Newmarket Saleyards turn 150

by Kate C
Publish date
17 February 2011
Comments (28)

Have you ever passed the weathered, rough-hewn post and rail fences near the corner of Smithfield and Flemington Roads? These are the remains of the former Newmarket Saleyards which opened 150 years ago this month.

Newmarket Saleyards Newmarket Saleyards, highlighting the laneway running between the stock pens showing detail of bluestone pitches and post and rail fencing.
Image: Robert Cutting
Source: Museum Victoria

Cars, trucks and trams thunder along Flemington Road these days and but there was a time when the roads were full of traffic of a different kind. For decades, thousands of head of cattle were driven along here ‘on the hoof’ by working dogs and drovers, many from as far away as Queensland. In the late 1800s Newmarket was on the city fringe, but as Melbourne expanded, the chaos, sounds and smells of rural life collided with the city. Increasingly, trucks and rail were used to transport livestock during the 20th century and a stock overpass, built in the 1960s, reduced the risk of escapes. There are plenty of stories of stray cattle trampling through local houses, turning up at the pub, the milk bar, and even the Zoo. After the auction, drovers ran livestock to nearby abattoirs or to be transported to the paddocks of their new owners.

  A yardman directing cattle at Newmarket Saleyards A yardman directing cattle at Newmarket Saleyards, 1960.
Image: Laurie Richards Studio
Source: Museum Victoria

The vast Newmarket Saleyards were the most important in Australia, setting the price for livestock nationwide. It became a ‘town within a town’ with its own essential services, including a telegraph office, cricket club, newspaper and radio station. Record numbers of animals were sold here during World War II.

Covered walkways between the stock pens at the Newmarket Saleyards Covered walkways between the stock pens at the Newmarket Saleyards where auctioneers stood and conducted sales.
Image: Robert Cutting
Source: Museum Victoria

Regional stockyards led to the decline of Newmarket which finally closed in 1987. Museum Victoria acquired significant objects from Newmarket and volunteer Jackie Gatt has been working with curator Liza Dale-Hallett to document the collection, which is featured on Collections Online this month.

You can still see bluestone paving, stock pens, covered walkways and brick buildings on the site, but new housing occupies much of the original 57 acres. Every year since its closure, drovers, agents and auctioneers who worked at Newmarket hold a reunion on the third Saturday of February each year to catch up with old friends. This year there will also be a community celebration day on Sunday 20 February, 11am-2pm, to honour the 150th anniversary.

Bill Glenn mosaic Detail of the Newmarket Saleyard mosaics, featuring Bill Glenn, a drover at the Newmarket Saleyards, and his cattle dog.
Image: mural artist Elizabeth McKinnon, photographer Robert Cutting
Source: Museum Victoria


Newmarket Collection on Collections Online

Brochure about Newmarket Collection (PDF, 2Mb)

ABC Landline: Saleyard of the Century

Poster for Community Day on 20 February (PDF, 6.2Mb)

Comments (28)

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Nicole 17 February, 2011 11:55
Thanks for a great story and reminder of the old ways of doing things. I'm glad the former workers still get together and keep their memories alive.
Susan 17 February, 2011 13:06
Glad to hear some elements of the old yards have been retained. I remember them well, having driven past them for so many years before their closure and the redevelopment of the area. For me they were always a sign that the end of a long road trip from Adelaide was close, and either holiday or home lay ahead.
John 18 February, 2011 09:46
Thanks for this article. I remember going along to a nnumber or saleyards around country Victoria as a child with my father. I only ever made one visit to Newmarket but I remember the hustle and bustle, the auctioneer calling numbers in a language i wasn't sure I understood and making sure i didn't wave my hand around and accidently buy a bull!
Tim 18 February, 2011 10:17
My Dad tells a story of how stock and station agents (from my home town of Kyneton) would take groups of local farmers down to Newmarket when the sales were on. This was apparently as much a social outing as it was a business one, and the afternoons were spent raising glasses in the surrounding pubs in preference to raising livestock. Lost in the alcoholic fug of one of these excursions, an agent supposedly forgot one of the old cockies in his charge and made the trip back to Kyneton without him. With little knowledge of the big smoke, the abandoned farmer did what any practical bloke would do and set off home on shank’s pony; eighty kilometres later, he was apparently home in time for breakfast.
Louise 18 February, 2011 11:27
Thanks for that information Kate. My Great Grandfather, and later my Grandmother, both worked at the Newmarket saleyards. These photos and information really bring history to life!
John D 18 February, 2011 20:14
Great blog and collection. Well done! It's a fantastic read, with some interesting images and links. Only suggested correction is that what remains of the saleyards are on the corner of Smithfield and Racecourse Roads, rather than Flemington Road. The Heritage Committee of the Flemington Association have created some heritage flyers for Flemington, including Newmarket, which should be publicly available in the next couple of weeks. For copies email
Kate C 18 February, 2011 20:30

Thanks John, I've corrected my error. Much appreciated.

