The Mountjoys of Lorne by Merrill O’Donnell and Stephen Brooks

Emma Mountjoy


three Mountjoy women signed the 1891 Women’s Suffrage Petition…232. Fanny Mountjoy

Fanny Mountjoy

233. Louisa Mountjoy
Louisa Mountjoy


When the many holidaymakers and guests stay at Erskine House in Lorne, little do they know that they are enjoying the oldest permanently operating guesthouse in Victoria. And when the numerous visitors and tourists fill the cafes, shops and restaurants along busy Mountjoy Parade, they honour a true pioneering family of Lorne.

Originally named Louttit Bay, after Captain Louttit who commanded the first ship that took wool from Port Phillip to London, the small township was re-named Lorne in 1869, coinciding with the marriage of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise, to the Marquis of Lorne. Just five years earlier, three young and intrepid settlers from Cornwall – Lawrence, Thomas and Caleb Mountjoy, came to take up the Louttit Bay run of 17,280 acres.

The young families built a small two-room house, yet realising the popularity of the area and potential of a new business venture, the Mountjoys soon expanded the premises, hoping that ‘summer visitors would be more profitable than chancy crops grown twenty miles from a country railway station.’ In 1870-71, Thomas and Caleb Mountjoy paid £18 in rates on 44 acres and a house. A year later, stables were built, followed by gardens and an orchard.


Erskine House Pool



The name Erskine House was first used in 1877 and the addition of another dining room and a long suite of bedrooms saw people flock to Lorne to enjoy the comforts and the seaside, although a petition in 1880 to the Winchelsea Council from Lorne residents complained that persons were bathing at all hours of the day, a sight looked on as offensive to respectable people.


To remedy the situation, the Mountjoys built a bathing house and change room for their male guests at one end of the beach in front of Erskine House and a female bathing house at the other.

Keeping the sexes half a mile apart was seen as the best solution to placate the locals.

In 1878, with the ever increasing rise in tourist numbers, Caleb and Thomas Mountjoy established a coach service to bring the visitors from the Melbourne train to Lorne. After breakfast in Geelong and two more train changes at Birregurra and Deans Marsh, where lunch was enjoyed at Bell’s Hotel, passengers undertook a two and a half hour dusty and hot coach journey for the final twenty miles to Lorne. In its heyday, ninety horses were used in the service and eight men were engaged in the blacksmith shop at Erskine House.


Mountjoy family 1897
Mountjoy Family 1897
Mountjoy Family 1914 - Copy
Mountjoy Family 1914

There was little social or community life in Lorne that did not involve the Mountjoy families. Thomas Mountjoy was the first Post Master at a salary of £10 per year and was one of the first Trustees of the cemetery in 1878. He was also part of a vocal group who advocated for a footbridge over the Erskine River, he was a member of a committee to build the Anglican Church and three Mountjoy women signed the 1891 Women’s Suffrage Petition.

That same year, both families were united in grief when 14 year old Annie Mountjoy, daughter of Caleb and 15 year old Sophia Mountjoy, daughter of Thomas, died after a tragic accident. On going to bed one night, the young girls poured water over the coals of a fire and the toxic fumes poisoned them while they slept.

Today, the Mountjoy name is synonymous with Lorne, testament to their pioneering spirit.

Photos above were provided from a private family collection.


And these photos are from the Lorne Historical Society which is open on the first Sunday of each month from 2pm to 4pm. Special thanks to Peter Spring for selection and scanning.

1655 - Marine Parade Lorne
Marine Parade Lorne

1619 greyscale

55509056 - View along Mountjoy Pde

7130 (1)


6 thoughts on “The Mountjoys of Lorne by Merrill O’Donnell and Stephen Brooks

  1. So excited to find this article as I am a granddaughter of William and Vera Mountjoy and therefore great granddaughter of Thomas. I am visiting Lorne and staying at Erskine House and in the district for a week in April 2021 to continue to trace the family. Thank you!


    1. I am the granddaughter of Annie Louisa Thomas so I believe Caleb Mountjoy is my great great grandfather. Great to see a photo of my grandmother on this page.


    2. Hi Julie,

      I tried to reply to your post a few weeks ago but I must’ve done something wrong because it didn’t appear. I am the great, great granddaughter of Caleb Mountjoy so we are distant relatives. I was thrilled to find this site because my grandmother is in two of the above photos. I hope you’re able to find the information you’re looking for. My aunt took a keen interest in the family tree so we may have some information that may be of help. Good luck!


      1. Hello Alison

        I have found a pandora’s box and lots of information during the week down in Lorne. I will be delighted to share facts as I have recently downloaded the beginnings of their story. I well remember my grandfather William Lorne who was the son of William Allin and his father was Thomas Mountjoy who came out with your GG Caleb. I would love to catch up. It seems I am getting so much information I will need to write a book of my side of the family. I live in NSW (Batemans Bay and Sydney). I am not sure where you are. Thanks for getting in touch!


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