Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Benjamin Harris Babbidge (1836–1905)

by Jacqueline Bell

This article was published:

Benjamin Harris Babbidge (1836-1905), iron manufacturer, was born on 2 October 1836 at Newport, Isle of Wight, England, son of John Babbidge, tailor. After completing his apprenticeship in White's shipbuilding firm at Cowes he married Elizabeth Ann, née Damp, at Newport on 27 August 1856 and sailed for Moreton Bay. He arrived on 13 January 1857 and worked as a blacksmith for Andrew Petrie, foreman of government works. In 1865 he set up as a ship and general smith, servicing in particular the Black Ball line of clipper ships. Keen and shrewd in business, Babbidge established a railway rolling stock manufactory in South Brisbane in 1885 and won a government contract to build rolling stock, after a select committee in 1879 recommended that carriages and trucks made by local contractors should supplement those from the Ipswich workshops. By 1888 Babbidge Brothers had supplied 123 goods wagons. In his modern factory he employed about fifty hands and manufactured agricultural implements, his ploughs and harrows winning first prizes in four sections at the Brisbane exhibition in 1883.

A warm-hearted and charitable man of great energy, Babbidge identified himself with many aspects of Brisbane life. Iron manufacturers in Brisbane vociferously demanded protection of local industry in the 1870s and Babbidge became president of the Protection League. With others he floated the Tribune, a protectionist paper, which was later merged with the Southern World. In 1878 he was elected alderman for the North ward of the Brisbane Council and was elected mayor in February 1885. In that year more money was spent on public works than ever before, notwithstanding criticism of the incompetence of the council. As mayor Babbidge was instrumental in forming the Blind, Deaf and Dumb Institute and subscribed £100 to its building fund. He resigned from the North ward in 1887 and contested the South ward but was defeated. In 1886 he became president of the United Traffic Board and grand master of Oddfellows and for many years was active in the Volunteer Fire Brigade. He died at South Brisbane on 19 February 1905, a forthright Anglican. His funeral was widely attended. He was survived by five sons and three daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Morrison, The Aldine History of Queensland, vol 2 (Brisb, 1888)
  • R. S. Browne, A Journalist's Memories (Brisb, 1927)
  • Brisbane Courier, 18 Mar 1885, 6 Feb 1886, 21 Feb 1905
  • Queensland Figaro, 4 Sept, 9 Oct 1886
  • Daily Mail (Brisbane), 20 Feb 1905.

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Jacqueline Bell, 'Babbidge, Benjamin Harris (1836–1905)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 23 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


2 October, 1836
Newport, Hampshire, England


19 February, 1905 (aged 68)
South Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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