Napoleons is a rural/residential village 14 km south of Ballarat on the road to Colac.

Gold was discovered at Napoleons in 1857, and the Napoleons lead became one of the most important in the Buninyong district. The place was named after a miner who reportedly resembled Napoleon or wore a hat like Napoleon’s. ‘Napoleon’s Lead’ was later shortened to Napoleons.

By the mid-1860s it had a post office, a Methodist church (1862), a Congregational church (1863), an Anglican school (1864), upwards of ten mining companies and four hotels. Nearby mining localities included Scotchmans Lead, Black Lead and Cambrian Hill. A government school replaced the Anglican one in 1870, and a Catholic church was opened in 1871. A racecourse west of Napoleons was open from 1858 to 1886. In 1903 Napoleons was described in the Australian handbook:

The undulating land around Napoleons was suitable for agriculture, enabling population to stay in the area when mining declined. Sports clubs were formed – cricket (1880), football (c1914), tennis (1913). In 1953 a public hall was begun by acquiring a former school building, and enlarged in 1984. During the 1990s Napoleons underwent some rural/residential development.

Napoleons has two churches, a public reserve, a school (97 pupils, 2014), a general store, a hall and tennis courts. Its census populations have been:

Census date Population
1871 484
1911 240
1933 147
1961 109
2011 535

Further Reading

Napoleons and district: the first 150 years, Napoleons, 1988

Peter M. Griffiths, Three times blest: a history of Buninyong and district 1837-1901, Buninyong, 1988