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Thomas Manifold (1809–1875)

by W. G. Manifold

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MANIFOLD BROTHERS: Thomas (1809-1875), John (1811-1877) and Peter (1817-1885), were the fourth, fifth and sixth sons of William Manifold and Mary, née Barnes, of Courthouse Farm, Bromborough, Cheshire, England. When the family decided to emigrate to Van Diemen's Land, Thomas was sent ahead. He arrived in Hobart Town on 23 January 1828 with £1500 and a letter of recommendation from the Colonial Office. On condition that he appoint a respectable free overseer, he obtained 1280 acres (518 ha) on the west bank of the Tamar River. John and Peter, with their parents and three sisters, arrived on 8 July 1831. Land grants had then finished, but William bought ninety acres (36 ha) next to his son's land, and on the combined properties the family built Kelso House.

Their holding was comparatively poor and, when news came of the Port Phillip District, Thomas lost no time in seeing it for himself in February 1836. What he saw made him hurry back to buy ewes and lambs, comprehensive stores, a horse and a dog. On 9 July, with one of his brothers, he put ashore what he claimed to be the first sheep ever landed at Point Henry, and proceeded to occupy both sides of the Moorabool River. Towards the end of the year Thomas returned to Van Diemen's Land, leaving John and Peter to run the new station. He went back, however, for several visits, during one of which the three brothers examined the country near Ballarat.

In December 1838, by penetrating the Stony Rises, John and Peter reached Lake Purrumbete and the Mount Leura country. On 4 July Thomas had married Jane Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Captain Walter Synnet, formerly of Ballinate, County Armagh, Ireland, and then of Van Diemen's Land. He hastened to join his brothers, and they occupied the Purrumbete run in January 1839. On this journey and later, they could not take their stock and drays through the Stony Rises, so went north of Lake Corangamite, to the neck of land between it and Lake Gnarpurt. By April the move from the Moorabool was complete. As yet they had no hut and were working day and night, but their delight in the new run was unbounded. John wrote to his mother: 'We are at last got to the land we wished for … it is a beautiful place, and cannot be surpassed by any I have ever seen'. The three brothers occupied Purrumbete together, breeding both sheep and cattle, until Thomas went to Grassmere run on the Merri River near Warrnambool in 1844. John and Peter soon gave up breeding sheep, but retained the well-known '3M' brand for the cattle. These were Shorthorns, derived from four bulls originally imported by the Bolden brothers and later improved by further importations, and were renowned for size and quality. By the time of the gold rush in 1851, John and Peter were breeding over 1000 head a year, as well as fattening stores.

The diggings disorganized Grassmere by drawing away Thomas's men, and Mrs Manifold took their two sons and two daughters to Europe for their education. Thomas gave up the property next year, went to England, and eventually brought his family back to live in Melbourne. At Purrumbete things were different. The brothers preferred black stockmen to white, so the discovery of gold upset them very little, while providing the very market they required. John was on his second visit to England when the rush started, and Peter went in his turn soon after John returned. On 2 September 1856 John married Marion Thomson, at Cormiston, Van Diemen's Land. They had four daughters and five sons, from three of whom, William Thomson, James Chester and Edward, the later generations of the family descend.

Through the years the brothers had contended with scab, fluke and footrot, depression, rabbits, bush fires and pleuro-pneumonia. In 1861 they appointed as manager Henry Manifold Matson, their nephew, who had already been with them for five years. Thomas died in Melbourne on 7 November 1875, John at Purrumbete on 3 January 1877 and Peter at Purrumbete on 31 July 1885.

Devout members of the Church of England, John and Peter gave generously towards building St Paul's Church, Camperdown, and guaranteed part of the vicar's stipend. Peter was a member of the Hampden and Heytesbury Roads Board from 1859, and carried on into the Hampden Shire Council when it was formed in 1864. However, it was not for public works that they were known, but for their personal example. In a new land where speculators and adventurers were all too common, the Manifold brothers were among those who intended it to be their home and their children's home. Industrious, unostentatious and hospitable, they were respected as men of the highest integrity.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Bonwick, Western Victoria: its Geography, Geology, and Social Condition (Geelong, 1858)
  • T. F. Bride (ed), Letters from Victorian Pioneers (Melb, 1898)
  • P. L. Brown (ed), The Narrative of George Russell (Lond, 1935)
  • A. Henderson, Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • I. Mead, Early Settlement at Kelso in Van Diemen's Land (Launceston, 1961)
  • W. Adeney, diary and family papers (privately held).

Citation details

W. G. Manifold, 'Manifold, Thomas (1809–1875)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




7 November, 1875 (aged ~ 66)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.