Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lazenby, George (1807–1895)

by Dorothy Erickson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

George Lazenby (1807-1895), cabinet-maker, builder and town clerk, was born in October 1807 at Spaldington, East Yorkshire, England. After his family moved to Leeds George was apprenticed to a cabinet-maker. The youngster was musical and played the cello and the violin. Taking ship in his brother's vessel for his health, he visited Western Australia about 1831 and saw opportunities there. Soon after, he returned to Britain and became engaged to Mary Ann Wells.

Reaching the Swan River colony in January 1833 in the Cygnet, with George Shenton and others, Lazenby commenced business as a cabinet-maker and builder. He married Mary Ann on 1 January 1839, shortly after she had arrived to join him. They had ten children. Mary Ann reputedly ran a school in Perth in the 1870s. In Murray Street Lazenby built a house for himself, followed by twelve cottages to rent and later a store. A member of Perth Road Committee in 1842-44, he was sometime chairman of the Swan River Mechanics' Institute and in 1855 of the Public Institutions Society.

There was no ordained Methodist minister in the colony in its first six years. Lazenby became a lay preacher—he was known to habitually look at the ceiling while preaching—and in 1834 formed the first Methodist fellowship class. He was a generous supporter of his denomination, contributing to the cost, serving on the management committees and supervising the building of at least four chapels; he was also a founder of the Sunday School. In a colony controlled primarily by 'Church' (of England) there was some stigma attached to being 'Chapel'. The Wesleyans, however, formed a close-knit group. Lazenby employed other Methodists, the most notable being an apprentice Benjamin Mason and the pianoforte-maker Joseph Hamblin, a consummate craftsman who worked for him until 1847.

Attempting to establish an export market for local timber, Lazenby took samples of furniture made from jarrah to England aboard the Victoria in 1845. Hamblin's wife and son sailed with him, while Hamblin remained to run Lazenby's business. Returning to Perth in 1846, Lazenby was appointed clerk of works to the Perth Town Trust in 1850. In this capacity he was in charge of refurbishing Government House. He ceased business in 1856 and in 1862 became foreman of works for the government, supervising the erection of the barracks and the colonial hospital.

In 1869 Lazenby became supervisor and town clerk for Perth City Council. Criticized for inefficiency in 1875, he resigned but, after an apology, was persuaded to withdraw the resignation. A sympathizer pointed out that as well as being supervisor, he was 'Clerk of the Council, Clerk of the Market, Caretaker of the Town Hall, Inspector of Nuisances, Inspector of Weights and Measures, Receiver of Allotments belonging to the Council, keeps labourers' accounts and pays their wages daily'. A secretary was appointed to assist him and he remained in office until 1881.

At Cardup, near Byford, in the 1860s he built a two-storey house and a flourmill, dammed a brook, bred cattle, pigs and horses, opened a clay pit and burnt bricks. His son Joseph worked the property in the 1860s. In 1877-78 Lazenby and his wife again visited Britain. Mary Ann died in 1886. Hale and hearty until his last weeks, Lazenby died on 9 June 1895 in Perth. One son and six daughters, including Hannah who married W. S. Hall, survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • C. T. Stannage, The People of Perth (Perth, 1979)
  • R. E. Turner, Foundations Not Made by Hands (Perth, 1984)
  • Western Australian Historical Society, Journals and Proceedings, 2, pt 13, 1933, p 1
  • West Australian, 10 June 1895, p 3, 11 June 1895, p 5.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Dorothy Erickson, 'Lazenby, George (1807–1895)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lazenby-george-13041/text23581, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 17 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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