Molesworth is a small village and pastoral district 85 km north-east of Melbourne and 13 km east of Yea on the Goulburn Valley Highway.

It was named at the same time as Yea (1855) by a Government surveyor, probably after Lieutenant J. Molesworth, a casualty in the Crimean War about five months before. Molesworth had been a colleague of the Victorian Surveyor-General, Andrew Clarke, in the 7th Royal Fusiliers (see also the naming of Yea). An alternative version is that it was named after Sir William Molesworth, (1810-55) Chairman of the Transportation Committee which recommended abolition of the transportation of convicts to New South Wales.

A European settler at Molesworth, John Sloan, built an inn and operated a punt across the Goulburn River for travellers to and from the Upper Goulburn goldfields. Molesworth's beginning is generally calculated form Sloan's settlement in 1859. The township was surveyed in 1864 and a store with a post office was there by 1875. The primary school was opened in 1880. The railway was extended from Yea to Molesworth in 1889, at about the time a sawmill and a butcher were added to the township. Ten years later the Anglican church was opened.

Molesworth had social and commercial connection with Cathkin, about 7 km eastwards. Cathkin was known for a while as Molesworth East, and shared sporting events and the training of local Mounted Rifles volunteers with Molesworth.

By 1903 Molesworth had a public hall, a sportsground, a church, three stores, a hotel, a creamery, a blacksmith and a railway station. The school and the church were a little out of the town.

Molesworth has been affected several times by flooding of the Goulburn River. Various bridges were damaged or washed away, and severe floods occurred in 1870 and 1934. Bushfires are an ever-present danger.

Primary industry in the Molesworth district has comprised sheep, cattle for meat and milk, piggeries, timber from both land clearing and from forests for milling, and intermittent mining. Farmers supplemented their income by rabbiting and collecting wattle bark for tanning. The 1950s and 1960s saw considerable social and sporting activity in the town supplemented in 1957 by Italian migrants working as railway gangers.

The construction of the Eildon Dam reduced the risk of floods, and the connection of the town to the State Electricity grid brought electric refrigerators in place of kerosene units. Despite these trends, the later postwar years brought the closure of the railway station (1979) and the primary school (1980). The depressed state of the rural economy coincided with the closures, and some large properties were broken up and sold. The smaller acreages attracted hobby farmers. The township retains the hotel, store and post office, a camping ground, several residences and a new fire station.

Molesworth's census populations have been:

Census date Population
1901 63
1911 158
1921 212
1933 194
1954 183
1961 154

Further Reading

G.P. Jones & N.E. Jones, Molesworth 1824-1994, Molesworth, 1994