As early pioneers laid the foundations of European settlement, so too has The Laurels been the product of these pioneering Australians. Re-built on the site of the home of Charles Cogger (1833-1915) and his family, this stunning, 2 acre property – named after the laurel hedges on its northern borders – is infused with the adventurous spirit of its original owners.
After losing both parents by the age of 16, Charles Cogger made the perilous voyage from England to Australia on the ‘Lady Flora’, arriving in Port Phillip on 17th August 1853. The twenty year old had heard of Australian gold making rich men out of paupers and was keen to make his mark on the world. The arduous four month trip was not one he would soon forget, as conditions were atrocious and passengers arrived starving and dirty. From the late 1850’s, Charles worked for the Geological Survey Company of Victoria. There he met Carl Deihl, whose daughter Emilie he would marry in 1863 in St Kilda, by which time he would be employed as a pianoforte maker and a surveyor from Brighton.
In 1865, Charles travelled to Mt Macedon and purchased land from Devonshire Lane to the ‘Camelot’ boundary and down Devonshire Lane to what would become Cogger’s Lane. There he built his family home, The Laurels, later extending it and adding a second storey surrounded by a five acre orchard cultivated with many exotic plants including a Monkey Puzzle Tree, the seeds of which came from Kew Gardens in England. He also established a furniture factory near Patterson’s Mill. He, along with William Patterson, made much of the furniture for the local Church of England’s ‘Church of the Good Shepherd’, where his eldest son Thomas, among other descendents, would later marry.
Charles and Emilie had 10 children between 1864 and 1880, 4 boys and 6 girls, although tragically they lost two girls before their 4th birthdays. The couple worked hard, and whilst regularly obliging locals with rides to and from the train station, Charles saw an opportunity to develop a transport business, which he did in 1876. He purchased a variety of vehicles to accommodate his passenger’s needs including drays, cabs, wagons, wagonettes and buggies, and operated regular services to the station. Coggers, as it was then called, not only serviced the public but carried Vice-Regal passengers such as Governor and Lady Loch to Government Cottage and also to functions at Government House in Melbourne. In fact, any government work requiring transportation was always carried out by Coggers, and the Governor even authorised a grand wedding reception for eldest son Thomas when he married 19yr old Evelyn Cavalier in 1891.
In 1901, 68-year-old Charles played an important role in Australian Federation history by acting as a signatory, on behalf of the Shire of Gisborne, to the Municipal Association of Victoria’s ‘Commonwealth Day Proclamation’. In May that year, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York visited Australia to open the first Commonwealth Parliament. Arriving on the Orient steamliner and attending a full programme of receptions, dinners and events, they generated excitement and movement wherever they went, and Coggers was kept busy. During this time, the newly appointed Governor General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Lord Hopetoun, employed four Cogger wagonettes to be in attendance at Government House. Two of the couple’s sons, Charles and Henry, later took over the family business which was renamed ‘Cogger Bros’.
Charles and Emilie led an adventurous, busy and prominent life in Mount Macedon. Many of their children and grandchildren remained in the area, further cementing the family as part of the building blocks of the region. The site of their home, The Laurels, where they lived out the remainder of their days, will forever be entrenched in local history. Emilie passed away there on 15th July 1905 and was buried in Macedon. Her husband Charles was laid to rest with her in 1915 at the age of 82. Family, hard work and a comfortable home was part of their core, and it is that spirit that has been infused into the building now known as ‘The Laurels’.
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