Murray Downs Homestead | NSW Environment & Heritage

Culture and heritage


Murray Downs Homestead

Item details

Name of item: Murray Downs Homestead
Type of item: Landscape
Group/Collection: Landscape - Cultural
Category: Historic Landscape
Location: Lat: -35.3408212056 Long: 143.5858018160
Primary address: Moulamein Highway, Wakool, NSW 2710
Local govt. area: Wakool
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Wamba Wamba
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
LOT2 DP1067731
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Moulamein HighwayWakoolWakool  Primary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Wariat NomineesPrivate24 Aug 07

Statement of significance:

The Homestead and its surrounding precinct have historical significance as a record of rural life and industry and their evolution over the last 160 years. The aesthetic significance of the precinct is limited. While the main buildings and surrounds are fine examples of their times, they are not exceptional or innovative or rare. The Murray Downs homestead and surrounds are highly valued by the local Community. The Wakool Council has listed the item in its LEP and DCP as an 'historic precinct'. The homestead is open to the public for inspection and it is apparent that it is highly valued by the local community and travelers to the region.

The precinct is representative of aristocratic pastoral practices of the 19th century and as such is a fine example of its type. In the region it represents an endangered aspect of our cultural environment.
Date significance updated: 12 Feb 01
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Unknown
Builder/Maker: Seutorius Henry Officer and Charles Officer 1866-1884, Alfred Felton &, Charles Campbell 1884-1891
Construction years: 1866-1891
Physical description: The precinct includes:
1. Main House:-
Painted and rendered finish to brick work, Some face brick
Corrugated iron roofs
Verandahs all round
Two story towers
Viewing platform
Bay windows
Complex Roof Forms
Classical detailing
Flush eaves overhangs
Building encloses an internal courtyard
Fine gravel finish to yard
Edges defined by homestead, blacksmiths workshops, old school house
3. Fence surrounding the precinct:-
Timber picket fence to 900mm high, Posts to 1800mm topped by decorative finials
4.Formal Garden:-
Decorative planting
Geometric garden beds with brick edging
5. Small house Orchard
6. Grand Driveway:
Lined by trees of historic significance
7. Artificial Lake
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
The homestead and grounds are in good condition. Repairs and maintenance of the precinct has been constant as required for public display.
Date condition updated:24 Nov 00
Modifications and dates: The homestead and surrounds evolved and changed over the period 1866-1891. The building complex probably was at its peak around 1890. At this time there were 6 houses on the entire estate and many more outbuildings. While the homestead complex reduced in size since, there have been no new additions to the house itself. Any significant changes in the precinct are to the gardens and surrounds. The intrusion is of little or no significance.
Current use: Function Centre. Open for public Inspection as historic house and precinct.
Former use: Homestead


Historical notes: The Murray Downs Station was a vast expanse of land in the south west of NSW bordered by the Wakool River to the north and the Murray River to the south. In 1848 Messrs Bell and Wilson applied to lease Crown Land of 150,000 acres which became known as Murray Downs. In 1862 the property was divided into 2 leases. Murray Downs Station was then 67,751 acres and Melool was 110,467acres. Murray Downs and part of the adjoining property of Melool was acquired by Seutorius Henry Officer and his brother Charles in 1862. At that stage it was all unimproved country without fences. Aborigines were a threat to people and livestock. All goods arrived by paddle steamer and produce was likewise shipped along the river to Echuca and then by train to Melbourne. The Murray Downs Station prospered in the hands of Seutonius Officer. He was a pioneer of irrigation, established a flourishing citrus grove. The property became a community in itself and had to be self supporting. There was a baker, blacksmith, carpenter, steam engine drivers, drovers, shearers, wool classers etc. On June 22nd 1866 the Officer brothers were authorised to purchase land on Murray Downs and by 26th January 1883, Murray Downs consisted of 77,725 acres of purchased land.

The property was sold at auction in 1884 to Alfred Felton and Charles Campbell. The sheep and wool industry flourished during their ownership of the station. In 1889 there were 79,326 sheep shorn on the property, which at that time consisted of 80,683 acres. In 1905 the property came under the control of trustee Executors and Agency Company Ltd of Melbourne. In 1917 a merino stud was established under the supervision of Arthur Laird who was to mange the station until 1935. The experiment was successful and Murray Downs was registered as a stud in 1922. In 1969 it was purchased by Kidman Reid & Co. The property has continued to function as a successful sheep station until recent years.
The First homestead on Murray Downs was a pine log and mud iron roofed hut lined with hessian and paper. The date of construction was unknown. It was demolished as recently as 1917. The present homestead was commenced in 1866 by the Officers, who built the middle portion. Bricks were brought from Echuca by barge. A comprehensive complex of outbuildings, including sheds and stables for carriage and stable horses, wagons and buggies, a blacksmith’s shop and harness room were erected. At this time the garden was also established. Sketches of the house and Garden from 1877 and 1890 are attached.

From 1888 to 1891 Messrs Campbell and Felton altered and added to the homestead. The two storey portion and roof tower was built as a lookout for approaching aborigines as well as the beautifully proportioned dining room. The present brick kitchen was built in 1884.

