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Loton, Sir William Thorley (1838–1924)

by Pat Simpson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

William Thorley Loton (1838-1924), by Bartletto, c1900

William Thorley Loton (1838-1924), by Bartletto, c1900

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24147202

Sir William Thorley Loton (1838-1924), politician, merchant and landowner, was born on 11 June 1838 at Dilhorne, Staffordshire, England, son of Joseph Loton, publican, and his wife Ann, née Gates. At 14 he left school and later joined the London firm, Copestake, Moore & Co. In 1862 he migrated to Western Australia, arriving at Fremantle on 26 March 1863. A cautious, fair businessman, he entered commerce in Perth and Geraldton and in 1867 formed a fruitful partnership with Walter Padbury. Apart from widespread mercantile activities, the firm financed and supported agricultural and pastoral development, particularly in the North-West where Loton held much land. In 1876 he bought Belvoir on the Upper Swan and in 1881 Springhill near Northam. After the sale of Padbury, Loton & Co. in 1889, Loton concentrated on the development of the two properties. He was inaugural president of the Northam Agricultural Society in 1890 and, later, four times president of the Royal Western Australian Agricultural Society. Succeeding generations of Lotons maintained the high standard of stock and property development initiated by him. Springhill remained in the family until 1936, and Belvoir till 1962.

In 1884 Loton was appointed a member of the Legislative Council. He resigned in 1887 and was elected for Greenough in the council from 1889. He represented Swan in the Legislative Assembly in 1890-97, then returned to the council, for Central province in 1898-1900 and East province in 1902-08. He was a practical, industrious politician committed to progress and development but critical of what he saw as frivolous, unintelligent planning and haphazard expenditure. He supported responsible government and granting the franchise to women, but resisted liberalization of divorce law. Although a Western Australian delegate to the Federal conventions in 1891 and 1897-98, Loton opposed the colony's entry into the Federation and believed that the issue should be decided by referendum rather than by the parliament. However in the council in 1906 he joined the minority of six who voted against the resolution that Western Australia secede. He had no fears for Western Australian progress, provided the Commonwealth gave fair treatment; meanwhile it was foolish to raise the cry of secession which would come about only with strong popular support.

In Perth he owned considerable real estate. In 1871 he had been a foundation member of the Weld Club. He was a generous benefactor of St George's Cathedral and, from 1888, a trustee of the Church of England in Western Australia. In 1882 he became a director of the Western Australian Bank and from 1909 was its chairman; he was also a director of the Colonial Mutual Life Association. Loton was mayor of Perth in 1901-02 and in 1923 he was knighted.

On 18 February 1868 in Perth he had married Annie Morris; they had three daughters and three sons of whom Ernest William (1872-1953) settled on Belvoir and Arthur George (1876-1921) on Springhill.

Loton was a forceful, able man who, while not a visionary, brought a valuable breadth of outlook to Western Australia's early years of development. He died at his Perth home, Dilhorne, on 22 October 1924 and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery. His wife (d.1927), one son and two daughters survived him. His estate was sworn for probate at £212,122.

Select Bibliography

  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 2 (Adel, 1913)
  • R. Erickson (compiler), Dictionary of Western Australians, vol 3 (Perth, 1979)
  • West Australian, 15 Nov 1900, 23 Oct 1924
  • Sunday Times (Perth), 4 Feb 1962
  • PR 5663 and 8135 and MN 82 (State Library of Western Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Pat Simpson, 'Loton, Sir William Thorley (1838–1924)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/loton-sir-william-thorley-7238/text12535, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 22 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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