Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Walter Weech Forwood (1846–1926)

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Walter Weech Forwood (1846-1926), engineer and manufacturer, was born on 18 January 1846 in London, son of Frederick Forwood, surgeon. He arrived in South Australia with his parents in 1853, attended the private school of Rev. P. Mercer at Port Adelaide and then, probably because of his mother's family interest in shipping, went to sea. On the Asiatic coast he was impressed by the high wages of mechanics and decided to become an engineer. He worked his way to London and thence to Adelaide where on 1 March 1865 he entered the Colonial Ironworks in Hindley Street as an apprentice. Soon after he became a journeyman in the foundry the proprietor died. A new owner failed to make the business thrive and the staff attempted without success to run it as a co-operative. The trustee then offered the works to Forwood and T. D. Down. They prospered and the firm of Forwood, Down & Co. was founded in 1873.

A boom in gold mining in the Northern Territory turned their attention to mining machinery and with this heavy demand the firm had to expand. It was registered as a limited company in 1897 and when Down died Forwood bought his shares and distributed them among his family. With his five sons he built at Mile End one of the largest engineering works in Australia. He invented and patented new machinery for mining and his products were sold throughout the world. He also made structural ironwork and his bridges spanned the Gawler-Angaston and Brighton-Willunga railways, the Millswood subway and many projects of the Roads Board Department. By 1900 he had a second ironworks at Kalgoorlie.

Active in civic affairs, Forwood represented Gawler ward in the Adelaide City Council for sixteen years, eight of them as a councillor and ten as chairman of the works and highways committee; he represented the council on the Municipal Tramways Trust. In 1908 he represented South Australia at the Franco-British Exhibition in London. He became president of the South Australian and the Associated Chambers of Commerce, a member of the Employers' Federation and a councillor of the Royal Agricultural Society. In 1914 he was appointed to the Coal Board and to the State War Council as an adviser on the manufacture of munitions. He was also a prominent member of the Duke of Leinster Lodge.

On 22 May 1872 at St Margaret's Church, Woodville, Forwood married Harriet Ann Frewin: they made their home at Moorings, Henley Beach. Returning from a visit to America he died at a private hospital in Sydney on 23 November 1926; after a service at Trinity Church, Adelaide, he was buried at North Road cemetery. He left an estate worth £42,000 to his three daughters and two surviving sons.

Select Bibliography

  • Register (Adelaide), 25 Nov 1926.

Citation details

'Forwood, Walter Weech (1846–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 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]


18 January, 1846
London, Middlesex, England


23 November, 1926 (aged 80)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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