Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Godfrey, Frederic Race (1828–1910)

by Margaret Gravell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Frederic Race Godfrey (1828-1910), squatter and businessman, was born on 11 May 1828 at Bellary, India, son of Colonel John Race Godfrey and his wife Jane Octavia, née Woodhouse. He was educated at Exeter Grammar School and at 19 migrated to Port Phillip to become the partner of his brother Henry who in 1846 had taken up Boort station, 64,000 acres (25,900 ha) in the Loddon district, where he was the first white settler. In 1850, by converting a swamp into Lake Boort, Frederic became a pioneer of irrigation. He had close contact with the local Aboriginals, one of whom described him as 'the Loddon blacks' best friend'. Later as vice-chairman of the Aborigines Protection Board and as a commissioner reporting on the Aboriginals in 1877 he defended them as intelligent, industrious and honest. While at Boort he sold much stock to the Bendigo goldfields. On 29 April 1854 at St Kilda he married Margaret Lilias, daughter of David Chambers; they had five sons and four daughters.

In 1863 Godfrey sold Boort, moved to Mount Ridley, Craigieburn, and, because he claimed that his tenure in Victoria was threatened by the land laws, bought Pevensey station near Hay in New South Wales. He lived at Mount Ridley for seventeen years, sending stock to the Melbourne markets. He was also active in local government as president of the Merriang Shire Council and member of the Broadmeadows council. In 1874-77 he represented East Bourke in the Legislative Assembly. His rule in politics was to support measures rather than men, thus avoiding party loyalties and attempting to exercise his individual judgment.

Godfrey moved to St Kilda in 1880 and became a founding director of the Trustees, Executors and Agency Co. Ltd, Melbourne, serving as chairman in 1895-1909. In 1890 he was appointed an honorary commissioner of the Savings Bank. An aspect of his agricultural interest was his original membership of the old Port Phillip Farmers' Association which merged into the Royal Agricultural Society. A prominent Anglican, he was a member of the Church of England Association; he had been appointed the first lay canon of St Paul's Cathedral in 1869 and held other church offices. He showed varied interests as a member of the Melbourne Club for fifty-eight years and its president in 1887, as a justice of the peace, president of the Melbourne Hospital Committee in 1887-1904, commissioner of the State Savings Bank from 1890, member of the committee of the Felton Bequest in 1904-09, founder and vice-president of the Philatelic Society of Victoria in 1892 and a member of the royal commission on charitable institutions in 1890-91. Interested in natural history, he became a member of the Acclimatisation Society of Victoria in 1863 and served as its elected president for several years. With Albert Le Souef he established the Government Reserve at Gembrook for the Acclimatisation Society and acted also on the committee for the preservation of Wilson's Promontory.

Godfrey's first wife died in 1895 and on 3 October 1898 at St John's Church, Darlinghurst, Sydney, he married Marian, daughter of Richard Walker; they had no children. Godfrey died at St Kilda on 11 September 1910. His enterprise and industry showed that he 'loved Australia and endeavoured to foster a true British spirit of strict honour and industry and patriotism to God, King and Country'.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • A. S. Kenyon, Story of Australia: Its Discoveries and Founders (Geelong, no date)
  • M. L. Drought (ed), Extracts from Old Journals (written by Frederic Race Godfrey (pioneer) of Boort Station, Loddon District, Victoria, 1846-1953
  • compiled in 1926 by his eldest daughter M.L. Drought)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • M. Cannon, The Land Boomers (Melb, 1966)
  • Godfrey diary (privately held).

Citation details

Margaret Gravell, 'Godfrey, Frederic Race (1828–1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/godfrey-frederic-race-3624/text5631, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 25 March 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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