George Sells Vinge

Licensee of the Somerton Inn on Sydney Rd, Somerton.

By John Dawes (second great grandson), 1991.

George Sells Vinge was born on 8-6-1809 at Spitalfields, London.

He was a son of a weaver of French Huguenot extraction. The Vinge surname appears to have been anglicised from ‘la Vigne’, de la Vigne', or ‘lavigne‘, which is French for ‘of the vine’. At age 21, George Vinge was convicted of "embezzling ₤37.10 and was transported to Van Diemen’s Land on the ‘Red Rover’ to serve a term of seven years, arriving at Hobart Town on March 26, 1831.

Upon completing his sentence, in 1838, he left for Melbourne town. In October of that year it is recorded that he appeared before Magistrate William Lonsdale on a charge of "absconding from his master Mr Charles Hodden" and received one month's imprisonment.

One month later he was appointed as a police constable.

The official who recommended his appointment was none other than William Lonsdale, who described George Vinge as: "He is about 29 years of age. Condition free. Previous occupation, general servant. Character, good. He is able bodied. Reads and writes." (It was not uncommon for former convicts to be appointed police officers in early Melbourne, particularly if they could read and write.)

In August 1839, George Vinge was appointed turnkey (in charge of keys) at Melbourne Gaol but resigned later in the year "in consequence of the small allowance", he said in his resignation letter.

On 21-2-1842 he married Elizabeth HALE in Melbourne. (In 1833, when Elizabeth was nine or 10 years of age, she left South Gloucestershire with her family for Van Diemen’s Land, and came to Melbourne in 1839. Her sister Hannah married former convict John Mills, who established the first brewery in Melbourne, and generated great wealth through the first Melbourne land sales. Their daughter Emma is the founding matriarch and benefactor of the Boyd family artistic dynasty.)

In April 1842, George Vinge took over the licence of the Golden Fleece Hotel, Melbourne. A notice in the ‘Port Phillip Gazette' on March 13, 1843, stated: "George Vinge of the Golden Fleece Hotel, Bourke Street, has forwarded a sample of ale brewed by him. It is of a light pale colour and has a pleasant flavour." (George was still at this hotel in April 1847.)

In 1842 he was involved in the capture of the bushranger Fogarty and gave evidence at the trial.

In 1847 he obtained the lease of the Summertown Inn, Sydney Road, Somerton, and remained there until 1853. In 1854 he lived at St Kilda and owned a livery stable in Collingwood, which he leased to William Westgarth. Around this time George and his family briefly visited Tasmania.

In September 1855, George Foster opened a coach line and mail service - Melbourne to Beechworth. In February 1866 George Vinge joined him and they expanded their operations to include Melbourne to Sandhurst, via Castlemaine, and Castlemaine to Maryborough. Each partner contributed ₤6,000 to the business.

By 1857 their coaches ran through to Albury. The Foster & Vinge coaching line was competing with two other lines, one being Cobb & Co. The Foster & Vinge stables were on the site where the Collingwood Town Hall now stands, and could hold up to 200 horses.

Advertisements of the time state: "The Royal Mail Foster & Vinge's daily dispatch line of coaches leaves the Albion Hotel, Bourke Street, every morning at 5.45am, passing through Kinlochewe, 7.50am; Kilmore, 10.20am; Broadford, 11.45am; Seymour, 2.00pm; Avenal, 3.45pm; Longwood, 6.15pm; Euroa, 7.45pm;

Violet Town, 10.00pm; Benalla, 12.15am; Wangaratta, 4.15am; Wallace's Star Hotel, Beechworth, 9.00am".

George Foster died in March 1857, and by 1858 George Vinge had sold the coach line to Cobb & Co.

George Vinge was the third licensee of the Kilmore Inn, which he held from 1858 to 1862. (A picture of this hotel is in ‘A Pictorial History of Cobb & Co: 1854-1924' by K.A. Austin.) One of his sons, Edwin, was born here.

In spite of his convict past, he was a strong loyalist and would put on a party to celebrate Queen Victoria's birthday, to which every child in town was invited.

A meeting to form the Kilmore Masonic Lodge was held at this hotel on 27 October 1859. He was an inaugural member, but resigned shortly afterwards, when meetings were transferred to another venue.

The town's young-bloods found Vinge's Hotel "a snuggery" to resort to in times of need. Then George fell on hard times and in 1862 he sold the Kilmore Inn to Matthew Kelly. To mark the occasion of his leaving Kilmore, 40 of his friends put on a testimonial dinner for him on 3 July 1862, at which George was presented with an inscribed silver cup. (The hotel was pulled down around 1915 and the site today is part of Hutton Park, at the Melbourne end of town.)

He then took over the licence of the Reedy Creek Hotel, near Kilmore, but by 1865 he was licensee of the Sunday Creek Inn, Broadford. In 1868 he was the licensee of the Victoria Hotel in Fitzroy, Melbourne, and in 1869 the licensee of the Volunteer Arms Hotel at Pentridge (Coburg), Melbourne.

His later life was spent at Shepparton. Known affectionately as "portly Daddy Vinge", he was a member of the Church of England.  

He died at Shepparton on 22 February 1881, aged 72. He is buried in the Shepparton Cemetery (C of E, Row B99). His wife Elizabeth died at Nathalia on 21 April 1894, aged 70, and is buried at the Nathalia Cemetery.

George and Elizabeth Vinge had 13 children. They were:

1.  Edward Vinge, born 13-11-1843, died 4-1-1849.

2.  Alice Ann Vinge, born 26-5-1845, died 16-8-1921.

3.  Caroline Frances Vinge, born 6-4-1847, died 07-1914.

4.  Miriam Vinge, born 13-6-1849. died 9-10-1928

5.  Elizabeth Vinge, 30-6-1851, died 1868.

6.  George Vinge, born 18-5-1853, died 2-7-1944.

7.  William Vinge, born 26-11-1854, died 27-3-1882.

8.  Albert Vinge, born 27-10-1856, died 1917.

9.  Esther Vinge, born 13-9-1858, died 1917.

10. Maria Vinge, born 22-6-1860, died 29-7-1860.

11. Edwin Vinge, 27-6-1861, died 13-11-1942.

12. Clara Stella Vinge, 10-1-1864, died 1950.

13. Charlotte Mabel Vinge, born 16-7-1867, died 20-12-1868.


There are over 500 descendants of George and Elizabeth Vinge and growing!


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