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History Topics & Research

History Topics


Francis Beamish was born in Cork, Ireland in 1852.  At the age of 12 he came to Victoria with his parents Abraham and Anastasia Beamish.  Francis did some gold prospecting and later began farming on rented land until 1876 when he purchased 600 acres (243ha.) in Werribee.  Francis Beamish became a Shire Councillor in 1885 . Beamish built a large brick house on his property in Synnot St in 1884. It was built on double bluestone foundations, apparently planned as a two storey house. The house known as ‘The Pines’, was a gracious roomy house with five bedrooms, a living room, dining room, morning room and verandahs on three sides with lace work decoration.  In the 1940s the house became Wandene Private Hospital and from 1970 it was used as a boarding house. The house was demolished in 1988 after unsuccessful moves to save it.

WDHS Photo Collection
WDHS Photo Collection


Bungie’s Hole, from which water was carted by horse and cart in barrels to the houses of the developing township of Werribee. This water hole, at the western end of town just behind Werribee Bowling Club, was Werribee’s swimming hole with diving boards and swimming lanes marked for swimming carnivals. In the early days Elliott Armstrong, owner of what is now the Racecourse Hotel, operated a ferry across the relatively calmer waters of the water hole when the river was in flood. Several myths have been circulated regarding Bungie’s Hole, which over the years many people have accepted as fact. Firstly, that it is bottomless. – It has been determined to be 30metres deep and has a fresh water spring entering towards the downstream end. Secondly, that it is named after a Mr Bungie who accidently drove his horse and buggy off the cliff top into the water and drowned. – Investigations show that there was never a Mr Bungie living in Werribee nor is there any Coroner’s Report to back the story. What has been determined is that before the township started to develop in its current location, it was originally named Budgel Carnie’s hole and is named as such on a 1845 map. It is thought that Budgel Carnie was probably an aboriginal elder of the clan living in the area at that time.  It is easy to see that over the years Carnie was dropped and by word of mouth, Budgel could have very easily become Bungie. Another interesting point from the 1845 map is a notation that Budgel Carnie’s Hole is a ‘Famed Resort of the Banyip’ [sic], Bunyip. 


The first hotel built on the site was the weatherboard Railway Hotel built in 1855.   Later it was purchased by Patrick Murphy and burnt to the ground in 1862.   Murphy rebuilt in 1863 using local bluestone and his Camp Hotel held a prominent position in Watton street near the Werribee Street Bridge.  Business names for the hotel reflected the names of its licensees.  Hence, Streat’s Camp Hotel, Mahony’s Camp Hotel, Balfour’s Camp Hotel and Shields’ Camp Hotel.   It was demolished in 1925  and replaced by the art deco Bridge Hotel in 1926 . Bluestone from the Camp Hotel was used to build two house units next to the Cottrell Street ford. 37°54'15.40 S 144°39'23.00" E Bridge Hotel – 3rd hotel on this site.  

WDHS Photo Collection
WDHS Photo Collection


Walter (Wally) Carter arrived in Australia as a 15 year old with his parents in 1910. While doing his apprenticeship to become a blacksmith he built fowl houses in his parents’ backyard and built up the numbers to 2,000 hens. By 1918 Wally was completely concentrating on his poultry business and had taken his father into partnership, had four employees and was developing his own poultry farm on his own land. Walter’s brother James joined Walter and their father in the partnership of Carter Brothers in 1922. Walter and James bought out their father in 1927 and with a stock of 130,000 birds the poultry farm was the largest in the southern hemisphere.


To provide housing for their workers and families the Carter Brothers built an estate of 206 houses during the period 1915-72. Located on the north side of College Rd and north of Russell St, the estate is now commonly known as the Carter Estate. As well as supplying the local market, in the period 1939 – 1971 two deliveries a week of 20,000 dozen eggs and 5 tonne of egg pulp (frozen) were delivered to Sydney. The Carter poultry farm operated on the ‘free range’ system but by 1968 their competitors were operating the ‘cage’ system. They would need to follow suit, or close.


Walter and James were extremely community minded, both serving two terms as a Shire Councillor and both elected for a period as Shire President. Walter was appointed a Life Governor of the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind and both Walter and James were involved with many community activities. Walter and Millicent’s home built in 1937- 38 is now ‘Mercy Health’ Nursing Home.


