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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Austin, Herbert (Baron Austin) (1866–1941)

by H. J. Gibbney

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

Herbert (Baron Austin) Austin (1866-1941), engineer, was born on 8 November 1866 at Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England, son of Giles Stephen Austin, farmer of Wentworth, Yorkshire, and his wife Clara Jane, née Simpson, of Rotherhithe. He was educated at Rotherham Grammar School and Brampton College and in 1884 went to Melbourne with an uncle. Soon after landing he was apprenticed to Henry Langlands junior in the oldest and most enterprising foundry in Melbourne. Most of Langlands's apprentices did well and Austin was no exception. On completing his indentures, he became foreman in R. P. Park's engineering works in Melbourne, which carried out the first commercial order for production of shearing machine handpieces for Frederick York Wolseley. His suggestions for improvements interested Wolseley, who appointed him foreman of his plant in Melbourne. There he travelled widely, assisting with the promotion of the new machines and in 1888 was transferred to Wolseley's Sydney office. In 1887 at Melbourne he married Helen, daughter of James Dron of Melbourne.

Austin went to England in 1893 to become production manager of a new Wolseley company at Birmingham, assigning a number of patents which he held to the company in exchange for eighty shares. He then became interested in motor cars and produced the first Austin car in 1895. In 1901 he was elected to Wolseley's board of directors and became chairman in 1911.

In 1901 Vickers Sons & Maxim took over the machine tools and motor car side of Wolseley's, appointing Austin general manager. In 1905 he launched out for himself as a manufacturer. Austin became K.B.E. and a member of the Order of Leopold II of Belgium in 1917 for his services to munitions production, but his only son was killed in action in 1915. From 1918 to 1924 he was Conservative member in the House of Commons for the Kings Norton division of Birmingham and served in 1919-25 on the Labour Resettlement Committee. His business continued to thrive and in 1936 he gave £250,000 to finance the scientific work of Lord Rutherford (1871-1937) at the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge. He was appointed Baron of Longridge. He died at Lickey Grange, near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, on 23 May 1941, survived by his wife and two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • 'Obituary: Lord Austin', Times (London), 24 May 1941, p 6.

Citation details

H. J. Gibbney, 'Austin, Herbert (Baron Austin) (1866–1941)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 27 October 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Austin, Baron

8 November 1866
Little Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England


23 May 1941
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, England

Cultural Heritage