Collingwood Notables Database
James David Lyon Campbell
Early settler, pastoralist
J D L Campbell, usually known as Lyon Campbell, was one of Collingwood’s earliest residents, having bought Crown Portion 79 in the Government land sales of 1839. On this land, around 20 acres, he built a house called Campbellfield, designed by surveyor and architect Robert Russell. Here he lived until his untimely death in 1844. His neighbours along the riverfront in what was eventually called Abbotsford were other 1840s settlers such as John Dight, John Orr, Edward Curr and Georgiana McCrae.
Campbell, his wife Alicia, and three children had arrived in Sydney in January 1839. A few months later Campbell overlanded to Port Phillip with a group of men including young agent James Graham, to whom we are indebted for much day-to-day description of life in the colony. They pitched a tent on Campbell’s allotment and Campbell and Graham lived there for about six weeks. ‘The moment Mr Campbell saw this country he made up his mind to push his fortune in it, build a house on his allotment and bring down [his family]’. Having made arrangements for construction, he left young Graham to supervise the property, returning to Parramatta by sea.
The imposing house, according to James Graham, was considered a great extravagance. ‘They (Port Phillipians) think that money spent on comfort, specially on a house, is quite thrown away and for this reason Mr Campbell is thought very foolish, but he little cares for that if he can make Mrs Campbell and the children comfortable’. By February 1840 the whole family was in Melbourne. Campbell also applied for pastoral licences for Crown land at Bullarook and Neil Creek in 1840, and established extensive herds of sheep and cattle. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace, was a member of the district Council of the County of Bourke, a member of the Port Phillip Association and a close friend of Governor LaTrobe. Campbell let part of the Campbellfield land to Philip and William Shillinglaw who undertook to keep the family in fruit and vegetables. The garden was regarded as one of the finest in the district until the great floods of 1844 caused a scene of devastation.
The McCraes from Mayfield were frequent visitors and the lads of the two families were playfellows. Campbell’s energetic galloping on his high-spirited horse Clifton impressed the McCrae boys. However while both Georgiana and Andrew McCrae had a high regard for Campbell, Georgiana developed a deep dislike of Alicia Campbell. This began when Alicia circulated malicious gossip that Mrs Edward Curr had been Curr’s illiterate cook before her marriage. The last straw was Alicia’s uncaring behaviour towards Campbell in his final illness in 1844, followed by appearing at a dinner with uncovered head and ‘devoid of outward signs of sorrow’ on the night of his funeral. James Graham on the other hand quite idolised Alicia and continued to look after her affairs many years after her departure.
Campbell’s death was a disaster. Despite having arrived with substantial capital, he was heavily overcommitted. Alicia wanted to return home for the sake of her sons’ education but could not get a good offer for the property. The house was too large and expensive to keep up for most Melburnians, and too far from the centre of town for those officials whom it would otherwise have suited. Moreover it was not well built and needed a number of repairs. Finally in 1848 Graham managed to get neighbour John Dight to raise his original paltry offers to £2000, still a pittance compared to the £7000 the house was rumoured to have cost to build. It remained a rental property until the 1880s when it was bought by architect William Pitt and re-named Mikado. By that time the landholding had been reduced to about three acres.
Dight's mill, Yarra House and Campbellfield (to the south) on Hodgkinson's 1858 map
|6 August 1809
|Date of Marriage
|3 sons born prior to arrival in Australia; 23 June 1843 daughter born, died 3 days later.
|Status of Building
|31 May 1844
|Fawkner (removed from Old Melbourne Cemetery)
The Argus; Billis, Pastoral pioneers of Port Phillip; Collingwood Conservation Study; Graham, Pioneer merchant; McCrae, Georgiana’s Journal