werribee mansion: an introduction you might wanna read

werribee mansion

all things considered, old houses are haunted. if not by ghosts, then with stories of the past long gone — with every scream and every whisper reverberating quietly against the walls; the unseen remnants of a forgotten life beating like an arthritic heart tired of keeping the secrets that support each and every pillar through each and every generation.

werribee mansion is kind of like that. built in the 19th century, between 1874 and 1877, by scottish brothers thomas and andrew chirnside, it has its own stories and secrets to tell too:

in 1838, thomas chirnside left his hometown in scotland in search of better opportunities in australia. he must have been one helluva smart entrepreneur who wisely used the few hundred pounds in his pocket to invest in stock and land because soon enough,  him and his brother andrew (who arrived in 1841) went on a joint venture and set to work in the business of building a successful pastoral empire.

when money was good and life was sweet, thomas went back home to scotland for a visit in 1845. because he was there for a couple of years, it couldn’t be helped that he fell in love with a girl — who happened to be his first cousin mary. i don’t know if she liked him back but one thing’s for sure: her parents didn’t, for some reason. because when the time came for him to ask for her hand, they declined his offer. probably weren’t dazzled with all his bling. or maybe he was too humble to flaunt it. either way, his strategy didn’t work so poor rich thomas sailed back to australia with a broken heart.

apparently, his heart may have been broken but his spirit wasn’t. determined to get the girl, he asked his younger brother (who was scheduled to leave for scotland) to bring mary with him back to australia, by hook or by crook.

andrew did keep his promise. for he definitely brought mary back with him in 1852 — as his wife. (he obviously went for “crook.”)

perhaps because blood is thicker than water, or perhaps thomas was simply a good sport, the dude didn’t really take the betrayal harshly against his brother. as a matter of fact, his overflowing generosity (if not his masochistic declaration of pure, unadulterated love) was what led to the building of werribee mansion. all because he wanted mary to live in an opulent home whose grandeur was unheard of in victoria.

thomas never married.

and long story short, all three characters died at some point, with mary dying from a freak accident which involved her hair, a bedside candle, and probably a fair amount of fire. not right away, i reckon. my source didn’t really get into too much details but yeah, she never recovered from the accident. physically, mentally, or psychologically? i have no idea.

anyhow, if you wanna learn more about werribee mansion, you can read all about it here. that’s where i got most of the information anyway, since i lost the copy the staff gave me on my visit there after paying A$8 for the self-guided tour (which is usually how i roll. partly because i like to learn and discover at my own snail pace. but mainly because it’s so much cheaper.)

werribee mansion

there you go. a bit of background story to keep you going for the next two posts i will be writing by installment as we open the doors to the house and into the past. or rather, what’s restored of it.

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