Werribee Park, Princes Highway, Werribee
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Werribee Park is the remnant of the large pastoral holdings once owned by the Chirnside family. The site is well known for the 1876 Italianate Renaissance mansion built by Thomas and Andrew Chirnside. Aside from the mansion and the features associated with it, there are a large number of other significant buildings, ruins and structures, including: woolshed, early ‘pre-Chirnside’ buildings (such as the Ration House), pre-1875 homestead and blacksmith’s shop.
Further significant features on the site are: the Werribee River ford, tanks, water reticulation system, cemetery and fences. The landscape contains a number of orchards, plantations and fields which are important contributions to the site’s significance. A number of trees are classified/recorded by the National Trust including: Phytolacca dioica, Cassina crocea, Araucaria bidwillii, Ficus marcophylla, Pinus canarienais and Quercus bicolor.
The Werribee Park property was established first as a pastoral lease by Thomas Chirnside, who with his brother Andrew held vast acreages across Western Victoria from the 1840s.
After the area was surveyed and land was made available by the government for purchase, Thomas Chirnside acquired most of the land from Skeleton Creek and across the southern side of the Werribee River.
Of the earliest house, ruins may remain; of the 1853 house, some stone outbuildings certainly survive. The building of the mansion, the best known feature today, was probably planned from 1870 and built by late 1876 or early 1877.
A subsequent stage in its history, as a Corpus Christi seminary from 1923, resulted in further developments and an change in the role of the house from a dwelling (albeit a very grand one) to an institution. A grouping of six Sicilian families on the Werribee Park Estate formed part of a growing group of Italian farmers in Werribee around World War Two. In 1973 the property was bought by the Victorian government to ensure its conservation.