Wonderful Werribee

Our coach trip to Werribee Park on April 23rd was a great success. The weather was perfect and the Mansion and grounds were looking magnificent.


Werribee Park Mansion



Park Ranger talking to our group

We started our visit with a tour of the Mansion and an introductory talk by the Park Ranger. The Mansion certainly is very grand and the rooms are set up as they would have been used in the late 1800’s. Plenty of information is provided to give a good understanding of life in that era. In the laundry there is an excellent diorama with a laundry maid projected into the scene to give a “live” account of her week and the processes and methods used to cope with the laundering of all the household linen and clothing. It was very well done and full of intriguing facts about the labour intensive tasks involved. The former library now provides an attractive café area where we enjoyed our lunch. The grounds are delightful to stroll through and you can catch The Little Red Train if you don’t want to walk!


Former Library now Café

We also visited the adjacent Victoria State Rose Garden which is very beautiful. Commenced in 1976, the garden fell into a bad state by the mid 1980’s and was under threat of the bulldozer when a local petition against its demise was instrumental in the forming of a Supporters Group. Today the area is well cared for by 150 volunteers and boasts over 5,000 roses laid out in a formal pattern spanning out from a central rose covered pergola.

The history of the property is rich with achievement but also tragedy. Thomas and Andrew Chirnside came to Victoria from Scotland and established a vast pastoral empire. In 1845 during a trip back to Scotland Thomas fell in love with his cousin Mary. However, her parents did not approve the match and so he returned to Australia alone. When Andrew later planned to travel back to Scotland, Thomas asked him to convince Mary any way he could, to come to Australia. When Andrew returned in 1952 he did indeed bring Mary back with him, but as his wife. Thomas remained single the rest of his life.

Thomas and Andrew built an elaborate sixty room Italianate style residence (similar to the Noorilim Mansion at South Murchison) on the rich fertile land beside the Werribee River. Apparently they wanted Mary to live in an outstanding residence unrivalled in Victoria at that time and to showcase their successful lives. The finest materials were used and the house was completed in 1877. Mary and Andrew lived there with their 3 youngest children and thirty servants. Andrew resided nearby at Point Cook until his health was failing and he joined them at Werribee Park. Sadly, suffering illness and depression, Thomas took his own life in 1887.

When Andrew died 3 years later, his son George cared for Mary, the Mansion and the Werribee Park estate. Mary died in 1908 after a horrible accident when her hair caught fire from a bedside candle and she did not recover from her injuries. In 1922 George sold the property and moved his farming activities to Lilydale. This holding later became the suburb of Chirnside Park in recognition of the enterprising family and the many contributions to the surrounding community.

Werribee Park was purchased by the Catholic Church in 1923 and for 50 years was a training college.  During this time 2 large wings were added and today they comprise the Werribee Mansion Hotel.

Premier of Victoria, Rupert Hamer, was instrumental in buying the property in 1973 for the people of Victoria after a plea from local residents that the estate be preserved intact. Werribee Park is now managed by Parks Victoria and is a success as a destination for tourists and locals alike. It is very well maintained and as there is so much to see, easy to enjoy on multiple visits.

If you haven’t been to Werribee Park or it is a while since you did visit, make the effort to go there as it is sure please.


View of the garden


Pergola in the Rose Garden

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Historical Society Annual General Meeting

The well attended AGM for Murchison & District Historical Society was held on Tuesday 15th March. The Executive Committee elected for the coming year are: Kay Ball – President, Lyndon Gregory – Vice President/Treasurer, Margaret Lock – Secretary, Committee members – Janet Clarke, Gloria Polkinghorne, John Ball and Warwick Finlay.

The Society has had a busy year with a wide variety of activities and events, the highlight of our year being History Week when Avionics Engineer Warwick Holmes gave two presentations about the Rosetta Space Program and its connection with the Murchison Meteorite.

After the business meeting Brandon Menzies gave an impressive presentation about the developments at Noorilim Mansion soon to be open to the public. Brandon is the son of the owner Rod Menzies who purchased the property in 1999, and his role is to put in place the needed facilities to be able to offer a great experience to visitors.

The future looks very exciting for this historic and beautifully maintained property and of course the locals are delighted that they will be able to enjoy visits to Noorilim again soon. Arrangements are in the final stages that will mean the public can enjoy guided tours of both the house and extensive gardens or arrange a wedding or other function in a most delightful setting.

Noorilim, just a few kilometres south of Murchison dates from 1879 and was designed by Architect James Gall. It was built by the Winter family who had other substantial properties in the area and is classified by the National Trust. The house reflects the opulence of the time at which it was built and it is one of only a few substantial nineteenth century residences in rural Victoria and possibly the best maintained.

It was a most enjoyable meeting and of course concluded with a delicious supper provided by our faithful catering committee!

