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CORAGULAC HOUSE: book launch

March 24, 2021 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Author and historian, Jennifer F. O’Donnell, invites RHSV members and friends to celebrate the launch of her latest history, Coragulac House.  Drinks and light refreshments will be served in the RHSV’s Gallery Downstairs.

In the early 1870s, George Pringle Robertson built “Coragulac”, nestled in the shelter of Red Rock near Colac. Built of bluestone quarried on the land and designed by architects Davidson and Henderson, it was an unexceptional mansion with a wide verandah and lacking a tower, so common in the Western District.

Robertson’s father William was a member of Batman’s expeditions to Port Phillip and started buying land near Colac in 1840 (at the time of his death in 1874 it is estimated he held 40,000 acres). Three generations of the Robertson family lived in the area their story being integral to the history and the development of Colac.

Andrew Spence Chirnside bought “Coragulac” in 1901 and set about radically restructuring the building, tearing down external walls, realigning the roof, raising the billiard room roof, re-locating the front door and adding a new wing. The architect, Guyon Purchas, added conical turrets on each side; internally the house now featured two magnificent fireplaces, carved by Robert Prenzel, along with a host of other Art Nouveau additions. In 1903, Chirnside employed his friend, Ballarat architect William Braznor, to erect vast new stables.

Thomas Baker bought “Coragulac” in 1912. A prominent Colac estate agent, among his other activities, he was a strong believer in sub-division and opened up the area to farming. He died in “Coragulac” in 1924 and the mansion fell into neglect.

In 1932 Len Ralton, a potato and onion grower, bought the property and set about rescuing the mansion. Ralton was a founding figure in the Apex movement; when war came, he answered the call. In 1947 “Coragulac” was put on the market and finally bought by the Matthews brothers in 1950. Members of the Matthews family would own “Coragulac” for next 64 years. Today, with new owners Gary and Sharyn Gibson, “Coragulac” is being restored to earlier glory.

Jenny O’Donnell, historian and photographer, has carved out a niche writing histories of Victoria’s splendid homesteads and mansions. Her earlier books include Thornebridge: the Bridge Hotel at Murchison, Noorilim: from wool to wine, Narrapumelap: a pastoral history, Ravenswood, Kawarau and, most recently, St Kilda Families. Memorials in Christ Church. 


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March 24, 2021
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Royal Historical Society of Victoria
03 9326 9288


RHSV, Gallery Downstairs
239 A'Beckett Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000 Australia
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03 9326 9288