When Pat Macwhirter of Bird Vet Melbourne bought an 1868 house in Western Port Bay, Victoria, she fell in love with its rich history
“In the late ’80s, I had a bird and small-animal practice in Burwood in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne and was looking to open a bird tourist facility halfway between Melbourne and Phillip Island. Long story short, my family bought Harewood, a heritage-listed house on Western Port Bay, part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, in 1991. The house had only changed hands once since 1868 and had much of its original contents, such as a beautiful Scottish 1855 oak sideboard, dining table and library.
“When we moved in, I knew nothing about architecture or antiques but living in the house changed my life. I love the furniture, the original books and Aboriginal connections—in fact, I was consumed by the whole story of the house and how it related to the Western Port landscape and global history.
“Harewood was built for pastoralist William Lyall and his wife Annabella on the clan lands of the Yallock Bulluk people. The Lyalls came from Scotland but had an Italian-born architect friend, Alessandro Martello, design their home.
“It was a social hotspot in the 1870s. A cool entrepreneur, William was a parliamentarian—the first to bring Shetland ponies and Romney Marsh sheep to Australia and a member of the Acclimatisation Society. Blame him for importing hare and sambar deer. The house is full of lovely little touches, such as a round ‘rent’ table with drawers lined with a newspaper from 1893.
“I did a PhD through the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University on the property’s remarkable evolutionary and social history. It’s now been made into a book, Harewood, Western Port, Stardust to Us, to be released on 15 November.
“After a lot of revegetation work, southern brown bandicoots—a local threatened species—have now returned to the property and Harewood has seen many charity events. Most years, we do a Scots on the Swamp Open Day. Last year, we commemorated the 100-year anniversary of the Anzacs. I’ve sewn quite a few Victorian dresses and, depending on the event, participants often get dressed in period costume.
“My clinic was sold last year and I’ve been ‘re-wiring’. I still work part-time but love to spend time at Harewood as often as I can.”
To see a short video of the Anzac Day commemoration at Harewood, click here.