St James

St James, a rural township in northern Victoria, is 12 km south of Tungamah and 190 km north-east of Melbourne. It is on the railway line between Benalla and Yarrawonga.

The name came from a pastoral station. In 1855 the holder of the Cobram station divided it into two, naming the new portion St James. Later St James was the name given to the local parish. In 1883 the railway line from Benalla, destined to terminate at Yarrawonga, was built as far as St James. It remained thus for three years before being completed.

St James is situated in a flat landscape, there being no significant stream or waterway; the temporary railway terminus was the motive for the township. A school was opened in 1884. Ten years later St James had five hotels, two bank branches, two churches, two stores and a creamery.

In 1892 a storekeeper, George Coles, bought a shop in St James and another in Lake Rowan, 6 km eastwards on the road between Benalla and Yarrawonga. Three years later he built a family home in St James. In 1910 his son, George junior, after having worked for several rural and Melbourne retailers, acquired the St James business, which was the genesis of the G.J. Coles and Co chain of variety stores. Coles ‘North Eastern Store’ was in the main street a few doors east of the railway crossing.

St James was described in 1903 in the Australian handbook as:

The main farming activity in the St James district is wheat growing. There are large silos at the railway station, and bunkers at Lake Rowan to hold excess quantities.

St James has a church, a hall, hotel, store, and bowling, golf and tennis clubs. The golf club and recreation reserve were financially assisted by Sir George Coles to commemorate the 1977 Back-to-St James celebrations. The school closed in 1993. Town water was flouridated in 2008.

St James census populations have been:

area Census date Population
St James 1891 131
  1901 168
  1911 427
  1933 307
  1954 260
  1961 198
St James and environs 2011 363

Further Reading

Alan J. Dunlop, Wide horizons: the story of Yarrawonga, Tungamah and Cobram Shires, the author, 1978

Beryl Ilsley, St James 1988, ‘Back-to’ St James, 1989

Jack Willis, St James 1871-1977, ‘Back-to’ St James, 1977