The Willows Homestead in Melton, Victoria, is of significant historical value to the local community and beyond. Duratec was able to breathe life into the dwelling with a comprehensive refurbishment.
The Willows Homestead was built in 1855, during the Victorian gold rush, by farmer Ralph Parkinson. The structure is part of the Willows Historical Park, which is located in the centre of Melton, about 45 kilometres west of the Melbourne CBD. It is the area’s oldest surviving building.
According to the Heritage Council of Victoria, the building is a good example of a “moderately intact Victorian-style homestead”. It is significant due to its “unusual rendered random rubble wall construction” and the “sturdy buttresses that project from the original portion of the dwelling”.
The Willows Homestead is also a lasting reminder of the shire’s farming era. While the area first experienced European settlement around 1838, likely due to its location at an easy crossing of Toolern Creek on the way to Victoria’s Goldfields, the surrounding plains – rich in basalt – proved ideal for cropping and grazing.
The homestead changed hands many times over the years. The land, incorporating the dwelling, was sold by the Crown as a suburban allotment to Charles March Williams in 1861. Just six years later, the building was purchased and extended by James Ebden Minns and by 1876, it served as the homestead for a farm of 340 acres.
In 1903, the property was inherited by James’ son, George Minns, who went on to serve as a Melton shire council member for 37 years. After he left the area in 1951, the property became derelict until it was purchased – along with the surrounding 3.75 acres of land – by the Melton City Council in 1972.
It was at this point that the Willows Restoration Committee was established and the dwelling underwent a refurbishment. In 1975, the building received a National Trust classification – widely considered an authoritative statement on the homestead’s heritage significance. It is also heritage-listed at local and state level, and serves as the headquarters of the Melton District Historical Society.
Following the completion of the Willows’ major restoration in 1982, any further maintenance and repairs had been carried out on an ad-hoc basis so by early 2023, the dwelling was in need of a robust refurbishment. In February, the City of Melton issued a tender for the Willows Homestead Renewal Works and in March, Duratec was awarded the contract. Works began on site in May and were completed in August 2023.