. The reserve continued to be managed by the Council of Newham and Woodend until 1959 when three members of the Hanging Rock Race Club were added to the Committee of Management. In 1968 a new cottage was erected and the caretaker’s wife served refreshments from an old wooden shelter shed, now known as the hall, during the construction. In 1975 the Racing Club received funding from the Racecourse Development Fund to enable a large dam to be constructed in the centre of the racecourse to provide much needed water. In 1978 the Victorian Premier, the Hon. Rupert Hamer procured two grants of $40,000 each for the Management Committee, as well an interest free loan of $120,000. With these funds barbeques, toilets, and car parks were installed to cope with the increase in tourism that resulted from the release of the film ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ (see below).

Through the years there have been countless picnics of every kind, large organised affairs for groups and societies as well as everyday outings for the family. The Reserve is still the chosen place for parties and celebrations, marriages and re-enactments and in recent years it has also been the site for activities on a grander scale – athletic carnivals, hot air balloons and vintage car rallies. There are one off events and no doubt like them will occur from time to time, but every day it is the tourists who come to experience and enjoy this intriguing rock formation. With great demands being made on it all the time, it is remarkable how well the small park has withstood the tremendous pressure of people during these past years (Hutton, 1991: 25).

In 1990 management of the reserve reverted to the local council. In January 1992 a visitor survey was conducted over a seven day period – questionnaires were handed to drivers of vehicles by the park ranger as the vehicles entered the reserve. A total of 238 useable questionnaires were obtained. The survey provided an indicative picture of the types of tourists who visited; their reasons for visiting; the nature of their visit; and the improvements they wanted to see. The survey revealed that most people visited the reserve as part of a day trip or they visited the site as part of an extended trip; most visitors spent less than half a day at the reserve. The weekend was the most popular time to visit the park; cars represented the most frequent mode of travel to the park. Some 10 per cent of visitors were international; and almost half came from Melbourne; and 20 per cent were from interstate. In terms of the activities that were pursued at the reserve; 83 per cent of respondents confirmed that they climbed the rock; 63 per cent walked around; 53 per cent picnicked; and 47 per cent relaxed. The primary reasons for visiting the reserve were the desire to climb and/or see the rock and visit the area made famous by the book and the film.

In 1993 consultants Loder & Bayly prepared a Management Plan of the reserve for the Committee of Management. The study coincided with the Committee of Management’s expansion of the reserve when it purchased of an adjacent property of 22 hectares, today known as the east paddock. The management plan included three recreational goals: manage the use of the reserve to minimise impacts on conservation, historical and social values; maintain and enhance the diversity of recreational activities in the Reserve; and ensure that Reserve management does not detract from recreational amenity. Morgan & Lok (2000: 399) were critical of these objectives because they did not come with any specific, measurable or time bound determinants of acceptable social conditions. The lack of environmental conditions should also be noted.

In a study of the social carrying capacity of Hanging Rock, Morgan & Lok (2000) cited visitor statistics from 1996 that indicated that the Reserve received approximately 185,000 visitors each year, and that more than one-fifth of these were international visitors. More recently, the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development (2013: 62) confirmed that Hanging Rock attracts over 120,000 visitors per annum, and is one of the most popular destinations in its region. Recent musical concerts at the site in the east paddock, including head-line acts such as Leonard Cohen, Rod Stewart, and Bruce Springsteen, have attracted crowds of over 61,000 at the events. The Rolling Stones are booked to perform at the Hanging Rock Reserve in late 2014. The Macedon Ranges Council had signed an exclusive agreement with the event company Frontier Touring which was up for renewal in 2013. A new five-year contract was signed off in October 2013. The contract allows the company to stage up to four concerts at the Rock each year. In June 2013 the Federal Government awarded $2 million through its Regional Development Australia fund to the Macedon Ranges Council to redevelop the Hanging Rock site. It was proposed to develop accommodation and conference facilities in the East Paddock and to improve walking tracks, signage, and public conveniences at the rock and to improve access for disabled visitors. Infrastructure such as the café and the interpretive centre also required upgrading. In August the Council approved plans to allow accommodation and a conference centre to be built at the Rock at the adjoining paddock added to the reserve in 1993; this immediately drew criticism from the Macedon Ranges Residents Association who was opposed to the commercial development.

6.4 Fourth Phase: Duplication

MacCannell’s (1976) fourth phase in the development of attractions is that of ‘duplication’ or ‘mechanical reproduction’, when copies of the nucleus of the attraction, in this case the rock, are made available through media such as paintings, photographs, and postcards.

