1820 – 1907
Walter Padbury was born in Stonesfield, Oxfordshire on December 22, 1820. As a ten year old, he journeyed on the ship Protector with his father to the Swan River Colony. It was intended that Padbury (Senior) would find work and accommodation, then send for the family to join them. Tragedy struck when Walter’s father died of pneumonia, soon after their arrival. The young boy was left in the care of a couple who had travelled with them on the Protector. They promptly stole the money his father had left to care for the child and disappeared. Walter was left to fend for himself in a strange land.
He supported himself by working in a variety of jobs including carpenter’s assistant, shepherd, drover, and stock agent. Through hard work, he built an empire making him a rich man. By 1849 he had enough money to return to England to bring out the rest of his family.
He 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 this enterprise after three years. In 1865 he acquired the ship Bridgetown and commenced trading goods to India, Singapore, and London. He ran this trading operation until 1890, when too much competition caused Walter to withdraw.
Throughout his life, Walter served the community in many ways. 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 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.
At the age of 78, Walter Padbury established the Peerless Flour Mills Ltd at Guildford, a very profitable business. At its peak, the mill was producing high quality flour, and exporting it to Egypt, and England. The mill covered four acres of land, and had a storage capacity for 20,000 to 25,000 bags of grain, including the granary. Tragically, the mill burnt down in 1975.
Walter’s wife Charlotte died in 1895. When Walter died in 1907 with no heirs, his vast fortune was bequeathed to churches and charities. His story is truly a rags to riches story, showing that with luck, and a lot of hard work, it’s possible to make dreams come true.
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