MERRIJIG INN - OLDEST IN VICTORIA
The Merrijig Inn is of historical significance as one of the oldest surviving hotels in Victoria. Its location facing the site of the original jetty is central to the understanding of the development of Port Fairy in the 1840s following its officially sanctioned settlement.
Whalers and sealers had been visiting and working the coastal areas around Port Fairy and Portland areas throughout the 1830s. John Griffiths from Launceston set up a bay whaling station on Griffiths Island at the entrance to the Moyne River, and this encouraged some informal settlement at Port Fairy. This situation changed dramatically in 1843 when James Atkinson formally acquired under Special Survey provisions title to 5,120 acres west of the Moyne River. In 1841, Atkinson, having completed the clearing of the town area, began survey work for town streets, blocks and allotments. The few existing settlers at Atkinson's new town of Belfast, as it was originally called, had no rights to title to their land, but Atkinson quickly established leasing arrangements in order to provide some commercial return to Atkinson and his partners and to encourage further settlement.
In September 1845, William Middleton executed a lease with Atkinson for the land at the corner of Campbell and Gipps Streets and apparently commenced construction of the inn. It was known at that time as the Royal Merrijig Inn.
In 1853, the government acquired the lease of the property for public purposes. A large two storey addition on the Campbell Street frontage was used as police barracks and government offices. Courts sat at the Royal Merrijig Inn until 1860 and the building also housed the officers of the Belfast District Road Board (from 1853) and the municipality of Belfast (from 1856-58). The government gradually acquired other sites for their purposes and disposed of the property in 1885 to Captain Frederick Trouten. A photo of the building taken during Trouten's ownership indicates that the former hotel was used as a boarding house. Trouten's widow sold the property in 1901 in three parts; Merrijig House, allotments in Campbell Street created through the demolition of the two storey building formerly used as government offices, and various allotments facing Gipps Street. In the 1980s, the Merrijig Inn was renovated and reopened as a small private hotel.