One of the oldest pastoral properties in Victoria

Moranghurk Homestead is one of the oldest pastoral properties in Victoria, having first been settled in 1840 by Scottish squatters Dugald McPherson and William Taylor.

 

Originally called Morangourke the name is believed to be derived from the Aboriginal word “Murrangurk”, the name of a native that was bestowed on the English convict William Buckley who escaped captivity and lived with the Wathaurong people for many years. Legend has it that Buckley was found by the Wathaurong people carrying a piece of broken spear that had been placed on the grave of Murrangurk. Thus Buckley was identified with Murrangurk and, as “one returned from the grave” received his name. Moranghurk is understood to have several meanings, two of which are ‘stone axe handle’ and ‘reincarnated warrior’.

In the early years

The property went through a quick succession of owners until it was acquired by John Matheson Snr in 1857. The Matheson family, through John Snr, his son John Jnr, his son John Lee and John Lee’s brother, Norman, retained ownership until 1954.

The present homestead, which dates back to 1845-46, is a rare example of an early Australian Colonial style home. It is built around a central axis with hand-sawn timber slabs fixed vertically over the frame. The original roof was shingles fixed on rough bush pole rafters.

In 1847 Moranghurk comprised more than 18,000 acres (7200 hectares) and in the 1850s 26,000 acres (10,400 hectares).

A prosperous sheep station

As well as transforming Moranghurk into a prosperous sheep station, John Snr was responsible for the building of many of the dry-stone walls which remain today, an extension to the main house and the bluestone woolshed and stables which are now in ruins.

Neither John Snr nor John Jnr continually lived at Moranghurk. It was not until John Lee, his wife Lynette and his brother Norman arrived around 1912 that the Matheson family called Moranghurk home.

Between 1893 and 1911 Moranghurk was managed by Robert A. Molesworth. During this time the Maids’ Quarters and Manager’s Office, both of which remain standing today, were built. Major improvements were also made to the garden.

In the 1920s an imposing “carriage house” or garage was built, along with a circular pump house by the river, the bluestone shearers’ quarters (where you can spend the night) and a small bridge, all of which remain today.

Historic gardens

Moranghurk’s historic gardens, which date back to the early 1900s, drew the Australian Garden History Society to the homestead for its 30th annual national conference and the gardens form part of the Open Garden Scheme every third year.

The gardens are laid out in a square format with terraces, stone walls and steps. There is an orchard and vegetable garden overlooking the more modern gravelled succulent garden. Some garden beds still feature roses as in the 1920s but there are now native and Mediterranean plants as well.

End of an era

Moranghurk’s position as a substantial sheep station came to an end in the 1950s with the compulsory acquisition of a substantial portion of the property (11,770 of the 18,807 acres) by the Soldier Settlement Commission. The remaining property was stripped back to 2,183 acres in 1953 and this was sold to the Soldier Settlement Commission in 1954.

History stands today

Today Moranghurk is a collection of 19th and 20th century farm buildings and associated infrastructure representing important eras in the settlement of rural Victoria.

Present owners Liz and Ross Wilkie have uncovered many treasurers from ages long gone, have restored much of the historic garden and endeavour to keep the history of the property alive.