River Bend Historic Park, off Heaths Road, Melway Ref. M 205 F2, was once part of the gardens of the mansion, ‘Quantin Binnah’ built by George Chaffey in 1888-9 during the development of the Werribee Irrigation Colony.  An area of 1468 acres was to be irrigated by a steam engine driven pump installed on the bank of the Werribee River near the end of Sayers Road.  A new town of ‘Chirnside’ was commenced in the centre of the irrigation area. In an effort to reduce water loss from seepage and evaporation from the open channels, the steam driven pump was relocated from the original site to a site close to where Davis Creek flows into the Werribee River. Unfortunately due to a severe lack of planning, and construction not proceeding of a proposed weir across the river, from which to pump the water, the Irrigation Colony failed.  The Quantin Binnah mansion was destroyed by fire in 1923.  The only reminders now of this failed project at Riverbend Historic Park are the brick dome water well/cistern cover, a palm tree, many Peppercorn trees and the pump foundation at what was the pump’s third location.  

WDHS Photo Collection
WDHS Photo Collection


William Ison was born in Cambridge, England in 1832. He left for Australia in 1854 with his new wife Charlotte, and after initially living in Portland for a short period they came to Werribee in late1855. After initially managing a property for a Melbourne man, Mr Brooks, William leased land at Black Forest, behind the present Werribee Racecourse. Growing wheat and selling hay at the Haymarket in Bourke Street, Melbourne, William soon purchased his own property, which he expanded in stages up to 50 acres by purchasing adjoining properties. His house on Bulban Rd consisted of two rooms built with timber, he then added more rooms using mudbricks made from clay at the nearby Black Forest Swamp. William and Charlotte had ten children, most of whom were born in the mud brick home.      


William was very civic minded and belonged to many committees and helped arrange many petitions for improvement of the community. The mudbrick home was demolished without the appropriate permit in October 2002.  At the time, the house was the oldest home in Werribee and was probably the oldest mudbrick home in Victoria. Ison Retirement Village now stands on the original site.


Werribee Power House Photo Jan. 1961 

The Werribee township did not have a supply of electricity until June 14, 1915 when the Werribee Power House was officially opened. Council had to borrow £4000 to construct the Power House on the NE corner of Duncans Road and Synnot Street, behind the Old Shire Office. An 80 horse power twin cylinder diesel drove a generator which operated until 11.30pm on week nights and 12.30am on Saturdays, though to save on operating costs, this was soon cut back to 10.30pm on weeknights. In August 1923 Werribee was connected to the State Power Grid. During WW2 the building became the Air Raid Precaution Hall and in the late 1960s the hall was relocated to the corner of Dohertys and Woods Roads to become the Truganina Community Hall.

WDHS Photo Collection
WDHS Photo Collection


Bunny Taylor’s – Photo c.1960

Situated in Cottrell Street close to the Racecourse Hotel this General Store became a Postal Agency in 1858.The first Post Master was Richard Heath in 1868. In 1869 the business was sold to Frederick Schulze who became Post Master from 1870 until his death in 1891. In 1892, Mrs. Metta Schulze became what was probably the first female Post Mistress in Australia, and continued until 1898. During the late 1800s development was increasing on the opposite side of the river. This included, the building of three Hotels, the Police Station, the opening of the railway in 1857, and the building of the first and second Shire Office.  In 1903 the authorities announced that a new Post Office would be built at the corner of Watton Street and Wedge Street.

Dental Clinic – site of General Store and Post Office.


Now owned by the Masonic Lodge, this building constructed in 1866 was occupied by Wyndham Council from 1867. Council occupied these offices until 1893 when they moved to what is now known as the Old Shire Office cnr Watton St. & Duncans Rd.

WDHS Photo Collection


Photo courtesy Melbourne Water 

Turning the first sod at Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant then known as the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works Farm. In Melbourne’s early days deaths from typhoid and diphtheria were common due to the lack of a sewage system. In August 1890 a report was presented to the Victorian Parliament that recommended setting up a sewage treatment plant at Werribee using land irrigation and soil filtration. The Earl of Hopetoun, Governor of Victoria, turned the first sod at a ceremony on May 9, 1892.


Sewage flowed from Melbourne through huge underground pipes to the Spotswood Pumping Station where the sewage was pumped to a higher level where it could flow by gravity to Werribee’s Metropolitan Farm. By 1900 the farm was processing 17 million gallons (77 million litres ) of sewage per day.  The original purification method employed land filtration, followed in later years by grass filtration and lagoons. Now named ‘Melbourne Water Western Treatment Plant’, more sophisticated treatment methods are now employed. 


Photo courtesy Melbourne Water

Early days on the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works Farm. Preparing paddocks for irrigation treatment of sewage in the early 1900s. Photo shows two steam ploughing engines positioned close together for the purpose of the photo. Between the two steam engines is a two way, 5 furrow Kentish Plough. When in operation the steam ploughing engines were located at opposite ends of the paddock to be ploughed. The Kentish plough was pulled backwards and forwards by steel wire cables and winches on the underside of the steam engines. The Kentish plough could plough a strip 5 feet wide by 15 inches deep with each pass. 


