Werribee Mansion was built by brothers Thomas and Andrew Chirnside between 1874 and 1877. The brothers had come to Australia from Scotland with little more than a few hundred pounds and a Bible. They invested in the developing agricultural industry.
On a visit to Scotland, Thomas fell in love with his first cousin Mary and asked for her hand in marriage, but her parents did not approve and Thomas returned to Australia alone. As his younger brother Andrew prepared to return to Australia, Thomas asked him to bring Mary, and he did – as his wife.
Thomas never married and wanted Mary to reside in a great home unlike any in Victoria. He and Andrew built the 60-room Italianate-style mansion. Andrew and Mary resided there with their children. Thomas lived nearby until his last few years when he joined Andrew and Mary in the mansion. Plagued by sickness and depression, Thomas committed suicide in the laundry in 1887.
Andrew died three years later; I don’t know what from. Mary died in 1908. Her hair caught fire from a bedside candle. The Mansion passed on to Andrew’s sons, but new laws and taxes made it difficult to maintain and it was sold to Philip Lock, a self-made wealthy grazier, in 1922. Lock sold it just a year later to the Roman Catholic Bishops of Australia.
From 1923 to 1973, the Mansion was a Catholic seminary known as Corpus Christi College. During its occupation, the Catholic Church added several wings to the original mansion. Two of them are now the Mansion Hotel and Spa. The Victorian Government acquired the mansion from the Catholic Church in 1973 and began restoring it.
The rooms that have been restored and are open to the public include the reception room, the library, drawing room, billiards room, some bedrooms and baths, and part of the kitchen. The pastoralist brothers loved hunting and it’s strongly reflected in the house. There are mounted animals heads, pictures of country scenes, and several skins in the billiards room as well as a real hippo head turned into a table. There are also areas dedicated to life there when it was a seminary and the restoration process.
The grounds around the mansion are very beautiful and the Victoria State Rose Garden is nearby.
Have you visited Werribee?