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Travel guide Werribee

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Werribee Park
  • Werribee Park Mansion
  • Interior of Werribee Park Mansion

"The grand Werribee Mansion, with its magnificent pleasure garden, gives visitors a glimpse of how Victoria's squattocracy once lived."

Maree Blackburn, Visitor Services Coordinator, Werribee Park

Werribee Park is an elaborate heritage property located just 30 minutes from central Melbourne. The jewel in this property's crown is an exquisite 60-roomed Italianate-style Mansion, the largest private residence ever built in Victoria.

"Werribee Park is a truly unique property with many stories to tell," says Maree Blackburn, Visitor Services Coordinator based at Werribee Park.

"From Aboriginal communities that are known to have lived in the area, to the arrival of Scottish immigrants making their fortune in the 19 th century and subsequent use as a seminary by the Catholic Church, Werribee Park provides an authentic insight into three facets of history."

Of great cultural significance is Wirribi Yaluk, known today as Werribee River. The section of the river flowing through this area formed a natural boundary between the Wurundjeri, Wathaurung and Boonwurrung Aboriginal groups and acted as a major exchange route.

The area of land now known as Werribee Park was originally inhabited by the Kurung Jang Balluk clan of the Wurundjeri. Acknowledged cultural heritage sites within the park provide a rare insight into the Kurung Jang Balluk (kurung jang meaning ‘people of the red earth') and their harmonious relationship with mother earth.

"Stop for a moment, look back and see the ancestral footprints in the sand," reflects Norm Pugliese, Riverine Environmental Manager, Parks Victoria.

After European settlement, this beautiful Australian setting was chosen as the ideal location for a grandiose residence.

Thomas and Andrew Chirnside, leaders of the Victorian squattocracy, arrived in Australia in 1838 and 1841 respectively. Armed with determination and motivated by their family motto Fac Aut Morere (Do or Die), the brothers set about creating a vast pastoral empire. The exquisite Mansion and stunning gardens of their Werribee estate, named Werribee Park, is testament to their successful business ventures.

In 1923 the property was purchased by the Roman Catholic Bishops of Australia for development as a seminary. For 50 years, Werribee Park became a place of reflection, prayer and spiritual development with the opening of Corpus Christi College. This seminary became a training ground for young men seeking to enter the priesthood in the surrounding Dioceses of Melbourne, Ballarat, Sandhurst, Sale and even Hobart.

During its residency at Werribee Park, the Catholic Church added several wings to the original Chirnside Mansion, two of which have been converted into The Mansion Hotel, a stylish boutique hotel offering a slice of modern day indulgence.

A dedicated exhibition within a wing of the original Mansion details the Church's use of the property and relays a typical day in the life of a student priest.

Contemporary sculpture adds yet another feature to this diverse property. Meandering through a unique mix of natural landscapes, from the rear of the mansion to the natural riverine, the Werribee Park Sculpture Walk encompasses 24 works by Australia's leading sculptors. This fantastic walk links into the original farmyard, where rustic bluestone outbuildings once abuzz with workers and activity, provide a stark variation to the elaborate craftsmanship of the Chirnside Mansion.

Learn about the history and stories of Werribee Park with an exciting new audio tour. Eavesdrop on the Chirnside family chattering throughout the Mansion, learn about the many features within the formal gardens, hear about life from the workers' perspective in the Farm and listen to a deeper interpretation of the 24 works in the Sculpture Walk .

Additionally, take a guided tour of the Mansion's impressive 3-tiered tower which has recently been restored back to its former glory.

The Mansion's extensive formal gardens are perfect for a relaxing break. "Enjoy a picnic by the colourful parterre display or ornamental lake and grotto. Indulge your senses with the delightful colour and smell of over 5,500 roses displayed to perfection within the Victoria State Rose Garden," says Maree.

Werribee Park and surrounds provides visitors with a diverse range of experiences. Sip a glass of award-winning wine at the Shadowfax Winery located on site or combine your visit with a wildlife safari at the Werribee Open Range Zoo next door.

For further information on Werribee Park please contact Parks Victoria info@parks.vic.gov.au or visit our website: www.parkweb.vic.gov.au.

About the author
Parks Victoria wrote this article

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