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Charles Hubert de Castella (1825–1907)

by K. A. R. Horn

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Paul Frederic de Castella

Charles Hubert de Castella (1825-1907) and Paul Frederic de Castella (1827-1903), landowners and vignerons, were born, Hubert on 27 March 1825 and Paul on 22 May 1827, at Neuchâtel, Switzerland, the first of three sons born to Dr Jean François Paul de Castella, and his second wife Eleonore, née de Riaz. Hubert was educated by the Jesuits at Fribourg, went to Germany and in 1843 to France, where he studied architecture for some years and was naturalized. From December 1848 to December 1853 he served with the 1st Regiment of the Chasseurs. Paul began work in a bank in 1843 and in 1847 went to England to learn the language and study commerce.

Paul arrived at Melbourne in the Royal George on 28 November 1849, influenced by reports from neighbours who had migrated earlier from Neuchâtel, including Mrs C. J. La Trobe. In 1850 he bought the station of Yering, which had been established by the brothers, Donald and William Ryrie, in 1840; its 30,000 acres (12,140 ha) included a vineyard of ten acres (4 ha) planted by the Ryries about ten years earlier. From 1853 to 1859 he also owned Quamby, a station of 25,000 acres (10,117 ha) near Port Fairy. In 1852 he relinquished all but 2000 acres (809 ha) of Yering, where he successfully raised cattle and bred horses, and increased his vineyard to 100 acres (40 ha). In the many international exhibitions at which Victorian wines were shown he appeared more often as a commissioner than as an exhibitor but he did win several prizes, the most notable a Grand Prix at Paris in 1889. In that year he became a member of the Board of Viticulture in Victoria. In 1856 he had married Elizabeth Ann, daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Anderson of South Yarra; they had one son and three daughters. Paul died at Fairlie House, South Yarra, on 14 March 1903.

Hubert arrived at Melbourne in the Marlborough on 23 March 1854. In April 1855 he bought for £7868 from Donald Ryrie the 15,000-acre (6,070 ha) station of Dalry, adjoining Yering. There he ran cattle in partnership with Guillaume de Pury but in January 1856 returned for family reasons to Switzerland, leaving Dalry in the care of his partner who sold it in 1858 and went to Switzerland in 1861. In 1862 Hubert and de Pury returned to Port Phillip in the Great Britain, intending to take up sheep farming. Discouraged by the high price of sheep but encouraged by the growing reputation of Victorian wines, they decided to establish vineyards. He bought part of Yering, which he renamed St Hubert's, and planted about 100 acres (40 ha) in vines, later increasing his vineyard to 250 acres (101 ha).

The development of the vineyard was long and expensive, made possible only by the gradual sale over nearly twenty years of his wife's properties in Sydney. To compensate for his inexperience as a vigneron and to master the problems of fermenting grapes grown on a new soil and in a new climate, Hubert read and travelled widely; to overcome marketing difficulties he took into partnership in 1859 Andrew Rowan, who opened cellars in Melbourne. The turning-point in the success of the vineyard was the winning at the 1880 Melbourne Exhibition of a trophy offered by the emperor of Germany for the Australian exhibitor whose product showed the greatest artistic or industrial progress.

Hubert de Castella was devoted to his adopted country. His first book, Les Squatters Australiens (Paris, 1861), is an account of his first stay in Australia. It was written as a rejoinder to Les Voleurs d'Or by the Comtesse de Chabrillan, a book which Hubert declared was 'full of guile and of disparagement of a land and people she had not known'. In his next book, Notes d'un Vigneron Australien, addressed to the governors of the Bordeaux Exhibition in 1882, he described the development of his own and other Victorian vineyards and the experiments he had made on fermentation problems. In 1886 he wrote John Bull's Vineyard, a more general account, intended to serve as an introduction to the Australian exhibit at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in that year.

Hubert de Castella returned to Switzerland in 1886 after an estrangement from Rowan, leaving the management of the vineyard to his oldest son, François. He still retained his interest in Australia and in June 1888 read a paper to the Royal Colonial Institute on wine-growing in the British colonies. He returned to Victoria in November 1906 'to enjoy once more the warmth and brightness of the Australian sunshine'. James Froude, who visited St Hubert's in 1885, described him as 'an amusing companion' and 'a vigorous hale-looking man … with lively French features, light-grey merry eyes with a touch of melancholy at the bottom of them'. He was also an artist of talent: he painted landscapes in oils, and engravings based upon some of his work appeared in the first volume of Le Tour du Monde (1861). He died at Ivanhoe, Victoria, on 30 October 1907. On 9 September 1865 he had married Alice Frances, daughter of Robert Pitt Jenkins, member of the New South Wales Legislative Council; they had five sons and five daughters. Their oldest son, François Robert (1867-1953), became viticultural expert to the Victorian government.

Select Bibliography

  • J. A. Froude, Oceana, or England and her Colonies (Lond, 1886)
  • Journal of the Board of Viticulture for Victoria, 1888-92
  • F. de Castella, ‘Early Victorian Wine-Growing’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 19, no 4, Dec 1942, pp 140-68
  • Age (Melbourne), 16 Mar 1903, 31 Oct 1907
  • Argus (Melbourne), 16 Mar 1903, 31 Oct 1907
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

K. A. R. Horn, 'Castella, Charles Hubert de (1825–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 20 April 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]


27 March, 1825
Neuchatel, Switzerland


30 October, 1907 (aged 82)
Ivanhoe, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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