Winton and Thoona

Winton is a rural village and locality on the route between Melbourne and Albury. It is between Benalla and Glenrowan, and is situated on Seven Mile Creek which crosses the Hume Highway and enters Lake Mokoan (originally Lake Winton) to the north. Winton is in mostly flat country with little tree cover.

Its name was given by Assistant Surveyor J.G. Wilmot who resurveyed the road to Glenrowan and surveyed the township lots in 1857. He named the township after his birthplace, Winton, Westmorland, North England. Settlers, many of whom were Irish, came to the Winton district in the 1860s. A Catholic school was opened in 1869, and was replaced by a government school in 1877. A settler who stayed and rose to local prominence, however, was George Chandler who opened a store on the Melbourne-Albury road in the 1850s. He became hotel-keeper, postmaster and later the Benalla Shire's rate collector.

Winton railway station was opened in 1877 on the Melbourne-Albury railway line (1873). It had a firewood siding for transport of fuel. The cutting down of trees coincided with a decline in local rainfall, which resulted in a move from dairying to meat and wool production. Before the turn of the century Winton had Presbyterian (1879-1950), Methodist (1868-1964) and Anglican (1900-60) churches, a butter factory, race club, hotel, school and public hall. The closure of the churches charts Winton's fading as a district centre, probably because of its proximity to Benalla.

Winton was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:

Winton became better known for recreation and water sport on Lake Mokoan and for motor racing on the Winton racing circuit. Originally a number of swamps north of the Hume Highway, they were formed as a water storage in 1971 and named Mokoan after a pastoral run. Excessive evaporation led to its being returned to wetland in 2009. The Winton Wetlands Committee of Management was inaugurated in 2009, taking over land management responsibilities from Goulburn Murray Water in 2010.

The racing circuit is next to the Winton village, and both are bypassed by the Hume Freeway which runs between them and the former Lake Mokoan. 

Further north is the village of Thoona. Its census population has never exceeded 200, but the current district population is probably near Winton's. Thoona has a school (1878), a handsome general store, a hotel, two churches, a hall and a recreation reserve. At the turn of the century it also had a butter factory (1889), brickworks, foundry, mechanics' institute and dramatic and choral societies. The village and the school were named Mokoan until 1886. School enrolments in 2014 were 29 (Winton) and 8 (Thoona). The name Thoona is thought to be an Aboriginal word meaning village surrounded by hills. There is forested, hilly country north of Thoona.

Winton's census populations have been:

Census Date Population
1861 62
1911 279
1933 220
1961 164
2011 188

Further Reading

Marion Webster, Winton Primary School No 1870, 1877-1977, centenary, the author, 1977

Muriel Ferris, The Thoona school 2056 and district story, 1878-1978, Thoona, 1978