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Armytage, Frederick William (1838–1912)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

This is a shared entry with Charles Henry Armytage

Charles Henry Armytage (1824-1876) and Frederick William Armytage (1838-1912), pastoralists, were the fourth and sixth sons of George Armytage and his wife Elizabeth, née Peters. Charles Henry was born on 24 August 1824 at Bagdad, Van Diemen's Land. He was educated there and then worked on his father's properties. In 1857 his father gave him Mostyn and Fulham stations near Balmoral in the Victorian Western District. Fulham, a run of 65,500 acres (26,507 ha), carried 20,000 sheep. In 1863 C. H. Armytage acquired Mount Sturgeon station, 28,000 acres (11,331 ha) carrying 30,000 sheep and 300 cattle. The price was £70,750; he paid £16,000 in cash, £9000 eight months later and the rest within two years. The wool clip alone at Mount Sturgeon brought £10,000 a year but Armytage required outside finance which he obtained from a partnership with George Fairbairn in 1865-66. In 1864 Armytage employed 130 men but he preferred to live in Melbourne and installed an overseer at Mount Sturgeon. In Melbourne Armytage lived at Como, a house and fifty-four acres (22 ha) bought in 1863 for £18,000. From there he directed his squatting empire of which Fulham and Mount Sturgeon were only a part: as far afield as Northwest Bend on the River Murray he acquired in 1860 pastoral leases which by 1874 extended over seven hundred sq. miles (1813 km²) in spite of much opposition from the South Australian government.

Armytage did not have to buy much of his land until 1870 when a long fight began with selectors over Mount Sturgeon. He eventually secured freehold of 10,720 acres (4338 ha) at Mount Sturgeon and 18,246 acres (7384 ha) at Fulham at the cost of a somewhat blemished reputation. He and Fairbairn were involved in a notorious 'dummying' scandal, but Armytage kept out of the banks' clutches and so was more fortunate than many of his fellow pastoralists.

Armytage had a mind alert to new possibilities; he shipped sheep to New Zealand and his observation of the Aboriginals' use of gum leaves for healing purposes led, through Dr Day of Geelong, to the manufacture of eucalyptus oil. He was interested in mining development and in the 1870s was a director of the Alexander Quartz Mining Co. and invested in the New Pilot and Nevada Reefs near Tumbarumba in New South Wales. He died on 26 April 1876, leaving an estate of some £120,000. His wife Caroline Morrell, née Tuckwell, whom he had married in 1856, his five sons and five daughters toured Europe for a few years and on their return bought Holm Park near Beaconsfield and Afton Downs in Queensland. The Como property was subdivided in 1911, the house and garden being retained by the family.

Frederick William Armytage was born at Bagdad on 17 October 1838. His father moved to Geelong in 1851 and Frederick William was one of the first pupils at the Diocesan Grammar School. His share of his father's pastoral empire was part of Wooloomanata station near Lara, about thirty-six miles (58 km) from Melbourne. He also acquired Norley, Bimbra, Thargomindah and Eulbertie stations in Queensland and Nocoleche and Mossgiel in New South Wales. His success was mixed; in one severe drought he lost 90,000 cattle and 250,000 sheep, but was said to have made £120,000 in the 1870s on the resale of Mossgiel, a large sheep station in the Riverina.

Armytage was a keen cricketer and in January 1862 played for the Geelong and Western District team against a visiting English side. He was a great lover of horses and enjoyed shooting. At Wooloomanata the fine bluestone mansion and the good pheasant shooting proved an attraction for visiting governors. Armytage travelled overseas and built up a valuable art collection which was later acquired by the National Gallery trustees. Both Armytage and his wife Mary Susan, née Staughton, were concerned with the welfare of the local Aboriginals. Armytage was for many years a member of the Corio Shire Council. In Melbourne he was a prominent member of the Melbourne Club, a director of the Union Mortgage and Agency Co. of Australia and the Australian Estates and Mortgage Co. He was associated with the development of the frozen meat export industry and owned a large part of the initial shipment to England in the Strathleven in 1879. With Hastings Cuningham Armytage had power of attorney to act for the Australian Frozen Meat Co. in arranging for freights and machinery and his efficiency was highly praised. He was also an adviser to the Newport Meat Freezing Co.

Armytage died at Como on 3 September 1912, survived by his wife and three of his five sons. One son, Bertram, had accompanied Sir Ernest Shackleton on his Antarctic expedition.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Crombie, After Sixty Years, or, Recollections of an Australian Bushman (Brisb, 1927)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Australian Families, vol 1 (Melb, 1941)
  • Votes and Proceedings (South Australia), 1865-66 (38), 1868-69 (120)
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Mar 1894
  • Argus (Melbourne), 4 Sept 1912
  • J Watson, Selectors and Squatters in the Hamilton District in the 1860s (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1957)
  • Armytage papers (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Armytage, Frederick William (1838–1912)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/armytage-frederick-william-29/text4165, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 18 October 2018.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

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