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Henry Page Woodward (1858–1917)

by Ian M. Crawford

This article was published:

Henry Page Woodward (1858-1917), geologist, was born on 16 May 1858 at Norwich, Norfolk, England, eldest son of Dr Henry Woodward, geologist and later keeper of geology (1880-1901) at the British Museum (Natural History), and his wife Ellen Sophia, née Page. B. H. Woodward was his cousin. Educated at University College School and the Royal School of Mines, London, Harry gained field experience with the Geological Survey of England and Wales. In 1883-86 he was assistant government geologist in South Australia. He returned to London, intending to compete in the Indian geological survey examination; after a year at the Royal College of Science, in 1887 he was appointed government geologist for Western Australia.

His arrival in Perth in 1888 coincided with the early gold rushes. He reported almost immediately on the Northam fields and was to visit every goldfield in the colony, acquiring a store of anecdotes of adventures and incidents from his travels. Woodward's training was of immense practical value: his annual report for 1890, containing a general description of the geology of the region—republished as a Mining Handbook to the Colony of Western Australia (1894)—together with his related geological sketch map, was essential reading for miners and prospectors. He eventually published twenty-one reports and six geological maps. In the face of opposition, he induced the government to sink its first artesian bore at Guildford in 1894 and subsequently indicated other areas from which essential water was obtained. On 31 December 1890 at the parish church, Albany, he had married with Anglican rites Ellen Maude, daughter of J. F. T. Hassell.

Having resigned in 1895 (though remaining a government consultant), Woodward joined Bewick, Moreing & Co. of London and Coolgardie as local partner and manager of their mining and consulting business on the eastern goldfields. By 1897 he had begun to practise on his own account as a mining engineer. His investigations substantiated the viability of coal seams at Collie and he became a mine-owner himself. In April 1905 he rejoined the public service as assistant government geologist.

A fellow of the Geological Society, the Royal Geographical Society and the Imperial Institute, and an associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers, London, he was president (1896) of the Western Australian Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, and a member of the Institute of Mines and Metallurgy, London. Survived by his wife and three sons, Harry Woodward died of cancer on 8 February 1917 at St Omer Hospital, West Perth, and was buried in Karrakatta cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • W. B. Kimberly, History of West Australia (Melb, 1897)
  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • British Australasian, 1 July 1897
  • Morning Herald (Perth), 16 Jan, 15 Feb 1896
  • Western Mail (Perth), 16 Feb 1917.

Citation details

Ian M. Crawford, 'Woodward, Henry Page (1858–1917)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 19 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 May, 1858
Norwich, Norfolk, England


8 February, 1917 (aged 58)
West Perth, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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