1811 – 1890
It is generally believed that Portsea was named by James Sandle Ford: Portsea, now part of Portsmouth, England, was possibly one of the last views he had of his native land. When he took up his lease he had recently arrived from Van Diemens Land where he had been transported for 7 years after being convicted of machine breaking in 1830.
Eager to make a new life after his pardon in 1836, he made his way to Port Phillip, and by1844 he had applied for, and acquired, the license for a pastoral run at Point Nepean, described in an earlier visual survey as being bounded on the north by the bay and on the south by the straits” On the west was the run of Denis Sullivan on Point Nepean and on the east that of William Devine.
Ford was able to make his first purchase of part of his lease in 1860: by that time he was well established in limeburning, and was also engaged in dairying, cultivating paddocks and raising stock – he was a well known breeder and judge of horses. In 1850 he had built the first section of his house on a site overlooking the lagoon which had for many centuries attracted the Boon Wurrung. Sections of this old limestone construction still remain. By this time he was in a position to supply visiting ships and the newly established Quarantine Station with fresh meat and other produce.
By the early 1860s he had built the original Portsea pier which gave sufficient draft to vessels such as the limecraft to ship his lime and produce to Melbourne. This gave Portsea the early advantage in this regard over nearby Sorrento. During these and later years Ford provided employment for a growing population in his kilns and other ventures, which included a small building which he soon converted to a hotel. As the area began to attract tourists he saw the need to develop it, and in 1872 converted it to a large residential establishment known as the Nepean Hotel. This was run by Fords family and descendants almost continually for a hundred years until it was demolished in 1971.