Back in 1870’s, at a time in Victoria when there was wealth in the community as a result of the recently ended gold rush, concern and indeed riots were happening in relation to Chinese immigration, and explorers were still setting forth across the Australian unknown, two brothers Thomas and Andrew Chirnside were working on the construction of Werribee Mansion. The brothers had emigrated from Scotland (admittedly well funded then), but with an eye for money and an ability to take risks, amassed a fortune through cattle, sheep and land acquisitions.
The mansion was built in Italianate style and had over 60 rooms, together with outbuildings, on their property about 40kms west of Melbourne CBD.
Very fortunately, the mansion has been retained in government hands and restored, and is open to the public. It is a centrepiece of the once (and still sometimes?), maligned outer west of Melbourne. One can freely walk the grounds, taking in the magnificent trees that were planted, and walk around the grotto.
The mansion itself can be accessed on payment of admission, and also one can just enjoy the cafe inside the Mansion which overlooks an everchanging rosette that is planted seasonally. Original greenhouses sit adjacent to the plantings.
It is well worth taking a walk to view the sculptures.
We like to visit the bluestone buildings, where once when an innocent possum hiding above a doorway, frightened the living daylights out of me.
Adjacent to the Mansion is the Rose Garden, also free entry, and tended to by volunteers. The Gardens are still being added to, and contain a most wondrous selection of modern and older varieties. Be sure to visit in November when it is generally at its best.
It is forever being expanded, and even the boys will rejoice in the grassy hill perfect for rolling down giving the adults more time to soak up the roses and study the labels for purposes of planning the home garden!
If you can set aside a full day, in your wandering you will come across the old orchard, reached by character filled steps that ends by the Werribee River, a lovely spot for your thermos of coffee!
Walking further in this area will take you past ancient gums.
And dont forget to visit the Grotto, aside the lake near the Mansion. It was a place where the family would seek respite from the heat, and is adorned with shells and rock patterns. Although you cant enter the Grotto, you can view it through protective glass, and you can also clamber over the amazing paths. An absolute favourite with kids!
As a postscript, the recent Foxtel screened miniseries Picnic at Hanging Rock has much of its filming here, with the Mansion as a setting for the Girls private School. It provides some great insights and vistas of the Mansion, try and track it down!