John George Nathaniel Gibbes

John George Nathaniel Gibbes

Colonel John George Nathaniel Gibbes (30 March 1787 - 5 July 1873) was a British army officer who emigrated to Australia in 1834, becoming a Crown-appointed member of the New South Wales Legislative Council and the Collector of Customs for the Colony of New South Wales for a record term of 25 years.

In his capacity as head of the New South Wales Department of Customs, Colonel Gibbes was the colonial government's principal accumulator of domestic-sourced revenue − prior to the huge economic stimulus provided by the Australian gold rushes of the 1850s − through the collection of import duties and other taxes liable on ship-borne cargoes. Thus, he played a significant role in the transformation of the City of Sydney (now Australia's biggest State capital) from a convict-based settlement into a prosperous, free enterprise-based port replete with essential government infrastructure. Gibbes was born and schooled in London. He saw active service as a military officer during Great Britain's wars against Napoleon which occupied most of the early years of the 19th century.

Then, in 1814, while on convalescence leave from the armed forces, Gibbes married Elizabeth Davis, the daughter of a clergyman, at the 17th-century Church of St Andrew, Holborn, in London. Their marriage would give rise to a total of eight children, namely: George (who married Mary Ann Fuller), Eliza (subsequently Mrs Robert Dulhunty), William (who married Harriet Eliza Jamison), Mary (subsequently Mrs Terence Aubrey Murray), Frances (subsequently Mrs Alfred Ludlam), Edmund (who married Frances Simmons), Matilda (subsequently Mrs Augustus Berney), and Augustus (who married Annie Bartram).

Following his arrival in Sydney on 19 April 1834, he occupied a seat in the New South Wales Legislative Council from 1834 until his retirement from politics in 1855. Moreover, he was the Collector of Customs for New South Wales for an unsurpassed period spanning one quarter of a century, being the incumbent from 1834 to 1859. Indeed, it was Colonel Gibbes' who persuaded the Governor of NSW, Sir George Gipps, to begin construction of the Customs House, Sydney on Circular Quay in 1844 in response to port's growing volume of maritime trade. This major building project also doubled as an unemployment relief measure for stonemasons and laborers during an economic depression which was afflicting the colony at the time. (The Customs House at Circular Quay replaced inadequate departmental accommodation for Gibbes and his team of officers in The Rocks area of Sydney.)

Colonel Gibbes resided in a series of historically and architecturally important private dwellings during his time in New South Wales, including the since demolished Palladian-style Point Piper House (also known as Henrietta Villa or The Naval Villa), Wotonga House (now part of the vice-regal establishment known as Admiralty House on Kirribilli Point), Greycliffe House (which overlooks Shark Beach in the Sydney suburb of Vaucluse, and, finally, Yarralumla Homestead (now the site of Australia's Government House, Canberra). A concise account of Colonel Gibbes' career as a soldier and public servant can be found in The Australian Dictionary of Biography (on-line edition) and also the official Website of the Parliament of New South Wales, under "Former members". An obituary containing an account of his life was also published in several New South Wales metropolitan and regional newspapers following his death in 1873, including the Sydney Morning Herald of 28 December of that year.


Parents and education

The direct ancestors of London-born Colonel Gibbes were members of the landed gentry in the English West Country counties of Devon and Somerset with a lineage that can be traced back to the 14th century. (See William Betham's Baronetage, Volume III, published in London in 1803 for further genealogical information.) Later, during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth 1 and King James I, they lived in the port city of Bristol where they prospered as Merchant Venturers. Then, in the 1630s, during the reign of King Charles I, one of his direct forebears, Philip Gibbes, settled on the West Indian island of Barbados, founding a dynasty of sugar planters and slave owners.

Colonel Gibbes was said to be the illegitimate child of His Royal Highness Frederick, Duke of York, (King George III's second son) and a Gibbes mother. Officially, however, his father was John Gibbes, a Barbadian planter who dwelt part-time in London and was a relative of the prominent baronet, lawyer and plantation owner, Sir Philip Gibbes. (See the Wikipedia entry for the Osborne-Gibbes Baronets for further information about the family.)

