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Walter Padbury (1820–1907)

by Cara Cammilleri

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Walter Padbury (1820-1907), pastoralist, merchant and philanthropist, was born on 22 December 1820 at Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, England, second son of Thomas Padbury, small farmer, and his wife Ruth. With little schooling he sailed to Western Australia in the Protector, arriving at Fremantle on 25 February 1830 with his father who intended to send for his wife and other children. Unfortunately he died in July, leaving his son in the care of a married couple who also arrived in the Protector; they stole the money his father had left him and absconded.

Padbury worked around Perth and at 16 was employed as a shepherd by the Burges brothers of York for £10 a year; he stayed with them until 1842 when his wage was £40. He then went fencing, shearing and droving. He sold stock to butchers very profitably and brought his mother and the family to the colony. In April 1844 he married Charlotte, 18-year-old daughter of William Nairn and his wife Mary Ann.

In 1845 Padbury opened a butchery in Perth and by 1857 was able to buy Yathroo, a property which he gradually developed. He also established a flour-mill and gave his employees good wages and comfortable quarters. In 1863, stimulated by F. T. Gregory's report on his north-west expedition, Padbury bought the cutter Mystery, took up a station on the De Grey River and sent the first shipment of stock there. On 25 June at a public dinner in his honour he was congratulated by Governor J. S. Hampton for his enterprise. In 1866 he bought the Emma for the north-west trade; she was lost in 1867 with all on board. This loss and low wool prices forced him and his friends to abandon the area.

In 1865 Padbury bought the Bridgetown and traded profitably with India, Singapore and London. With William Thorley Loton he set up as W. Padbury & Co., general store-keepers, in Perth and Guildford. In 1874 they took delivery of the Charlotte Padbury which had been built for them at Falmouth. They acquired other ships, including the Helena Mena in 1876. Their shipping venture was very successful until about 1890 when competition became too keen and they withdrew. In 1898 Padbury started the Peerless Flour Mills Ltd at Guildford, a boon to farmers in the surrounding district. The Guildford mill was destroyed by fire in 1975.

Padbury was long associated with the Agricultural Society and had early won its award for the best shepherd in the colony. He was elected president in 1875-76 and 1885, and vice-president in 1907. Active in public affairs he was first elected to the Perth City Council in 1864. He represented Swan River in the Legislative Council from December 1872 to January 1878 and in 1883 became a justice of the peace. In 1884 he became chairman of the Guildford Municipal Council and in 1887 the first mayor. In 1887-92 he served on the commission on agriculture. He had taken his wife to England in 1878 hoping to retire there but found the climate too severe and returned to Western Australia in 1880, on the journey travelling widely in the United States and New Zealand. Charlotte died in February 1895, warmly remembered for her private and secret charity.

Padbury wrote many letters to the press on such subjects as protection versus free trade, immigration, land reforms, the jury system, overstocking of runs and education. He retained his interest in the north-west and his various farming properties and also gave much time to church work and charitable institutions. Through his generosity the Church of England established the diocese of Bunbury. He also contributed generously to the Parkerville Children's Home. He died on 18 April 1907 and was buried in the East Perth cemetery. With no heirs, he left legacies to relations and friends, and money in trust for the upkeep of St George's Cathedral. The balance of his estate, about £90,000, was to be divided between the diocesan trustees of the Church of England, the trustees of the Hospitals and Lunatic Asylums and the trustees of the Poor Houses. The money left to the latter is still held in trust; known as the Walter Padbury Bequest, it endures as a memorial to one of Western Australia's outstanding pioneers.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Cammilleri, ‘Walter Padbury … pioneer pastoralist, merchant and philanthropist’, Journal of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society, 7 (1971), part 3, and for bibliography
  • Walter Padbury Bequest, Minutes, annual reports and Crown Law file 1043 (State Library of Western Australia)
  • Swan District Agricultural and Horticultural Society, Annual Report, 1876 (State Library of Western Australia)
  • p. 23.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Cara Cammilleri, 'Padbury, Walter (1820–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 21 May 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

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 December, 1820
Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, England


18 April, 1907 (aged 86)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cause of Death


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