William Corner was born in Newhaven, East Sussex, England in 1815, the second of three children of William Corner snr and Nanny Johnson. William snr was a carrier with connections in the butchering trade who died in 1833 as a reasonably wealthy man, leaving an estate of some £3,000.
According to family tradition William Corner jnr arrived in New South Wales in May 1839 on the "Asia" with his friend John Macintosh (who later became of member of the NSW Parliament – details). William was initially employed in Sydney by merchant Samuel Peek. He then went up-country to Paterson with John Macintosh where they found work fencing, post-splitting and planting tobacco. At one stage they were employed tobacco-growing on Webbers Creek above Tocal.
After several years in Paterson, Corner was employed there by George Wilkinson as a storekeeper. When Wilkinson died in 1848, Corner purchased the business and ran it successfully until quitting in 1872. Corner's business interests were diverse – he also traded in grain and cattle from at least 1849, and became the Paterson agent for the Hunter River Steam Navigation Company in 1865.
In 1848, at the age of 33, William Corner married Christina Stewart at Paterson. Over the next 21 years their eleven children were born at Paterson, six of whom survived to adulthood. Christina died in 1869 and William remarried twice (family history details).
William Corner was elected a member of the District Council of Paterson in 1854 and held that position for several years. It was largely through his influence that the upper road north from Paterson was constructed. Corner became a Justice of the Peace (honorary magistrate) in 1873.
In 1858 David Brown, who owned most of the land in the Commercial Road area of Paterson, became bankrupt and in 1859 William Corner purchased all that land, excluding a few small blocks that Brown had previously subdivided and sold. Corner's purchases included the Bush Inn and the lower flour mill. In 1863 Corner purchased the upper flour mill from James Keppie and now owned both mills on Commercial Road.
Corner's land in the Commercial Road precinct just north of Paterson village.
To service his mills, in 1863 Corner built a two-storey brick grain store which survives today, minus its roof, on Gresford Road just north of Paterson. According to his own account, Corner was at one stage the largest buyer of grain in the district and occasionally purchased in one month the quantity of grain grown in the locality in a year. He used his growing wealth to purchase more land that included "Rose Bank" comprising 2,560 acres near Hinton, and "Sinclair" a block of 1,050 acres on the Williams River.
Postcard from the early 1900s showing the Commercial road area and Corner's upper flour mill at right.
From the early 1860s to the early 1880s William Corner and family lived at the Bush Inn, previously called "Longhouse Green", which was no longer licensed as an inn. By 1874 Corner had added an impressive two-storey building to the front of the old inn and renamed it "Sussex House".
Sussex House with the old Bush Inn at the rear.
In the early 1880s Corner and family apparently moved into "Annandale" in Paterson village (he owned Annandale from at least 1876). From mid 1882 Corner leased Sussex House to William Strang and it became licensed once again, this time as the Victoria Hotel. The arrangement was short-lived as Strang moved out in 1883.
Macintosh-Corner family connections
The Corner and Macintosh families remained intertwined for generations. As a young man John Macintosh worked in a store in Paterson for five years, probably in Wilkinson's store alongside William Corner. Macintosh then returned to Sydney to setup his own ironmonger business, at which he excelled and amassed considerable wealth. About 1870 he purchased "Lindesay", a mansion at Darling Point, Sydney which was later bequeathed to the National Trust.
Two of William Corner's children married two of John Macintosh's children. In 1882 Christina Corner married James Macintosh at Paterson (reg. #4267). In 1875 William Corner the younger married Isabella Macintosh at Paddington, Sydney (reg. #1463). The two families lived side by side in Rose Bay, Sydney.