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George Alfred Lloyd (1815–1897)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published:

George Alfred Lloyd (1815-1897), merchant, businessman and politician, was born on 14 November 1815 at Norwood, Surrey, England, eldest son of Joseph Lloyd, corn merchant and freeman of the City of London, and his wife Eleanor Sophia, née Lyne. Educated at Aske's Hospital School, London, he became a clerk to a shipping and insurance broker. When his father's health and business failed he migrated to Australia as clerk to a family friend and arrived in Sydney in 1833 with only 17s. 6d. In 1834 he was sent to open a store at Hinton on the Hunter River where he was also postmaster, and after his employer's failure farmed on the Williams River.

In 1840 he returned to Sydney and set up as an auctioneer in partnership with Ambrose Foss. In July 1843 Foss & Lloyd became insolvent with debts of over £3300; Lloyd's estate was not insolvent but he was liable for the deficiency in the partnership which paid 2s. in the £. Discharged in December 1843, Lloyd carried on business as auctioneer, tallow and hide merchant and later paid all his creditors in full. One of the first to buy Californian gold, he became a pioneer buyer of Australian gold in 1851 and was soon contributing the authoritative 'Weekly Gold Circular' to the Sydney Morning Herald. He was a trustee and director of the Second Australian Benefit and Investment Building Society. In 1852 he was president of the Turon Golden Ridge Quartz Crushing Co. and the Sydney Gold Escort Co. He made a large fortune which he invested in steamships and in 1853 joined the Sydney and Melbourne Steam Packet Co. He had been secretary of the National School Society in 1842 and by 1851 was a director of the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary and a committee member of the Benevolent Asylum, the Sydney Female Refuge Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society and the Australian Religious Tract Society.

In 1855 after a farewell banquet Lloyd returned to England where he became a liveryman in the Company of Haberdashers and freeman of the City of London by patrimony on 3 June 1856. In London his company, Lloyd, Beilby & Co., acted as commercial agents to the New South Wales government until 1859 when Lloyd lost heavily on his shipping ventures and went bankrupt in September. He returned to Sydney in 1860 and after his discharge in June resumed business as a general merchant importing wheat and flour from California and Chile. In the 1860s he became a director of the Cardiff Coal Co., the Bulli Coal Mining Co. and a local director of the London and Lancashire Fire and Life Assurance Co. Later he was agent for the Cornwall Fire and Marine Insurance Co. He also bought horses for the Indian government.

Advocating free trade, immigration, compulsory education, railway extension and a local harbour trust, Lloyd defeated James Martin for the Newcastle electorate in December 1869. A supporter, friend and admirer of Henry Parkes, to whom he often gave sound advice on legislation and tactics in the House, he was postmaster-general in Parkes's first ministry from 14 May to 4 December 1872 and colonial treasurer to 8 February 1875. He introduced the penny postage to areas within ten miles (16 km) of Sydney and abolished the duty on the postage of newspapers. In 1873 he suggested to Parkes that government funds could be invested more profitably in England and introduced the bill which abolished the ad valorem duties that had been in force for eight years. He reduced the interest rate on public loans from 5 to 4 per cent and was the first treasurer to create inscribed stock. He was also responsible for the abolition of tonnage dues at Newcastle, Wollongong and Kiama. In 1874 he wrote to Donald Larnach that if he secured a butt of sherry and some casks of brandy he would gain 'the lasting gratitude of the legislators of New South Wales, and if the Wine and Brandy are very superior they may go a long way to improve our legislation'. However, the Refreshment Committee repudiated the consignment and it was left in Lloyd's possession. He was secretary for mines in Parkes's 1877 ministry but in October was defeated in the general election.

In 1878 Lloyd suffered another business reversal. He wrote to Parkes on 16 July 1878 about heavy financial losses 'amounting up to over £10,000 in fourteen days by failure of other Houses and losses on our shipments to London', and went bankrupt in August. He again represented Newcastle from 1880 to 1882 when he visited Europe, but on his return was defeated in the general election. Lloyd was in England again in 1884-85 and on his return represented his old electorate from October 1885 to January 1887.

A frequent and good speaker in the assembly, Lloyd was as diverse in his political interests as in his business and private concerns. On 5 December 1879 he had praised Parkes's public instruction bill: 'If you had not done anything else this one Act will stamp your name indelibly upon the history of this Colony and send it down to posterity with a respect and veneration which could not be increased by a Statue of Bronze or Tablet of marble'. Lloyd was a founder and auditor of the Australian Mutual Provident Society and an original shareholder in the Sydney Exchange Co. in which he was a director in 1872-97. Widely travelled, he had visited California and New Zealand as well as Europe and was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, London, on 27 April 1857. In 1874 he became a member of the Royal Society of New South Wales. For over fifty years he was prominent in the Pitt Street Congregational Church.

In February 1887 Lloyd was appointed to the Legislative Council. Although active at first, he took little part after 1889 and rarely attended after October 1893 when he was given leave for six months because of ill health. He died at his home, Scotforth, Elizabeth Bay, on 25 December 1897 and was buried in the Congregational section of Rookwood cemetery. Probate of his estate was sworn at under £521. He was predeceased in 1887 by his wife Mary, third daughter of Rev. L. E. Threlkeld, whom he had married in Sydney on 1 July 1841, and was survived by five sons and three daughters of their eleven children.

Select Bibliography

  • R. F. Holder, Bank of New South Wales: A History, vol 1 (Syd, 1970)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Council, New South Wales), 1852, 1, 1329, Select Committees on Sydney Gold Escort Co. and New South Wales Coal and Intercolonial Steam Navigation Co. Bill, 1853, 2
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1873-74, 2, 863, 1875, 2, 771
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 June, 8 July, 16 Nov, 14 Dec 1843, 21 Oct, 13 Dec 1844, 13 Aug 1850, 29 Mar 1855, 25, 26 Nov, 6 Dec 1869, 27 Dec 1897
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 31 Mar 1855
  • Town and Country Journal, 15 June 1872, 7 Apr 1877
  • Bulletin, 2 July 1881
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Lloyd, George Alfred (1815–1897)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 13 July 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

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