Australian Dictionary of Biography

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George Herbert Broome (1866–1932)

by E. W. Russell

This article was published:

George Herbert Broome (1866-1932), mine-manager, was born on 26 September 1866 at Bermondsey, London, son of John Broome, shipbroker, and his wife Martha, née Pounds. He obtained his diploma of mining at Mason Science College, Birmingham, and in 1883-87 worked under Professor W. E. Benton at Wimblebury Colliery, Staffordshire. In 1888 he won the Queen's medal in the mining examination of the Imperial College of Science and Technology, South Kensington. After serving as a deputy in a Yorkshire colliery he obtained his British colliery-manager's certificate (first class) at Merthyr, Wales.

In 1890 Broome went to New Zealand. He was general manager and engineer for the Westport-Wallsend Coal Co., Ngakawau, in 1890-92, the Westport-Cardiff Coal Co. Ltd, Mokihinui, in 1892-99, and the New Zealand Coal and Oil Co. at Kaitangata and Orepuki in 1899-1903. On 19 April 1894 in St John's Church, Westport, he married Margaret Marshall, Sydney-born daughter of a mine-manager.

Broome visited England in 1903, intending to go on to South Africa. Instead he became general manager of a coal and coke company at Frank, Alberta, Canada, until 1905. He returned to New Zealand to design and superintend works associated with the Westport-Stockton Coal Co. Ltd colliery, then the most modern in the country.

In 1909 Broome successfully applied for the widely advertised position of general manager of the new State Coal Mine at Wonthaggi, Victoria. He arrived to take up duty in March 1910, four months after the first coal had been shipped. He proved an able manager, the only man to achieve long-term commercial viability in a Victorian black coal-mine. His technological contributions included the introduction of a central power-station to operate the pits electrically. He devised most of the mechanical coal-handling plant at the Wonthaggi field, including a semi-automatic coal-tipper, a stone-tipping device, and remote control and four-way haulage engines. In 1932 it was estimated that these inventions had saved £12,000 a year in wages. Described as 'calm, just, considerate and urbane', he could claim in 1909 that he had not had a strike in a colliery under his management. Despite the many disputes at Wonthaggi, he was respected by the miners for his policy of dealing with collective bodies, not individuals.

Broome was chairman of the Victorian board of examiners for coal-mine managers in 1910-32, a member of the Institute of Mining Engineers and a councillor of the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. He was a certificated water-supply engineer and municipal surveyor.

Broome had been closely involved in the development of Wonthaggi from a tent settlement to a thriving town. He was a member of the Church of England and a Freemason. Ill health forced him to resign on 4 August 1932; he died at his home in Broome Crescent on 9 August and was buried in Wonthaggi cemetery. His wife had died before he came to Australia; five of his six sons and a daughter survived him. Among his writings is an article on the development of the Wonthaggi mine, published in the Proceedings of the Australasian Institute of Mining Engineers, 1914.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Quilford, The State Mine: A Pictorial History of the Powlett Coalfields (Wonthaggi, 1977)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1919, 2 (28)
  • New Zealand Mining Journal, 1896-97
  • Canada Geological Survey, Memoir, no 8, 9, 53
  • Buller Miner, 9 Oct 1908, 4 Mar 1910
  • Powlett Express, 28 Nov 1930, 12 Aug 1932
  • Age (Melbourne), 10 Aug 1932
  • Argus (Melbourne), 10 Aug 1932
  • Bulletin, 17 Aug 1932
  • Wonthaggi Sentinel, 28 Nov 1932.

Citation details

E. W. Russell, 'Broome, George Herbert (1866–1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


26 September, 1866
Bermondsey, Surrey, England


9 August, 1932 (aged 65)
Wonthaggi, Victoria, Australia

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