Williamstown’s convict seawall under threat

Geoff Dougall at the deteriorating Williamstown seawall. Photo: Damjan Janevski 210114_01

Goya Dmytryshchak

One of Williamstown’s most iconic pieces of convict history, the Point Gellibrand Seawall that Ned Kelly worked on, is deteriorating and disappearing.

Maritime historian Geoff Dougall said the community was calling for the historic seawall to be preserved for future generations.

The Point Gellibrand Seawall was built from the 1850s to 1870s by convict labour from hulks moored offshore, he said.

“We believe, and we can virtually say with 100 per cent surety, that Ned Kelly did work on it as a labourer,” Mr Dougall said.

“The wall protected one of the colony’s first roads, named aptly Battery Road, which ran between the two main colonial batteries set up to protect us from invasion, and the southerly gales which lash the beachfront.

“The bluestone was quarried from the convict quarry close by and had distinctive tally marks chiseled into a single bluestone when a certain quota was met.”

Cross marks on the bluestone are still visible to this day.

“The road and wall were where Governor Price met his demise at the hands of convicts,” Mr Dougall said.

“The convicts worked in leg irons, and were overseen by warders from the hulks.”

The road has since been renamed Bracks Boulevard and most of the retaining wall is no longer visible due to sand and overgrowth from bushes.

“Unfortunately, the remaining section is falling into disrepair,” Mr Dougall said.

“In particular, a number of the large bluestone pitchers have been dislodged and fallen onto the sand, and almost vanishing under their weight.

“Action is needed urgently to replace the pitchers and conserve the wall for future generations to enjoy.”

A Parks Victoria spokesperson said an inspection of the seawall was undertaken six years ago by port and coastal engineers.

“In 2014, Parks Victoria had the seawall inspected by AW Maritime to document its condition,” the spokesperson said.

“Options for remedial works were included for consideration should funds become available.

“Parks Victoria regularly undertakes proactive inspections of assets across our estate, to consider and prioritise options for remediation and renewal.”