Hume and Hovell expedition

The Hume and Hovell expedition was one of the most important journeys of explorations undertaken in eastern Australia. In 1824 the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, commissioned Hamilton Hume and former Royal Navy Captain William Hovell to lead an expedition to find new grazing land in the south of the colony, and also to find an answer to the mystery of where New South Wales's western rivers flowed.

Surveyor General John Oxley asserted that no river could fall into the sea between Cape Otway and Spencer's Gulf, and that the country south of parallel of 34 degrees was ' uninhabitable and useless for all purposes of civilised men,' and for the time exploration in this direction was greatly discouraged. In 1824, newly appointed Sir Thomas Brisbane, who disbelieved this statement, offered to land a party of prisoners near Wilson's Promontory and grant them a free pardon, as well as a grant of land, to those who found their way overland to Sydney.[1]

Mr. Alexander Berry recommended the Governor to secure the services of Mr. Hume to lead the exploring party. Mr. Hume declined to undertake that task but instead offered, if supplied with men and horses, to go from Lake George to Bass Straits. This was not carried out. But shortly afterwards Mr. Hume and Captain W. H. Hovell, of Minto, agreed together to undertake an expedition in that direction. They found men and horses and bullocks; the Government furnished them with pack saddles, tarpaulins, tent, arms, ammunition, and skeleton charts.[2]

The two leaders each possessing special qualifications, it was not unreasonably counted that their association would be highly advantageous. However, nothing could have been further from the truth. The two men regarded one another as rivals and quarrelled at the start, wrangled throughout the entire journey, and maintained a bitter feud till death.

The party

Apart from Hume and Hovell, there were six members of the expedition. These men played their own valuable role in making the journey a successful one.

  • Jeff Barrois (stated as Bossawa in records) , became one of Hume's men just before the expedition. He never married and died in the Sydney Convict Hospital in 1841.
  • Henry Angel, was one of Hume's men. Granted ticket of leave in July 1825.[3] He later accompanied Sturt and Hume in 1828.
  • James Fitzpatrick, was one of Hume's men, who later took up land between Cootamundra and Gundagai; later bought 'Glenlee' station near Campbelltown, died at 86.
  • William Bollard, was a free settler who on the ship Providence disembarking in Sydney on 7 January 1822. He was one of Hovell's assigned servants. He later built and kept a hotel called the "Farriers Arms" in Upper Picton in the 1840s. He died on 21 August 1854, and is buried in the Catholic Cemetery, Upper Picton.[4]
  • Thomas Smith, was Hovell's assigned servant. He later married Sarah Dean, had two children and died at Eastern Creek, NSW in 1837.
  • Thomas Boyd, was known to Hume as a well-respected horseman, bushman and swimmer, was at the time indentured to the Kennedy family and Hume arranged for Boyd to join the party as one of Hovell's men. Returned to Tumut district and settled on Gilmore Creek. He married, had 12 children and died at 'Windowie', near Tumut, on 27 June 1885, aged 86 years. He is buried in the Tumut Pioneer Cemetery, where a headstone marks his grave.

Outfitting of the expedition

The expedition is considered to have been privately funded; however, the Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane furnished six pack saddles and gear, one tent of Parramatta cloth, two tarpaulins, a suit of slops for each of the men, a few bush utensils, a small quantity of arms and ammunition, and two skeleton charts for the tracing of the journey, worth about 50 pounds.[5]

The supplies were as follows: 7 pack saddles, 1 riding saddle, 8 stands of arms, 6 pounds of gunpowder, 60 rounds of ball cartridge, 6 blankets, 2 tarpaulins, 1 tent, 1200 lbs flour, 350 lbs pork, 170 lbs sugar, 38 lbs tea and coffee, 8 lbs tobacco, 16 lbs soap, 20 lbs salt, 8 gal rum, 1 false horizon, 1 sextant, 3 pocket compasses, 1 pram, and cooking utensils.


On 2 October 1824, Hovell and Hume met at Mr. Hume's house in Appin, and started upon their expedition. The party when complete, consisted of eight persons, Mr. Hume and his three men, Claude Bossowa, Henry Angel, and James Fitzpatrick. And Mr. Hovell and his three men, Thomas Boyd, William Bollard, and Thomas Smith.

They reached Mr. Hume's station near Lake George on the 13th and then started their journey on the 17th. On the 18th they camped near (the site of his late residence), Cooma Cottage. On the 19th they passed Yarrh – or as they are now called Yass Plains.

Their first great difficulty was in crossing the Murrumbidgee which was in full flood at the time. The timber growing on the banks of this river was too heavy to float, so Mr. Hume resolved to make a raft of the body of one of their carts. Mr. Hume and Mr. Hovell's man Boyd, swam across the river first, with a small rope between their teeth, to which was attached a line long enough to reach across the river. It was a work of peril, as the current was strong. But they succeeded, and then, with much labour, got the whole party, with baggage and cattle, safely over.

On 24 October they came up to what seemed an impenetrable mountain barrier. There was an argument between the leaders concerning the best route to take which resulted in the party splitting up. The equipment was divided, and they prepared to cut their one tent in halves. Hume and Hovell fought bitterly over the frying-pan, which fell apart in their hands. One of them taking the handle, the other the pan itself. Later, however, Hovell rejoined Hume when he found he had made a mistake.[6]

Mr. Hume, with two men, following a chain of ponds, came to a chasm through which the whole party afterwards descended. On the 31st they found themselves on the western edge of the tableland. The descent was not accomplished without much difficulty. And here they proved the great superiority of bullocks over horses for travelling over a mountainous country. On 6 November, they came in sight of the snow-covered Australian Alps. They came after this upon a very rich country, abounding in kangaroos and other animals, with frequent tracks of aborigines; and on Tuesday, 16 November, they arrived suddenly on the banks of a "fine river".

