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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Bayles, William (1820–1903)

by J. Ann Hone

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

William Bayles (1820-1903), by unknown engraver

William Bayles (1820-1903), by unknown engraver

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, IAN23/05/68/8

William Bayles (1820-1903), businessman and politician, was born on 1 November 1820 at Hunderthwaite, Yorkshire, England, son of William Bayles, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth. In 1846 he arrived in Van Diemen's Land and was a shipping merchant in Launceston until 1852 when he established in Victoria the shipping firm of Bayles & Co., remaining part-owner and agent for the Launceston and Melbourne Steam Navigation Co. A flair for financial matters enabled Bayles to retire in 1865. He invested in Moyne Falls station near Macarthur in the Western District and by the late 1870s owned 14,427 acres (5838 ha).

In 1861 Bayles was elected to the Melbourne City Council and in 1862 became chairman of the finance committee, retaining the post until his death. He was mayor in 1865-66 and the magnificent fête he gave the citizens was long remembered. He was appointed alderman in 1869 and acting mayor in 1900. In 1864 Bayles successfully contested the Villiers and Heytesbury seat in the Legislative Assembly. His campaign stressed the identification of his interests with those of the electorate, the need for assisted immigration, reform of the Legislative Council and his opposition to payment of members. Though a free trader he favoured revision of the tariff. Bayles served the constituency well and on 1 January 1868 the Banner of Belfast (Port Fairy) praised his 'sterling honesty of purpose' and the 'faithful and conscientious discharge of public duty which has characterised his career'. However, as minister for trade and customs in (Sir) Charles Sladen's stopgap ministry from May to July 1868 Bayles was 'twitted with being one of those gentlemen who are ready to join any ministry for the sake of office'. He denied this charge, maintaining that he accepted office to straighten out the difficulties connected with the Darling grant, a solution to which could only be found in compromise.

Bayles retired from politics early in 1880 but remained active in other spheres. His financial ability was often called upon by the city council and in 1886 he was liquidator of the South Suburban Gas Co. He was chairman of directors of the Union Trustee Co. A generous supporter of the Toorak Presbyterian Church, he was on its board of management for many years. He suffered a stroke in 1901 and in his last years lived quietly. He died on 8 October 1903 at his home, Yar Orrong, Albany Road, Toorak, survived by his wife Isabel, née Bursh (Buist), whom he had married on 11 July 1854 in Tasmania, and by three sons and two daughters.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Smith (ed), The Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • Belfast Gazette, 30 Sept, 7 Oct 1864
  • Warrnambool Examiner, 4 Oct 1864
  • Argus (Melbourne), 9 Oct 1903.

Citation details

J. Ann Hone, 'Bayles, William (1820–1903)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (MUP), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

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