James Thompson Tilbury (1845-1931)


1845. James was born 19-Oct at 31 Caroline Place, Bayswater, Middlesex county, and spent the first 22 years of his life either in London or its vicinity. He remembered seeing the troops coming home from the Crimea, and particularly a regiment at the head of which a goat was being led and in the ranks of which were wounded men still wearing bandages. He also saw the troopships leaving Blackwall en route for India to suppress the mutiny. He could recall many old time pageants dear to the soul of the Londoner.9

Educated as an accountant, James held the highest regard for his old employer, Marcus Travers, who encouraged him to read good literature. Marcus presented James with a large number of valuable books bearing the Travers coat of arms; these, with other rare books belonging to the Hockings family have been donated to the University of Queensland Library by Ted Hockings as a memorial to James and to Albert J.Hockings, Ted’s grandfather.10

1868. James migrated to Australia by appointment in England as an accountant to Gibson & Foy, General Merchants and Supplies. He arrived 23 Apr 1868 at the Port of Melbourne on board the White Rose. It was believed by James’ daughter Ettie that James spent his initial years in Melbourne and moved to Sydney in 1874. There are no records of James in the Victorian PO Directories but James married Esther Gardner in Sydney 1873. James spent nine years with Gibson & Foy, servicing mercantile and pastoral firms. He then operated his own accountancy firm before venturing into the storekeeping business. He had an interest in squatting properties and was occasionally engaged in auditing the books of stations in the interior and northern district of Queensland.

1869. The History of Aramac, QLD, documented in the Background section, states that the official history of the town dates back to 1872, but that in 1869 John William Kingston built the first hotel and James Thompson Tilbury became a "parent" of the town when he built a slab and bark hut and hung out a sign that read "Grocer and Draper". It also states that "This place was turned into a residence shortly afterwards, although J. T. Tilbury remained in business for many years later."

James was closely associated with both Aramac and Winton, holding properties and serving on Boards and Committees in both towns. Winton is approx. 288kms NNW of Aramac and was settled a little later than most other districts. Land was taken up in the area in 1866, but there is no written record of granting of leases prior to 1873 and settlers had no rights over the allotments on which they squatted and built. Of this period James had many interesting anecdotes, especially those connected with police work - James held a commission as Justice of the Peace for over 50 years.

James & Esther

James Thompson Tilbury (1845-1931)

  • Father: Thomas Tilbury (1802-1875)
  • Mother: Sophia nee Rabnett (1806-1898)
  • Born: 19 Oct 1845, 31 Caroline Place, Bayswater, Middlesex
  • Baptised: 16 Nov 1845, St.Mary, Hanwell, Mx.
  • Married: 30 Apr 1873, Esther Gardner, St.John's, Parramatta, NSW
  • Died: 2 Mar 1931, ‘Radcliffe’, Wandal Rd, Rockhampton, QLD
James Thompson Tilbury (1845-1931)

Esther Gardner (1850-1936)

  • Father: William Haydon (1812-1874)
  • Mother: Mary nee Westford/Worfold (ca1815-)
  • Born: 29 Jan/8 Feb 1850, Surrey
  • Married: 30 Apr 1873, James Thompson Tilbury, St.John's Parramatta, NSW
  • Died: 10 Sep 1936, 42 Wandal Rd. Rockhampton
  • Buried: South Rockhampton Cemetery
Esther (Gardner) Tilbury (1850-1936)


  • Birth 1845 James Thompson Tilbury
  • Marriage 1873 James Thompson Tilbury, Esther Gardner
  • Death 1931 James Thompson Tilbury
  • Death 1936 Esther Tilbury nee Gardner
James Thompson Tilbury with grandsons Hockings & Tilbury cousins

1873. James (27) and Esther Gardner (23) were married 30 April at St .John’s Parramatta (Church of England) NSW. Esther was the second child of William Haydon and Mary nee ?Westford. At the time of the marriage James' parents were living at Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill, and Esther's were living at Raymond Terrace, NSW.

James and Esther had six children, three of whom pre-deceased them: Florence died an infant, Marcus and Clive died in WWI.

1874-1876. Marcus Edward Tilbury was born on 24 May 1874 and George Arthur Tilbury on 25 Aug 1875, both at their home in Balmain.

James was a prominent oarsman in the Commercial Club and took part in many regattas. In 1875 and 1876 James was working as an accountant and living at Looke’s Wharf, Balmain.

James in Aramac & Winton

1876. James (31), Esther (26) and their young children Marcus and George moved to Queensland’s Central District. James had already set up business in Aramac in 1869 whilst employed by Gibson & Foy. Records of passengers on Australian ships show frequent trips between Rockhampton, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

The Marathon (later to be named Aramac) District Pastoral and Agricultural Society was formed. Some of the first officials were household names throughout the central west, including J.T.Tilbury, who was the secretary.

1878. Esther Sophia (Ettie) Tilbury was born 4 May in Aramac.

1880. Florence Mary Tilbury was born 8 Jul at James and Esther's residence in Aramac. She died in 1881 and is buried at Aramac.