Mr. Hume was the first to see the river, near the site of Albury and named it the "Hume", (now the Murray River) after his father. This river, where they first came upon it, is about 50m in breadth, and of considerable depth. The current was about three miles an hour, and the water clear.

They improvised a tarpaulin covered wicker boat, but nobody was keen on crossing in such a fragile craft. "If you don't do what I tell you I'll throw you in!" thundered Hume at Hovell. And with that, they were able to eventually cross and continue into what is now known as Victoria.

They proceeded south crossing the Ovens River and Goulburn River by a route further to the east of the Hume Highway and closer to the foothills of Mount Buffalo. They reached the Great Dividing Range in rugged country around Mount Disappointment by following an Aboriginal track roughly along the Yea to Kinglake road. From the summit of Mount Disappointment they observed bushfires and were unable to find a way through the range. They then retraced their steps to what is now the Strath Creek road at Flowerdale then moved west along Sunday Creek to Mount Piper near Broadford.

Crossing the Great Divide

Hume and Hovell tried again to breach the Great Divide and finally succeeded at Pretty Sally. In the next few days they crossed the volcanic plains north and west of Melbourne. They continued southwards towards the junction of the Maribyrnong River and Jacksons Creek.

Soon they arrived at Corio Bay which the Aboriginal people called 'Iramoo' near the present site of Geelong.[7] Because of damaged instruments they believed they had reached Western Port, the large bay further east which had been visited by Matthew Flinders and George Bass in 1798. Twenty-two years later, in 1825, James Meehan, who had accompanied John Murray in exploring Port Phillip Bay 18 months earlier, was to tell Hume that there were no large islands in Port Phillip, and that therefore had reached Port Phillip, not Western Port as Hovell had insisted.

They spent three days recuperating before retracing their steps back to Sydney arriving back at Mr. Hume's station near Lake George on 18 January 1825.

Colonel Stewart, Captain S. Wright, and Lieutenant Burchell were sent in HMS Fly (Captain Wetherall) and the brigs Dragon and Amity, with orders to proceed to Western Port and establish a colony on 18 November 1826. They took a number of convicts and a small force composed of detachments of the 3rd and 93rd regiments. Attached to the party was Hovell, who had travelled overland from Sydney to Port Phillip at a point about twelve miles from the present town of Geelong with Hamilton Hume the previous year. Hovell had insisted that it was Western Port, not Port Phillip they had visited on that occasion; but on viewing the former water with the expedition under Colonel Stewart he was soon aware of his mistake.[8]

Return to Sydney

Relations between the "currency lad" (first-generation Australian) Hume and the aloof Englishman Hovell had deteriorated, and they raced each other back to Sydney to claim credit for their discoveries. They arrived in January, and were both rewarded with large land grants by Governor Brisbane. They later published conflicting accounts of the journey, each claiming leadership, but today Hume is much the better remembered of the two.

The Hume and Hovell expedition disproved the widely held view that the interior of Australia was an uninhabitable wilderness. They found abundant well-watered grazing land between the Murrumbidgee and the Murray, and also in Victoria. Soon streams of settlers were following their route, which is now the Hume Highway from Sydney to Melbourne via Albury. But their expedition only deepened the mystery of the western rivers.

The route


Within the Greater Melbourne area, monuments commemorating the route of the Hume and Hovell expedition can be found at Beveridge, Greenvale, St. Albans, Werribee and Lara.[9] There are also monuments in other locations in north-eastern Victoria and southern New South Wales.

Appin, New South Wales [10]

Myrtleford [11]

Beveridge, Victoria

This Beveridge Monument and interpretive panel was built in 1999, at the foot of Mount Fraser, to mark the location from which Hume & Hovell first sighted the sea. The original monument, erected in 1924, is on private land nearby.

Ebden, Victoria

Ebden, Victoria

Euroa, Victoria

Monument at Euroa.

Gunning, NSW

Lara, Victoria

Monument at Lara.

Murmungee, Victoria

Monument at Murmungee, VIC


  1. "EXPLORATION OF AUSTRALIA". The Illustrated Australian News. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. 1 January 1891. p. 2 Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE ILLUSTRATED AUSTRALIAN NEWS. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  2. "The Late Mr. Hamilton Hume". Australian Town and Country Journal. NSW: National Library of Australia. 17 May 1873. p. 9. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  3. "Public Notice". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. 7 July 1825. p. 1. Retrieved 3 November 2010.
  4. "EARLY DAYS OF PICTON". The Picton Post. NSW: National Library of Australia. 14 March 1923. p. 2. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  5. "HUME AND HOVELL". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 28 June 1924. p. 11. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  6. "IN THE PATHS OF EXPLORERS". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 2 October 1946. p. 10 Supplement: Playtime. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  7. "THE LATE HAMILTON HUME, THE EXPLORER". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 24 April 1873. p. 3. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  8. "ATTEMPTED COLONISATION AT WESTERN PORT". Mornington Standard. Vic.: National Library of Australia. 12 August 1905. p. 5 Edition: MORNING. Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  9. Melway Edition 33, 2006
  10. Hume and Hovell Monument, Appin, New South Wales, ca. [picture] / E.W. Searle
  11. Monument to Hume and Hovell, Myrtleford State Library of Victoria


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