James Bent

James Bent (c1804-75)

Market Gardener, Hotelkeeper & Convict

Location: CofE*A*42

The legal father of Sir Thomas Bent (q.v.), was born circa 1804, the son of George Bent and his wife Amelia; his place of birth is a source of confusion and may possibly be Dumfries, Scotland according to the entry in the burial register. At Liverpool, England, Bent was convicted of house-breaking and arrived in New South Wales on board the Asia in 1833. In July 1838 he married Irish-born Maria née Toomey (d 1867) the daughter of Thomas Toomey and Mary née Durack who arrived in 1836 on the Duchess of Northumberland as free migrants. They were to have ten children; Thomas (1838-1909), John, James (1843-58), Edmund (b 1845), Agnes (Agatha) (b 1847), Maria (b 1849; married William Huntley), Rosanna and George (c1852-81). Two others died in infancy. James found work on Sir John Jamison’s (1776-1844) grand estate Regentville, Penrith working on the extensive gardens. 

In 1843 the family moved to Surry Hills and six years later to Goulburn before migrating to the Port Phillip district where James found work as a contractor residing with the family at Fitzroy. With the onset of the gold rushes in 1851, James resisted the temptation to join and instead set up a market garden (cabbages, cauliflowers, tomatoes, pumpkins and root vegetables) in Jasper Road, East Bentleigh showing a remarkable degree of lateral thinking during a time when the massive influx of population brought about a increase in the price and demand for food. In 1868, Bent was the subject of controversy when Thomas as chairman of the Moorabbin Roads Board awarded him a road making contract “without first going through the established channels of calling for tenders”. 

He later opened “The Gardeners’ Arms” hotel (1861) on the corner of McKinnon and Jasper Roads and died on 23 January 1875 and was buried the following day; his will dividing his estate “amongst his children” was notable in the absence of Thomas.

ADB Volume 3 1851-90 (A-C).
Glass, M., “Tommy Bent. Bent by name, Bent by nature” (1993).
Cribbin, J., “Moorabbin. A Pictorial History” (1995).

Rev. Sir C. (Clarence) Irving Benson

Rev Sir C (Clarence) Irving Benson (1897-1980)

Methodist Clergyman & Journalist

Location: Lawn*G*90

Migrating to Melbourne in 1916, Benson began his long association with the Methodist Church (1916-67), culminating with his appointment to the Lonsdale Street Wesley Church (1926-67). He initially served in the Hamilton district and later in Toorak (1918-22) where he came under the influence of Rev. William Fitchett (Boroondara Cemetery); years later Benson was to comment on Fitchett’s “fatherly influence”. 

As a preacher, no man could match his spiritually challenging, well researched and eloquent sermons, yet his influence came through his column ‘Church and People’ with The Herald (1923-79), the controversial Pleasant Sunday Afternoon gatherings (1933-67) and through his ‘Questions and Answers’ program on ABC radio (1938-44) that allowed him to speak fearlessly on social issues. One overseas guest when asked what to do while in Melbourne, was told to see the Melbourne Cup and talk on the PSA; Benson’s grievance was with the priorities. Described by one critic as “the doyen of Melbourne’s wowsers” (On the introduction of Tattersall’s: “Do they believe that this bad thing will promote the morality of Victoria? They must know that it will swell the tide of paganism”), Benson was an astute fund raiser who used his memberships of the Savage and Melbourne Clubs to increase donations to the Wesley Central Mission; the “Irving Benson Court” for the elderly in Coburg is named in his honour. A noted book collector, Benson served as chairman of the Public (State) Library (1940-66) and also the combined Public Library, Museums and National Gallery of Victoria (1942-46). He wrote a number of books including “A Century of Victorian Methodism” (1935) and “The Man With the Donkey” (1965). 

Knighted in 1963 – the first Methodist minister of any country – Benson died at Bodalla Nursing Home, Kew on 6 December 1980 survived by his second wife.

ADB Volume 13 1940-90 (A-De).
The Sun 8 December 1980.
The Age 8 December 1980.
The Herald 8 & 9 December 1980.
Benson, C. (ed), “A Century of Victorian Methodism” (1935).
Brennan, N., “John Wren” (1971).

(Image courtesy Uniting Church Archives)

Matthew Bennett

Matthew Bennett (1862-1951)

Politician, Councillor, Shire President & Farmer

Location: CofE*ZG*40

Born on 20 January 1862 at Carngham, Victoria the son of English born parents Joseph Bennett, farmer and Elizabeth née Temby. A dairy farmer near Catani, Victoria Bennett was elected a councillor of Koo-Wee-Rup (1925-51) and was twice Shire President (1931-32, 1941-42). He was a staunch supporter of the country farmer and served as president of the Catani branch of the Country party before being elected to represent the local seat of Gippsland West from 1929 to 1950; at the time of his retirement from State Parliament was the oldest member at the age of 88. A pioneer member of the Farmers’ Union which merged to form the Country Party in 1928, Bennett was “recognised as one of the party’s stalwarts”. 

