Woodlands Historic Park incorporates Gellibrand Hill Park of 640 hectares (1580 acres) which in turn consists of parts of three former properties — Woodlands, Cumberland and Dundonald. Unfortunately, of the three original homesteads only Woodlands Homestead survives.
Cumberland HomesteadWilliam Coghill, whose land “Cumberland Estate” near Moonee Ponds, was 880 acres, retired there in 1849. He died there on 19 July 1860 at the age of 76 years and was buried at the Old Melbourne Cemetery. He had three sons, William, David and George. It is uncertain when Cumberland homestead was built, but there certainly was a residence there when Elizabeth Pentreath came out in 1849 to work for William Coghill. The likely date is between 1868 and 1873.
Cumberland was occupied by wealthy brewer, Alexander McCracken (1856–1915), for about twenty years until 1916. In his early life Alexander McCracken wanted to be a horse trainer. However his father did not consider that engaging in this trade was was a suitable occupation for his son and insisted that Alexander pursue business interests in the family company and elsewhere. In 1884 Alexander McCracken joined his father’s brewrey business.
McCracken’s enthusiasm for team-games amounted to a passion. He was the first secretary and later president of the Essendon Football Club; his portrait hangs in their rooms. The Essendon football Club’s early players were mainly horsemen rather than cricketers. In fact one of its players rode a winner at Moonee Valley before turning up to a game.
McCracken was founder and president of the Essendon Rowing Club. Local cricket, tennis, golf, bowling, athletics, baseball, cycling, rifle-shooting and lacrosse were all indebted to his generous patronage; trophies bearing his name became commonplace. He was also president of the Essendon Poultry, Dog, Pigeon and Canary Society, the Essendon Town Fire Brigade and the Essendon Literary and Debating Society.
Outside Essendon, McCracken was first president of the Victorian Football League (1897–1915) after the breakaway from the Victorian Football Association, and a founder of the Oaklands Hunt Club.
McCracken was a prominent figure in racing circles. His connection with the sport dated back a great many years. He was a valued member of the Victoria Racing Club committee for a considerable portion of the time, and for some years acted as chairman. At the time of his death Mr McCracken was the vice-chairman of the club. He owned from time to time a number of racehorses. One of the most important races won by him was the Caulfield Grand National Steeplechase (now known as the Australian Steeplechase) with Knight of the Garter in 1893. McCracken had a special liking for jumpers, and he was very proud of Knight of the Garter’s victory in the four miles’ race.
With Fued, he won the V.R.C. Bagot Handicap in 1902, and the same event he took in 1908 with Mira. Impression, winner of the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes in 1904, was a smart two-year old owned by him. Tardy (trained by R. H. Frew) was about the last hurdle-racer to carry Mr McCracken’s colours to victory. He won any number of hunting events, and always took a particular interest in the fortunes of the Oaklands Hunt Club. He was a sportsman of the best type. Racegoers backed his colours with every confidence that they would get a “straight run.”
During his time at Cumberland, McCracken was closely associated with Woodlands and its owner, William Croker, through committee membership of the Oaklands Hunt Club and the Victorian Racing Club. (See the entry for Alexander McCraken in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.)
John JohnsonAfter Alexander McCracken’s death, the Johnsons of “Glendewar”, across the creek from “Cumberland”, moved into Alexander’s property. Mrs John Johnson and family, who ran sheep on the property, leased Cumberland and lived in the bluestone Gothic Revival style house there from 1919 until 1934.
The beautiful house fell into disrepair in the 1930s and was later destroyed by fire. It was demolished twenty years later. Today, only the granite stone foundations remain in Woodlands Historic Park.
Dundonald HomesteadThe easternmost section of Gellibrand Hill Park includes part of the Dundonald property. A timber homestead and stone stables were built in the early 1860s.
Donald Kennedy and his brother bought much land cheaply during the depression of the 1840s, at what is now Glenroy and the suburb of Attwood. The Glenroy land was sold off quite early but Kia Ora, Willowbank, Dundonald,and Springbank were not sold by Donald Kennedy’s descendants until 1929. The property was leased to the Hattys who ran it as a farm from 1882 to 1929. It was then sold by the Kennedys in 1929.
The HattysDavid Hatty and his wife Matilda had a large family of nine children, 4 boys and 5 daughters. They farmed at “Dundonald” the property on top of Gellibrand Hill and lived in the homestead there. It was a single storey 16 room, family home, built of timber with a gabled roof, a verandah on the eastern side and stone steps leading up to it from the garden at the front.
David and Matilda Hatty leased the property through a firm of Melbourne solicitors acting on behalf of the Kennedy sisters, absentee owners who lived in Scotland and who owned a rather large amount of land around the Broadmeadows district. The Broadmeadows Rate Books show that the property was leased to several different people from 1879 to 1888 when David and Matilda Hatty and their large family took over leasing the property for many years after this.
David Hatty died at “Dundonald” on the 29th of November 1913 aged 76 years, and Matilda on 29th of July 1914 aged 74 years. Both are buried at the Bulla Cemetery.David and Matilda’s son Jim Hatty and his wife Elizabeth continued to farm and raise a family at “Dundonald”. The eastern side of the hill was covered with crops of wheat, oats and hay and a dairy was run on the farm which supplied cream for butter making.
In 1930 the family moved to “Edina” at Mickleham and the Attwood family took over the “Dundonald” property.
James (Jim) Mark Hatty died 30th of December 1938 aged 57 years, and his wife Elizabeth died 22nd of September 1985 aged 88. Both are buried at the Bulla Cemetery.
James Gordon Attwood purchased 399 acres of the former Dundonald property (Part of Crown Allotment 8, Parish of Will Will Rook) in November 1929. Part of the area (202 acres) fronting Mickleham Road was acquired by the Commonwealth of Australia and was occupied by the Victorian Government Department of Agriculture “Attwood” Veterinary Research Laboratory and a smaller portion by Police Dog Squad and “Attwood” Police Stud Depot.
In the early 1960s, Jim Attwood further reduced his remaining 197 acres by subdividing ten (10), five (5) acre housing lots along the frontage to Mickleham Road. The rear balance of 147 acres was sold in 1964 to residential developers. The buildings were vandalised and burnt down.
In 1980 the property was purchased by the State Government for inclusion in the Gellibrand Hill Regional Park, which is now Woodlands Historic Park.