Friday, June 15, 2007


The name Werribee is an aboriginal name meaning "backbone or spine". It is thought that this name was given as the shape of the Werribee River valley in the landscape looks like a backbone. The Werribee River seems to have provided a boundary between the territories of the Woiwurong aborigines to the north east and the Wothowurong to the south west, although other tribal groups visited the area. One of these tribes was the Yawangi tribe, whose last survivor "King" Bill Leigh died on Wooloomanata Station (on the Geelong side of the You Yangs) in 1912.

The You Yangs

The area of Werribee was first discovered by Hamilton Hume and William Hovell in 1824, they had traveled overland from Sydney to explore the Port Philip area.
Hume advised the then Governor of NSW that the area would be good sheep grazing land, but the Governor was not interested in the area, despite petitions by entrepreneurs John Batman and J.T. Gellibrand.
In 1835 Batman sailed from Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) and also explored the area between Geelong and Melbourne. He started a treaty with the local Aborigines in the name of the Port Phillip Association.
In 1835 this land was cut up in lots and settlers began setting up farms in the area.
The governor of NSW was not to pleased with the trespassing settlers, but finally caved in and sent Captain Lonsdale to the area in 1836 to survey and plan a town.

Lonsdale’s recommendation was to set up small town between Melbourne and Geelong and by 1850 the first land sale of the area began.
By 1857 the first rail line connecting Melbourne to Geelong passed through Werribee. By the 1890s Werribee had a population of around 500, its large flat expanses of land prompted several market gardeners to flock to the area to set up farms that can still be found around Werribee south today along with the Chirnside family mansion built around 1870.

Chirnside Mansion is the building to the left.
The Werribee record of white man and aboriginal contact is a sad one. In 1803, Lt Tuckey whilst on a survey mission in Port Phillip Bay from the Sorrento Settlement, shot on Werribee soil the first aborigine to be killed by a white man in Victoria. Years later, the first settlers killed by aborigines in Victoria - Charles Franks and a shepherd - were tomahawked to death whilst erecting a sheep hold near Mount Cottrell (Where I grew up) in 1836. Ironically, the tomahawks were part of the bargain that came with the signing of the treaty.

Mount Cotterell. As it is and remains today.

Early views of this part of Victoria were unfavourable with surveyors disappointed in the quality of the soil and the lack of trees. This was reported back to the ruling Government in NSW. Hume and Hovell, experienced pastoralists, came overland from NSW in 1824-5. They crossed the upper reaches of the Maribyrnong and came into the Werribee plains. They took back a glowing report to Sydney of the country that they had explored. The Hume and Hovell expedition camped in Werribee on 19 December 1824.
View of Melbourne from atop Cowie's Hill.
5 minutes drive tp Mt Cotterell.

John Batman and J.T. Gellibrand sent a petition to the Governor of NSW in 1827 asking for land in the Port Phillip district. Batman had been advised by Hamilton Hume that the Port Phillip area would offer good grazing land and all kinds of opportunities. The petition was refused because of the difficulties in administering the 'branch' colony so far from Sydney.
Batman and Gellibrand did not give up. They with other interested men formed the Port Phillip Association. In May 1835, Batman, representing the Association crossed Bass Strait and landed near Geelong. He explored the area from Geelong to Melbourne and was "lost in admiration of the possibilities of splendid sheep country".

In July 1835 John Helder Wedge, a member of the Port Phillip Association crossed Bass Strait to make a detailed survey and a plan to divide the land Batman had acquired. He divided the huge area of land into sections and lots were cast for it. Wedge was allocated Lot No. 13. Five of the seventeen lots were in the Werribee area.

In spite of the fact that the Governor of NSW made it clear they were trespassing, settlers from Van Diemans Land (now Tasmania), began arriving to take up the acquired land. Edward Wedge, brother to John bought out a flock of 400 merino sheep to the Werribee property. He built a house near the Werribee River but in 1852 the river flooded drowning Edward, his wife and daughter, Lucy.
John Helder Wedge (1793 - 1872),

As more settlers arrived in the Port Phillip area, the authorities in Sydney were forced to acknowledge its existence. The first step was to send officials to arrange for surveying and planning of a town. Captain Lonsdale, the first Police Magistrate of the Colony, took up duties late in 1836.

Lonsdale recommended in a letter to the Colonial Secretary that a village be surveyed and a few allotments sold "near the head of the boat navigation, which is half-way between Melbourne and Geelong". On September 6, 1850 the first sale of Wyndham took place. In 1857, the official opening of the Geelong and Melbourne Railway occured, furthermore making Werribee accessible for trade and for the community to travel between towns much easier. This year marks the 150th Anniversary of this opening of the Railway.

Werribee Railway Station, May 15th 1927, after a fire.

**********************To be continued next Friday*****************************


Keshi said...