Retiring to 631 Inkerman Road, Caulfield, Bennett died on 16 January 1951 and was predeceased by his wife Mary née Simpson (d 1925) whom he married on 31 October 1889.

Thomson, K & Serle, G., “A Biographical Register of the Victorian Legislature 1851-1900” (1972).
The Age 17 January 1951.

If you have any further information to add to this biography, please contact us. All contributions will be gratefully acknowledged.

James Bell

James Bell (1836-1908)

Merchant, Businessman & Politician

Location: Pres*H*86

James Bell was born at Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire, Scotland in 1836 the son of James Bell, store-keeper and Anne née Turnbull; before he migrated to Victoria in 1857 he had already established a business on his own. At Dunolly it did not take long for Bell to become a successful store-keeper with Melbourne Punch noting years later that he “quickly evinced that characteristic desire peculiar to the Scot to be at the top of the tree” and by 1862 he had another store at St. Arnaud. He later went on to become first mayor (1862-65) in the local Dunolly Municipal Council (1862-77). 

In state politics, Bell stood for the Legislative Council seat of North West Province (1882-1904) as a ‘moderate’ favouring free and compulsory secular education, trade protection, Federation and equitable taxation; such was his popularity that until his retirement, he never had to recontest again. Described as one of the “best tempered of men, genial and kind”, Bell served as Minister without portfolio (1886-89) and Minister for Defence (1889-90) after the death of Sir James Lorimer (St. Kilda Cemetery); in 1889 he was president of the Royal Commission on gold mining. As a grain merchant, his company “James Bell & Co” became one of Victoria’s largest exporters of wheat with branches in Adelaide, Sydney and South Africa. Bell was caught up with the wicked ways of the notorious land speculator (Sir) Matthew Davies (Cheltenham Pioneer Cemetery) as a fellow director of the “Mercantile Bank” (333 Collins Street, Melbourne) that collapsed during the depression. Bell was charged on 4 January 1893 along with other co-directors with “conspiring to issue a false and fraudulent balance sheet” in February 1892 when an emergency loan of £100,000 from the Commercial Bank was improperly used to strengthen the balance sheet; defended by Alfred Deakin (St. Kilda Cemetery) before Magistrate Joseph Panton (St. Kilda Cemetery) and seven JP’s he was acquitted. 

Having moved to Melbourne in 1886, Bell resided at Sherbrooke – McMillan Street, Elsternwick where he died on 24 February 1908; his wife Elizabeth née Riddell and nine of their eleven children survived him. The Argus wrote;

“Mr Bell brought to politics knowledge of the requirements of his district, and a personal acquaintance with country interests generally, and the conditions of commercial life. He was…always on the side of those who endeavoured to adapt politics to the conditions of the country as against those who try to subordinate the conditions to political exigencies”.

ADB Volume 3 1851-90 (A-C).
The Age 26 & 27 February 1908.
The Argus 26 & 27 February 1908.
The Herald 25 February 1908. 
Melbourne Punch 23 June 1904.
The Dunolly Progress and Bealiba Advocate 27 February 1908.
Dunolly and Betbetshire Express 28 February 1908.
The Weekly Times 23 March 1895.
Thomson, K & Serle, G., “A Biographical Register of the Victorian Legislature 1851-1900” (1972).
Cannon, M., “The Land Boomers” (1966).

(Reproduced with kind permission of the Victorian Parliament Library)

George Bayliss

George Bayliss (1893-1935)

Aussie Rules Footballer

Location: RC*X*200

Born in 1893, the son of John Bayliss (d 1940) and his wife Elizabeth (d 1925) who went on to become a champion footballer with the Richmond Football Club (1914-23) where he played 89 games kicking 217 goals and was a member of the 1919 losing and 1921 winning premiership team; in their 1920 premiership year, which Bayliss missed through injury (“attack of tonsillitis”), he topped the league goalkicking list with 63 goals. At 179cm tall and 74.5kg, Bayliss was described as “an opportunist forward…with a deadly left foot shot for goal” who was recruited from Balmain Church of Christ team; he later went on to play with Albury, Footscray (1925, 9 games 18 goals), Ararat and Camberwell before retiring from the great game.  

In a glowing feature, The Herald wrote that he;

“will always be remembered as one of the most glorious kicks League football has known. Many place him second only to Dave McNamara (q.v.) in distance kicking and they claim that he was more accurate than the tall record holder. Both were left-footers. Bayliss was a born footballer with a natural flair for kicking…renowned for clever position play. Bayliss could leap with the best high flyers of the day. At his prime, he took a mark at Collingwood which old Richmond supporters still talk about [when he] went up high enough to kick team mate Mel Morris in the ear. And Morris [at 179 cm] was no midget!”. 

