Daily Archives: November 30, 2008

Port Phillip Apostle No 6 James Purves, landowner

[Check in the comments below for more information about James Purves. As you will see by the end of my entry, I’m quite perplexed about all these Purveses]

James Purves was born at Berwick-on-Tweed on 25 May 1813 and arrived in Van Diemens Land in 1837, moving across to Phillip in 1839.   He commenced practising as an architect and building surveyor that year with an office in Bourke Street opposite Mr Allan’s (whoever he was).  He obtained an auctioneers license in the same year- possibly that’s where he met Welsh?  A different address is given for his office- Little Collins Street, next to McLeans store; then another notice that he moved into McLeans store itself.  Either way, he is located in the commercial centre of town.  He sold the auctioneers business to H. H. Atkinson in 1841, and maintained another architect office in Collins Street from 1840.  His private residence was in Newtown (now Fitzroy) in 1840, then Richmond in 1844 and 1845.  He married Caroline, the daughter of Thomas Guillod of London in October 1842.  His son, James Liddell Purves, who was a barrister, columnist, free trade parliamentarian and member of the Australian Natives Association, was born in Swanston Street in 1843.


There’s his son.  A fine upstanding man he is too.

James Purves Snr. is listed as holding land with Chirnside at the Loddon River and Geelong in 1840, then took a license to run stock in the  Portland Bay district with Chisholm in 1842-3 (but I doubt if it is John Moffat Chisholm, who seems to have always used all three names; there are other Chisholms in Port Phillip) . He also held land in Western Port with Dixon 1842-3; and with E. W. Hobson.  He won a prize for a horse at the first show, held on 3 March 1842 at the cattlemarket on the corner of Elizabeth and Victoria streets- a “failure” of a show, according to Garryowen, where “the exhibits were a vast disappointment”.

There is no evidence of much connection with the other Twelve Apostles.  He seems to be quite active in leasing or purchasing properties in the early 1840s, especially during 1842 when the depression was kicking in, but there does not seem to be any further action after cutting his partnerships in 1843. Unlike the other Twelve Apostles, he had a profession to fall back on- perhaps this saved him from the insolvency that engulfed the others.  He joined with Fawkner and Chisholm in fighting the arrangements made to cover Rucker’s debt once it all went pear-shaped.  In September 1846 he helped fight a fire in a coach factory. By 1850 he was purchasing land again.  He had a licence at Tootgarook- or is it Toolgaroop?-  between 1850-69 where he became an importer and racehorse breeder and also at Traralgon between June 1853 and 1855.

He obviously had the money to send his son ‘home’ to England for his education, his law degree and his Grand Tour.  His son published the diary he wrote on the way home – A Young Australian’s Log. I wonder if that gives any more information?

This is all so disjointed.  There’s a Thomas and Henry Purves in Port Phillip at the time, who DO come out very strongly in Judge Willis’ favour, but I don’t know if they’re connected to James Purves at all.  There’s several mentions of Mr Purves in the newspaper, but I’m not sure which one it is.  And how and why did James Purves get involved in the Rucker scheme?  Search me.


Garryowen (again)

Billis and Kenyon Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip

Kenyon Index.