Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Armytage, George (1795–1862)

by P. L. Brown

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

George Armytage, by Foster & Martin, n.d

George Armytage, by Foster & Martin, n.d

University of Melbourne Archives, UMA/I/2796

George Armytage (1795-1862), farmer and pastoralist, was born at Ticknall, Derbyshire, England, the eldest son of George Armytage of Brussels, and grandson of George Stephen Armytage of Ticknall. He was brought up in Belgium and Yorkshire, and trained as an engineer in London. He emigrated to Sydney in 1815, moved to Van Diemen's Land the following year, was robbed of his few goods on arrival, but in 1817 had 500 acres (202 ha) added to his small initial grant at Bagdad. In 1818 he married Elizabeth, the daughter of a former convict Thomas Peters of Bagdad.

This determined, proud, intelligent youth had seen his family shattered by the French wars. Like many settlers in restricted and regimented Van Diemen's Land, where aristocratic attitudes found little natural encouragement outside official circles, he set about what lay nearest. Helped by some capital that his marriage brought him, he improved his land and so gained a further 1000 acres (405 ha). Using his technical experience, he worked as a wheelwright and built one of the colony's first water-mills, where he could receive wheat in sheaf and return it as flour the same day. He held government posts as division constable and district poundkeeper, then transformed himself into the landlord of the local Saracen's Head. He became an established man. By 1845 his quiver held seven sons, and at least three daughters.

In that year he could look beyond Bass Strait to development in his name thirty miles (48 km) west of Geelong, surmounting the recent annihilating depression. In May 1836 he had taken sheep to Port Phillip as a post-Batman adventurer, and had left his eldest son, Thomas, and a Tasmanian neighbour, Charles Franks, to establish a run for them on the Werribee River. After Aboriginals killed Franks and a shepherd in July, these sheep were moved to Geelong. Next autumn, after Joseph Gellibrand and G. B. L. Hesse disappeared, Thomas, with other searchers tracking them along the Barwon, found the Ingleby country. There he squatted, and managed on his father's behalf, until his death from exposure in 1842, when the next brother, George (b.1821) supplied his place.

In 1845-46, George Armytage of Bagdad extended his mainland interests to the extreme north-west of the Portland Bay pastoral district. In 1847 he migrated to Ingleby, and in 1851 bought The Hermitage house and grounds from Geelong's former police magistrate, N. A. Fenwick. Here his widowed father joined him from Brussels in 1852. Here, in 1853, he wrote his report to La Trobe on Victorian settlement, and four generations of his name were assembled after the birth of his eldest grandson.

The freestone house with which Armytage replaced Fenwick's in 1859-60 is now the main building of the Geelong Church of England Girls' Grammar School. With the bluestone mansion at Ingleby, various similar homesteads—Elcho, Wooloomanata, and Windermere, near Geelong, Wormbete and Turkeith, near Winchelsea, Mount Sturgeon on the Wannon, Fulham and Congbool on the Glenelg—and the Victorian National Trust headquarters, Como, above the Yarra, it shows the scope of the consanguineous tide that flowed from the Bagdad cottage. This, in its modern diversity, still responds to George Armytage's forceful character.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • T. F. Bride (ed), Letters from Victorian Pioneers (Melb, 1898)
  • R. V. Billis and A. S. Kenyon, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip (Melb, 1932)
  • A. Henderson, Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Australian Families, vol 1 (Melb, 1941)
  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vol 5 (Lond, 1963).

Citation details

P. L. Brown, 'Armytage, George (1795–1862)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/armytage-george-1715/text1871, published in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 26 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

George Armytage, by Foster & Martin, n.d

George Armytage, by Foster & Martin, n.d

University of Melbourne Archives, UMA/I/2796