Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Lascelles, Edward Harewood (1847–1917)

by Sheila F. Wessels

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Edward Harewood Lascelles (1847-1917), pastoralist and businessman, was born on 3 October 1847 in Bothwell, Van Diemen's Land, son of Edwin Lascelles and his wife Eliza, née Nicholas; he was a grandson of T. A. Lascelles. After his mother died he and his sister went to their uncle, C. J. Dennys, a wool broker in Geelong. At 16 Edward joined his uncle, became a partner at 21 and the firm became Dennys Lascelles & Co. in 1875. Lascelles became an expert wool-classer and broker, and as the chief wool-valuer and manager he extended the business in both Geelong and Melbourne. He also experimented in wool production at Ingleby, a lease near Winchelsea, and substantially improved both quality and clip.

In the 1870s Lascelles became interested in the mallee area of north-western Victoria. In December 1876 he took over the Lake Corrong sheep station on Yarriambiac Creek. He worked this lease in partnership with Arthur Mandeville and Alfred Douglas until 1883 when he became sole lessee under the provisions of the Mallee Pastoral Leases Act. By then the property included the Minapre and Wilhelmina runs, and he took over the Tyrrell Downs run on the eastern side of Lake Tyrrell. For some time he also leased 106 sq. miles (275 km²) in the far western mallee, planning experiments in reclamation and farming methods under desert conditions, but had to abandon the run after parliamentary opposition on the ground that his holdings were already adequate.

On all his mallee properties Lascelles faced the great problem of vermin eradication and succeeded with rabbit-proof fencing, methods of poisoning and clearing. In the late 1880s he began to plan the subdivision of Lake Corrong run into 480-acre (194 ha) allotments for wheat growing. The surveyor, George Murdoch, also drew up plans for the new service centre of Hopetoun. E. H. Lascelles & Co. was formed and subdivision began in 1891 when the first sale of farm allotments and township blocks was held. An irrigation and town water supply was set up largely financed by Lascelles. Nearby an experimental farm was laid out with lucerne and wheat paddocks, a large orchard and a vegetable garden. The farm became a show place and Lascelles revelled in this proof of the district's prospects. After overcoming government opposition he began to build the Beulah-Hopetoun railway in 1893 but in the financial crisis the line was completed by the government.

Lascelles was the first to introduce into Victoria the system of share-farming whereby the tenant delivered a third of his harvest to the company, but when yields were very low the company did not take its share. In the early 1890s the Hopetoun settlement grew, attracting settlers from South Australia and Britain as well as Victoria. Lascelles was the first president of Karkarooc Shire in 1896-97, and as managing director of the Mallee Agricultural and Pastoral Co. Ltd opened up the Tyrrell Downs property on the Hopetoun model. Unfortunately the start of the venture coincided with severe drought in 1895-1902. The Hopetoun settlement was sufficiently established to survive, but the company ran into debt. However, a larger percentage of Lascelles's settlers survived than those on government subdivisions, and he encouraged them to remain on their holdings by extending credit with the local store-keepers, writing off debts and issuing a meat ration at weekly 'killing days'. Although the company's mallee settlements were not a financial success, many wheat farmers were firmly established and the mallee proved itself as an excellent wheat-growing region.

Lascelles was for several years a commissioner of the Geelong Harbor Trust and was prominent in local rowing, tennis and golf clubs. He was a Baptist. Before the long-term success of his settlements became apparent, he died at Geelong on 12 February 1917. He had married Ethel, daughter of C. J. Dennys, in 1887. Of their six children three daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Geelong Advertiser, 13 Feb 1917
  • M. Conran letters and E. H. Lascelles out-letters (University of Melbourne Archives)
  • Lascelles family papers (privately held).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Sheila F. Wessels, 'Lascelles, Edward Harewood (1847–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lascelles-edward-harewood-582/text6321, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 24 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014