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Pastoral Holdings Pastoral /Family Connections Political Connections
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Pastoral Holdings in Port Phillip

In the 1830's and 1840's, the colony of Port Phillip was opened up for pastoral activity by the granting of leases. Many "over-straiters" came from Tasmania to the new colony, including John Bell in 1840. A 10 fee was applicable for leases. The first licences were granted in 1838 in Port Phillip and 1840 in Melbourne and Geelong. After 1846-7, squatters had rights to a lease of 14 years.  The spelling of the names of leases is often erratic. In 1851, Victoria became a separate colony from New South Wales.

Leases granted to Armstrong, Bell, Calvert, Sutherland and Thomson Families 

The nature of life in the new colony meant there were business connections between many families, some probably forged in Scotland before emigration. The names of towns in the Geelong area are testament to its Scottish origins: Leigh, Sutherlands Creek, Burnside, Bannockburn, Inverleigh. Some family names have obvious connections while some are tenuous and difficult to prove.

Some Pastoral and Family Connections - Bells, Calverts, Armstrongs, Thomsons, Sutherlands

Some very early settlers of the Port Phillip District in the 1830's and 1840's included the following:

Watch Hill was leased by John Bell & John Calvert River Station + others were leased by William Armstrong and Dr. Alexander Thomson
Irrewarra was leased by John Bell & John Calvert Black Forest leased by William and John Armstrong
Konongwootong West and Moranding were leased by Joseph and Robert Sutherland  Beechwood leased by Thomas Armstrong and William Bell


See this site for Bell, Calvert and Armstrong listings


From the 1860's to the mid 1880's, the strength of early connections were forged and strengthened by marriages between several influential  families in the district, including:

  • Betsy Sutherland m. Alexander Armstrong (of Warrambeen)

  • MaryAnn Armstrong (of Warrambeen) m. Lewis Bell (of Riverina) 1881

  • Anne Russell (of Golf Hill and Wurrook) m. John Bell (of Riverina) 1881

  • Ellen Francis Wilson (Shire engineer) m. John Calvert Bell (of Woolbrook) 1885

  • Margaret Chirnside (Werribee Park/Mt. William) m. John Bell (of Warrambeen/Bell Park)

  • Robina Carstairs m. Robert Lewis Bell (of Mt. Mercer)

  • Margaret Hester Russell (of Golf Hill) m. Robert Carstairs Bell (of Mt. Mercer)

  • Euphemia Russell Aitken (of Dalgetys) m. Lewis Bell (of Mt. Mercer)

Some Political Connections

William Montgomerie Bell MLA 1859-61, Mayor of Melbourne. Home built c. 1848 at "Avoca" South Yarra.  Unknown relationship to Bell Family.
Dr. Alexander Thomson Mayor of Melbourne; MLC 1852-54; MLA 1856-61. "Kardinia" homestead at Belmont. 
Joseph Sutherland MLC 1861-6
"Big" John Bell MLA 1856-59
James Bell MLC 1880's

T. Russell, G. Russell, J. Russell, 

R. Bell, John Bell

Presidents of Leigh Shire Council 1862 to 1896
James Bell, Robert Lewis Bell and Alexander Armstrong Councillors on the Leigh Shire Council, each until their death.

John Bell JP 1887-1900

Lewis Bell  1888-1900

Robert Cartsairs Bell 1900-1905

Phillip Russell  1894-95

James Russell  1881-2, 1883-1910

Councillors on the Leigh Shire Council 

Religious Connections

Presbyterian minister, Rev. John Dunmore Lang, was extremely influential in bringing out large numbers of Scots to NSW then Port Phillip (future Melbourne), in an effort to counter the large influence of the Catholic and Church of England population of settlers and ex-convicts.

The Scottish immigrants who largely commanded the business activities of Victoria, brought with them their Presbyterian faith, which included a belief in their position as the "Elect" or natural leaders of the community. Society of the day demanded that its leaders should be regular churchgoers.  The position of the Scots Presbyterian Church in Collins Street is testament to its power and importance in Victorian 19th century society. Most correspondence of the families mentioned services attended and sermons preached. 


A strong element of stewardship towards local communities was exhibited by the landowning families of the 1800's. The Bell and Armstrong families, the Russell, Leslie, Chirnside and Thomson families, and many others, became central to the development of the schools, churches, associations and  local governments of their areas.  By the late 1890's, this was mostly replaced by larger groups of interested citizens.

Boom Times - the 1880's

The 1880's were a time of immense growth in Victoria. Business and banking boomed; thousands of acres of suburban land were subdivided and resold many times. Millions of shares changed hands at the stock exchange. Huge mansions were built during this time. Rife speculation, over-borrowing and building society and bank scandals accompanied the land boom, resulting in the depression of 1893.   

Family Companies - Armstrong-Bell Ltd and Lewis Bell Pastoral Company

At some time in the 19th century, the Armstrong-Bell Ltd. company was formed. For many years, several properties in Victoria and New South Wales were owned jointly by both families in the company name. Sometime, possibly in the 1920's, a rift occurred. Lewis Bell retained the NSW properties and formed the Lewis Bell Pastoral Company. The Armstrong family retained the Victorian properties. 

In his Will, AAT (Click) Bell (d.1916) gave his father, Lewis Bell, his shares in Armstrong-Bell Ltd.

(More information on the family companies would be very helpful.)

The Bells in Victoria    The Armstrongs in Victoria     The Sutherlands in Victoria

 Last updated: 1 June 2008