Collingwood Notables Database
Richard Samuel Norton
Publican, council election assessor
Richard Norton was a respected and well-known member of Collingwood society, despite his origins. A chair maker in London, he was convicted of theft in 1831, sentenced to transportation, and arrived in NSW on 22 July 1832. Obtaining his Certificate of Freedom in 1839, he had arrived in Melbourne by 1844 when his third child was born. He eventually married his children’s mother, Ann Laing, in 1849 and the couple added to their family until Ann’s death in 1860.
Thanks to the convict records, we have a description of Richard’s appearance. He had a dark sallow complexion, brown hair, dark grey eyes and a slightly crooked nose, and stood 5 feet 4½ inches tall. He was able to read and write.
By 1849 he was associated with the Blue Lion Hotel in Fitzroy, and by the mid 1850s he was a well enough known figure in Collingwood to participate in important local affairs, especially as he was chairman of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows, which used to meet at the Earl of Zetland Hotel in Stanley Street. Along with John Pascoe Fawkner and Thomas Hood he was an assessor for the election of the first East Collingwood council on 9 October 1855.
In 1856 he bought the Willow Tree Hotel in Vere Street Collingwood (originally called the Leeds Arms). The Loyal Hand of Friendship Lodge of the MUIOOF held its meetings at the Willow Tree which became an important centre of political machinations both under the management of Norton and later his son-in-law Charles Swift.
The Willow Tree was a sizable hotel, standing on a block with 190 feet frontage to Vere Street with a depth of 81 feet along Cromwell Street. Norton also acquired five houses and shops in Wellington Street and land in Hoddle Street.
Norton’s eldest daughter Anne married Charles Swift at St Mark’s Church of England in 1859; the couple were to take over the running of the hotel when Norton began farming near Cheltenham. Norton married for the second time some eight years after Ann Laing died; his new wife was Ann’s widowed sister Euphemia.
Despite his move, Norton maintained a strong involvement with local Collingwood affairs, and retained ownership of the hotel and his other properties; at his death the funeral procession departed from the Willow Tree. Officers and members of the Lodge met at the nearby Manchester Unity hall in Hoddle Street, their aprons trimmed with black, to accompany the cortege to the Melbourne General Cemetery.
|Birth Date||Birth Place|
|Spouse Name||Date of Marriage||Children|
|Ann Laing||11 February 1849, Scots Church||Seven born: Anne, George, Euphemia, Robert survived him|
|Euphemia Swan nee Laing||1868|
|Home Street||Home City||Status of Building|
|Vers Street sw corner Cromwell Street||Collingwood||Demolished|
|Work Street||Work City||Status of Building|
|Vere Street sw corner Cromwell Street||Collingwood||Demolished|
|St Mark's Anglican, Fitzroy||MUIOOF: Loyal Hand of Friendship Lodge|
|Death Date||Death Place||Cemetery|
|3 April 1880||Moorabbin||MGC|
Hibbins, A short history of Collingwood; The Argus; Barrett, The inner suburbs.