Footscray Wharves and Environs


Painting by S.T. Gill of Henderson House and the activity on the wharves in 1873

Henderson House, Henderson’s Piggery or simply just the Piggery, as it is still affectionately called, has been described as the jewel in the crown of the current development projects in the area.

This ham and bacon curing establishment, built by Samuel Henderson, was operating by 1870 and considered a model of its time. An article in the Illustrated Australian News stated that-

‘In fact, for compactness, completeness and cleanliness, it would be difficult to find establishments of similar character, even in Europe, to equal Mr Henderson’s, and in those respects it cannot be excelled.’

Drawing of a ‘Prize Pig’ that appeared in the ‘Illustrated Melbourne Post’, June 25, 1864

The residential upper story of the construction reflected the architecture of the period and was classified by the National Trust in 1969. The National Trust described Henderson House as –

‘clearly the most singular example of a bluestone residence in the Western Suburbs, the basalt material which is now so famous actually derived from this region.’  

Photograph of Henderson House, 2017

The bluestone used for the building was derived from the banks of the Maribyrnong River near where the building stands. The Historic Buildings Preservation Council said ‘ an important remnant of a very early industrial complex and a relatively rare bluestone building in itself’.

Another feature is the panoramic view of Melbourne over Batman’s Swamp it would have had in the 1870s.  It still has a magnificent view of the city from a western perspective. Only now the view of the city is over railway yards, warehouses and container stacks instead of a swamp full of fish, birds and insects.

Photograph of view from the verandah at Henderson House towards Maribyrnong River and Melbourne’s CBD, 2017

The site has been occupied by a variety of businesses since its heyday and had declined to the status of a scrap metal yard in the 1970s with only the basic fabric of the original bluestone building remaining intact. And that was facing demolition.

Then the site was occupied by the Footscray Community Arts Centre in 1978 and subsequently purchased by the Footscray City Council in 1981, with support from the State Government. The Footscray Community Arts Centre has become an internationally known institution that has carried out and continues to carry out a wide range of innovative community programs.

The Footscray Community Arts Centre has extended its operating space beyond Hendersen House since this survey was first published, but the building remains the most recognizable landmark in the area.