Walter Padbury

1820 – 1907


Walter Padbury was born in Stonesfield, Oxfordshire on December 22, 1820.  He had three brothers and two sisters.  Walter came to Western Australia in 1830 with his father when he was just 10 years of age, aboard the Protector.  It was intended that once Walter’s father had acquired accommodation and a job that the rest of the family would join them.  One year after their arrival, tragedy struck when Walter’s father died of pneumonia.  The young boy was left in the care of a couple who had also travelled on the Protector with the Padburys. They promptly stole the money his father had left to care for the child and disappeared. Walter was left to fend for himself.

As a young man, he worked in a variety of jobs including carpenter’s assistant, a shepherd, drover, and a stock agent.  Walter was a good saver and soon he was able to purchase a property near Toodyay.

He married Charlotte Nairn and set about building an empire that was to make him one of the richest men in the Colony. In 1849 he returned to England to bring out the rest of his family. He was just 29 years old.

Walter Padbury was the first pastoralist to take up land in the North West in 1863, but with low wool prices and the loss of one of his ships, he was forced to abandon the enterprise after three years.  When he decided to bring his stock back from the North West his stockman was so good at his job that he actually returned with more stock than he left with, with many of the ewes giving birth on the way.

In 1865 he acquired the ship Bridgetown and commenced trading goods to India, Singapore, and London.  He bought more ships and ran a successful trading operation until 1890, when too much competition caused Walter to withdraw.  

The Padburys retired to England in 1877.  They found they missed Australia and so returned three years later to their adopted home.

Walter served the community in many capacities throughout his life.  In 1864 he was elected to the Perth City Council, representing the Swan River District in the Legislative Assembly.  In 1871 he was elected to the first Victoria Plains Road Board, and also became the President of the Agricultural Society, a position he held again in 1885.  He was appointed as a Justice of the Peace in 1883.  A year later he was elected Chairman of the Guildford Municipal Council.

Three years afterwards, at the age of 78, Walter Padbury established the Peerless Flour Mills Ltd at Guildford.  This enterprise was highly successful.  At its peak, the mill was producing a quality product, exporting it as far away as Egypt, and to England.  The mill covered four acres of land, and had a storage capacity for from 20,000 to 25,000 bags of grain, including the granary. The building was situated at Padbury Siding, between Woodbridge and Guildford.  The mill burnt down in 1975.

During his life Walter was known as a kind and generous man.  His wife Charlotte predeceased him in 1895.  When he died in 1907 with no heirs, his vast fortune was left to be divided among several churches and charities. In 1910, the Walter Padbury Memorial Church at Moora was built in his honour.  Walter’s story is a fine example of what can be achieved with a modicum of good luck and a lot of hard work.

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