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Charles Edward Bright (1829–1915)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published:

Charles Bright, by Samuel Calvert, 1868

Charles Bright, by Samuel Calvert, 1868

State Library of Victoria, IMP18/07/68/97 [detail]

Charles Edward Bright (1829-1915), businessman, was born on 20 May 1829 at Abbots Leigh, Somerset, England, the fifth son of Robert Bright (1798-1869) and his wife Caroline, née Tyndall. His father was a prominent landowner and partner in the mercantile and shipping house of Gibbs & Bright of Bristol, Liverpool and London, and his uncle, Dr Richard Bright (1789-1858), became physician extraordinary to Queen Victoria and is credited with discovering 'Bright's disease'. Charles was educated at Winchester, arrived in Melbourne in January 1854, and was a founder of Bright Bros & Co., steamship and general agents (agents for the Royal Insurance Co. of Liverpool and London). Later the firm became Gibbs, Bright & Co., a well-known and successful firm with a wide variety of financial interests.

Bright was a shrewd businessman, gained the respect of Melbourne's mercantile community and became a leader of society on his marriage on 25 June 1868 to Anna Maria Georgiana, daughter of Governor Sir John Henry Thomas Manners-Sutton. On their wedding the city and ships in the bay were decorated and a special train took the couple to their honeymoon at Queenscliff. He was president of the Chamber of Commerce where he urged the widening of the Yarra and more wharves. He had also been a member of the Melbourne Harbor Improvement Committee and in 1861 in evidence to the select committee on the pilot service he had successfully advocated the creation of a Harbor Trust. He served on this Harbor Commission in 1877-92 and was its chairman in 1879-81. He was a trustee of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery, and a director of the Trust and Agency Co., the Union Bank of Australia, the Australian Estates Co. and the Australian Pastoral Co. In 1883 he was appointed C.M.G. in recognition of his services to the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition. Bright had earlier been a commissioner at the London, Dublin, Melbourne, Calcutta and Adelaide exhibitions and served again at the 1888 Melbourne Exhibition.

In the mid-1890s Bright returned to England. He lived in London and in 1899 retired from the family business and gave his attention to his financial interests. He was on the Board of Advice to the Victorian agent-general and chairman of directors in Great Britain and Ireland of the National Mutual Life Association of Australasia. He died on 17 July 1915, survived by three sons; the eldest Alfred, remained connected with Gibbs, Bright & Co.

Select Bibliography

  • B. Cowderoy, Melbourne's Commercial Jubilee (Melb, 1901)
  • Journal of Commerce of Victoria, 4 Aug 1915
  • Argus (Melbourne), 26 June 1868, 20 July 1915
  • Goldsbrough Mort & Co. records (Australian National University Archives).

Additional Resources

  • wedding, Argus (Melbourne), 26 June 1868, p 5

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Bright, Charles Edward (1829–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 23 May 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

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