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William Thomson Manifold (1861–1922)

by Paul H. De Serville

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MANIFOLD BROTHERS: William Thomson (1861-1922), James Chester (1867-1918) and Edward (1868-1931), pastoralists and philanthropists, were the second, fourth and fifth sons of John Manifold and his wife Marion, née Thomson. John Manifold died in 1877 and, during the minority of his children, his half-share of Purrumbete (where his sons had been born) was administered by his brother and joint-owner Peter who left his share to the brothers in 1885.

William Thomson, born on 5 January 1861, was educated at Geelong Church of England Grammar School and Jesus College, Cambridge. On 5 August 1886 he married his first cousin once removed, Alice Mary Cridland (d.1920) of Papanui, New Zealand. Their first child was born at Gnarpurt, near Lismore, which William had acquired, but after the Purrumbete estate was divided between the four then surviving brothers, W.T. moved to the homestead portion, which as eldest surviving son he had chosen. The house was virtually rebuilt and Walter Withers commissioned to paint murals celebrating the pioneering exploits of the Manifolds.

The rich soil of Purrumbete, traditionally cattle country, was well suited to dairying. Manifold let much of it to dairy-farmer tenants, and some to a few share-farmers. On his own portion he established the Lake Purrumbete Butter Factory, entirely supplied with milk from his farms. Its butter was exported to England under the brand name 'Pelican'. W.T. also built up a herd of milking Shorthorn cattle and bred Clydesdales. About 1916 he withdrew from dairying and sold most of the Shorthorn stud, and at the end of World War I part of Purrumbete was acquired by the government for soldier settlement. His other pastoral interests included North station, Mortlake; Milangil, Camperdown; and, in partnership with his brothers and a cousin J. E. Bostock, Sesbiana station in Queensland (sold in 1923).

Although Manifold did not enter public life, he supported Anglican and local institutions, making considerable donations, often with his brothers. The Church of England cathedral and chapter house at Ballarat, Queen's College and Ballarat Grammar School benefited from their generosity. W.T. was vicar's warden of St Paul's, Camperdown, a member of the synod and of the bishop's council, Ballarat. In 1911-22 he was chairman of the council of Geelong Grammar during the period of its move to Corio. He contributed to the cost of rebuilding, endowed a scholarship in memory of his son William Herbert who was killed in France in 1917, and gave £10,000 to establish a masters' superannuation fund. He left a large sum, in his estate of some £280,000, to Trinity College, University of Melbourne, part of which was used to build the Manifold Wing at Janet Clarke Hall.

A keen polo player, 'a typical public school boy, blessed with this world's goods', Manifold was a member of the Melbourne and Bohemian clubs. He died of a heart condition on 20 October 1922 and was buried in Camperdown cemetery. Two sons and two daughters survived him.

James Chester was born on 10 February 1867. After attending Geelong Grammar School he went to England with his family in 1881, but returned because the climate did not agree with his health. Chester completed his schooling at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School. When he came into possession of his portion of Purrumbete, named Talindert, he subsequently let much of it to dairy farmers, who later bought the land on generous terms. He was a director of the Camperdown Cheese and Butter Factory, established in 1891, and its chairman from 1907. A keen sportsman, he captained the Camperdown polo team.

Chester Manifold entered public life as a member of the Hampden Shire Council in the 1890s and was twice president. In 1901 he was elected as the first member for the Federal seat of Corangamite, sitting as a Protectionist, but retired because of ill health in 1903. He was persuaded to oppose the sitting member J. H. Scullin, and defeated him at the 1913 elections. A 'very popular man of the unobtrusive sort', he retained the seat until his death. While visiting England during World War I, Chester volunteered to report on conditions in military camps and hospitals, and to investigate rehabilitation schemes in Canada and the United States of America. He died unexpectedly on 30 October 1918 of pneumonia, a day out of San Francisco, and was buried at sea. By his wife Lilian Eva, née Curle, whom he had married on 11 March 1891, he left a son (Sir) Thomas Chester and a daughter. One of his last gifts had been a property in the Richmond River district, New South Wales, made available for local returned soldiers. Manifold was hailed by conservative newspapers as a model of the second-generation pastoralists: a good sport, public-spirited (a parliamentarian who disliked 'politics'), and generous in benefactions to his country, Church and district. His estate was valued for probate at some £400,000. A statue by Nelson Illingworth was unveiled in Camperdown by S. M. (Viscount) Bruce in 1921.

Edward was born on 15 November 1868 and educated at Geelong and Melbourne Grammar schools and at Trinity Hall, Cambridge (B.A., 1891). He chose the Danedite portion of Purrumbete, and on the death of his bachelor brother Thomas Peter (1863-1895), after a hunting accident, took over his allocation, Wiridgil. He also owned Boortkoi, near Hexham. On these properties he ran merino sheep, a Lincoln stud which dated back to 1870 and Shorthorn cattle; 3000 acres (1214 ha) were leased to dairy farmers.

Edward was a member of Hampden Shire Council in 1909-31, and three times president. Camperdown, largely bordered by Manifold land and partly dependent upon the local pastoral dynasties, benefited from the family's interest. Though an offer to build public baths to commemorate the Queen Victoria Jubilee in 1897 was not proceeded with, the town acquired a hospital, a reserve on Mount Leura, a clock tower and a cricket pavilion, as well as notable donations to St Paul's Church and the grammar school.

A polo player and a keen racing man, Edward was a successful owner of steeplechasers. He was a committeeman of the Victoria Racing Club for many years and a member of many Western District racing clubs. He died following an operation on 14 February 1931. On 16 July 1900 he had married his cousin Beatrice Mary Synnot Anderson by whom he had three sons. His estate was valued for probate at nearly £500,000.

The Manifolds were prepared to give time, money and leadership to district, church and state. Generous, horsey and conservative, they adapted the role and duties of an English country gentleman to Australian conditions, and gave back to the country much of the wealth acquired by their pioneering predecessors. One journalist wrote in 1913, when Chester unwillingly prepared to return to parliament: 'A few families made the Western District of Victoria. At the same time the Western District made them'.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Henderson (ed), Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • R. A. McAlpine, The Shire of Hampden, 1863-1963 (Hampden, Vic, 1963)
  • W. G. Manifold, The Wished-For Land (Geelong, Vic, 1984)
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Mar, 16 Apr, 15 June 1909, 15 July 1915, 16 Nov 1922
  • Church of England Messenger (Victoria), 26 Oct 1922
  • Geelong Grammar School, Corian, Dec 1922
  • Victorian Historical Journal, 46, no 1, Feb 1975
  • Punch (Melbourne), 2 Oct 1913
  • Argus (Melbourne), 31 Oct 1918, 21, 23 Oct 1922, 16, 17 Feb 1931.

Citation details

Paul H. De Serville, 'Manifold, William Thomson (1861–1922)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 16 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


5 January, 1861
Victoria, Australia


20 October, 1922 (aged 61)
Camperdown, Victoria, Australia

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