Wyndham History

Portelli house and shop,
650 Diggers Road,
Werribee South


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Portelli house and shop,
650 Diggers Road,
Werribee South


Rectangular brick and timber building with a small shop at the front and residence at the rear.





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City of Wyndham Heritage Study 1997






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A rectangular brick and timber building with a small shop at the front with a residence at the rear.  ‘S & M Portelli Confectionery Est. 1933’ on sign over the front of the shop.  The front of the shop has large glass windows on either side of a central doorway, an awning over the footpath and a petrol pump at the front.  The interior of the shop consists of a small room with simple shop fittings, with a kitchen/storage area behind.  An iron gate and breezeway at the side leads to the entry of the house.  There is a well-established garden on the north side of the house.

The Portelli family, said to be the first Italian family to settle in Werribee South beach area, secured the site of this property from the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission in the early 1930s.  The site was part of the large Werribee Park Estate during the 19th century and is located on land in the Estate acquired in the 20th century by the Government for closer settlement purposes.  By the middle of the 1920s, Werribee South had been transformed into a farming area with small orchards, poultry farms, lucerne farms and dairy farms.  This was partly the result of the subdivision of the Werribee Park Estate, combined with the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission’s establishment of an irrigation settlement at Werribee South in 1912, and soldier settlement in the area after the First World War.  The arrival of European families, particularly Italians, from the late 1920s, contributed to the district’s development.

Werribee Shire rate records confirm that by the early 1930s, the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission had transferred four acres of land in Crown Allotments 24B and 24C in Section G, Parish of Deutgam, of the Werribee Estate, to Universite Dell and Fillippo Portelli.  By the late 1930s (or early 1940s) Portelli was rated for a dwelling on both allotments on the site of 650 Diggers Road.

Sam Portelli, one of Fillippo’s two sons, tells of how his father and his family lived at first in a weatherboard house on Diggers Road opposite K Road.  The house at 650 Diggers Road was the family’s second house.  Built in 1933, it was a small house with two rooms added at the back, its walls lined with hessian bags.  Gradually, two more rooms were added.  A shop was added to the front of the building in 1946.  This was a general store, which sold a variety of goods to local farmers.  Two olive trees planted by Fillippo in the 1930s still remain on the property.

During the 1930s Depression, Sam Portelli went fishing to help support the family, his wife Mary, running the shop in Diggers Road.  Sam was one of 18 professional district fishermen.  Others were Bill, Alec and Mick Cameron and Bill ‘Piggy’ Hughes, who lived on his boat.  There was a jetty on the Werribee South beach which was later rebuilt.  Sam sold his fish around the district for a shilling a dozen, buying ice in Werribee to keep his produce fresh.  At a meeting of the Werribee and District Historical Society in July 1978 reported in the Werribee Banner dated 26 July 1978), Sam told of the many adventures, lucky escapes and daring rescues during his fishing days.


Wyndham City Libraries, “Portelli house and shop,
650 Diggers Road,
Werribee South,” Wyndham History, accessed June 13, 2021, https://wyndhamhistory.net.au/items/show/1150.


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