Bayliss was also a renowned quick thinker; during a game against Essendon in 1921, the ball was punctured as it when through for a point. The Essendon full-back unwittingly kicked the ball to the umpire only for Bayliss to intercept it and kick a goal. 

Residing at 142 Dover Street, Richmond, Bayliss was killed in tragic circumstances on 2 July 1935 and was buried two days later.

The Age 5 July 1935.
The Herald 4 July 1935.
Holmesby, G & Main, J., “The Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers” (1998).

Edith Helen Barrett

Edith Helen Barrett (1872-1939)

Medical Practitioner

Location: CofE*Z*111

Born on 29 October 1872 at Emerald Hill (South Melbourne), eighth child of James Barrett and Catherine née Edkins and educated at South Melbourne College; Barrett matriculated in 1888 before entering Melbourne University (MB, 1901; MD, 1907). Both her father and four brothers were also doctors, the most prominent being (Sir) James (Melbourne General Cemetery) who was described somewhat critically as “dogmatic and ruthless…not only an unpopular man but also a widely ridiculed one”. 

Barrett’s medical career included a stint as resident medical officer at the Melbourne Hospital (1901-04) and on the honorary medical staff at the Queen Victoria Hospital (1904-34); her private general practice was unexceptional allowing her to devote her energies to advancing the medical and social conditions of poorer women and children. Described as “intelligent and sensitive”, Barrett’s greatest achievement was the foundation of the Bush Nursing Association of Victoria in 1910, which had a profound effect on advancing rural heath, but her role was largely overshadowed by her brother; by 1945, the BNA had some 67 hospitals and 15 nursing centres. She served as honorary secretary from 1914 to 1920 and honorary assistant secretary from 1920 to 1935 upon James’ return from active service. Barrett was also active with the Australian Red Cross, the National Council of Women in Victoria and the Victorian Women’s Medical Association; for her war work she received both the OBE and CBE in 1918. 

For all her indefatigable work, only the National Council of Women paid tribute after her death on 1 February 1939, aged 66 years old.

ADB Volume 7 1891-1939 (A-Ch).
The Argus 3 February 1939.

Stephen Barker

Stephen Barker (1846-1924)

Senator, Trade Unionist & Councillor

Location: Ind*A*105

Born in 1846 at Sussex, England son of Stephen Barker, farmer and Hannah née Nagle, Barker was one of the founders of the Victorian Labour Party and a pioneer of trade unionism in Victoria; his early career was notable for the fight for better working conditions for which he was instrumental behind the passing of the Factories Act (1896).

Barker’s first foray into trade unionism was with the Pressers’ Society serving as president (1894-96, 1900-01), secretary (1899) and delegate to the Trades Hall Council (1892-02). A crusader against long hours – himself, ironically working 96 hour weeks – Barker went on to serve as president (1897-98) and secretary of the THC (1901-10), succeeding John Barrett (Fawkner Cemetery); a moderate, he was known to abhor strikes. As president his strength was as an organiser and he assisted with setting up numerous wages boards for some sixty unions. Barker went on to serve as a member of the North Melbourne City Council (1901-05) and was behind the amalgamation with the Melbourne City Council during a short stint as mayor (Sep-Oct 1905). He was later elected to the Commonwealth Senate (1910-19, 1922-24) after a number of unsuccessful attempts (1901, 1903 and 1906), only to see the party split during the anti-conscription debates of the Great War and was a member of the parliamentary delegation to France. 

“Rotund and ruddy-faced”, Barker was similar in appearance to the author Rolf Boldrewood (q.v.); he died from cancer on 21 June 1924 aged 79 and resided at 171 Hotham Street, East St. Kilda.  Many Labour dignitaries attended Barker’s funeral, among them Senator (Sir) George Pearce (1870-1952) who commented “his death removes an interesting figure from the political history of this country”.

ADB Volume 7 1891-1939 (A-Ch).
The Argus 23 June 1924.
The Herald 21 & 23 June 1924.

(By permission of the National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an22922433)

Richard Baker

Richard Baker (1830-1915)

Politician, Temperance Advocate & Mining Investor

Location: Meth*A*100A

Born and educated on Isle of Wright, England, Baker migrated to Victoria in January 1854 and went straight to Ballarat where he was said to have taken the first brick making machine. Before moving to Richmond in 1887, he was closely associated with mining, commercial and agricultural pursuits in Ballarat and prominent with the Mine Owners’ Association. 

