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THOMAS PROUDFOOT’S BOATHOUSE on HOPKINS RIVER, WARRNAMBOOL

The postcard displays a colourful scene on the Hopkins River with the beflagged boathouse, the boats at moorings, with much people activity in the foreground (Figure 1).

 The reverse has a message of love from George to Maud at Albert Park, Melbourne and the red 1d Victoria stamp has a fine WARRNAMBOOL/A/ MY 27/ 08/ VIC postmark (Figure 2).

 The vendor gives considerable information concerning the postcard as follows: "Victoria - 1908 postcard of Proudfoot's Boat House, Hopkins River, addressed to Melbourne, franked with 1d red tied by WARRNAMBOOL/ VIC" c.d.s.. Card slightly trimmed, but scarce.
Proudfoot's Boathouse on the Hopkins River near Warrnambool is an outstanding example of a late-19th century boathouse complex with associated residence and jetties. Thomas Proudfoot first applied for a jetty licence in 1885 with a view to establishing a boating business on the Hopkins River. The early single storey sections are thought to date from this period. The two storey second stage probably dates from 1893 when additions were constructed. The entire complex was designed and built by Proudfoot himself."

I was surprised on how much information was available on the internet concerning the man and particularly the boat house. Thomas Proudfoot was born in Adelaide and went to Warrnambool, Victoria with his family in 1860. In 1885 at the age of 29 he designed and commenced to build this boathouse on the Hopkins River. The boathouse was originally a fishing and boating establishment, very popular with the Melbourne tourists. As well as hiring fishing, rowing, sailing and picnic boats, rods and bait were also available. In 1887 Thomas married Catherine and they had two children, Ivy in 1888 and Bruce in 1890.

As early as 1886, Proudfoots Boathouse offered afternoon tea, as well as advice on what to wear for various adventures such as fishing, shooting and yachting. Several recipes were on offer for fish and game caught in the area, including fish cooked over an open fire, dishes made from kangaroo and wallaby steaks and wattle-bird stew cooked with mushrooms in a billy.

The land and the buildings are a heritage site, and the architectural style is described as ‘Victorian Period (1851-1901) Carpenter Gothic’. The early single storey sections are thought to date from this period, whereas the two-storey second stage probably dates from 1893 when the additions were constructed; the 2-storey structure was used as a guest house.

Thomas Proudfoot died in 1900, with evidence suggesting suicide, after having transferred the licence for the boathouse into Catherine’s name. The business remained in the Proudfoot family hands until 1979, run by Catherine alone for 30 years, then by the son Bruce, and later by a grand-daughter, Ena Hunt and her husband Percy, when it was known as Hunt’s Boathouse. It then passed into the hands of the Wearne family and was known as Hopkins River Boathouse, until the 1980's. A more modern version of the Boathouse is seen in Figure 3.

 The Hopkins River starts its 300 km journey to the sea from Skeleton Hills in the Great Dividing Range east of Ararat, along its way it joins the Fierce Creek and the Mount Emu Creek to form one of the State of Victoria longest rivers, entering the Southern Ocean east of Warrnambool. It was found by the explorer Thomas Mitchell in 1836 who named it after a friend, Sir John Paul Hopkins. The Hopkins River is shown in green in Figure 4.


 
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