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Wyndham, George (1801–1870)

by Judith Wright McKinney

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

George Wyndham (1801-1870), farmer, wine-grower and pastoralist, was born at Dinton, Wiltshire, England, the third son of William Wyndham of Dinton House and his wife Letitia, née Popham. He was educated at Harrow and Cambridge with a view to entering the Church of England, but decided to emigrate and in 1824 went to Canada, where he travelled with John Galt, secretary of the Canada Co. and a successful novelist. Returning to Europe, he went to Italy in 1825 and there met Margaret, daughter of John Jay, who kept a school in Brussels; he married her in Brussels in 1827.

Refusing a post under the British government, whose policy he did not approve, he decided to emigrate to Australia as a farmer. Taking with them a number of stock, including Southdown sheep, he and his wife sailed in the George Horne in August 1827 and reached Sydney in December. He settled near Branxton in the Hunter River valley, naming his property Dalwood, and began experimental farming. Among crops mentioned in his diary for 1830 were maize, wheat, hemp, mustard, castor oil, tobacco, millet and cape barley. He also planted a vineyard and began wine-making, in which he had long been interested. Both red and white varieties of grape were grown, principally Hermitage, Cabernet and Shiraz; some of these Shiraz vines were still producing in 1966 and were then said to be the oldest wine-producing vines in the world. Dalwood wines later became well known. At one time the vineyard was the second largest in New South Wales. Over the years a number of prizes and trophies were taken, including bronze and silver medals in the Paris International Exhibition of 1867.

Eleven sons and two daughters were born to George Wyndham and his wife. For the first decade his enterprises prospered, but the crisis in labour and prices in the 1840s hit the property hard. After trying various expedients including dairying he decided in 1845 to leave Dalwood under a manager, and with his wife and children he set out with horses, cattle and sheep, a few trusted stockmen and a string of covered bullock-wagons to cross the New England plateau to the Richmond River. After an adventurous journey he took up a property known as Keelgyrah (Kilgra, near Kyogle, named after a Wiltshire village). Stocking the property with cattle and leaving it in charge of a member of the party, they next year recrossed the Dividing Range and took up a property near Inverell, named Bukkulla. By 1847 prices had risen and the party returned to Dalwood. A son had been born during the journey. More prosperous times ensued; Hereford cattle were imported and bred, a vineyard at Bukkulla was worked in conjunction with the Dalwood vineyard, and a racing stud was established. George Wyndham died in Sydney on 24 December 1870, three months after the death of his wife. The properties passed out of Wyndham hands, except for Bukkulla which was later reacquired. The Dalwood vineyard was bought by Penfolds Wines Ltd, in whose hands it has remained.

George Wyndham was an independent man and when young was thought something of a radical by his friends; in England he advocated religious toleration, parliamentary reform and abolition of the Corn Laws and tithes. However, in New South Wales, though he generally kept clear of politics, he took the side of the squatters, supported Governor Sir Ralph Darling against William Charles Wentworth, and was a signatory to a petition seeking the importation of coolie labour after transportation to the colony had ceased. His published writings include The Impending Crisis (Maitland, 1851), and On the Land Policy of New South Wales (Maitland, 1866). He was a magistrate in Maitland for some years, but refused a seat in the Legislative Council when it was offered in 1839. He was respected for his leniency to assigned servants in his earlier days, and was himself a hard worker in the field. He overcame the difficulties of the slump with spirit and resource, and directed the work of his widely separated runs with success during his lifetime. His wife Margaret, though wholly untrained in domesticity, reared her large family under most difficult circumstances and appears to have been at least as capable and adaptable as her husband.

Select Bibliography

  • H. A. Wyndham, A Family History, 1688-1837: The Wyndhams of Somerset, Sussex and Wiltshire (Lond, 1950)
  • J. Wright, Generations of Men (Melb, 1956)
  • (C. M. Wright), extracts from Dinton-Dalwood letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • manuscript catalogue under George Wyndham (State Library of New South Wales)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Judith Wright McKinney, 'Wyndham, George (1801–1870)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wyndham-george-2824/text4049, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 26 August 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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