In state politics, Baker was elected to the seat of Wimmera (1883-89) and Lowan (1889-94) serving as Minister for Public Instruction and Minister for Customs (1893-94) under Sir James Patterson (Melbourne General Cemetery). As Minister for Public Instruction, he and Thomas Brodribb (Boroondara Cemetery) were in “violent disagreement” and resided over the collapse of the technical colleges and the closure of the Training College. Baker was chiefly known as an advocate of temperance and in Parliament was said to have “rendered most valuable services to the cause of Temperance Legislation”. Among other notable temperance identities of the time were Sir James Munro (St. Kilda Cemetery) and Sir Richard Heales (Melbourne General Cemetery). In a record to rival that of Joseph Brown (q.v.) for the number of electoral defeats – Baker unsuccessfully contested the seats of West Ballarat (1871), Castlemaine (1874), Grenville (1874), Wimmera (twice, 1880), Lowan (1894), and Jolimont (1897). 

He resided at Risdon – Seymour Road, Elsternwick and died on 10 March 1915 aged 84 years old.

“Temperance in Australia. The Memorial Volume of the International Temperance Convention, Melbourne, 1888” (1889).
The Argus 13 March 1915.
The Age 13 March 1915.
Lumsden, D. (ed), “Sands & McDougall’s Victorian Parliamentary Companion” (1889).
Thomson, K & Serle, G., “A Biographical Register of the Victorian Legislature 1851-1900” (1972).
ADB Volume 3 1851-90 (A-C).

(Image reproduced with kind permission of the Victorian Parliament Library)

(Jack) Kingsbury ‘King’ Baillieu

(Jack) Kingsbury ‘King’ Baillieu (1900-26)

Estate Agent

Location: CofE*V*243

A member of the prominent Melbourne establishment family, Kingsbury was born on 29 September 1900 the son of Arthur Sydney (1872-1943), estate agent and his wife Ethel Mary née Ham (1875-1932) who married in 1899; among the many legends of the Baillieus, it was a tradition to “regard loyalty to the family as the highest duty of all”.  

Educated at Melbourne Church of England (Boys’) Grammar (1913-18), Baillieu worked for a period with the “English, Scottish and Australasian Bank” before becoming a director of “Baillieu Allard (q.v.) Pty Ltd”, originally known as “WL Baillieu & Co”, founded in 1892 by his legendary uncle William Lawrence (1859-1936); in 1904 the firm was given to Kingsbury’s father to manage so WL could go onto achieve greater things.  

Residing at Kinniel – Grange Road, Toorak, in February 1924 he married Grace née Lavers (“a well-known musical comedy actress”) and died on 21 April 1926 from pneumonia after an illness lasting four days; of his three siblings, (Lelda) Sunday (1906-81) went on to become well-known as a patron of modern artists such as Albert Tucker (q.v.) through the creation of Heide (1935-81) with husband John Reed.  

Obituaries of the day noted Baillieu “was at the threshold of a promising and useful career” and “especially among the younger set in Melbourne, will miss [his] bright personality and kindly nature”; a keen sportsman it was reported that he entertained at his home in 1925 the English cricketer JB Hobbs.

The Argus 22 April 1926.
The Age 22 April 1926.
The Herald 21 April 1926.
“Liber Melburniensis”, Centenary Edition (1965).
ADB Volume 7 1891-1939 (A-Ch).
Corfield, J, Wickham, D & Gervasoni, C., “The Eureka Encyclopaedia” (2004).

Arthur Rudolph Bailey

Arthur Rudolph Bailey (1863-1938)


Location: CofE*Y*981

Born at Ballarat West, Victoria on 21 August 1863 the son of Christopher Bailey and Ellen née Jones and educated locally where his talents led to a stint as a commercial photographer; he won a medal at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition, London (1886). In 1890 Bailey decided to enter the Victorian College of Pharmacy and after graduating, commenced business four years later at 175 Glenferrie Road, Malvern. 

He became a leading member of the pharmacy trade working tirelessly to improve the professional standing of the industry and served as a council member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Victoria (1901-37) and later with the Pharmacy Board of Victoria (1912-37); he was President of both bodies numerous times. One contemporary described Bailey as “a dapper figure, with a waxed and pointed moustache and a buttonhole flower”, his expertise allowed his representation at many conferences and was a driving force behind the Pure Foods Act. For many years, Bailey served as a magistrate on the Malvern bench and was a noted Freemason, Rotarian and member of the Australian Natives’ Association. 

Residing at 1 Sorrett Avenue, Malvern, he died on 25 April 1938 aged 74 survived by his wife Margaret née Tough whom he married in 1895; three sons became pharmacists.

ADB Volume 7 1891-1939 (A-Ch).
The Age 26 April 1938.
Haines, G., “A History of Pharmacy in Victoria” (1994).
“The Australasian Journal of Pharmacy”, 30 May 1938.