The Duke and Duchess of York, incidentally, had no children; but the Duke was rumoured to have sired several illegitimate offspring by different mothers over the years. They included:

  • Captain Charles Hesse (circa 1786-1832), a British military officer;
  • Colonel J.G.N. Gibbes (1787–1873), as we have noted;
  • Captain John Molloy (1788/89-1867), a landowner and pioneer of Augusta in Western Australia; and
  • the Vandiest siblings, Frederick George (1800–1848) and Louisa Ann (1802–1890).

Young Gibbes was raised in London by John, his nominal father. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School and privately with a cleric in North Wales prior to entering the British Army as an ensign (junior commissioned officer) in 1804. Ten years later, he wed Elizabeth Davis at Holborn in central London. Although a committed Anglican, Elizabeth had already borne Gibbes two children out of wedlock at the time of their marriage. Six more children would be born to the now sanctified union.

Military service in brief

The future Colonel Gibbes filled a vacancy with the 40th Infantry Regiment upon joining the army as an ensign in 1804; but he would go on to serve as a commissioned officer with a variety of other regiments, ascending through five military ranks (namely, lieutenant, captain, major, lieutenant-colonel and colonel) in the process. Early on, he participated in some fierce fighting during the wars against Napoleon and the French Emperor's allies. He saw action firstly in South America, where he participated in the siege and capture of the fortified city of Montevideo and the follow-up assault on Buenos Aires, which degenerated into a savage sequence of street-fight battles between the British redcoats and the ultimately victorious Spanish defenders of the city.

In 1809, Captain Gibbes was called in from staff officer duties in Southern England and given orders to take part in a massive amphibious operation that was about to be mounted across the English Chanel, from Kent, with the aim of directing a smashing blow against Napoleon's forces stationed in the Low Countries of Europe. This operation, known as the Walcheren campaign, turned into a military disaster for the British, however, when their military machine got bogged down in the marshy, muddy, miasmic countryside that guarded the approaches to Antwerp, which was their ultimate battlefield objective. This delay gave their French foe ample time to regroup and reinforce their lines with fresh troops. Moreover, an alarming number of British soldiers had begun to collapse and die in their camps from a virulent form of malarial fever that they had contracted after one of the mission's fthe successes—the ferocious bombardment and capture of the strategic town of Flushing.

Gibbes was one of the disease's victims. Near death, he was evacuated back to England to recuperate from his illness for a protracted period on half-pay and share in Britain's collective loss of face when the failed Walcheren campaign was wound down and terminated by the government. Once Gibbes had recovered his health sufficiently, he was reinstated to the army's active-service list. Henceforth, he would serve his country as a staff officer at various military stations in southern and northern England (chiefly in the counties of Berkshire and Yorkshire), and reaching the rank of brigade major in the process.

Following the cessation of hostilities with France in 1815, following Waterloo, Gibbes went back on the army's half-pay list. During this difficult period, he appears to have contracted a bigamist marriage in Quebec with the daughter of a wealthy Canadian industrialist named Matthew Bell, according to information supplied by the College of Arms in London. Gibbes managed to return unscathed to England (and his legal wife Elizabeth) after this strange episode.

Customs service

Then, in 1819, Gibbes' fortunes changed for the better when the British Government agreed to appoint him Collector of Customs for the wealthy Caribbean sugar port of Falmouth, Jamaica. He would serve in this posting from 1819 to 1827, drawing a large annual salary of approximately ₤1500. While stationed on Jamaica, Gibbes and his growing family lived in a plantation house located inland from the actual town of Falmouth. Census returns show him as owning livestock as well as several black slaves. Gibbes enjoyed life in the West Indies but ill-health, probably a recurrence of malaria brought on by Jamaica's tropical climate, forced him to leave the island in 1827 with his family.

They voyaged back to London and moved into a secluded house, Fulham Lodge, in the west of the metropolis, which formerly belonged to a mistress of the Duke of York. Gibbes, meanwhile, had applied successfully to the British Board of Customs for a transfer to the collectorship at the North Sea trading and fishing port of Great Yarmouth, in the English County of Norfolk. He would occupy this new post until 1833, working with military-style diligence to improve physical conditions and work practices at what he discovered, on arrival, to be a somewhat rundown red-brick customs house, situated on Great Yarmouth's main quay. He strengthened, too, the law-enforcement partnership which existed with the naval coast guard, in order to counteract smuggling along 'his' section of the Norfolk-Suffolk coast. Privately, he also set about building a small network of potentially productive friendships and acquaintanceships with certain well-connected members of East Anglia's naval-officer class and the region's leading merchants and established families. In 1831, he and Mrs Gibbes had the satisfaction of seeing their eldest child, George, advantageously wed a local East Anglian girl (see below), while some years later, their youngest daughter, Matilda, would marry into the Norfolk landed gentry (below).

