Emerald Hill Battery
1863 illustration of the Emerald Hill Battery. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria.
Britain was at war with Russia in the Crimea from 1853 to 1856. There was a fear that warships of Russia’s Pacific Fleet could enter Port Phillip Bay, sail on to Hobson’s Bay, and hold gold-rich Melbourne to ransom. In 1855 Victoria’s colonial government took its first step to protect Melbourne’s port. Two batteries were built. One was at Point Gellibrand, Williamstown, and the other was 4,000 yards away on the beach at the end of present-day Kerferd Road. The two batteries were equipped with old, muzzle-loading 68- pounders which had an effective range of 2,000 yards, so the plan was to catch any marauder in a cross-fire. Soon after in 1856 the first ship of Victoria’s colonial navy, the composite sail-steam sloop HMCS Victoria, arrived from Britain. In 1860 the two batteries were upgraded with more guns, bluestone ramparts, and barracks. As well two more batteries were built, one near the Sandridge Lagoon and the other at west St Kilda. A rudimentary military road from the Sandridge battery to the west St Kilda battery was to become the proposed Marine Parade and finally, during the 1880’s, the grand Beaconsfield Parade.
The battery at the end of Kerferd Road was manned by the part-time, volunteer members of the Emerald Hill Battery unit under the direction of members of the British Royal Artillery until 1870, and then under the direction the full-time Victorian Artillery unit. Apart from the ongoing fear of Russia there was also concern about other European colonial powers, notably France and Germany. The Sandridge Lagoon, Emerald Hill and west St Kilda batteries became surplus to needs by the late 1870’s and were dismantled. By 1870 the Fort Gellibrand fortification had 24 80-pounders and 6 long-range, breech-loading 300-pounders. Victoria’s colonial navy began a rapid expansion with the arrival in 1868 of the old converted man-of-war HMVS Nelson as a training ship, and the state-ofthe-arts monitor, HMVS Cerberus, in 1871. With the availability of long-range guns and land-based torpedoes, forward defence at the Heads became viable.
By the mid 1880’s forts at Queenscliff, Point Nepean and Swan Island had been completed, and soon after another battery was constructed at Fort Franklin near Portsea, creating the ‘Gibraltar of the South’. Following these new defence arrangements the Emerald Hill Battery unit was disbanded in 1884.
Thanks to Member: Edward Boyle