To tell the story of the Geelong Naval Maritime Museum, you need to know some of the history of Osbourne House and also of Geelong, the Port of Geelong, and the shipping history of Corio Bay.
Port of Geelong History
Before Geelong was settled there was a sandbar across Corio Bay from Point Lillias to Point Henry. Small ships could enter the inner harbour, however larger ships had to drop anchor in the bay and their cargo was transported into Geelong on lighters.
In 1853 a channel through the sandbar was started, which provided less than 4 metres draught for ships. In the 1860s the channel was straightened out and dredged to a depth of 6 metres. In 1881 dredging of a new channel commenced. It took 12 years to complete. It was named Hopetoun Channel after Lord Hopetoun. Hopetoun Channel was opened in December 1893.
Shipping traffic increased in the early twentieth century. The existing piers in the city area were not adequate to handle all the traffic. So new port developments began in the North Geelong area.
The Geelong Harbour Trust was formed in December 1905. It was responsible for managing the channels and port of Geelong. The Authority was also responsible for ports at Queenscliff, Barwon Heads, Lorne and Apollo Bay.
In 1981 the Geelong Harbour Trust was reformed as the Port of Geelong Authority. The Port of Geelong has gone through a few changes since then, with different organisations owning the Port after privatisation by the State Government. The Port is now known as the Geelong Port.
Geelong, a port city, has a rich naval and maritime history. The Geelong Naval and Maritime Museum shares this history with it's visitors. The museum is based in the stables of Osborne House. Osborne House was a building that was essential to some of Geelong's port operations.
The original section of Osborne House is known as the Muirhead building. It was named after Robert Muirhead, who built the home in 1858. Robert Muirhead was a pastoralist from Scotland. He died in 1862 and the property was sold to several private owners before it was passed to the Geelong Harbour Trust in 1903.
The house was extended in 1910. In 1912 more renovations were made when the Royal Australian Naval College made Osborne House its home. The Royal Australian Naval college moved to Jervis Bay in 1915. Osborne House operated as a military hospital during the war years. Osborne House was home for the J Class Submarine of the Royal Australian Navy's submarine service.
Osborne House reverted to the Harbour Trust's control in 1929. It was occupied by the Shire of Corio from 1938 until 1941. Then Osborne House became a training centre for the army during World War II.
The Shire of Corio operated out of Osborne House from 1943 until 1995, when the shire merged with the City of Geelong.
Geelong has a history of the sea, with passenger arrivals and departures, trade, scientific and naval activities.
The museum at Osborne House displays sailing ships, submarines, naval heroes and navigation aids. You will be able to view photographs, large scale ship models, flags, uniforms, items from shipwrecks and medals, bombs, bullets, and other interesting photos, displays and more. There is plenty of information on wartime naval battles and Geelong's early maritime history from 1838.
The Museum has a replican section of an HMVS Cerberus gun turret, and a display of the Georgian Line of Battleship - HMVS Nelson. There are displays on Victoria's Colonial Navy by the Friends of Cerberus.