Nonetheless, Gibbes never felt completely happy during his tenure in Norfolk. So, he decided to leave England permanently, and emigrate to the Port of Sydney, in the Colony of New South Wales, on the east coast of mainland Australia. His motives for emigration were multiple. First, the Australian billet paid significantly more money than he was currently receiving in Great Yarmouth. Secondly, he had grown tired of the area's cold winters, buffeting North Sea gales and rusticated habits. Thirdly, he felt frustrated by the lack of promotional opportunities to be had for a middle-aged man within the Customs service in England.

In 1833, the Board of Customs in London accepted Gibbes' application to be appointed the next Collector of Customs for New South Wales under an exchange arrangement with his counterpart in the port of Sydney. Soon after his arrival in Sydney on 19 April 1834, he was sworn in by Governor Richard Bourke as a Crown appointee to the colony's governing Legislative Council. During his time as a Legislative Councillor, he would serve on a number of maritime-related government boards and parliamentary committees. Perhaps his most important contribution in this regard was to recommend the introduction of gaslight into Sydney, as chairman of the committee charged with examining this proposal. The subsequent establishment of the Australian Gas Light Company at Darling Harbour during the 1840s would transform the lifestyle of Sydney's 19th-century residents in terms of street-lighting and domestic illumination, and, later, gas cooking. For details of Colonel Gibbes' political career, access Gibbes' entry on the New South Wales Legislative Council Website.

Arrival in Australia

When Gibbes arrived in the colony aboard the Resource in 1834, he held the military rank of major. Later, in 1837, he would be promoted to lieutenant-colonel and then to full colonel shortly before his retirement from the army in 1851. Initially, he lived with his family in Henrietta Villa, also known as the Naval Villa, on Sydney's scenic Point Piper, under a leasehold arrangement. In 1843-44, the Gibbes family moved to "Wotonga", a stone house on Kirribilli Point, that had been designed and erected by Gibbes. Wotonga now forms part of Admiralty House. (Point Piper House was torn down in the 1850s and the site redeveloped.)[1]

Physically, Colonel Gibbes was a compact, spare person with grey eyes and receding light brown hair. He looked taller than he was because he walked with an erect military carriage. Contemporary accounts portray him as an urbane, cultivated gentleman and record how his wife, children and in-laws figured as prominent members of Sydney society throughout the early and mid-Victorian eras. However, the burdens of public office increasingly irked the Colonel as his career unfolded and he sometimes became prone to angry outbursts. To quote Volume One of the Australian Dictionary of Biography (edited by Douglas Pike), Melbourne University Press, 1966, p. 439:

"As collector of Customs at a salary of 1000 pounds Gibbes found his department inadequate to cope with the growing demand of shipping and trade and he constantly appealed for more and better paid staff. He carried out his duties with more zeal than discretion and, when his suspicions were aroused [about possible smuggling activity], he seized whole cargoes which often led to tedious litigation. His accounts were always confused because of inefficient clerks and often showed him liable for surcharges which were removed only after long and acrimonious correspondence with the Board of Customs in London. All these irritations frayed his temper and hen gained a reputation for irascibility."

Admiralty House

Colonel Gibbes began work on Wotonga House in 1842 on the five-acre Kirribilli Point site, which he had leased from the wealthy merchant Robert Campbell, before proceeding to buy it after Campbell's death. He completed the house-building project about a year later. Wotonga was a graceful single-storey house with wide verandahs and elegant French doors. Gibbes designed the house, which he called "Wotonga" (or "Woottonga"), himself. The stone for the house's walls was quarried locally and the hardwood and cedar joinery came from George Coleson's timber-yard in George Street, Sydney. Gibbes engaged James Hume, a well-known builder who dabbled in ecclesiastical architecture, to supervise the construction of the building and its stables. Gibbes, however, hired his own masons, bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers and ironmongers to work on the project, paying each of them separately as work progressed.

