Discover the connections between Ireland and the Yarra Valley

Glenlowren is the site where the pioneering Lorimer family settled in the Yarra Valley, forged a farming lifestyle and raised a family of 10 children.

In 1854 at the age of 19, Samuel Lorimer arrived in Melbourne Australia together with his brother, on the Queen of the Seas.  Samuel was borne to a farming life as a son of an Irish farmer, James Lorimer and his wife Sarah (nee Simpson). Historical facts are scarce as to his activities prior to arriving in the Yarra Valley.

But in 1867 when Samuel, aged 32, married Mary Ann McPherson, aged 22; he married into one of the biggest land owner families in the Yarra Valley and carved his own place in its history.

In 1871, the couple moved from Christmas Hills to Dixons Creek, bought block 15D from Mary Ann’s brother, William and built their home. Over the ensuing years Samuel obtained licences to occupy several adjoining allotments, including Block 13C, the site of Glenlowren B & B.  Block 15D is still the site of the main homestead

The Land Act of 1869, in comparison with current laws, was harsh, demanding and bordering on bribery. Under this Act, settlers were required to obtain a license for a term of three years; reside on that land for the first two and a half years, fence it and cultivate a certain proportion. Only then could they make an application to purchase that land. Successful applications were not always guaranteed as Samuel was soon to discover.

By this time Samuel and Mary Ann had 6 children and a building with six rooms, cow sheds and outbuildings. He was finally granted the licence. The Lorimers called their land Mt. Hope Farm. It was mainly a dairy farm selling cream and butter to the markets in Melbourne. They also planted fruit trees and potato crops.

He cleared the land on block 13C, built fences and ran cattle on land unfit for cultivation. In 1874 Samuel applied to purchase block 13C but his application was denied as he had not complied with the residential requirement. Despite his labour on the land, new fences and efforts to have the decision overturned; the Minister of Lands stood firm and rejected Samuel’s claim.

“Five years later and determined to secure the land, Samuel re-applied for purchase.”
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In front of the main house Mary Ann Lorimer in chair other adults are George Lorimer, Bessie, Mary and Martha (both sitting)

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Excerpt from Samuel Lorimer’s letter requesting reconsideration of the final decision (on view in the cottage)

Samuel had no choice but to relocate his family to Block 13C and start building “Lorimer’s cottage” on the same footings that is now the luxury cottage at Glenlowren.

Sadly, Samuel died days before his youngest daughter Bessie was born. According to the death certificate he died of Pleuritic affection and Perionditis at the age of 50. His wife Mary Ann and his 10 children outlived him and remained on the land. Samuel’s untimely death forced Mary Ann to show her mettle and be the landowner and raise 10 children. Mary Ann passed away in 1939 at the age of 93. This excerpt from her obituary describes her strength of character and “indomitable spirit”.

Of Samuel and Mary Ann’s 5 daughters and 5 sons: all daughters were spinsters, the eldest son remained a bachelor to look after his mother and sisters. One son died at the age of 17 and the remaining three sons married and produced 10 grandchildren.

Some descendants of the Lorimer family still live in the area and are no-doubt creating their own family history.

The Lorimer Family sold the property in the nineteen sixties to the Briggs Family, who then continued to farm the property, but with beef cattle, and so the dairy operations ceased. The old dairy still stands and is now used as a general storage shed.

The Briggs family not only farmed beef cattle, but also became known as general farm contractors involved in all sorts of activities ranging from fencing, to earthmoving, to road building and numerous other support activities required by farmers across the district and beyond.

One of the activities they set up, was to develop a bible school which they ran on the property for about ten years. This school was managed by Mr Hal Oxley, the founder of Oxley College, which is based in Chirnside Park. People who attended the school were housed in the large u-shaped house that at the time was purposely build for them. This house is now being converted into group and B&B type accommodation, where the Garden Suite B&B is the forerunner hereto.

A teacher’s cottage, which was adjacent to the u-shaped house, was renovated by the current owners and made into an office from which the B&B activities are run.

At the entrance of the property, the Briggs family built a Nissen Hut, the ribs of which were brought down from Borneo by Mr Jock Briggs, before he acquired Glenlowren. The building was then used as a lecture room for the Bible School, which later became a shed to store materials that were used for the contracting operations.
Note: A Nissen Hut is a prefabricated structure used by the military, mainly as a barracks, and made from a half cylindrical skin of corrugated iron. It was designed in the First World War by engineer and inventor Major Peter Norman Nissen and was extensively used in the Second World War.

In 2001 the Looringh van Beeck Family acquired the property from the Briggs family and named the property Glenlowren, pronounced as Glen- lor-ren; which is an acronym derived from:

Glen – being a secluded, quiet, tranquil sub-valley of the Yarra Valley
Lo – being the first two letters of the Lorimer and Looringh van Beeck families
Wren – being the small lively, blue headed wren bird that resides on the property

Upon acquisition, the Looringh van Beeck Family embarked on an extensive renovation exercise of all of the buildings on the property, and consequently focused on setting up B&B facilities and complementary gardens and wetlands. The first B&B to be opened up was the secluded old Lorimer residence, which is now known as “The Cottage”, which can accommodate two people.  The next facility to be opened up was the “Garden Suite”, which forms part of the u-shaped house, which can accommodate 2 people. The third and most recent B&B to be opened up, is secluded 2 bedroomed Nissen Hut, which can accommodate 4 people.

Further renovations will continue on the u-shaped house. The overall aim is to provide secluded luxurious guest facilities that are surrounded by wonderful wetlands and gardens within an active working farm environment. The abundant wildlife such as kangaroos, wombats, echidna’s and many varieties of birds is testament to the current owners drive to maintain a fine balance between the natural environment and its farming and B & B activities.