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Primary School Children Visit Heritage Centre

Murchison Primary School students from grade 2 through to grade 6 have visited the Heritage Centre  recently as they are studying local history and linking that to history of Australia.

It was fantastic to see their enthusiasm and interest. They firstly listened to an overview of the history of the district and then enjoyed the displays in the Gallery area. They asked very relevant questions and took notes to use back in the class-room.

Murchison history is very varied and has many links to the wider history of our Nation,  from the Aboriginal Protectorate, the impact of the Land Settlement Acts of the 1860’s, beginning of irrigation for the State, Day’s Mill, Camp 13 to the Ossario and Murchison Meteorite. There is lots to interest the children and for them to see how our local events are part of the broader history of our country.

We look forward to hosting more school visits in the future.

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Children listen attentively to talk by Kay Ball

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Visitors from Germany.


Ursula and Werner in front of Camp 13 display

We have recently had visitors from Germany at the Heritage Centre, keen to know about Prisoner of War Camp 13.

Werner and Ursula Alt travelled especially to Murchison to discover some detail about the Camp as Werner’s uncle Friedrich Alt and Ursula’s father Heinz Ims were held in Camp 13 during the Second World War. We were able to show them items and documents relating to the Camp, and they were very interested in the art work by Hans Walter von Gruenewaldt.

Warwick Finlay was able to show them where the Camp was located although a close look was not possible as the Camp site is on private land.

Australian War Memorial website and also National Archives website can provide documents and photographs of POW’s from Camp 13 and we were able to introduce this source of information to our visitors which they had not known about previously. Both papers and photos are available for Friedrich and Heinz via these websites.

Werner and Ursula were delighted to find out so much more than they had known before and will now be able to fill in some detail about their family history.

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Special Guest Speaker for Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting for Murchison and District Historical Society Inc. will be on Tuesday 15th March at 7.30pm at the Heritage Centre in Stevenson Street Murchison.

Brandon Menzies, the son of the current owner of well-known historic Noorilim Mansion, South Murchison, will give a presentation about the plans for opening of the mansion and gardens to the public.

Built in 1879 by William Winter-Irving and now surrounded with gardens on a grand scale, many locals have very special memories of visits to Noorilim in the past when owned by Bryan and Loel Thomson and are delighted to hear that it will be available to visit again soon.

Come along and hear Brandon outline what is envisaged in developing the property as a tourist destination and venue for weddings and functions.


Historic Noorilim Mansion

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The Heritage Centre in Murchison will be part of the festivities for Tomato Festa, Sunday 6th of March.

The Centre, not usually open on Sundays will be open to join the fun and festivity of the occasion. Come along and see the displays about Murchison and district and how the area developed. The history of Murchison is very interesting and surprising in its variety.

As a special for the month of March and available on Tomato Festa day, the DVD Mainstream Through Murchison will be on sale for the reduced price of $7.

Mainsteam Through Murchison takes a graphic look at the rich history of life along the river at Murchison. The story begins with reference to the traditional occupation of the land by the age old Nguaria-illiam-warrung Clan, followed by the European’s attempts to peacefully assimilate with these people, establishment of the town as a crossing place, and the growth of the community which provided the base for the establishment of irrigation in Australia. Recognition is given to some past excesses, and current remedies to improve the river landscape for all in the future to enjoy the benefits delivered by the grand old stream.

This DVD is a great over-view of how important an influence the Goulburn River is to life and progress in the district.


Don’t forget to take time to come in to the Heritage Centre while you are enjoying Tomato Festa on Sunday 6th March in Murchison.


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Brian Burke and Robert Smith

Robert Smith and Brian Burke, well known farmers at Moorilim and long term members of the Moorilim Fire Brigade both received a very special award, The National Medal for Service, presented on Australia Day at the wonderful Australia Day ceremony in Murchison. Brian was also awarded Australia Day Citizen of the Year for Murchison.

The National Medal for Service is awarded in recognition of service to the community by those who protect property or people who may be at risk or in danger in services such as police, fire, ambulance or the defence forces. To receive the Award, the person must have served at least 15 years or more performing the primary function of the organisation. The attractive bronze medal is suspended from a ribbon of bright blue and gold stripes and on the ribbon are placed bars for each further 10 years of service.

In both cases as long term diligent members of the Moorilim Fire Brigade, the ribbon has these extra bars for further years of continuous service to the community.

Last year Robert Smith was also awarded the CFA Life Membership Medal and Long Service Medal for 60 years continuous service to his local community.

These awards recognise outstanding voluntary service in situations where the recipient puts themselves at risk to save life and property. Both Brian and Robert deserve our grateful thanks and admiration for such long and faithful service.


National Medal for Service


CFA Life Membership and 60 years Service Medal




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