Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Pigdon, John (1832–1903)

by Julie Marginson

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

John Pigdon (1832-1903), building contractor and businessman, was born on 3 July 1832 at Linghissley, Northumberland, England, only son of James Pigdon and his wife Margaret, née Thompson. For more than six years he was apprenticed to a joiner in Newcastle upon Tyne. He migrated in the Ottillia, arriving at Melbourne on 10 October 1852. He soon established a building and contracting business. In 1857 he bought land at the first sale in the Carlton area; it became the site of a business that reached a pinnacle of excellence in the late 1880s. His notable buildings include St Jude's Church of England, Carlton (1866-70), the Registrar-General's Offices, Queen Street, Melbourne (1874-77), the Public Offices, Bendigo (first stage, 1884-87) and the Roman Doric west façade of Parliament House, Melbourne (1885-92).

Pigdon's involvement in company affairs arose directly from his business: he was a founding director in 1874 and sometime chairman of the Melbourne Builders' Lime and Cement Co. Pty Ltd; chairman in 1899-1903 of Hoffman Patent Steam Brick Co. Pty Ltd; and first chairman in 1896-1903 of the Co-operative Brick Co. Pty Ltd, formed to rationalize production, and sale of bricks and related building materials manufactured by member companies.

Pigdon began his civic career in 1869 when he was persuaded to stand for Smith Ward of the Melbourne City Council. He won by over 100 votes and represented the ward until 1903, serving as an alderman from 1895. He was a member of its Public Works Committee and the chairman from 1898. On 9 November 1877 he became mayor for a year. In that office he presided at the opening of Queen Victoria Market early in the morning on 20 March 1878 and then entertained the market gardeners at breakfast; on 9 May he laid the foundation stone of the Eastern Market with the 'usual formalities', followed by déjeuner at the Council Chambers where 'many speeches were made, but politics were carefully eschewed'. He was appointed a commissioner for both the Sydney and Melbourne International Exhibitions held in 1879-80 and in 1880-81. Other public offices he held until 1903 were territorial magistrate (later justice of the peace) from 1874, trustee of Royal Park from 1881, commissioner of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works from 1891 and of the Melbourne Harbor Trust from 1898. In 1883 he contested the East Bourke Boroughs seat in the Legislative Assembly but lost to C. H. Pearson; in 1892 he stood for Carlton against F. H. Bromley and J. Gardiner on the platform 'against one man one vote' but Bromley won the seat. Pigdon Street, North Carlton, was named in his honour in 1880.

In 1857 Pigdon married Jane, born on 11 October 1835, daughter of John Clelland, superintendent of police, Wigtownshire, Scotland. She died on 11 July 1891; they had four sons and six daughters. Their second daughter Annie Isabel married George, fourth son of James Munro. Pigdon died suddenly on 24 October 1903 while on a visit to Bendigo; he was survived by three sons and five daughters. He held extensive land in Carlton and near-by suburbs from which all his children benefited. An Anglican, he was a churchwarden at St Jude's, Carlton, for thirty years from 1873 and a generous pew-holder; he contributed a stained glass window in memory of his wife.

Select Bibliography

  • H. M. Humphreys (ed), Men of the Time in Australia: Victorian series, 1st ed (Melb, 1878)
  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 19, 21 Mar, 10 May 1878, 9, 23 Feb 1883, 21 Apr, 28 May 1892, 26, 27 Oct 1903
  • Co-operative Brick Co. Pty Ltd papers, Hoffman Brick & Potteries Pty Ltd papers, Melbourne Builders' Lime and Cement Co. Pty Ltd papers (University of Melbourne Archives)
  • records (St Jude's Church, Carlton).

Citation details

Julie Marginson, 'Pigdon, John (1832–1903)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/pigdon-john-4399/text7171, published in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 23 October 2014.

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

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