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Holford Highlord Wettenhall (1840–1920)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published:

Holford Highlord Wettenhall (1840-1920), pastoralist, was born on 17 October 1840 in the Carlton River area near Sorell, Van Diemen's Land, fourth son of Robert Horatio Wettenhall, R.N., and his wife Mary Burgess, née Bussell. Educated at Launceston Church of England Grammar School, he joined his father at Queechy, near Launceston, and later his brother-in-law Dr O. V. Lawrence, son of William Effingham Lawrence, at Penquite. In 1859 he worked with his relation Alexander Dennis at Carr's Plains in the Wimmera district of Victoria and in 1862 took over management of the run. For the next few years he contended with selectors and succeeded in acquiring freehold of 30,000 acres (12,141 ha) for the Dennis brothers. He later leased the property from Alexander Dennis and eventually bought the homestead and some 15,000 acres (6070 ha). On 21 November 1866 Wettenhall married Dennis's daughter Mary Burgess; she was a great horsewoman all her life, an accomplished musician, a crayon artist and a passionate gardener. They had seven sons and two daughters.

A breeder of pure merino sheep, Wettenhall had formed his flock in 1863 with Ercildoun rams and the American ram Old Grimes, and later used rams from the stud flocks of Thomas Dowling, Thomas Cumming and W. Cumming. In the 1880s he was associated with the Dennis brothers in developing a specially adapted breed of sheep; his stock was named the Ideal and formed part of the Polwarth breed. He also developed the Carrsdale, a first cross between Lincoln and merino. In 1890 Wettenhall retired from active management of Carr's Plains. He bought 400 acres (162 ha) on the north slopes of the Grampians near Pomonal, built his home, Glen Holford, and was one of the first in the district to grow fruit, especially apples for export. By 1907 his son Marcus managed the orchard and Wettenhall divided his time between the homes of his sons: the merino flock was kept at Bretton, a 4000-acre (1619 ha) property near Glenorchy managed by Milton; Carr's Plains was managed by Herbert and Allan farmed parts of it; and Arthur managed the Lake Wallace property (bought 1909). The droughts of the 1890s had forced Wettenhall to dispose of Wirchilliba station near Hillston in New South Wales, which he had earlier held with Ernest Johnson.

Interested in the development of the Wimmera, Wettenhall was elected in 1861 to the Kara Kara and the St Arnaud road boards. In 1869 he began his thirty-year association with the Stawell Shire Council, of which he was president several times. He was chairman of the Shire of Stawell Waterworks Trust in 1885 and a founder and first president of the Australian Natives' Association at Stawell. In November 1882 he contested Nelson Province in the Legislative Council and after a by-election in December became the first native-born member of the council; he held the seat until September 1886. He contested the Legislative Assembly seat of Stawell in 1889 and 1892.

Wettenhall's first wife died on 5 July 1917; on 4 February 1919 at All Saints, St Kilda, he married Laura, daughter of Charles Dennys. An Anglican, he died on 29 October 1920 in the Toorak home of his son Dr Roland Wettenhall, and was buried in Stawell cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Pastoral Review Pty Ltd, The Pastoral Homes of Australia—Victoria (Melb, 1910)
  • A. Henderson (ed), Early Pioneer Families of Victoria and Riverina (Melb, 1936)
  • Pastoral Review, 15 Aug, 15 Oct 1907.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Wettenhall, Holford Highlord (1840–1920)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 22 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


17 October, 1840
Sorell, Tasmania, Australia


29 October, 1920 (aged 80)
Toorak, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

surgical complications

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.