Photo Courtesy Lance Pritchard 

Original brick Sewage Aqueduct over the Werribee River.  This was replaced by a concrete aqueduct on the downstream side and subsequently by a larger concrete aqueduct on the upstream side of the original structure. 


The Racecourse Hotel, completed in 1851 was originally named Armstrong’s Inn after its owner Elliott Armstrong, then later, the Bridge Hotel. This inn was the second inn in Wyndham, the first being near the ford crossing the Werribee River in the region adjacent to what is now Presidents Park. Elliott Armstrong was a prominent citizen of the district, being a member of the  School Board and the Wyndham Road District Board, forerunner to Council. Councillors met for meetings at Armstrong's Inn, it being the only suitable building in which to hold a public meeting. The accompanying photograph although not the original building on the site, was taken prior to the fire which destroyed the hotel in March 1932 and shows snow on the ground. On April 20, 1866 when the new Shire was divided into ridings Elliott was elected Councillor of the South Riding. At his own expense, he had a prefabricated room erected within the grounds of the inn and his daughter Ellen became Wyndham’s first school teacher. Racecourse Hotel today is the third building on this site.

WDHS Photo Collection
WDHS Photo Collection


The Werribee Railway Goods Yard situated between the Cherry Street level crossing and the Railway Station was a hive of activity in the early days. The highway between Melbourne and Geelong was originally little more than a rough track when the railway opened in 1857 and for at least another seventy years the railway siding was extremely busy shipping out wool, chaff and compressed hay from the Werribee area. The photograph shows the Goods Yard around the 1930s and was taken from the pedestrian overpass which was replaced by the current pedestrian underpass. Now site of Woolworths Supermarket previously named Safeway.


Photo c.1920s 

Photo of what is now platform 3, Werribee Station. 

The pedestrian overpass, now replaced by the underpass, was the vantage point from which many of the photos in our collection were taken.   Edward Snell, a young British engineer, only 31 years of age, was given responsibility for the survey and supervision of construction of the railway line from Geelong to Greenwich (Newport). From his diary, he mentions crossing the Werribee River, presumably at Bungie’s Hole, in a leaky boat, on September 13, 1852, and staying at the Bridge Hotel on many occasions. The Bridge Hotel was originally known as Armstrong’s Inn and is now the Racecourse Hotel.

The contract for the construction of the railway bridge over the Werribee River was awarded to Messrs. Musson, Ross & Co in June 1856 at a cost of £4,500 and was completed by December 1856. The opening of the railway line in 1857 was a boost to the town and by 1861 the population had risen to 130 persons. The Werribee Station building was constructed of bluestone with sandstone quoins around the windows and doors, and was originally intended to be erected at Duck Ponds (Lara), but it was decided that Werribee required the more substantial building.

The building was insured for £1,000, four times that of any other intermediate station on the line. The Werribee Goods Yard, situated on what is now Woolworths Supermarket, was a hive of activity loading goods trucks with pressed hay and chaff for the hundreds of horses operating in Melbourne and Geelong. Wool and dairy products were another big export by rail from our region. Unfortunately, like most of the other construction of the line, the building also suffered from poor workmanship and heavy rendering was applied very early in its life to stabilize the crumbling walls. Later, a fire in May 1927, destroyed most of the timber framed roof leaving only the stone walls remaining. In an effort to improve the stability of the walls, they were reduced in height and the roofline altered to produce a conventional gable roof instead of the original square ended gable.

WDHS Photo Collection


Situated on the NE corner of Synnot Street and Duncans Road the Reddrop family operated one of at least five blacksmith businesses in Werribee. As the years went by, the business evolved into a ‘Shell’ Service Station along with vehicle repairs and a Transport business offering daily deliveries and pickups from Melbourne. More recently the site was the Datsun/Nissan dealership, Hyundai dealership,  First Choice Liquor and is now Liquorland.

WDHS Photo Collection


It was approximately 25 years before the first Shire Hall built at the corner of Watton Street and Greaves Street South became too small, and this, the second Shire Hall, was built on the corner of Watton Street and Duncans Road. The memorial stone, dated December 30, 1893 was set above the bluestone foundations. The building was designed by prominent architect William Pitt. The Second Shire Office was in use until 1976 when the Council moved to its third, and current location at 45 Princes Highway. 1982 saw the near destruction of the second Shire Office when Council called for tenders to demolish the building and develop shops and office space. It was only a very unusual Act of Parliament named the ’Wyndham Shire Hall Act No. 1277’ dated 1892, that saved the building. Because of financial implications with the first Shire Hall built on Crown Land, the second Shire Office had to remain for Community use or the site would become Crown Land even though the land was sold to Council by Angus McNaughton for £160.

