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Frederick Louis Ebsworth (1816–1884)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

Frederick Louis Ebsworth (1816-1884), wool-broker, was born on 22 July 1816 in London, the third son of Thomas Ebsworth and his second wife Mary Susannah, née Crook. Thomas Ebsworth was with the London firm of Marsh & Ebsworth which handled John Macarthur's wool; he was the auctioneer in 1821 when a bale of Macarthur's wool brought 124d. per pound.

Frederick reached Sydney in the Hashemy on 25 January 1839 and in October set up as a wool-broker in Pitt Street. He also acted as agent for the Australian Agricultural Co. which his father had helped to promote; his half-brother Henry Thomas Ebsworth was secretary of the company in England and his cousins James Edward and Thomas Lindsey Ebsworth were respectively its assistant commissioner and accountant in New South Wales.

Ebsworth developed wide business interests. In the depressed early 1840s he pioneered the use of steam for making tallow; his method was adopted on a large scale by Henry O'Brien and other graziers. In June 1843 he failed in a bid to float a sheep-boiling company with capital of £10,000. He was a founder and director of the Sydney Exchange Co. in 1851, a director of the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney, a founder and first policy-holder of the Australian Mutual Provident Society and a foundation member and later director and trustee of the Australian Club.

On 19 April 1842 at St James's, Sydney, Ebsworth married Sophia Augusta (d.1877), second daughter of Captain W. A. Steel of the 34th regiment; they had six sons and four daughters. At the Pitt Street Congregational Church, Sydney, on 11 January 1883 he married Rebecca Ann, daughter of John Gurner. Survived by his second wife and three sons and two daughters of his first marriage, he died at his residence 159 Liverpool Street, Sydney, on 20 September 1884 and was buried in St Stephen's churchyard, Camperdown.

His younger brother, Octavius Bayliffe, wool-broker and manufacturer, was born in London in 1827. He came to Sydney in the Catherine Jamieson on 27 November 1848 with a speculative cargo and letters of introduction from various houses in Leeds. He found the colonial market depressed and about a year later went to San Francisco where he worked as a merchant and commission agent.

Back in Australia after a short time he was partner and probably manager of Thomas Barker's tweed mill in Sydney in 1853-54. In 1855 he became the wool specialist in Mort & Co. In 1858 after a dispute he was dismissed by Mort's partner, Ewen Cameron. He was soon reinstated, but the quarrel recurred and Ebsworth left and in 1860 set up in opposition next door. Though he had been a key man in Mort's firm and popular with the pastoralists, he failed to gain enough clients and was soon forced out of business. Despite his animosity against Cameron, he remained on good terms with Mort.

In 1860-70 he owned Barker's mill in Sussex Street, which manufactured a large variety of cloths and ginned local cotton for export to England during the American civil war. He also had a wool-washing establishment and bought wool, tallow, hide and cotton for numerous overseas and local firms. He was also a director of two investment and building societies, and an auditor of the City Bank and of a local branch of an insurance company. He was a foundation member of the Union Club in 1857 and held office in the Sydney Philharmonic Society.

At Christ Church, Sydney, on 6 July 1852 he had married Frances Mary Barker (1829-1914), second daughter of James Barker. Survived by his wife, four sons and a daughter, he died of diphtheria at Cintra, Burwood, on 23 June 1870 and was buried in St Stephen's churchyard, Camperdown. His estate was sworn at £8000.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Barnard, Visions and Profits (Melb, 1961)
  • Australian, 6 Jan 1832, 26 Jan, 31 Oct 1839, 2 Jan 1840
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 June 1843, 25 Feb 1850
  • Ebsworth papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Ebsworth, Frederick Louis (1816–1884)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 24 June 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

Life Summary [details]


22 July, 1816
London, Middlesex, England


20 September, 1884 (aged 68)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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