The inaugural meeting of the Aramac Divisional Board (forerunner of the Aramac Shire Council) was held 6 Apr 1880, with Thomas McWhannell as the Chairman and J.T. Tilbury as a member of the Board.

Article printed in The Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton, on 28 Sep 1880:

PRESENTATION AT ARAMAC. - From the Aramac Mail, September 18, we learn that Mr. J. T. Tilbury, the respected secretary of the Marathón Pastoral and Agricultural Society, has been the recipient of a very valuable testimonial. Our contemporary writes :-On  Monday afternoon a representative gathering of the station owners of the district was held in the coffee room at the Royal for the purpose of presenting a handsome gold watch to Mr. J. T. Tilbury, as a token of their appreciation "of the unwearied zeal and energy with which that gentleman has discharged the duties of honorary secretary to the local Pastoral and Agricultural Society since its foundations. No intimation of what was about to take place had been conveyed to Mr. Tilbury, who was inveigled to the meeting on some pretence connected with the export of meat. Mr. T. McWhannell, of Rodney Downs, having been chosen spokesman, rose and said that the performance of a very grateful duty had been confided to him. The station owners of the district took a very great interest in tho Pastoral Society, and it had been a matter of much gratification to them that the annual exhibitions had proved so successful. They were well aware that this success was mainly due to tho intelligence and untiring energy of Mr. Tilbury. They felt that they could not requite his services, but had determined to beg his acceptance of this small present as a slight token of the appreciation in which those services were held. He then presented the watch to Mr. Tilbury, hoping he would be long spared to wear it, and that in the future he might be always as highly esteemed as he was at the present. Mr. Tilbury said that he had attended the meeting without any idea of what was to follow. When the society was founded he considered he was only doing his duty to a young community in accepting the office of hon. secretary. He had not much practical acquaintance with pastoral matters, but had always endeavoured to do his best for the interests of the Society. His duties had been a pleasure to him. He had performed them as a labour of love, and should continue to do so. He found he could be tolerably fluent in cases where his feelings were not deeply concerned, but on an occasion like the present it was impossible for him to express himself properly. He would therefore simply thank them for their very kind present. -The watch is from Hardy Bros., Sydney, and bears the following inscription : -" Presented to J. T. Tilbury, Esq., by the station owners of the Aramac District as a mark of respect for the energy and spirit shown by him in forwarding the interests of the Pastoral Society. Aramac, 1880."2

In the 1880s Aramac had six stores. J.T. Tilbury, the "father of Aramac Storekeepers", owned three of these at the one time. His principal place of business, the Marathon Stores, was on the corner of Gordon and Burt Streets.3

In 1880 the first Government Land Sale was held in Winton. James bought land, including a Hotel/Store/PO built in 1876 by Robert Allen, the first settler and the man who gave Winton its name. Robert Allen had arrived from Aramac and camped on Pelican Waterhole in 1875. Flooded out of his first site, he moved all his buildings a mile eastwards (now Elderslie St) using bullock teams travelling at about 3mph. He tired of writing "Pelican Water Hole" across postage stamps and changed the name to "Winton", his birthplace in England.4  A town plan of Winton shows James as the owner of three blocks in Winton, two of which were adjacent on the main street, Elderslie St. In later years these blocks were occupied by the National Australia Bank (NAB) and British Petroleum (BP). 

1881. The Queensland National Bank opened a branch in Winton, renting the Hotel/Store/PO premises from James for £6 per week. A police force was allocated to Winton and a house bought from James was moved to a corner of the police paddock and renovated for use as the Sub-Inspector’s quarters, with a separate outbuilding added as a lock-up.4

J.T. Tilbury was on the Committee of the Aramac Hospital.
On 21 Oct the Western Champion newspaper, of Blackall and Barcaldine, noted that Messrs. Tilbury & Co., of Aramac, had purchased the business of Messrs. Marshall & Co., of Winton. On 28 Oct the newspaper included the following in the "Aramac Matters" column:

Mr. J. T. Tilbury, of Tilbury and Co., has left Aramac for the south, and will on his return, as we are informed, take up his residence in Winton, where his firm have purchased the business of Messrs. J. A. Marshall and Co. Mr. Tilbury proved himself a very valuable citizen during his stay in Aramac. Any movement for the advantage of the town or district always commanded his warm support. He was the indefatigable secretary to the Pastoral Society; he took a prominent part in establishing our local Progress Association; he did his full share of work on the Hospital and School Committees; he has been a member of the Divisional Board since its formation, and was its Chairman when he resigned. We wish him and his firm every success in their new venture.2

1882. Daughter Florence Mary had died an infant in 1881 and the likelihood is that James' pregnant wife Esther Tilbury remained in Aramac when he travelled south. Daughter Blanche Molenaar Tilbury was born 9 Apr in Aramac. In May a portion of the present site of the bank was purchased from James for £500. Later the same year the family moved to Winton, where James' sister Florence married Friedrich Espenhahn on 17 Dec 1882 at James and Esther's residence in Winton.

