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Chaffey Irrigation Scheme,
Riverbend Historical Park,
(off Heaths Road),
Werribee

Citation

Wyndham City Libraries, “Chaffey Irrigation Scheme,
Riverbend Historical Park,
(off Heaths Road),
Werribee,” Wyndham History, accessed August 7, 2020, http://www.wyndhamhistory.net.au/items/show/1052.
Description

Chaffey Irrigation Scheme now part of the Riverbend Historical Park.

Source

City of Wyndham Heritage Study 1997

Description

Chaffey Irrigation Scheme now part of the Riverbend Historical Park.

Title

Chaffey Irrigation Scheme,
Riverbend Historical Park,
(off Heaths Road),
Werribee

Subject

Chaffey, George, Chaffey, William Benjamin, Werribee Irrigation Trust and Investment Company, De Garis, E. Clement, De Garis, Clement John (Jack), Australian Dried Fruits Association, Riverbend Historical Park, Werribee (Vic.),

Creator

Wyndham City Libraries

Source

City of Wyndham Heritage Study 1997

Publisher

Context Pty Ltd

Date

1997

Contributor

Dr Carlotta Kellaway

Format

text

Language

eng

Type

Text

The site retains some elements dating from the Chaffey period: a well, palm and other trees.  There is a slatted barn with concrete floor, and several pieces of farm equipment (plough and dray – brought to the site by the Historical Society).  The house has been demolished.

This site is now part of a public park, resulting from the subdivision of the area in recent years.  Peppercorn trees in Purchas Street are said to have once been on the Chaffey property.  There is also said to be a section of irrigation channel dug by the Chaffey’s prior to coming to the Quantin Binnah site: it is located on the east side of Sewells Road and south of Sayers Road.

The Werribee Irrigation Trust and Investment Company was constituted as a private company in 1888, with the aim of establishing an irrigation colony.  Primary movers were George Chaffey and the former Rev. E. Clement De Garis.  Water from the Werribee River was used to irrigate a declining acreage of 160 down to 64.5 acres of grain and fodder crops, vines and fruits, and pasture from 1891-95.  The collapse of the land boom in 1890-91 lead to the demise of this farsighted venture.   It was one of a number of irrigation trusts that collapsed during the 1890s depression. 

The next major stage in the development of irrigation schemes waited until 1905 with the creation of the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission.

George Chaffey was a Canadian by birth. Visiting California on holidays about 1880, he was inspired by the irrigation engineering being applied there.  With his brother William Benjamin (W.B.) Chaffey, they worked out a scheme of buying land, irrigating it and selling off the blocks on time payment.  Their first venture, Etiwanda in California was a success.

In 1886, towards the height of the land boom, George Chaffey came to Australia. His preferred land at Mildura required a land grant, promised by Alfred Deakin, but after heated Parliamentary and community debate, failed to eventuate.  Soon after the Chaffey brothers obtained two areas of land on the Murray River, the first in South Australia.

De Garis, a former Wesleyan minister, met Chaffey on the Murray in 1887, soon after abandoning religious life and becoming a businessman.  He lived in Tarneit for a time, his son Jack going to school there.  He helped found the Australian Dried Fruits Association and his son Clement John (Jack) De Garis followed in the footsteps of Chaffey and his father in his role in the irrigation and dried fruits industries.

On the Werribee site a small settlement was created.  George Chaffey built a house (since demolished), water channels were dug and crops planted.  The evidence that remains is minimal but evocative: disused water channels, garden and well of the Chaffey house; a weir possibly associated with the scheme.  The area has since been subdivided, with part remaining as public open space known as Riverbend Historical Park.

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