Ellerslie is a rural village in western Victoria, 32 km north-east of Warrnambool on the road to Mortlake.

In 1841 John Eddington took up the Ballangeich pastoral run (named after his birthplace) west of the Hopkins River. At the place where the track from Mortlake crossed the river a ford was laid down, and the locality was known as Lettsford.

During the early 1860s a bridge was constructed, and the Bridge Inn was opened. In 1865, at the suggestion of Eddington, the place was renamed Ellerslie, probably after the birthplace of the author and poet, Sir Walter Scott.

During the late 1860s and the 1870s farm selections were taken up. A school and a Presbyterian church were opened in 1871. Many of the farms were used for dairying and in 1891 the Ellerslie and Framlingham Butter Factory was opened.

Ellerslie was linked to the village of Ballangeich, about 10 km southwards, in the sense of being included as part of Ballangeich in some descriptions given in directories during the 1880s. Taken together, their combined populations rivalled Mortlake’s, but the figures were misleading without comparisons between civic infrastructures. Nevertheless, the population figures signified the relatively intense farm and dairying activity.

In 1903 the Australian handbook recorded that the Ballangeich district had two schools, a store and a Catholic church, and Ellerslie’s description was:

The description omitted mention of an Anglican church (1889-1974) and a mechanics’ institute (1903). The institute hosted a debating society and a library, and a recreation reserve had annual sports meetings and Highland and Irish dancing.

Farming comprised dairying, wool/mutton and some crops. Closer settlement during the 1920s, however, caused Ellerslie to decline, as town houses were moved out on to the new farms. During the years after World War II Ellerslie survived better than Ballangeich. The latter’s school closed in 1968 whereas Ellerslie’s lasted until 1992.

Ellerslie has a Uniting church, a hall, a recreation reserve with tennis courts and a war memorial which has been a venue for district commemorative services. The store was not replaced when it was burnt down in 1967. There is a relic bridge (1867) where the Hopkins Highway crosses the river.

Ellerslie’s census populations have been:

area census date population
Ellerslie 1871 95
  1881 138
  1901 91
  1911 128
  1921 145
  1933 257
  1954 208
  1961 265
Ellerslie and environs 2011 247

At the 2011 census dairy farming accounted for 44% of employment and other farming and horticulture 18.9%.

Further Reading

Pastures of peace: a tapestry of Mortlake, Shire of Mortlake, 1985

The last roll-call: a history of the Ellerslie primary schools, Back to Ellerslie and District Reunion Committee, 1993

Robert McLaren, Ballangeich and Ellerslie: bridging the years, Leopold, 2012