In 2012, the Gisborne and Mount Macedon Districts Historical Society published Pictorial Hanging Rock a journey through time. It is an extensive publication of images of Hanging Rock as represented by artists, geologists, photographers, and post cards that are in the society’s collection at the Gisborne Court House.

In 1875, William Ford produced a large oil painting entitled ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock, near Mount Macedon’ (see Fig.6.6). Arnold Shore, writing in The Argus (27/5/1950) discussed the painting and its artist.

One such, a man of whom very little is as yet known, except his name–William Ford–produced in 1875 a large oil painting entitled “Picnic Party at Hanging Rock, near Mount Macedon”. This picture has recently been acquired by the Trustees of the National Gallery, on the recommendation of the director, Mr. Daryl Lindsay.31

In dark tonality it portrays, quite notably, groups of women and children in the picturesque costume of the period–city visitors obviously contrasted with the strange setting of the rocks and trees of this old volcanic upheaval.

All who have visited the Hanging Rock (known in early days as Mount Diogenes) must have felt something of the fascinating, rather “witches’ kitchen” influence it imbues. The large masses of rock–the geological like of which exist, I am told, only in far-off Sweden–rear like monoliths, and disclose between their monumental forms vast panoramas of hill, mountain, and plains. Under the feet one senses one-time hollowness; but there is enough packed earth to permit the growth of proud eucalypts, which rear their erect or twisted forms in defiance of arboreal security.

Much of the effect of all this has been surely observed and represented by William Ford. His picture, however, is in no way similar to those of our Australian Impressionist painters. Tonally, it might almost be a moon-light piece, it is so dark; but the eyes become accustomed to its darkness, and read a quite convincing effect of realism. This is what we are now learning-that there is no need for the artist to always seek to match the tonality of Nature. A great artist convinces us without matching endeavour.

In 1891, the Australian novelist Ivan Dexter published a novel entitled ‘Mount Macedon Mystery’, as a newspaper series of 26 chapters. The first chapter was entitled ‘Macedon and Diogenes’ (Singleton Argus, 8/8/1891). In the chapter he conflates Mt Diogenes with ‘The Camel’s Hump’ and suggests that the appellation Diogenes was probably conferred ‘on account of its rugged and forbidding character’. Dexter observes that there ‘are many places in this mountain range that have never yet been trod by the foot of man, although they are surrounded by civilization, and so near a dense population’. ‘Some of the narrow glens mentioned have probably no equal in natural or artificial loveliness, whilst portions of the range are gloomy beyond imagination, or terrible like the precipices and fastnesses of Mount Diogenes’. Dexter noted that although the peaks were reserved as a State Forest, he believed that in a ‘comparatively few years as settlement advances this picturesque region will be shorn of its primeval beauties, for the hand of nature will have to give way to the hand of man’. This was the setting for his mystery for ‘Many years ago a strange tragedy occurred in this district, the story of which will now be told the reader’. The story concerns a murder that occurred on Diogenes when a member of a party climbing the rock was deliberately pushed to his death, and his body buried in a wombat hole. The rest of the story is concerned with finding the man’s remains and his murderer.

The most significant duplication that has helped to make Hanging Rock such a famous attraction is the fact that it was the setting of Joan Lindsay’s 1967 fictional novel ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, which tells the story of a group of girls from Appleyard College visiting the rock on Valentine’s Day 1900 for a picnic. Three school girls and later a school teacher go missing with one of the school girls being found later with no memory of what happened to her and her school mates. In 1975 the novel was the basis of an Australian movie directed by Peter Weir, also named ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’. The movie was set at Hanging Rock and rekindled interest in Lindsay’s novel and saw a substantial increase in international and domestic tourists who visited the rock. The disappearance of the schoolgirls was explained in 1987 when the final chapter which had not been published with the Lindsay novel was published under the title ‘The Secret of Hanging Rock’.

6.5 Fifth Phase: Social Reproduction

‘The final stage of sight sacralization is social reproduction, as occurs when groups, cities, and regions begin to name themselves after famous attraction’ (MacCannell 1976: 45). Social reproduction began with the establishment of the Hanging Rock Hotel in 1866. It is also possible to find the name in Hanging Rock Winery and Hanging Rock Cottage at Newham, and Hanging Rock House at Mt Macedon

6.6 Conclusion

Mt Diogenes, or Hanging Rock as it is more popularly known, was the subject of geological research by William von Blandowski in 1855; however it was not until Boxing Day 1864 that we have the first recorded account of the rock being used for leisure purposes when a picnic was organized by a group of tradesmen from Kyneton. In 1869 entrepreneur William Adams purchased the Rock and set about to develop the site into a pleasure resort. In 1866 he had purchased a half-acre block near the rock and had built the ‘Hanging Rock Hotel’. In 1869 Adams placed a weir across Five Mile Creek to form a lake suitable for small rowing boats and other small water craft, and with the help of neighbouring publicans he developed a full programme of sports. Over the next seven years Adams cleared a race track for bush picnic races and built a pavilion for dancing and he continued to cater for picnics and sporting carnivals. In 1876 Adams sold the Rock to a Melbourne warehouse owner who had no interest in promoting a tourist attraction so the new owner leased the grounds to the owners of the Hanging Rock Hotel.

