supplement to the leader newspaper 1887

Turning the first sod of soil at Portland, 6 December 1834. From a supplement to The Leader newspaper, 1887. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

Considering that it was used to create some of the first furrows on Glenelg Shire soil more than 180 years ago, it is a miracle that one of the most significant objects in Victoria's early history is still in existence today.

But perhaps Henty's plough is a symbol of the family's strength and resilience, and the enduring legacy they left to the district in the years after Edward Henty first saw Portland Bay and decided to settle there.

After seeing the promise of the land on a brief stop a few years previously, a 24-year-old Edward Henty arrived in Portland Bay on 19th November 1834 with the aim of farming the land. In the process, he established Victoria's first permanent settlement with Portland becoming a town proper when he and his brothers John, Stephen and Frank set down their roots.

The plough – now on display in History House in Portland – was one of the first tools the four brothers used to establish their farming enterprises, which went on to help create south-west Victoria's pastoral history.

The simple, single-furrow plough, which was pulled by a bullock team, consists of a "mouldboard and share". The iron work was made in Uddington, Scotland, and the beam – added by Edward himself – is made from Australian hardwood.

Originally from Sussex, England, the hard working Hentys found themselves in Portland by chance. Portland Bay had been a stopover for Edward on his journey home to Launceston, Van Dieman's Land, where his father, mother and brothers had settled after having little luck in Western Australia.


Burswood hand painted photograph

Burswood, Portland c, 1865. Watercolour and gouache over silver gelatin photograph by Johnstone, O’Shannessy & Co, Melbourne. Acquired 2014. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

The brief stop in the bay had stirred many ideas in Edward's mind after finding the soil on land fertile and ripe for farming. He had taken a sample of earth to his father and while the family was supportive of his idea, Governor Arthur had not been as eager to see a settlement established there.

But the Hentys – especially Edward – were determined people.

Memorials that proposed establishing the settlement of Portland were drawn up but while the paperwork was on a ship bound for England, Edward forged ahead, leaving Launceston on the family ship in October.

The journey across Bass Strait had been horrendous, with foul weather forcing the ship back several times but The Thistle eventually dropped anchor in the Bay on 19th November 1834.



Henty’s Thistle. Courtesy: Portland Family History Group.

The ship's manifest had included all that was needed to start a life in a place where there was none, but the perilous journey had seen the loss of two bullocks, 12 heifers, two cows and two calves.

Everything else Edward needed was still aboard – 2,500 bricks, three kegs of nails, a bundle of saws, a malt mill, chain and tools, 3,000 feet of sawn timber and all the other materials for a simple house, animals, food staples, and one wooden, single-furrow plough.

Over the following years, Edward would be joined by his brothers who worked side-by-side to make their fortunes in Portland and the surrounding district. Edward would marry Anne Marie Gallie, build his home Burswood – a Georgian-style mansion – at Portland, and with his brothers establish businesses including the Munthan Pastoral Run of 57,000 acres to the north of the settlement.


Edward Henty

Edward Henty (1810-1878). Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

Edward and Anne would have no children but they were kept busy with their growing agricultural enterprises including Eglemont horses, Durham cattle and Spanish Merinos.

Ever hard working, on his retirement Edward would become a politician, elected to the Legislative Assembly for the Normanby constituency, his foray into politics a fitting culmination of a working life that had seen the establishment of a new state.


Does Edward and Anne's home Burswood still exist?

What part did Edward's brothers – John, Stephen and Francis – play in settling the land to the north of the Glenelg Shire?

What is the history of the Henty Plough in more recent years, and why was it so sought after in the time since it was first used on Victorian soil?

To find the answers to all these questions and more, visit Glenelg Shire Council's museum and research centre History House, where you will find images, information and booklets that give you a better insight into the Henty Family.


And you'll also find passionate volunteers willing to share their immense knowledge with you! 


History House – Museum and Research Centre

Cliff Street, Portland VIC 3305 (PO Box 409)

Phone: 5522 2266

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Open daily 10am-noon and 1pm-4pm. Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day.