Colonel Gibbes used the Custom Department's cutter to commute to and from the building site. Once completed, Gibbes' L-shaped residence featured a plain, yet stylish, double façade to maximise the building's magnificent, sweeping views across Sydney Harbour. These views enabled Gibbes to monitor shipping traffic in and out of Darling Harbour and, more importantly, Circular Quay, where the Sydney Customs House was situated.[2]

In 1849, Robert Campbell died and the executors of the estate sold the property, comprising the house and 5 acres (20,000 m2) land, to Colonel Gibbes for about 1,400 pounds. On 27 December 1851, Gibbes (who was contemplating a departure from the Customs Service at the age of 64), sold the property to James Lindsay Travers, a merchant of Macquarie Place, Sydney, for 1,533 pounds.

Colonel Gibbes subsequently changed his mind about leaving his position as head of the NSW Customs Department; instead, he leased Greycliffe House at Shark Beach, Vaucluse, from the Wentworth[disambiguation needed ] family and remained in Sydney for the better part of eight years. Greycliffe is now listed by the government as one of the Heritage homes of Sydney.

Today, Wotonga forms the core of Admiralty House and the building's 180-degree, east-west panoramic sight-lines are even more spectacular than they were in Gibbes' day, owing to the subsequent high-rise growth of Sydney's CBD.

A portrait of Colonel Gibbes, painted in 1808 when he was a redcoat captain service on the personal staff of the Earl of Craven, now hangs in Admiralty House.

New South Wales Customs Service

As we have seen, Colonel Gibbes took up a commission in 1819 as the Collector of Customs for Falmouth, Jamaica, but remained on the army's half-pay list, which meant that he could be recalled to active service in times of war. Then, from 1827 to 1833, he held the equivalent position of Collector in the major East Anglian port of Great Yarmouth. In 1833, Colonel Gibbes was appointed the Collector of Customs for New South Wales, arriving in Sydney the following year. He served as Collector of Customs for New South Walesd for a record term of 25 years, from 1834 until 1859. He was forced to retire from the Customs Service when his libertine of a second son, William John Gibbes, became embroiled in a smuggling scandal. (For information about the scandal, see The Australian Customs History Journal, Number 4, published in Canberra, 1992.)

Earlier, in 1844, Colonel Gibbes had persuaded the then Governor of NSW, Sir George Gipps, to begin construction of the Customs House, Sydney on Circular Quay in response to Sydney's growing volume of maritime trade. The building project also doubled as an unemployment relief measure for stonemasons and laborers during an economic depression which was afflicting the colony at the time. The original sandstone edifice of the Customs House, Sydney on Circular Quay remains as the core of a subsequently enlarged edifice on the site.

As we have seen, Gibbes lived by the water at Kirribilli Point, on Sydney's northern shore. The Customs Service in the 1840s had an important link with Kirribilli, because the locale afforded panoramic views of Circular Quay and shipping movements on Sydney Harbour's main channel. It was therefore no coincidence that both Colonel Gibbes and his departmental deputy and personal friend, Thomas Jeffrey, elected to live in Kirribilli. The Customs Department's flagstaff, for instance, was located on Thomas Jeffrey's house, serving as a key maritime marker for mercantile vessels.[3][4][5]

Colonel Gibbes also had an interesting connection in his later years to Henry Parkes, known as the "father" of Australia's Federation as a unified nation in 1901 and five times Premiere of New South Wales. About a year after Parkes arrival in Sydney, he was hired by the New South Wales Customs Department as a Tide Waiter, and given the task by Colonel Gibbes of inspecting merchant vessels in the port of Sydney in order to guard against the importation of contraband. He had been recommended for this responsible post by Sir John Jamison's son-in-law, William John Gibbes, who was manager of Sir John's Regentville estate, and the third-born offspring of Colonel Gibbes. Parkes left the employ of the Customs Department during the 1840s and went into the newspaper industry and, later, the political arena; but he remained on friendly terms with the Gibbes family for the rest of his life.

