40km from Richmond, along the Croydon Road, Cambridge Crossing is an intersection of road with the Stawell River. To the left and just before this crossing, are the ruins that remind us of the history attached to the Cambridge Downs homestead.
In the Mid 1860’s this original building was a fine example of the architectural resourcefulness of the Western Pioneers, and here sprang a busy rural outpost where man and beast carved out a new frontier.
These crude building blocks, gathered from the surrounding Downs, made an Australian Frontier version of the Englishman’s castle. There was military significance to this flagstone structure with a thatched roof, stone walls that would not be easily breached and the windows had iron bars to help defend against Aboriginal attacks. The sitting of the homestead, well out on a clear flat 300 meters away from the wooded Cambridge Creek, is supporting evidence of the Pioneer’s defense strategy.
The main building was linked by a passageway to a store room and office. The cookhouse with a big clay oven was out the back. Lawns, citrus trees and grape vines flourished. There were several other buildings; these included a Jackaroo’s quarters (with their own cook and housemaid), Ringers quarters, a Butcher shop with two full time Butchers and a Blacksmith Shop.
The Cambridge Downs shearing shed, 3km in the distance was known as the biggest and best equipped Shed in the District with 26 stands. A wood fired mobile steam engine powered the old Cambridge plant. Up to 80 men camped in a string of tents along the bore drain. The shearing shed burnt down twice, as did the Cambridge men’s quarters.