Warrock near Casterton is an outstanding nineteenth century Western District pastoral complex, developed from the 1840s. It was settled by Scots cabinet maker George Robertson, who purposefully educated himself in many aspects of agriculture and architecture before immigrating in 1840. He gained experience by working for his cousin John Robertson at Wando Vale, before acquiring the licence for the nearby Warrock station in 1844, and proceeded to put into practice his agricultural, architectural and social ideals, inspired by the agrarian and egalitarian reforms of nineteenth century Britain.
The first buildings he constructed on the property were a one-roomed hut for himself, of split palings from Van Diemens Land with a roof covered with local Blackwood shingles, and a timber woolshed. The hut was moved on skids to the present homestead site in 1846, and around it Robertson built, before his death in 1890, a small largely self-sufficient village consisting of fifty-seven mostly timber buildings arranged regularly around an area known as 'the Green'. This included workers' accommodation far superior to that on most other properties at the time. Rainwater was stored in fifteen underground brick-lined tanks.
The arrangement of the buildings, their relationship to the site, and the use of a simple picturesque Gothic style, are all important features of the property, and reflect particularly the writings of J C Loudon. The modest scale and form of the buildings, and their style, reflect Robertson's ecclesiastical leanings and modest, hard-working Christian way of life. Unlike other successful Western District pastoralists, he was not concerned with social prestige, and did not build an extravagant mansion as his fortune increased. Robertson and his wife, whom he married in 1853, had a great interest in gardening, and developed a formal garden around the homestead, which included a wooden sundial and a gabled lych-gate, a croquet lawn and later a tennis court. Robertson had no children, and the property passed after Robertson's death to a nephew, George Robertson Patterson, and remained in the Patterson family for five generations, until 1992. Edna Walling's landscaping business was employed c1935 to alter the garden's Victorian-era formality. The collection of buildings, farm equipment, furniture, documents and other family possessions, including Robertson's wood-working tools, which he had brought with him from Scotland and used to build the complex, remained on the station during that period, and is still substantially intact.
The complex of fifty seven buildings at Warrock, mostly of local timber, is in a Gothic style, and many are decorated with finials, brackets, bargeboards and narrow lancet louvred windows. They were constructed by Robertson from 1844, and are arranged in functional groups. Robertson's 1844 hut is at the rear of the homestead which he began in 1848 and extended when he married in 1853. A detached privy is next to it. West of the rear corner of the house is a cluster of buildings closely associated with the functioning of a nineteenth century homestead: a dairy and storeroom (probably 1845); a grainstore (probably 1844); a brick privy (early 1850s); a cottage (1840s, originally used around the run as a shepherd's hut and moved to its present site in the 1860s as a cottage for a gardener, housekeeper, cook or governess); a conservatory (1850s) and propagation houses (essential for the garden); a bacon smoking house; stables (probably late 1840s, with a Stephenson screen for meteorological measurements under its verandah); a meat house; and a coach house. Alongside these, forming a buffer between the domestic and farm precincts are a workshop for Robertson, which later became his office (begun in the late 1840s), bachelors' quarters (early 1850s), and a blacksmith shop (1850s). Further west of the house are the buildings associated with the handling of sheep: the old woolshed (c1845); a new woolshed begun 1865); shearers' toilet; branding shed and foot dip; a slaughter house; and a skin drying shed. The farm precinct south of the house includes a larger workshop (late 1850s and 1860s, which includes a brick-lined sawpit), a bullock byre, pigsties, a brick store, draught horse stables (probably built between 1844 and 1847), dog kennels, a hay barn, a hay shed, a cow bail, and men's quarters and implement shed. Between the west and south clusters are the buildings used for the accommodation of the workers: a station hands' cottage; two shearers' quarters (one from 1846); men's bathroom and toilets; a large brick men's dining room and kitchen; and a belfry (probably 1864-5) for calling the men to work and meals. The garden and some of the early plantings survive, including a Laurustinus hedge, a rare Hybrid Trumpet Creeper, Campsis x tagliabuana, and particularly fine specimens of Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster), Bunya Bunya (Araucaria budwillii), Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica f. glauca), Queensland Kauri (Agathis robusta), Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii), Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis), and Port Jackson Fig (Ficus rubiginosa). The complex has a spectacular setting amidst old River Red Gums, which are now relatively unusual.
How is it significant?
Warrock is of historical and architectural significance to the state of Victoria.
Why is it significant?
Warrock is historically significant fir its associations with the early European settlement of western Victoria, and as an outstanding demonstration of the way of life on a nineteenth century pastoral property. It is significant as a unique example of the application of nineteenth century reformist social, aesthetic and religious ideals applied to the development of a colonial farming enterprise. It is significant as a memorial to its owner and builder, George Robertson, and his excellent craftsmanship, his vision, and his Protestant beliefs in the virtues of hard work. It is significant as an example of a property owned by the same family for several generations, which valued and preserved the fabric of the place. The artefacts and documents still at Warrock are a remarkable link to its history.
Warrock is architecturally significant as the most comprehensive and intact group of nineteenth century farm buildings in Victoria, and for its intentionally consistent and harmonious architecture. It is significant as a demonstration of fine nineteenth century timber building techniques adapted to local materials. It is the only known such pastoral complex in Victoria which conforms so closely to the picturesque farm layout espoused by British theorists such as J C Loudon. The conservatory is significant as the earliest known surviving private conservatory in Australia.
Warrock is scientifically/horticulturally significant for its surviving nineteenth century plantings, particularly the Campsis and the early plantings of conifers, which are typical of the plants used in the 1860s and 1870s. It is significant for the particularly good examples of these nineteenth century trees, and also for its setting amidst a now unusual landscape of mature River Red Gums.