Island History


French Island was discovered as an Island by a French Expedition from the ship l'Naturaliste in April 1802.

In 1844 for about 6 months, Stanger and Hayden set up harvesting mangroves for the ash which was used in the manufacture of glass and soap - very important commodities in early Victorian times.

The first settlers were William and John Gardiner in 1847. They had the first pastoral lease and grazed 8,000 sheep.

The first subdivision was in 1867, 4733 acres divided into 14 allotments with the first land sales being in 1873 with the minimum price £1 per acre.

In 1873 the first salt company was established, with a further one starting in 1886. Large cast iron vats were used evaporate the sea water to produce the salt.

In the 1893 the Victorian Government established 7 village settlements on French Island. These were called Energy, Star of Hope, Callanan's, Perseverance, Industrial, Kiernan's and Grant Homestead Association. Altogether about 200 people made up

these settlements. This was part of 70 village settlements established around the state under the Village Settlement Scheme.

The Phillip Island chicory industry started in 1878 and John Ratford spent a season there in 1895 to learn about it. He then introduced it to French Island where it became the main source of income for over 70 years.

The Bayview chicory kiln was built in 1896 - 97 and was the second kiln built on the Island and now the oldest one remaining.

There have been 4 schools of which Perseverance is the only one remaining and now only caters for primary school children.

Perseverance Primary School was established in 1896, has been in two locations and after celebrating its centenary in 1996 is still going strong with up to the minute technology and strong community support.

There has never been a church on French Island, but services were originally held in homes and then community halls as they were built. Nowadays people travel to the mainland for services.

The McLeod prison farm opened in 1916 as a tent village. Timber cabins housed the prisoners until 1946 when concrete cells were built. It operated as a self sustaining farm giving the prisoners an open air environment and opportunities to learn new skills. The prison closed in 1975 and was used as a holiday camp facility until 1995 and now is privately owned.


A Short History of  French Island

Lois's grandfather, Joseph Thompson invented and built this chicory elevator. It was used to lift the washed chicory to the hopper.

Find out more