James Wilshire

A large part of Strathfield is built on land granted to James Wilshire in 1808 by Governor Macquarie, later known as the Redmire Estate.  This article briefly discusses Wilshire and his descendents, some of whom feature in the later history of Strathfield.   

James Wilshire [1771-1840] immigrated to Sydney from England in 1800 as a free settler on the ‘Rear Admiral’.  Wilshire took a position as a commissary clerk and storekeeper until March 1804 and then held the position of Acting NSW Deputy Commissary until August 1806 and later from September 1808 to March 1812[i]. In 1805, he married Esther Pitt of Malgrave Place on the Hawkesbury[ii].  Children of this marriage included:  Louisa, William Pitt Wilshire, Claude Wilshire, Victor Wilshire, Hector Wilshire and James Robert Wilshire.  2GB Broadcaster Brian Wilshire, who was born in Strathfield, is a descendent of James Wilshire’s son, Hector Wilshire.

In 1803 Wilshire established a tannery at Brickfield Hill and also established himself as a farmer and grazier leasing land at Lane Cove in 1805.  In 1808, Wilshire received a land grant of 570 acres [about 230 hectares] in present day Strathfield. According to Sydney Morning Herald [10/8/1912], the land was granted to Wilshire on the special representations of Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson, as the following extract from the deed of grant shows:

‘Granted to James Wilshire, his heirs and assigns in consequence of strong letters of recommendations from the late illustrious and lamented Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson to Governor King’[iii].

Wilshire’s connection to Lord Nelson was through his wife Esther’s family. Esther’s mother, Mary Pitt was the cousin of George Matcham, who married Catherine, Lord Nelson’s sister[iv].  Presumably aided by Wilshire’s recommendations, grants were made on 1 November 1808 to Jemima Pitt [sister of Esther], James Wilshire [husband of Esther] and William Faithfull [husband of Esther’s sister Susannah] at Burwood[v].  These grants were confirmed by Governor Macquarie 1 January 1810. 

James Wilshire’s land was named Wilshire’s Farm and ran to the Cook’s River from the current boundary of Redmyre Road, bordered by The Boulevarde and Coronation Parade at the eastern boundary. The land was eventually sold to Samuel Terry in 1824 and renamed the Redmire Estate.  This estate was subdivided in 1867 and forms a large part of the current district of Strathfield.  Wilshire also amassed land holdings near Botany and Hawkesbury between 1809 and 1837[vi]. 

In 1812, he retired from government service to pursue private business interests.   In 1826, he established an abattoir near Darling Harbour and his businesses were thriving by 1830; Wilshire’s tannery served as the colony’s principal source of leather for domestic use and for export, and also produced soap, candles and other products[vii].  James Wilshire died 9 September 1840 and was buried at St James’ but later removed to Gore Hill Cemetery North Sydney. 

Upon his death, the tannery was taken over by his son James Robert Wilshire [1809-1860].  J R Wilshire was one of City of Sydney’s first Aldermen [1842-53] and its second elected Mayor [1843-44].  Wilshire’s term of office as Mayor was celebrated for the fancy dress ball, the first of its kind in Australia which he gave for 700 guests[viii].  Wilshire was one of four representatives of the City of Sydney when the first Parliament was elected under responsible government in 1856; the other three were Robert Campbell, Charles Cowper and Henry Parkes[ix].  The first Parliament only lasted until the end of 1857 and on its dissolution Wilshire became a member of the Legislative Council until his death in 1860[x].  Perdon [1997] notes that Wilshire was also a magistrate and trustee of the Savings Bank of NSW. 

James Wilshire was a distant cousin by marriage to Joseph Thompson and assisted Thompson’s migration to Sydney from London.  Thompson established an importing and wholesale business called ‘London House’ in Pitt St Sydney.  Later, Thompson’s daughter Elizabeth married Wilshire’s son, James Robert Wilshire.  After the death of Elizabeth in 1846, Wilshire married her much younger sister Sarah who apparently suffered ‘some cold shouldering’ as the marriage took place prior to legalisation of marriage to sisters of deceased wives, though her father gave his consent to the marriage[xi].  Sarah Wilshire’s obituary [SMH August 10 1912] notes that the family resided for some years at Admiralty House [then called Wotonga House], on Kirribilli Point, before moving to ‘Moutrion’ The Boulevarde, Strathfield. Her obituary noted that she died in a residence located ‘on part of the old grant to Mr James Wilshire, Deputy Commissary-General of New South Wales, of 570 acres known then as Redmyre’[xii].  Many other members of the Thompson family resided in Strathfield including her brothers Samuel Thompson of ‘Rothsay’ Abbotsford Rd Homebush and Thomas James Thompson of ‘Malvern’ The Boulevarde Strathfield.  TJ Thompson married Jane Jones, daughter of David Jones and sister of Dr Phillip Sydney Jones of ‘Llandilo’ The Boulevarde Strathfield.  Family connections occur on many occasions between the Jones, Thompson and Wilshire families. 

James Thompson Wilshire [1837-1909] was the son of James Robert and Elizabeth Thompson.  He married Alice Quodling.  J T Wilshire was Mayor of Burwood in 1886 and was described in the Burwood Municipal Jubilee [1924] as:

‘responsible for much useful work in a public capacity.  He was a member of one of Australia’s oldest families and his father was first Mayor of Sydney.  The late Mr J T Wilshire represented Burwood [Canterbury electorate] in the State Parliament from 1889 to 1891.  He was a Vice-President of the Cremation Society.’

Clara Thompson, daughter of James Robert Wilshire and Elizabeth Thompson, married engineer William Quodling and resided at ‘Couranga’ The Boulevarde Strathfield [now demolished, once opposite Llandilo].  Both William Quodling and Edward Lloyd Jones [Chairman of David Jones & Co and a relative by marriage] were killed in a rail accident at Redfern in 1894.  

Baker, T., Thompson/Wilshire Family Tree, unpublished, 2002.

Burwood Municipal Jubilee, Burwood Council, 1924.

Emerson, Arthur, Historical Dictionary of Sydney, Scarecrow Press, London, 2001.

Hay, Margaret Darymple, The Thompson Story, 1962 [National Library of Australia Manuscript].

Perdon, Renato, Sydney’s Aldermen – A Biographical Register of Sydney City Aldermen 1842-1992, Sydney City Council, 1997.

‘James Wilshire’, Colonial Secretary Index 1788-1825, at www.records.nsw.gov.au.

‘Mary Pitt’, Journeys in Time: People, Macquarie University at www.lib.mq.edu.au

‘An early pioneer: Death of Mrs Sarah Wilshire’, Sydney Morning Herald, p13, August 10 1912.


[i] James Wilshire, State Records, 2004

[ii] Hay, Thompson Story, p10, 1962

[iii] SMH, August 10 1912, page 13

[iv] Journeys in Time, Macquarie University, 2004

[v] Journeys in Time, Macquarie University, 2004. Note the boundary between Faithfull and Wilshire’s grants is the current boundary between Strathfield and Burwood Councils.

[vi] Emerson, 2001

[vii] Emerson, 2001

[viii] Hay, p20, Thompson Story, 1962

[ix] Hay, p21, Thompson Story, 1962

[x] Hay, p21, Thompson Story, 1962

[xi] Hay, p21, Thompson Story, 1962

[xii] SMH, August 10 1912, page 13

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