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Culture and heritage

Werribee Park is a truly unique property with many stories to share. From Aboriginal communities that are known to have wandered the area, the arrival of Scottish immigrants making their fortune in the 19th century and subsequent use as a seminary by the Catholic Church, Werribee Park offers an authentic insight into three facets of history.

Early beginnings

Wurundjeri history along Wirribi Yaluk, known today as Werribee River, dates back over 40,000 years. Acknowledged cultural heritage sites with the riverine area along the boundary of Werribee Park provide an insight into the Kurung Jang Balluk clan and their harmonious relationship with mother earth.

Chirnside era

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 ‘Do or die’, the brothers set about creating a vast pastoral empire. Werribee Park Mansion is testament to their successful business venture while offering visitor of today an insight into a bygone era.

The exquisite 60-room Italianate Mansion is Victoria’s largest and most elaborate private residence. Taking three years to build it was completed in 1877 and remained within the Chirnside family until 1922.

Initially purchased by Philip Lock, a self-made wealth grazier from Warrnambool, it was sold again a year later to the Roman Catholic Bishops of Australia for development as a seminary.

Seminary years

Werribee Park became home to Corpus Christi College, a training ground for young men seeking to enter the priesthood in the Dioceses of Melbourne, Ballarat, Sandhurst, Sale and Hobart, for fifty years.

The full training course required eight years of full-time study in arts, philosophy and theology. Until 1959 all eight years of study were completed at Werribee Park As trainee numbers increased a second college was built at Glen Waverley, now the Victoria Police Academy, enabling students to undertake their first four years of philosophy at Werribee Park and their second four in theology at Glen Waverley.

During its occupation Werribee Park the Catholic Church added several wings, two of which have been converted into the Mansion Hotel.