1883. James opened the second Tilbury & Co. store (purchased from Marshall & Co.) in Winton and was elected inaugural Secretary of the North Gregory Turf Club. At this time the population of Winton was 300, doubling from 150 in 1882. There were 2 banks, 2 auctioneers, a bookseller, 2 general stores, 5 hotels, 2 chemists, 2 blacksmiths, a butcher, cordial makers and a hospital. Two years later, in 1885, Cobb & Co. started their line of coaches through Winton, Hughenden, Longreach, Boulia and Cloncurry. It was 12 years later, in 1895, that A.B. 'Banjo' Paterson composed the ballad 'Waltzing Matilda' at Dagworth Station, an event that Winton celebrates with great enthusiasm.4

1883-85. A memorable 3-year drought set in and the graziers were not able to pay for machinery and other goods. The Gibson & Foy company was bankrupted and it is believed that Gibson returned to England and the present Sydney firm of Mark Foy descended from the early Foy partner. James, like many others, lost almost everything and moved to Rockhampton, where he began again as an accountant and later became an auctioneer and commission agent.5

1885. A question arises regarding the birth of son Clive William Tilbury on 9 Mar 1885 at Bay View, Balmain, Sydney. Perhaps Esther moved to Sydney while James was re-establishing his business in Rockhampton, or perhaps he spent some time in Sydney. In 1886 a James "F." Tilbury, storekeeper, was listed in PO Directories as living at Bay View Villa, Palmer St, Balmain. Geoff Tilbury, in a letter to Ted Hockings in Dec 1966, told of a photo of Marcus and George taken in Newcastle NSW when they were about 6-8 years old. However, a Birth Notice in The Brisbane Courier on 19 Mar 1885 describes Esther as "the wife of J.T.Tilbury, of Winton".

James in Rockhampton
Advertisement for JT Tilbury, Auctioneer
Advertisement for JT Tilbury, Land Agent & Valuator
Rockhampton Railway Station
Rockhampton, Denham St ca1886
Rockhampton, East St 1886

1886. The family moved to Rockhampton, where James set up business in Quay St and provided services as a sharebroker, accountant, auctioneer and commission agent. There is an entry in the Rockhampton Municipal Council Minutes of Meeting, 7 Oct, regarding a letter from James requesting that his name be added to the rate-book, as he was renting a property from S.U. Hill.

Marcus (11) and George (10) entered the Rockhampton Grammar School (RGS), which had been opened in 1881. The RGS believes George spent some time in Sydney during his period at the school (1886-1890).

James actively fought for the growth of the Queensland Central District with regard to the planned future of the Central railway line westwards and links to Rockhampton port. [Follow-up research required on this]

Letter to the Editors of The Morning Bulletin and The Capricornian, Rockhampton, printed on 28 Apr 1886 and 1 May 1886 respectively. This letter is written from Winton:

Sir,— With reference to Mr. Archer's farewell address to the electors of Blackall, I trust you will find space for the insertion of a few remarks from one who has, since the public inception of the Port Alma Railway project, believed firmly in its absolute necessity to the prosperity of Rockhampton. Same of tbe residents of Rockhampton may consider, perhaps, that Mr. Archer has, in alluding to such a railway, stated the case somewhat strenuously, but the pros and cons of the scheme have for years been discussed by western residents, and I venture to say that few if any of them differ from Mr. Archer in his views regarding it for the almost unanimous feeling shared by squatters, storekeepers, &c., alike has long been one of utter astonishment that a policy of deliberately sacrificing a considerable portion of the trade which supports Rockhampton to a purely imaginary defence of strictly local interests, should have been allowed to prevail for so long.
Given no railway to Port Alma, and it requires no prophet to predict the port (not Rockhampton) which will be the channel of western trade. There is yet time, however, to repair the error. The road to retain existing and attract future traffic is still open, but it lies via Port Alma.
I am, &c.,
Winton, 12th April, 1886.6

Letter printed in The Capricornian, Rockhampton, 23 Oct 1886. The letter is written from Rockhampton:

