Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Philip Gidley King (1817–1904)

by Frank O'Grady

This article was published:

Philip Gidley King (1817-1904), pastoralist, was born on 31 October 1817 at Parramatta, eldest son of Captain Phillip Parker King and his wife Harriet, née Lethbridge. At 5 he went with his father to England and in 1824-25 he was at school at Bexley Place near Deptford. In 1826-30 he sailed with his father in the Adventure to survey the southern coast of South America. In December 1831 King as a midshipman left in H.M.S. Beagle to continue the South American survey and became a lifelong friend of Charles Darwin. On 12 January 1836 he returned to Sydney and rejoined his parents at Parramatta. He went to the Murrumbidgee in 1837 and later to the Port Phillip District where he studied the handling of livestock. He then surveyed a road from Gloucester to New England and in 1842 entered the service of the Australian Agricultural Co. in charge of its cattle and horse studs at Stroud. In 1843 at St John's Church, Parramatta, he married Elizabeth (d.1899), daughter of Hannibal Macarthur.

In 1851 King was appointed superintendent of stock for the Australian Agricultural Co. and soon became assistant superintendent of the company's estates. In 1852 the discovery of gold in the bed of the Peel River and evidence that all the company's lands on the Peel could be auriferous induced the shareholders to form the Peel River Land and Mineral Co. King became New South Wales manager of the new company and moved with his family to Goonoo Goonoo, south of Tamworth, where he began a line of hereditary managers of the station which lasted until the 1920s.

King was plagued by difficulties: gold prospectors flocked into the company's property at Anderson's Flat, and when gold was found in the bed of the river itself, the company's boundary being the centre line of the river, chaos resulted. Eventually the company directors issued mining licences at 10s. a month and a system of river-bed licences was devised with the Crown, the directors each receiving half the fee. The gold rush denuded King of shepherds and stockmen but he managed the estate efficiently. He had a township laid out on the southern end of Goonoo Goonoo across the river from the Nundle goldfield. A sale of town lots was held on 1 July 1854, and Goonoo Goonoo itself became almost a village in the 1870s with its elaborate station homestead, post office, school, numerous cottages for employees, accommodation house and woolshed.

Although physically and mentally taxed by his managerial duties King was prominent in local affairs. He promoted and encouraged the building of the Anglican parsonage and school in West Tamworth, persuading the company to contribute £3600. In 1876-80 he was first mayor of Tamworth. By 1881 his son had taken over management of Goonoo Goonoo although stock matters were still referred to him. In 1879 he was a commissioner for the Sydney International Exhibition. As a close friend of Sir Henry Parkes whom he assisted financially, King was appointed to the Legislative Council in 1880. He was president of the Australian Club for years and in the 1880s a director of the Mercantile Bank of Sydney. Still interested in marine surveying, he published Comments on Cook's Log (H.M.S. Endeavour, 1770) with extracts, Charts and Sketches (1891). He died on 5 August 1904 at Double Bay and was buried in the cemetery of St Mary Magdalene's Church of England at St Marys. He was survived by two of his three sons and by a daughter. His estate was valued at £41,691.

Select Bibliography

  • A. J. Prentice and C. B. Newling (eds), Origin and History of Tamworth and District (Tamworth, 1918)
  • W. A. Bayley, Hills of Gold (Nundle, 1953)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1881, 3, 389
  • F. Odenheimer, reports (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Peel River Land and Mineral Co., reports (State Library of New South Wales, and Society of Australian Genealogists, Sydney)
  • P. G. and P. P. King papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • newspaper cuttings (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Frank O'Grady, 'King, Philip Gidley (1817–1904)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


31 October, 1817
Parramatta, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


5 August, 1904 (aged 86)
Double Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

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