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Manton Lewis (Lew) Whiteman (1903–1994)

by Clement Mulcahy

This article was published:

Lew Whiteman, by Richard Woldendorp, c.1985

Lew Whiteman, by Richard Woldendorp, c.1985

State Library of Western Australia, 47862968

Manton Lewis Cyril Whiteman (1903–1995), businessman, philanthropist, and collector, was born on 9 July 1903 at Janebrook (Jane Brook), Western Australia, third child and only son of English-born Lewis Whiteman, brickmaker, and his Western Australian-born wife Elizabeth, née Barndon. Lew junior attended school at Middle Swan until the age of fourteen when he joined his father’s business, Middle Swan Brickworks (later Whiteman’s Brickworks), at Janebrook. In 1918 he purchased a two-horse dray to cart wood for the kilns and to make deliveries of its handmade bricks. The business expanded during the 1920s and moved to a larger site at Middle Swan. In 1937 it was incorporated as a family company, L. Whiteman Ltd. By 1940 the firm produced an average of fourteen million bricks a year and employed between seventy and one hundred workers.

Following his father’s death in 1941 Whiteman took over as head of the family business. During World War II he served part time (April 1942–August 1943) in the local 3rd (Swan) Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps. Due to manpower shortages, Middle Swan Brickworks closed down for nearly three years, reopening at the end of 1944. A strong demand for bricks in the postwar period resulted in renewed expansion of the business. Many of the workers were migrants who had settled in the Swan Valley since the interwar years. Whiteman took a direct interest in their well-being, providing unobtrusive assistance as well as encouraging groups such as the Yugoslav People’s Committee, Swan Branch, to picnic on his grounds near the brickworks. In 1966 the company sold Whiteman’s Brickworks to the businessman Alan Bond’s Progress Development Organisation.

Before the war Whiteman had purchased a farm in the Swan Valley that had a waterhole known for its freshwater mussels. He later purchased adjoining land, which he used for grazing cattle and riding horses. In 1954 he acquired property at Guildford—a house, coach house, and cottage situated side by side—where he stored his growing collection of antiques and curios, a passion he shared with his mother. Developing his Mussel Pool property in the early 1960s, he created a public picnic ground and space to display his collection of agricultural machinery, particularly horse-drawn vehicles and associated memorabilia, such as saddles and leather work, and early tractors. In 1977 the State government bought the Mussel Pool property. Neighbouring blocks were purchased in later years and, in 1986, Whiteman Park was officially opened and named in recognition of Whiteman’s pioneering development of that public open space.

Whiteman engaged in a range of recreational pursuits including horse-riding, flying, deep-sea diving, and cricket. An intensely private and shy man, he eschewed socialising and crowds. Of short stature and slim build, he had grey eyes and dark hair. Disagreements over the family business had resulted in Whiteman and his mother being estranged from his sisters and other family members. Unmarried, he died at Woodlands on 1 March 1994 and was cremated. His will had been changed shortly before he died; friends claimed it did not reflect his long-standing wish to keep his multi-million dollar collection intact and in Western Australia. While the motorised and horse-drawn vehicles were bequeathed to the people of Western Australia and displayed in a museum of transport at Whiteman Park, the remainder of his collection was auctioned, with the proceeds directed to the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children.

Research edited by Rani Kerin

Select Bibliography

  • Gould, Vanessa. ‘A Dream Comes Under the Hammer, Accusations Fly as Whiteman Treasures Are Destined to Leave WA.’ West Australian, 15 March 1997, 1
  • National Archives of Australia. B884, W82315
  • Stockman’s Hall of Fame. ‘Whiteman Park.’ March 1994, 7
  • Sunday Times (Perth). ‘Boss a Brick to People.’ 6 March 1994, 34

Additional Resources

Citation details

Clement Mulcahy, 'Whiteman, Manton Lewis (Lew) (1903–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/whiteman-manton-lewis-lew-29924/text37045, published online 2020, accessed online 24 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Lew Whiteman, by Richard Woldendorp, c.1985

Lew Whiteman, by Richard Woldendorp, c.1985

State Library of Western Australia, 47862968

Life Summary [details]

Birth

9 July, 1903
Middle Swan, Western Australia, Australia

Death

1 September, 1994 (aged 91)
Woodlands, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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.

Occupation
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