Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Mandeville Ellis L'Estrange (1868–1951)

by S. A. Prentice

This article was published:

William Mandeville Ellis L'Estrange (1868-1951), electrical engineer and administrator, was born on 11 December 1868 in Dublin, son of Edgar William L'Estrange, solicitor, and his wife Mary Frances, née Henderson. Educated at Arnold House, Chester, England, William emigrated to Queensland in 1886. He worked as an assistant to the surveyor C. D. Dunne in 1887-93 before being employed by a relation, E. G. C. Barton, senior partner of Barton, White & Co. (later the Brisbane Electric Supply Co. Ltd and from 1904 the City Electric Light Co. Ltd). In 1898 L'Estrange visited England to negotiate purchases of equipment for the company. He studied electrical engineering in London and at Cologne, Germany, and gained professional experience in the United States of America.

Appointed secretary of Barton's firm in 1900, L'Estrange became its joint-manager and engineer in 1912. At St Philip's Anglican Church, Auburn, Sydney, on 20 March 1901 he had married Mary Emmeline Alder. He chaired the Queensland State Repatriation Board in 1915-20. When the Ipswich Electric Supply Co. Ltd was formed in association with C.E.L. in 1917, he was its secretary; he rose to managing director (1927) and chairman (1933). His wise and conservative leadership ensured that his companies were well placed to meet the increasing demand for electricity. Granted leave of absence in 1935, he retired in 1938.

L'Estrange had been a member of the Queensland Electrical Association and president (1911) of the Queensland Institute of Engineers. As a member of a committee formed by the Q.I.E. in 1914 to consider schemes for improved road construction and as president (1915-16) of the (Royal) Automobile Club of Queensland, he proposed the formation of a department of highways to control road-making. He also advocated a change in legislation to allow the reticulation of electricity supply by overhead rather than underground mains. In 1933-34 he was chairman of the Brisbane division of the Institution of Engineers, Australia. From 1922 he had been the institution's representative on the Great Barrier Reef Committee. He was a member (1913) of the Institution of Electrical Engineers and a fellow (1919) of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries, London.

Described as quiet and unassuming, L'Estrange took a close interest in Brisbane's public life. He was involved in the development of the University of Queensland as warden (1922-27) of the standing committee of council, a member (1927-35) of the senate and chairman (1928-34) of the buildings and grounds committee. In retirement he lived at Toowoomba. His recreations included golf and yachting. A widower, on 20 October 1949 at St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral, Toowoomba, L'Estrange married 57-year-old Elizabeth Mary McGee; like her husband, she was a former secretary of the Ipswich Electric Supply Co. Ltd. Survived by his wife, and by the son and three daughters of his first marriage, he died on 20 December 1951 at Toowoomba and was cremated; his estate was sworn for probate at £100,297.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Historical Publishing Co, Queensland and Queenslanders (Brisb, 1936)
  • R. L. Whitmore (ed), Eminent Queensland Engineers (Brisb, 1984)
  • M. I. Thomis, A History of the Electricity Supply Industry in Queensland, vol 1 (Brisb, 1987)
  • Queenslander, 9 June 1927
  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 21 Dec 1951, 23 Apr 1952
  • W. I. George and S. A. Prentice, Some References to Early Professional Engineering Societies in Queensland (1890-1919) (manuscript, 1989, University of Queensland Library).

Citation details

S. A. Prentice, 'L'Estrange, William Mandeville Ellis (1868–1951)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 December, 1868
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland


20 December, 1951 (aged 83)
Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia

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