For ages before the coming of Major Mitchell the grassy river flats, dotted with giant Red Gums along this valley and now known as the Loddon River formed the homelands of the Jajawurrong people. The original Australians had no written language so we have only sketchy outlines from their folklore about their long occupation of this place.
Local recorded history begins with Major Mitchell’s account of his journey through this part of his Australia Felix. He wrote that his bullocks were able to obtain excellent forage from the lush grass on the riverside flats of this stream. The time was September 1836 and a good season, fully justifying his lyrical description of what is now known as Newstead.
Due to Major Mitchell’s tantalising depiction of this place a steady stream of Sydney side squatters came south. Many now familiar local names took the opportunity to take up runs in this part of the Loddon Valley. Most of the site of modern Newstead was on the Tarrangower run, owned by William Morrison Hunter. Newstead Road District was proclaimed 8th Oct. 1860. A secretary surveyor/collector carried out assessments and collected rates of about two hundred pounds. In October of 1863 a public meeting at the Bridge Hotel endorsed the formation of a shire, but two years were to pass before the shire of Newstead came about. Shire of Newstead proclaimed 27th Feb. 1865. Amalgamation with the Mount Alexander Shire took place in October 1915 to become the united Shire of Newstead and Mount Alexander. Shire of Newstead & Mount Alexander (name change) proclaimed 16th May 1916. Shire of Newstead (renamed) proclaimed 24th May, 1949. With the more recent council amalgamations of the mid 1990s we are now part of the Mount Alexander Shire.
As early as 1856 the local community wrote asking the National Board of Education for permission to conduct a school. Teaching commenced in the tent chapel on the 27th of November. Henry Bonner stated “I have gone alone from house to house, requesting parents to allow their children the benefits of education. I began with five scholars. On the second day I mustered ten, and on the day following eleven". As of September 1862 the school became Number 452 Newstead. The new school was built on its current site in 1877 and opened for classes on the 8th of October 1877.
Gold was a significant feature of early Newstead. At first shallow alluvial gold was found creating several small rushes to the area. In the early 1860s a Chinese camp of almost three thousand inhabitants was to be found along the Jim Crow Creek. Later on gold was extracted by dredge and at one time in the 1940s Newstead was this state’s highest producer of gold. The gold diggers brought prosperity to the squatters of Newstead providing a ready market for their produce and livestock.
Newstead, always largely a farming community of wool and dairying, has seen great changes since the 1960s. Now local agriculture involves a smaller but more diversified sector including cropping, grazing, prime lambs, fine wool, goats, emus, alpacas, herbs, vineyards, organic vegetables and apiarists.
The town since the 1970s has seen enormous growth in the population associated with the performing and visual arts, music, pottery and writing and Newstead has its own theatre group.
- Newstead some early history: R.A. Bradfield
- Communities managing (Agricultural) Change Project: Janet Barker & Ruth Liepins
- Newstead & District Historical Society\