History of the Daylesford Court House Complex #1

The recent grant from Heritage Victoria for urgently needed maintenance of the Daylesford Courthouse in Camp Street (Wombat Post 14 Oct 2022), together with the news that U3A have taken up permanent residence in the Courthouse (Wombat Post 7 Oct 2022), have awakened a new-found interest in the history of one of Daylesford’s iconic historical precincts.

The DNC has occupied the Courthouse and its Precinct for many years, but the history of the Courthouse and its surrounds goes back many more years.

Over the next few weeks, The Wombat Post will revisit that history in a series of articles, exploring its origins and development as an integral part of Daylesford’s history.

The Courthouse

The iconic Daylesford Courthouse looms over the township with its curious face-like appearance.  It was built in 1863.  Trials were held in it until 1986.

When this was undisturbed Dja Dja Wurrung country, Wombat Hill was a dense forest, some of the trees being of immense size. It was thickly covered with scrub and fern, mixed with immense wombat holes.

When alluvial gold was discovered in the area in 1851, thousands of diggers came to work in the vicinity.  The majority of diggers were law-abiding, but fear of ex-convicts was prevalent.  Much effort and money were put into creating a justice system to help stabilise a society growing alarmingly quickly.

A police reserve of 66.8 acres was set aside on Wombat Hill when Daylesford was first surveyed in 1854.  A government camp was established with space to graze and exercise police horses.  In 1858, the first Courthouse and rudimentary police quarters, lock-up and stabling were built.

That Courthouse soon became inadequate.  Judicial sittings spilled over into Jamison’s Hotel.  By 1863 a new Courthouse, a solid lock-up and good wooden stables were built to replace the earlier versions.  The original reserve was reduced in order to allocate land for public gardens, a water reserve and smaller residential and commercial allotments.  Finally, a new police residence and office was also built in 1875.

It remains one of the most complete examples of a police precinct from the earliest days of European settlement in Victoria.  It is now publicly owned by Heritage Victoria and is heritage listed.  It is now home to the thriving Daylesford Neighbourhood Centre (DNC).  They manage the site and use it as a base to respond to the current and future needs of the Daylesford district and surrounding community by encouraging community development, support, environmental sustainability, training and education, in a collaborative and complementary way.

Why not visit DNC and enjoy the beauty and history of this unique historical asset?

See more history of the precinct next week.


A man of a certain age often travelled the same route on a bus. Over time, he became friendly with the driver and started bringing him little bags of peanuts.

The bus driver was enjoying the nuts at first, but after a few days he said to the man, “Come on, mate, it’s really nice of you, I’m loving the peanuts, but please stop bringing me so much, have some for yourself!”

“Ah, young man,” laughed the old chap, “I don’t have my teeth anymore, I couldn’t eat them even if I wanted to. But I really like the yummy chocolate coating around them!”

Boom, boom!

[I know, some of our jokes are slightly less-than-hilarious!  If you’ve got some better ones, send them to events@dncentre.org.au and we’ll publish them (Remember, this is a family publication! ?).  We’ll even include your name if you wish – or you can protect your anonymity!]