Around this time community agitation began to stir for the Government to purchase Hanging Rock for the public. The community of Newham urged its shire council to lobby the Government. In 1884, after a series of negotiations the Government purchased the Rock (and added it to the existing Crown Land reserve of 96 acres, west of Hanging Rock, which had never been privately owned), formally gazetting the Hanging Rock Recreation Reserve in the same year. The reserve was placed under the management of the Newham Shire Council. In 1885 a Racing Club was organized. The Council formed a committee of management from within its own councillors and oversaw site maintenance, pest control, and necessary site improvements. The races at Easter and New Year’s Day were significant events, for example, in 1911 some 20,000 attended the News Years’ Day races. In the 1920s a caretaker’s cottage was built and refreshments were provided by the caretaker’s wife to those who visited the reserve. In 1959 three members of the Hanging Rock Race Club were added to the Committee of Management.

In 1967 author Joan Lindsay published her novel ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ which was produced into a movie in 1975. The movie saw a substantial increase in international and domestic tourists who visited the Rock. In 1978 the Victorian Government made funds available for site improvements including barbeques, toilets, and car parks to cope with the increase of tourism that had resulted from the release of the film. In 1990 management of the reserve reverted to the local council. In 1993 the reserve was expanded with the purchase of an adjacent property of 22 ha. – it was now 88 ha in size.

In terms of the agency responsible for the emergence and development of tourism at Hanging Rock this case study differs from the others in this book for the early history of the Rock is tied up with the fact that it was alienated land and owned by an entrepreneur who could see the tourism possibilities the rock offered. From 1869 until 1884 the entrepreneur developed the site into a tourist resort. It returned to public land in 1884 only after community agitation.


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Singleton Argus 8/8/1891

The Age 2/1/1912

The Argus 28/12/1871; 17/10/1917; 27/5/1950

The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil 17/2/1877

The Illustrated Melbourne Post 25/1/1865

Fig. 6.1: William Blandowski, print after James Redaway & Sons, engraver
Diogenes Monument “Anneyelong” looking south towards Mount Macedon 1855-56
from the unpublished folio Australia Terra Cognita
engraving and aquatint, printed in black ink, from one copper plate
printed image 16.2 x 21.2 cm
plate-mark 21.2 x 28.2 cm
sheet 36 x 27 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Major General T.F. Cape, in loving memory of his wife Elizabeth Rabett 1996

Fig. 6.2: William Blandowski, print after James Redaway & Sons, engraver
Foot of Diogenes Monument. 4 miles N. from Mount Macedon, 40 miles NNW from Melbourne 1855-56
from the unpublished folio Australia Terra Cognita
etching, engraving and lavis, printed in black ink, from one copper plate
printed image 16.8 x 21.6 cm
plate-mark 21.4 x 28 cm
sheet 36 x 27 cm.
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Gift of Major General T.F. Cape, in loving memory of his wife Elizabeth Rabett 1996.

Fig. 6.3: ‘Dryden’s Rock, near Mount Macedon’. Robert Bruce, wood engraving in The Illustrated Melbourne Post 25/1/1865.

Fig. 6.4: The ‘Hanging Rock’: photograph Emily Slattery 2013

Fig. 6.5: ‘Approach to the Hanging Rock, Mount Macedon’ Source: Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers 23/4/1872.

Fig. 6.6: ‘At the Hanging Rock 1875’ William Ford, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Victoria

29 Blandowski (1855: 51) described Dryden’s Monument as a ‘singular conformation’ and one of the most remarkable spots in Victoria, if not in the whole of Australia. The approach to the monument ‘presents a scene of most imposing grandeur’.

30 The correspondent is confused here – Mount Diogenes and Camel’s Hump are distinct and separate formations.

31 Sir Daryl Lindsay was director from 1942 until 1956. He is the husband of the author Joan Lindsay who wrote ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, which shared the same title as William Ford’s 1875 painting.