Sir, — At the meeting last night, the earnestness and unanimity displayed were very striking. Let us hope that the present "powers that be" will not disregard the significance of such a gathering.
My object in writing is to call attention to the fourth resolution proposed, viz.: "That this meeting protects against the prosposal to deviate the Central line towards Winton, and demands its extension as originally intended due west." This resolutian was carried by acclamation, and yet, I venture to hope that when the matter has received further serious consideration, a different opinion will be entertained. Prior to the meeting I, with others, was under the impression that the desirability or otherwise of the deviation, said to be under the consideration of the Cabinet, would not be discussed at the meeting, which would deal simply with the sufficiently grave fact of total stoppage, for an indefinite time, of any extension beyond Barcaldine. The above resolution, therefore, came as a surprise ; it was not in the printed programme, and I respectfully submit that the question "deviation or no deviation," requires and deserves far more and deeper consideration than could possibly be accorded to it under the circumstances. What does "due west" mean? It means this, that after reaching good country at Barcaldine, and continuing in it for some eighty miles, the railway will again go through a very wide tract of country, on which there is not one sheep station ; country which it does not pay to fence ! A railway promotes settlement, but it does not, and cannot, create settlement, unless the country through which it passes is favourable ; and "due west," it is not so. The line may, without disadvantage, go "due west" so far as the Thompson, but at that point divergence is imperative, or the traffic will be next to nothing. Mr. Shaw, in a very forcible demand for fair play, said "we did not want to trench on other people's ground." Truly, but we should protect our own, and avail ourselves of it ; and it is now being invaded to some purpose. The following stations south of Muttaburra will this season send their clips to Townsville, and, of course, get their supplies thence., viz., Evesham, Strathdarr, Green Hills, and Darr River Downs. Maneroo also may follow suit ; and Kensington Downs goes to Townsville. Now I have no hesitation in saying that these stations alone would contribute more traffic to the Rockhampton line, if it diverged in a north-westerly direction, than the whole of the district between the Thompson and Diamantina would if the line were carried due west.
"Due west" from the Thompson you encounter engineering difficulties, expensive and tedious construction, no settlements, nothing but a few cattle stations. "North-westerly" every acre is grand sheep country for far beyond Winton ; and not one cattle station on the whole route, sheep all the way. The line would not stop at Winton. Ask western residents who know the country as to the comparative merits of the two routes, and you will receive but one answer. The Central line has already passed through much indifferent country — it is in it yet — which seriously affects its present paying capabilities, but that is inevitable. Shall we voluntarily repeat the process ?
Instead of taking the trunk line due west, and making a branch towards Winton, it would, I submit, be true policy to have two lines, the point of separation being on this side of the Thompson, and trending respectively south-west and north-west, the country to be traversed by the latter being much the better and more productive. I write, Sir, in the hope of eliciting the opinions of those who, having a knowledge of the western country, have thought over this matter of the railway, for without some knowledge of the country an opinion cannot possess full value. In view of Separation, which in the opinion of many is within measurable distance, the old reason for not taking the Central line to the north-west, because Townsville was the natural port for those districts, loses its force ; and new conditions present themselves for solution. It is to be earnestly desired that the reasons I have submitted, together with others more cogent that will doubtless be adduced, may be calmly and dispassionately weighed and not be hastily dismissed in favour of the geographical expression "due west."
I am, yours &c.,
Rockhampton, October 21, 1886.6

1888. Tilbury & Co., storekeepers, were again trading in Winton.
James visited Aramac in Oct of 1888, as recorded in The Western Champion on 9 Oct:

Among the passengers by Wednesday's coach we were glad to welcome our old townsman, Mr. J. T. Tilbury, but who has long since left us for Winton. Mr. Tilbury generally makes his trips to Winton via Townsville, hence a sight of his cheery face is all the more pleasing.6

James owned a steamship! Called the Ant, it sank 28 Nov 1888 in the river at Rockhampton. The engineer on board jumped to safety and they spent days trying to raise it, unsuccessfully.

On 29 Nov 1888 J. T. Tilbury, sons Marcus and George, daughter Blanche [and a Miss Molenaar - link?] travelled to Brisbane aboard the Rodondo.

Marcus and George both left the RGS at about 15 years of age: Marcus late in 1888, George at the end of 1890.

1890. James was elected to the committee of the Rockhampton Jockey Club and became a member of the Rockhampton Tattersalls Club. In the following year he was elected to the committee for the latter and remained on the committee for at least 3 years. The store at Winton was retained until 1892 and James was a storekeeper and insurance agent for NZ Fire & Marine.

1892. James moved the Rockhampton business from Quay St. to East St. and/or 17 Denham St. [QPODs differ between Country and Alphabetic directories]. He placed a full-page advertisement in the Rockhampton PO Directory for his services: "J.T.Tilbury, Auctioneer, Land Agent and Valuator and General Commission Agent; Agency: New York Life Insurance Co.".

[In the QPOD there are entries for James (Turnbull, Cook & Co.), Doongmabulla - relationship not known - and HG Hockings, listed as the accountant for the Queensland National Bank - link? ]

James was elected secretary of the Rockton Club [Rockhampton Club?] and remained in the position for about four years.

'Grantham', built on the Fitzroy River, was the family's first house in Rockhampton. The house was positioned between 22 Victoria Pde, the residence of Blair, and 36 Victoria Pde, the residence of Henderson and Rev. Jerson. The numbering system must at some time have been reorganised, as 'Grantham' is now at 22 Victoria Pde. Today the house is an interiors shop called 'Something Different'. The rear of the house is the original and is quite charming. The front of the house has been rebuilt and no longer has the 'lace' balcony that led out from the top storey of the house and, in Ted Hockings' view, added greatly to the character of the house. In their later years James and Esther had chairs positioned by the windows in the drawing room of the house, where Esther could watch the passing carriages and James could listen to his gramophone and read books. Ted regularly returned the books his grandfather James had borrowed from the Library, replenishing them with a new collection gathered by the librarian. Ted has vivid memories of James, including the regular haircuts given by Ted; his collection of walking sticks, one a dark rosewood; the fact that he always wore a hat (a type of stetson) out of doors and wore a smoking jacket indoors (he was never seen in shirt sleeves), and his unique manner of eating porridge with three bowls, one each for porridge, milk and saccharine (he was diabetic): each spoonful of porridge would be dipped in turn into the bowls of milk and saccharine before being consumed.

