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Chandler, Alfred Elliott (1873–1935)

by R. C. Duplain

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Alfred Elliott Chandler (1873-1935), nurseryman, property entrepreneur and politician, was born on 1 July 1873 at Gardiner (Malvern), Victoria, son of William Chandler and his wife Kate, née Timewell. William had left his father's market-garden complex at Gardiner in November 1872 to clear 40 acres (16 ha) at The Basin, Bayswater, at the foot of the Dandenongs; he prospered with vegetables, flowers and fruit on small acreages. Alfred, his seven brothers and three sisters, were all brought up in the market-garden tradition and given a cursory education at The Basin's first primary school. The children worked arduous hours without pay but in the expectation of acquiring property and economic support when they left home.

From 1895 'A.E.' Chandler, with financial backing from his father, developed 47 acres (19 ha) which became known as the Everson Nursery. Originally Chandler specialized in daffodils and boronia, but rust which began in 1928 forced him to abandon the delicate West Australian boronia in favour of the hardier daffodil, which he grew on a huge scale. Chandler also proved to be an enterprising judge of suburban property — buying and selling land as the city expanded over dairy-farms, garden blocks and bushland.

On 24 May 1897 Chandler had married Elizabeth Ann Intermann, daughter of a Carlton cartage-contractor who had fled to the hills during the 1890s depression. Elizabeth died on 3 January 1899 following childbirth. Chandler married her younger sister Marie on 27 August 1901.

Like his father, Chandler became a Ferntree Gully shire councillor, and served in 1901-35. He urged the government to improve roads and to extend the suburban railway to the area he had recently named Boronia. He was elected shire president four times and from 1922 held various positions in the Municipal Association of Victoria.

Chandler succeeded D. E. McBryde on 5 June 1919 as member of the Legislative Council for the South-Eastern Province. His interests were fruit supervision, land settlement problems, plant pests and rural emergency measures. He served on many committees dealing with the railways, government road-transport, the employment council, flood control relief and local government. He was minister of public works and mines and vice-president of the Board of Land and Works in Sir William McPherson's government in 1928-29 and an honorary minister with Sir Stanley Argyle in 1932-35. His tactful negotiations over the contentious railway bridge at Kew were rewarded when the Chandler highway was named after him.

Chandler was a committed community man. He donated land for the Boronia Progress Hall and the Methodist Church. He was justice of the peace and a member of the Bayswater Brass Band. His nursery was opened to the public to raise funds for local charities which he and his wife sponsored. He kept wickets for a local cricket-team and encouraged his sons at football. Chandler died suddenly at Boronia on 12 February 1935 and was buried in Box Hill cemetery after a state funeral. He was survived by his second wife, their four sons and one daughter, and a daughter of the first marriage. His estate was valued for probate at £29,222. His son Gilbert succeeded him as shire councillor and was Victorian minister for agriculture in 1955-73.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb 1888)
  • J. B. Cooper, A History of Malvern (Melb, 1935)
  • H. Coulson, Story of the Dandenongs, 1838-1958 (Melb, 1959)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Victoria), 1919, 838, 1935, 6
  • Argus (Melbourne), 12 Feb 1935
  • Age (Melbourne), 13 Feb 1935
  • H. Coulson, History of the Chandler family (privately held)
  • private information).

Citation details

R. C. Duplain, 'Chandler, Alfred Elliott (1873–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/chandler-alfred-elliott-5551/text9463, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 16 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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