Australian Dictionary of Biography

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William Robert Peel Salisbury (1874–1944)

by Ann G. Smith

This article was published:

William Robert Peel Salisbury (1874-1944), foundry-manager and civic worker, was born on 30 June 1874 at Bendigo, Victoria, eighth of fourteen children and second son of Ishmael Ernest Eldon Salisbury, an English engineer, and his Irish-born wife Bridget Kate, née Neville (d.1880). In 1876 his father, who had been making mining machinery at Castlemaine, moved his family to Launceston, Tasmania, where he established Salisbury's Foundry & Engineering Works. Early success was secured by the firm's manufacture of H. W. F. Kayser's patent tin-dressing machine for the Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Co. But after I. E. E. Salisbury died intestate in 1883, having in the previous year married a widow, Agnes Inskip, née McDonald, ownership of the foundry passed to J. T. McDonald, Henry McKenzie and James Scott.

Educated at Launceston, William worked for a watchmaker, then went farming at Scottsdale before returning to Launceston to enter his father's old firm as a clerk. On 26 December 1901 at St Barnabas Church of England, Scottsdale, he married Maude, daughter of George William Salier, farmer, and granddaughter of George Salier. Next year Salisbury, later remembered as 'a wizard with figures', became managing director of the Salisbury Foundry Co. Pty Ltd and in 1912, with R. V. W. Green and others, purchased the business from McKenzie and Archibald Campbell. Apart from its extensive manufacture of industrial machinery, the foundry constructed the second lane span of King's Bridge across Cataract Gorge (1904), the Tamar swing-bridge across the gorge and in Hobart the railway viaduct across Risdon Road. Salisbury retired in 1927.

As 'a kind of industrial adviser' in North Tasmania, he was associated with many public bodies. He was a member of the State Coal Board in World War I and of the Engineering Trades and Ironmoulders' wages boards (later Mechanical Engineers' and Founders' Wages Board) in 1913-24, serving on reference boards for six years. For many years, including 1920-21 when the first Federal award for engineers was handed down, Salisbury represented Tasmanian engineers at the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. A founder of the Harbour League, he urged the recruitment of W. H. Hunter to report on the River Tamar in 1912.

Salisbury was for three years president of the Tasmanian Chamber of Manufactures and in 1928 its first life member. He was appointed secretary and treasurer of the Launceston Public Bodies' Welfare Committee in 1930 when it was formed to unite efforts towards civic improvements, and at various times he organized Wool Week, Country Week and the Ideal Homes Exhibition. He also belonged to the Chamber of Commerce, Launceston Progress Association and Rotary Club and the 50,000 League.

In 1937 Salisbury moved to Hobart where he took temporary positions in the public service. He was a clerk in the rural credits division of the Agricultural Bank when he died in Hobart on 18 January 1944. He was cremated. His twin daughters and journalist son survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania, vol 2 (Hob, 1900)
  • M. McArthur (ed), Prominent Tasmanians (Hob, 1924)
  • G. J. R. Linge, Industrial Awakening (Canb, 1979)
  • Examiner (Launceston), 26 Nov 1927, 19 Jan 1944
  • Weekly Courier (Launceston), 30 Nov 1927, 24 Oct 1928, 7, 28 May 1930
  • private information.

Citation details

Ann G. Smith, 'Salisbury, William Robert Peel (1874–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 18 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


30 June, 1874
Bendigo, Victoria, Australia


18 January, 1944 (aged 69)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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