Retirement and death

On retirement, Colonel Gibbes and Mrs Gibbes moved to Yarralumla homestead, now the official Canberra residence of the Governor-General of Australia, in late 1859. Yarralumla was owned from 1859 to 1881 by the Colonel's youngest child, Augustus Onslow Manby Gibbes.

Incidentally, the Colonel's second daughter, Mary, had married the prominent New South Wales parliamentarian, Sir Terence Aubrey Murray (1810–1873) who had purchased Yarralumla in 1837. In July 1859, he would sell the property to his brother-in-law Augustus Onslow Manby "Gussie" Gibbes (who had been managing Yarralumla on Murray's behalf for the past four years).

Colonel Gibbes and his wife Elizabeth (known affectionately as Eliza or Betsy) lived to advanced ages by 19th-century standards. Their final years were clouded by various age-related health problems, and they died at Yarralumla homestead in 1873 and 1874 respectively. They were buried initially in a family vault at Yarralumla but, in 1880, their son Augustus moved their remains to the graveyard at the Canberra church of St John the Baptist, where they were re-interred under an inscribed marble headstone which still stands. Two stained-glass windows, dedicated to their memories and bearing the Gibbes coat of arms, were also erected in the nave of the church.


The Colonel and Mrs Gibbes had eight children, born in the 1809-1828 period. All of them migrated to Sydney with their parents except for the eldest, George Hervey Gibbes (1809–1883), who remained in London and became a senior bureaucrat with the British War Office. They were:

George Hervey Gibbes (1809-1883)

Unlike his seven siblings, George remained in England. He was born at Kirk Ella, Yorkshire. He entered the British Public Service at the age of 18, being appointed to the personal staff of the Duke of Wellington in London. He rose subsequently through the bureaucratic ranks at Horse Guards (the headquarters of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army) and the War Office in Whitehall. In 1869, he retired on an annual half-pay pension from his £1300 per annum position of Assistant Military Secretary. He had wed Mary Ann Fuller (1811–1896) at Gorleston, Suffolk, in 1831. They spent their married life living in London (in the suburbs of Chelsea and Belgravia) and at a holiday house in Rye on the Isle of Wight. There were no children of the marriage.

Eliza Julia Gibbes (1811-1892)

The eldest daughter of the family as born in the naval and military port of Gosport, Hampshire. As a girl, according to her own account, she worked in an unofficial capacity for Queen Adelaide. In Sydney in 1837, she married Robert Dulhunty ((1802–1853), an English-born grazier and Police Magistrate who owned Claremont, near Penrith, NSW. During the 1840s, Dulhunty and his family pioneered the Dubbo region of central-western NSW. Dulhunty died at Old Dubbo Station at the age of 51, leaving Eliza to bring up their large brood of children and run their portfolio of rural properties, many of which were lost to the banks due to the adverse effects of drought and economic recessions. Eliza died in hospital in the NSW town of Bathurst and is buried in the local cemetery.

William John Gibbes (1815-1868)

Colonel Gibbes' second son was William John Gibbes (1815–1868), who had been born in the English garrison City of York. In 1837, William John married Harriet Eliza Jamison in the Anglican Church of St James, Sydney.

Harriet's father was Sir John Jamison (1776 – 29 June 1844), an important Australian physician, pastoralist, banker, politician, constitutional reformer and public figure. Sir John fathered a number of illegitimate children by several mistresses.

Her mother (one of Sir John's mistresses), Catherine Cain(e), the convict 'housekeeper' assigned to him at his Sydney residence. Catherine gave birth to a daughter by Sir John, Harriet Eliza Jamison, in 1819.

Harriet grew up to be a cultivated and pious young woman. In 1837, she married into the colonial establishment when she wed William John Gibbes. The wedding took place at St James' Anglican Church, Sydney, in the presence of the governor. Harriet died in Sydney in 1896. By this stage, she had seen her three children, all sons, carve out successful careers for themselves in the political, legal and sporting/civil-service sectors of Sydney society. [6]

William John Gibbes, incidentally, lived with his wife at Regentville House, near Penrith, New South Wales, following his marriage. Later, in the second half of the 1840s, he lived in Beulah House at Kirribilli, before moving to Camden Villa in the then Sydney garden-suburb of Newtown in the early 1850s. Beulah was later lived in by the Riley and Lasseter families. Regrettably, this elegant sandstone residence was eventually demolished and its grounds subdivided into numerous residential blocks which were auctioned off by developers in 1905.[7]

