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Julius Henry Camfield (1852–1916)

by Mark Lyons and C. J. Pettigrew

This article was published:

Julius Henry Camfield (1852-1916), by unknown photographer

Julius Henry Camfield (1852-1916), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 20780

Julius Henry Camfield (1852-1916), gardener and horticulturist, was born on 30 March 1852 at Islington, London, son of Henry Camfield, bricklayer, and his wife Ellen, née Baker. Apprenticed at 13, he later worked on several estates near London as head gardener, in his last position having charge of fourteen men. On 30 November 1875 at Marylebone he married, with Wesleyan forms, Louisa Dinah Millichap, daughter of a gamekeeper; in October 1881, with a young family, they embarked for Australia.

Arriving in Sydney on New Year's Day 1882 Camfield presented his credentials to Charles Moore, director of the Botanic Gardens, who on 23 January appointed him overseer of the Garden Palace Grounds, which had been established for the 1879 Sydney Intercolonial Exhibition. Situated at the main entrance, the Garden Palace Grounds were not part of the Botanic Gardens, but set apart solely for public pleasure and devoted chiefly to lawns and popular flowers. Some of the public's pleasures were less than respectable, and led Camfield in 1903 to call for police to patrol the grounds, in place of the less-respected bailiffs. In 1912 he was appointed overseer of the inner Domain, formed by incorporating the Garden Palace Grounds with part of Government House gardens, and made responsible for their consolidation.

Camfield was fascinated by the flora of the Sydney region, especially to the south of his Kogarah home. He assisted J. H. Maiden who succeeded Moore as director in 1896, to collect material for his new National Herbarium of New South Wales and compiled his own small herbarium which he presented to the Botanic Gardens in 1912. Considered a sound botanist by Maiden, he could only rarely be persuaded to publish: in 1898 with Maiden he published notes on plants native to the Port Jackson area, and in 1904 a modest but sensible paper on the cultivation of native flowering plants, in the Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales. Camfield's annual reports were careful and meticulous, reflecting his personality. A member of the Linnean Society of New South Wales, he read widely and haunted Sydney's book shops, alerting Maiden to many rare volumes which were then purchased for the Botanic Gardens library. He had a lively interest in sociology, anthropology, history and philosophy, and an extensive library in these fields, but, being shy and withdrawn, rarely shared his interests with others.

Camfield retired in July 1916. Survived by his wife and three sons, he died of cancer on 26 November and was buried in the Methodist section of Woronora cemetery. Maiden claimed that no director 'ever had a more competent or more loyal colleague' and in 1920 named an uncommon species of Eucalyptus after him, E. camfieldii, known popularly as 'Camfield's Stringybark'.

Select Bibliography

  • Report … Botanic Gardens, Government Domains … 1916, Parliamentary Papers (New South Wales), 1917-18, 4, 12
  • J. H. Maiden, ‘History of the Sydney Botanic Gardens’, JRAHS, 14 (1928) pt 1, 17 (1931), pt 2
  • W. W. Frogatt, ‘The curators and botanists of the Botanic Gardens, Sydney’, JRAHS, 18 (1932), pt 3.

Citation details

Mark Lyons and C. J. Pettigrew, 'Camfield, Julius Henry (1852–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 18 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

Julius Henry Camfield (1852-1916), by unknown photographer

Julius Henry Camfield (1852-1916), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 20780

Life Summary [details]


30 March, 1852
London, Middlesex, England


26 November, 1916 (aged 64)

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