WDHS Photo Collection
WDHS Photo Collection


The State Research Farm opened in 1912.  It covered over 2,200 acres and was bounded by the Princes Highway, the main Werribee South Irrigation Channel, and Hacketts  Road. This triangular shaped area is now known as the Werribee Employment Precinct and includes the Werribee Agriculture & Food Technology Precinct, the Werribee Mercy Hospital and the University of Melbourne Veterinary Science Precinct. The site was chosen because the various soil types within the area meant a broader range of results could be obtained from experiments with crop rotation, irrigation and fertilizer rates. The close proximity to Melbourne and good public transport via train meant that farmers from around Victoria could attend the many open days. Crop research was carried out on wheat, oats, barley and lucerne to improve yield, drought and disease resistance.    


Other areas of research included sheep, dairy cattle, poultry and the breeding of pedigree Clydesdales for sale throughout Victoria. The School of Dairy Technology, opened in 1938 and as well as teaching, also carried out research into problems affecting the manufacture of dairy products. By an arrangement with the Faculty of Agriculture at Melbourne University, students in their second year ‘lived in’ while receiving instruction in farming methods and animal husbandry, as well as actual participation in the general work of the farm. Many of the buildings are still standing and the challenge now is to find a use for them, and therefore make it easier to preserve this very important part of our history.    


This photo of the east side of Station Street, taken on August 1, 1948, shows Taylor & Stemp, Central Wood Coal and Produce Merchants. This was followed by their wood yard after which was the Ashby House and Mrs Fitzjohn the Newsagent. In the foreground are bluestone blocks set into the otherwise unmade road to minimize damage caused by horses and buggies dropping off and picking up goods and passengers from the Railway Station. This area is now part of the ramp leading down the pedestrian underpass.

WDHS Photo Collection


The Palais Theatre in Station Street, now Station Place, was opened April 4, 1928.  Prior to this date silent movies were shown at the Mechanics Institute, now the Cultural Centre in Watton Street. On April 23, 1932 the first ‘talking picture’ was shown at the Palais Theatre. This movie, which was titled ‘Mother’s Millions’, caused such excitement in the community that on opening night the show drew an audience of over 1,000 people.  It was standing room only! The building is now occupied by Cash Converters.  

WDHS Photo Collection


Thompson Brothers General Merchants and Chaff Mill. Operating on the south side of Cherry Street was Thompson’s Chaff Mill originally owned by William Ison in the late 1800s. This was situated on what is now the Woolworths Supermarket car park.
The Watton Street Weighbridge, now unused, was once very busy weighing the farmers hay prior to transport by rail or processing at the Chaff Mill.

Western Produce catering mainly to local farms and farmlets.  

Opposite, on the north side of Cherry Street was Thompson’s General Merchants now the Bunnings car park. 

WDHS Photo Collection


This pair of 1912 brick commercial buildings, with dwellings behind, was constructed by John Beasley, a district farmer. One was leased by the Colonial Bank of Australasia Ltd and the other by Ronald Douglas who operated the Douglas Café. In 1918 the National Bank replaced the Colonial Bank as lessee, and remained until 1924 when it relocated to more substantial premises on the north side of Watton Street. By the mid 1920s this site was home to a tobacconist, H W Reid and the former café was occupied by a fruiterer, Mr Turner.

WDHS Photo Collection


Now Hungry Jacks

Bridge Motors on the corner of Watton Street and Werribee Street South, was the Werribee distributor of Morris cars, trucks and BSA motor cycles. Proudly standing next to a new Morris car is Lou Thompson salesman and owner of the company, Walter Henry Nicholson. In later years the business moved to the diagonally opposite corner and although retaining the name Bridge Motors initially, later the name was changed to the Park View Service Station and Garage.

WDHS Photo Collection
WDHS Photo Collection


Charles and Alice Tyzack came from Rupanyup to Werribee in 1902 after losing their Drapery business to fire. Charles purchased an existing Drapery business on the corner of Watton and Station Streets. They had five children and lived at 8 Watton Street in a house called Rupanyup named after the town they came from. Charles established a very successful business which covered everything from drapery to floor coverings.  Trading as Tyzack & Co the store soon became known as Tyzack’s Corner. Charles Tyzack was a community minded man and involved himself with many committees. He was Secretary of the Werribee District Agricultural, Pastoral & Horticultural Society and was presented with a gold medallion in 1907 for his dedicated Service. He was a devoted member of the Presbyterian Church and was also president of the Werribee Bowling  Club. From the 1960s to the 1980s the store became Deney’s and is now Greg Hocking Real Estate.

Research by WDHS 
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