A Geelong icon, this year marks the 150 Year Anniversary of the Dennys Lascelles Woolstore

A Geelong icon, this year marks the 150 Year Anniversary of the Dennys Lascelles Woolstore

1 August 2022 marks 150 years since the opening of the CJ Dennys & Co Woolstore, the current home of Geelong’s own National Wool Museum.

150 years ago, CJ Dennys & Co Woolstore opened its doors in Geelong – a building that is now an important cultural hub in Victoria’s second-largest city.

The Museum is marking this significant milestone with free entry, children’s activities, complimentary morning tea and a yarn with its staff and volunteers. Also marking the milestone is the National Wool Museum-produced exhibition, Bluestone: 150 Years of the Dennys Lascelles Woolstore opening to the public, 16 September 2022.

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National Wool Museum Director, Padraic Fisher stated, “It is an honour to be part of such deep connection – in a building embedded in the rich colonial history of Geelong on a place with thousands of years of ongoing cultural heritage. We welcome everyone to come for a visit to the ‘Bluestone Jewel Box’ share a story and make a connection of their own to this place we call Geelong.”

Bluestone: 150 Years of the Dennys Lascelles Woolstore is an honest account of the colonisation of the region and events leading up to the opening of the woolstore. Bluestone will tell the stories of those who have walked these halls and will explore the progress of Geelong and those who lived here through the ages.

On 1 August 1872 the CJ Dennys & Co Woolstore opened, adorning the corner of Moorabool and Brougham Streets, Geelong. At the time of opening, the basalt bluestone woolstore was the second largest store in Victoria and by many accounts the “most elaborate”. On the day of opening there was a banquet for 200 people on the third floor that was, of course, followed by a wool sale.

The Woolstore sits on Wadawurrung country on the site of an ancient water way, a place of cultural significance. With invasion, Wadawurrung peoples’ lives changed forever, but they continued to live on country and many of their stories are captured in this exhibition.

When the Woolstore was opened it was an innovation in colonial architecture, with advanced design for  lighting and ventilation. The bluestone came from Fyansford quarries (with the dressed portion from Ballarat) and the bricks came from the kiln in West Geelong. 

Bluestone will consider the many faces of CJ Dennys. On the one hand Dennys has been memorialised for his kindness and generosity, but on  the other Dennys was a frontiersman who committed acts of frontier violence—a story that the Museum tells in their core exhibition On the Land: Our Story Retold, and one that will be approached again. 

Bluestone also explores forgotten stories – Have you ever felt Ganley’s ghost inside the woolstore? In 1895, Arthur Ganley was decapitated by the bale lift while working in the building. But there are other equally evocative stories, such as young female employees training for their basketball competitions on the top floor of the building. And there are stories we are still excavating, just like the tunnels that used to run under Brougham Street. 

The Museum tells the stories of this land by looking at the unique geology of the region and its deep past. It tells Wadawurrung stories and explores the many faces of our past. 

Mayor Peter Murrihy encouraged the community to take up the offer of free entry on 1 August and learn more about the building’s history.

“The woolstore is so strongly intertwined with the modern history of Geelong. The 150-year anniversary of its opening is a milestone worth reflecting upon for its impact on both the evolution of our city, and the Wadawurrung people who were displaced from their land as a result of colonisation. The free open day gives us all a chance to recognise and learn more about both of these elements.”

The Museum has commissioned Wadawurrung emerging elder, Dr Deanne Gilson to create an exhibition that compliments the telling of the Bluestone story. Wadawurrung Dja: Awakening Country is on  display until 15 November 2022. 

150 Year Anniversary of the Denny Lascelles Wool Store takes place August 1 from 10am – 3pm. Bluestone: 150 Years of the Dennys Lascelles Woolstore runs 16 September 2022 – 23 April 2023 

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