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A retaining wall along the western edge of the Werribee River, plantings along the river and large trees scattered through a 1960s housing estate are all that remains of the The Manor, a once grand house with extensive gardens.
A large bunya bunya was located on the corner of Anembo Court and a large elm is located in the garden of 16 Wattamolla Avenue. There are also several other trees in Manorvale Parade and Quarbing Street that appear to have once been part of The Manor property. Along the river are a large group of pines and further north a major clump of plantings close to the bluestone wall. These include a large Moreton Bay fig and a mix of trees and garden plants, some probably recent plantings by local residents.
In Werribee Street is a group of elm trees once associated with The Manor is now within a public park within a new subdivision.
Only remnants have survived of The Manor, the 40-roomed house built in 1895-96 for Percy Chirnside, son of the notable pastoralist, Andrew Chirnside. After Andrew’s death in 1890, the large Werribee Park Estate was then divided between his sons, George T. and John Percy (later Captain Percy) Chirnside. A commissioned officer in the Victorian Field Artillery Brigade, Percy was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1893. He retired from the Brigade in 1899.
George’s share included Werribee Park and the Point Cook Homestead.
According to one account, ‘Percy found that the 16,000 hectares which became his portion were in the less attractive country above the railway line, and that he had to buy a site on which to build a house’. The land he purchased sloped down to the river and had belonged to George Darbyshire, the first Chief Engineer of the Victorian Railways.
The new house ‘with its elegant interior and beautifully laid-out gardens became one of the show places of the district – the centre of entertainments, picnics and garden parties, as well as being the head of a farming and grazing property’.
After he had subdivided much of the land, selling off small blocks to tenant farmers, Percy sold The Manor property in 1920. Subsequently it had several owners, including Phillip Lock, who bought the property in the late 1930s and turned it into a racing stud. Then Michael Galvin, the Werribee Shire President owned it, passing it to a niece ‘and thence into the Hayes family’.
During the Second World War, The Manor was used as a RAAF hospital. Negotiations to buy it and use it as a Church of England boarding school fell through on the death of Sidney Myer. There was also a scheme by Ernest C. Rolls, a Melbourne theatrical entrepreneur, to turn it into a film studio. This also fell through.
In 1966, while the Hayes family was in residence, the house caught fire. The family escaped without injury, but only remnants were left of the building. Its name is perpetuated in the Manor housing estate.
Werribee,” Wyndham History, accessed December 1, 2023, http://wyndhamhistory.net.au/items/show/1063.