Walter Padbury

First Mayor of Guildford 1887

Walter Padbury

Walter Padbury was born in the village of Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, England on 22nd December 1820. In 1830, one year after the Swan River Colony was established, Walter and his father Thomas arrived on the barque Protector.  They planned to send for the rest of the family to join them once they had settled.  Tragedy struck 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.  He found a permanent job as a shepherd on a property at Upper Swan run by the Burges Brothers.  Through this job he won the Royal Agricultural Society award for best shepherd in the Colony.  He continued to have a lifelong involvement with the Royal Agricultural Society.

In the fledgling Colony life was hard.  Walter’s job as a shepherd paid ten pounds per year.  With a shortage of cash he was paid in wheat, valued at the time as twelve shillings per bushel.  He managed to save money and eventually was able to send money for passage to England so his mother and siblings could join him.

Walter married Charlotte Nairn in 1844.  As a wedding present, Charlotte’s parents gifted them a block of land on St Georges Terrace.  Here Walter built a seven roomed brick cottage. This was their residence for the rest of their lives.

The Padbury Building in 2016

Walter was a pioneer of the land, being one of the first settler to open up the north-west of the state.  He purchased land holdings beyond Carnarvon and shipped livestock to market in Perth, making him a rich man.  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.  He died aged 87 on 18th April 1907.  He is buried at East Perth Pioneer Cemetery.  The story of Walter Padbury is truly a rags to riches tale.