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Edward Latham (1839–1905)

by John Reynolds

This article was published:

Edward Latham (1839-1905), brewer and businessman, was born on 20 July 1839 in Liverpool, England, youngest of four sons of Henry Latham, contractor, and his wife Sarah, née Tatlock. His parents died when he was 5 and with two brothers he was sent to 'a boarding school' where he stayed for ten years. At 15 he joined a large soap-boiling establishment in Lancashire. In 1864 he migrated to Melbourne, on the voyage nursing his oldest brother who had consumption and died a day after they arrived. Latham soon moved to Hobart Town and was impressed by the beauty of the Derwent valley. On 1 February 1865 at All Saints Church, Hobart, he married a widow, Bertha Ashton, née Aitkins.

Unable to find a congenial business in Hobart Latham returned to Melbourne where his first child was born. The Carlton brewery was then on the market and he bought it with George, a brother of William Milne. With the help of an experienced brewer, Alfred Terry, they began to produce 50 hogsheads a week and gradually enlarged the output to 1200 hogsheads. By then Terry had died and Milne had resigned, leaving Latham in sole control. In 1880 he stood for the Carlton seat in the Legislative Assembly but without success. In 1883 he sold out to the Melbourne Brewing and Malting Co., but retained a large interest in the new firm and remained a director for some years. He bought for £6000 a holiday home at Queenscliff for the use of Anglican clergy of the Melbourne diocese. He also contributed generously to the building of St Paul's Cathedral. He had also helped to establish at the Carlton brewery one of the first volunteer fire brigades in Australia.

In 1884 Latham visited Europe and America with his wife, son and daughter, chiefly to study modern brewing methods. Plain and unpretentious despite his wealth he was drawn into the land speculation boom by William Lawrence Baillieu who on 7 December 1887 at St Jude's Church, Carlton, married Bertha Martha, daughter of Edward Latham. Baillieu was a founding director of the Real Estate Bank and in 1889 his father-in-law became a director of the Federal Bank. Latham also guaranteed Baillieu's overdraft at the Commercial Bank. Both lost heavily when these banks were suspended and were involved in the secret compositions of 1892. Latham took over the Richmond brewery but his finances did not recover. His wife and son died in 1894 and on 14 September 1895 at St John's Church, Camberwell, he married Emma Elizabeth, sister of W. L. Baillieu. Latham struggled as manager of the Richmond brewery until October 1901 when it was absorbed by the Carlton and United Breweries. Aged 65 he died at his home, Knowsley, Camberwell, on 3 July 1905 and was buried in Boroondara cemetery. He was survived by his daughter Bertha Martha and a son, Lambert, of his second marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • M. Cannon, The Land Boomers (Melb, 1966)
  • Australasian, 10 July 1880
  • Argus (Melbourne), 4 July 1905, 22 Nov 1911
  • What's Brewing, June 1965
  • History of the Carlton and United Breweries (National Library of Australia, and University of Melbourne Archives).

Citation details

John Reynolds, 'Latham, Edward (1839–1905)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 23 May 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]


20 July, 1839
Liverpool, Merseyside, England


3 July, 1905 (aged 65)
Camberwell, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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