Australian Dictionary of Biography

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James Grave (1848–1906)

by G. C. Bolton and Geraldine Byrne

This article was published:

James Grave (1848-1906), investor, was born on 15 April 1848 in London, son of William George Grave, sailmaker, and his wife Elizabeth, née Wade. The family came to Port Phillip a few months later. Educated at Scotch College and Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, James went, aged 16, to the Hokitika goldfields in New Zealand. After a period in charge of the Gippsland Steam Navigation Co. at Clydebank, Victoria, he returned to New Zealand. By the time he moved to Western Australia in 1878 he had married Irish-born Annie Ward.

Accumulating capital during the 1880s as senior partner in the firm of Grave & Smith, James invested unsuccessfully in the Yilgarn gold rush of 1888, but profited substantially from Perth suburban land during the boom of the 1890s. His partners included (Sir) Stephen Henry Parker and Henry Anstey, who claimed credit for discovering the Yilgarn goldfield. They subdivided much of the future suburb of Bassendean as well as part of Claremont bordering Peppermint Grove. In 1894 Grave built Perth's finest hotel on a cliff top at Claremont. The Osborne was surmounted by a tower and turrets with panoramic views of ocean and river and surrounded by two acres (0.8 ha) of beautifully landscaped gardens, watered from supplies deep under the limestone cliffs and raised by a powerful electric pump.

The owner of Perth's first significant electricity generator, Grave for a time supplied neighbouring properties without charge in order to popularize the area. He also developed a waterworks and was elected to the Claremont Roads Board. Having invested in coal, timber and lime, he found himself financially embarrassed by 1898 and had to sell the Osborne Hotel and the waterworks to William Dalgety Moore. Grave remained as manager until the sale of the hotel in 1901 to the Loreto Sisters as a school. Bedridden with illness for several years, he died on 4 June 1906 at Cottesloe, Perth, and was buried in the Catholic section of Karrakatta cemetery. He was survived by his wife, six sons and three daughters, two of whom entered religious orders.

His youngest daughter Octavia (1890-1974), a pioneer physiotherapist, was born on 10 July 1890 in Perth and gained her certificate as a masseuse while visiting Britain during World War I. Returning to Perth she set up practice in the city in 1920, bringing an increased professionalism to the handful of established practitioners. During the next forty years she established herself as the doyen of the profession, winning the confidence of leading physicians. She was recognized by the award of the first life membership of the State branch of the Australian Physiotherapy Association. After the death of her mother in 1932 she indulged a passion for world travel. Of above average height and somewhat stooped in later life, with untidy, long hair tied back, fussy in her manner and always losing things, she was compared to 'Aunty Mame'. While travelling she would have twenty suitcases and three hatboxes and always insisted on sitting at the captain's table. She was an effervescent conversationalist who knew everyone in Perth, dropped names and talked irreverently about specialists.

A devout Catholic, Octavia was a daily communicant. Fortified by the rites of the Church, she died on 4 December 1974 and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • W. B. Kimberly (compiler), History of West Australia (Melb, 1897)
  • J. Carter, Bassendean: A Social History 1829-1979 (Perth, 1986)
  • G. Bolton and J. Gregory, Claremont: A History (Perth, 1999)
  • Australian Journal of Physiotherapy, vol 21, no 1, Mar 1975, p 30
  • Morning Herald (Perth), 5 June 1906, p 5
  • private information.

Citation details

G. C. Bolton and Geraldine Byrne, 'Grave, James (1848–1906)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


15 April, 1848
London, Middlesex, England


4 June, 1906 (aged 58)
Cottesloe, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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