Thanks for all the memories
The vendors of Vale Hill freely admit to mixed feelings about selling the property. After 11 years of developing both the house and garden, they are sad to be leaving just at the point when all the challenges have been met, all the hard work done, and all that remains to do it enjoy the results.
On the other hand – inveterate restorers that they are – they now have two new projects that require their attention. They recently purchased a gracious period house in the village of Clunes and will now set about transforming both the building and its grounds into something just as wonderful as Vale Hill.
In addition, they will be restoring and reviving a striking old hotel in the village’s main street, turning it into a favoured destination for locals and visitors.
“Looking over the hedge at the top-most southern boundary of the Vale Hill the other day we saw the sheep paddock behind it. It was dry, windswept and covered in low grass,” they said.
“It reminded us of what our property looked like the day we bought it. There were only about four trees on the whole place. Now it is bursting with life. The garden is full of surprises – and full of food.
“What we set out to build was a sustainable garden. We didn’t want to allocate water to any plant that wouldn’t eventually give us something back. I’m very proud that we achieved that on a pretty big scale. The Vale Hill garden has not only kept us in fruit and vegetables for much of every year – it has also been a major source of supply for our restaurant, as well.
“Before we settled here, we spent years travelling on weekends in search of a property within 30 minutes of Daylesford. When we first saw Vale Hill it was a ruin sitting in a raw paddock, but we knew it was somewhere very special. It took 14 months of patient negotiation before we were able to buy it.
“The really remarkable thing is the degree of solitude and tranquility it provides, even though it’s on just 10 acres and only minutes away from the nearest towns. We can look out across thousands of other acres, and revel in the beauty of other people’s land as well our own.
“We both work long hours at seven-day-a-week businesses, so privacy is very important to us. Because of where it is, Vale Hill is not a place where people drop in unexpectedly. It’s great, though, that it’s big enough to happily accommodate friends and family when they do visit. It’s a place where good mates come for the weekend, where family members come to stay and let the kids run wild.
“Through the years, Vale Hill has for us been a party house, a sanctuary, and a retreat. We’re very sorry to be leaving it – but our next adventure beckons now. And for us, life has always been about the next adventure.”
Vale Hill featured on Dream Build, Season 1 Episode 3 – Goldfields, in 2012.
The description for the show was “What will happen to a Victorian goldfields ruin when the architect’s first thought is, “What am I going to do that that?”
A Place In The Country
Vale Hill also featured in the book “A Place In The Country” written by Stephen Crafti, published by Craftsman House in 2008.
“The new wave of country houses in Australia and New Zealand reflects the desire of many city dwellers to get away from the pace and competitive edge of the city and find fulfillment in the peace, stillness and natural beauty of the land.”
A little bit of history
The McRories – The Builders
Peter McRorie was born c.1803, Perthshire, Scotland and married Janet Campbell on 22 May 1831, in Crieff, Perthshire. Janet was born in 1811
The 1841 Census of Scotland has Peter, Janet and 3 children living at Newtonshaw, Clackmannan, where Peter worked as a woollen loom weaver.
The 1851 Census records the McRorie family living at 109 Bull (Hull) Street, Alloa, Clackmannan. The household includes: Peter (46), a woollen weaver; Janet (39); Daniel (18), a woollen weaver apprentice; William (14), a scholar; Peter (11), a scholar; Margaret (9), a scholar; and James (5)
In April, 1855, Peter, his wife Janet Campbell arrived in Geelong with four of their five children, William, Peter, Margaret and Jane. Their eldest son Daniel, migrated independently.
Peter’s younger brother, William and his wife Elizabeth Bean had settled in the Geelong area a year earlier. Peter and William were both stonemasons and for a time worked together on stone bridges and other projects in that area.
Peter and his family moved to the Lawrence area in 1856, purchasing various allotments: Peter Lot 69, William Lot 68 and Daniel Lot 70 along the Smeaton / Clunes Road. Peter quarried stone on the property and built a house on the side of the hill and named it Vale Hill.
Peter and Janet had long happy times together and died within a few months of each other in 1895, at advanced ages of 91 and 82 respectively. They are buried at the Smeaton Cemetery.
The McRorie family stayed in the area for many years.
Fred & Eva Toose
After the McRories, Vale Hill was acquired by Frederick W and Eve Toose. Photographs from the 1920s show the couple proudly showing off their new car in the driveway next to the house.
After Fredrick W passing, brother Les and wife Mary moved to Vale Hill with his son Gordon, wife Olive and daughter Elise Toose where they enjoyed Vale Hill for many years.
Vale Hill stood proud in the landscape until 1978, when tragedy struck in the form of a fire that destroyed the property, leaving only four badly scarred walls and a trio of chimneys standing.
The Toose family descendants still farm the land in the district today.