Inverleigh, like other areas in Golden Plains Shire, was once occupied by the Wathaurong of the Kulin nation.
Inverleigh is located approximately 30km west of Geelong and 10km south west of Bannockburn, on the Hamilton Highway.. It is nestled within a curve of the Leigh River, approximately 1 km north of the junction of the Leigh and the Barwon Rivers. Arrival at the town boundary from the east is spectacular as the highway “drops” into the river valley from the rural plains that separate Inverleigh from Geelong.
The township was officially proclaimed in 1855, following a crown survey undertaken in 1854. It is laid out in a conventional grid aligned north-south to east-west on the western side of the Leigh River. The early settlement of Inverleigh is associated with the Derwent Company's runs of the 1830s and 1840s. The Company laid claim to 26,000 acres of land in the Portland Bay District. When it was dissolved in 1842 its properties were divided up by mutual consent and pastoral runs such as Native Hut No. 3 and Weatherboard Nos. 1 & 2 were formed within the Inverleigh area. The new owners continued to be important patrons of the town. The Inverleigh township developed during the 1850s as a commercial and civic centre servicing surrounding pastoral properties. It was also an important stop on the colonial trade routes that linked Geelong to the Western District and the Woady Yaloak goldfields to the north. At first, a gravel ford provided access across the Leigh River. After the completion of a permanent bridge over the Leigh River in 1853 and the formalization of the township grid, High Street became the primary route into and out of town. The bluestone abutments survive but the bridge has been superseded by a modern structure. An impressive but ageing avenue of Cupressus macrocarpa (Monterey Cypress), established in the early twentieth century, signals the Hamilton Highway's eastern and western entrance.
Important public and commercial buildings were established during the 1860s, such as the township's two bluestone hotels, a post and money order service, a Mechanics Institute, four churches and three denominational schools. The division of large pastoral properties at the end of the nineteenth century gave way to intensive agricultural activities such as dairy and horticulture. A farmer's common was established to provide inhabitants of the town access to pasture for the grazing of cattle and horses. Orchards originally established to supplement dairy farming developed into large commercial operations, supplying jam manufacturers located in Geelong. The Gheringhap to Maroona railway line was completed in 1910, with local produce dispatched from the Inverleigh Railway Station.
While surrounding townships experienced a decline in population and services during the mid twentieth century, Inverleigh struggled but survived. In the 1950s the townships population was 250 persons, with an increase to 350 persons recorded in the 1960s. During this period the township had a post and telegraph office, State School, savings bank, four churches, a public hall, police station, electric lighting and football, cricket, golf and tennis clubs. By the 1970s the public hall was extended to incorporate a baby health care centre and medical clinic. The township of Inverleigh remains substantially intact and the surviving buildings and infrastructure from a range of periods retain a high degree of integrity. Key public buildings, open public spaces and surviving examples of commercial and residential development provide a clear sense of past and present settlement.
1930's 'Farndale' Inverleigh, Ralph Alderson, Jim Wickson, Tom Alderson irrigating the orchard
Inverleigh Hotel 1952 flood
There have been many floods at Inverleigh with the 1952 flood being one of the highest. The most recent major flood was in 1995.
Railway from Tower Hill, 1952 flood
A remnant orchard in Inverleigh, 2013
Inverleigh was surrounded by orchards - mostly apricots but also almonds, apples, plums and pears. Fruit was loaded at the Inverleigh station and much of it went to the Rosella Company at Tatura.
A postcard from Inverleigh
Allan's General Stores was on the south side of High Street where the chemist and real estate businesses are in 2021. The west stone abutment of the bridge pictured can still be seen in Lawson Park, Inverleigh.
A postcard of the old Inverleigh bridge
Loading fruit at Inverleigh Station