Whorouly (wor-our-lee), as the name suggests, is aboriginal in origin and is understood to mean ‘underwater’. It is a fitting name for the area that has experienced several great floods over the years. In 1870 a big flood caused some of the settlers to move their homes to the hills. In 1974 and 1993 the area was again covered in water, lapping the front steps of the Whorouly Hotel. The most recent, although not quite as bad, flood was in 2010 and, as per usual, many made their way to the pub until the water receded.
Explorers Hume and Hovell passed through the area in 1824 on their way from Appin in NSW to Port Phillip in Victoria. While certainly not difficult and not well executed (poor preparation, limited supplies and, in the end, the explorers simply got lost), the expedition is considered important in opening up new parts of Australia to European settlement. Hume and Hovell reached the Ovens River near Whorouly on 24 November and in his journal, Hovell described it as “as pretty a spot, and as valuable, as any I have seen since leaving home.”
The township of Whorouly, in the parish of Whorouly, was part of the former Whorouly (then spelt Warrowly) pastoral run of 16,000 acres. The run was licensed to G.E. MacKay (some time between 1824 and 1853).
One of Whorouly’s claims to fame is that the first broom manufactured in Australia was made by Lot Barker of Whorouly in 1871 in a shed on his property. Lot and his brother Edmund grew their own millet and, so good were their brooms, that they won first prize in London in the 1870s for brooms manufactured in the British Empire. The last Barker broom was made by third generation Barkers at nearby Tarrawingee in 1971. As a quality test, if a Barker broom didn’t stand up by itself, it wasn’t allowed out of the factory.
And yes, we too have a Ned Kelly story. Annual horse races were held in Whorouly for many years in a paddock belonging to the Harrington family. Such was the popularity of the event, that one year members of the Kelly Gang were expected to attend. Hoping to catch the infamous bushrangers, police attended the meeting disguised as racegoers. It is said, Ned Kelly eluded the police by watching the races from the hills at the rear of the course.
Now Whorouly is a little piece of paradise hidden in the middle of one of the busiest tourism regions in Victoria. Largely an agricultural community, farm gate sales include kiwi fruit, persimmons, walnuts, strawberries, tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants. Dairy farms ensure green pastures all year round. There are more than six self-contained accommodation options. The recreation reserve boasts public toilets, a public barbecue and a kids’ playground. The Ovens River runs through Whorouly, offering fishing and a cool place to relax in summer. For the more active, the bike trail linking Wangaratta and Bright is just 5km from the Whorouly Hotel. And within half-an-hours drive of Whorouly, you can reach Wangaratta, Beechworth and Myrtleford.