Eve Mc Namara 19 February, 2011 20:17
My aunt, the wife of Maurice Mc Namara of Mc Namara and Co Pty Ltd. Auctioners, is 91rs old and has wonderful memories which could be added to the history of the Newmarket Saleyards
Ken 21 February, 2011 07:21
I was unable to attend this years reunion of newmarket saleyards. I worked there in the early 1970s. There was not many areas of the complex that I have not walked over. I work for Australian Estates as a client booking clerk ie booking up the different lots of animals and prices for each pen. As a country lad this was a great job.
Robyn Luczynski 21 February, 2011 16:20
I work at the Sam Merrifield Library in Moonee Ponds which is part of the Moonee Valley Library Service. Today I had a borrower who attended the community day on Saturday, I was not aware that the Museum was having this exhibition, which is great. My area that I look after is the Local and Family History Resources and we have in our vertical files some information on the Newmarket Saleyards which the Museum may be interested in having copies, some of the items are stories from drovers, slaughtermen who worked there, drawings/plans of the re-development of the saleyards into the Lynch's Bridge development and more, please contact me if you are interested.
Kate C 21 February, 2011 16:24
Thanks Robyn, I'll pass on your details to the curators.
Lorraine 21 February, 2011 18:07
I am doing family research on my husbands side,and found that his family was involved as drovers, stock agents,slaughter men and butchers, so I am very interested in the Newmarket Saleyards.The family names were Lang and Crisp.
Cheryl Roberts 25 February, 2011 15:49
Hi, I was delighted to hear about the sale yard reunion. My grandfather and great grandfather both known as Charles Crisp lived at 73 Market Street (opposite the sale yard) and around the corner in Percy Street. They were both involved in the running of the sales yard, though I am unsure in what capacity. I have recollections of the sheep urine soaked blue stone cobbles, bleeting sheep, and hanging off the palings and gates... I would be pleased to be put in touch with the organisers of the reunion to find out more. Regards, Cheryl
Lenore Frost 15 April, 2011 09:31
I managed to track down the First World War Honour Roll for the Associated Stock and Station Agents which hung in the administration block until the saleyards closed. It is now hanging in foyer of the Victorian Livestock Exchange in Packenham. You can see a photograph of the board on my blog:
Gwen Hill 11 July, 2011 19:40
I was always told my great grandfather Edward Lothian Ettershank was a stock and station agent. He had rooms in Vincent place on Collins Street. I was trying to find out what every day life would be like
Pam Missen nee Wallis 6 January, 2012 07:18
I went to the Kensington High School, and I walked past the saleyards every morning and I loved the smell of the sheep and the yards, this was in 1953 to 1955 great memories of a great time.
Sally McInnes 19 March, 2012 17:34
My great grandfather was also Edward Lothian Ettershank and I am researching the family history. I would love to get in contact with Gwen Hill. Is that possible? I would be happy for her to have my email address.
Sally McInnes 19 March, 2012 18:12
Edward Lothian Ettershank was my great,great grandfather, rather than just great grandfather (see previous comment).
Discovery Centre 20 March, 2012 12:13

Hi Sally, we will pass on your details to Gwen in order for her to get in touch with you.

Anthony Bedwell 29 January, 2013 13:30
My father was an auctioneer at Newmarket in the 60's and 70's working for Elders.His name been Bruce Bedwell. At present he is living at Mt Eliza and just turned 84 years.He has many great stories ,one being the day he arrived home missing the top of his finger which was left on a cattle gate closure.
Cannard 1 July, 2013 14:05
My father, grandfather and uncles (Cannard) all were drovers here. My father is close to his 80's now (2013) and has great plessure telling his many stories regarding Newmarket. He still takes his granchildren here to walk around and relive his stories. Thanks for sharing this article.
Marg 13 November, 2013 07:47
My Grandfather was Alfred Ettershank and I believe he was brought up by his uncle - Edward Lothian Ettershank who was a Stock and Station agent at Newmarket. Does anyone know any more about this family?
Joanne Little 12 February, 2014 21:35
I believe my uncle worked there many years ago but I would love confirmation of that cos he has since passed away. His name was Robert Harold Jackson. So would love to get any history of this.
Lindsay Dippie 27 October, 2015 20:49
I worked as apprentice at the City Abattoirs from 1966 to 1969. There were only 2 apprentices the other was Robert Bell who was the son of the head meat inspector at the City Abattoirs we also worked at the Newmarket sales yards. I worked under Jock Hesline it was a mini city we repaired /checked the flooded & spot lights on the Mondays before the sheep came in. If you want any more information please contact me Cheers Lindsay Dippie
Alistair urquhart 17 January, 2016 22:18
I hope to attend the 2016 reunion to represent my father don Urquhart of Denny's lascelles. Have fond and interesting memories of many visits
Enid Hookey 20 April, 2016 12:31
Inner West Branch of National Trust is running a walk along the former stock route and the new suburb of Kensington Banks as an event in this year's (2016) National Trust Heritage Festival. May I mention your blog as a Reference in my walk notes?
Discovery Centre 21 April, 2016 09:28
Hi Enid,

Yes, that's absolutely fine. Thank you for asking!
Anthony 0418107933 17 November, 2016 09:44
Hi I'm loving all the memories my grand father tom Davis walked ever part of Newmarket sale yard I also cleaned the out side of the sheep shit in also known as the pastrol in new market great to see the memories of bill who lived at the pastrol who I got to know I thank bill for the great stories and the stock whips he gave to me and cane sticks he also gave me a gift which was a blue heeled x collie which he got from another drover he helped me train him and I called him bango these are memories I will pass onto my for children
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