Our History | The house on Wombat Hill

The general assumption is that the Holy Cross Convent was purpose-built for the nuns.  However, before their arrival, the building was home to a number of interesting personalities dating back to the 1860s gold rush.

Private residence

In 1862 Gold Warden and Magistrate James Daly had a house built for himself high on the western slope of Wombat Hill, overlooking the police compound on Camp St and the township of Daylesford.  When Daly arrived in the newly developing town of Daylesford, essential services were very limited.  Daly was instrumental in improving amenities for the local residents, including establishing the Daylesford Fire Brigade and Daylesford Hospital.  From all accounts, Daly was very respected and well-liked by all, being called a ‘man of the people’.  The street on which the house on Wombat Hill was built (now The Convent) carries the Daly name.

In 1864 William Drummond replaced James Daly as Gold Warden, moving into the House on Wombat Hill.  Drummond was known as a powerfully built man who was not afraid to get his hands dirty. His method of controlling the miners was quite different to that of Daly thus leading to Drummond being suspended for ‘dereliction of duty”.  It was during this time that Drummond suffered an unfortunate end –  he subjected himself to a tiger snake bite to prove a snake handler and his “antidote” were a fraud.  The bite proved fatal… and Drummond lost the 10-pound bet!

In 1872 Irish pioneer, John McGilliveray purchased the house.  He made many major alterations, even adding a tower, giving it a castle-like appearance.  The house began looking so grand, that town folk referred to it as “Blarney Castle”.

In 1882 prominent land owner Richard Molloy bought the house.  Following the marriage of his fifteen-year-old daughter to her widower cousin, Molloy looked around for a ‘town house’ in the Daylesford area where his remaining daughters “could entertain in a manner likely to attract suitors other than poor Irish cousins”. (quote by Mrs Hyde, relative of Mr Molloy).  However, with the premature death of his wife, Molloy’s hopes of a busy social life in Daylesford for his daughters were not to be and the family returned to their old home near Mount Franklin.

From 1886 the local priests used the vacant house as a presbytery. Later in 1890 Father Michael Gough, Archbishop Thomas Carr and local pastoralist John Egan formally purchased the house for £3,000 and it continued as a presbytery for some time.  However, as the priests were “being denied many things that were conducive to comfort” it was decided that a newer, more comfortable “home” was needed.  A new presbytery was built on the St Peter’s Church grounds, whilst the old presbytery was being prepared for its new purpose


Phone +613 5348 3211


7 Daly Street Daylesford 3460
Victoria Australia

Thursday to Monday 10am-4pm
(Closed Tuesday & Wednesday)

Gallery admission:
Adult: $10, Concession: $8,
Kids U12: $5,  Kids U5: free.


The Convent acknowledges the traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung people, on whose land we meet, share & work.
We pay our respects to their Elders past, present & emerging.