Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Walter Duffield (1816–1882)

by Molly Huxley

This article was published:

Walter Duffield (1816-1882), miller, pastoralist and politician, was born at Great Baddow, Essex, England, son of William Duffield, farmer. He arrived in South Australia in the William Barras in December 1839 and became a tenant on Jacob Hagen's estate at Echunga. In 1847 he moved to Gawler, where with some help from his sister in England he bought the Victoria steam flour-mill; it was burnt down three times, twice by incendiarists, but he rebuilt it each time and added better machinery, larger wheat stores and cottages for his workmen. As his business and exports expanded he acquired other mills at Snowtown, Wallaroo, Port Pirie, and a share in the Union at Gawler. He bought sections in the Gawler special survey in 1851 and began to build up the fine Para Para estate, winning prizes for his hams, wines and orchard produce, and making it a place of attractive entertainment for local functions, picnics and races. In the early 1850s he leased the Princess Royal run and then bought Koonoona station near Burra where by 1863 he was shearing over 40,000 merino sheep. With tireless energy he also acquired over a thousand square miles (2590 km²) of pastoral leases, including Outalpa in the north-east of South Australia and Weinteriga on the Darling River, and visited them regularly. He became a local director of the Bank of South Australia in 1859 and joined its Adelaide board in 1873; he was also a director of the Adelaide Marine and Fire Insurance Co., and a member of the Adelaide Club and the Chamber of Commerce. At Gawler he supported all worthy causes, was a pillar of the Congregational Church, opposed state aid to religion and served for many years as president of the local branch of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

Popular for his liberal views and as a practical businessman, Duffield represented Barossa in the House of Assembly in 1857-68 and 1870-71, and was treasurer in John Hart's ministry for five months in 1865-66 and under (Sir) James Boucaut for twelve months in 1866-67. His most noted legislation was the 1867 Dog Act which remained unamended until 1884. He was elected to the Legislative Council in 1873. Granted a short leave in 1878 he returned to the council but on the urgent advice of his family doctor resigned on 5 March 1880. He disposed of his pastoral leases, made his will and withdrew from all public activities. He died at Para Para on 5 November 1882, aged 66, and was buried in Willaston cemetery. He was survived by his wife Phoebe, née Johnstone, whom he had married in Adelaide on 7 March 1842, and by one son and five daughters. Most of his estate, valued at £117,000 was sold and placed in trust for his children and their descendants.

Select Bibliography

  • E. H. Coombe, History of Gawler 1837 to 1908 (Adel, 1910)
  • Select Committee on Adelaide-Gawler Railway, Evidence, Votes and Proceedings (South Australia), 1854 (122)
  • Register (Adelaide), 20 Feb 1863
  • Observer (Adelaide), 11 Nov 1882.

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Citation details

Molly Huxley, 'Duffield, Walter (1816–1882)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Walter Duffield, c1865

Walter Duffield, c1865

State Library of South Australia, B 11141

Life Summary [details]


Great Baddow, Essex, England


5 November, 1882 (aged ~ 66)
Gawler, South Australia, Australia

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