.... was the third attraction on our visit to Werribee.
The tourist notes about Chirnside Mansion tell us that this exquisite 60-room Italianate Mansion, which was built at Werribee Park from 1874 to 1877, was a testatment to the successful partnership between Scottish squatters Thomas and Andrew Chirnside. The pioneering brothers were a driving force behind early settlement in this region, all of which evolved from humble beginnings.
Thomas Chirnside left his homeland of Scotland in 1838 with a few hundrend pounds in his pocket, a Bible and dreams of a new life in an emerging country. Boundless opportunities were available in a developing agricultural industry, and as an enterprising individual Thomas invested largely in stock and the land. His younger brother Andrew joined his bold venture in 1841 and together the brothers set about building a lucrative pastoral empire.
With the business progressing well Thomas returned to Scotland for a visit in 1845. He remained for a couple of years, during which time he fell in love with his first cousin, Mary Begbie, and asked for her hand in marriage. Her parents did not approve and he ventured back to Australia alone.
With Thomas safely back, Andrew finalised plans for his first trip home. But before leaving, his older brother asked a favour - to bring Mary back to Australia any way he could.
Andrew returned in 1852, accompanied by Mary as his wife. Thomas never married.
Thomas wanted Mary to reside in a home of stature and serenity unrivalled in Victoria. In conjunction with Andrew he set about building an elaborate 60-room Italianate style Mansion at their Werribee Park property. The residence was also an opportunity to showcase their successful venture to the world. Using the finest materials and expertise the Mansion was built in three years in the 1870s for Andrew and Mary Chirnside and their three youngest children.
Thomas took permanent residency at his nearby property at Point Cook until his last few years, when he joined Andrew and Mary in the elaborate Mansion at Werribee Park.
Thomas and Andrew passed away within three years of each other, in 1887 and 1880 respectively. Andrew left Werribee Park to his two youngest sons, George and John Percy, with a proviso that Mary maintain residency in the Mansion for her remaining days. The sons subsequently divided the property, with George overseeing the Mansion and surrounding land.
Mary died from a terrible accident in 1908. Her hair caught alight from a bedside candle and tragically she did not recover.
Chirnside ownership of Werribee Park ended in 1922. Initially purchased by a wealthy grazier from Warrnambool, it was sold again a year later to the Roman Catholic Bishops of Australia for development as a seminary.
The Victorian Government acquired Werribee Park from the Catholic Church in 1973 and commenced work to progressively restore the Mansion and remaining 400 hectares of land to its former glory. Now proudly managed by Parks Victoria, the park offers visitors a rich array of history, culture and stories to explore.