1897. James' mother Sophia, who had lived with the family at 'Grantham', died at the age of 94.

1900. Marcus (25), who was still living at 'Grantham', was elected secretary of the Rockhampton Club.

1901. Marcus married Maria McLaughlin. George (25) was still living at 'Grantham'. Clive (16) entered the RGS and remained there for two years. Architects Hutton & Hockings set up business in the Fitzroy Chambers, 15 Denham St, next door to James' business.

1902. James was an auctioneer, land general commission agent, valuator, and stock & share broker. Marcus followed in James' footsteps, setting up business as an auctioneer at 173 East St.

1905. James was elected Chariman of the Board of Trustees of the Rockhampton Grammar School, a position he held until 1926.

1906. Neither Marcus nor George was living in Rockhampton. George lived at 'Grantham' until he was around 31 years of age. It is assumed he returned to Sydney around 1906/7, when he was in his early 30s. Ettie (28) married John Campbell Watters of Aramac.

1907. Edwin Morton Hockings shared the house adjacent to 'Grantham' and proposed to Blanche over the back fence.

1914-15. James and Esther moved from 'Grantham' to Lion Creek Road, Upper Rockhampton. World War I (1914-1921) began and youngest son Clive was killed in action at Gallipoli at the age of 29.

1917. Son George (41) married Dulcie Blacket (21) in Mosman, Sydney. James and Esther moved to 'Radcliffe', 36 Wandal Rd, next to 'Mornington', the home of the Hockings family. 'Mornington', 42 Wandal Rd is no longer standing and 'Radcliffe' has been extensively modified and no longer resembles the original house.

1921. James retired at the age of 76, restricted in the activities of his later years by the diabetes he had suffered from for most of his life. He was bed-ridden for years, his only outings those to the RGS. W.H. Rudd, general manager of the Walter Reid warehouse and subsequent Chairman of the RGS Trust, and Willy Turnbull ("from the north") were frequent guests. James remained as Chairman of the RGS Trust for a further seven years, retiring in 1828 at the age of 83.

1931. James died of heart failure at 'Radcliffe', Wandal Rd. on 2 Mar, aged 85. He was buried in the South Rockhampton Cemetery the following day. Although the cemetery records are comprehensive the cemetery itself was not maintained and very few tombstones remain. He was survived by Esther (81), who was to die 5 years later at 'Mornington', and children George (56), Esther (53) and Blanche (49).

The Rockhampton Grammar School said of him:

When Mr. James Thompson Tilbury became a Trustee, he was forty-nine years old; he retired almost thirty-five years later at the age of 83, having been Chairman of the Trust for a record 22 years. He had followed Mr. Henchman, taking the Chair in 1905. Mr. Tilbury, on retiring, said, "My very warm regard for the school and the interest I feel in its affairs and my wishes and hopes for its welfare remain unaltered, together with my deep appreciation of the kindly friendship and harmony which marked all our meetings making our work on the Trust a pleasure". Mr. Tilbury regretted that the "growing disabilities of age" compelled his retirement because his assocation with the School had been a great pleasure to him. Throughout his many years on the Board, Mr. Tilbury strove to uphold the School's traditions and improve its educational standard. His success in these endeavours was confirmed by many. Mr. Gair, on the occasion of Mr. Tilbury's retirement, voiced the sentiments of the Trustees when he spoke of Mr. Tilbury's devotion during the whole period of his Trusteeship and the the School's "high and successful position today is very largely due to his good work". Mr. Kellow regarded Mr. Tilbury's guidance, advice and friendship as invaluable and referred to him as the "grand Old Man of the School".

Mr. Tilbury died three years after his retirement and several pages of the 1931 School magazine paid tribute to him. With reference to his work as a Trustee, it read, "His connection with the Grammar School began in 1894 and the affairs of the institution gradually became his hobby. He husbanded its resources with great care but did not hesitate to spend money freely when the occasion demanded. Generous with his dealing with the staff and a loyal supporter of school authority, Mr. Tilbury was both an able and a sympathetic administrator and he thus established a tradition in chairmanship which the School Trust has been fortunate in perpetuating."

Mr. Tilbury was educated in England and arrived in Sydney as a business trainee for a firm of chartered accountants in 1867. After nine years servicing mercantile and pastoral firms, then operating his own accountancy business, he ventured into the storekeeping business and had an interest in squatting properties. Then, in the terrible three-year drought that began in 1883, he almost lost everything he owned. Mr. Tilbury moved to Rockhampton and began again as an accountant, and later became an auctioneer and commission agent. At the time of his death in 1931, he had held a commission as Justice of the Peace for over fifty years. "In conversation", stated the article in the 1931 School magazine, "he was cultured, clear and coherent; his natural vigour of understanding strengthened by his experience of life gave weight to his judgment which was ever sane and tolerant; his courtesy had an old world flavour due in part to his early environment and in part to natural disposition. He was a man of sterling character, loyal to his friends and not easily moved by the fluctuations of public opinion." These were the resources of the man, J. T. Tilbury, resources he applied so unselfishly to all the responsibilities he voluntarily undertook at The Rockhampton Grammar School for thirty-five memorable years.7

The obituary published by the Rockhampton Grammar School Magazine included the following:

At the date of his death on March 2nd of this year our old friend Mr. J .T. Tilbury was nearly 86 and to the very last, though physically showing the infirmities of age he retained a mental alertness and a charm of manner which surprised and delighted his friends. In conversation he was cultured, clear and coherent; his natural vigour of understanding strengthened by his experience of life gave weight to his judgement which was ever sane and tolerant; his courtesy had an old world flavour due in part to his early environment and in part to natural disposition. He was a man of stirling character, loyal to his friends and not easily moved by the fluctuations of public opinion.

