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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Monds, Thomas Wilkes (1829–1916)

by Mary K. Whishaw

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Thomas Wilkes Monds (1829-1916), miller, was born on 28 June 1829 in Launceston, Tasmania, the son of Thomas Monds and his wife Helena, née Roadside. His father, a descendant of a Huguenot family, arrived in Hobart Town in 1822 with his farming man, Rush, and went on to Launceston. Granted land at Tunbridge he tried farming but was not successful. He then turned to business as a cooper in Launceston, opened a general store in Charles Street and later built a shop and dwelling in St John Street. He also made soap and candles, which hitherto had been imported from England. He died in 1838 after a fall. He was a gentle kindly man but he lacked the drive and initiative that were to characterize his son.

His wife was left with three children, Thomas, Helena and Benjamin, and very little means. In 1841 she married William Jones, a timber merchant. They moved to the Mersey and then settled at Don where they built a house in 1843. While splitting laths and shingles, young Monds was seen by John Guillan, who, after talks with him and his mother, offered to take the boy and teach him the business of millwright and miller.

Monds began his apprenticeship at the Supply Mills on the West Tamar River. His employers, Guillan and Symes, had built the schooner Dusty Miller and traded with South Australia in wheat, flour, and farm produce; in 1842 she was wrecked and the cargo worth £10,000 was lost. As nothing had been insured, Guillan and Symes were declared bankrupt. In 1845 Guillan rebuilt the Albion Mills with modern machinery and gave Monds sole charge of it and the book-keeping. On finishing his apprenticeship he went for six months as foreman to the flour-mill of John Walker in Hobart, and thence to the Supply Mills, and to the Cataract Mills in Launceston. At 24 he doubled his capital in the paling trade at Forth and returned to Launceston to take charge of Button's Mill.

In 1852 he married Angelina Hall, by whom he had eight children. He built a house in Frankland Street, Launceston, so successfully that he set up as a builder for seven years and then returned to Albion Mills. Raising his first and last mortgage, he bought the stone mill at Carrick for £2100 in 1867, and moved into the cottage behind it with his family. His business flourished quickly and next year he was able to buy the steam mill of a bankrupt competitor.

In 1874 he built Hawthorn, a fine Gothic house with every modern convenience, and the adjoining farm of Hattondale, working its 1200 acres (486 ha) in conjunction with the mill. Later he took into partnership his second son Albert, who in 1898 married Fanny Robertson. The eldest son, who had been weakened by an accident at the mill, opened a store in Launceston.

After a world tour and much study of American roller mills and electricity, Monds moved to Launceston in 1888, but not to retirement. He completed thirty years as chairman and treasurer of the Carrick Road Trust, and nine years as an elected member of the Westbury Council, as well as serving as a territorial justice of Tasmania. In Launceston he became a director of the Tasmanian Permanent Trustees and Executors, the Equitable Building Society and the Mutual Insurance Society. He was also manager and trustee of the savings bank at Launceston. He published Domestic and Other Pieces (Launceston, 1903), Autobiography (Launceston, 1907), and Diary of Our Trip Round the World (Launceston, 1910).

Of a deeply religious nature, Monds had joined the Wesleyan Church and became superintendent of the Sunday school in Carrick. Under the pastorates of Revs W. Law and J. Massie in Launceston, he became an active member, deacon and treasurer of Christ Church. His wife died in 1905. Monds died in Launceston on 9 May 1916. A self-made man, his mill brought prosperity to himself and to Carrick.

Select Bibliography

  • M. K. Whishaw, Tasmanian Village (Launceston, 1963)
  • CSO 1 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Mary K. Whishaw, 'Monds, Thomas Wilkes (1829–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

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