Chatsworth House, built on the crest of Hopkins Hill overlooking the Hopkins River, is described in the Register of the National Estate:
Chatsworth House, a substantial single storey bluestone mansion with attendant outbuildings, on the Hopkins River near Chatsworth, was erected in 1858-59 for pioneer pastoralist John Moffat. This conservative classical style house with Doric portico and encircling iron verandah was designed by prominent Hamilton architect James Henry Fox. The mansion is set in spacious landscaped gardens. Chatsworth House is a fine example of the conservative classical style mansion and a notable work of James Henry Fox, a celebrated Hamilton based architect and designer of Victoria’s most magnificent mansion ‘Werribee Park’ in 1873-78. Chatsworth House of 1859 foreshadowed the Western district mansion house of the 1870s and is an important and splendid prototype. John Moffat, a prominent Victorian pioneer entertained Prince Alfred at Chatsworth in 1867. Chatsworth House is intact and meticulously maintained.
Margaret Kiddle records in Men of Yesterday that John Moffat began life in the Port Phillip district in 1839 as a shepherd employed by the Clyde Company. His rise in fortune, on the back of a Merino stud is well demonstrated by the expenditure of 20, 000 Pounds on the house, outbuildings and landscaping.
The landscape is significant for the involvement of the noted garden designer Edward La Trobe Bateman in 1867. Bateman, a cousin of Charles Joseph La Trobe, Superintendent of the colony, was one of Victorias’ first garden designers. His earliest known work was as a hydraulic engineer for his brother in Manchester, but he later excelled as a draughtsman , illustrator and artist. He exhibited illustrations in Melbourne between 1854 and 1869, and earned praise from the botanists, von Mueller and Harvey. Recognising that there was a limited scope for earning a living as an artist, Bateman turned his hand to garden design, for which his engineering, botanical and general design experience equipped him well. Bateman designed more than 15 public and private gardens in Victoria, including plans for the Fitzroy and Carlton gardens, Melbourne University private gardens, Heronswood and Barragunda on the Mornington Peninsula, and in the Western district at Wooriwyrite and Chatsworth. Whilst Bateman was on a 3 year contract to design and lay out the extensive grounds of Chatsworth he was severely injured in a buggy accident, paralysing his right arm. He returned to Britain in 1869 and settled on the Isle of Bute, Scotland.
The visit of Prince Alfred to Chatsworth in 1867 was recalled in 1903:
The Prince on his arrival at Chatsworth House expressed his wonder at the architectural beauty of this house, so well known to all the Western graziers. In those days, as now, if not quite the most modern, still it is the finest house in the district. The grounds are also very beautiful, and are stocked with a great number of rare exotics, native plants and shrubs. The house itself is almost palatial.
The garden is entered through a planting of Monterey Pines and is laid out within a perimeter planting of mainly conifers. A feature of the garden is a curved cypress hedge which encloses the garden on the east side. Another curved planting of pines, cypress cedars and carobs, once surrounding a church, occurs west of the drive, to the farm buildings. An unusual landscape feature is the raised banks used for tree planting. The planting makes extensive use of conifers , - pines, cypress and cedars – oaks and figs, blue gums and remnant river red gums as specimen trees and in stands to create a ‘picturesque’ arrangement of trees in a parkland setting.
A feature of the garden around three sides of the house is the impressive bluestone steps and sloping retaining wall capped by a cast iron rail (no other examples are known). The planting features old camellias and several large dramatic English box (Buxus sempervirens) ‘balls’ and hedges. The new parterre garden is planted on the site of a former tennis court. The garden is maintained by Colin Langley of CY Landscaping based in Camperdown.
Currently Chatsworth House Farm is approximately 6000 acres. The property is owned by the Jones Family and managed by Trent Adams. Farm production consists of a prime lamb enterprise and cropping program, complemented by a maternal stud, Chatsworth House Composites.
The substantial bluestone building now known as the Longroom, was once the mens’ quarters on the original Cobb & Co route and the stables that run parallel to them have been well maintained and were completed in 1867. The complex also originally included a school and church. The kindergarten that rests opposite the Longroom today was relocated to Chatsworth House farm by the Jones family in 2008 to save the building from demolition. The Longroom was renovated by the current owners in 2002 and then completed in 2006, when the remaining quarters at the western end of the building were converted to accommodation.