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Brewster, John Gray (1823–1897)

by Robert Johnson

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

John Gray Brewster (1823?-1897), stock and station agent and company director, first appeared in the Sydney directories in 1861, as a stock and station agent operating at the 'Squatters' Exchange', 265 George Street, Sydney. In 1868 he acquired a partner, Prosper N. Trebeck. Some years later it was claimed that 'hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of property passed through the books of this firm annually'.

Brewster held directorships in the Australian Joint Stock Bank in 1863-64 and the Australian Steam Navigation Co. in 1864. In that year he was chairman of the Newcastle Wallsend Coal Co., in 1865 a director of the Moruya Silver Mining Co. and the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney, and in 1866 of the Sydney Insurance Co., Fire and Marine. He held the last two positions until 1875, being deputy-chairman of the latter in 1867 and chairman in 1868 and 1873. In 1870-71 he was a director of the Peak Downs Copper Mining Co. and in 1875 the New South Wales Marine Assurance Co., of which he had been auditor in 1865 and 1870.

This succession of transient directorships was paralleled by an apparent restlessness in the choice of domicile: he lived in several expensive homes, each for a short time. His first published private address was Eastview House, Darlinghurst. In 1864-69 he lived at Richmond Terrace in the Domain, in 1870 and 1871 at Claremont, Vaucluse, in 1873 at Redleaf, Double Bay, and in 1875 at Quambi, Woollahra.

In 1875, after an unmemorable ten years on the board of the Commercial Bank, he was defeated for re-election. Soon afterwards he seems to have left Sydney: his name was withdrawn from the stock and station agency, and no longer appeared among the lists of directors and residential addresses. Throughout the period of his directorships he was not mentioned as an office-bearer in any clubs, societies, lodges or other institutions.

Brewster later went to England and lived near Cheltenham, Gloucester, as a gentleman farmer at Hatherley Hall. There he died at 73 on 16 February 1897, survived by his wife Frances and a daughter Frances Mary, still in her minority. A son, John Richard Arthur Edward, had already died and left a widow, Isabelle, and two children. Brewster's estate was valued at some £27,000; among other bequests he left sums of £20 or £10 to each of ten different charities, and in addition a small, unspecified residue from his estate was divided equally among four of these institutions.

Select Bibliography

  • Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney Ltd, A Century of Banking, 1834-1934 (Syd, 1934)
  • Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney Ltd, Report, 1848-1910 (State Library of New South Wales).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Robert Johnson, 'Brewster, John Gray (1823–1897)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/brewster-john-gray-146/text4489, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 10 December 2018.

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

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