Walter Padbury: First Mayor of Guildford 1887

Walter Padbury – from Rags to Riches

Walter Padbury was born in the village of Stone-still near Woodstock in Oxfordshire, England on 22nd December 1820. In 1830, one year after the establishment of the Swan River Colony, Walter and his father Thomas arrived on the barque Protector.  The plan was to send for the rest of the family once they had established themselves. Tragedy struck only five months later when Thomas Padbury died from pneumonia, leaving his nine year old son to fend for himself.

Alfred Waylen came to Walter’s rescue, offering him a job and helping him build a wooden house at Point Walter.  This house later became known as Waylen’s Inn.  When the house was completed Walter moved to the Bush Inn, then to Perth where he worked in a variety of positions including gardening, construction work and on farms.  At 16 years of age he found a permanent job as a shepherd on a property at Upper Swan run by the Burges Brothers.  In this role, he won the Royal Agricultural Society award for best shepherd in the Colony.
This led to his lifelong involvement with the Society.

Times were hard, with no money available. As a shepherd, Walter was paid ten pounds per year, which he had to take out in wheat, the value at that time being twelve shillings per bushel. He worked hard and managed to save some money until eventually being able to send to England for his mother and the rest of the family to come out and join him.

In 1844 Walter married Charlotte Nairn. As a wedding present, his bride’s parents gave them a block of land on St Georges Terrace. Here Walter built a seven roomed brick cottage. This remained his residence for the rest of his life.

The Padbury Building in 2016

Walter was a pioneer of the land, becoming one of the first settler to open up the north-west of the state. travelling beyond Carnarvon, he purchased land holdings, and transported livestock via sailing ships. In this way he made his fortune. In 1845 Walter opened a butchery in Perth and by 1857 was able to buy Yathroo, a property which he gradually developed.  He built his general store in Terrace Road Guildford in 1869. Padbury’s store flourished as a go to place to buy items ranging from household and farming equipment, to the latest in ladies fashion. In 1898 he established the highly profitable Peerless Floor Mills Ltd. in James Street Guildford.

Always interested in civic life, Walter became chairman of the Guildford Municipal Council in 1884. In 1887 he was elected as the first mayor of Guildford.

Through hard work and dedication, Walter became the first millionaire in the colony. His generous and kind assistance to others in need through church work and charitable institutions saw him become the biggest philanthropist in Australia for his time.  Walter Padbury died on the 18th April 1907, in his 87th year. He was buried at East Perth Pioneer Cemetery. Walter Padbury – a true rags to riches tale.