Located 114 km north of Melbourne between Seymour and Euroa and just to the west of the Hume Highway, Avenel was established as a stopover point on the road from Melbourne to Albury.
The area was settled in the 1830s and Henry Kent Hughes named his property 'Avenel' after a village in Gloucestershire, England. It was used in the title of a popular novel at the time - 'the Maid of Avenel'.
The township was established in 1849 when the government offered land for sale adjacent a ford over Hughes Creek which had, for some years, been used as a camping place by drovers and teamsters travelling on the Old Sydney Road, established in 1839 as the overland mail route between Melbourne and Sydney.
Avenel grew rapidly as gold prospectors poured north driven by dreams of riches on the goldfields. By 1859 a substantial stone bridge had been built to meet the needs of the increased traffic. Around this time the Royal Mail Hotel was built near the bridge.
Avenel's most famous citizen was Ned Kelly.
Kelly's father took the entire family to live in Avenel in the early 1860s. Ned lived in the town from the age of 8 until his father died when he was only 12. Ned's father is buried in the town cemetery. There is a popular story of how the young Kelly saved a boy from drowning in the local creek. It is said that he was rewarded with a green sash which he wore the day he was shot. Certainly there is evidence that Ned Kelly recorded his father's death at the local Court House.
The railway reached the town in 1872 and, for the next few decades, it enjoyed importance as a location where wheat from the surrounding area was shipped out to Melbourne. By 1880 the town had a flour mill and a grain store.
Today it is typical of town's which have been by-passed. A small town with a few historic remnants.
Things to see
The first Overland Mail from Melbourne to Sydney was established in 1839. The route it traversed was known as the Old Sydney Road which was also used by drovers and bullock wagons. It crossed Hughes Creek at a shallow, sandy ford which became a camping place for teamsters and, in 1849, the village of Avenel.
In 1859 a six-arch stone bridge was built by Hugh Dalrymple for the Victorian Board of Land and Works. This major upgrade was largely the result of the goldrushes and, in its early years, would have been used extensively by Cobb & Co. It was retired in 1969 when a new bridge was built but its historical value was recognised and it has been preserved with a plaque to denote its significance.
Royal Mail Hotel
Dating from the 1850s this small brick and rubblestone house was a coach house for the changing of Cobb & Co. horses for some decades after its original construction. It then reverted to a domestic dwelling. It is located near the stone bridge across Hughes Creek.
Plunkett Wines was established in 1968 although the present vineyard got under way in 1991. It is located at the corner of the Hume Freeway and Lambing Gully Rd and produces riesling, sauvignon blanc/semillon, chardonnay, shiraz, merlot and cabernet merlot. The cellar door is open seven days from 11.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. with dinners available on Friday and Saturday nights at the restaurant, tel: (03) 5796 2150.
The Harvest Home Country House Hotel at 1 Bank St is situated within a lovely and very well-kept 1860s hotel with a grand Victorian dining room. It is now a 'boutique hotel' with dinner and bed-and-breakfast packages. The garden pavilions and al fresco poolside dining is an attraction, tel: (03) 5796 2339.