The region was settled in the 1830’s when Henry Kent Hughes named his pastoral holding ‘Avenel Run’ possibly after a village in Gloucestershire, England or his former property in England although the name was also used in the title of a popular novel at the time ‘The Maid Of Avenel’. The holding of 60,000 acres stretched from Mangalore to Kerrisdale and Ghin Ghin and to Ruffy.
Avenel’s natural ford was the original means of crossing Hughes Creek and the area was used as a camping place by drovers and travellers. Two wooden bridges were built but due to increased traffic the six arch stone bridge was built in 1859 to service the Cobb & Co.
Avenel grew rapidly as gold prospectors travelled to the goldfields. The Coach House dates from the 1850s, a small brick and rubblestone building and serviced the Cobb & Co. It closed in 1903 and is now a private residence.
Shortly after the Royal Mail Hotel was built near the bridge, now the Imperial Hotel. It’s owned by the Shelton family, direct descendants of Richard Shelton the boy rescued by Ned Kelly and once frequented by Ian ‘Bluey’ Shelton a past halfback player from Essendon’s Football Club.
The first church to be built in Avenel was the Methodist church, it was originally built south of where the township is today and belonged to the Nagambie Parrish. The Anglican Church St. Pauls followed in 1873 in Ash Street but was later moved to Church Street. The Roman Catholic Church St. Mary’s also moved from the Sydney Road area to Queen Street around the same time and the Presbyterian Church was originally built in 1877 near the Good Templer’s Hall. There is a brick church now a private home in Bank Street that was once the Mangalore Presbyterian Church.
Avenel Primary School was Victoria’s eighth state school. In 2008 it celebrated it’s 150th anniversary.
In Bank Street you will find one of two old banks which is now Avenel Woodfired Pizza. Over the road is Avenel Meats famous for its sausages.
In 1972 the Northern Railway reached Avenel, this enabled local farmers to ship wheat to Melbourne much more effectively and by 1880 a flour mill and grain store were in operation. The Harvest Home Historic Hotel with its grand Victorian dining room was original the Railway Hotel built around the 1860s.
Around this time Ned Kelly settled in Avenel with his family and he lived here from about the age of eight to twelve. His father John ‘Red’ Kelly was charged with cattle stealing in the Avenel court house where he was later acquitted but fined 25 pounds for the illegal possession of a hide. Red is buried in the Avenel Cemetery in a grave near the corner of Ewings Road and Queens Street. There is a story of Ned Kelly saving a boy, Richard Shelton from drowning in Hughes Creek. He was rewarded with a green silk sash (cumberland) that he wore on the day he was shot in Glenrowan.
In 1968, Alan Plunkett pioneered grape growing in the Strathbogie Ranges of Central Victoria, when he planted a small vineyard of 25 grape varieties on the family sheep farm.