Inspired by Australia's natural, developing and fun environments.
Get some inspiration.
Published May 11th 2015
Celebrating the achievements of two great brothers
It was 1886 when a couple of young American engineers and irrigation planners were invited to Australia to view the Murray River and determine its potential. A year or so later, the Chaffey Brothers (George and William) purchased some properties near Mildura and Renmark, and created the Mildura Irrigation Company with a view to using the massive river flows to create an innovative and sustainable model of irrigating nearby fields and crops.
The model was successful, albeit some poor investments by the brothers led to the company becoming bankrupt. George returned to the USA, while William remained in Mildura and helped lay the foundations for today's vibrant Mildura community, and the region known as Sunraysia. In honour and respect of the efforts of the brothers, the Mildura Rural City Council has created the Chaffey Trail, a self-guided tour of the highlights of the Chaffey legacy.
It was here that the Chaffey vision for an irrigation colony evolved with the success of the fruit trees around the homestead that were watered from the Murray River. The homestead today is a reconstruction of the original homestead that stood on this particular site, complete with outbuildings, the wool-shed and the rose garden.
Mildura's oldest and smallest cemetery includes the graves of some early pioneers, and also members of the Chaffey family. Designed by Antonia Chaffey, William's great grand daughter, a commemorative garden beside the burial site of the William's mother and his first wife comprises a granite sculpture and a special seat.
This magnificent house, the home of William for many years, was designed in the classical asymmetrical villa form and was completed in 1890 by Adelaide builder John Williams. The house has large verandas, cedar and jarrah panelling, Italian marble fire places and Victorian leadlight and stained glass windows. The house has been fully restored and is open daily for closer viewings.
During the 19th Century, the Murray River was a lot different to what is visible today. Droughts would reduce it to a series of waterholes, while floods would cause large catastrophes. The introduction of water regulation via locks and weirs provided for a constant level for both irrigation and navigation by paddle steamers.
Originally completed in 1892, and then extended in 1899 to accommodate vessels at various river heights, the Mildura Wharf was the central transport station for Mildura in its early days. Paddlesteamers and other passenger and freight vessels would queue to dock at the wharf in order to transport people, grapes, citrus products and wool to their ultimate destinations.
The Mildura Grand Hotel stands today over three titles which originally housed the hotel, the Mildura Coffee Palace and the original Chaffey offices. Expansion plans last century saw the latter two establishments partly demolished to make room for the growing Grand Hotel.
The Chaffey Brothers plan was to pump river water to the height of the land, and then to use that water for irrigation purposes. To achieve that, George Chaffey had a revolutionary design of a triple expansion steam engine connected to three centrifugal pumps and driven by a wood burning boiler to lift water in to Kings Billabong, which was then progressively pumped further to other lands.
In 1888 the Chaffey Brothers planted 150 acres of wine grapes to create 'Chateau Mildura' and to formally commence the region's wine industry. Chateau Mildura had several owner changes and name changes during the 20th Century, and at one stage was known for the best brandy and sherries in the country.
Merbein is a small town some 10km west of Mildura which holds unique links for the Chaffeys. It was here that the first Government owned irrigation pumps came in to being, while nearby is the distillery/winery established by William in 1913 and sadly where his life came to an end when he collapsed here in 1926. The Merbein Rotary Lookout above the distinctive white cliffs provides recognition to the contribution by the Chaffey Brothers over the years.
Information on the Chaffey Trail is available from the website, or from the Mildura Information Centre. The trail is open every day for external viewing, with some of the attractions open for internal viewing and demonstrations at various times of the day or year. There are information boards at each location providing a valuable contribution towards and a recognition of the Chaffey Brothers in the creation of today's vibrant Sunraysia region.