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Beuzeville, James (1809–1887)

by G. P. Walsh

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

James Beuzeville (1809-1887), sericulturist and public servant, was born on 1 June 1809 at 24 Stewart Street, Spitalfields, London, the eldest son of Stephen Beuzeville (1784-1862) and his wife Anna Maria, née Paroissien. The Beuzeville family, refugees from France in the early eighteenth century, had established a silk-weaving firm in London and James entered the family business. After operating for a century in the same premises at Spitalfields the firm failed in 1827; James and his father joined the firm of Courtauld & Co. at Braintree, Essex. He spent eight years in the various silk countries of Europe, mainly in Spain, and in 1848 relinquished the management of a concern of Courtauld's in Spain and emigrated to Australia.

On arrival in Sydney he advocated experiments in sericulture and interested such people as Thomas Mort, D. N. Joubert, George Holden, Thomas Forster and Archibald Campbell who, with a few others in July 1848, constituted a board of management for a proposed 'Experimental Silk Institution' and appointed Beuzeville superintendent. It was decided that a capital investment of £1200 over three years would be necessary and that the institution would commence when £400, representing two-thirds of the first year's capital requirement, was invested. This amount was promised by early September. Beuzeville set up his institution on Thomas Rutledge's ninety-acre (36 ha) property at Eastwood and applied to the government for a monetary grant and several orphans to apprentice to his institution. No orphans were made available but Beuzeville energetically embarked on his experiments, preparing twelve acres (5 ha) of ground and planting 4500 mulberry trees. On 19 June 1849 he informed readers of the Sydney Morning Herald that the best variety of mulberry to cultivate for silkworms was Morus multicaulis 'both for its aptitude to this climate and for the quality and quantity of the leaf it bears'. In the same year he sent sample skeins of silk to London which were judged to fall somewhere between Bengal and Italian silk.

The whole experiment was short lived. Beuzeville soon got into financial difficulties because subscribers to the experiment did not keep faith: £600 was promised but the amount paid up was just over £300. Beuzeville then attempted to carry on by himself but soon dissipated his own small resources. In November 1849 he resigned as superintendent and early the following year went bankrupt and was forced to abandon his experiments, if not his interest, in endeavouring to establish sericulture in the colony. In a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, 24 May 1850, justifying his exertions and echoing his disappointment, he wrote: 'I feel that my anticipations, as originally formed … are singularly confirmed and I think all well-wishers to the colony must join me in lamenting the lukewarmness which caused the abandonment of the silk experiment'. The results of Beuzeville's experiments in sericulture were set out in his illustrated booklet, Practical Instructions for the Management of Silk Worms … Compiled from the French and Spanish, Adapted to the Colony of New South Wales (Sydney, nd).

Beuzeville then took for a short time the position of writing master at The King's School, Parramatta, and in 1852 joined with Rev. Charles Cutliffe in conducting the Beauclere Academy in Piper Street, Bathurst. This venture was also short lived, for Beuzeville joined the public service on 28 February 1856 as registrar of births, deaths and marriages for the Bathurst district. He held this position, except in 1870-73, until his retirement in April 1883.

Beuzeville died at Enfield, Sydney, on 28 September 1887; his wife Jane, née Myles, whom he had married in 1833, predeceased him on 29 August 1871. Of their thirteen children, seven, including five sons, survived infancy and early childhood; the eldest surviving son, James Paroissien (1843-1891), was under-manager and manager of pastoral stations in the South Kennedy district of Queensland and on the Monaro in New South Wales. Many of Beuzeville's descendants have reverted to the earlier form 'de Beuzeville'.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Morrison, The Aldine Centennial History of New South Wales, vol 2 (Syd, 1888)
  • W. A. Beuzeville, ‘Notes on the Family of Beuzeville’, Proceedings of the Huguenot Society of London, vol 12, no 5, 1923, pp 417-21
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 5, 13 July, 11 Sept 1848, 28 Nov, 18, 27, 29 Dec 1849, 3, 18 Jan, 5 Feb 1850, 16 Mar 1857, 21 Dec 1869.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Beuzeville, James (1809–1887)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/beuzeville-james-2990/text4369, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 26 September 2017.

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

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