The house is currently owned on a separate title of 61.43 ha by Matthew and Clare Lewis of Wariat Nominees. The homestead is open to public inspection and used as a venue for functions. The property is still farmed as a hobby farm that provides a backdrop to the historic building complex.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Agriculture-Activities relating to the cultivation and rearing of plant and animal species, usually for commercial purposes, can include aquaculture (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Environment - cultural landscape-Activities associated with the interactions between humans, human societies and the shaping of their physical surroundings (none)-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Pastoralism-Activities associated with the breeding, raising, processing and distribution of livestock for human use (none)-
4. Settlement-Building settlements, towns and cities Land tenure-Activities and processes for identifying forms of ownership and occupancy of land and water, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal (none)-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The subject building and surrounds show evidence of historic significance in that they display a record of a particular era in the Murray Valley region and the rise and decline of the agricultural industry. The story of of agriculture in Australia in general and on the Murray Downs estate in particular is evidenced here in the buildings and remnants of the wider property. The homestead precinct is a record of the lifestyle of the farming families and their approach to agriculture during the century and the first half of this century.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
The homestead building itself is a major work by an unknown designer. It represents no technical or creative innovation. It is a charming building of good proportions and elegant design. It is not however aesthetically distinctive.
The homestead and its surrounds are a landmark in the local area, providing a physically significant tower and building in an otherwise flat plain dotted with humble homes. The grand driveway and garden surrounds also provide a point of significance, a highlight in the surrounding utilitarian landscape. The taste and style are not unique across the state but in the context of the region today are significant.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The property is listed with the local Council, Shire of Wakool in the Wakool LEP and DCP as a heritage item. The current boundary to the Murray Downs Property defines an 'historic precinct' in the Wakool DCP. The homestead is a tourist attraction and the local community takes pride in its existence. It is valued by the neighbouring properties as providing a desirable backdrop to their outlooks. This value is based 'on amenity reasons'. Heritage Office and Department of Urban Affairs and Planning, P 4-5. The buildings and immediate precinct are not crucial to the community's sense of place.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
The buildings do provide evidence of past lifestyles however these are available elsewhere. They have little research and/or educational potential
SHR Criteria f)
The house in itself is not a rare building. Many such examples of residential buildings built in the late 1800s exist throughout Australia. However in the context of the region the entire precinct is rare. There are few remaining examples of the grand rural estate in the Murray Valley region. As such the old homestead tells a story the people in the present. The grand homestead and surrounding court and utilitarian buildings are generally under threat as the farming industry declines or is industrialized.
SHR Criteria g)
The homestead, blacksmiths workshop and school house all represent their class of items i.e. rural outbuildings of a residential and working nature. They are unaltered and typical of such outbuildings. They have the principal characteristics such as materials and construction methods.
The buildings are outstanding as part of their immediate setting and their place in the local region rather than due to their individual merit.
Integrity/Intactness: The property of the Murray Downs estate has been gradually eroded and dissassembled over the years. The original estate has been subdivided repeatedly
Records from the Lands and Titles Office reveal Certificates of Title for the subject property as far back as 1867. Suetonius Henry Officer was granted for the sum of One hundred and ninety six pounds, Lot 29 Vol. 1605 Fol. 14of area 196 acres.
The land title according to evidence available remained at this size and configuration until 1969 when a small portion on the north west corner on the main road was subdivided off. The remaining parcel, titled Lot 2 in Deposited Plan 531599 in the shire of Wakool Parish of Yellymong and County of Wakool was 192 acres in area.
In 1982 another portion at the western end of the lot, 6.7ha in area was subdivided from the original lot. The remaining Lot had become a Torrens Title, now defined as Lot 4 in DP 623456 had an area of 71ha.
The next recorded change to the Lot was in 1989 when the eastern boundary was adjusted to increase the property to 89.5 ha. The eastern boundary ran along the road known as Murray Downs Drive and included a parcel along the river further east from the existing and previous boundary. The Lot was then known as Lot 7 in DP 785831.
In 1996 the property is shown in its current configuration as Lot 15 DP 859813 with an area of 61.43 ha. The south eastern portion of the site is subdivided into a variety lots including 12 house sized lots along the river frontage and 2 larger lots. namely Lot 1 and Lot 14 of 21ha and 2 ha respectively.
Subsequently in 1999 council has approved further subdivision of Lot 1 for housing development.
The pattern of evolution of the subject lot since 1969 has been gradual reduction in size with subdivision of land into smaller lot sizes. This land use pattern reflects the changing nature of the agricultural industry, which is no longer buoyant and prosperous. It also reflects the increasing popularity of the hobby farm or small boutique farm lot and the demand for single lot housing in out of town locations especially bounding the riverbanks.
The homestead itself shows a remarkable likeness to a sketch drawn in 1868.
It appears to have had no major additions since the early 1900s.
The immediate homestead precinct remains reasonably intact.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
21(1)(b)Conservation Plan submitted for endorsementMurray Downs Historic Precinct CMP, Peter Freeman Pty Ltd  
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 5 2008

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0143817 Nov 00 15011885
Development Control Plan     

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
WrittenFreeman Randell.2002Murray Downs historic precinct. Swan Hill : conservation management plan / prepared for Wariat Nominees by
WrittenJ. Croft Murray Downs Station
WrittenLinda Hume2000Inventory Sheet for Murray Downs Homestead
WrittenLinda Hume1999Architectural Report on Historic Precinct and Outbuildings, Murray Downs Homestead

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5051343
File number: H00/00106

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