It was a privilege to know such a man in his ripe old age, with his mind richly stored with memories of the past. ... Always interested in music and the drama he took pleasure in discussing the merits of the great artists of these days. He was well read in the religious and philosophic controversies of the mid-Victorians and had what amounted to an insight in regard to the social and industrial developments of the last century. He was fond of reading and of quoting the older poets and in particular he had a very accurate knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays.”8

1931. On 30 Apr probate of James' will was granted to his wife Esther as the sole executrix named in the will dated 12 Nov 1914. On 11 Jun Esther received "Realty and Personalty, £1162". The estate included: Subdivision 17 of section 1 of portion 63, parish of Hewittville, resubdivisions 7 and 8 of subdivisions 32 and 33 of portion 3. parish of Archer, and resubdivisions 12 to 16 of subdivision 1 of portion 108, parish of Rockhampton:—all in the county of Livingstone.

In her later years, Esther is remembered as being a large woman and Shirley Hockings has vivid memories of her in black, wearing a lace collar supported by whalebone that was fashionable at the time.

Following the death of James in 1931, Esther lived with her daughter Blanche and son-in-law Edwin Hockings at 42 Wandal Rd. Rockhampton.

1936. Esther (86) died at 'Mornington', 42 Wandal Rd on 10 Sep and was buried in the South Rockhampton Cemetery, where she joined her husband James and mother-in-law Sophia nee Rabnett. She was survived by children George (61), Esther (58) and Blanche (54). Esther's death certificate states that she was born in Surrey and had been in Australia "about 80 years". Her sister Sarah Esther was born 1855 in Australia. Records have not yet been found for the arrival of the Gardners.

On 24 Sep probate of her will was granted to E.M. Hockings, her son-in-law, as sole executor of her will dated 9 Jun 1931. Esther's estate included: resubdivision 25 of subdivision 1 of portion 40 and resubdivisions 12 to 16 of subdivision 1 of portion 108, parish of Rockhampton, resub divisions 7 and 8 of subdivisions 32 and 33 of portion 3, parish of Archer, and subdivision 17 of section 1 of portion 63, parish of Hewittville — all in the county of Livingstone.

The Gardners

Esther’s father William Haydon Gardner was the fourth child of John and Sarah Garner nee Haydon, who were married at Godalming, Surrey, England on 26 Feb 1805.

John and Sarah had eight, possibly 10 children born and christened at Godalming:

  • Richard Gardner. Baptised 1807
  • John Gardner. Baptised 1810, may have migrated to Australia.
  • Sarah Gardner. Baptised 1811.
  • William Haydon Gardner (1812-1874).
  • ?Esther Gardner. Baptised 7 Oct 1814.
  • James Gardner. Baptised 1816.
  • George Gardner. Baptised 1817.
  • Henry Gardner. Baptised 1819.
  • ?Frederick Gardner. Baptised 18 Oct 1820.
  • Mary Gardner. Baptised 7 Jun 1822, may have migrated to Australia.

William Haydon Gardner (1812-1874)

Baptised 30-Dec-1812, migrated to Australia (about 1855?).

1846. William Haydon (abt 34) of Godalming, Surrey married Mary Westford/Worfold/Worsfold/Waelford 26 Nov 1846 at St. Martin in the Fields, Westminster, London. [MO01454] [Esther’s marriage certificate states mother as Mary Westford, IGI = Worfold, QLD BDM = Worsfold/Waelford, death certificate signed by EMHockings = "Elizabeth -"].

According to daughter Esther's marriage certificate in 1873, her father William was a tradesman. It appears the family (William Haydon and Mary with children William John (about 8) and Esther (about 5)) migrated to Australia about 1855, based on details in Esther's death certificate and the fact that Esther's sister Sarah was born 1855 in Australia. They were living at Raymond Terrace, NSW at the time of Esther's marriage to James Thompson Tilbury in 1873.

1874. William Haydon (abt 52) died at Raymond Terrace and though no certification has been received at this point, it appears Mary Gardner nee ?Westford (parents George and Elizabeth) also died at Raymond Terrace in 1894. All the children died in QLD.