William became a notorious libertine who sired a number of illegitimate children. He spent the 1850s in a state of bankruptcy with debts exceeding ₤20,000. William was convicted (in the NSW Supreme Court) of a smuggling charge in 1859 and sentenced to two years imprisonment at Parramatta Gaol in Sydney. Subsequently, he lived in Melbourne and East Sydney. He died at the latter location of a blood disorder, aged 52. William was estranged from his wife at the time of his passing, and the two lived separately. He lies buried in the Old Balmain Cemetery (now Pioneers' Park, in the Sydney suburb of Leichhardt.

Mary "Minnie" Gibbes (1817–1858)

Mary, known affectionately as Minnie, was born in the garrison town of Pontefract, Yorkshire. She later married the prominent Irish-born parliamentarian, Sir Terence Aubrey Murray (1810–1873). Murray was the proprietor of Winderradeen sheep station near Lake George, NSW. He also purchased 'Yarralumla sheep station, in what is now Canberra, in 1837. Yarralumla subsequently became Government House, Canberra. Mary's health was frail, and she died at Winderradeen at the start of 1858, following the birth of her third surviving child. She is buried in the grounds of the homestead.

In 1859, Murray sold Yarralumla to his brother-in-law, Augustus Onslow Manby Gibbes. Later that same year, Augustus' parents came to live with him at Yarralumla homestead. Eventually, in 1881, Augustus sold Yarralumla for 40,000 pounds to Frederick Campbell, a descendant of Robert Campbell.[8]

Frances "Fanny" Minto Gibbes (1822/23–1877)

Frances "Fanny" Minto Gibbes (1822/23–1877) was born in Trelawney Parish on the north coast of the West Indian island of Jamaica during her father's term there as Collector of Customs for the port of Falmouth. In Sydney, in 1850, she married Alfred Ludlam (1810–1877). Irish-born Ludlam was a leading New Zealand politician, horticulturist and farmer who owned land at Wellington and in the Hutt Valley. Ludlam was a member of three of New Zealand's four earliest parliaments, he was also a philanthropist and a founder of Wellington's Botanic Garden.

Ludlam was a periodic visitor to NSW. The main reason for these trans-Tasman Sea visits of Ludlam's was to do business in Sydney, which served as New South Wales' principal trading port, population centre and seat of government; but he also found time to socialise. On 1 October 1850, he married into Sydney's colonial establishment with his wedding to Fanny Gibbes. His wedding took place took place at St Thomas' Anglican Church (in what is today the North Sydney local government area).

Fanny was living with her parents at Wotonga House—nowadays part of Admiralty House complex on Sydney's Kirribilli Point—at the time of her marriage to Ludlam. She and her husband spent their honeymoon relaxing at the New South Wales country property of Yarralumla (now the site of Australia's Government House in Canberra), which at that stage belonged to Fanny's brother-in-law, (Sir) Terence Aubrey Murray. During the 1870s, Fanny and her husband holidayed in London, taking a house at Maida Vale. Fanny fell fatally ill there with an intestinal blockage and was buried in London. Her husband returned to New Zealand, dying in Wellington later that same year (1877) of kidney disease. They had no children.

Edmund Minto Gibbes (1824-1850)

Like his sister Fanny, Edmund was born on Jamaica. After his arrival in Sydney, he was educated with his brother Augustus at Sydney College. He worked for his father as a NSW Customs Department officer in Sydney and at the whaling port of Eden on the NSW South Coast. During the 1840s, he eloped with a wealthy Jewish teenager, Frances Simmons (1833–1910), scandalising colonial Sydney in the process. They would have two children, both of whom died in infancy. Edmund belatedly wed Miss Simmons at Campbelltown, NSW, in 1849. He contracted pulmonary tuberculosis and sailed for England with his bride in 1850 to begin a fresh life. He died on the voyage and was buried at sea. Edmund's widow later married a London lawyer named Roger Gadsden and returned to Sydney to live.

