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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Manning, James (1814–1893)

by Ray Oldham

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

James Manning (1814-1893), architect and builder, was born on 17 August 1814, at Burdrop, near Banbury, England. After qualifying as a civil engineer he worked in London with charge of the houses of many peers. In the Ordnance Department he served in the remodelling of Tilbury fort in 1847-49. Appointed clerk of works in Western Australia he sailed with Captain E. Y. W. Henderson in the Scindian and arrived on 1 June 1850. He played an active part in the building programme initiated in the colony by the convict establishment. The precise contribution of Manning and others is difficult to assess because some designs were by officers of the Royal Engineers and such important public buildings as Government House, Pensioners Barracks and Perth Town Hall were constructed jointly by the imperial and colonial Public Works Departments. Most records of the imperial department left the colony after transportation ended but the remainder indicate that Manning had special ability in the use of timber. The fine jarrah hammerbeam ceiling of Perth Town Hall was probably his design although the main structure was designed by R. R. Jewell.

Plans bearing Manning's signature include the convict depot (1856, 1859) at Mount Eliza, the commissariat stores (1856) and guard-house at Fremantle, the residency (1866) at Albany, the first stage of the customs house, bonded store, post office (1868) and gaol additions (1866, 1870) at Geraldton, the court-house, bonded stores (both 1866), Toodyay gaol (1868) and police stations at Northampton and Williams (both 1867), Kojonup and Lower Blackwood (both 1868) and the second stage of Government House at Rottnest. He also constructed the wooden jetties at Albany, Vasse, Bunbury, Fremantle and Champion Bay, bridges over the Upper Canning, several on the Albany Road, the King and Kalgan Rivers, the Avon at York, Northam and Newcastle (Toodyay), the most notable being the Fremantle Traffic Bridge (1864-66) known as Hampton's Folly. The colony's roads, iron lighthouse at Point Moore and the two leading lights at Champion Bay were monuments to his supervision.

A justice of the peace, Manning retired from the imperial department with a pension of £300 in 1872 but continued to design and build. He died on 22 July 1893 at his home Burdrop, Fremantle. The pall-bearers at his funeral were distinguished citizens. Predeceased on 26 October 1877 by his wife Jane, née Yeldham, he was survived by a son and two married daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • Possum (Perth), 21 Jan 1888
  • West Australian, 24 July 1893
  • Public Works Dept, Plans no 64, 65, 77, 77/9, 77/12, 79, 81, 137, 141, 143-45, 147, 183, 196, 206.

Citation details

Ray Oldham, 'Manning, James (1814–1893)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 7 August 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 5

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