The place seems to hv a lot of backbone Caz! LOVELY Werribee n its gotta be that way cos its Caz's hometown YEYY!


Trundling Grunt said...

I feel so eddermercated when I come across here. And all I write about is shit in comparison.

Mark said...

Cazzie's just trying to get people to come visit her by relating all the cool stuff about Australia.

Given a bucket of money, I would be there tomorrow to meet The Gang!

Jay said...

I think I now know more about your home country and the area around where you live than where I live. LOL

phishez_rule said...

Where do you get all your facts from Caz?

I've been to Werribee before, for an animal career thing, held at the zoo. There were only two of us, we caught the train down from Shepp, then a bus, then another train. And we got lost, and misplaced. We ended up getting there late (halfway through the day) and missed all the educational stuff. We did get a free tour of the zoo though.

I think I got shat on by a bird there too :(

eric313 said...

Wow, Cazzie!!! I knew Austrailia was an interesting place, but you lit it up electric in my mind. Just a bit of history and it illuminates a whole way of life. This is great work, Caz.

Jules said...

I have a mate that is from Ocean Grove, not too far from where you are talking about. It is so interesting to find out all these facts. I honestly don't know how you can be naffed but I am glad you can be.

Mom said...

Interesting history lesson! Thanks.

angela marie said...

I wanna go and see it all!

When are you setting up the tours, girl?

Dan said...

I love this stuff!

You should seriously consider writing a local history book. You'd become a local celebrity! :)

Betty said...

I really enjoy your Friday history lessons.

poody said...

I got a book in the mail the other day"The Consice History of Australia" not as entertainig as your history lessons for sure. The names of the towns and areas are so unusual to say the least!

captain corky said...

The Werribee record of white man and aboriginal contact is a sad one.

How come this always seems to be the case with the white man?

I enjoyed the today's history lesson.

LanternLight said...

The history of white settlement in Victoria was generally the case of "kill or be killed".

And thus it's rare to see a full-blood Aborigine in Victoria.

mjd said...

Mark has a wonderful idea. I have always longed to travel to Australia just to see the Sydney Opera House. However, with Cazzie's lessons, I want to see so much more. And as Mark suggests, we could meet the Gang. I await the next installment about Werribee.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

Chirnside Mansion looks almost transplanted from the English countryside.
Interesting, because one gets used to thinking of Australia as lacking in history, but obviously your part of Victoria has been long settled.

Aidan said...

My Fathers uncle, Percy had the sole rabbiting licence for the you yangs in the 50's... Aparently (i never met him) he stank of rabit and ate nothing but rabbit. Odd guy from all accounts:)

I love the mansion and wlaking around in there especially the laundry. The grotto down by the lake is pretty amazing as well.

It would have been a sight in its day.

Cazzie!!! said...

Keshi, too funny girl

TG, PMSL, hahaa.

Mark, start saving your coinage then.

Jay, tell us more about ur hometown history one day.

Phishez, I know alot of people who have heritage back to the start of the town being formed. I have so many stories, I couldnt possibly put them all to writng
Is that good luck to be shat on? Yukk, lol

Eric, thanks for the compliments :)

Jules, OG is cool, we are an hour away from there, the outlaws have an onsite van there for the hollidays. We used to frequent the place but now we do not. Just drive thru it sometimjes to get to Queensliff for the ferry across to Rye.

Mom, ty very muchly.

Angela, gimme a date LOL

Dan, thanks for that, I might have to start writing a rough copy, plenty of people I know to research.

Betty, ty

Poody, the book sounds good, I will have to chase it up in the library. Funny names, I know it..try this...Poowong..haha....and a town called Howlong..haha

Captain, I know it, it is sad and I feel bad for the original people who lived would be just awful to have it all taken away from you by strangers.

Lantern, I know a few, and yes, I do agree with you there. When I was small, my nan often told us that she was a 1/4 cast...I often wonder about it. She came from West Wylong NSW and was placed in a convent up there from age 4..she knew many things and kept them secret. It may just make me part Aboriginal you know..this, I would not be unhappy about at all. I also nurse many Koori people, again, they are not always full blood, but their ancestral roots are thick.

MJD, that is just it, there is so much off the beaten track to see you could miss it if you stuck to the icons.

Crushed, yes, the Chirnsides were English and I think the bluestone came from England if I am not mistaken. It took a while to build too.

Aidan, that is so interesting about your ödd"uncle...when I was a kid we used to oicnic there all the time..if not at Cobbledicks Ford.
The grotto would have been awesome in its time, I dom agree. Last I looked over there, the water was very low indeed and there was an algae problem...sad it was..hopefully the rain will be kind and hover there for a while to fill it up again.

G-Man said...

As usual Cazzie, you could teach Aussi History! Great Job..xox

Cazzie!!! said...

G-MAN, I reckon I would like to be a teacher, I am kind of a teacher in my role as a nurse too.