Article in Townsville Daily Bulletin, 28 Apr 1937:

"Drunk robbing is not by any means new in Townsvllle, and I want to put you somewhere where you cannot get at any more drunks. When these people get under the influence of liquor, I want to give them some protection," Mr. W. Rillie, Police Magistrate, addressed a man named William Arnold Harris, 30, who pleaded guilty before him in the Police Court on Tuesday morning to a charge that on April 25, he stole two £1 Commonwealth Bank notes, the property of William Haydon Gardner, from the person of Gardner. The defendant appeared on remand from Monday, and elected to be dealt with summarily. Detective Sergeant J. J. Sproule informed tbe Court that at about 1 o'clock on Sunday afternoon, the complainant was introduced to the defendant at a city hotel, where they had a drink and then went to another hotel. Without warning, defendant placed his hand in Gardner's pocket and took out two £1 notes. He made for the hotel door, and intimated to Gardner that he would see him later. Gardner did not see the defendant again and he made a complaint to the police. On Sunday afternoon, Plain Clothes Constable Burke and Constable Widt located the defendant, who denied the theft. He was then identified by the complainant, to whom he still denied the theft. He was then conveyed to tbe watchhouse and charged, and, still maintaining his innocence, remarked to the police "Try and break the mug down." Since then the defendant had seen fit to admit the offence. Mr. Rillie : What was the state of sobriety of the two men? DetecUve Sergeant Sproule: Defendant had a fair amount of drink taken. Tbe complainant had more drink taken than the defendant. Defendant, continued Detective Sergeant Sproule, was in search of employment. He had been in Queensland for six years, and he had worked on the Main Roads Board in the northern part of the State. He arrived in Townsville two days before this incident, and he had 11½d in his possession when arrested. In reply to Mr. Rillie, defendant stated that he would make restitution. He was drunk at the time and could hardly stand up, and he was not aware of what had happened. Mr. Rillie : I am thinking whether or not I should send you straight to gaol. Both of you were under the influence of liquor, and it seems to be a great game for you. Drunk robbing is not by any means new to Townsville. In reply to Mr. Rillle as to the complainant's position, and whether he could afford to lose his money, Detective Sergeant Sproule stated that Gardner received a salary and he could afford to lose the £2. Defendant : I do not want him to lose it. Mr. Rillle: I want to put you somewhere where you can not get at any more drunks. When these people get under the influence of liquor, I want to give them some protection. You are fined £7, to include restitution of £2, in default three months' hard labor in Stewart's Creek gaol.6


Children of William Haydon and Mary nee ?Westford:

William John Gardner (?1847-1914)

William John was baptised 26 Dec 1847 in Godalming Surrey.

His parents migrated to Australia, perhaps around 1855, and in 1182 William John was on the Aramac Divisional Board. In 1884 he married Ellen McGovan/McGovern  in QLD. Ellen (-1935) was the daughter of Bartley and Mary McGovan nee Boile.

William John and Ellen had six children who were all were born and died in QLD:

  • Esther Ellen Gardner (1886-1956). Married Harold Henry Betzel 1912 QLD.
  • William Arthur Haydon Gardner (?1887-1955). Born ?1888 at Winton. Married Alice Anne Bullen in 1916. They had 5 children:
    • Mary Gardner
    • Harold Gardner
    • John Gardner
    • George Gardner
    • William Austin Joseph Gardner (-1943). William Austin Joseph (21), QX28865 Pte. Gardner, 2/7 Regt., AIF (returned) died at military camp hospital 8 Dec 1943. At the time his family was living at Deep Creek, via Gympie.
    1916. Enlisted with the AIF 14 Feb 1916 at Townsville, QLD. He was a Bookkeeper and natural born British Subject of 28yrs 5mths, height 6', weight 11st 9lbs, dark complexion, brown-green eyes, dark brown hair, Roman Catholic. His Next Of Kin was his mother, Mrs Ellen Gardner of Winton [Oondoonooda pencilled in]. The NOK details on his Attestation Paper were crossed out due to his marrying Alice after enlisting. The NOK details were updated to Alice's address - Melling House, Central Avenue, Indooroopilly, Brisbane. He was injured in Egypt, returned to Sydney 4 Mar 1919 and was discharged 7 Jun 1919.
  • Sarah Margaret Gardner (1893-1894), died an infant in QLD.
  • Sydney Haydon Gardner (1895-1946). Sydney married Lilian Helen Hodel 1922 and they had two children:
    • John Gardner
    • Elizabeth Gardner.
    1923. The family moved to Ingham and Sydney was a chemist and businessman, initially in charge of the pharmacy of W. H. Green which he shortly afterwards acquired and continued the business until his death. He was a keen member of the Ingham Chamber of Commerce and an enthusiastic bowler, and though his health of later years prevented him from playing the game he was a weekly visitor to the green.
    1946. Sydney (51) died 17 Jul 1946 at his home at Ingham, Queensland. He was taken ill a fortnight previously at the weekly Rotary dinner at the Station Hotel - he had not missed a Rotary dinner since its inception - and had to return home, He was assisted from the car and immediately put to bed and medical aid called. His condition failed to improve and he passed away about 6 pm on the 17th. He was survived by his wife and children.
  • Austin Haydon Gardner (1897-1931)
    1931. Austin (33) died 10 Jul 1931 after several days in the Kennedy Hospital, Bowen. He had been in Bowen for over 10 years in the employ of the Betzel Bros., grocers, drapers and general merchants. He was very keen on tennis and sailing. At the time of his death at age 33, his mother (Ellen) was also living in Bowen. He was the first of the siblings to die, his death certificate listing those still living as a sister: Mrs. H.H. (Esther Ellen) Betzel and three brothers: William, Sydney and Henry.
  • Henry Haydon Gardner (1900-1944)
    1900. Born at Winton, Henry was educated at the Convent at Winton. He was a brilliant scholar and was top of the class in every grade he passed through. After leaving school he joined the staff of Mr. A.W. Fadden at Townsville and studied accountancy. In his final examination he topped the list in Queensland. He was one of the youngest auditors to be appointed by the Government in Queensland and received the appointment in his teens. He moved to Ingham as Mr. Fadden's representative and after serving with him for a few years launched out in private practice. He acted as local authority auditor for the Government in many successive years and carried out the audit of the Hinchinbrook and Cardwell Shires in turn.
    1924. Married Eileen Ryan, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. J.P. Ryan, well known residents of Ingham at the time. They had four daughters:
    • Valerie Gardner
    • ???.
    1940. Henry Haydon Gardner, accountant of East Ingham, appeared before Townsville Court of Petty Sessions 28 Feb 1940 for an alleged breach of the Companies Act. In liquidating company Arthur Martin & Co. Pty. Ltd. on 2 Nov 1939 he had failed to supply a return because he was unable to get a quorum of shareholders. The maximum penalty was £5950. Henry said he would be able to furnish the complete returns within a fortnight and the matter was adjourned.
    1944. Henry (44) died suddenly 24 Oct 1944. He had had "an attack of illness" during the night but it abated. While giving his daughter Valerie tuition in typing and shorthand he collapsed and was rushed to hospital but died a few minutes later. His wife predeceased him by several years. He left four daughters: two in Ingham, one in Toowoomba and one in Brisbane.