Matilda Lavinia Gibbes (1826-1916)

Matilda was the third and last child to be born on Jamaica during her father's collectorship at the port of Falmouth. She spent her infancy in Norfolk and came to Sydney at the age of seven. In 1858, she married Augustus Berney (1831–1910). Her husband was an officer in the Sydney Customs Department and the heir to landed estates in Norfolk, including Morton Hall and Bracon Ash. They had four children, one of whom died in infancy, and lived in the Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst. In 1896, Matilda's husband inherited his family properties in Norfolk and the family returned there to live. Matilda died at Bracon Ash house, aged 90, during the height of World War I and is buried locally in the Berney family mausoleum.

Augustus Onslow Manby Gibbes (1828–1897)

Augustus, nicknamed "Gussie", was the youngest child. He was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. His godfathers were George William Manby and Captain John Onslow, RN. He became a large-scale sheep farmer and horse breeder in rural New South Wales, owning the Yarralumla estate from 1859 to 1881. He then travelled overseas for a decade before settling down on a farming property named Braemar, near the town of Goulburn, New South Wales, in the early 1890s, with his wife and their four surviving children, all sons. His wife, Annie Bartram (1865–1914) came from the City of Bath in England The two had met in the mid-1880s, entering into a relationship and touring around the United Kingdom. Augustus, however, did not officially marry her until 1896 (at Penrith, NSW). The following year, he died at Braemar House after suffering a stroke and was buried with his parents in Canberra. For a detailed account of Augustus' life and the Gibbes family's era at Yarralumla, see the Canberra Historical Journal, New Series, Number 48, September 2001, pp. 11–31. For more genealogical data about his siblings, see The Ancestral Searcher, Volume 27, Number 4, December 2004, pp. 324–325.

Norfolk friends

Members of the Berney family of landed gentry were close associates of the Gibbes' during their time in Norfolk. Indeed, the two families would later inter-marry. Another friend of the Gibbes' in Great Yarmouth was George William Manby, who became one of the godfathers of Augustus Onslow Manby Gibbes (1828–1897). Manby was a well-known inventor and a member of England's Royal Society.[9]

Great grandson — Bobby Gibbes

One of the numerous great-grandsons of Colonel Gibbes was Bobby Gibbes DSO, DFC & Bar, OAM (6 May 1916 – 11 April 2007) who was a leading Australian fighter ace of World War II.

He was officially credited with shooting down 10¼ enemy aircraft,[10][11] although his score is often reported as 12 destroyed.[12][13]

Burial of the Colonel and Mrs Gibbes

Colonel Gibbes died at Yarralumla homestead in 1873. His remains are interred at St John the Baptist Church, Reid in the Australian National Capital of Canberra. Interred with him are the remains of his wife, Elizabeth, who died in 1874, his son Augustus Gibbes, his grandson Henry Gibbes, and his great-grandson Wing-Commander Robert "Bobby" Gibbes.


  1. ^ The Book of Sydney Suburbs, Compiled by Frances Pollen, Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1990, Published in Australia ISBN 0-207-14495-8, page 206
  2. ^ John Gibbes: Builder of Admiralty House" that was published in April 1997 in Volume 37, Number 1, of the journal of the North Sydney Historical Society.
  3. ^ "A brief history of Admiralty House, Sydney". Governor General's website. Australian Government. 
  4. ^ "Died". The Sydney Morning Herald. Tuesday 1 November 1847. 
  5. ^ "Ships Mail". The Sydney Morning Herald. Tuesday 2 November 1847. 
  6. ^ "Mr Robert Thomas Jamison". Members of Parliament. Parliament of New South Wales. Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  7. ^ The Book of Sydney Suburbs, Frances Pollon, Angus and Robertson, 1990
  8. ^ "Official Residence - Government House". Governor-General's Office. Archived from the original on 19 July 2008. Retrieved 4 October 2008. 
  9. ^ The Ancestral Searcher, "Augustus Gibbes: Squire of Yarralumla", Volume 19, Number 2, Canberra, June 1996, p. 74.
  10. ^ Odgers, The Royal Australian Air Force, p.125
  11. ^ Garrisson, Australian Fighter Aces, p.133
  12. ^ Carman, Gerry (14 April 2007). "Air ace was born to fly: Bobby Gibbes 1916–2007". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 October 2007. 
  13. ^ Stackpool, Andrew (3 May 2007). "WWII ace farewelled". Air Force News. Retrieved 26 October 2007. 

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