Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Charles William Ferguson (1847–1940)

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Charles William Ferguson (1847-1940), vigneron, was born on 11 September 1847 in Perth, Western Australia, son of Dr John Ferguson and his wife Isabella, née Maxwell. He went with his mother to Scotland in 1855 and attended the Dundee Seminary for three years; on his return he became a foundation student at Bishop Hale's School.

Charles left in 1863 to work on his father's properties: Houghton (bought in 1859) and Strelley (first held by Revett Henry Bland). There he developed the vineyards that pioneered the viticultural industry in Western Australia. Of his father's first vintage, twenty-five gallons (144 litres) of wine in 1859, Ferguson wrote: 'It was my job to drop in more pebbles as evaporation went on, until fermentation ceased. This was tested by a match at the bung hole and when half a dozen burned one's finger before going out, fermentation was deemed to have run its course'. In 1869 he caught the bushranger 'Moondyne Joe' in the Houghton cellars. Apart from two years in the pearling industry in the early 1870s Ferguson lived at Houghton until he retired in 1911. He experimented with fertilisers for his vines and also the bush system of growing vines, which he considered more economic than the conventional trellis system. He stored his wine in oak casks and in 1903 opened bottling cellars in Prince's Building, St George's Terrace, Perth. At the same time the name Houghton was adopted and used on the registered label. Grapes for a wide variety of red, white and fortified wines were grown at Houghton.

Active in the affairs of the Middle Swan district, Ferguson served on the Swan Roads Board and was a keen member of the Royal Agricultural Society. In 1898 he was made a justice of the peace. For forty years he was churchwarden for St Mary's Anglican Church. He was an enthusiastic cricketer and the pitch he laid down at Houghton became the home of the Swan Cricket Club for many years. In 1876 he had married Dora Charlotte, daughter of Dr Samuel Waterman Viveash and his wife Susan, née Smith; they had nine children. He died at Airlie, Mount Lawley, on 16 January 1940, survived by his wife, four sons and three daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • Western Mail (Perth), 17 Apr 1914
  • West Australian, 12 Sept 1935, 17, 18, 19 Jan 1940.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Ferguson, Charles William (1847–1940)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 30 May 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]


11 September, 1847
Perth, Western Australia, Australia


16 January, 1940 (aged 92)
Mount Lawley, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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