William John was appointed as a Justice of the Peace in Winton in 1901. Ettie stated that a brother of Esther's was a country cricketer in 1905 and this may have been William John. He is mentioned as being 'The Veteran' in a story submitted by one of the team to the North Queensland Register, 18 May 1903 regarding a cricketing trip to Oondooroo QLD. He was an auctioneer in Winton in 1908 and in the years 1909 and 1912 he was elected to represent the insurance companies on the Winton Fire Brigade Board. [ representing the Royal? ]

William John (abt 67) died 1914 [at Winton?] in Queensland.

William John's widow Ellen nee McGovan won a poster competition 28 Sep 1929 at the CWA Poster Ball, held at Tambo (south of Barcaldine). At the time of her son Austin's death In 1931, she and Austin were living in Bowen, Qld. Ellen may then have returned to the Winton area, or was visiting at the time of the CWA Community Concert at Tambo in Sep 1936, in which she participated by singing several songs.

Esther Gardner (1850-1936)

Esther was born 8 Feb 1850 Surrey, though the date of 29 Jan 1850 has also been reported [date of 8 Feb needs to be checked for baptism]. She migrated to Aust about 1855, married James Thompson Tilbury in 1873 and died 10 Sep 1936 in Rockhampton QLD, aged 86.

Sarah Elizabeth Gardner (?1855-1914)

Born 1855 NSW. Sarah (58), who had never married, died on 17 Feb 1914 at 'Radcliff', Lion Creek Rd, Rockhampton QLD. She was "the sister of W. J. Gardner of Winton, and of Mrs. J. T. Tilbury".

 Note: Given the fact that Sarah was indeed the daughter of William Haydon and Mary then the date of the Gardners arrival in Australia was prior to her birth in 1855. It has been assumed, based on details in Esther's death certificate, that Esther migrated about 1856, when she was about 6, though there is a newspaper report of her being 8 years of age when they arrived. Neither of these ages matches Sarah being born in Australia in 1855.

George Henry Gardner (1858-1886)

Born 1858 ?NSW. Second and youngest son of William Haydon (deceased), husband of Carrie and brother of W.J. Gardner of Winton, died 4 Feb 1886 after a short illness in Normanton QLD, aged 27/28 years.


[Link? Death Notice in The S.M.H, 3 Jun 1871: "On Saturday, 27th May, at the residence of her son-in-law, Kiama, ANN, relict of the late Mr. THOMAS TILBURY HAYDON, of Croydon, Surrey, England, in the 79th year of her age. Friends at a distance will please accept this intimation. (Thomas Tilbury Haydon was declared bankrupt in England on 26 Dec 1848.)]

Children of James & Esther

[1] Photo: "The History of the Rockhampton Grammar School, Centenary 1881-1980"
[2] National Library Archives
[3] History of Aramac, QLD
[4] "Winton, One hundred years of settlement 1875-1975"
[5] "The History of the Rockhampton Grammar School, Centenary 1881-1980"
[6] National Library Archives
[7] "The History of the Rockhampton Grammar School, Centenary 1881-1980"
[8] Rockhampton Grammar School Magazine, December 1931 edition
[9] Justice Robert Hope AC CMG
[10] Edwin (Ted) Hockings


  • David Tilbury 7 years ago

    Really impressive, I wish I could have done more to help. I am very impressed with the different stories of these wonderful characters.

    • Linden 7 years ago

      Thanks David! They're all certainly people to be proud of aren't they? Cheers, Linden

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