A beautiful historic mansion sits in the suburb of Werribee in Victoria. Its stunning architecture and rich history are also the home of not one, but 2 tragedies.
Thomas Chirnside left his hometown of Berwickshire in Scotland in 1838. He carried with him a few hundred pounds and a bible. After arriving in Australia in 1839, he started to invest in stock and land. His younger brother Andrew joined his projects in 1841 and between them built a pastoral empire. By the late 1840s, Thomas had occupied the Werribee district and by 1880, he owned 93000 acres.
Thomas returned to Scotland in 1845 where he fell in love with his first cousin Mary Begbie. He asked for her hand in marriage to her parents but was refused. His brother Andrew then travelled back to Scotland for a visit with an odd request from his brother. To bring back Mary any way he could. So in 1852, Andrew returned with Mary (Thomas’s love interest) as his wife. After travelling back and forward, in 1870 Thomas wanted Mary to live in peace and in a place of stature, so along with his brother Andrew, they built a 60 room mansion at their Werribee park property. It took 3 years to build and was occupied by Andrew and Mary and their 3 children where they moved in sometime between 1876-1877. Thomas lived nearby in Point Cook but later moved in with Andrew and Mary. Not awkward at all!
New laws and taxes were slowly introduced, causing financial issues with their venture. It wasn’t so easy to manage and this pressure weighed on Thomas significantly. His health began to take a turn for the worse as he became depressed. His depression was a recurring health condition that plagued him since the 1840s. Was it just the money issues getting him down or was it living with the woman he loved who was married to his brother? Thomas never married.
On a Saturday afternoon in June 1887, Thomas ended his life. While it was a shock, it was not a surprise due to his failing health over the previous months. A newspaper article stated
‘He was subjected to fits of melancholia during which he fretted over imaginary losses, and declared more than once his intention to put an end to himself’.
Sad Death of Mr. Thomas Chirnside - The Argus Newspaper Monday 27th June 1887
After lunch with his family on a Saturday afternoon, Thomas left the house and went into the laundry. He was found an hour later. It was noted that he had taken a gun from the house, loaded it, and removed one of his boots. He placed the butt of the gun on the ground and his toe onto the trigger. He bent forward until his forehead rested on the muzzle. He pressed the trigger and ended his life.
Andrew passed away 3 years later of heart disease and left the property to his sons George and John Percy with the provision that his wife Mary could live there until the end of her days.
Mary Bigbie was the first cousin to Andrew and Thomas. After her parents refused to let her marry Thomas when he asked for her hand, she married his brother Andrew and came to Australia. They had 8 children together. Along with husband Andrew and 3 of their children. They settled at Werribee Park Mansion as, by this time, a lot of the children had grown up and went on to marry and have children of their own. In 1908, Mary met a tragic fate of her own in the mansion. One night she went to bed and her hair caught alight from a candle on her bedside. She did not survive the injuries.
Some people say that Thomas and Mary have finally come together as they wanted in the afterlife. Others say that Thomas is still roaming the halls of the mansion and the laundry where he took his own life. One can’t deny the impressive and beautiful architecture and the strange energy you feel walking around this mansion, almost like you are not alone.
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