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Weingarth, John Leopold (1862–1925)

by John Atchison

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

John Leopold Weingarth (1862-1925), surveyor, was born on 8 June 1862 in Sydney, second son of Henry Weingarth, a baker from Sobernheim, Prussia, and his Irish wife Bridget, née Canny. Educated at St Stanislaus's College, Bathurst, John was an enthusiastic sportsman, good footballer and all-round athlete. He entered the Department of Lands as a cadet draughtsman, worked as an assistant to Edward McFarlane in the Western Land District and was licensed as a surveyor on 6 July 1883. Weingarth practised as a departmental surveyor in the Western Division, then joined J. T. Cahill in partnership in Sydney in 1886 before setting up on his own. On 30 June 1891 at St James's Catholic Church, Glebe, Weingarth married Gertrude Lawn; they were to have four children. In 1903 he corresponded with Sir Edmund Barton about the choice of a site for the Federal capital.

Active and successful, Weingarth soon became one of the State's most experienced private surveyors, known for his identification surveys, road formation and street alignments. His advice as an expert witness was eagerly sought in lawsuits. He published Identification Surveys: Freehold Title and Torrens Title (1913), a standard reference still esteemed by surveyors for its clarity and accuracy; it is used, inter alia, by lawyers in assessing the culpability of negligence of surveyors and in deciding whether to sue for damages.

Expert in the design and formation of racecourses, Weingarth supervised their construction at Randwick, Rosehill, old Warwick Farm, Kensington, Rosebery Park and Epping. As official surveyor to the Australian Jockey Club, he also designed new Warwick Farm and the 1921 improvements at Randwick. His scientific approach weighed carefully the relationships of curves, centrifugal forces, safety and equal opportunities, while his observations on galloping horses, stride and landing expanded significantly the standard textbooks.

After his sons Jack and Delman qualified as surveyors, in January 1919 he established John Weingarth & Sons, licensed surveyors; the firm suffered an initial setback when Jack, who had served with the Australian Flying Corps and was interested in the potential of aerial survey, died in an accident in England. A visit to the United States of America in 1922 enabled Weingarth to study the latest methods of road construction; he later canvassed the comparative costs and advantages of new technologies for laying asphalt roads.

A council-member for many years and president (1915-16) of the Institution of Surveyors, New South Wales, he was a member of its board of examiners and later edited the Surveyor. His series on pioneer surveyors (1916-20) provided a detailed account of the progress of the profession; his interests spread into local history and he became an active member of the Royal Australian Historical Society. Weingarth's articles on the Macleay, Nambucca and Bellinger districts provide the first trained and critical linking of map and land records with these areas.

Survived by his wife, a daughter and a son, Weingarth died of an aneurysm of the aorta on 7 March 1925 at his home in Etham Avenue, Darling Point, and was buried in Waverley cemetery after a service in St Mary's Cathedral. His Castlereagh Street firm continued until Delman's death in 1962.

Select Bibliography

  • Surveyor (Sydney), Mar 1925
  • Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 11, no 3, 1926
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Oct 1921, 27 Sept 1922, 9, 10 Mar 1925
  • Catholic Press, 12 Mar 1925
  • letters of Sir E. Barton to J. L. Weingarth (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Atchison, 'Weingarth, John Leopold (1862–1925)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/weingarth-john-leopold-9039/text15921, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 18 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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