Notable People of Collingwood

Collingwood Notables Database

Samuel Ramsden


Contractor at Clifton Hill Quarries, early settler, Councillor, land owner.

Personal Photo 1

Samuel Ramsden had a straightforward, plain speaking manner and used his skills to take full advantage of all the opportunities that the new colony of Victoria had to offer to rise from a humble station in life to one of wealth and position.

Samuel Ramsden arrived in Melbourne in February 1844, with his wife Elizabeth, as a journeyman stonemason from Yorkshire. He soon set up business with Charles and Henry Brown, who were friends from England. They had a successful contracting and building business, Brown & Ramsden. By 1846 they were quarrying bluestone from quarries on Crown land, later known as the Clifton Hill Quarries, and working hard, often up to 18 hours a day. This put them in front and, with few competitors, gave Brown & Ramsden practically all the trade. The firm won the contracts to provide paving in Collins Street, to build the first portion of the Yarra Bend Asylum, to construct the North Melbourne Benevolent Asylum, St Peter’s Church, Eastern Hill (Ramsden’s children were baptised there) and many other buildings. Samuel also travelled to Portland for the building of the Court House.

These contracts were to set Samuel up for the rest of his successful life. The firm of Brown & Ramsden was dissolved in 1853 and afterwards Samuel continued on his own in a number of different pursuits – he set up a Flour Mill in Leicester Street Carlton in 1855 and in 1867 he acquired paper making machinery from Thomas Kenny and built the first Paper Mill, on land granted by the Government on the southern bank of the Yarra, in what is now Southbank. This began operating in 1868 and is credited as the start of Australian Paper Mills (APM). Every business he turned his hand to became a success.  

Samuel Ramsden was active from 1847 onwards buying land in Collingwood, Clifton Hill, Fitzroy, East Melbourne, St Kilda, Malvern and Warrnambool and a sheep property in Hamilton.  He acquired the deeds to plots of suburban land in Jika Jika in late 1851 and subsequently built a nine room bluestone house on the plot, which was to become Ramsden Street, Clifton Hill. Charles and Henry Brown built bluestone houses next door, using bluestone conveniently to hand from the quarry. These are the oldest extant houses in Clifton Hill, originally on substantial landholdings. Although their addresses until well into the twentieth century were Ramsden Street, the houses were oriented to look down the hill and across Collingwood towards Melbourne. With no encroaching high buildings, they would have had a vista that stretched for miles. The buildings can be seen on an 1855 map and on the early twentieth century Board of Works Detail Plan (see links below). Ramsden’s land was not subdivided until 1888, after his wife’s death.

Samuel lived in the house with his family of sons and one daughter from the mid 1850s. Tragedy had struck the family in 1853 when William died aged two, and again in 1857 when Charles died aged one day, to be followed by the death of his only daughter Eliza in 1862. Which woman was living with him in Ramsden Street is less clear. He married his second wife Eliza Timbrell in 1862 but at least the younger of his children seemed to have been born to her prior to this, and no Victorian death of his first wife has been located. She may have died in Manchester in 1861 or 1862.

Samuel was elected to the East Collingwood Council in 1857 and served until 1859. A report in The Age on 3 June 1859 states that ‘the East Collingwood Council has been somewhat quiet of late. Mr Mason has not insulted Mr Hood for a fortnight and Samuel Turner has been known to speak civilly to Mr Samuel Ramsden.’ It must have been interesting times at Council meetings!

Samuel continued to own the Clifton Hill house, letting it after the family moved to East Melbourne. After the move, Samuel continued to be involved in Collingwood, with the rate books listing houses, a hotel and vacant land that he owned. He built Fitzroy Terrace in Clarendon Street, East Melbourne and then a substantial and splendid villa next door in 1864, in which he lived until his death. These buildings were demolished for the Mercy & Freemasons hospitals.

He died in 1877 survived by his second wife and four sons. His funeral had a cortège of over 120 vehicles, the Mayor of Melbourne was a pall bearer and flags were flown at half mast on the principal buildings in Melbourne. He had become an important business man and left a considerable fortune which bears testimony to his industry and business aptitude.


Life Summary

Birth Date Birth Place
28 July 1822 East Ardsley, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England
Spouse Name Date of Marriage Children
Elizabeth Hillidge, 1823-1861? 1842, Manchester George 1846, Robert 1848, Richard 1849, William 1851, Eliza 1853
Eliza Timbrell 1862, Melbourne ? Benjamin 1855 Charles 1857.
Home Addresses
Home Street Home City Status of Building
27 and 29 Clifton Avenue Clifton Hill Extant, now two houses
Church Lodge
St Peter's Anglican, Eastern Hill, Melbourne
Death Date Death Place Cemetery
19 February 1877 East Melbourne MGC

The Argus; The Age; Illustrated Australian News; MMBW Detail Plan 1223.

East Clifton Hill Walk 2015.pdf

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