From the Archives, 1996: Rural spirit revives a historic Victorian ghost town

First published in The Age on January 19, 1996

Rural Spirit revives a historic ghost town

Warrock Station coach house.Credit:The Age Archives

The ring of the hammer and the scrape of the saw is again echoing across sleepy Warrock in the far west of Victoria.

In a scheme employing 40 locals, Australia's most historic rural settlement is being saved from ruin.

The belfry is glistening in a new cream coat, edged with the original brown trim used by the founder of the 1844 settlement, George Robertson, an agrarian social reformer and early pioneer.

When the $600,000 federal job scheme ends in April, 10 of the buildings will have been restored and repainted according to heritage guidelines.

It is also ho some of the unemployed locals working on the restoration will have found jobs using their new skills.

The ghost village of Warrock, near Casterton, is regarded by the National Trust, the Historic Buildings Council and the Australian Heritage Commission as worthy of top preservation rating.

A 1994 Deakin University study of the wooden settlement concluded that the unusual farm complex was of "undoubted national significance” and should be considered for World Heritage listing.

"Warrock demonstrates many facets of our cultural heritage; the pioneering days, the origins of our egalitarian society and the rise and fall of golden days of wool," the report said.

Yet most Victorians have never heard of Warrock, almost five hours from Melbourne on a private sheep property owned by Gavin and Carroll Larkins.

The Larkins hope Warrock can again become a hub of rural activity amid the Glenelg River redgums, with plans for more tourist activities, a restaurant and old movie house.

Mr Ray Fox, 30, who has been out of work for four years, says working on the program has given him a renewed sense of history in the district.

“We are doing it all by hand like it would have been done 150 years ago, and it really gives you an appreciation for the pioneers, their hard work and their workmanship."

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